Why Knitters Drink

Allow me to demonstrate:

For the conveniently sized bottles for blocking of course.  Whatever were you thinking?  That’s a blueberry liqueur and a cranberry liqueur bottle from Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (anybody around there?  Please go try the rum for me.  We had a taste when we were there in 2010, but it wasn’t ready to buy, and I’mstill longing for it.)

Grave Concerns

Ya’ll are awesome.  You really are.  You answer my questions and give me yarn tips and read my ramblings and make my socks.  Generally speaking, you are a wise and helpful bunch.  But some among you have recently caused me to have some grave concerns.

You seem unnaturally interested in the stick I dragged home from some far-flung beach.  I have come to terms with my odd fascination with rocks and sticks.  It’s a long-standing affliction.  The trunk of The Boy’s car usually has a few finds rattling around it.  I expect better from you though.

You’ve asked for pictures.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a decent picture of a stick?  Really, without some sort of atmospheric backdrop, pictures of sticks aren’t all that interesting.  This was the best I could do.  The whole thing is just under two feet long, and the main part is about 5 inches across.  That arm sticks up about 8 inches.  The rock at the end is bigger than a soda can.  There are about a dozen little rocks wedged in various spots all over the stick.

Upon arriving home, the stick was treated to a lengthy bake in the oven (to kill any wood-eating critters that may have stowed away in his crevices).  It now adorns one of the bookcases in my living room.  I’m considering naming it the household mascot and judging all future visitors to the house by whether they are smitten with or horrified by the stick.

It has also been brought to my attention that the stick may not actually be a stick.  It could be a root.  I’m not at all sure how you tell a stick from a root.  I also find the word stick ever so much more satisfying to say, so I’m going to continue to call it so, comfortable in the knowledge that I could be totally wrong.

Unintended Restraint

The plan was to just get whatever I wanted.  I really don’t buy much yarn, I use what I buy (and the accountant swears it’s a business expense), and yarn is a better souvenir than a postcard.  I intended to indulge.  Apparently giving yourself permission to buy it all ahead of time is some sort of counter-intuitive way to insure self restraint.

We only visited two yarn stores.  The first was Have A Yarn in Mahone Bay.  There I got the Hand Maiden Casbah (over there on the far left).  I’ve been a fan of Casbah for a long time.  It’s what I used in Slant and Graupel, and I’m using a close cousin of it in the book.  Alas, this one didn’t have a color name.  I also got the Tanis Fiber Arts yarn in Stormy (in the middle).  I’ve not seen their yarn before, but it looks lovely and I’m looking forward to using it.

Next up was Baddeck Yarns in (not surprisingly) Baddeck.  There I found another old favorite, Fleece Artist Trail Socks in Marble Mountain (at the back).  It’s apparently a custom colorway available only in that area.  It’s a bit more multi-colored than I usually go for, but I was smitten.  The final one (at the front) was another new find.  It’s Blue Heron Yarns Silk and Silver in Marsh Grass.  I’ve never used sparkly yarn before and have always wanted to try it.

I might have dragged home a bit more, save that one yarn store was closed for the hurricane and two others were closed for the holiday.  As soon as the various book projects are finished up (Heather’s WWMDfK sock is almost done) one of these will be the next on the needles.  Now to decide which one…

Strike A Pose

Sunday morning it was time to head back to Halifax.  We corralled our stuff (somehow it had rather spread out after four days at the cabin) and cleaned up the kitchen (making grill soup in the dark being a surprisingly messy endeavor).  But before we could leave, we had a small situation to deal with.  Or, more precisely, a large situation.  The true size of the stick had finally sunk in.  Plans to mail it had been abandoned.  We would have needed to construct a serious box and have a long conversation with the post office staff.  Things were closed Saturday for the storm, the post office is always closed on Sunday, and Monday was a post holiday.  It just didn’t work out.  Plan B involved a saw.  Alas, everywhere that might possibly sell such a device was  closed on Sunday morning.  Undaunted (or only slightly daunted), we knocked on the door of the cabin’s owner and asked if we could borrow a saw.  I’m clinging to the hope that people who rent accommodations are used to all sorts of odd requests.  This one involved no illegal activities and no lapses in personal hygiene, so with luck it wasn’t the worst thing they’d been asked.  A saw was obtained, the stick underwent a bit of impromptu surgery, and we were on our way.

