Drive By

Today I’m right in the weeds, my petals – so this will be a quickie. There’s actual, bona fide progress on the new blog, after a glitch with the server that I don’t understand at all, but has resulted in the technical decision to migrate to a new server, and I don’t understand that either.  Servers, templates, themes, plugins, databases… I just want to put up a picture of a sock, and talk about it with you. That’s all I want.

Pictured here, the next sock in the queue, and as I knit it, I wonder if I’ve taken the colour thing a little far? This is Trekking XXL 550,  and it is searingly, fantastically bright in a way that makes every fashionable thing from the 80′s look washed out. This morning when I took it out of my bag at the optometrist, the lady next to me gasped involuntarily.  I’m convinced that she simply hadn’t seen a colour like that since the winter set in and was shocked into remembering that such a fantastical thing could exist. I bet she woudn’t have blinked if it was August.

Or maybe it’s too bright. Hard to tell.  These socks will be the second ones of the year, and that’s pretty awesome, since I made myself a little promise that this year I would have twelve pairs finished by December 1st. I made this promise December 23rd, when a whole sock and a half still loomed in front of me after knitting the crap out of the whole month and still coming up short.  Not this year – and not socks. Twelve pairs by that deadline means I need to churn out a complete pair every 27.83 days. I’ve marked intervals on my calendar.  As I was flipping through, counting out 27 days and then putting ” L sock” or “M sock” in the squares (Ladies socks, Mens socks – so that I don’t get stuck with all the huge ones at the end, such are my fantastical and amazing powers of procrastination)  it occurred to me that this might be a little obsessive and weird.  “Too far?” I pondered, as I considered colour coding the reminders to make sure that I knit a proper and full spectrum… and then I remembered what it felt like to have 36 hours and two socks to go, and I kept right on going.

Obsessive? Maybe.  Effective? I bet it is. Ask me in December.

Sticking with Colour

Thank you, thank you for the comments and congratulations on ten years of blogging.  Thanks especially for being patient while the blog crashed and burned over and over again.  The minute that comments opened the blog failed rapidly, set upon by the foul robot spammers like some berserk scene out of The Birds, if the spammers were birds, and if my database was Tippi Hedren, but you see where I’m going with it.  The attack on the comments actually corrupted the database and well…we won’t be opening that up again.  I’m planning a move to a new platform this week, one a little more modern, and one where I can have tools to fight back with, and comments will be reborn then.   I was going to write a big post about how this means that some things are going to change.  Some things won’t look the same, or work the same way, and I felt like I should break this to you very gently, because change is really hard, and then I remembered that it’s probably mostly me who’s going to be bothered by it.  I get super-attached to things looking the way that they do, and I’m forever planning these big changes I’m going to make to my house – crazy, wild changes, like moving a chair or getting a new set of curtains, and I’ll be almost ready to do that, and then something happens.   I’ll remember some bizarre emotional attachment I have to the chair, or I’ll see the light come in and spill through the curtain the way it always does, and I snap.  All of a sudden I realize that too many things have happened with things this way for me to have them any other way, and then I can’t change any of them, and suddenly I’m that crazy lady who paints her bathroom the same colour every two years and calls it “renovating”.

I’m going to breathe through it. You should too, if you’re like me.  I’ll give you lots of warning when it’s going to happen. Meanwhile, socks?

I pounded out a pair of socks this last weekend, on a quick turnaround to Seattle and back.  The yarn’s a favourite, Lang Jawool Aktion, and its one of those great workhorses of a yarn, 75% wool, 25% merino, lasts forever.  In my head, this yarn is filed with all those other sturdy ones, like Opal, Trekking, Regia, Kroy. I love them.)

(The pattern is my usual top-down sock with my not-so-usual short row heel, and a nice turned hem at the top, and the colour number is 132.0355)

You knowing me the way you do, you must be thrilled for me that these match perfectly.  I love it when that’s possible, and it almost wasn’t with these.  When I was done the first sock, I realized that I had a big problem.  The sock had ended with the sequence it had started with – and that meant that I didn’t have a full sequence to start with.  I rewound the yarn, watching the colours change as I counted stripes to see if there was enough to skip a whole sequence and start there, but there wasn’t.  I was short about five rounds worth at the beginning, and I was stumped (and a little crushed) until I remembered I’d started with a hem.  The first five rounds weren’t going to show!  I began with the end of the ball, knit the five rounds, started the sequence there, and whammo.  Perfectly matching socks on the outside…

but not on the inside.  It’s like a secret.

