Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Calming Influence

Have you ever seen this favourite old book of mine? Years ago, when it came out I used to peruse it for the inspired knitting patterns, never dreaming that I might want or be able to spin my own yarn. So, it is with pleasure that I present my very first homespun, handknit piece.

The pattern is Purl Soho's Bandana Cowl. The pattern calls for only 100 yards of yarn--perfect for the newbie drop spindle spinner. And look, I even have a little yarn left over!

Bill and I are toying with the idea of purchasing a new old house with a bit more room. The interior was featured in a local magazine last year. Spinning seems to keep me calm while we mull over the pros and cons. Pros include 4 bedrooms, a deluxe kitchen and huge closets. Cons include a less beautiful streetscape and we'd have to rent parking down the street. We're going to go out for dinner while we discuss the issues. I might do a lot of spinning tonight.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Heating Up

Well, summer is finally on our doorstep. The days have been very warm, sometimes even hot, and my desire to work on Isabel's chunky tweedy jacket is waning. I'm taking a little break to have some more spinning practice. Here's what I spun yesterday, wound onto a toilet paper roll--yes, you read right. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that...

Sorry, I don't know the exact fibre content of what I'm working with, only that it's from Fleece Artist. The label was torn off when I purchased it, but it's likely BFL (Blue-Faced Leicester).
Over the weekend I used my Visa card points to rent a car for my trip to Perth. Had a lovely morning there, although I always feel that teaching at Janie H's is more like trying to control a party than leading a class! The little Ford Focus that I drove had amazing radio reception and I listened to NPR from Syracuse all the way. To my surprise, the weather report was given in Farenheit for Syracuse and environs, and then the announcer gave it in Celcius for their Kingston listeners. I know 27C is NOT hot by my old Washington, DC standards, but it's pretty hot for this neck of the woods.
Back home, I made my favourite supper for evenings when it's too hot to cook. Here it is in case you need something delicious in a hurry.

Black Bean and Corn Salad for One

½ c frozen corn niblets
½ c cooked black beans (I use no-salt added ones from a can, rinsed)
½ c diced green pepper
1 ripe tomato
½ clove garlic, minced
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp salt

1 tbsp chopped red onion or scallions
¼ c diced Monterey  Jack cheese
1/4 avocado, diced

Toss all ingredients together and allow to sit for about 15 minutes for the corn to thaw and the flavours to blend.

Now, I'm looking longingly at the summer yarns in my stash and day dreaming about wearing this.

                                                 Sparrow by Pam Allen 

It's Sparrow, by Pam Allen, from last summer's Twist issue. Don't you feel cooler just looking at it?

Monday, May 21, 2012


My evening walk yesterday was as perfect as perfect can be--temperature in the 20s C (mid 70s F), no wind at all, the lake glassy. Even the mayflies co-operated, lingering only in a few clouds out of my path.

It was the sort of walk that leads to contemplation, and last evening my thoughts were all about scale. This might have been because I'm working on a design with chunky yarn. There's something about seed stitch and cables in chunky yarn that I adore. If the yarn is tweedy, so much the better.
My train of thought was triggered, as it often is, by the built landscape around me. On Gore Street, I passed one of my favourite little houses in the historic section of Kingston, this little gem, with its perfect little path bordered by tiny flowers.

This is a really tiny house, probably with no more than two bedrooms, but everything about it is exquisite and cut down to scale,

even the little tree by the front door.

Further on up the street I passed a tall mature tree with a careful arrangement of low-growing plants about its roots.

Each of these small plants is smaller than the breadth of my hand. Can't wait to see how it grows over the coming months.
At the corner of Welllington Street, I came across an example of large-scale cleverness.

This old house has enormous, beautiful windows. The tall, formal planter in the front is a perfect echo of the tall window behind it.
Around the corner and across Wellington Street, someone has a sense of drama.

Four  large pots brimming with knock-your-socks-off red geraniums add punch to an otherwise drab brick walk.
All of this served to clarify my thoughts regarding the tweedy, chunky jacket I'm working on. A couple of days ago I worked on a cable swatch for the sleeves. I started off with an 8-stitch cable, but soon realized that the scale of the yarn demanded a 12-stitch one. You'll have to wait to see that.

