The way thing are

Well. This is it.

There you have it, a little pile of yarn that intends to be things before Christmas.  The Day Of Reckoning wasn’t that bad…if by not bad you understand that I mean that things aren’t as bad as they have been in the past but are still sort of amazingly ambitious. 

There’s the scarf I need to finish (that’s not a present, but still has to happen.) A nearly finished pair of socks, two pairs of men’s socks that aren’t yet socks at all, a little red sweater, a blue and cream baby set that’s only 1/3 of the way to being a set, two pairs of slippers that are invisible because haven’t even ordered the yarn yet, and the same goes for a hat.  There might be something else in there that I’m not committed to, because if time runs out I think I can buy my way out of it. 

That is, to my way of figuring knitting time, about 100 hours of knitting, and about 27 days to knit it in, and that rounds out to about 3.7 hours of knitting per day, which sounds bad, but probably isn’t, considering that I have seven flights and seven nights away from home  in the next 12 days – and that will help, but will likely be balanced out by the fact that I’m teaching and speaking for six of them.  I’m trying not to think about it.  I know too that the season also holds cooking and cookies and building gingerbread houses and taking Hank out for our traditional shopping trip, and making sure a few things get into jars and pulling together a celebration for solstice and…

Now is a really good time to remember that these are goals, not mandatory knitting landmarks that I must hit or be damned.  I’ve enjoyed the last few years when I’ve been organized and relaxed and darn it all the way to H. E. double hockey sticks, I’m not letting go of that feeling. 

Still, it might be doable. Right? The next few days will be the test.  If I can get the back of it broken, the universe might just unfold as I hope it will.  Or more of the ceiling will fall in.  No way to know. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, and to the rest of us, Happy 27 knitting days until Christmas.  Get busy.

The Day of Reckoning

A few days ago someone noticed that on Ravelry, in my notebook under "made for" I frequently write "the long range planning box", and they wondered what that was.  The Long Range Planning Box is a box I keep under my bed, in which reside all of the things that I acquire throughout the year for Christmas.  I’m trying to be the sort of person who has all the shopping and organizing done early, trying to lighten my load during the season, but truthfully it’s a pretty small box and I sort of suck at it.  Still, as I find little stocking stuffers, and as I knit little things through the year, I tuck them in there to get ahead.

Today is the day I open that box, and I’m already excited, and that’s a mistake, because I’ve lived this moment before. I get ready to open the box, I get my spreadsheet out, the one that has each person I’m giving a gift to on it. (I compare the spreadsheet to the ones from the years before, to make sure I don’t give the same thing by accident. The year I wrote the pretty thing pattern I gave away a bunch of them, and then a while later I think I gave someone another one. There are worse things in the world than owning two luxurious little things like that but it bugged me and I am just weird enough to need a system.)  I get a box or bag for every person who gets more than one thing (I don’t know how it works at your house, but here we buy the things for the stockings and then Santa swings by and loads it up.  We like to help him where we can so that he has the energy he needs for helping families who aren’t able to buy presents – which totally explains why you might find your stocking stuffers in my bedroom in mid-December if you forget which bedroom you’re in and for some reason get caught rummaging through my closet like the little sneak you are. It’s not like there’s no Santa.)  

Once I’m all organized I open the box, and I take the stuff out, and I look at what I’ve got.  I fill it in on the spreadsheet, and put stuff in the bags, and then I can sit down with the spreadsheet and see the real way things are.  Am I missing socks for someone? How many hats do I need? Do I need boxes? When I’m done I have a list of what’s left to knit, and who it’s for and I can start the last minute sprint.  It’s the day of reckoning- and here’s why it’s a bad idea to be excited about it.  Every year when I open the long range planning box, a wave of disappointment hits me like a truck when I see what the sum total of a year of planning ahead looks like. 

I immediately vow to do better in the coming year, and really I do try, and I even think I succeed, right up until that moment when I open the box again the next year and it turns out I’m still me. You would think I would learn, but I don’t, but I always think I have, so hope springs eternal.