Tin

Exactly 10 years ago at almost this time of day, I sat down at my computer to write the very first entry on this blog.  I had no idea what I was doing, it took about five hours, and I called Ken about nine times to ask him how to do things.  He’d given me the blog as a gift, a way to talk to other knitters, and to be part of the growing knitblogger community – but he was pretty honest that it was also a bit of self defense.  A way of getting me to talk to other people about knitting and maybe lighten up on the topic with him a little.  Free up some of his spare time.  Joe had given me a laminated sheet with some basic HTML on it, but it wasn’t really helping.  I somehow finished that first post, and I sat there, and I pushed the button that said "publish" and then I waited.  I don’t even know what I was waiting for.  Whatever was going to show up, I guess. I hoped something did.

Ten years ago, I was a mum (mostly) at home with my kids. I was working as a birth doula, a childbirth educator and a lactation consultant and writing on the side to help make ends meet, and I had a book deal for At Knit’s End. I was about to become a writer, but I wasn’t one yet. The book deal came before my blog, not because of it. Knitlit, the first time my writing was ever in a book, would come  out in February of 2004, but the day I posted the first entry to this blog, I’d never been part of a book.  Joe had won a Juno, and thing were looking up for him – he’d decided to build his first studio.  The girls were 14, 12 and 9,  we were sitting on the edge of the most amazing ten years of parenting – watching girls become women. We had no idea what we were doing. I’d never been on a plane by myself. I’d actually barely been on a plane.
Hank was three, almost four.

Ten years ago there was no Twitter, no Instagram – heck,  this blog started before there was a Facebook, or texting, or smart phones.  Ravelry wasn’t even a twinkle in Jess and Casey’s eyes yet. Short of meeting them on the Knit List (remember LISTSERV? Oh, how I struggled with those commands) the only way to hang out online with other knitters was a wide and vibrant blog community. Amazing days for knitblogs. Amazing days. 

Here I am, ten years later, and so much has changed.  Joe owns a proper studio, one where I didn’t install the insulation on a Sunday afternoon. Our daughters are all old enough to vote, and our nest is emptying.  There’s a chance the laundry will come within my control in the next few years. I’m decidedly a writer, I think, and maybe it’s fitting that this 10th Anniversary post comes to you from an airport in Vancouver as I travel to Seattle to sign galleys and talk with booksellers about my eighth book. (I can’t believe that’s even possible. Any minute now it’s going to turn out I hallucinated at least three of them and you’re all being kind not to say anything.) Over the years  Ravelry and Facebook have taken the place of many blogs, feeding  knitter’s need for connection without a needing a blog, and many bloggers have taken their daily updates and thoughts to those platforms.  There’s knitters on Ravelry who don’t read any blogs at all, and so many of us have moved, changed or stopped. Not all of us, for sure, but the herd of us has shuffled off – dispersed, but not diminished. 

I haven’t, There’s a lot of perks to writing a blog – especially the way I have. For ten years, I’ve written this blog without a single sponsor or advertisement.  I’m proud of that on some level, not because I think it’s crappy to monetize a blog, I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, and I bow my head respectfully in the direction of my peers who’ve found that blogging lets them earn a living and care for their families, but when I look at the body of work I’ve assembled here (almost 2000 entries) I can look at it and know something.  Every word was uninfluenced.  If I didn’t say something I was thinking, it’s because I thought it unkind, unfair or stupid, not because it didn’t fit with the values or business plan of someone I was working with. If I said I liked a product, it’s because I did.   It gives me pride, not because that’s a noble thing to do, wool knows that advertising and sponsorship are a totally valid way for modern writers to make all this work pay off, but because has meant that for ten years,  what you have found here is just me.  All the opinions and ideas and mistakes… for better or for worse they were all mine, and what I thought was a smashing idea at the time, and I regret (almost) nothing. 

