Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

If you are inclined to splurge one last time before all your New Year's resolutions begin, I did just update the Black Bunny Fibers website, including a new product which I call "JumboSox" -- 600-yd skeins of sock yarn for those who make larger sizes or kneesocks...

Have a wonderful and healthy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another knitter is born

Incentivized by her "Learn to Knit with Harris the Bear" kit, a thoughtful present from Mom and Dad, Miss Thang learns to knit.

Partial transcript follows (maternal profanity sanitized for your protection):

M.T.: Mom, when I can I do it?
Me: I have to show you what to do, or else how will you know what to do?
M.T.: Hurry up.
Me (demonstrating): See how it goes in, around, through and off?
M.T.: In, around, through and off. I KNOW, Mommy.
Me: Okay, give it a try. In, aro---
M.T.: I KNOW. Through and OFF! Do you think I'm dumb, Mommy?

15 minutes later.

M.T.: MOMMY! Why is this so tight?
Me: Let me take a look.
M.T.: Why did you give me knitting with extra-tight stitches? Did you purposely make them tight so I couldn't do it?
Me: Don't be silly. [Fixes knitting and goes to visit bathroom]

3 minutes later.

M.T. [at the top of her lungs]: MOMMY! MOMMY! I NEED YOU! MOMMY!!!

Me (rushing downstairs half-clothed, ready to call 911): What?! Are you okay?

M.T.: I need you to help me with my knitting. There are too many loops.

Each one, teach one, so the teached one, can kvetch some...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday knitting report

Well, my feeble attempt at holiday knitting has come to an end. Not wanting to tax myself, I did not assign myself a long list of holiday knitting. I had ideas about things I might want to knit, but not pressure; if I didn't knit them, too bad. Instead, I chose to assign Christmas as the sort-of-arbitrary deadline for a single project, this baby ensemble:

This sweater is a special gift for one of Elvis' former teachers. He had Miss G. for second and third grade, and they got along beautifully. We learned from the school grapevine Miss G. lost her husband to brain cancer at a shockingly young age, and this made us sad. We were delighted for her when she remarried (thus becoming Mrs. C) and even more delighted to learn that she was expecting a baby boy in January. So I knit up the jacket, while newly-minted knitter Elvis knit the hat.

A special gift for a special baby. Specifics are in my Ravelry projects list.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Happy whatever-you-do-or-don't-celebrate from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A couple more links

Our week of handpainted sock joy comes to an end, with two more posts about KSWHY:
  • our hat trick designer, Kristi Schueler, tells us about her third (3rd!) design in the book, the extremely cool Spread Spectrum socks;
  • Barb Brown has a special interview with me (Barb, I'd happily come to see you if I didn't hate airplanes like poison).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More designer links -- and a post on Knitting Daily!

For some more behind-the-scenes information from the designers, visit:
  • Laura Nelkin, as she talks about her beaded Whirlpool Socks;
  • Kristi Schueler's blog, to hear more about the Austen-esque Longbourn socks;
  • Deb Barnhill tells us about her lovely Potpourri Socks on her blog.
If you aren't totally sick of me by now, you can check out my post on today's Knitting Daily. (A huge thanks to Sandi Wiseheart, for allowing me to guest post!) (Also, I do know that there is a typo in the first sentence and it should say "twelve" rather than "ten." We're working on it.)

And I'm thrilled to report that as of this writing, Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn is Number One on's Knitting Books AND Needlework Books lists!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dancing socks & designer insights...

If you missed yesterday's Knitting Daily, then perhaps you did not see the clever dancing sock video, featuring many of the lovely designs from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn. Go here and you can see it in higher resolution by selecting "Watch in high quality" which is under the lower right-hand corner of the frame. (Try to imagine the theme song from "Footloose" playing in the background -- sadly, intellectual property issues precluded us from using the original.) Rest assured that no socks were harmed during the making of this video.

