Friday, January 15, 2021


Put simply, these are utility mitts. They’re unfussy, quick to knit, and are meant for “working”, i.e. shoveling snow, cleaning off the car, etc. Over time, they will tend to felt slightly. They’re thick enough to wear on their own when it’s not very cold. I like to layer mine for maximum warmth and versatility.

The thumb is placed slightly toward the palm to prevent torquing of the hand. A link to my method for a gapless thumb join is included. Only one size is shown; feel free to experiment with gauge and yarn to extend the range of sizes.

The pattern can now be downloaded here. Less than one skein of Puffin is required, but keep in mind that the very nature of utility knitting begs for the use of scraps and leftovers. Have fun!  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Purple Pembroke

And now for the second make of 2021 -- sort of. I started this Pembroke so long ago I can't even remember whether it was last winter or summer. I'd knit a few rows while watching something on my computer in the evenings, then put it aside because a) whatever I was watching demanded my full attention (I'm not one of those knitters able to knit in the dark), or b) I was too tired at the end of the day.

Here's my new Pembroke in a Malabrigo merino sock yarn, shown with my purple Wiksten tunic. The scarf is squishably soft and long enough to go around my neck twice. And yes, if you look closely in the background you'll notice chipping paint around the window frame. It's one of those jobs that's waiting for next spring when I can open up the windows again. 

I encourage you to have a look here at all the gorgeous and imaginative Pembrokes that knitters have posted onto Ravelry. The best part of designing something simple is seeing how it takes off in so many interesting directions.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

First Make of 2021

I love linen for sewing. It's tough, soft, and drapey. I wear it year round, and I try to make 4-season garments as much as possible. For instance, this new dress can be worn on hot summer days as is, or layered with leggings, sweaters, and scarves for cooler times of the year.

The fabric is Merchant and Mills laundered linen. I cut the bodice from size 0 of the Wiksten Shift Dress, than self-drafted some darts in both the front and back. They are actually much better pressed than they look in the photo with no puckering.

I cut the bodice so that the waist is just very slightly higher than my natural waist and then cut out two rectangles for the skirt portion, allowing enough width for the gathers. I also added in-seam pockets. The finished length is just (barely just) below the knee. The waist is still quite loose, but not ridiculously so. 

I'll start wearing this dress now with a cotton tee underneath, a warm sweater on top, a scarf, and leggings. Which of my sweaters do you think will go best with it?

Monday, January 4, 2021

That January Feeling

That dreaded post-Christmas feeling of let-down has settled in -- magnified by the doomy news that British scientists think that the COVID vaccines may not work on the newish South African variant. I'm trying not to think about that for the rest of today.

Instead, I'm focusing on completing a new Pembroke. I've been working away at this at a shockingly slow pace, mostly in the evenings when I want to zone out. It's what I invented this pattern for, and it works, especially when accompanied by escapist viewing such as Bridgerton. Yes, I've read all the novels, and although there are issues with the Netflix series, it's perfect for this moment in time.

Winter has arrived (sort of). Warm temps for Canada in January, hovering around the freezing point. Enough snow, but not too much.

So nice to be back in a house with radiators. After shoveling, the mitts go straight onto them for a good drying and toasting.

Same treatment for leg warmers. I wear these with the lower cuffs overlapping the tops of my mid-calf Sorels and the tops over the knees. There are photos of me as a small child wearing a version of these while out playing in the snow. I really ought to design a special pair to share. Like my popular Neck Thingum, they are a utility knit that rewards your efforts every time you head out into the snow. Not all knitting needs to have a wow factor.

Our boiler sprang a leak in its exit duct over the holidays. Two guys showed up this morning (masked, of course) to repair it (thankfully only a minor tweak) and then I worked for a while on my new self-drafted dress. Here are the darts I added in water soluble pencil. The fabric is actually Merchant and Mills laundered linen in a rich dark teal. Why does it look like washed out grey?

Bill accidentally dipped his laptop in a tub of water in the middle of the night (don't ask!) Now we're waiting while it dries out to see whether it's destroyed. To cheer him up, I've made a batch of brown sugar shortbread to have with our afternoon tea.

Caffeine and sugar might not be the healthiest choices, but it's the first week of January and a long winter lies ahead, so let's do what it takes to get through.

Sunday, December 27, 2020


With Christmas and Boxing Day behind us, and a few days to go before I have to deal with a Zoom birthday for James, I chose to spend most of my morning working on matters of fitting. Probably the biggest mistake I encounter when knitters aren't satisfied with one of my designs is the failure to take time to deal with issues of fit. For instance, never assume that the armhole depth prescribed by a pattern is going to work for you (hear that, all you Buttonbox knitters?) Same goes for body and arm lengths, not to mention foot and hand lengths. In general, designers work with industry standard measurements, because that's what magazines and yarn companies want. Unfortunately, a lot of us aren't average. So, always take time to check out a pattern's finished measurements and compare them to your own. And fitting doesn't end there. Take my advice about wet blocking work in progress, and you'll be much happier with your knitting outcomes, trust me. 

First up this morning, my Penelope Mittens. These are really just "utility mitts", the kind you wear to put the garbage out and shovel the mound of snow the plough has piled at the entrance to your driveway before it turns to concrete. In other words, they're not fancy, they're easy to make, and they're thick enough that they don't always need a second layer underneath (especially if you're engaged in a vigorous physical activity). These jobs are not the ones you do wearing your precious Diamanda or Vinland mittens. Mittens are an example of an item that demands a proper fit. It's tough to get your house key in the front door or pick it up when it falls into the snow if there's an extra half inch of hand and/or thumb in the way. So, when possible, try mittens on their intended victim (in this case, that's me).