I’ve given a lot to the blog over the years.  The time, the money, the energy, and I can tell you that there have been a few painful consequences of maintaining it.  (Buy me a beer someday. We can talk about the dark side) but there’s something I can tell you about the choice to wake up almost every day for ten years and give this blog another hour of my life. 

It has been, over and over and over again, one of the best decisions I have ever made.  This blog has strengthened my marriage, helped me maintain relationships within my family, made me some of the best friends I have ever had, and made me a better mother. It’s been a tremendous help to my career, opened my mind to so many ideas, reassured me every day about the decency and intelligence of the world around me, and it’s even gotten me some really great yarn.  It has given me far, far more than has ever been asked of me, and I am a lucky and grateful woman who can’t believe her good fortune.  

I was on the phone with a friend yesterday, and we were talking about new mums, and what they need, and then we started talking about old mums and what they need, and then we realized that it really didn’t matter who we were talking about, or even what they were doing.  There’s one thing that changes everything, one magic thing that you can have in your life that greases every wheel, eases every transition, supports you though every crisis, and reinforces your success and confidence.  One thing that every person on earth does better with in every area of their life… and it’s a community, and some people find it a church, and some people find it in club, and however bizarre or unlikely or improbable, I have found it here, in a knitting blog that talks too much about other stuff to totally qualify,  and I want you to know that I will never, ever be able to properly or wholly express my gratitude for that gift. My life has been changed by a knitting blog, and you can tell anyone you want that I said it.

It’s been an amazing ten years, and as you read this, we’re preparing to reboot the blog to a new platform to solve most of our problems.  Comments are back up, but you’ll probably notice some glitchiness, and that’s what it’s going to take to keep the blog going for another ten years.  (What anniversary is that? Hopefully something better than tin.)

Thank you for all you’ve given me and my family.  To butcher a Robert Frost quote: We’ve taken the road less travelled by, and it has made all the difference.

I love you all.

Steph

Denny’s almost always right

I just sat down with my coffee and typed "I don’t know if you’ve noticed…" and then I remembered that I try not to say unbelievably stupid things in public, and so I’ve deleted it and I’m starting over, because if you live anywhere near me then you’ve noticed what I was going to say, which is that this winter has teeth. I don’t know what’s up with Mother Nature, but she’s feeling this winter, and in the cold, snow and ice department, she’s really doing some of her best work.  I can tell because every time I step outside my house I’m compelled to an immediate and involuntary expletive. 

I’m not a fan. I’ve been very clear that my relationship with winter is uneasy, at best. I don’t believe in complaining all summer that it’s too hot, and then complaining all winter that it’s too cold.  I say, take a stand – make up your mind – and I have. I hate being cold. This time of year exhausts me. The shovelling, the short days, the dark. Needing forty-two things every time you leave the house,  wearing a hat to get the mail. The way if you forget your keys you could die, or the way you have to calculate how fast a little kid could freeze solid if you miscalculate the distance or the cold on the way home from the store. 

It’s not to say that I don’t think winter has it’s charms.  Ice is beautiful, in it’s own way, and a snowy forest is hard to beat for tranquility, if you can find your way to tranquil while you’re stomping your feet to try and get some feeling back into them.  These long, dark tea-times of the soul are a counterpoint that makes me love summer more.  I love that it’s a time of year for candles, fireplaces, tea and long hot baths – and there’s no denying that shuffling through the snow, challenged by the cold and ice and the fortitude it demands of you feels nothing short of… Canadian.

Gilles Vigneault said “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver”, which translates to: My country is not a country, it is winter, and there’s no denying that. The winter defines most of Canada, and as much as I loathe it, I wouldn’t trade it. (Mostly. I can trade a week or two with no loss of patriotism at all.) The cold is, if nothing else – unifying. 

The thing is, it just goes on so long.  So terribly long, and the depth of the thing shortens the amount of time that I can do it without starting to feel really sketchy.  Of all the things that challenge me about winter, it’s the loss of colour I mourn the most. The world is so monochrome.  I long for a tree covered in flowers, a garden that’s nineteen colours, not just white and grey and black.  I miss a landscape that’s vibrant.