If you'd like to see and hear more about some of the individual sock patterns, all this week the designers will be blogging about them. So far, you can visit:

  • Kristi Schueler, as she discusses her Herringbone Rib socks (the ones that were featured in the latest Interweave Knits), here -- and for a special bit of fun, read the test knitter's reactions on her blog here;
  • Mindy Soucek tells us what it's like to see your first pattern in a book here;
  • Jody Pirrello describes her Chevvy cover sock design in her blog with some terrific photos and even possible modifications;
  • Deb Barnhill does a quick interview with me on her blog, and I'm hoping will tell us about her Potpourri socks later this week;
  • visit Barb Brown, of Wild Geese Fibres, where she tells us about her Rib Fantastic socks; and
  • take a look at an earlier version of Elizabeth Ravenwood's Braided Gems socks.
There will be more designer insights coming up later in the week, so stay tuned -- it's going to be Handpaintapalooza this week. . .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hardly-Any-Bull Book Review: Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarn, by moi

Journalistic objectivity be damned: I'm gonna review Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn, right here, right now, and none of yins are going to stop me.

And guess what?

I rather like it.

This week marks the official release of Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn (Interweave Press 2008), MSRP $19.97; available for $13.67 by following the link above.

The reason I wanted to write the book was simple. Handpainted yarns have become very popular: great colors and combinations of colors, often done on luscious base yarns by an ever-growing selection of artisans who do the dyeing. You can score a skein of sock yarn for under $25 in most cases, which makes it a relatively small investment. No matter what your sartorial style, nearly everyone wears socks and oftentimes you can be more whimsical and colorful with socks than other garments. And because the knitted fabric isn't worn next to your face, you can indulge in colors you might not normally wear. What's not to like?

Well, the pooling. And the splotching. And the way that sometimes colors which look wonderful in the skein don't look so great when you knit them up in a sock.

I wrote KSWHY in order to help people who love handpainted yarns learn how they work: why the colors look the way they do when knit up into a sock, why they sometimes make semi-stripes and splotches and pools of color in a way that's not always attractive, and what you can do if you don't like the way your sock is knitting up (instead of selling the yarn on Ebay...). I also wanted to compile a collection of patterns that were expressly designed for the way handpaints work. Instead of the designer selecting a handpaint that works like a solid, these projects were made for the multicolored hues of handpaints -- and designed to alleviate some of the less desirable color effects that one might get when knitting with handpaints. In this regard, I was extremely lucky to work with approximately 17 other designers who contributed some really innovative and good-looking and creative patterns.

The book is divided into roughly two parts: the beginning chapters cover technical info about handpaints and the second section contains the patterns.

The technical section, titled "The Road to Handpaint Happiness," begins by making clear that this book is meant for people who already know how to knit a basic sock (no "how to knit" instructions here!), and focuses primarily on fingering weight yarn (the most commonly used weight of yarn for socks). The knitter is also warned about the idiosyncratic nature of handpaints: they can vary greatly from skein to skein within the same dyelot, and even sometimes within the same skein. Next comes the heart of the discussion:
  • a brief description of handpaints, discussing machine- (or space-) versus handdyes, fiber choices, different methods of dyeing, and distinguishing self-patterning and self-striping yarns.
  • an approach that divides handpaints into three categories based on color: Nearly Solids, Wild Multis and Muted Multis. Photographs show some examples of each category of yarn, and I give you general tips on how to use each category of yarn to best effect.
  • the section I think of as Color Theory Lite. I discuss the concepts of value and saturation, two other key components of traditional color theory, and apply them to handpainted sock yarn.
  • a thorough discussion of pooling and splotching and striping: why it happens and what you can do to change it.
The most fun part of all is the pattern section. It contains 21 patterns designed with the unique qualities of handpaints in mind. What was especially fascinating to me was seeing the various ways that different designers approached the problem of pooling. For example, Kristi Schueler's Longbourn Socks use a semi-solid handdye and a wild multicolor handdye in a tessellated colorwork pattern to break up pooling. She also embellishes the sock with embroidery to help tack down long floats inside the sock. Clever and good-looking, no?