So I’m going to open the box, and I’m going to deal with whatever’s in there, and then I’m going to make a plan.  Wish me luck.

(Happy travelling to all my American Friends. Safe journeys home to all of you.)

Gearing Up

Every year I make the same mistake.  I start working on Christmas stuff early enough for it to count.  I make a spreadsheet, I organize all my stuff, and I start putting pairs of socks and little bits of things away far enough from the holiday that I don’t have to worry so much. I make a spreadsheet, and I start working the system.
Sounds perfect, right?  Wrong. Here’s the mistake.  I stop worrying.  I relax.  I relax right into how amazingly awesome my holiday plan is, and I relax right into the comfort the spreadsheet gives me, and I relax enough that I start making other things.

See that? It’s another tulip baby sweater.  (We’ve discussed before that I might have a little addiction to these. Which reminds me, my supply of the kits is running low.  I have to re-order. I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have this sweater kit in it.)

This little sweater just about fell off the needles last week while I was in Washington, and I finished it up on the plane on the way home, which sounds like I was so totally together, which is also wrong, because on todays to-do list is mailing it back to Washington, since it’s a gift for someone at Port Ludlow.   (Whoops. For all my planning, my timing still sucks too.) Then I worked on my grey scarf for a while – which is, by the way, also NOT a Christmas gift, because you know. I have a spreadsheet, and a plan and so much time.

I relaxed.  I relaxed enough that I thought that taking several days to knit a little sweater wouldn’t be a big deal, and I relaxed enough that it wasn’t until I picked up a little sweater I’m making my niece for Christmas that the wave of reality smacked me in the face.

I have a friend who always says "Don’t panic early."
No worries. As usual, I’m starting a little late.

PS. Because the tour page is still not updated (technical issue. I’m working on it.) I’m listing where I’ll be over the next little bit here.

This coming weekend I’ll be at Simply Socks in Fort Wayne Indiana. There’s a lecture and some classes (and I wish that there was another way to say "Lecture" or "talk" because it doesn’t make it sound like what it is – which is more fun than I lecture I think.)

Next weekend (Friday, December 6th through Sunday, December 8th.) I’ll be in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, North Carolina.  I’m pretty excited about that one because I think (don’t burst my bubble) that there will be no snow. I’ll be visiting Yarns Etc. and there will be a talk (there’s that boring word) and classes too. 

Blink

This last week of my life is proof that time flies when you’re having fun.  I’ve been busy, but in the very best ways, and so many interesting things and people have happened.

Here’s a list of 10 things I did this week.

1. I got to see and work with my friends Debbi and Stephen, even though they live really far away.

2. Besides taking really bad selfies, we went on a hike.


3. Nancy Bush came to work at the retreat, and one evening over a glass of wine, Debbi asked her what was in a big box she’d brought.

The answer was amazing.

Almost a hundred hand knits from Estonia. Mittens, socks, shawls (oh the shawls.)  She’d brought them to sell at our little retreat marketplace, and Judith, Debbi, Stephen and I are not ashamed to tell you that we did a little Christmas shopping out of that stack before any of it even saw the market.


Nobody appreciates a hand knit like another knitter.  They were beautiful.

4. I taught lace to what was quite possibly the nicest group of knitters ever assembled. The retreat had a gorgeous vibe I think.  Supportive, engaged… We really made the world the way it would be if knitters were in charge.

(That’s a little ball of  Colrain Lace.  Webs sent it along for the students in my class to use, nice yarn!) 

5. At the marketplace I got to see a great new yarn company.  It was their third day of selling stuff.

Local Color Fiber Studio is on Bainbridge Island, where they gather their natural dye stuff and create beautiful yarn. Their yarn is from sustainable farms or "upcycled" sweaters. Mark my words, they’re going to go far. Lovely things. (Right now they only have a FB page, and a little yarn, but it’s all charming.)