These socks are an antidote. 

I finished them last night and I’ve been wearing them all day today,

and they are everything that I wish I had right now, and as I sit here wiggling my toes and smiling at my socks, I’m thinking about my friend Denny, who always reminds me not to knit too much grey in the winter. It’s too hard on your soul.  

Yarn: Miss Babs Cosmic in Deep Sea Jellyfish. Pattern: My basic sock recipe from Knitting Rules, with a picot hem top and an Eye of Partridge heel

One for you, one for me?

Yesterday I had a whole post ready for you. I’d written it in my head, I’d frozen my arse off so that Joe could take pictures, and the whole thing was ready and good to go, and then I tried to type it up and had a total freakout that’s been coming for two weeks.  I’ve gotten new glasses, and then (when those weren’t working so well) contacts, and for two weeks I’ve been staggering around trying to be a good person who tries hard to adapt to new things and yesterday I had to finally crash and admit that I’m a good person who tries hard to adapt to new things who CAN’T SEE HER WAY OUT OF A PAPER BAG.

Obviously, something I’ve been afraid of for 35 years has happened. I have failed a vision test, and as a result, I have the wrong glasses.  (I have always hated exams that you can’t study for.  I feel the same way about the blood pressure cuff.) This is the only explanation I can think of.* At some point the optometrist said "one or two" as he flipped back and forth between lenses, and I said "one" and the correct answer was obviously two. Or when he asked me what I could read on that chart I got it right but only by accident, I don’t know. What I do know is that  I can’t see anything.  I can’t see well enough that I’d be comfortable driving a car,  going down a flight of stairs is taking a risk that feels like skydiving,  I can’t see what items are on the shelves of the shops,  I can’t read,  I can’t see my email, and I’m struggling to see what I’m typing right now.   Last night I tried to read a chart for a shawl that I’ve returned to, and absolutely couldn’t make it out. Not for love nor money, and not with the glasses, and not with the contacts.  You know, it isn’t even that things are blurry – it’s that they’re swimming and vibrating (and sort of blurry) and it takes a Herculean effort to pull anything into focus, and I can’t nail depth of field. Yesterday I reached out to put my coffee cup on the counter and came perilously close to dropping it straight onto the floor, and I’m being terrorized by mice and birds that don’t exist, but I feel sure I can see moving out of the corner of my eyes. It’s like being high as a freakin’ kite, if – as Ken said on the weekend, you’re only living the disorientation, and none of the possible perks.  (Or so I’ve heard, Mum – if you’re reading this. I wouldn’t know.)

It’s been a strain that I didn’t even really know I was under until yesterday when I couldn’t read the instructions on a label, walked straight into a doorjamb like someone in a cartoon, almost fell down the basement stairs and then couldn’t read my computer screen well enough to blog about it. (I have only two outlets in life. If both blogging and knitting are hard for me, I’m practically dangerous.)  I came to my senses, and I have an eye appointment today.  Persistence isn’t always a virtue. You gotta know when to give up, and I’m crying uncle.  I’m obviously going to be hospitalized a long time before I get used to these glasses.

Wanna see something that totally worked out?  Sure you do.  I’ll squint madly at it, and try to get pictures up that aren’t blurry.  (How’s that for a segue?)  Remember this roving:

that became this yarn?

One of you made a great suggestion that it would be a great Zuzu’s Petals, and when I saw the pattern I thought it was a great idea.  It could be the -30 talking, but a cowl that looks like a shawl that can’t fall off? What a great idea.  I’ve got a friend with a birthday coming up – and I thought this would be perfect for her.  I cast on, and let me tell you, this sucker is fast.  In a single evening I’d knit a big chunk of it, and the next morning I got far enough to see how pretty it was, and how quickly it was coming together… 

Too quickly actually.  I realized that I was on round 31 of only 42, and that I still had a whole lot of yarn.  Way too much, my instincts said, and I hopped over to the scale to confirm.  I was right, I still had 45% of my yarn left, and that meant that I was going to have to embiggen the pattern.  Back I went.