The advantage to mittens made in the round is that you have the opportunity to try them on as you approach the endpoints of the hand and thumb. When the hand reaches the tip of your pinkie (see above), it's time to start decreasing for the tip. This is similar to the rule about when to start decreasing for the toes of socks.

The bulk of my morning was spent on re-configuring the Wiksten Shift Dress into a version with a gathered skirt and inseam pockets. Wiksten's designer has a gathered skirt hack on her website. I loved the look immediately (it reminds me of these gorgeous dresses from Egg) and wanted to try it out, although I had concerns about the scale on someone of my petite size. I started off following the instructions as given, knowing that adjustments would be required. I used Size 0, the same size I made for the shift version, because I really like the way it fits in the neck, shoulders, and arms. However, I was right to anticipate that the overall width would be overwhelming. Good thing I cut the skirt to only 1.5 times the bodice width. 1.75 would have had me drowning in fabric. Even so, the width was stupidly ginormous on my 5'1" frame. My goal became to maintain the looseness and boho feel whilst reining in some of the width. The solution? Darts. I decided to treat my work as a muslin and fitted the darts while wearing the dress. Then I hand sewed them to double check for fit. I also decided to raise the waistline by half an inch to get a better looking proportion. Finally, after pulling the dress on and off more times than I could count, auditioning a multitude of lengths, I concluded that lower calf length was NOT A GOOD LOOK. I would have looked like someone masquerading in her big sister's clothes. A just-below-the-knee length was perfect. To be sure, I tried the sample on with Victoria (not yet published) and Ellerbeck, and really loved the look. I'm thinking about making the final version in black linen for a go-everywhere, dress-it-up-or-down garment (assuming we ever get to go anywhere again).

The moral of this story: take time to get fit right. Just right. A half inch can mean the difference between a piece you love to wear, or one that sits unworn on a shelf for the rest of its life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

To Ice or Not to Ice

This seems like a year to try new things. Instead of trying to carry on as if nothing is different, it's a good time to change things up. To that end, this morning I made and then froze these.

They're Gingerbread Cupcakes from "Moosewood Restaurant Favorites" (not the "Ginger Cakes" from the list of Moosewood's online recipes). There's a whole tbsp of ground ginger in them. I sampled, and they're winners, just like our other two favourite cake recipes from the same cookbook (Apple Bundt Cake, and Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake). Now the question is: should they be iced or not? Cream cheese icing would probably be nice, but I don't have any cream cheese. Ordinary butter icing might be too sweet. I think, once they thaw out on Xmas Day, I might simply give them a light sifting of icing sugar, and surround them with a few Medjool dates.

We're having a Zoom Xmas, with Isabel in San Francisco and James nearby on King Street E in his new attic apartment. I'll drop off dinner for James. Another change: no turkey. We're all (including Isabel) going with tourtiere this year. (Why does my spell check want to turn this into "torture"?)

There's some concern about snow on Friday, so I'm readying myself for a possible Xmas Eve drop off. This morning I roasted buttercup squash. Now it's mashed and sealed up in the fridge. One less thing to deal with.

And to make this "turning of the page" complete, I'm casting on for a new/old pair of mitts. If you're a longtime reader, you'll recogize these.

I made them at the same time as the Penelope hat, but never got around to publishing them. It's time to finally take care of that. This time round, they're going a shade paler in Quince's Puffin in Glacier.

OK, I admit that this is a highly impractical colour for mitts. After a couple of outings, they'll start to look grimy. But hey, I love, love, love this colour, I have a few skeins of it lounging around in my stash, and I'm going to live a little dangerously (at least as far as knitting goes). 

P.S. The weather forecast for Xmas Day has changed. Now we have a rainfall warning. Our non-winter continues. No complaints, mind.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Gingerbread and Lace

The scent of freshly baked ginger cookies is surely up there in the "Best Smells Ever" list. These aren't really "gingerbread", but ginger crinkle cookies. No rolling required, plus they have a very slightly crunchy exterior combined with a soft and chewy interior. Truly, it doesn't get any better. I found the recipe in the Globe and Mail a couple of weeks ago. It's a keeper.

Such a relief not to be doing any last minute gift knitting this year. Because of my fears of mailing delays, I completed all my knitting obligations by early November. Now it's just fun stuff to knit at my own pace (not very fast, I rarely spend even an hour a day knitting). My test of Victoria is done and ready to wear while I wait for the other testers to finish.

Wheatsheaves, the shawl, is inching its way into the fun lace charts. My knitting philosophy, as you probably know, is to get as much bang for my knitting time with as little effort as possible. As with Victoria, the Wheatsheaves lace charts are easy to memorize and require only casual attention. Perfect for audiobooks and/or CBC Radio or NPR (which, amazingly, is broadcast loud and clear from Cape Vincent just across the lake) or Netflix.

I generally try to keep favourite Calendars going for more than one year by printing off pages for the incoming year and taping them over the original pages. It now seems quite prescient of me to have chosen this little gem a year ago while on a trip to Picton during Isabel's visit here.

The illustrations made me smile when I first saw them and still do now, when a little daily smile goes a long way.

P.S. The best recipe for real old-fashioned gingerbread, the type that used to be served with butter before it morphed into cake in the late 20thC, is from the late James Beard's "Beard on Bread". A copy of it can be found here.