Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Decisions, decisions

You would think that something as simple as a garter stitch scarf would be quite straightforward, but it seems I'm capable of turning it into nothing less than a series of major decisions. Major, because this scarf is for James' birthday and I want to get it RIGHT.
First, since he wants a striped scarf, we have to decide on the colours. He wants black and something else. So I hunt through my stash and we discuss the options. Black and red (Trinity College colours)? The red is too bright for his taste. Black and grey? Too boring, I say. Black, olive, and grey? Better. Black, olive, and navy? Yes.

Cascade 220 in black, navy, and olive heather

 Second, I have to decide on horizontal or vertical construction. I like the look of the latter, but the problem is that I will  have to decide in advance exactly how long the scarf will be. Also, the cast-on may involve hundreds of stitches. Undaunted, I decide to forge ahead with a lengthwise project.
Third, I have a discussion with James about the exact dimensions of his birthday scarf. He shows me the ratty synthetic one he is currently sporting (how embarrassing for his mother, the knitter!) and tells me that he wants the new one to be both longer and wider. How long? 72 inches. That's how long it will need to be to extend to his fingertips when he wears it hanging around his neck. He wants to have enough for wrapping.
Fourth, I need to decide what gauge I will knit at. The Cascade 220 I'm using knits up at 4 1/2 or 5 sts per inch. I think I will knit at the looser gauge, since that will help the scarf feel softer and drape better. I work out that 72 x 4.5 = 324. YIKES! That's at lot of stitches. I reason that the scarf may grow a little when blocked, so I nip 2 inches off and arrive at a cast-on of 315 stitches.
Fifth, I need to decide what type of cast on to employ. Long-tail cast on will give lots of elasticity, but it won't match the cast off. I want the two sides of the scarf to look alike. So, I steel myself and cast on all 315 stitches using Sally Melville's crochet cast on from this book. It's slow and tedious, but well worth it. See?

Crochet cast on on the left.

Monday, December 27, 2010


We're in recovery mode here --from Christmas, from a ghastly cold virus my daughter brought home from university and shared with us, and from a really dreadful computer virus that knocked out our anti-virus software.
In spite of the cold, which has involved prolonged coughing fits around 2:00 a.m. each night, I managed to do the Christmas feast thing. We had a local organic turkey from Old Farm Fine Foods. It was one of their "small" ones, weighing in at 14 1/2 pounds, so I was happy to have James available to carry it home for me. I made stuffing, although I actually cooked it outside the bird, cranberry sauce, gravy, and our traditional melange of turnip (rutabaga for any American readers), onions, celery and carrots. No potatoes. There is a limit to how many calories one ought to consume at one meal. And how much work a meal should involve! And for dessert--vegan mincemeat pie. I'm not vegan, but this recipe is a little lighter than the traditional version since it has no suet and the pastry is made with canola oil. Yum.


Yesterday, I discovered that our desktop computer had been taken over by a virus called "System Tool". It was really crippling since it prevented our normal security software from doing any scans. Eventually, I discovered how to go into "safe mode", download new anti-virus software, scan and eliminate "System Tool". I'm feeling brilliant at having solved the whole thing on my own, although I suspect most teenagers could have solved the problem in half the time.
Now, for a little birthday knitting. James was a New Year's Day baby. He'll be 22 next Saturday and he's requested a scarf. I'm knitting it lengthwise and I've cleverly (I think, anyway) cast on using Sally Melville's crochet cast on so that the beginning and the end will look alike. No photos yet. Perhaps tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Baking (Edible and Inedible)

At this time of year I like to have some Christmas cookies ready to go as quick little gifts. This morning I'm going for coffee with Marjorie Cooke, our real estate agent, at the Mug and Truffle. I've got this nice little tin of goodies for her.

You can see an additional log of dough ready to roll beside the tin. I'll bake some more tonight so that I'll have something to give to friends in Ottawa who are going to put us up tomorrow night. Gingerbread cookies can be as hard as bricks, but this recipe makes ones that are either crunchy or chewy, depending on how long you cook them. I use unbleached flour and cow's milk instead of wholewheat flour and soy milk and they turn out perfectly every time.
           Cookie cutters can be used to make terrific ornaments as well. We have ones on our tree that the kids made fifteen years ago, as well as ones we made last year. I hung a few on our front wreath for photo purposes so you can see how pretty they are.