I pulled it back to round 17, and I started doing some other things.  First, I went up a needle size. Then I started adding stitches in a little wedge at the back of the neck, two every other round until I had enough that I could sneak in another repeat.  I also added a few more rounds in the last section of the lace (If you have the pattern, it will be easy for you to see what I mean) and I added rounds after the final increase, and increased again – all to make it so that I used (almost) all the yarn.

Oh – wait, and for the record, I cast off purlwise to give the edge a little help lying flat.  (In my experience, the purl-bumps on the right side push the chain of the cast off to the wrong side. I like how it looks.

Now, ordinarily, this is the sort of thing that I wouldn’t wear.   I’m not wild about purple, I I don’t usually like things that are pullovers, and frankly, I made it with a friend in mind that it’s just perfect for…

(I am completely frozen in this picture. That is how much you can smile in -30 or your lips freeze to your teeth.) 

so I have no reasonable excuse for what happened when I pulled it on.  I loved it.

(Also, that wind? Seriously harshing on what little I have that passes for a hairstyle.)

Maybe it’s because I was so cold and it was so cozy, or maybe it’s because I couldn’t really see it, or maybe it’s an unreasonable attachment to my handspun, but I put it on, and I wanted it. Badly. 

I’ve decided to give it away anyhow, because I think things should follow the intention I have for them, and because giving it up makes me feel delightfully generous. 


* I lied. The other explanation I could think of was that the lab made the glasses wrong, but I had them checked.  They’re just what the Dr ordered, and his prescription made sense.  Also, the lenses are in the correct sides.  I checked that too.  I think I really did flunk an eye exam.

Done Like Dinner

I say sometimes, when I’m teaching or with other knitters, that knitters have a particular mental quirk. We love knitting. We adore knitting. All I want some days it the time to sit down and have a bit of a knit. That’s not the quirk, because that’s totally normal. What’s weird is that when we do sit down to knit, so often we’re still not happy. That’s because we’ve got something strange wired up there where although we love knitting, it’s the next knitting that we’re really in love with. Whatever comes after what we’re making now, that’s the one that’s really going to be fun. 

Lanett Baby #0714, Hat and shoes from the White/Blue Set" knit in Lanett Baby. It goes with the sweater.

This one? It’s a slog. For this project, it started about halfway through the hat, and by the time I got to the second shoe I was just tormented by it. I can’t tell you what strength of knitterly character it took to actually knit that second shoe, especially towards the end.  I was sitting there last night, finally finished the knitting part of the little thing, and I’d embarked on the duplicate stitch. By this point each tiny stitched "v" felt a little bit like pulling out one of my own eyelashes, but I was determined.  I did the first chunk, held it back to admire it, glancing at the picture of the finished shoes in the pattern book. 

I was feeling pretty proud, and really just checking to make sure that my work looked as nice as the illustration, sort of a "look at that, mine are exactly the same" thing, and that’s when I noticed that they weren’t the same.  In the illustration, the embroidery was reversed. They’d mirrored the chart for the second shoe, and I had a momentary surge of anger. I double checked the instructions, and nowhere there did it say to reverse it. Nowhere. I tossed the book on the floor in a fit of rage, and then realized that I was mad that I’d been asked to use my common sense. OF COURSE you reverse it for the second shoe. OF COURSE the right and left would be different exactly the way that shoes are every time. OF COURSE I shouldn’t have to be told that.  The illustration was perfectly, absolutely clear. 

I thought I might be less angry once I accepted that it was my fault, and not some random vindictive Norwegian pattern writer, but I wasn’t.  I thought about ripping out the duplicate stitch I’d done, and then I thought about why the hell there had to be shoes anyway. A hat and sweater are a perfectly good set and when did I ever promise anyone any damn shoes? Babies don’t care about shoes. Babies make it their life’s work to try and get things off their feet. Why not just pack it in?

The single, perfect first shoe sat there – and it was so perfect, and it had been so fussy and it was cuter than a basket of baby hamsters, and somehow, I summoned up the will.  I unpicked it. It took me about 30 minutes to put that embroidery in, and about 45 minutes to get it all out, and another 30 to put it back, and the whole time I just thought about the next knitting. The knitting that was really going to be fun. The knitting that came after this knitting? It was going to be the reason to go on.

