Oh my

I’m finished the book.

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(Note the empty coffee cup. I swear that the last two days have been so over-caffeinated that I have grown new nerve endings in my hair and teeth.) Instead of emailing it to my editor right now, I’m going to wait a few hours. I’m so thrilled and delighted with this thing that I’m taking just a little time to revel in the thrill of being the only person who has seen it, and knows it, and thinks it’s good. When I am done patting it and looking at it and taking pictures of it, I will turn my attention to the speech I have to give tomorrow night, since impending public humiliation is a powerful motivator. The speech is all I have left to do, having gone to the Gap yesterday to buy pants (I don’t know why it always comes down to pants) and a bra. (I thought that might be a nice touch to my attempts at professionalism.)

Tomorrow morning will dawn bright and early, and with it – the knitters of Toronto (some of them) will take to the streets and take inexplicable knitter pictures all day long. At the suggestion of some very clever knitters in the comments, the equally clever Rachel H has set up a Flickr group so that a) my inbox isn’t flooded with pictures, and b) you guys can see them too and C) that you can write in the descriptions what your pictures are.

The group can be found here

You can send your sock pictures there, and if it’s an entry for the “Freestyle” category, please make sure that you say so in the description. (In the interest of silencing public outcry, I have decided that there can be an “international” freestyle category as well. Take your picture tomorrow, make a note in the description title that it wasn’t taken in Toronto, and go right ahead.) *** In the I AM AN IDIOT DEPARTMENT (May I just say? It’s remarkable how often I end up there) It has been pointed out to me that this solution leaves out the rest of Canada. (Again? IDIOT) So, we now have three categories. Toronto, Canada at large and International. Better?

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this. I won’t lie, mostly I’m looking forward to tomorrow being the first day in years that I have woken up without any sort of a book deadline hovering over me with its hot sick breath, but it is a close second that I get to spend the day knowing that the city is covered with knitters, all doing what we do best, doing it with good humour and a champion sense of fun, and that the whole rest of the city is going to wonder about it. It is going to be a stupid amount of fun. Just stupid. I hope everyone has a fantastic time.

Remember (for those of you who missed it the first time) The list of pictures to scavenge is here, and the launch is at the Isabel Bader Theatre tomorrow night. The doors open at 6:00 pm, (the U of T bookstore will start selling books at the launch at that time too) Andy and Michael take to the stage about 6:30, Rachel will be declaring winners in the picture hunt around 6:50-7:00 (just bring your camera and your list with your points- we have a system planned) and I take the stage when all that’s done, should I be able to bring myself to do it. Pub afterwards. (I assure you, I will be able to manage that part.)

I’m off. I’ve got to read a speech to the cat.

Second favourite

My nephew Hank turns eight today, which I can scarcely believe. (Remember when he was four?) and I decided to knit him somthing. He’s exactly what you would expect from an eight year old who carries McPhee genetics (meaning that he is fast, loud, difficult and opinionated and can talk his way out of anything with his superpower – large measures of charm) so I knew that there was a chance, or even a probability that he wouldn’t like what I made him, no matter what I knit him. I don’t invest much in knitting for children (except babies, who you can force to wear it) just for this reason, but I decided to take a shot and make him the Sock Monkey hat from Knitty.

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It was a super quick knit (one evening – extra time allotted for getting the nostrils straight – which seemed to me to be critical to hat acceptance) and I took it along to my Mum’s last week when we celebrated his day.

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(I will not say that Hank is cute, because he would hate that, but he can’t stop me from thinking it. )

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He started unwrapping his presents, discarding underwear from my mum (which I can totally understand) and moving pretty quickly through the new pants and shirts and stuff (also, I can see how from an eight year old perspective, as much as he is loathe to be nude, this would garner less excitement.) then he opened a Pokemon Wii game (I have never played Wii, but I hear it is big) from Ian and the kid flipped out. Loved it. This shattered all my hopes that a hand knit Monkey hat could compete on any sort of a level, and I praised myself inwardly for not being too invested (which was sort of a lie, but I still think the pretence was valuable.) I held back our other present (another Wii game which the guy at the store told Joe was cool if you were eight) so that if he thought the hat was lame I would have a way to recover my cool factor in Hank’s eyes, and I forked over the hat.

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Dudes, not only did he like it, he wore it, and is seen here doing a monkey impression which, while it has certain rabbit influences, is still excellent for a child growing up in Downtown Toronto with very little actual monkey exposure. It’s a little small, which is disappointing, but now that I know it’s acceptable, I’ll maybe knit him a bigger one. (After I knit another 12 or so, since ever person in the family wants one. Including my mother, which is sort of flipping me out. I feel a very odd Christmas coming on.) He got the other Wii game after (which did help with my image) and even with receiving TWO video games, Erin phoned me that night to tell me that Hank was wearing his hat while he played the games, and that he had said that it was his second favourite present. I couldn’t be happier. What a heartening moment for a knitter. An eight year old ranked a hand knit hat ahead of a video game. The child shows great promise…maybe it’s in his name.