Laura Nelkin's Whirlpool Socks (top in the montage following this paragraph) also use an eyecatcher to pull attention away from any color effects, but she chose to use small beads instead of embroidery as accents. The swirling textured pattern on the cuff also helps move the color around and draw the eye away from any splotching. Deb Barnhill's ingenious Potpourri Sock (bottom) employs a whole bag of tricks to keep from pooling. Changing stitch counts from round to round, yarn overs, wrapped figure-eight stitches -- these socks move the color around so much it just doesn't have a chance to pool.

Several designers opted for ingenious methods of construction to combat pooling: Jody Pirrello's Chevvy socks (featured on the cover; top in the montage below), use a chevron pattern but also short rows to make some huge vees of color so that the colors won't mass in splotches; Kristi Schueler's Spread Spectrum Socks (bottom left) use intarsia to break up pooling and create visually arresting ministripes; and Chrissy Gardiner's Color Collision Socks alternate garter-stitch stripes (knit flat) with ribbing knit in the round.

All of the above designs are aimed at those sock yarns with lovely colors that are incorrigible poolers. For the muted multicolors in your stash, the ones that aren't quite as prone to color splotching but have too much going on for more traditional patterns, look to the designs that use eyelets (like my own Switcheroo Socks, bottom right in the montage below), travelling stitches (like Lorna Miser's Escher Socks, top) or ribbing (like Barb Brown's Rib Fantastic socks, bottom left).

Another thing that I particularly like about the book is the mix of designers I got to work with. Some of my knitting idols are represented (Nancy Bush, Ann Budd, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, Ve-Ve) but also some newer people and some GKIYH pals who submitted kick-ass designs (like Barb Brown, Puff the Magic Rabbit,

Courtney Kelley). To add an extra thrill, Ms. Ann Budd herself used Black Bunny Fibers sock yarn to knit these lovely Punctuated Rib socks.

The patterns are labeled not by difficulty level, but by the type of yarn they will work best with. Some of the more complex patterns appear in one-size-only format; others contain two or more sizes. Unusual or advanced techniques are illustrated in the back section. A bibliography lists some of my favorite sock books, and there are miniprofiles of the contributing designers in the back.

So there you have it: Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarns. It's the sock book I wished I had when I first started delving into the world of handpaints. And it's full of patterns that I want to try myself. I am certain that I will find much joy pairing patterns from the book with the many, many skeins of handpainted sock yarn in my own personal stash. I hope you do, too.

Stay tuned this week for more KSWHY features, including links to the blogs of the designers as they discuss their individual designs and a special surprise!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Socky things

It was a lot of fun dyeing up these:

This is a limited-edition colorway called "Jingle Bells," available only until Christmas. I just loaded ten skeins of it onto my website. I also loaded some lovely semi-solids (superwash merino fingering weight) at a special holiday price of $18 a skein (each skein is 400 yds/4 oz), like these two.

In the meantime, I am pleased to let you know that Interweave will be doing some cool promotional things for Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn -- one of which is my guest appearance on the Knitting Daily e-newsletter. I'm also hoping that some of the individual contributors to the book will post on their blogs about their designs. So stay tuned for some fun stuff.

Including a booksigning appearance at Philadelphia's Loop, on Sunday, January 25th, from 1 to 4 p.m. Come and see me, 'kay?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's here!!

I just noticed that now has copies of Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn in stock and ready to ship!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Let a word to the wise be sufficient.

Watch this.

How many times

can two seven-year-olds watch a bunch of cats flushing the toilet?

As of this writing, 47 times.

And counting. . .

Friday, December 05, 2008

Something new

Why was there a clothesbasket full of BBF sock yarn in my living room this week (actually, several clothesbaskets full of BBF sock yarn)?

