One last post about Christmas knitting

I issued myself a Christmas knitting report card last post and let's say, by the numbers, my 2016 performance was a little disappointing.  But, as with real report cards, the full picture is sometimes obscured in the details.  In actuality, I concluded that it was all worthwhile all because of one response to one of the gifts I had knit.*

I have a theory that a maker whose handmade gift is received with true happiness experiences tenfold happiness themselves.  Of course, there is the joy we derive from the making itself and the love we put into each minute of that process, but we can only hope and not expect or demand that the recipient will love that thing as much as we do.  And even if the recipient is a three-year old child who would likely have been delighted with just about any gift, sweet kid that she is, I feel just as much satisfaction as if I had been judged worthy by a panel of experienced knitters. Maybe more.

For a good friend's daughter, I decided to knit a polar bear girl from Julie Williams' (aka, Little Cotton Rabbits) Girl Bear pattern and some clothes from the various LCR animal clothes patterns.  I was really taken with the beautiful winter-themed animals Julie posted on her blog and I convinced myself that a little dressed polar bear was just the right thing for this particular little girl, whom I will refer to as "E".  So, I made Polly Behr:

Making Polly and her little travel set was almost as fun as seeing E open her present.  Polly is knit with an Ontario grown-and-spun alpaca yarn I purchased from the lovely Alpaca Avenue shop.  The clothes are knit with various yarns I had in my stash.  The nice thing about doll clothing is that you don't need much yarn so I could dip into my collection of partials and singles and make a wardrobe, although it did limit my colour palette.  I made a few attempts at knitting some of the Fair Isle dresses Julie published, but unfortunately, stranded knitting is not my forte, especially under time constraints, so I settled for simplified colourwork and accessorised instead.  It wasn't intentional but all the accessories are of Danish design (which I deeply love, so probably not really a coincidence).  The little suitcase is made by Maileg (purchased from Kolkid, here in Toronto but available online).  The gift box, a red tin mailbox, and the teddy passport (how could I resist?) are from a Flying Tiger store in NYC, (which is where I happened to be last month).

My little friend has a great imagination and I decided to give Polly a little back story about having travelled from Greenland to attend nursery school in Toronto and needing a nice place to live.  E, who is many wonderful things, also happens to be none too fond of nursery school.  I think (I hope!) it helped her relate to Polly because she seems to have taken Polly's "care" to heart.  E's parents tell me she puts Polly to bed in her house (the red mailbox) at night and tries to keep her warm when they go outside to play.  I already thought it was a great triumph that E was so excited about Polly's removable "shacket" (aka, jacket, aka, cardigan) when she opened her gift but the update from her parents really made my day. :D

Needless to say, E has earned herself a lifetime appointment to my knit-worthy list for this alone!


Footnotes

*This post may have the slight stench of the humblebrag.  Try to forgive me this weakness, but E was so happy.  I'm just going to bask in this for a day or two.

Christmas knitting report card

So Christmas 2016 has come and gone.  From the perspective of a knitter, the success of Christmas might be measured by how much knitting was or was not done.  For the organised and rational knitter, a good Christmas holiday would have included some stress-free knitting in a comfortable, warm nook.  For the rest, there would be varying amounts of (probably frantic) knitting taking place during any free moment available, sometimes in unlikely places in order to meet a deadline.  Since I decided to embark on Christmas gift knitting sometime in early December, I should have fallen squarely among the latter group, but I did rein in my ambitions to three, relatively small projects, which had to be done or abandoned before I left for the holidays.

But that said, how did I do, really?  I decided to assess it by the numbers and I issued myself a Christmas knitting report card based on the three projects I had decided to make.

In truth, I don't really deserve that A+ for attendance because the majority of the Christmas gatherings I was invited to were all scheduled for days I wasn't even in town.  Which is to say, my performance for a mere three small projects was pretty disappointing even if I thought it didn't go as poorly as some previous years.  I think the conclusion is obvious; I should really just knit for myself and I can do it guilt-free because this report card confirms everything I knew to be true about (my attempts at) gift knitting.   Which is, it rarely ends well.

(If you would also like to issue yourself a Christmas knitting report card, feel free to print one for yourself.

If this were a fancy-like blog, I would have it generate your grades for you, but that is not where my skills lie.  You'll have to do it the old-fashioned way.)

Luckily, internet shopping has reached a level of efficiency that allows me to get to inside a week of Christmas Day to decide (objectively)* if the project in hand can be completed in time or if I need to order something right now.  Incidentally, I used to think I would rather be kept awake for three days straight by the barking of dogs and the clashing of garbage bins being knocked over by raccoons rather than brave a mall even once in the weeks before Christmas.  This year, having been forced to make a few trips to various malls, I found that it was surprisingly not utter pandemonium.  I'm going to attribute this to the rise of internet shopping.  Some people think the internet is destroying meaningful human interaction but I'm now rather inclined to think that it might be saving us all.