Hank shares his birthday with my niece Kamilah (who would point out that technically, she had it first) and I’d offer to make her a hat, but she’s a good enough knitter that she could make her own. Happy Birthday Kamilah! Happy Birthday Hank!

(Kamilah, you can have a hat if you want. All the cool kids are wearing them.)

Note: Sock monkey yarn is Patons Shetland Chunky, 75% acrylic, 25% wool, purchased at The Madrona Retreat from Linda’s Knit ‘n Stitch, where she had it conveniently kitted up (with the permission of the designer) for the impulse driven auntie with a hat fetish. Totally worth it, just to get a monkey impression.

love, Cher

I wonder exactly how long I can get away with posting pictures of pathetic progress on a small sock?

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Yeah. Today is probably it. Sorry.

I would have written something interesting about …. something, maybe even knitting (I screwed up another sock. One I wasn’t showing you. It’s terrible. It’s knit like I’ve never even SEEN a heel and is the best evidence possible that I don’t have the brain for anything right now) and instead I went to Thomas Allen (the Canadian Distributor of the book) and signed books for Tuesday:

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Seriously. HOW LONG IS MY NAME? (And doesn’t that look like too many books? I think so.) That’s three and a half hours of signing my name. My HYPHENATED NAME. What was I thinking when I put a hyphen in my name? I should have started this whole thing with something shorter. Like “Steph” or “Cher”

(PS. If you’re planning to come to the pub afterwards, could you put a shout out in the comments? Rachel’s trying to get a head count so we don’t crush them.)

Getting there

Who ever said getting there was half the fun obviously wasn’t a writer – or a knitter, since in knitting almost all of the fun is in getting there and in writing, almost none of it is. I am getting there with the final review of the manuscript and except for a crisis of faith last night in which I was convinced for several hours that I cannot write my way out of a paper bag and should be shot for the attempt, It’s going pretty well. (I drank a large glass of wine, knit on my sock and went to bed when I thought that. This morning I have a little more faith and renewed dedication. I don’t know if it was the wine, the knitting or the sleep that fixed me, but I’m going to keep doing all three just in case.)

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I’m still tired and stupid, and couldn’t find a way to organize my thoughts in a reasonable way, so I’m calling today Random Thursday and just throwing stuff out there.

1. I am only pre-signing all of the books for the Launch. Everywhere else I will pre-sign some (so you could just take one and go if you don’t want to hang around) and then do a signing the way I always have.

2. This is especially true of the event in NYC on the 2nd of April. There’s no way to do an event in New York City that will have enough chairs (short of doing a repeat of the event in Toronto on the 1st, which seems like too much.) since space is at a premium, so Jayme and I did the next best thing. She’s found a bookstore that has as much room as possible, they are putting out as many chairs as they can, I’m going to keep the talk and the Q&A a little shorter (not by much- just for the sake of anyone standing) and lengthen the signing. It’s as fair as we can make it, without renting another big place.

3. Ken is doing a good thing. If it speaks to your heart, you know what to do.

4. It is the birthday of my friend and our lady of the comments, Rams. Please join me in extending very best wishes to her. The professional and dedicated commenter is a rare and valuable niche to fill in the blogoverse, and I love her for it.

Grip Getting

Whenever I start losing my grip (like yesterday, thanks for the reassurance and encouragement. It really helps) I look around for what’s missing, and opportunities to do thing that shore me up. Normally, when I’m this stressed out I would take a day off, read, watch a movie or some TV, (I have just discovered Stargate SG1. I’m such a dork.) and spend a day knitting and recharging the batteries. Works every time. This time though, if I take my eyes off the prize for a whole day, I’m going to blow it, so I’m opting for some mini-breaks. Last night I went to yoga (good move, that one) and today I’m going to at least fulfill the knitting component necessary to my mental health.

Everything I’m knitting right now takes looking and attention, so I just haven’t been able to do it, and it’s starting to make me crazier than a bag of wet cats. This morning (I’m so messed up I just thought of this) it occured to me that I could start something new and simple, something that could just chug along in my hands on autopilot while I read and revise the manuscript.