This very day, I shipped my first big wholesale order of sock yarn to the inimitable Sheri at the Loopy Ewe. Yes, Black Bunny Fibers is coming to the Loopy Ewe. . .

It was a bit of a challenge for me to try to create multiple skeins of yarn that constitute "dye lots," and the practicalities of producing yarn on a larger scale than I'm used to is a little different, too. I couldn't do this all the time, and I don't think I could handle any more wholesale customers on this scale, and I have no intention of shutting down my own website. That means that for the foreseeable future, you can enjoy BBF yarn both at my dot-com AND as soon as it arrives and is uploaded to the Loopy Ewe's website. (And if you haven't had the pleasure of shopping with The Loopy Ewe, hoo-boy, do you have a treat awaiting you!)

Now please excuse me while I pace nervously about, hoping that Sheri is pleased with this large carton of blue-faced leicester superwash sock yarn that is en route even as I write this. . .

Monday, December 01, 2008

Happy birthday, Twins!

Yep, seven years ago today, that clever (and rather attractive, I might say) surgeon cut on the dotted line and brought forth the twins.

Happy birthday, dear ones -- and many, many more.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey report

I sometimes forget that I have a sharper sense of humor than most people, even though I don't mean anything by it. In any event, I assure you that I am being completely sincere when I say that we had a lovely Thanksgiving. The kids were on their best behavior (no "ew"ing at the dinner table!); Elvis and Miss Thing did a piano concert and N. invented his own board game (look out, Milton Bradley). It was sweet to see Tom's grandmother playing Candyland with her great-grandkids.

And the food was delicious.

(I can say this without being accused of bragging because we went for the heat-and-serve option from Whole Foods.) I discovered I have a fondness for peach pie. The conversation was pleasant and the wine flowed freely.

And for all this, I am thankful.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from Charcoal and us

to those of you celebrating it....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We interrupt this pointy-headed book report

to direct your knitterly (and crochetyerly) attention to Knit1 magazine, which apparently has had something of a facelift. Go here and see if you don't agree that this is looking far, far more interesting than the Lemonhead...

(That Trisha Malcolm. She is just too effing much.)

Rest of the summer book report

Okay, here's another semi-annual book report. It seems I haven't done one of these since, let's see, early August? Hmmm. Brace yourselves: that's a lot of reading in these parts.

Walking Through Walls: A Memoir by Philip Smith. This one is hard to describe: the memoir of a guy whose father was an interior decorator to the Miami rich during the 1950s (yep, his dad has a lot of interesting stories to tell). What makes the memoir even weirder, and yet more compelling, is that Smith's father also was regarded as an extremely talented "psychic," for lack of a better word. Through a mystical regime of fasting, yoga and all sorts of New Age exercises, his father transformed himself into a psychic healer. It's really difficult for me to accept at face value all the anecdotes that Smith tells of his father -- an ability to heal people through mental energy? stopping ants from invading your Florida house by "talking" to them psychically? -- but the author seems sincere in his belief that these things actually occurred. Whether or not you accept it as literal truth, it certainly is an entertaining and offbeat read.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. Mixes the current-day fictional story of a young man who grew up in a polygamous sect with the based-on-history story of Ann Eliza Webb, who was one of Brigham Young's wife (possibly the 19th wife). Fascinating stuff.

Exit Music by Ian Rankin, is the latest in the gritty John Rebus detective series set in Edinborough, Scotland. When this book opens, Rebus is about to retire from the force -- and he, and his partner Siobhan have all sorts of mixed feelings about his imminent departure. You can always rely on Rankin for a solid, entertaining mystery with lots of local color.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson. This book, published in the US posthumously, got a lot of press; I found it to be quite a bit overhyped. The beginning is especially slow to get moving, although the pace picked up about a third of the way through. The book begins with a magazine publisher being found guilty of libeling a prominent industrialist, although the reader is told that he was set up. The publisher then gets a strange invitation from another wealthy industrialist to move to his remote village and write a family history -- including solving the long-ago murder of a cousin. Not a bad read, but I had to persevere through the first few chapters. This one needed a good edit.

