Everything Is Awesome

Last night, I was looking after my grandson and there was a horrible toy accident: I knocked over his Lego Tower of Orthanc. It burst into 3 large pieces and an explosion of assorted scraps – a veritable hailstorm of tiny plastic bricks. You know that long, frozen moment you experience just before the dread kicks in? yes, I had it.

If you’re lucky enough to be unfamiliar with both Lego speciality building kits and the Lord of the Rings, I invite you to take a peek at this monstrosity on the offical Lego site. (I’m also jealous of you.) Note the age range on the box: 14+, which my grandson is most assuredly not; and the difficulty level of “Challenging”, which is Lego-speak for “you may lose your will to live before you finish this thing”.


I expected the little man to be upset when he saw what I’d done, but I was taken aback when he utterly lost his shit. It took some tearful time for me to understand that he believed his Tower was broken. To him, Lego kit assembly is a one-way process: once his parents put it together for him in exactly the way the instructions specify, it’s a finished object and it’s never meant to be taken apart again. He’s a bit too young to really grasp the deep nature of Lego as a building material; to him, the project is done once the bricks are clicked together, and any coming-apart is a failure.

Between the two of us, we managed to reassemble it in an hour or so with hardly any parts left over. As we puzzled it out, I tried to talk with him about Lego; about how it doesn’t have to stay forever as the thing it was first put together as, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t change his views very much. It might be something that’ll come when he gets older. (Probably after we’ve watched the Lego Movie a dozen more times.)

Later, after the kids were down for the night, I grafted together the ends of a cowl I’d knitted. I was just sort of winging it; it’s a plush squishy stitch pattern that I slapped a garter stitch edging on. When I joined the ends, I found that the garter edging – being thinner than the main part of the fabric – wants to flip inwards. At first, I thought to myself: oh, that will block right out. But really, that’s a lazy way of thinking… a thick warm cowl isn’t the sort of thing that should depend on blocking to look good and fulfil its function. On the other hand, there’s quite a few hours of knitting in there, and wouldn’t it be sort of a failure to frog it all?

cowl fail

I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to see that yarn and Lego aren’t really that different; they’re just the material that gets you to the finished object you want – the bridge between your imagined desires and the real world. And staying committed forever to something just because it’s the first thing you built and you don’t want to take it apart? well, I guess that’s kind of silly. It wouldn’t be honest of me to dish out sage words to a kindergartener and then not take the same advice myself. So: me and my cowl will go take a dip in the frog pond and start again.

Besides, a fresh ball of Malabrigo is not exactly a terrible thing to have.

I like fat quarters and I cannot lie

About a year ago, I discovered what fat quarters were – little squares of fabric, one quarter of a yard each, sometimes sold in coordinating packets of five. They’re like the quilter’s version of mini-skeins – addictive as all get-out, betcha can’t buy just one. I couldn’t believe that my sewing friends had been holding out on me.

One shopping trip

This was ONE shopping trip. I have a problem.

But no matter how enchanting your collection of beautifully matched fabric squares becomes, eventually you need to find a use for them. So after browsing around the quilting blogs (oh my goodness, that’s an endless clickhole of talented crafters) I found some ideas for making handy little project bags. Eventually I worked out how to make them in the most efficient way I could – maximum bang for your buck (4 bags per pack of 5 fat quarters!), yet still super-easy and fast.

bag done

I made a tutorial – Fat Quarter Stuff Sacks – so now you can do it too. Just don’t blame me for your new addiction, okay?

Poor Old Thing

Oh, this poor neglected blog. I’ve never been good at keeping it up to date, but a hiatus of almost 2 years is extreme even for me. I’ve been having a fling with other social media (Google + mostly) but the short-form, short-attention-span quality of such quick little blurps is starting to wear thin. Blogs are like slow food, or slow yarn – they take longer, and they take a bit of care; they don’t come all pre-assembled and you don’t get immediate reaction to what you publish. Maybe it’s time that I carved out some space for slow writing.