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This is a new yarn from Lion Brand called “Sock Ease” that I don’t think is out yet. They sent me some so I could try it (this is a great week to remember that this job has it’s privileges). I prefer natural fibres, so Lion Brand isn’t a yarn I use a lot (although Megan is knitting an afghan with their Homespun right now) but this is one that I thought might be right up my alley. I don’t have an unlimited yarn budget (although sometimes I like to pretend otherwise) and so I’m a big fan of basic, good yarns that don’t cost the earth, and this one had some potential. It’s 75% wool and 25% nylon, which puts it in the same fibre content group as a lot of other brand name sock yarns I’ve thought were good like Regia, Fortissima Colori, Trekking, Knit Picks Essential, Opal, Valley Yarns Franklin, and my longtime friend Patons Kroy – which while not the softest yarn in the world, wears like IRON and lasts for as long as forever can be in a sock yarn. (That’s the nylon.) Like Austermann Step (which I haven’t used yet) the new sock ease is “finished” with Aloe Vera, and I’m not sure what that means or if I like it, but if it does what it says it can for my hands, now would be a good time to try, and try it I am.

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No full review yet, since I’ve only knit a wee bit but so far it’s quite pretty, soft enough to be pleasant and it doesn’t suck, that’s for sure. It’s no handpainted merino, but that’s not what it’s supposed to be, and if it’s priced like I suspect it will be, it could be another affordable and decent yarn to have in my arsenal. If nothing else, it’s definitely going to be the reason that I don’t end today sitting in my yarn closet gibbering, rocking and chewing what little cashmere I own, and for that, it will always have my thanks. (Plus I’m sort of low on socks. The cobblers children and all that. I need to give fewer pairs away for a while.)

Onward.

Sock Picture Scavenger Hunt.

Rules:

1. All pictures must be taken with a sock in progress.

2. All pictures must be taken on April 1st.

3. All pictures must be on your camera to show to Rachel at the event, where, like in Bingo, she will see if you’ve won a prize the way you think you have.

4. It’s up to you to add up your points, and tell us what you have, so maybe print this out and check off what you’ve got, and bring it with you so you can do the math.

5. Don’t hurt yourself, break any laws or upset anyone. (Any more than sock pictures normally upset people.)

Ready? Your mission, should you accept it, is to gather photos of your sock with the following items (should you be able to) in the fine city of Toronto.

-at a Tim’s, 1 point. (They’re everywhere.)

-at a Tim’s held by an employee of said establishment, who is also holding the donut of our people, a maple glazed. 2 points. (Drive through accepted, even encouraged)

-with Canadian Tire money, 1 point.

-at a Canadian Tire store, being held by an employee who is also holding Canadian Tire money? 2 points.

- At the ROM with the new crystal. 1 point.

-At the ROM with the T-Rex, 3 points.

-At the Hockey hall of fame. 1 point.

-With a hockey player. 1 point for amateur (everybody knows a hockey player) 5 points for a pro. 6 points if he’s a Maple Leaf.

-At Skydome. Rogers centre.1 point.

-Held by a TTC driver (subway, bus and streetcar all accepted.) 2 points.

-With the CN Tower 1 point. (It’s big.)

-on the glass floor of the CN Tower, 3 points.

-With a pint of beer. 1 point.

-With a pint of beer brewed in Canada, 2 points.

-With a pint of beer from a local (Toronto) indie. 3 points.

-With a sign in another language, 1 point for each language. (Considering how diverse Toronto is, that one should be easy. )

-with the neighbourhood signs. (You know the kind with the neighbourhood name on top and the street on the bottom) 1 point for each one.

-At City Hall. 1 point.

-At City hall, held by an employee, 2 points,

-Held by the mayor – 10 points.

-At Union station. 1 point.

-At Allen Gardens 1 point.

-At Queens Park. 1 point.

-With your MPP. 3 points.

-At The AGO, 1 point.

-with a group of seven painting. 2 points.

-with a Henry Moore sculpture, 2 points.

-on the ferry to the island. 3 points (It’s cold.)

- at St Lawrence Market. 1 point.

-At St. Lawrence Market with one of those really good eggplant sandwiches from Mustashio’s, 3 points.

-At a head shop. 2 points.

-With an animal at Riverdale farm, 2 points. (3 if it’s a sheep.)

-At The Shoe Museum. 1 point.

-On the boardwalk in the beaches. 1 point.

-At The Textile museum. 1 point.

-In any Toronto yarn store. 1 point.

- Held by any yarn shop employee who is also holding a hot chocolate you bought them, 3 points. (multiple points for multiple shops. )

-At The Prince’s Gates. 1 point.

-At Ontario place. 1 point.

-At The horseshoe 1 point.

-At a legion hall. 1 point.

- At a legion hall with a veteran 3 points.

- With the geese at the Eatons Centre. 1 point

-With actual Canada Geese, 3 points (they can be mean.)

- With your boss. (If you are a parent at home, your kid can be your boss.) 1 point.

-With your office photocopier. 1 point. (2 points if you bring a photocopy of your sock.)

-At The map of Yonge street on the ground at the southwest corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets. 1 point.

-With one of Toronto’s finest. 2 points. (4 points for a mounted officer, and I mean on a horse.)

-With a street meat vendor (Veggie dogs accepted.) 1 point.