6. The market in general really flipped me out. We had local vendors from the community (Finnriver Farm and Cidery, HansenCrafts, Jennie Watkins fleeces and roving, Taylored Fibers, Wild Sage Teas) and it was a fun opportunity to show off one of the reasons I like that area so much.  In the evening, the retreaters brought out their wares, and it was crazy to see all the amazing things that they made.  There were letterpress notepads, hand dyed yarns, stitch markers, bags… it was pretty impressive. I loved it, and I can’t wait to do it again.

7. I got an email from my mum (she’s travelling abroad) and she said her internet was  "a bummer" and "truly sucked."  I’m still laughing. Anybody else agree she’s totally got the hang of her ipad?

8. I knit a ton, but the thing I made is drying so you can’t see it till tomorrow.

9.  One of our amazing retreaters, Leslie, brought this amazing Charkha (she made it, btw.)
She very generously let us try it if we wanted to.  I wanted to. I’d forgotten how much fun they are to spin on.

10.  I took the ferry to Seattle, something I’ve never done before.

It was pretty neat, as was arriving home, as is being here.  More later. The ceiling fell in.*

*Technically the ceiling didn’t fall in, because that choice of words implies that it was the whole ceiling, and really it’s only a largish piece of the ceiling.  It was an accident related to the neighbours renovation, and they’re very nice people who are very sorry and are totally going to fix it, but I still have some things to do.

Briefly

This is just a quickie.  I’m changing planes in Vancouver, with one more flight to go before I arrive in Seattle, meet up with Debbi (and a surprise) and then we’re off to Port Ludlow for the Lace Retreat that starts tomorrow night. I’m a little nervous, but mostly very excited. Planning these is no small amount of work, and I’m so looking forward to watching it all come together.  (This assumes that it is going to come together, but I think it would take something nobody could plan for to derail us at this point. I’ve got contingency plans for my contingency plans. It would have to be something like a herd of bison stampeding through the classrooms, although honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Debbi had an electric stock prod in her trunk – just in case.)   I’ve planned this thing to pieces, I think Debbi’s worried just as much, and last night I packed and got ready in general – and then lay down in bed and realized, just as I was dropping off, that I hadn’t planned my knitting.

I suppose that if something had to fall off the scale, the knitting is a good one, since I’ve got lots of knitting stuff to sort it out with, so I reached over, set my alarm 15 minutes earlier, and resolved to get it together in the morning while I drank coffee.  

In the morning, I realized that I should be referring to that moment as "mistake number one" because a) I cannot make a single decision in the morning before I’ve had a cup of coffee, and b) 5am is not morning, it’s still night, and c) I’ve never made a decision about what I’d like to knit in 15 minutes or less. Never, and that’s even when fully caffeinated and the sun is up.  I ended up largely panicking, throwing kits and needles and yarn into my suitcase, operating on the premise that if I took a lot, I’d at least have choices I could make at Port Ludlow.  (We will see later if the needles go with the yarn or if it was all way, way too random.)  Better too much than too little, I thought.

I stuffed it all in the suitcase, then added a skein of sock yarn as insurance (never mind that we’re having that awesome Community Market at the Resort Saturday and that there will be yarn there) and then tossed my current project into a bag, and tossed it in my carry-on – noticed that I was almost out of yarn, tossed in another ball and jumped in a cab.

Just now, I took out my pattern, patted myself on the back for remembering to bring it, and promptly realized as I read my next steps, that I have brought the wrong yarn, and this project is now luggage.  When this ball is finished, I’ll have to stop.
Stop, and think about how next time, it would be a great idea to plan this sooner.  In the meantime, I’m knitting slowly until I get my luggage back.

And then I invented it

 A while ago I got a letter from this complete and total stranger who had something that I wanted. The whole story about the thing is coming later, when I have his permission, but to sum up, we decided to barter for this thing, and what he wanted was a scarf. Something that had shades of grey in a "gradient".  (I think he’s been reading the blog.)