I finished. I finished late, I finished hating them, but I finished, and the last thing I did last night was wash the vile little things and stuff them with toilet paper so they’d block straight, then put them near a heating vent and thought, good riddance. (Then I wound my handspun into a ball and picked a pattern and tried to start the process of healing.)

This morning when I woke up, the sun was shining, the shoes were dry and all is forgiven. I do love knitting.  I do love those little shoes and I’m glad I didn’t rip them out (or snip them up and eat them, which was totally under consideration, as was just the tiniest bit of arson) and I’m not even mad at the designer anymore.

They’re perfect. They were worth it.

(PS. You guessed it. Comments are still down.  I really miss you guys. Tweet at will. —> )

Spinning My Wheels

I’m almost finished those little shoes, and let me tell you, I can’t wait to see the back end of them. It’s turned out to be one of those projects where my will to knit them has run out a long time before they’re finished, and they feel like a bit of a slog now – if you understand that by "a bit of a slog" I mean that every single time I look at them I think "Holy hell on wheels why is this not over." They are so last year.  To break up the monotony (and possible because I am really, really good at procrastinating)  I got to the wheel for the first time this year.

I had a braid of a beautiful BFL from Stone Edge Fibers. It was dyed in a pretty ombre – one that went from a dirty gold to a beautiful purple, and although purple usually isn’t my thing, this one spoke loudly to me when I saw it at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival.

I’d been motivated by a really pretty sample that they had in their booth, a shawlette knit out of a handspun single, and I’d had it in mind that I’d do the same. (Note to people who sell fibre – samples WORK.) Thing is that when I sat down at the wheel, I remembered two super important things about singles. I don’t like spinning them, and I don’t like knitting them. Some knitters don’t mind the way that they bias, and are a more "active" yarn, but me, I like my yarn to do as it’s told, and I didn’t want to have a yarn with an opinion that big.  I settled on a two ply, but wanted to preserve the colour change from the braid in the yarn.  I split the roving down the centre (as equally as possible) and started.



When it was done, I was so excited that I ignored the rule about letting singles rest before you ply them, and did it straight away.  Mine were off the wheel for as long as it took me to take this picture.

I know, I know. I’ve checked, asked around and verified a thousand ways that it really is better to wait a day or two, let the twist in the single quiet down and go to sleep a little, but I’m seldom able to wait, and nothing terrible has ever happened.  Plying might be a little easier if you delay, but plying the "active" singles together has never seemed really hard to me, and I like my results,  so it’s a rule I feel free to ignore. Your mileage may vary. (This tendency I have to be disobedient if you can’t show me consequences is really not my best quality.)

I’m delighted with the result.  One pretty skein of a squishy, bouncy, fingering weight yarn that totals about 220 metres.

Like the braid, it goes from ochre yellow, through sage green, onto a cherry/grape, and winds up royal purple.

Only two things are stopping me from casting on with it right now.

1. I have no idea what to make with it.
2. Those damned shoes.

Comments are still down, my pretties, but if you have an idea about what it would be good for, and you use twitter, there’s a place to tweet to me over there —>

Some Stuff is Hard to Block

Oh, look. 

A weensie little bonnet, perfect and gorgeous and…

Well, that’s a half finished shoe. Don’t look at that. It’s coming along.

The hat though, is charming and well worth the fiddly duplicate stitch, and the sewing, and the general screwing around that it cost.  On so many levels I can’t wait to be finished this project. The end result is worth it, but I’m starting to get a headache, and a twitch over my left eye, and that can’t be normal. (I was blaming the new glasses I got last week, but I think it’s the duplicate stitch.)