- With those warm roasted chestnuts that the street vendors sell downtown, 2 points.

-At Casa loma 1 point.

-At The Castle playstructure at High Park. 1 point.

-At the Duckpond at High park. 1 point.

-With a bartender at the Old York Bar and Grill. (My sister owns the place.) 1 point.

-At Honest Ed’s 1 point.

- At The Bay. 1 point.

- with any star on the Canadian Walk of Fame, 1 point for your choice, two points for getting Gordon Pinsent, Margaret Atwood, or William Shatner.

- With another sock belonging to a scavenger hunt player, 1 point. (No multiple points for multiple players.)

- With any Toronto Knitblogger, 2 points.

Finally, there will be a Freestyle category. You can take any sock picture (In Toronto, on April 1st) that you think will amuse or entertain me, because there have just got to be a thousand things that are a killer sort of brilliant that I didn’t think of. Entries for that category (one each please) won’t be judged that evening, but you can email them to me at my regular address (make the picture small so it doesn’t cripple up my inbox) which is stephanie AT yarnharlot DOT ca (change that stuff) before midnight April 3rd, and I will choose a winner from among them according to my entirely arbitrary whims and mail you a little prize.

Good luck, my stalwart knitters. Go forth and sock.

Six Days

That’s how long I have to accomplish the revisions on the book of essays, (all the writing has been done for about a week now, all wool be praised) write a speech to take on the road (I wonder what I’ll say…) prepare the family for my five week absence (I have no idea how to do that) and wait for the reviews on the latest and plan the launch and inexplicable knitter behaviour around North America. I’m essentially out of my mind.

Yesterday I worked all day, knit three rounds on a sock, made dinner, supervised the kids, did laundry and vacuumed the living room (I found a hard boiled egg under the couch. Glad I caught that.) and then worked again until 3am and today it’s another brutal slog, and so will tomorrow, and the day after that. I have a sense of impending doom that I would ordinarily chalk up to stress, but I’m worried, because I think it is likely reality troubling me this time. (I know that, because usually if it is stress it goes away if I eat chocolate for breakfast while taking bath and then knit for five minutes while weeping a little, which didn’t help at all today.) I hate getting ready for a tour. (Though I don’t mind the tour part.) I hate finishing books (though I quite like having them finished) and I hate waiting to see if people like my books. (Although I like it when they do.) I was sitting here this morning wondering how all this stuff managed to end up in one week, and found myself thinking (forgive the strong language) “Man… My boss is a bitch. She has no idea what sort of pressure I’m under, that I don’t have the self-esteem for criticism when it arrives when I’m overworked and she doesn’t have any respect for the limits on my time and energy. It’s like all she cares about is me as someone who works for her, and doesn’t care how tired I get when I have to meet all those demands. She doesn’t even listen when I tell her that it’s too much, although maybe that’s my fault for not being clearer with her. I have got to learn to be more aggressive with setting limits around my time, because someone like her is just going to take advantage of me if I don’t.”

Then I just sat and stared. I’m self employed.

I’m going to be so happy when these six days are over. Seriously.

Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour

It is my experience, that people don’t have a clue about knitters. They think that everything we do is pretty nutty. If you don’t believe me, rent a mini-van and drive to another country for a sheep and wool festival with four knitting friends. Hell, just say you have “knitting friends” and watch ordinary people glaze over. I used to think that it was a problem of stereotypes (which I still do) but now I’ve gained another layer of understanding. I think that knitters upset people because we lack a demographic, and because you don’t understand knitting until you do it.

Think about it. Imagine trying to finish the sentence “Knitters are….” and see what kind of trouble you can get yourself into. Can’t say old, can’t say young, can’t say women. Can’t say we all like wool, can’t say we all knit acrylic. Can’t say we all enjoy knitting socks, can’t say that all of us see the pleasure in an afghan. We don’t all knit for charity, we don’t all have cats. We didn’t all vote for the NDP, we don’t all go to church. We don’t all have grandchildren, we don’t all go to Knit Night, we aren’t all hip – or not hip. We don’t even all stash yarn or knit in public. We are almost impossible to describe, and the things we have in common aren’t really visible. Now try “Knitting is….” and you’ll have the same trouble. What are you going to say? Fun? Easy? Hard? Challenging? Meditative? Cheap? Expensive? No matter what you try to say, a thousand exceptions are going to crop up and ruin your point. The truth of all of it is (I think) that the answers are so complicated because they have to do with what we’ve learned about knitting and how the practice of it has influenced our thinking and behaviour. Which sort of brings me to this book, which has just arrived here (one copy) and has been carefully examined and held proudly by yours truly to the point of obsessive weirdness.

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I like it.