Here's the recipe:    4 c. flour
                              1 c. salt
                              1 1/2 c water
Roll the dough out, cut with cookie cutters, poke holes with a knitting needle (of course), and bake for about an hour in a 350 degree oven (or until golden). When they're cool, paint with acrylic paint and glitter glue.
This is fun to do with little kids, if you're feeling patient. Best done on a snowy day with logs burning in the fireplace!
I'm off now for coffee, wearing my new "Lucy" scarf.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just in Time

Perhaps scarves have been on my mind since watching the new BBC Sherlock Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch certainly wins the prize for the most dashing wearer of scarves (apparently the episodes were filmed last winter during Britain's record-breaking cold snap). I knitted "Lucy", the companion scarf to "Tumnus" (both available free on Ravelry), while watching all three episodes, and finished it yesterday evening. Here it is in its unblocked state, looking unremarkable.

Unfortunately, the lustrous quality of the Green Mountain Spinnery "Sylvan Spirit" doesn't come across in my photos. I gave the newly finished scarf a bath in warm water and a little Eucalan,

and laid it out, stretching it a little, on a towel. By morning it was dry. This was the view out our bedroom window this morning when I checked on my new scarf.

Isabel is home from the University of Toronto, so I talked her into modelling "Lucy" on our third-floor deck. She tried out a couple of ways of wearing it.


 With more snow on the way, it seems that I managed to get this bit of knitting done just in time!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Quiet Day

It's snowing outside, but too dark for photos. I'll take some tomorrow, if I have time. When I walked to the bookstore earlier today, a few snowflakes were beginning to drift down, but hardly enough to notice.
This is what I did notice.

As good as a postcard, isn't it? Tonight, there is a layer of white over everything. I'll try to take some pictures tomorrow.
I visited our local Indigo store to check out the new knitting books. I was tempted by "Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders", edited by Judith Durant, and "Gifted" by Mags Kandis, but I realized in time that I need to save my money for Christmas presents. Perhaps I'll drop a few hints in the right direction!
I returned home and put up our wreath.

Now, for a cozy evening of scarf knitting. I'll have to remember to pick up some firewood tomorrow so that we can light a fire in one of our three fireplaces. Hard not to love winter when you're a knitter!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thinking Ahead

Well, here we are in December. No snow on the ground here yet, and that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. Skating rinks are being prepared,

 Newly flooded rink in Kingston's market square.
 my window boxes are dressed up for the season,

 and the pot by our front door is filled with red dogwood branches. No wreath on the door yet.

I'm working on some Christmas knitting. Here's this year's version of  "Tumnus", a favourite scarf recipe, photographed in appallingly poor light on a wet, grey day. The original was in red. At the time, we had a garden gate, which opened onto a small, private park. We used to joke that on a winter day, we expected to see Mr. Tumnus and Lucy come through the gate into our garden.

This is a unisex scarf with reversible cables (looks the same from both sides). I hesitate to call it a pattern, since it's so ubiquitous. My own twist (pardon the pun) has been to add a trick that keeps the ends from flaring out. I'll post it as a free Ravelry download later today.
Thinking ahead in a bigger way, I'm ruminating about the possibility of organizing a winter knitting retreat here in Kingston for the winter of 2012. Here we are, with several wonderful inns within easy walking distance of skating, restaurants, a university, shops, fabulous 19th century architecture, and Lake Ontario. We're accessible by Via Rail (in case driving doesn't appeal in February), and close to Interstate 81.
So, I'm wondering, what makes a knitting getaway work? What would make you want to attend such an event? Is it the place, the teachers, the "students", some combination of the above?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All Zipped Up

In general, I don't like zippers. They get stuck, they break, they're a huge bother to sew in. However, there is undeniably something fashionable about them on men's jackets. Check out Jared Flood's version of Paton's Urban Aran here. Note how the zipper opens from both ends. Quite different from the Mr. Rogers look. So, when James asked for something similar, I gave in. However, I wanted to insert the zipper in such a way that the teeth wouldn't show when the jacket was closed. I put my schoolgirl sewing classes to good use. Here's how I did it.

Front borders knitted on and whipstitched closed with contrasting yarn.

Zipper pinned on with edges whipstitched in place with thread.