But back to the subject at hand.  Clearly, deciding to knit gifts a mere handful of weeks before Christmas is never a sound plan, yet somehow I convinced myself to give it a try anyway.  It would probably be smarter to set the publish date for this post for sometime in November of 2017 as a sort of wake-up call, a reminder to my future self of the inevitable outcome of last-minute gift knitting which you know I will be contemplating again in eleven month's time, but that would be planning ahead.


Footnotes

*I'm not sure if I'm alone in this, but in the past, when the clock was running down and I still hadn't completed a project, I would then, through some strange logic, convince myself the answer was to forego some hours of sleep per day for the remaining days before Christmas instead of just going out and buying a gift to replace the one I wasn't going to be able to finish.  Like I said in my last post: madness.  Internet shopping allows me to get that close to a deadline and not lose my grip on reality.

Christmas Madness

I'm not referring to the parking lots at the mall or the back-to-back Christmas gatherings or the number of lightbulbs per square foot in my neighbourhood.  I'm referring to the affliction that annually strikes many knitters (and probably crocheters and sewers too) as early as the first week of December but usually in the second and third weeks of this otherwise run-of-the-mill-crazy month.  Certainly, I use words like madness and insanity in a rather loose manner (and entirely too often) but sometimes I can't help but wonder.

What I'm talking about is gift knitting and the belief that December is a perfectly rational time to start it.  A hat, you tell yourself will take no time at all.  And a little baby sweater for your cousin's newest baby?  So easy!  And yes, knitted toys are a little finicky to work up, but so small and relatively quick compared to the hours I could spend shopping for something half as adorable.  Then I should probably finish that sweater I started for my significant other which only has the rest of the front, back, sleeves, collar, and button-bands left.  And while it's blocking, I do have all these colourful partials that would make the cutest colourwork miniature stockings that I can adorn all these presents with.  Wouldn't that be a great stash buster and ridonculously cute?  And so the list grows into something gargantuan that couldn't have been conquered had you started in June like you should have.

A knitter's ability to reckon time is already suspect, but the nearer Christmas looms, the less a knitter can grasp that time is immutable (for all practical purposes) or accept the limits of their human biology.  But reality does set in, and we sleep, and we eat, and we don't completely shun our families and friends (we just take our knitting with us to their parties and hope no one notices).

The scary thing about it all though?  I've done this countless Christmases and I've long ago banned myself from gift knitting, because frankly, the majority of those gifts were never completed* and some, I'm not too proud to admit, are to this day still in the skein stage, yet I start toying with the possibility of just knitting a few small things for the people I think will actually appreciate it--every single year--around this time.  I'm not sure I can be convinced that this isn't a form of madness.

I thought I might be recovering from this condition after years (perhaps even decades) of denial.  Last year, I made exactly zero attempts to knit something for anyone other than my own self, even if I did give it some consideration.  However, this year I foresee a set-back.  You see, that hypothetical gift list a few paragraphs ago isn't.  I actually made that list yesterday, right before I pinched myself hard and looked for a bucket of ice water to dunk my head in.

Maybe just the hat then?

And the doll.

 Knitting with  The Gaynor Homestead 's divine  Rambouillet 3-ply worsted, "Home" .  My only hope is that I decide no one deserves a hat this nice except me.

Knitting with The Gaynor Homestead's divine Rambouillet 3-ply worsted, "Home".  My only hope is that I decide no one deserves a hat this nice except me.


Footnotes:

*Once I abandoned all hope of finishing the gift in time, I would end up spending hours, last-minute, scouring the internet to find that person something just right and in time.  As in, I spent double the money (and time) I would have otherwise--buying yarn that didn't get used plus a gift that I probably could have bought a month earlier during Black Friday sales.

Who edits the editors?


 Gotland sheep giving me stink-eye at the 2016 Woodstock Fleece Festival

Gotland sheep giving me stink-eye at the 2016 Woodstock Fleece Festival

I am fully aware that errors in patterns will occur despite the best intentions of the publisher.  Usually when I do come across errors, they aren't too difficult to correct and my degree of annoyance isn't much more than if I had made a mistake myself.  I can find forgiveness in my heart for the occasional error that makes it to print and I just assume errors do slip past even good tech editors, but my world view has had an alarming shake up this week because I have discovered that one of my core knitting tenets (i.e., one should never start a pattern without checking for errata first) is entirely useless.  In retrospect, it flies in the face of another fundamental belief of mine, which is: don't believe anything you read, especially if it's on the internet.  Yet I just blithely assumed that errata could not, by definition, contain errors--an obviously flawed notion that I have now been disabused of.