It’s hard for me to say that, because I wrote it, and that makes it sound terribly prideful to say I think it’s good or funny, but the truth is that I wouldn’t have sent it to the publisher if I didn’t think it was good or funny, because writing things and putting them out into public for people to say whatever they want, is scary enough without at least believing in my heart that it’s a good book. You need at least that to come back to when you’re done reading all the reviews. (At least my picture isn’t on the cover of this one, so I at least only have to read opinions about my work, rather than my appearance.) I do think this is a good one. It is, I hear, in stores today in the US though I have no reports of it being successfully hunted in the wild yet. I’m not going to pretend it’s an important book, or even a big one, but it is one that I worked very hard on… and I really hope you like it.

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While I was carrying it around this weekend (Yeah. I know, but it’s sort of a big deal to me) I was talking to someone who clearly wanted to be kind to the little author with her silly book, but totally could not get what it was about. Once we had established that there were no patterns and no instructions for knitting, he was clearly at an impasse about what the hell could be in it? “Humour and Philosophy about knitting” I said, and he looked at me exactly like I had said it was full of “the crushed and dried entrails of a wildebeest with my personal diary written in blood”. It was, I realized, inexplicable to him. Just like a bunch of knitters partying in a yarn shop, or travelling to a knitting event, taking over a coffee shop or filling a bookstore, it was inexplicable knitter behaviour. Next to the stereotypes, it’s probably the biggest thing that knitters face. They can’t define us, so they can’t understand us, so they ignore us, or stare.

Now, this is not a call to arms (or needles). We are never going to get them to understand us. Instead, I have realized that the way that non-knitters find us inexplicable is an invitation. I can’t be the only one who, upon realizing that they don’t get us and don’t care that they don’t get us (in fact, they don’t think about us at all) suddenly develops an urge to be as absolutely inexplicable as possible.

There is, I think, a tremendous freedom in it. If they don’t know what we’ve learned from knitting, or what we get from it, if they are confused because they can’t pigeonhole us, If they stare and whisper when four knitters have dinner in a restaurant, may I humbly suggest a knitting dinner for forty? If they think that knitting at a pub is weird, then take over a pub. Invade. Wear tee shirts. Ride the bus en masse. Take sock pictures, pose sweaters in trees for for blog pictures. Give up. Don’t try to explain yourself. Don’t make any attempt to explain. All those things that make sense to us and don’t make sense to them? Just do it. Be knitters, and let it rip, and that’s what I’m doing with this tour this time (which doesn’t really represent a lifestyle shift for me, but might for you.) Starting with the launch, I’m going to suggest that everywhere I go, that knitters spend that day getting as inexplicable as possible. Embrace your inner knitter and go nuts. Your choice. Think up the weirdness and get to it. Imagine our goal as trying to make as many of the non-knitting as possible, wander home smiling to themselves and saying “I saw the damnedest thing today”.

Since the launch is here in Toronto, which is the first time that one of my books has launched properly and first in Canada (which is a very big deal to me) we have a special opportunity to show everybody what knitters are made of in these parts, and we are taking it just as far as we can. I (with the help of Rachel H and Joe) have arranged a few things that should make perfect sense to all of you, and be entirely inexplicable to everyone else.

1. April 1st, all day, there will be, here in Toronto, a Sock Picture Scavenger Hunt. A list of sock picture opportunities will be posted (here, likely tomorrow) and knitters have all day on the 1st (and only the first) to scramble around the city scoring sock pictures. I imagine that this should be seriously inexplicable. At the launch, prizes will be awarded for mad sock picture skills. It is going to be weird. It is going to be good.

2. For the fist time in Knitter history (I think) a Canadian knitting author/philosopher/ comic is getting an opening act of iconic Canadian musicians. Andy Maize and Michael Johnston (Skydiggers) are starting up the show, and if you don’t think that’s cool, you’re not thinking. (It’s also pretty inexplicable.) I have given them very little direction, and only asked that they start somewhere before I do, (Doors open at Six, I go on about seven) and keep you company while you knit. They are brilliant and funny and you will love them. I promise. Hell, come see them and forget about me. (I don’t really mean that.)

3. Rachel H, that organizational genius and generous heart, has sprung for more of the famed (and pretty rare) Knitters Without Borders pins.

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This means that you can have one at the signing in exchange for a donation (give big) to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, which we will hand right over to them for you. There is a limited number of these pins, and it is really pretty likely that the only place you are going to be able to get one this year is at this launch. Last year they went almost all in an evening in NYC, so this year it’s Toronto.

4. I’m pre-signing all the books. If you buy a book at the launch it will be signed with no waiting around. Last time, that was not the fun part, so we’re skipping it. This makes the next part super fun.