The drive was…well…kind of long and boring.  All the things we wanted to stop and see on the way were closed (either due to the holiday weekend or power outages caused by the storm), and we couldn’t find a decent place to get lunch.  We eventually made it to Halifax, found some much needed dinner, and headed to the hotel.  The hotel powers that be had smiled on us, and we had been upgraded to a super duper deluxe suite (it was bigger than our first apartment).  Since we were in fairly early, I spent some time working my suitcase packing voodoo:

  • step 1 – dump it all out on the floor, stare at the pile, stare at the suitcases, asses the relative volumes of each, feel a moment of despair, get a manic glint in your eye as you warm to the challenge
  • step 2 – locate those items that need special care, in this case 8 bottles of adult beverages, 4 skeins of yarn, 1 large board game, 1 jar of hot sauce, 1 jar of honey, 2 fist-sized rocks, 1 rock the size of a small loaf of bread, and 1 still surprisingly large stick
  • step 3 – construct outer padding layer around edges of suitcase with sturdy clothes
  • step 4 – bag and pad all breakable, dirty, or potentially sticky special items and coax them into suitcases
  • step 5 – tuck, wedge, wiggle, squeeze, and otherwise force all the other stuff between special items and edges of suitcase, abandoning underwear and pajamas as necessary
  • step 6 – stand back and marvel as the suitcases all close
  • step 6b (to be performed at the airport) – gloat shamelessly when the bags come in 4 pounds under the weight limit despite containing massive rocks and great quantities of booze
  • step 6c (to be performed at home) – do a completely embarrassing victory dance when you open the suitcases to find all inside exactly as you left it

The next day we wandered around Halifax.  Almost everything, including both yarn shops, was closed for labor day (or is that labour day in Canada).  We did manage a sunset stomp around the Citadel complete with random guy playing bagpipes in the distance.  While there, the current sock (he needs a name) proved that he is indeed a Hammersen sock.

How you ask?

Why he posed for a picture with a cannon of course.  It’s a long family tradition.  There may just possibly be a photo or two of me on a cannon in my wedding dress.  It’s a force that cannot be explained or denied.  It’s best to just give in gracefully.  After that it was a long walk down the hill to dinner and then a long walk back up the (really dreadfully steep) hill to get some rest before venturing out to the airport at an ungodly hour the next morning.

Pleased To Meet You

We had plenty of warning.  We knew Earl was coming and so had decided to stay in on Saturday.  In the days before, we had visited two yarn stores, a book store, a game store, a grocery store, and two distilleries.  We were well provisioned.

We spent the morning in the water, then dried off and made breakfast (french toast of course).  By noon, it was getting blustery.  Some time around two, I stepped outside to try and get a picture.  Even standing on the porch under a substantial roof, I was thwarted by blowing rain.  You can just make out the light house on the far shore and the waves crashing over the dock.  By three, the power was out.  By four, the spray from the waves was hitting our windows.  We played Pandemic and watched the storm.

We also made soup.  There’s nothing better than soup when it’s stormy, and it’s easy to make in an unfamiliar kitchen with limited supplies.

Now you may have noticed I mentioned the power went out.  Did I mention that the stove was electric?  That did somewhat complicate the soup preparations.  Luckily, there was a grill.  Yes, we made grill soup.  Well, first we made grill stock, and then we made grill soup.  It worked much better than I expected.  It was a bit slow, but we weren’t going anywhere.  It also meant we got to go out on the porch every 20 minutes to stir things and thus got to truly ‘experience’ the storm in a personal way.  By the time the soup was ready, it was quite dark.  We scrounged around the cabin and found a few candles.  We set these up on a mirror and propped another mirror up behind them.  How’s that for an elegant candle-lit anniversary dinner?

(And sorry for the cruddy pictures.  Timing waves while dodging raindrops is harder than anticipated.  So is getting enough light for a decent pic from four candles.  We’ll call them ‘atmospheric’ and hope they more or less convey the mood despite their flaws.)

Hit the Beach

Since we had driven up the western side of the Cabot Trail on Thursday, we thought we’d check out the eastern side on Friday.  Before we set out, we took advantage of the clear weather and the dock at our cabin to take the final photos of Socky.  He very much enjoyed his dip, he encountered no sea monsters, and he was promptly rinsed out (salt water not being good for wool) as soon as we went back inside.

The highlight of the drive was Black Brook Beach.  Now it seems that ‘beach’ means something a bit different around these parts than what I’m used to.  If you click on that link up there for the official Canadian Park picture of the beach, you’ll see there’s a wee bit of sand and rather a lot of rocks.  What might not be clear is that to take that picture, you have to get to the top of a waterfall.  Specifically, that waterfall in my picture over there on the left.

Now in order to get to that waterfall you have to clamber (and I really do mean clamber…the sort that takes both feet, both hands, a good sense of balance, and an abiding willingness to sit down on your butt and scoot when the going gets tough) over a rather large pile of rocks.  They’re in that picture over there on the right.  Now what that picture perhaps doesn’t convey is that those rocks are wet.  Wet rocks are slippery.  These rocks were also fairly well covered with more than a few varieties of plants and animals.