I have, for various reasons, mostly stopped buying knitting patterns--but not because I fear the errors.   I just found over the years that I'm not very keen on following instructions and buying patterns didn't seem to make a lot of sense if I was just going to modify them beyond recognition.  I so rarely follow a pattern "verbatim" that it is practically an event when I want to knit someone else's pattern as written but isn't it nice to just let someone else do the thinking once in a while?

Recently, I happily embarked on a new project using a pattern that really caught my attention last year and I have been happily stealing moments out of the past five, very busy weeks to work on this project with a beautiful yarn that I have been obsessing over and which I purchased specifically for this pattern.  As I was nearing the end, it finally dawned on me that I had been knitting with blinders on and ignoring the misgivings I had about the charts. I knew that they didn't seem right, but it's a fairly complex pattern and I foolishly convinced myself that this particular publishing outfit would not have let such major errors slip past them, especially since I was working from the charts that were supposedly updated and corrected, and that it would all make sense in the end.  It did not make sense.

What makes the least sense is that I followed the charts even though I thought there were some discrepancies, so maybe I shouldn't blame the publisher or designer for my lost weeks of knitting time.  But then again, a publisher that proclaims the quality of their work and the fair compensation they offer to their contributors for that high quality of work, really has no excuse for what I'm looking at here (which is now a nearly completed but totally messed up project hiding under a jumbled pile of highly marked up charts and quaking in fear of its inevitable frogging later today, right after I down a shot or two).

(Rest assured, I did my public duty and emailed the publisher in hopes that they pull the pattern and correct it before another hapless knitter stumbles on this pattern and nearly bursts a blood vessel in her brain.)

This situation is entirely new to me.  In the past, when I found errors in a pattern, they were not of the magnitude that a simple refund or free pattern offer could not compensate for.  In this particular instance, a free pattern would, in my somewhat biased opinion, be a woefully insufficient recompense, which has got me thinking about what, in an ideal world, would be sufficient?  Five weeks of free housecleaning service? Several home-cooked dinners for the same duration?  Weekly I.T. support for my parents?  That knitting time had to be carved out of other time-consuming activities and I suspect that's how even the most efficient people find the time to knit.

I'm going to take my own advice though and just move on to other (possibly more relevant) tasks rather than sit here brooding and writing a blog post.  I could make that new flowchart I've been meaning to work on ("Should I frog this project?") or better still, I could take what might be the only opportunity I will get to finish up last year's gift knitting before Christmas 2017.

Firsts

 

It's taken a while, but after having been a knitter for 20 or so years, I finally worked up the nerve to attend a fiber festival.  (Naturally, you are asking yourself, if I never attended these yarn fests and I rarely set foot in a yarn store, how did my stash grow so large, and the answer is, of course, the internets.)  I have some theories about why I never could convince myself I needed to go to these things, but I won't bore you with them.  (They mostly boil down to one incident when a somewhat crazed knitter threw an elbow straight into my chest at The Textile Museum's More Than Just a Yardage Sale* so that she could get to a box of old Vogue Knitting magazines before I did.)  I did eventually convince myself that the few unpleasant knitters I had encountered in those early years by no means represented the whole of knitterdom and partly by chance, I started to meet knitters outside the context of bargain mania.  I discovered that knitters are so much more pleasant when they don't think you're trying to abscond with that bag of Rowan yarn that has a price tag of $10.  Anyhow, I eventually decided that I would in fact LOVE to attend a yarn festival but it happened to coincide with my deciding that I really should not be acquiring any more yarn until my stash was under control.  So this month, after several years of yarn dieting, I decided it was safe for me to go.  Please don't conclude that I have worked my stash down to something sensible.  I have not done so.  But I have learned to control my yarn acquisition problem.**

The fates have conspired to prevent me from attending the Knitter's Frolic here in Toronto for the last two years but I had heard about the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters' Fair and decided this would be the fair that finally broke my moratorium on fiber festivals.  I was a little worried that I wasn't picking the right venue for my very first foray into the world of knitting fairs since it was being held in a hockey arena--not exactly a visual delight***-- but, the timing was right, and most importantly, I was interested in seeing the wares of a few particular vendors and this was going to be my best opportunity to do so in person.