5. We are all going (me too, since I don’t have to sit and sign) to meet up afters at The Foxes Den. (If you are from Brampton, that’s probably cracking you up, because in Brampton there’s a strip club (where men, rather than women liberate their clothing) by the same name. This is not that place. Everyone will have clothes on. I think. I can’t promise anything for all knitters.) We’ll head over there after, hoist a great many pints, laugh, confuse the wait-staff and other patrons and I’ll personalize any books that you simply must have done. It will be grand, and I think we should go over together. I suggest a parade, just to mess with the non-knitting.

The Isabel Bader Theatre is huge, we are going to have tons of room, you don’t need tickets or an RSVP (no matter who tells you differently) and there should be enough knitters that it gets truly weird, and should shock the pants right off of the University of Toronto, who own the joint. (You can already hear it in their voices. “Knitters?”) The whole thing is going to be big fun, and I’m looking forward to what else people come up with, for that day, and for other days in the future of the tour. Hundreds of knitters congregating is as inexplicable as it gets to the non-knitting, and If people already think you’re inexplicable, then you might as well take it as far as your wildest dreams go. There is much that knitting has taught me, not the least of which is that we’re a subculture, and I know that to the non-knitting, it all looks like most of our behaviour is odd. I don’t care, and I think you shouldn’t either. People who don’t knit aren’t going to get it, and that is an awesome opportunity to mess with them. We can serve our own purposes, create events and occasions that make sense to us, and boldly go, unfettered by the norms of the rest of society, since we’re already weird enough that we have nothing to lose. It’s taken me a long time to figure it out, but one of the things I’ve learned from knitting is that it changes you. It shapes your life, and you’re not the same person once you know how, and that means you think differently than other people.

Inexplicable knitter behaviour. Coming soon to a city near you… but starting right here. Party on.

Quickie

I’m home. Joe hiked in with a proper sled yesterday, and we towed my stuff out and made the long drive home.

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I’m fine, but taking the day to be with the kids, knit on a stealth project and try to find the house that I know is here under this mess somewhere. (I don’t want to know why there are three rolls of toilet paper in the dining room and a bag of almonds with a fork in the upstairs hall. I’m sure it’s complex.)

I don’t miss the peace of the woods at all,

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but I sure miss the scenery. For those of us hanging on by a thread here in Ontario, I’d like to take a moment to remind you that no matter how it looks outside today… It is officially the first day of spring, and the date or the equinox. The day and night are equal today, and tomorrow, the day will be longer. There can only be so much more snow before the rotation of the earth on it’s axis makes it impossible. Hang tough.

I thought you had my back

So, in the time I’ve been in the woods, you all have been very cautious. I have been duly warned about everything from frostbite, to wolves, to bears, to axe handling, to leg breaking and zombie management. I have only to whisper that I am headed into the woods and sixty-five of you counsel me on every possible bad thing that could happen to me, and advise me of the caution I should use, should I wish to survive. I appreciate it too. When you’re all alone in the woods you just can’t hear enough about the impending doom lurking around every corner. I’ve taken it all with a grain of salt, learned a great many things, and proceeded with caution. Which brings me to my point.

Where the hell were you people yesterday? I announced with all possible clarity my intention to walk into town for a full FOURTEEN KILOMETRES and not one of you, not a single person, left a comment saying “Holy Mary Mother Of God What Are You Thinking?” Nobody. Not a single person typed a comment that contained the words “For the love of wool, don’t do it.” Nada. It makes a girl wonder who’s side you’re on, you know that?

I left the house in the woods at a about three. I walked and walked in the direction of the store. It’s a dirt road (or more properly this time of year, a dirt and ice road) and I walked briskly along the twisty, hilly one lane road that leads into town. (Actually, they don’t have the audacity to call it a town. It’s a “Village”) I walked and walked. The sun was shining, it was only -3, I was warm and cheerful. I greeted chipmunks, I frowned at a squirrel, and then I walked some more. After a while, a long while, it occurred to me that I had been walking a long time. A really long time. Although I’m in pretty good shape and I walk far all the time, I was starting to feel it. I figured though, that I had to be almost there. One couldn’t walk this far and not be almost there. I kept walking.

At the point when I first began to lose faith, I spotted two girls, about 12 years old, crossing the road from one farm to another. They were the first humans I’d seen in five days, and I called out to them. “Hello!” I said, and the girls stared at me. A stranger? This is small town Ontario. There are no strangers, or at least if there are, they are in their cars driving through. A stranger walking up a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. Now that was something. They looked at me and then cautiously said hello back. Then one of them squared her shoulders and said “Where’d you come from?”

“Just up the road” I waved my hand vaguely behind me. “I’m walking to the store. Am I going the right way?”

The girls suspended their disbelief (the walking thing was clearly a shock to them) and assured me that not only was I going the right way, I was close. “Real close”.