Also in the category of not normal, is that you won’t be able to comment on this post, or on any posts for a few days.  The blog has continued to have spam problems on a level that should be criminal.  We (and by we, I mean Ken) have installed a bunch of stuff that stops a lot of them from making it to the comments section, but has done nothing to reduce the appalling load on the server.  So many spam comments are being sent that the server has been crashing repeatedly, unable to stagger on under the crushing weight of rejecting them all.  (By so many, I mean thousands and thousands per day, or even per hour. A copy of each comment goes to an inbox on my computer, so that I can read each one, and despite all my best efforts and a huge amount of time, there are currently 105 572 comments there. That’s the real number. It’s not manageable.)  We’ve escalated our response, hiring a company that should be able to figure out how to make it stop, but in the meantime there’s been no option but to shut down the comments so that the blog can at least function a little.  Restarting the server multiple times a day isn’t really working – and it’s an unfair thing to have my hosting company try to manage.

The whole thing fills me with a rage that’s just about incandescent, and I’m not kidding when I say I think it should be illegal.  Buying more server space to give spammers more room to screw me hasn’t even worked – the more server I buy, the more these arseholes clap their evil little hands and rejoice in the increased room they have to slam this space with comments.  I feel like someone started dumping their garbage on my property, and I have had no choice but to hire a team of people to lug it away for months now – and it’s finally time to build an electric fence.   I don’t mind paying to manage my own trash, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to have an ever escalating budget line for cleaning up after jerks.

With a little luck the new geeks will get this figured, and the comments should only be down for a day or two.  You might notice other weirdness on the blog as well, a natural byproduct of them stirring up the insides of the place.  Just avert your eyes. This should be over quickly.

But Wait! There’s More

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas around here without a few pairs of socks and other stuff for feet, and the push was on in the last few days to get all the footwear out the door.  I made my deadline for all of them, excepting one pair, and I’ll show you those soon. (They’re done, I swear it.)

First up, two pairs of French Press Slippers, knit out of Cascade 220 in a colour I can’t remember right now. Mouse brown, really.

My mum and Amanda are both addicted to these, and they were both wearing sad, worn out specimens,   my only regret about these is that I didn’t make three pairs, because my feet are pretty cold.

Next up, Ken’s annual pair of Christmas Socks.  I think I’ve just about met my goal of keeping him in handknit socks all winter,  and all I need to do now is come up with a pair or two per season to replace any that wear out.

He’s good to his socks, so they last a long time, despite a ton of wear, and that means he deserves the good stuff.  This is String Theory Continuum – knit in my standard toe-up recipe to preserve the width of the stripes. 

It almost hurt to give them to him.  If we didn’t have a 30 year friendship I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

Last, but certainly not least, Joe’s Christmas socks. Remember the problem I had?  I’d decided to "stretch" the yarn I was using (Valley Yarn’s Huntington in the poetically named "grey") because two skeins wasn’t enough for his big feet, high insteps and preferred leg length.  I used some leftovers from a previous pair to put in stripes on the leg, and stripes on the foot to give me the extra. (Pattern: my sock recipe from Knitting Rules.)

Problem is that at some point after I’d used the contrast for three instances of the stripes (leg, foot, leg) the little ball had gone walkabout… never to return. (I’m reasonably sure it’s under a hotel room bed in Northampton MA)  Joe’s way too much of a plain dresser to go for stripes of a different colour on the second foot, so I came up with another plan.

I ripped back the foot of the finished first sock (that’s heartbreaking, a few days before Christmas, let me tell you) and reclaimed the little bit of contrast.  Then I found another yarn that matched, although it wasn’t the same, and worked that in. 

It worked pretty well I think, especially since I don’t think Joe knows it wasn’t my intention all along, and it gave him matching socks that aren’t too wild, just the way he likes them.  I was pretty hard to buck the instinct to say it was okay to have them not match, especially at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Finally, two points to those of you who noticed that the sweater for Myrie has matching pants, hat and bootees.  (I’m not really giving away points. I don’t  know why I said that. Fresh out of segueways.)
I’d originally planned to do them, but then Christmas got the better of me, and I changed the plan and left them out, but the wave of guilt I felt last night reading your comments got me back on it. 

I’m at least going to do the hat and bootees. That’s the hat there, brim done (except for the miles of duplicate stitch)  We’ll see about the pants.  I’m sort of worn out on pastel baby stuff, no matter how cute, and my annual bout of Startitis is in full swing.  It’s all I can do not to set projects from last year on fire, never mind knit them. 