Lest you think I’m a total slacker, here’s one of the things I’ve been up to: weaving rag rugs! This disposes of two problems at once: the chilly floors in this house in winter, and the amount of clothing we have that’s too shabby to donate to the thrift shop. This is the first completed one off the loom, and I’m unreasonably pleased with it – even with the wonky edges and the way the colour repeats didn’t come out quite symmetrical. I’m going to be kind to myself, and not expect the first attempt to be a work of art.

Hit and miss rag rug

Hit and miss rag rug


Love and Time

I’ve spent the past few days doing some spring cleaning, in hopes that it will work some sympathetic magic and make Spring come a little faster. Alas, the only weather-related result so far has been yet another snowfall – accompanied by thunder, no less – so it’s safe to say my magic isn’t working. I do, however, have a much better-organized stash and a tidier work room.

I have a habit of stashing WIPs and found objects amongst the yarn, and one of the things I dug out of the cedar chest was this pair of hand-knit socks (click any of these pictures to embiggen):

victorian stockings

I found them at a farmer’s market in Springville NY; there was a vendor in the flea market with a table full of old textiles. I’m not much of a textile collector, but these Victorian stockings utterly blew my mind, so I shelled out the handsome sum of $5 to acquire them.

measuring gauge

They’re knit from fine white cotton. The gauge is tight and firm: 57 stitches over 4″ (14.25 SPI) and 79 rows over 4″ (19.75 RPI). I needed a magnifying glass.


It took me a little time and careful examination to appreciate the finer points of their construction. They’re knit from the cuff down, with a pretty picot edge – this gives the top hem the maximum amount of stretch possible, which is never very much with cotton… the knitter made a clever choice. The combination of lace and cables in the cuff is lovely. The beginning of each round is marked with a purl stitch on alternate rows, forming a graceful seam down the back and showing the knitter where to place her decreases.


There is a decorative column of garter stitch on the edges of the heel flap; I don’t know if it serves a practical purpose or was a strictly decorative touch. The toe is round and seamless, ending with 8 tiny stitches drawn up tightly.


The cuff is marked with a pair of initials in pink cross stitch: these stockings were knit for M.E., and the letters are oriented so that they are right-side up when the wearer looks down at them, as is customary with socks of this era. And we can tell that they were knitted by somebody else for M.E. – because on one of the stockings, worked in a very subtle mix of purls and knits, you can see the initial E.

Who was M.E.? The stockings are for a small-footed person, and unlike kilt hose, the tops are not meant to be folded down; this tells us they were for a woman or girl. The knitter was highly skilled, and spent a great amount of time making these fine stockings – they would have been a special gift indeed, and they show very little wear. Perhaps they were a wedding gift? At this great remove of time and history, the only thing we can know is that E. cared enough for M.E. to create something so beautiful and intricate, and M.E. treasured them enough to carefully put them away and save them.

They may look like stockings to the rest of the world… but knitters will know what they really are: thousands of tiny stitches of love, frozen in time.


Pawprints everywhere



Yesterday we had to make that last, kindest decision for our dog. We’d known since November about the cancer, but the end came more suddenly than we expected when an infection set in around the tumour.

knitting pal

Fourteen years ago, I found her at the SPCA. She was the only dog not barking and throwing herself at the gates; she just sat there, looking at me steadily. I was her person from the very beginning. Where I was, there she was.


The house feels very empty and silent without the tickety-tick of toenails on wooden floors. I washed all of her blankets, folded them and put them away. The sofa seems so much bigger; the living room darker without the blinds pulled up so she can see outside. I will not have to prune the shrubbery for her viewing convenience this year.

in the yard

I get random little stabs in the heart. Last night I wept into the dishwater as I washed her food dish for the last time. This morning I opened the kitchen curtains and cried again when I looked out at the backyard snow… pawprints everywhere, melting softly as the day warms up.

Oh, I will miss her so.