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolf. Wolf is the pseudonym of "a well-known and well-regarded North American writer." If you Google the pseudonym, you find a lot of articles speculating as to the real identity of the author, but, well, who cares? This is a decent mystery about a Canadian detective who is not the typical protagonist of a mystery novel: in her sixties, with serious back problems, living with her mother. She's tracking a scary serial killer with a religious fetish.

A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read. I got a kick out of this one; another mystery, but the main character is a former debutante, daughter of a WASP family with old money. Her ambivalent attitude toward her family and its social prominence, and the insider's look at what it's like to grow up in a family whose prominence and wealth has faded in recent times, was interesting, and it was a keep-you-guessing-til-the-end kind of mystery.

Between Here and April by Deborah Kopaken Cagen. The protagonist in the book is a mom of two, juggling a freelance career with her struggling marriage and the chaos of young children. When she begins having fainting episodes, she consults a psychiatrist, and discovers disturbing memories of a childhood friend who went missing. Some of Lizzie's turmoil has to do with problems in her marriage, her own mother's failings, and her repression of a brutal incident while on a photojournalist's shoot. But some of what Lizzie investigates is the unpleasant side of being a mom -- i.e. how exhausting giving one's all to a child can be; how childrearing can sap the energy & vitality out of even a good marriage; how even the most loving and doting mother sometimes wants to beat the crap out of her kids because no one else knows how to push her buttons as well as they do. Yep, it's heavy stuff, and a bit melodramatic at times, but thought-provoking.

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (not to be confused with Anne of Cleves). How could I refuse to read a mystery set on the Shetland Isles? I enjoyed the story of a lonely detective oddly named Jimmy Perez, who grew up on the Isles and now investigates crimes there. When a teenager is killed, Perez has to investigate her death, and figure out if recluse Magnus Tait did it -- or if he's been blamed for someone else's crime.

Christine Falls is another brooding mystery set in 1950s Ireland, written by a Booker Prize winner under a pseudonym. The main character is a pathologist who discovers his stepbrother altering a file at the city morgue.

Slip of the Knife by Denise Mina, is part of a series of mysteries set in 1980s Glasgow. Another fast-paced read with newspaper reporter Paddy Meehan investigating the death of her former lover, who was also a journalist.

Goodnight, Irene by Jan Burke. Breathlessly billed on the cover as a favorite of Bill Clinton, this is another fast-paced mystery with a newspaper reporter as the main character. Irene Kelly is a reporter at a small newspaper in southern California investigating the abrupt death of her friend and mentor.

The Sonnet Lover by Carol Goodman tells the story of a college professor who returns to Italy to serve as advisor for a film about Shakespeare. The professor also is trying to figure out why one of her star students fell (or was pushed) off the balcony of a high building just before he was scheduled to spend the summer in Italy working on the same film.

And yes, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, the teen novel about a high school girl who falls in love with a modern-day vampire.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Too many distractions

First, the other moms at Little Miss's ballet class insisted that I read Twilight. I was highly skeptical -- and then couldn't put it down.

In the meantime, I was cajoled to join Facebook and have been spending way too much time playing with it.

And then we woke up to see snow:

Meanwhile, the "to-do" list grows ever longer...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This just in. . .

Did you know that "[k]nitting blogs are the estrogen-fueled, crafty-fingered appendix of the blogosphere: surprisingly large once you take a look at them, yet hardly noticeable to anyone but the busy bacteria that hang out there"? Hmm, I'm not sure I like that uncannily accurate description (especially coming from "The A.V. Club" -- which I guess is written by people who watch a lot of teevee but aren't quite funny enough for The Onion?), but at least the authors pay homage to the Yarn Harlot. (Thanks, Mr. G-K-I-Y-H!)