What am I going to do instead?  

Now that the tree is down, the wheel is back in it’s spot, and it’s calling me.  
(That roving may or may not be what I spin. I reserve the right to be fickle.)

Can’t buy me love

When Lou was born I was, naturally thrilled. Not as thrilled as I could have been if he as a girl, but I’ve clearly gotten over it in absolutely every way but one.  The knitting.  As little as I care what babies wear, or who thinks they are what gender, most parents find it uncomfortable to have little girls and boys taken for each other, and I still live in a world where there are a lot of limits on what kind of babies wear what… particularly boys.  There was just no way, no matter how much I wanted to knit one, that a flowered sweater in pastel colours was going to end up on Lou, for anything other than a minute, and for any reasons other than politeness or hypothermia.  I’ve dutifully enjoyed knitting him sweaters that play by (most of) the rules, but when my niece Myrie was born,  my knitters heart leapt and out came all the patterns that I had been saving for years just waiting for another baby girl to come along.  This one was at the top of the list.  Lanett Baby #0714, and it’s #1 "White/Blue Set"  (I just love their names.)  I used Lanett Baby superwash, and I am so freaking in love with this sweater, and I feel proud of it too.  It’s just about perfect, and it was all in the millions of little details.

My friend Denny has a thing about finishing. She’s the polar opposite of knitters who are willing to sit with an unfinished project for months, just to avoid weaving in a few ends, or tackling a seam.  Denny? Show Denny a project with so many ends to weave in that it looks like a shag carpet and Denny will clap her hands like a kid at Christmas, put on the teakettle and whip a darning needle out of nowhere while beaming at you and saying "There, there… give it to Denny." She loves it, I tell you, just straight up adores it and takes satisfaction from it and well.. I can’t quite identify with Denny – but I’m not that other kind of knitter either. 

I fall right in the middle, I think.  I don’t actively avoid finishing, but I don’t quite love it. It’s a part of knitting, and I’m cool with that, I sort of feel that it’s like casting off or purling three together through the back loops.  It happens, it’s a part of knitting that comes up and I take some pride in doing it as well as I do the other parts, but it’s not like generally speaking, I look at a cardigan knit in pieces and think "Oh man – now there’s some juicy seams to sew up" and not once in my life have I looked at an intarsia sweater and exclaimed "MY GOD THE ENDS WILL BE THE BEST PART", but I’ll do them if that’s what it takes.

All of this does nothing to explain what happens to my feelings about all that finishing if you make it tiny. Maybe it has something to do with how cute things are when they are smaller (babies vs adults, puppies vs dogs, organizing a doll kitchen vs scraping dried yogurt off your full size fridge) but if you make that finishing little, if it just gets fiddly enough that doing it is like hitch hiking around the city limits for Crazyville, then I’m your knitter.  Bring. It.  This sweater did. Little cable details on the sleeves, little cables round the tiny itty-bitty sewn hems, that bodice tuck, each little stitch sewn down. 

Don’t get me started on the colourwork.  That’s duplicate stitch, what felt like oceans of it, and I can’t even tell you how long the weensie teeny button band took.  (I did it three times, but it’s perfect.) The fussy seams that sew in the puffed sleeves, the Lilliputian cuffs at the little gathered wrists…

I feel bad that these pictures were taken pre-blocking, because it was even prettier afterwards.  When I gave it to Myrie (her mother opened it, what with Myrie still just perfecting bodily functions, never mind present opening) Robyn started to say something, and then stopped. She thought for a minute and said "I hope this isn’t the wrong thing to say, but this is so beautiful, it looks like it came from a store."

I was thrown for one half secon, and then I realized that I know just what she means. She means it looks hand-made in a way that’s top notch,  the knitting is good enough to sell, she’s saying, and I get it.  She means that I could go pro, and she would buy what I was putting out there,  and it’s a compliment.

I didn’t tell her she would never be able to afford that sort of sweater, not even if you paid me minimum wage and I ate the cost of the yarn.  There’s only one currency she can use to get this stuff. 
Love. It’s just not worth it for anything else.