Zipper machine stitched on and contrast yarn removed. Note how the machine stitches disappear in the "ditch" between the border and the main body.
 If I hadn't had a sewing machine or the skills to use one, I could have done the final bit of sewing by hand. It's a lot faster by machine, though. You have to be careful not to catch the back of the jacket. Very tidy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Anticipation and Speculation

As I look at my stash of yarn I am filled with hopeful thoughts of intriguing possibilities.

I realized, as I was walking to the bakery, that that is also probably why I love living in a neighbourhood where every house is different. The doorways, in particular, attract me. I wonder what lies behind them, what sorts of people live there, and what mysteries they hide. I imagine all sorts of possibilities.

I love this pinkish brick house with its iron railings.

This gated carriageway stirs my imagination.

Who lives behind this immaculate entranceway?

Steep stairs and aged vines.
The starting of a new project fills me with a similar sort of pleasurable speculative anticipation. Will I encounter roadblocks and, if so, will I be able to puzzle my way through them? Will the finished project work out as imagined? If not, will the result be something equally pleasing or even better?

I've just begun a new project. Can't blog about it because it's going to become a submission for publication, but I can show this much:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Walk in the Park

I made the 5-minute walk over to Grant Hall at Queen's University for a flu shot this morning. This is supposed to be the last of our Indian summer days, so I used the opportunity to take some photos along the way. First, I strolled down Bagot St. to the Cricket Field, where I had a great view of the Courthouse. The site was originally intended for the Parliament of Upper and Lower Canada (Kingston was the capital in the early 1840's).

Frontenac County Courthouse

On the other side of Bagot St., I noticed that the City has begun to set up the boards for what will be a skating rink.
Rink boards in background, sign commemorating 1837 militia garrison in foreground

 I crossed Barrie St. and entered Queen's campus, passing Summerhill, now the home of the alumni offices.

Students were walking to their morning classes.

Arriving at Grant Hall, I took my place in the line and was through pretty quickly. Very efficient. I worked on closing up the toe to my second Pillar Sock while I waited the mandatory 15 minutes after my shot. Had fun listening to a conversation between retired professors.
Then, back home to lunch and the final grafting of the toe and blocking. And here is the result:

Can't say how much I love the garter stitch edges on the heels--so incredibly easy to pick up the stitches for the gusset. Also, I love the V heels. You just knit to the centre of the heel flap to start; how easy is that? Just a walk in the park! Plus, I have narrow heels anyway, so they're a great fit. Thanks, Deb and Brenda.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The End of Autumn

 I love this time of year, when the most of the leaves have been blown off the trees and all that's left on the sumac bushes are their red berries. The light is different and magical, now that the leaves are gone, as we wait for winter to descend upon us. This has been a week to say goodbye to the garden, to plant bulbs, and gather up fallen leaves. It's been a week to get out the gloves and scarves, including my newly finished lacy baktus scarf.

Lacy Baktus, knitted in Shibui merino sock yarn.
As a way of putting the old season to bed, preparatory to going forward into the new one, here are some shots of the old garden in Ottawa and the new one in Kingston.

Foxgloves in our Ottawa garden
The garden gate, Ottawa
Hydrangeas showing their autumnal colours by my front door in Kingston

Hollyhocks across the street from my house in Ottawa
Mackay Lake last fall, Ottawa
Irises on my front lawn in Ottawa

The maple tree up the street from my Kingston house

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In the Knit Lab

Last week I was in Toronto, visiting my kids and knitting stores. At Lettuce Knit, I picked up some of Berroco's Campus. I fell in love with the earthy tones of this bulky, thick and thin wool/alpaca/acrylic blend. So, now I'm doing experiments with it. I've tried it on 6.5 mm needles as well as 8 mm needles. Why can't I find such a thing as a 7 mm needle? I guess it's like having to buy shoes only in whole sizes when you're really a half size. Sigh!