Friday, May 18, 2012


As I guessed in my last post, the car is for all intents and purposes dead. Steve, the mechanic, was unable to find a cause for the uncontrolled acceleration and, given that our Passat wagon is 13 years old, Bill and I have decided it's time to ditch it. We haven't yet decided what the next step will be (a Honda?), so for the foreseeable future, I'm carless. Strangely, I'm feeling a sense of liberation. It's the same feeling you get when there's a blizzard in January and you're housebound, then suddenly realize that you don't have to rush out to do all those not-so-urgent errands. In fact, I'm far from stranded. If you glance at my post from last year (Carless), you'll see that I live within about 10 minutes of everything.
To enhance my new status, yesterday I acquired new wheels--these, to be precise.

Here's my new toy loaded up with perennials from the City Market. And here are the ostrich ferns in their new location along the side of the house.

Next spring, we'll be able to harvest some fiddleheads.  Those are plume poppies in the foreground.

Here's the front garden, which we planted exactly a year ago. Earlier this week I trimmed back the creeping thyme to make room for the heuchera, hostas, and White Swan echinacea to grow.                                                    
Our little back garden now has a wonderfully relaxing woodland feel, totally appropriate for this weekend's Victoria Day holiday. We had a flyover today by the Snowbirds, as part of the graduation exercises at RMC (the Royal Military College). Very thrilling!

I've cast on for the wine tweed jacket. Have a great holiday weekend!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Trouble with Pantyhose

The concert on Friday was a big success, which is saying a lot since the average audience has difficulty with anything much before Bach. The only unexpected blip was that when I went to tune up backstage, I discovered that my viol felt slippery against my long, gauzy black skirt. Even bass viols are held between the legs without an endpin, unlike 'cellos. My little treble viol is meant to be held by the thighs. Jodhpurs would be the perfect performance costume. Very unladylike, though. After a few moments of panic, I realized that the real problem wasn't so much the skirt as the pantyhose underneath. The slippery, very sheer hose against the filmy skirt prevented me from getting a grip (literally). So, I rushed to the ladies' and removed the hose. Much better. Who needs pantyhose anyway? I've probably only worn them once every 3 or 4 years for the last 2 decades.
The knitting class also seemed a success.

Here's a view of the table at Janie H.'s during the class, with Sheila,

and Ruth working away at their sleeves.

We've had another perfect spring day here. It's lilac season. Lilacs seem to do particularly well in this climate, with huge clumps growing along the highway even far out in the countryside. I took this photo while out for my after dinner stroll this evening. The scent always takes me back to elementary school, when every May I would take a spray of lilacs from our garden to my teacher for her desk. Funny how our sense of smell is so strongly linked to memory.

Remember Lily Lane? Last winter I showed a grim photo of this location (see post titled "Dickensian"). It certainly has a different feel now.

The magnolia blooms are already carpeting the lawn up the street. Summer's not far off. (Note to self: this would be a good time to have the air conditioning in the car repaired.)


I'm off to Ottawa tomorrow to return the viol to the professor from whom I had it on loan. Be well.

Friday, May 11, 2012

None of the Above, and Other Random Thoughts

After writing my last post, I launched into knitting up a navy swatch, since I wasn't sure whether I would need to use a US #8 or 9 to get 4 sts to the inch. As I was knitting away, I glanced up now and then at my stash shelves, not really thinking of anything in particular, and in that sort of floating mental state I realized that the yarn I was working with would look really great with some Galway in a kind of heathered green (colour 687 for anyone interested). This is a good argument for getting your stash out of the cupboard and out somewhere visible. So, after I'd knitted enough to measure my gauge in stocking stitch, I did a little garter stitch, changing colours on the wrong side to create broken lines of green amidst the blue.

But wait, I thought, it can get even better if I use the antiqued brass buttons.