That handful of vendors I was interested in were, not coincidentally, all local Ontario wool producers and indie-dyers.  I especially wanted to see some more**** of what my fellow Ontarians were creating because I am starting to feel pretty strongly about supporting the local economy and in particular, supporting new producers and craftspeople who are building their businesses on a model of sustainability and ethical practices.  I wanted to see in person if their products were as impressive as their enthusiasm for environmental and social issues.  To be perfectly honest, I was blown away by what I saw and by the vendors I spoke to.  Some I had heard of, a few I discovered for the first time. What really struck me about some of these particular vendors was that sustainability of production and sourceable chains of supply were not just catch-phrases to them and these were concerns they took to heart.  I.e., they weren't just talking the talk.

So let me tell you about the Fair vendors that really stood out for me.  First, how nifty is it to meet an actual shepherdess!  This was a lucky find, tucked away in the Fair's Micro Market.  Laura Sharpe of Twin Oaks Farms was super charming and young as she is, she is shepherdess to a small flock of Romney sheep on her farm near Guelph.  (I say "young", I just mean well younger than I am--not little Miss Muffet).  She sells fleece and yarn which she has processed by Wellington Fibers in Elora.  You can read more about Laura's fiber products on her website.  (In fact, I hope anyone reading this clicks through to the farmers and dyers I link in this post--I'm excited about every single one of them!)  She has chosen to sell her products undyed at this time but sometimes, those natural sheep shades are the best!  I hope to get my pre-order in on time for a few skeins of worsted from her black lambs who were born this year and won't be sheared until 2017.  (Pre-ordering yarn because it's still growing?  Kind of awesome!  I also find it so adorable that her yarns are named for the sheep who provided the fleece!)  I was a little shy of getting in anyone's way just to take some photos so all I came away with was a snap of her business card (which she had already run out of by noon!) and a quickie of the yarn I would have bought had it been a worsted weight (which will be available in 2017, hence the pre-order):

Wellington Fibres happened to be one of the booths at the Fair that I really enjoyed photographing (quickly, so as to get out of people's way, although I somehow still managed to always be in someone's way. Forgive me, Fair goers.)  The rows and rows of boxes of brightly dyed fibers were a fun touch.

Speaking of displays, Kylie of Agrestal Yarns (which I hadn't realised is based in Toronto) had a really wonderful booth.  Everything about her yarns, her colours, her displays, and the fact that Kylie herself was knitting so nimbly while standing and chatting with visitors apparently without needing to look at her work just created this magical aura!  I probably took the most pictures here because I just loved the thought and artistry she put into each area of her booth.

I can thank the KW Fair for introducing me to the colours of the Georgian Bay Fibre Co. which is operated by Carla Pletzer in Parry Sound.  Carla has an incredible range of beautiful kettle-dyed colours in bases ranging from fingering to aran which were all on glorious display in her lovely booth, minus those which had already sold out.  I only packed a 50mm lens with me and backing up far enough to capture the whole booth meant stopping traffic.  You do not want to be the obstacle between a knitter and yarn.  Believe me.  (You can check out Carla's Instagram for a better view and just because she takes nice photos).

Amusingyarns_GBFibreCo_KWFair_display.jpg

I very nearly made off with the only two remaining hanks of Bayfield Fingering BFL in the colour Windermere Hollyberry right ahead of the Fair's guest speaker, Anne Hanson, but I was pre-empted by the lady standing next to me by a matter of mere seconds. Anne, in my defence, no one knew they were reserved for you and you are welcome to blame that lady who was hightailing it out of the booth with her spoils.  I was the one left standing there, mouth agape, mourning my loss.  (I had temporarily forgotten about the internet and the existence of online shopping.)*****

 The Hollyberry is third from the left. This is where I blame the arena lighting because this photo does not capture the perfect orange-tinged redness of this yarn

The Hollyberry is third from the left. This is where I blame the arena lighting because this photo does not capture the perfect orange-tinged redness of this yarn

I have forgiven myself for this yarn diet transgression.  I loved the colour even under those arena lights, and now that it has arrived via mail, I have zero regrets.  Though, if I don't get it knitted up in the next few months, I'm going to start feeling a bit silly about my eagerness to have this yarn right now.  Especially because in my grief, I stumbled over to The Gaynor Homestead's booth and bought two skeins of their absolutely perfect 3-ply Rambouillet, despite not having had that type of yarn on my list of allowed purchases.  (Having a list really works--if you stick to it.)  It's on my needles right now, which is a good sign, but I have done the thing I was never to do again which is buy more yarn than I can knit in the foreseeable future.  (I still have hopes though.  I just have to resign myself to purely selfish knitting from now until the new year.  Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.)

I admit this might have been a rebound purchase, but seriously, I get goosebumps when I squeeze the yarn, it's that nice. Bonus, the Gaynor's were a really lovely young couple and they raised the sheep themselves.  They chose to have the yarn milled in Michigan, I think to achieve the precise result they were aiming for.  I haven't decided if I'm going to dye this yarn or not because it is my idea of the perfect shade of cream and it is the natural colour of their sheep. I almost feel it would be a shame to obscure it.