I kept walking. I walked and walked and walked. By now, saying that I was “feeling it” was a joke. Things were starting to hurt, but honestly, I’d walked so damn far that it just had to be around the corner. If I turned around and walked back now, I still had to go all the way back, and there was no way I was giving up when I was so close. I walked on. I was not close, it wasn’t around the next corner, but every corner I went around only made it more likely that it would be around the one after that. I walked. I came upon a man out shovelling the drive of an Inn.

“Hello” I said, as cheerfully as the throbbing whole bottom half of my body would let me.

“Howdy.” He replied, sizing me up. “Where’d you come from?”

“Up the road” I waved even more vaguely than before, mostly due to fatigue. “I’m walking to the store.”

He looked at me for a second, and then with a good natured half chuckle, he said “Well. Are you now.”

“Yes. Am I close?”

“No.” He said, and my heart sank to my feet.

“Fifteen more minutes”. My hear leapt! Fifteen minutes! Hell, when you’d been walking as far as I had, what was fifteen more minutes. Sure I was tired. Sure I was hurting, but fifteen more minutes was doable, and it was stupid to go through all this and stop fifteen minutes short of my goal. I strode off. Fifteen minutes. I could do anything for fifteen minutes, and I could have too…. if he hadn’t have been a filthy liar. I don’t know how long it was (it just has to be around this corner) when I finally found the store, but it was a lot longer than fifteen minutes – or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe time had just crawled by for however long it was that I walked the road.

I staggered into the store and a kind and friendly looking guy looked up at me. I closed the door behind me and I said “Holy Hell. This was way further than I thought.”

“Yeah” he said. “I saw you walking. All I could think was ‘Where’d she come from?’”

“I came”, I said “from Smith Road, up by Jones Line”. (Those are made up streets. Don’t come looking.)

He stared. “Smith and Jones? All the way from Smith and Jones? That’s… like seven kilometres.” He shook his head trying to imagine it. In this kind of town nobody walks anywhere. Everything is so far apart and so rural, that if you see someone walking you know their either crazy or in trouble. He looked at me like I might be both.

“You can’t walk from Smith and Jones” he said, very seriously.

Au Contraire!” I wheezed. “Au contraire…. You certainly can. I don’t recommend it” and here I raised a shaking hand for emphasis “but it can be done.”

“Geez” he said. Still reeling. “That’s something. It sure is.” then he paused, and asked me “What did you come for?” and looked around the store, as if trying to figure out what the hell he sold that I could need this badly. Suddenly I felt stupid. Totally stupid. I felt like the only thing i could say I needed after this sort of lunatic move was “Insulin” or “an ambulance for my dying father” or “food, I’ve been out for days and finally had to walk or die.” Instead, all I had was the truth, and it suddenly seemed rather weak.

“Toilet paper and beer” I said.

“Fair enough” Ron said, because it turned out his name was Ron. We chatted for a bit about what I had been thinking and where I was staying and why. I got the beer and the toilet paper and I loaded it into my backpack, and I slung it onto my back and pulled on my mittens. Then I sighed.

“What are you going to do now” asked Ron, though I think we both knew the answer.

“Can I call a cab?” I asked.

“No cabs out here” said Ron, and I think he felt pretty bad about that.

“That’s what I thought. ” I managed a weak smile. “I guess I’m walking back.” I tried to look brave.

“Well.” smiled Ron, still looking stunned in a nice way, “Ain’t you the craziest thing I’ve seen all day.”

“Thanks” I said, and I smiled as genuinely as possible. I took my leave. I was walking back up the road again. Walking, walking. Thankfully the excruciating pain in my arse had settled down now that the numbness from my thighs had spread. I realized that I had made a mistake, being happy to get to the store. I’d been a fool. The store wasn’t my goal. The store was HALFWAY. If I wasn’t in public I would have cried. I considered how if a car passed me (which was INSANE, I’d walked seven kilometres without a single car passing me) I would try to hitchhike. Yessirree. The slim possibility that the person who picked me up would try to kill me was a fair trade against the certainty of the misery that lay ahead. One step at a time, I plodded along. Walking, walking.

After about 20 minutes, when I had realized there was no way I was getting back before dark and a whole fresh hell was opening up in front of me, a car came up behind me on that little dirt road and slowed to crawl alongside. The window came down, and a pretty girl of about 21 or 22 years old called out.

“Excuse me? Excuse me…” I turned to face her and tried a the best smile I could muster.

“Are you Stephanie?” she asked. “were you just at the store?” I stared. I could barely open my mouth. I couldn’t remember how to talk. I nodded.

“Get in” she said. “My dad says I have to give you a ride.”

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Thanks Ron.