I've settled on the 6.5 mm, but unfortunately  my photo doesn't show the depth of the colours of this yarn. I'm thinking about a project, but it's early days and I could easily get distracted...
Meanwhile, the squirrels around our place are also feeling the need to stay warm. Recently, I started to bag the leaves that had accumulated in our little courtyard at the back of the house. The bag was sitting, waiting to be hauled out to the front curb on leaf collection day. Then, yesterday, I heard a tearing sound and looked out to see a squirrel racing clumsily over the neighbours' lawns with a large sheet of brown paper. THIS is what is left in back of our house.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sandridge: the Feminine Version (Helpful HInts)

A couple of days ago I finished up teaching a class at Janie H. Knits on the feminine version of Sandridge. I'm reluctant to use the word "teaching", since it makes me sound like an authority on something. Really, I just passed on what I had learned from making and knitting the pattern and listened to what others had to offer. Here are a few ideas that might be helpful:
1. Since the pattern was initially written as a man's jacket, a woman, especially if she's on the shorter side, might want to modify the raglan depth. This is easily done. Put the work on a length of yarn and try on the jacket as it grows toward the underarms. On my vanilla cream version, I simply stopped when I reached the end of the sleeve increases and cast on the extra required stitches for the body at the underarms. (Just use a backward loop cast-on and knit into the backs of the cast-on stitches when you knit them up for the sleeves.)
2. Consider whether you want to decrease the number of stitches in the forearm. Women generally have narrower forearms than men. If you are making a size with an even number of forearm stitches, decrease to an even number; if you are making a size with an odd number, decrease to an odd number.
3. If you are on the shorter side, you may want to decrease the sleeves at a faster rate. One of the advantages of knitting in the round is that you can decrease easily every third round instead of the more usual four or six. Do the math to figure out whether you need to do this-- you'll need to check your row gauge. Remember that the design plan is that you should knit straight for several inches for a fitted forearm. Of course, if you don't want that look, then feel free to decrease right to the cuff. You are in control!
4. When finishing the jacket border, after you have cast off all the stitches, DON'T BREAK OFF THE YARN; pull the last loop through, then insert your crochet hook into the loop, ch 1, and then begin to sc into the top 2 loops of the cast-off stitches. After a couple of inches, check for tidiness. You may want to unzip your crochet stitches and try with another hook size.
5. Experiment with buttonhole sizes. Carol needed only 2 stitches for her cute wooden buttons while Sue needed four for her pearly-grey oversized buttons.
Here are some photos of the class sweaters.
Janie, of Janie H. Knits, modelling my sweater, in vanilla cream Cuzco from Berroco
Carol, wearing her rust Cuzco sweater (too bad that her matching rust hair doesn't show!)
Sue, looking great in her jacket in Berroco's Vintage Chunky

Friday, October 22, 2010


I'm often not in a cooking mood on Fridays, so here I'm presenting my fave easy Friday recipe--ginger-soy tofu. For those of you who don't think you like tofu, or who don't know what to do with it, here's a recipe even Bill, my husband, loves. The tofu comes out dark brown and crispy and (dare I say it ?) meaty. Buy the kind of tofu that comes in little tubs with water, not the vacuum-packed variety. Press it by wrapping it in a tea towel on a plate and topping it with something heavy, like a big cookbook. I do this an hour ahead of the cooking.
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 1-lb package of extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 16 cubes
1/3 c. low-sodium soy sauce (I like Kikkoman) combined with 1 tsp minced fresh ginger

Warm the oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the tofu and fry for 5 min. Add half of the soy-ginger mixture, and cook for 2 min. Flip the pieces of tofu and pour the remaining sauce over them. Cook for 5 more min.
We like this served over hot white rice with steamed broccoli. Yum!

This is a modification of a recipe from "The Healthy College Cookbook", by Nimetz, Stanley, and Starr, Storey Books, 1999.

It's time here to get out the mittens and gloves. Down to -1C last night. Here are mine. Are yours ready for the cold?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Something about Purple

I'm back from Rhinebeck (code for the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival) with wonderful yarns and other goodies. My find of the weekend was this huge ball of Seacolors Yarn from Nanney Kennedy. When I opened the car door at our B&B yesterday morning, the ball bounced out the door and rolled slowly down the steep driveway and I was so transfixed by it that all I could do was watch and smile. The photo does not do justice to the wonderful colours. In her tiny crowded booth, Nanney takes the time to choose colours for her customers based on what she thinks will work best for them--purple, lime green, and mustard for me. I intend to use her pattern for this and can hardly wait to get going. I must be in a purple mood (better than blue!) because this morning when I set out to tackle writing up Wakefield (see my last post), I chose to knit a second version in the dusky plum shown next to my Seacolors ball. I'm going to try out Diamond's Fine Merino Superwash Aran. I'm not usually a fan of superwash, but we'll see...

Monday, October 4, 2010


Just a quick post to introduce Wakefield, a seamless jacket, coming soon as a Ravelry download...