There were of course many other vendors and I did snap a few pictures of other things that caught my eye, but it seemed to me that there was something there for just about everyone, even someone as particular as I am!  Now I'm really looking forward to the Woodstock Fleece Festival on October 15, 2016 and I might even accompany a group of knitters.  I feel like there has been some personal growth here, somewhere.

As an aside, my worries about the arena venue ruining the vibe were completely unfounded.  I don't think my eyes really ever strayed from all the beautiful yarns, fiber, and sample knits.  Plus, a hockey rink is about as Canadian a venue as one can get.


Footnotes:

*The Textile Museum receives so many donations from companies and private individuals that they are now running drop-in sales throughout the year.  They have a list of upcoming events if you like sifting through old stuff in search of treasures or just marvelling at what other crafters had in their stashes

**Mostly under control.  I'm not made of steel. But I have definitely made progress, mainly in identifying my shopping triggers

***I'm going to pretend the wholly unattractive quality of arena lighting is a valid excuse for the quality of my photos

****I only recently became aware that there were so many yarn producers in Ontario through my friend Kerstin of Alpaca Avenue.  I don't know if there is another yarn store in Toronto like Alpaca Avenue that carries products based on both the beauty of the product and the sustainability of its production and use, with an emphasis on Canadian and American origination. Worth checking out if those things are of interest to you!

*****I have been working so hard to retrain myself to not shop for yarn online, which I think explains this cerebral glitch

Tank

I'm perpetually late for everything and when it comes to knitting deadlines (among other things), I am usually the hare and not the tortoise.  I can spend the entire season casually thinking about what I want to make and then I try to squeeze those projects in at the very last moment and rarely get to use them before the seasons cycle again.*

However, I was pretty good this summer in completing a silk tank top.  Granted, it's the only garment I have finished (knit or otherwise) this year but I started it in June and finished in July.  That is practically record time for me, and with room to spare, but I was extra motivated to be timely because this was a test knit for the very talented Simone A. of Temple of Knit.*  She has a beautiful sense of shape and texture but more than that, she has an eye for the little details that I think elevate a knitted object from handmade to handcrafted, so it was a pleasure to knit this project!  Thanks for including me in this little adventure, Simone!

Autumn is just around the corner and it might seem like the opportunity to wear this top has passed for the calendar year (in the northern hemisphere), but I plan on wearing my tank with a blazer or jacket when the temperature starts to drop a little and I can see this pattern knit in a soft wool as well.  I don't think this top needs to be limited to the hottest summer months!

In my Ravelry notes, I provided some detail about swatching a somewhat impracticable yarn (Colourmart 4/120NM Cobweb Silk). The upshot is, no one need use this yarn but I knew I loved it for this project, it was in my stash,** and I'm sometimes more stubborn than is good for me.

Also unusual for me, photos from start to finish (although I can only dream of taking photographs as beautiful as Simone's. Did I mention she has talents?):

Simone's pattern is now available for purchase through her website and through Ravelry:


Footnotes

*Many knitters might be familiar with this problem in the form of Christmas knitting. Speaking of which, I start thinking about Christmas knitting right about this time of year and yet, almost certainly, you will find me the week of Christmas 2016 casting on and feverishly knitting in a quiet corner.

**Using stash yarn was not a minor consideration. There are many yarn types that would look amazing in this design (as one can see from the projects already knit up by the test knitters on IG, #templeofknitpractice) and I would have loved an excuse to buy some Shibui Linen for this project but I made it through the Valley of Temptation. The size of my stash is not something I'm proud of so part of my rehabilitation from shopaholic to a more conscientious consumer is using up the things I already have in my possession instead of endlessly acquiring. It isn't always easy but my guilty conscience is a pretty effective check--with the occasional exception, recently. More on that later this week.

Yarnography

I sometimes wonder if I don't knit my stash yarn because it looks so much nicer as skeins.

 Malabrigo "Mecha", col.43 Plomo

Malabrigo "Mecha", col.43 Plomo

(More likely it's because the yarn in its unknit form holds infinite promise whereas the knitted item sometimes falls short of those wild hopes and dreams we had when we bought the stuff.  I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring a room full of infinite promise over a dresser full of disappointment and that's why the yarn stash is so out of control.  That, and unchecked shopping.*)

As beautiful as a skein of yarn is in its unsullied state, I find photographing an appealing image of my yarn to be pretty challenging.  Something tells me it ought to be a simple task, yet I find that most (as in, nearly all) of my yarn photos fail to capture that appeal that made me buy the yarn in the first place.  Kettle dyed yarns like the Malabrigo Mecha pictured above provide a certain amount of visual interest all on their own but try photographing ten balls of a solid colour mercerised cotton or superwash wool and then you find out how good a photographer you really are.