Another Monday in the Woods

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Erin go Bragh! (Or more properly – Éire go Brách!) Feels a little odd to be away from the family today. I wonder if Joe reminded them to wear a little green for luck, if he’ll make a vegetable stew for dinner… Someone will have to make the soda bread for today. (That was a direct hint to Ken, who’s Irish brown bread is very good, although I think he’ll be happier with it when the learning curve doesn’t allow for bread with “tumours” that develop during baking. Odd, that.) I think I’ve decided that my concession to the day shall be that I walk to the corner store/gas station/coffee shop/liquor store/ beer store, buy myself a Guiness, and trot back here to drink it by the fire while I work. Round trip, it’s about 14k, but 12 of them are along the town road, so it’s not so bad. I think I wouldn’t normally wouldn’t walk that far for a beer (St. Patricks day or not) but I’m almost out of toilet paper, and I’ve developed a rampaging case of cabin fever, so I can tell myself it serves a duel purpose.

I’m in very deep with the book. The end is in sight, hope glimmers on the horizon. I’m trying to finish it a little early, since the launch for the last book, (here in Toronto on April fools day, it’s going to be big fun) is the same day as my deadline for this book – and I leave the next day for the tour. (Actually, this is a good time to mention that Jayme-the-wonder-publicist has sent me details for April 29 in Carmel IN (Barnes and Noble) and May 4 in Salt Lake City at the Public Library. I’ve put up the details on the tour page, as always. I think Jayme is adding 4 more events, all before May 4th, and then that’s it. Finito. Tour done. We’re trying something new and doing it all at once instead of spreading it out.) I’m trying to give myself a couple of days in the next few weeks to breath a little. As a result, very little knitting is going on. I’m still working on my sister’s Urban Aran, and I was doing pretty well. I’d finished both sleeves, the back and was halfway up one of the fronts when I finally accepted that I couldn’t live with the way that I’d handled the front edge. It seems silly to say it now, but the fact that I had decided to only add one extra stitch to allow for the zipper was a mistake, and the longer I knit the more sure of it I became. I was this far when I ripped it back entirely.

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Tiny bit of a pain in the arse, because I’m knitting from two balls of the Araucania alternating every two rows, but totally worth it. Doesn’t it look much better?

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Yeah, I know. I can’t tell either.

I swear it will matter when I go to put the zipper in. The front edges of a cardigan are, I am telling myself, not somewhere that you don’t want things to look right, even if that does mean you are knitting a blue cardigan for the rest of your life.

Other stuff? I have a few random bits.

1. The yarn that I’m using for this sweater is on closeout at WEBS, right down to the colour. (105) (Yeah. I didn’t know that when I bought mine. I bought more though, so I feel better.)

2. Sivia Harding is doing an auction of some very nice stuff on her blog to honour her father, who very recently passed away. Profits go to Doctors without Borders, and Sivia is a wonderful person, so please consider taking a look.

3. Fun details of the Toronto Launch are coming. The lovely and esteemed Rachel H has found us a pub for the afterparty, I am compiling a super odd plan for the rest of the day (Hint: you will need a camera and a sock) and Joe is working with the Isabel Bader Theatre to pull together an awesome bonus for the people who come. It’s going to be a blast, and I swear, I will write all the details down if you just wait a couple of days while everybody confirms everything. Promise. Inexplicable knitter behaviour (on April fools day – there’s an invitation) takes a little planning.

4. If you were thinking about buying my book and coming to an event, can I ask you to consider something? You can, of course do entirely as you like, but if you’re coming to an event, would you consider buying your book there? The yarn shops and bookstores who put on these events don’t get paid to do it, or receive financial help from the publisher. If they need to rent a space or a microphone or something, they pay for it themselves. (The publisher helps them promote it and pays for travel.) As it’s free to get in, the way they make their money back is by selling you books, or in the case of the yarn shop, books and yarn. I know a lot of you will buy or have bought your books elsewhere, or even pre-ordered and that’s just fine. You can bring it (even if I’m in another bookstore) I’ll sign it, and nobody will be bothered. If you haven’t bought it yet though, please consider giving the bookstore or yarn shop holding the event your business. I know it might mean waiting a few weeks to get the book, but all of the events are within 5 weeks of the launch, and they are a lot of work to set up. if you’re going to buy the book anyway – why not buy it from them. (Naturally, if you’re not planning on buying the book, you can ignore this.)

5. In the “stupid things I have done in the woods” category for today: Yesterday I went on a hike and found this place where there was warm (comparatively) water seeping out of the rocks. It was making a puddle that melted the snow and on the rocks where the water came out, the moss was alive, green and beautiful.

It was like finding a little mini-spring in the middle of all this winter, and I was so smitten that I moved closer to get a better look/picture.

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Well, I got this picture,

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and a soaker.

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I stepped closer without thinking, and naturally the water ran further under the snow than it looked like. Idiot. A whole bootful of icy water rushed in. it was breathtaking really. All the way home my foot was frozen and my boot made an embarrassing sloshing, squishing noise with every step.

At least I had wool socks on, and I wasn’t as alone as I thought.

Who’s this?

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