Today's Ravelry moment

Go to the "Patterns" forum and help the desperate, canine-loving knitter who is searching for a pattern for a "dog poop bag":

some time ago I saw a pattern that was for a larger bag. I believe it had a square stiffened base with a scented dryer sheet in it to mask “offensive odours”!! It’s not just for holding plastic bags but for carrying home the - er - doings of one’s dog. I thought this would make a good quick easy gift for a couple of friends with dogs.
Here might be a good time to use that yarn with the antibacterial properties they were advertising a few years ago... (thanks, Selma!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

On sock flats

At Stitches the other weekend, I spent a lot of time examining sock flats. If you aren't familiar with them, they are long rectangles of yarn, sometimes knit with two strands, other times knit with one with a line of demarcation to show the halfway point. They are dyed as knitted cloth, rather than as unknitted yarn. You can either unravel the cloth and wind it into a ball, or knit them directly from the cloth, just casting on with the loose end and unraveling as you go along. (The ones knit with two strands together are for those who knit two socks at the same time -- one strand for each pair, ensuring matching socks.)

What fascinated me were the ways in which the dyers had applied the yarn to the flats. (Please believe that I am in no way denigrating any particular dyers or vendors at the show; this is merely one of those pointy-headed musings to which I am prone.) Some of the flats had colors applied more or less randomly. But others had created patterns on the flat. Some had zigzags of color; others stripes or criss-crosses; some even had stamped or stenciled shapes onto the flat to create an image of, say, an insect or a flower in one color on a different colored background.

Which led me to wonder why.

If you were going to keep the flat intact and, I don't know, frame it or something, then the stencils and intricate designs would make sense. But it seemed odd that the dyer had gone to all the trouble of creating these designs, knowing that the person who bought them was going to (presumably) unwind them and knit them into socks. And given the variables in gauge and sock size and stitch pattern, there was no way the dyer could ensure that any particular pattern would be created or recreated in the finished socks.

One of the issues that Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn addresses in the technical section is why handpainted yarns look the way they do when knit into socks. I spend some time talking about the phenomenon known as pooling (or splotching, or stacking, or landscaping, or whatever you happen to call those effects where particular colors seem to line up in the knitted stitches and create patterns or unattractive blotches or almost-stripes).

And it seemed to me that a lot of these sock flats were going to end up pooling like a mofo.

One of the vendors had helpfully included a flat along with one of the socks knit from it. Curiously, the finished sock had a very symmetrical striping look to it. Upon closer examination, I concluded that the sock must have been knit using two separate balls of yarn, alternating rows. (I even saw what I think was the un-woven-in end where the second ball was added in, shortly after the cuff.)

Now there's nothing wrong with using two balls of yarn in alternating stripes to break up the pooling of a handpainted yarn. Indeed, it's a time-honored method -- but it's a method usually used when the knitter doesn't like the way the colors look as the sock is being knit up. In other words, it's something you do when your handpainted sock yarn is pooling and you hate it.

So if the sock flat looks attractive in its unknit form, but not that attractive in the knit-up sock, what's the point? Is it for the dyer to have fun playing with the flat? Or is it for the knitter who ends up knitting and wearing the socks?

I have resisted creating sock flats that use these kinds of decorative methods for the very reason that I thought they'd make socks that pooled and splotched. Now you're always going to have a skein of handpainted yarn here or there that pools and splotches -- it comes with the turf. But I guess I'm wondering what the point of the sock flat is if it doesn't do something different than you can do with a regular hank. (When I've dyed sock flats, I've used them to create striping effects that one can't easily achieve with a normal-sized hank of yarn.)

Your thoughts are welcome, especially if you've knit with sock flats before. (Just please don't mention any vendors or dyers by name in the comments. I don't want anyone to think I'm picking on them.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today's Ravelry moment...

In today's Ravelry moment, offer your thoughts on the desirability of knitting a headstone cozy (Patterns thread), or help recommend yarn (without elastic) for a knitted bra...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gloomy day, pretty patterns

Another week slipped by me, although in my defense, I did get a lot done. Unfortunately, blogging was not one of those things.