I had a look back at the evolution of my yarn photography and I can see a progression (mainly in camera quality) but maybe not as much progress in skill as one might hope for over the course of 8 years.  Somewhere in my mind I believe that if I can learn to consistently take an eye-catching photo of any yarn, be it a hank of beautiful hand-dyed or a drab ball of workaday cotton, I'll have actually reached the next stage in my photography endeavours so I continue photographing yarn despite the slow pace of improvement.

Besides, for me, photographing yarn is the next best thing to photographing actual finished objects so it remains one of my subjects of choice, especially since the FOs have been conspicuously not forthcoming in recent years.  Also, when you come home with your latest yarn acquisition or it arrives in the mail, your enthusiasm for that yarn is at its highest and therefore, photographing it doesn't seem like something only crazy people do.

As pointless an endeavour this might seem, there are a few upsides to all this yarn photography I do.  On a practical level, it helps me keep track of what I have in my stash.  Otherwise, after newly acquired yarn gets hermetically sealed into vacuum bags and then buried alive in a storage tote, I might easily forget I have it.  (Surely, if I had kept a visual record since I first began buying more yarn than I could knit, I wouldn't have 6 different balls of nearly the same shade of blue sport-weight cotton for the occasional knitted toy project that only required a few grams of the stuff.)  Photographing yarn has also taught me several things about using a camera and how light has more properties than "enough" and "not enough".

In an upcoming post, I think I'll explore some of the things I've learned from my own past yarnography mistakes and who knows, maybe I will apply those lessons to the yarn I still have in my stash (which is most of it) to see if I really have learned anything.


Footnotes

*The shopping is actually mostly in check now and has been for a couple of years.  The yarn stash though has not shrunk significantly due to low knitting mojo.  But I'm sure I'll have much more to say on yarn stashing another day.

Do-overs

After my last post about my run-in with a flock of birds, I started feeling some regret about how I chose to introduce myself to what I can only be thankful is not a vast readership.  Certainly, when I first contemplated writing a blog, I had no intentions of sharing personal experiences of public humiliation or using this platform to vent my anger towards birds.  This was supposed to be a blog about my knitting and sewing endeavours with a few observations thrown in about the world of knitting and the "slow" movement.

Which leads me to my topic for today's post: audiobooks.

If you haven't guessed already, I am fond of a long, convoluted, and often awkward sentence construction.  Or, I presume I am because I have a hard time writing a sentence any other way.  My writing on the whole exhibits the same characteristics and not surprisingly, so does the typical line of reasoning I follow in my head.  So to me, audiobooks makes reasonably good sense whereas you are wondering how I got there.  Let's see if I can explain during the time it takes me to finish my coffee.*

To begin with, the birds of Toronto and I have a bit of history.  I thought it was all ancient history by now, but I feel that this past week's events may have been a reminder that all is not forgotten.  I'm going to skip over the details of this saga (strong language was used, lives were lost, and I discovered that words have power when you say them with enough conviction, so I try to keep my true thoughts to myself these days, at least in regards to birds).

Moving right along.  My uneasy relationship with birds brings to mind a character in a Neil Gaiman book who also has bird troubles.  (I have been devouring Neil Gaiman's entire oeuvre for the last year because I can't get enough of it.  I had never read The Sandman (I know!) but I might not have been in the right headspace for it when it was first published anyway.  I'd like to say I was too young at the time but I think it'd be more accurate to say I was too ignorant to really appreciate it for more than the artwork. If I had read The Sandman in my formative years, I probably wouldn't have taken this long to discover all his other writing.)  Anyhow, the character I referred to is Fat Charlie, the protagonist in Anansi Boys (2006). The story is highly entertaining (if it's your sort of thing) but what's even better is the audiobook version read by actor Lenny Henry.**  Easily, this audiobook is one of my top three favourites of the many, many audiobooks I've listened to.  It is one of those rare instances were I have found the audio version to actually outdo its already excellent source material.  (Incidentally, I'm not necessarily recommending this title to you.  Neil Gaiman's audience is vast but he isn't for everyone.  And just as I would never presume to tell you what to knit, I would also never presume to know your literary or listening tastes.  That, and I am never comfortable being to blame for any recommendation that doesn't go over well.  I'm that person who is "good with any restaurant you choose", and silently praying, please, please, do not say you are good with anything too.)