I started thinking about it, and I looked around, but I couldn’t quite find yarn that I wanted that did just what I wanted and then I realized that there was no way that I was going to find it because the effect I was looking for was rather impossible to achieve that way. 
I imagined a scarf that was chevrons, pointing all the way from one end to the other, like a big repeating arrow, and I imagined that this scarf changed colour along the grey scale a few times.  I ordered a whack of yarn, and while I waited for it to come, I plotted. (I ordered it from True North Yarns and they shipped it in about 15 minutes.  I plotted quickly. By the way? That shop sells Phentex.  You’re welcome.)

When the yarn arrived, I gave my idea a go.  I’d drafted the plan out on graph paper, and after one false start (the gauge I imagined was all wrong) I got it going on.  There’s a knit/purl pattern establishing the arrows, and then each new colour comes in by way of intarsia. 

It’s way faster to knit than I thought it would be, and possibly addictive. In just a few days I’m already at the halfway point, and that means that I should be done in a day or two, and that thrills me to death, because as happy as I am with this scarf, it’s not a Christmas present, and I don’t have time to lose focus. I’m sure you understand.

Random Monday

1. Ken changed some stuff with the blog again. It should be another awesome step towards thwarting the piece of crap spammers who’ve been making my online life a place where no expletive is ever good enough.  From now on, when you leave a comment, you’ll still put in your email address, but it won’t be published on the blog. I can still see your email address, but you (or the rat bastard spammers) can’t see each others. Should help.

2. I finished another pair of socks. I am not going to say anything cocky about anything to do with any upcoming day on which I will be expected to have many pairs of socks, but I am going to say that this is a step in the right direction. 

Yarn: OnLine Supersocke, 6-fach, Murano Color 1507.  (I got mine at Over the Rainbow Yarn in Maine) It’s a little thicker than a regular sock yarn, I used a 2.75mm needle instead of a 2.25 – and went down a few stitches.

I used my regular pattern from Knitting Rules, and they fit like arse because they’re not for me. I swear they’ll fit the intended recipient a lot better.

3. I started a scarf out of this yarn that I ordered from True North Yarn.  (They  were awesome, btw.)

It’s too dark to take a picture of it underway, but trust me it is very cool.  I’ll show you tomorrow. 

4. The Strung Along November Retreat is this weekend at the Resort at Port Ludlow, with Judith MacKenzie, Nancy Bush and I -  I know, it did sort of happen in a really quiet way.  I was going to announce when sign-ups were, but I said in the blog post that if you were sure you wanted to come to let me know, and well. That was a lot of knitters.  I thought that a few people might sign up that way, but it only took about a day to get a the whole thing full, and a waitlist going on.  I think that next time we’ll think about another way to do it, because that was a lot like getting hit by a very flattering bus. 

I thought I’d let you know though, if you’re in the ‘hood and you’d like to see what it’s like there, or do a little shopping (woolly and otherwise) We’re having a tiny Community Marketplace on Saturday.  It’s an experiment. In the afternoon, from 2-5:30, we’ll have a few local vendors set up (Fleeces! Roving! Yarn! MiniSpinners and a chance to try them! Other stuff you will like!) and then there’s a little break, and in the evening 7- 8:30, the students will be out of class, they’ll have their stuff to show off as well, and we’ll all have a bit of a visit and a bit of a shop. (Nancy and Judith will have things to sell too. You might not want to miss that. I don’t know what they’re bringing, but it’s gotta be good. Right?)
I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Please join us if you think so too – and if you’ve got friends and family in the area, you might want to mention it. It’s a good way to point them in the direction of a present you would like. 

Saturday the 16th November, The Resort at Port Ludlow.
2:00 – 5:30 local vendors (and some student and teacher stuff, but students and teachers are in class, with Debbi Stone minding the store.)
7:00 -8:30, the whole banana. 