I, being a sensible sort, left the alarmingly large travel purse in the car (carrying a purse throws off your balance and uses up one of your hands) and made the climb in tightly strapped sandals.  The Boy, being possessed by the spirit of a deranged mountain goat, did it barefoot.  Somehow he still managed to climb up a bit higher than I did.  I feel rather slighted, but I’m blaming it on my strong sense of self preservation.

For those keeping track at home, the stick of astonishing keenness mentioned earlier came from this beach, and it will make another appearance in this tale shortly.

Don’t forget today is the last day to enter to win the lovely Handwerks yarn used in Gramercy.  I’ll announce the winner early in the week.

A Surprisingly Knitterly Place

Being now armed with a toe, Socky felt ready to venture out on more explorations.  Having enjoyed Ironworks Distillery on Wednesday, he was interested in finding another similar facility.  Before we set out to locate such a place, we decided to stop in to the grocery store.  You see, a hurricane was coming.  Earl had decided he really wanted to visit with us, and he was willing to come all the way to Nova Scotia to do it.  He was due to arrive Saturday, so we thought we’d lay in some provisions.  We were staying in a lovely little cabin, and we had a kitchen, so we planned to just hunker down and watch the storm (we had cleverly stopped by a game store on the drive up from Baddeck and bought a board game).  That’s more fun with snacks, hence the grocery store run.  Imagine my surprise when I saw this.

In case my less-than-stellar picture doesn’t make it clear, that’s a wall of yarn…in the grocery store.  It’s right there between the greeting cards and the bug spray and across from the popcorn.  It’s important to note that this was a small grocery store.  There was more shelf space devoted to yarn than to, say, cereal or cookies.  This speaks to a much greater commitment to a fiber-rich lifestyle than is generally found where I live.  Socky and I were both suitably impressed.

After laying in our stores, we headed over to Glenora Distillery (Socky seems to have become something of a lush).  While at the distillery, he decided to pose in the stream running through the property.  Alas, those pictures have been judged not to portray him in his best light and so have been censored.

Next, we headed up the coast in search of lunch and found ourselves in Cheticamp.  By this point, I was (of course) working on another sock (you can see him over there in the On The Needles section, more about him soon).  Our waitress was most intrigued.  She even brought over some of the other folks working there to take a look.  It turns out they were knitters too!  Not only that, but the store next door to the restaurant carried some of their work.  There was an entire rack of warm, wooly, hand-knit socks.  I’d never seen anything quite like it.  There were also lots of hats, slippers, and baby sweaters.  It was marvelous to see all that lovely knitting right there beside the tshirts and post cards.  (Though I have to say I thought the prices were too low.  The socks were priced between $12 and $20.  That doesn’t seem quite fair for something that takes several days to make.)

So far, my small survey seems to indicate that knitting and other yarn-based pursuits are much more accepted in Nova Scotia than they are back home.  The lovely lady at Ironworks reeled off a list of yarn stores when she heard I was a knitter.  Our waitress the first night in Baddeck stopped to ask how hard it was to learn to knit (I tried to get her to sit down so I could show her but had no luck).  The grocery store had yarn.  The gift shop had hand-knit socks.  It might explain why it seems to be such a lovely place.  I’m smitten.

Purely Medicinal

After Tuesday’s trying experience with the rocks and sea monsters, Socky was a bit out of sorts.  Luckily, there was a facility nearby that had just the cure for his ills.

The Ironworks Distillery was, by happy coincidence, conveniently located just down the street from our lodgings in Lunenberg.  We were able to stop in and get a wee restorative sip for him (it doesn’t take much when you’re a sock).  So as not to be rude, we picked up a bottle or four for ourselves.  I can officially recommend the vodka, and I am nigh on heartbroken that the rum won’t be ready until November.  Should you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend stopping by.

The afternoon featured a long (twisty) drive to Baddeck and gave me plenty of time to finish Socky’s toe.  He felt that being complete would give him a much better chance of fending off any more wild life, and was quite relieved.


I have found the coolest stick in the (admittedly rather long and illustrious) history of sticks.  It is twisty and gnarly and has funny colored bits and spots for critters to hide, which is all well and good.  But, and this is what makes it the coolest stick ever, it also has rocks.  About a half dozen of them.  They’re somehow embedded into the stick at a variety of spots.  One of them is bigger than my fist.  I have a long-standing fondness for rocks, and if you combine them with sticks, the niftyness is nigh on unbearable.

I’m trying to figure out how to bring it home (it’s rather large).  I could take it to Canada Post, but I think it would be cheaper to buy it its own seat on the airplane.  I have a feeling I’m going to end up constructing a box for it and checking it as a piece of ‘luggage.’  Customs will be fine with that, right?


On Tuesday,  Socky went to the shore. He clambered over rocks, frolicked in tidepools, and generally enjoyed the ocean air.

Alas, all was not well.  There are perils in the deep, and Socky was menaced by sea monsters.

He lived to tell the tale and will be back to relate the rest of his adventures soon.