So I've managed to get to audiobooks before the end of the last paragraph but why does it have anything to do with a blog that is allegedly about knitting and other sundry crafts?  You might have guessed it by now because I'm not the only knitter who figured out that an audiobook is a superb accompaniment to pursuits that require your hands but not a whole lot of your brain--particularly if it's a pursuit that some might not deem a good use of your time or one you might feel guilty about having started instead of dinner.  Throw on an audiobook and suddenly, knitting endless rows of garter stitch doesn't feel like time spent poorly.  Audiobooks elevate an experience; ironing is no longer pure drudgery, weaving in tails on a complex intarsia blanket becomes something to look forward to.  Yes, in an ideal world, I would read a book instead of listening to a narration of it.  I get so much more out of actually reading words on a page because my attention is undivided and there is just something about encountering the words visually that adds another dimension to the experience--for me, at least.  Yet, for the past several years, most of my book consumption has been of the audio kind.

You'd think in the hundreds of hours I had spent listening to audiobooks, I could have sewn a patchwork cosy for my house and probably still had time leftover to yarn bomb the big oak tree out back, but sadly, my nearly mindless work in recent years has not required the use of knitting needles or sewing machines and it still doesn't.  Nonetheless, I think I'm going to get crazy this weekend and sit down with some knitting, turn on Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse, and ignore everything else for (most of) a day.


Footnotes

*I can say, without telling a lie, that I finished this entire post before I finished the coffee.  Which will sound much less impressive when you find out that I forgot to put the coffee on altogether.  And that my attempt at editing ended up being a two-cup process later on in the day.  Hopefully I caught more of my errors in this post than I did in the first and second.

**Neil Gaiman himself is also a gifted narrator.  I wish all authors could narrate their own audiobooks because some of the performances I've half-heartedly endured probably ruined reasonably good stories.  But I'll never know because even if there ever was a chance that I would have read the Jason Bourne series, there is certainly none now.

Hubris

The other day, I wrote about how I identify as a knitter despite my greatly diminished knitting productivity in recent years.  I also think of myself as an incurable empiricist. I may have a weakness for sci-fi and fantasy but in my heart of hearts, I do not believe in anything for which there is no scientifically-based evidence to support it.  I don't believe in the supernatural, fate, reincarnation, or tasty gluten-free pastries.  These things are all just wishful thinking, as far as I can tell. Yet I still (secretly) harbour the notion that the universe demands balance in all things.  This belief may be a vestige of my religious upbringing or, just as likely, it's a hypothesis I have developed after unconsciously carrying on a statistical analysis of personal data collected from the time I was aware that jumping from high places always ended in tears no matter how fun it seemed at the time.

My hypothesis is basically Newton's Third Law of Motion--the one that we become aware of intuitively, if imperfectly, from about the age of three, that an action causes an equal and opposite reaction--but applied to everything. I've always had the tendency to look at an unpleasant event and try to discover the cause of it. This is a useful learning tool as you're growing up and figuring out how the world works, but it can go too far and one might find herself looking for connections that likely don't exist between two things. Likely, but not impossible.  Let's look at yesterday as a case in point.

Yesterday, I went to downtown Toronto to meet up with some people.  It's something I do less of these days although I swore I wouldn't abandon the core after I moved to suburbia.  I also swore I wasn't going to buy more yarn, yet here I am, delightedly awaiting an online order from that insidious loveknitting.com.  But that's a post for another day.  Let me skip to the part where I was bombed by a bird, or more likely, a flock of birds.   I never saw the offending party/parties because I was just too stunned at the moment of realization to do anything but stare in disbelief at the coverage these rats of the air achieved.  It defied all logic, truly.

I was like Keanu Reeves being filmed in bullet time in The Matrix, except instead of multiple cameras positioned around an uber-cool hero precisely timed to capture a 360º view of a moment in time, it was multiple birds instantly deploying a tactical formation around an unsuspecting no one who only thought she was uber-cool and instead of shooting images, they were shooting precisely timed and copious volumes of Toronto waste that had spent a day travelling through their birdly digestive systems, onto my very self, all four limbs of me, all 360º of me.  Birds cannot be that smart, right? I mean, we have terms such as "birdbrain" and "featherbrain" for a reason and unless they have some sort of psychic link that allows them to coordinate their bowel movements with such precision, I don't think they could have pulled this off.  Hence my suspicion that a force greater than Mother Nature had a hand in my tragedy in one act.