Maybe it was Allergies

When Joe and I bought water service that reflects the fact that we live in the 21st century, the attempt to join our new plumbing to the city plumbing didn’t go well.  The water to a few of our neighbours was shut off for a day and the street outside was full of huge emergency trucks shining bright lights and working into the night. When they were done, they’d made a hole in the sidewalk and patched it with asphalt.  Over the course of the winter that patch had heaved and part of it quit, creating a crazy sinkhole out front. 

Joe and I called the city right away and put an orange safety cone on it so that nobody would get hurt.  I started to worry that day. I admit, that me being me, I mostly worried about water running into the (small) sinkhole and the washing away the ground underneath the rest of the sidewalk.  (I admit also, that me being me, I worried that a really big rain might wash out the support for our house. I think it’s impossible, but I’m a creative person and that doesn’t always help me.)  I also started to worry about the sidewalk itself.

Years and years ago, when the girls were little, the city put new sidewalk out front. I can’t remember where Amanda was, but Megan and Sam got permission from Joe (who’s a complete renegade) to write in the wet cement. (I was afraid they would get in trouble. Is that graffiti? Is it against the law? I didn’t know.) They went outside and squatted on the edge of the step with sticks, and they each wrote something.  Sam put her name and a star (we had a talk after that about the wisdom of vandalizing something with one’s own name.)

Megan, little, idealistic and being raised by hopelessly optimistic hippies, wrote "You are beautiful" because she thought that would make everyone in the family feel good, as they stepped onto the sidewalk to begin their days.

Despite initially being opposed (although the police never said anything about the crime) it turns out that I love those little bits of urban art. Now, way more than a decade later, I love to see those little messages when I leave the house, and I smile to myself when I see guests to our home spot them as they come and go.  They’ve become important to me, like the marks on the doorframe that I paint around semi-annually – the ones showing the girl’s heights compared to mine.  When the sinkhole happened, I knew that they were going to replace part of the sidewalk, but I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know how much. I hoped the sidewalk could be saved, because I liked it. 

Two mornings ago, I woke up because there was a ridiculous racket outside.  Jackhammering, I realized, and I chalked it up to the ongoing renovation next door and rolled over.  Three minutes later I was staggering out of bed, pulling clothes on as I went – running my fingers through my hair and grabbing the camera.  Two minutes after that, I was the crazy lady bursting onto the porch, hair wild, braless in yoga pants and an old tee-shirt with soup on it,  screaming "STOP!"

The guy in the little jackhammer cart thingie stopped, a look on his face of pure astonishment. He can’t have heard me, what with the ear protection and the jackhammering, but he sure saw me, and he stopped right there.  I pointed at the square of sidewalk right there in front of the step. It wasn’t broken up yet, but I could tell it would be. He’d started on an area that made it clear it was going to go.  "I… need to take some pictures." I said, and then, for reasons that I don’t understand at all, because I am a tough person, and I was totally reconciled to the eventual loss of the sidewalk, and also  I don’t cry in public if I can possibly help it – some horrible hitch of a sob came out of me, and I started to cry while I got the broom, and swept the leaves off of the words.

Do you have any idea how many memento’s I have of my children’s youth? I have pictures, and baby clothes, and knitted things. I have books, and I have art, and I have toilet paper rolls covered in macaroni and spray painted gold that I can hang on my Christmas tree. I have old report cards, letters, and badges.  I have it all, and I was really in no danger of forgetting anyway, and I am not the sort of mother who really regrets that those years are over anyway.  I loved it when they were little, I really did. I was good at it and I worked hard at it, and those were wonderful, wonderful years (if somewhat sleep-deprived, loud and sticky.) It was fulfilling and important work, taking care of my girls, but I am proud and happy that they are mostly grown now,  and I value this time as much as that.
I am never going to be the sort of mum who weeps in her empty nest.  I’ve been waiting for it to empty out for a while, and with all of that together, I couldn’t believe that there I was, crying on the porch, taking pictures of words in the cement, and considering how I could strike a bargain to keep it. 