However, at least I can report that there are lots of pretty new patterns to ogle:
  • Twist Collective's Winter Issue is out here (hey, lookit that nice scarf & cap set by Ve-Ve!);
  • there's a preview of the winter Interweave Knits here (hey, lookit that wonderful green sweater by my co-author Laura!); and
  • sometime this weekend, the new Knotions will be out (hey, lookit that helpful a book review by yours truly).
Have fun!

Monday, November 10, 2008

With apologies to Cameron McIntosh

I just returned from my overnight venture to Baltimore, host (for the last time) of Stitches East. I was joined by intrepid traveling companion Mindy -- who for the first time in a long time, was NOT working the show.

This was my third (I think) Baltimore Stitches, and I was just beginning to get to know the city a little. Alas, the X-men are moving next year's Stitches way further north: to Hartford, Connecticut. They even had a guy from the Hartford Chamber of Commerce sitting at a table to give out literature about new locale. Bye-bye, Baltimore -- it's been fun.

While many of the regulars were there -- WEBS, thank God, and the Mannings, and Yarn Barn of Kansas -- some of the smaller yarn shops and many of the farms and smaller vendors weren't. Blue Moon Fiber Arts was one conspicuous absentee; Morehouse Merino and Green Mountain Spinnery and Kid Hollow were three more; I'm sure there were others. The crowds also seemed smaller. There were only a few times where I was aware of there being a long line at a vendor or more than one or two people looking in a booth. I guess the struggling economy had to affect the knitting world, too.

And while I enjoyed myself, I couldn't help but feel a bit bereft. Oh sure, we had a delightful lunch with the charming Mama E. I got to say hello to some of my faves, like Kathy from WEBS (her husband Steve is quite a hottie, too -- way to go, Kathy!), and Linda P., whom I dearly love, and Kristen Nicholas (maybe someday when her slutty licentious kitteh gives birth for the forty-seventh time, I can convince Tom to let me take one of the kittens: an itteh-bitteh kitteh from the knitterateh?); and, okay, Li'l Ricky was wearing something awful (in this case, pants the color of stale ketchup); and I bought some fab yarn and books, including the yarn and pattern for a Norah Gaughan sweater (she is the best thing that happened to Berroco. Ever.).

But something was definitely missing.

At dinner, an empty chair at our table mocked me.

The maid left three pieces of chocolate in our room, when there were only two of us.

As I stared into a box of pastries that Mindy brought, I thought wistfully: Vé-vé would have loved these...


It wasn't that something was missing; it was someone.

I missed Vé-vé.

Yes, it was all coming clear now.

Here was the lonely, empty chair where she would have used my laptop to check her email and send saucy billets-doux to her sexy husband.

This would have been her wineglass, to share the impertinent yet inexpensive (with a hint of poir) bottle of red that we (finally) tracked down.

(I never thought I'd find a state with even more bizarre liquor laws than Pennsylvania, but Maryland is pretty weird. I mean, what kind of state sells wine at a Rite-Aid?)

Mindy would have (sniffle) showed her the Salt Peanuts she made from Vé-vé's pattern:

and I would have shown her this advance copy I just received of my new book:

When I saw Mindy's clothesbasket full of coffeemaking equipment -- Mindy brings her coffee press, spring water from her well, a heating source and saucepan, mugs and coffee with her on every trip -- I got morose, imagining how Vé-vé and I would have teased Mindy about her fancy "portmanteau" and about how seriously she takes her café americain.

And this architectural detail, on the outside of the Wharf Rat? We would have admired its decorative lines together as we supped on a light déjeuner.

Yep, Stitches East was fun and all. But it just wasn't the same without Vé-vé.

On my own
Pretending she's beside me
All alone, I walk with her till morning

In the rain the pavement shines like silver
All the lights are misty in the river
In the darkness, the trees are full of starlight
And all I see is she and me for ever and forever, knitting...