Another tendency I have, and a completely useless one I might add as I have not yet come into possession of a time machine, is to make an exhaustive list of all the things I could have done differently in the preceding hours or days to have prevented the terrible event. Especially in this case where a mere handful of seconds may have spared my outfit and my pride.  Here is a selection from a much longer list:

  1. Vanity.  Had I just not bothered with applying makeup or had just been content with a lot less of it, I would not have felt quite so preening (pride doth come before a fall), and I would certainly have been out the door and past that particular, fateful stretch of sidewalk at least 10 minutes earlier.
  2. Greed, not enough.  Had I just stuck to my original plan to make a quick stop at the Eaton Centre to do a little shopping, I would never have needed to leave the relative safety of the PATH at all since my meet-up was also underground.  But, as the Universe was playing dirty, it reminded me that I didn't want to risk running late because I had after all been attempting to rehabilitate my image as someone who is perpetually late for everything
  3. Sloth.  Had I not taken one extra stop to spare myself a little extra walking, I would not have been on that street at all
  4. Smugness.  Had I just taken my usual shortcut through a parking lot, I would have narrowly avoided the storm. Instead, I continued along the block to take a gander at the new condo development on the corner and gloat that I fled for the burbs before that monstrosity broke ground and overshadowed my old condo next door*
  5. Impatience.  Had I not been impatient, I would not have tried to dodge past the nice but slow, lovey-dovey couple taking up most of the sidewalk in front of me.  (In my defense, I am possibly physically incapable of walking at a moderate pace.) It was the exact moment of my overtaking them on the sidewalk that I met my slimy punishment.  I hope that couple will be naming their first-born after me because I, without a doubt, delivered them from the horrors that ensued
  6. Knitting.  Had I not written my first post about how my knitting mojo seems to have abandoned me and how I'd like to get back to knitting, I would not have been motivated to spend time putting together a little on-the-go knitting project for my subway ride.  I had a perfectly good book to read and one that I need to finish soon in order to not sound like an idiot to my 8-year old nephew when I pretend that I know all about how to use the Japanese soroban. (He is a boy-genius and it takes him about 3.5 minutes to expose you as a total maths fraud.  I was hoping to stretch it to maybe 5 minutes during my next encounter.)  But no, I decided to knit, despite the fact that I am usually too embarrassed to KIP.  I don't like eyes on me, ever.  Imagine my consternation yesterday when I literally stopped all foot-traffic in a 20m range around me when I lost my marbles.  I'm already scouting out a rock large enough to hide under when the inevitable YouTube video surfaces later today. 

Now, I maintain that I remained remarkably calm given the magnitude of this calamity, but my husband tells it differently.  This is a failing of husbands that even my most wonderful and most perfect of all husbands occasionally exhibits, and that is the inability to gauge appropriate response to a situation, especially when we're talking about me getting bombed by birds.  He did, however, concede that the utter thoroughness of these birds was nothing short of remarkable.  He wasn't actually on the scene at the time, but he did have the misfortune of being only blocks away and therefore the first person I called in my distress and the person compelled to obey when I (very calmly) declared and then repeated several times, I NEED A SHIRT. STAT.

On inspection, we discovered that not only did these birds (or one solitary roc) get both my forearms, both my shoulders, the front of my shirt, my vintage Georg Jensen necklace, the back of my hair, the fronts of both my legs AND the sides of my calves, they (it?) got all four corners of my sizeable purse.  After my husband marvelled over this and despite my entirely objective account of the incident, he speculated that in my panic I had smeared what was just one large dropping onto all these disparate areas, but it didn't require CSI to determine that the splatter pattern did not support his theory.

The Universe gave back in equal measure, which some might call karma; others, causality.  I for one feel that balance has been restored and I am duly humbled.  I will endeavour to be less prideful, more patient, and if that fails, I'll never pack knitting-to-go again.

P.S. Aside from learning some valuable life lessons, the other upside has been that I spent a little time knitting this morning to console myself after yesterday's misadventure (and the subsequent hours of disinfecting my purse and clothing and of scrubbing off my top layer of skin).  I also convinced myself that a bit of happy knitting in the form of a Little Cotton Rabbits pattern might serve dual purposes as both a sort of spiritual balm and a gift for a lovely friend.  I even picked up my camera and snapped a photo!

Promising starts in knitting, Little Cotton Rabbits Girl Bunny pattern


Footnotes

* My husband helpfully pointed out that my desire to live closer to nature was a factor in our decision to migrate to suburbia, and gee, wouldn't it have been nice to just step upstairs to shower and get a change of clothes?  My response is that if I still lived two blocks away from the scene of the crime, it would have necessitated more of those convenient jaunts upstairs because the one and only other time I was bombed by a bird (albeit, in much less dramatic fashion) was also two blocks from our condo.

Where has the knitting love gone?

I have on occasion entertained the possibility of starting a blog but in the absence of sufficient confidence and anything of interest to say, I have always been quick to dismiss this as a silly notion.  The rest of this entry was written two days ago as a sort of exercise for myself and I had no intention of posting it...

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