The guy got out of the little jackhammer cart, and he came over to the step.  He looked down where I was sweeping.  I pointed.  He was a young guy.  If he has kids they must be very little, and he looked down to the ground and saw what was there.  After a minute, he looked away, and went back to the equipment, and waited patiently, and he said nothing while I took some pictures. When I was done, I said thank you to him, and I turned to go into the house.  "Sorry lady" he said.  I smiled.  It had nothing to do with him.

I have a new sidewalk now. I sat in the house and I listened to him smash it up, and then a truck came, and took away all the pieces, and later in the afternoon they poured new concrete, and now the sinkhole is gone and nobody can get hurt and the house won’t fall down.  It’s all good. My kids are grown up, and I like who they are, and I am glad that the time they were little is over, and I have a lot to remember that time by. 

I know that the world is the sort of place where you can’t get attached to a sidewalk you don’t own, and I know too that nothing is really different today, now that our old sidewalk is gone, there’s no risk that I’ll forget that day that two of them squatted on the step, sticks in their hands, writing in wet concrete, wondering if they were breaking the law while I fretted and Joe told them to dare.  I won’t forget all the times I shovelled that sidewalk and saw the words there, and really, I’m pretty sure I’ll think of them every time I see the new sidewalk anyway.  I won’t forget, and it doesn’t really, really matter, and I have no idea then, why I was that crazy lady on the porch, sweeping leaves away from words, and crying on old concrete.  

What’s that dance with the jumping?

Allow me to introduce you to today’s knitting:

It’s another sock, and one that I was making pretty good progress on. It was born as my desk knitting this morning, and it also doesn’t exist anymore, because I ripped it out and just started again because it had gauge as nice as the general condition of my closets, which is to say it was a hot mess.

The significant thing is that we all note that I have been knitting for 41 years, and that I totally knew that sock was knit way too tight and had all the flexibility of a toddler, and I still kept knitting for a couple of hours while knowing that, thus wasting a chunk of knitting time, and reassuring me that the rule of experienced knitters still applies.  We don’t make fewer mistakes. We make bigger ones faster. 

Steph out.

Picking up speed

On Saturday morning I woke up at 4:45 am, and started my day swearing for 15 minutes about the outrageous lack of intelligence I’d shown the day before.  Friday was Joe’s 45th birthday, and inspired by what I can only assume was my remarkable love for him, I’d thrown him a dinner with his family, without really stopping to think that a) that’s sixteen people b) I had an early morning flight to Maine.  The whole thing was lovely, and worth it, as long as you don’t care even one little bit about sleep. 

I got up at 5, put the stuff I needed into my suitcase, realized that I hadn’t planned my knitting very well.  I’d finished the cowl, I hadn’t decided how to fix Joe’s socks, and at the last minute I panicked, grabbed a sock out of some self striping stuff I’d cast on the day before, and I was off. (I am still totally in love with all self patterning yarn.  All of it. I don’t care who knows it.)

I knit all weekend long.  I knit on the plane, I knit on my layover in Newark

I knit while Mim, the lovely owner of Over the Rainbow Yarns drove me from Portland to Rockland, Maine, although I admit that the scenery was distracting.  Darn but Maine is a pretty State.

I knit while I waited to speak to a room full of lovely knitters -

and my sock was by my side when I saw Colleen’s amazing knitted Canada Quilt (Details at that Rav link.  Pretty impressive original work of art.)

(She’s a genius. I think we can all agree.) I had a little knit the next morning before I taught at the shop (bright and lovely students, all of them)

and I had a little knit after.  Yesterday, I knit all the way home, and halfway here:

I had socks. 

Pattern, my basic socks from Knitting Rules . Yarn: Opal Sweet and Spicy 6756 (plum)

That’s a few days for a pair of socks, that are too big for me, and I was delighted.  It means I’m picking up speed for Christmas. (Lets not talk about how many pairs remain to be knit. I’m feeling good.)