The yellow undertones of the brass pick up the undertones in the green and the brown flecks in the navy. And I discovered that a US #8 does the job perfectly.
Yesterday morning I attended a drop spindle workshop organized by the Kingston Spinners and Weavers Guild. Can't believe how much I learned, especially about yarn management and plying. I'm saving that for another post, but here's the little swatch I knitted up this morning from some wool I spun during the breaks in last evening's rehearsal.

See, my handspun is starting to look fairly normal! I didn't feel too weird spinning in my rehearsal breaks since one of the female soloists knitted through hers.

After a couple of hours in the garden, things are coming together. Still too early for annuals other than pansies, though.

My viol trio is set to perform the opener tonight. Wish us good luck (and me a happy birthday).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Red or Navy? Both?

On Saturday I'll be leading a group knitting Carol Anderson's Babies and Bears jacket at Janie H. Knits in Perth, ON. I made one last fall that looks like this.

This is a really fun sideways knit that has versions that also fit babies and teddy bears. What's more, it's a tremendously useful garment. How often is something fun and useful?
I used the word "leading" because I'm reluctant to say I'm "teaching" a series of three classes on this garment. Carol's little booklet is so beautifully written with accompanying illustrations that there's little to add. However, I'll talk about yarn choices, how to choose a size, some little tricks of a technical nature, and options for customizing the jacket. Already, I'm thinking about making cuffs with buttons, slimmer forearms, a collar, and I-cord trim and buttonholes.
But first things first. I have to make a yarn choice. Here's what I'm debating.

First up, Briggs and Little's Tuffy in a gorgeous blue red. Despite the name (the yarn has a touch of nylon added), this is a relatively soft yarn, especially when knit at the slightly loose gauge of 4 sts per inch. You can see I'm already sampling buttons from my collection. The antiqued brass at the lower right is calling to me.
Next, I'm considering this rich navy blue from Peace Fleece. The photo doesn't pick up the many hues embedded in the wool.

I really love the navy with these moose buttons (yes, you read that right!)

Then, there's the third option, red with navy, or navy with red. Help!

Monday, May 7, 2012


If you're a Tolkien fan, you know that Bilbo set off on his adventure on a fine spring morning. I associate perfect spring days with that book. I imagine the sort of day when the trees are just coming into leaf, when from a distance they have the soft look of water colour paintings, when the mornings are still cold, but by afternoon soft warm breezes waft the scent of apple blossom and freshly turned earth. We're having one of those days.

Not a wool socks sort of day, but a gossamer knitting sort of day.

There's a reason you're seeing this swatch on its side, but you'll have to wait to see why... 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Brookline, the Socks, Done!

Our one day of warm weather is now behind us and we're back to our previously scheduled grey, cold, damp, and generally depressing spring weather. When I finished up the second Brookline sock, it was so grey and miserable outside that I pretty much gave up on outdoor photography. So, here's what I managed to shoot indoors.

Ankle and instep detail.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the knot stitch, while beautiful, might be uncomfortable inside shoes, so I extended it only partially down the instep. The decreases, instead of occurring on a downward diagonal go in the opposite direction to meet at a point on the top of the foot.

The heels needed a bit of reinforcement because the Lanett Babyull doesn't have any nylon, and I thought that the "eye of the partridge" stitch looked more delicate than the standard heel flap slip stitch which creates vertical ridges.

After I do a little housecleaning after lunch, I'll tackle the writing up of the pattern. Should be ready by Saturday.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Vicariously in Venice

Still finishing up the second Brookline sock (I have official permission to call it that). I intend to write up the pattern tonight, in case anyone's interested. It's a great way to use up any fingering weight yarn you might have on hand.
Apart from that, my treble viol and I are getting ready for a concert next week with the Melos Choir and Orchestra here in Kingston. Called "The Age of Change", the concert features music from the early 17th-century, when Renaissance polyphony was kicking around at the same time as early Baroque forms. For those of you wondering what the heck this pre-Bach music sounds like, click here to hear an exquisite performance by a Swedish ensemble of "Beatus Vir", by Claudio Monteverdi, which we'll be playing. If you were hanging out in Venice in the early 1600s, this was the music of the moment. Lovely, fresh stuff,

like our spring weather, which seems finally to have arrived.