Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Harriet: First Photos

It still needs to be blocked, but I can't resist showing off my newest jacket, "Harriet". I was definitely influenced by my Xmas holiday viewing of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries (1987 version) with Harriet Vane's tweedy wardrobe.

The two bodice pieces are joined up the centre back with a 3-needle bind off. Then the flirty little peplum (can you say that about something tweedy?) is added at the end. The entire thing ends at the waist.

At last, an opportunity to use my ram's head buttons!

The Peace Fleece was a joy to work with. How can you not love a yarn with colourway names like  Kalinka Malinka Blue, Kamchatka Sea Moss, and (my fave) Brownie with Nuts! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Quintessential: of the pure and essential essence of something; representing the most typical or perfect example of a quality or class.
On Friday evening, while walking with Isabel over to the University, I encountered what must be the quintessential sound of winter in Canada--the sound of hockey pucks echoing off the boards of an outdoor rink. We live a couple of blocks away from the City Park, where every winter two outdoor rinks are established--a large one surrounded by boards and safety nets for hockey, and a smaller one for everyone who doesn't want a hockey puck in the face. Our recent freeze has at last made the skaters happy. Even though we have only a dusting of snow (I'm not complaining), the rinks have frozen up. I'm not a hockey fan, and neither is anyone else in the family, but the sound of hockey pucks slamming against the boards was part of my childhood, and it's good to be back in Canada where sub-zero temperatures are no deterrent to enjoying a bit of fun.

A quintessential sight in a Canadian winter is wool socks drying over radiators and banisters. Yes, those are packing boxes in the background and the house is definitely starting to look a little bare. It's always a surprise that a space looks so much smaller when it is empty.

The sideways jacket is nearing completion. Really, I'm astonished that this design is proceeding in such an uninhibited manner in the midst of all the packing.

I'll take it as a sign that this jacket is meant to be a success!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Recipe: A Pantry Supper

Here's something perfect for a “pantry supper”, the kind you make quickly from ingredients on your shelf when you’ve come home from a long day trip and have little fresh food in the kitchen and not enough energy to go shopping. Here in Canada tinned salmon is very inexpensive and of excellent quality. When we lived in Washington, DC it cost more and tended to be of an inferior type. Not sure why.
Salmon Cakes

213g tin of salmon, drained, then flaked and the bones crushed with the tines of a fork
¼ c cornmeal (or unbleached flour, if that is all you have)
1 egg
1 tbsp olive oil
optional add-ins: 1 tbsp chopped onion and/or 1 tbsp chopped green pepper

Mix the flaked salmon with the cornmeal, then add the egg. Mix well, then form 2 patties with your hands. Heat the oil over medium heat, then add the patties and sauté for 5-7 minutes each side until golden and crispy.

Serve with a dollop of mayonnaise on the side. If you keep some frozen corn and whole green beans in your freezer, you can make a nice meal. With fresh asparagus and a salad you can elevate this to dinner. If you have leftover cold fresh salmon on hand you can use it and the meal becomes a treat.

Thanks to everyone who purchased "Wakefield Redux" in conjunction with Elann's sale of Sierra Aran yarn packs, my January pattern sales are through the roof! Hope you enjoy making and wearing the cardigan and, of course, if you have any problems, questions, or suggestions, don't hesitate to contact me through Ravelry. I've been living in my version this winter; it's my current fave.

Finally, here's what I do with my leftovers--the yarn leftovers, not the edible ones.

These are the leftover yarn bits from  projects I've knitted in the last 3 years. They're in a large ziplock bag, which I sat on to squish out the air preparatory to packing for the move. It's a good idea to keep these hanging around, even if they do take up stash space, because inevitably something will require a little repair due to a moth hole, a torn snag, a worn elbow--you get the picture. Perhaps some day they're morph into a little afghan after their usefulness has passed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Shawl Collar Tutorial

Lately, I seem to have designed quite a few jackets/cardigans with shawl collars. Why? It's because they're so flattering to so many figure types. "Wakefield Redux" has one, my sideways jacket just sprouted one,

and soon you'll see another one on a garment in an upcoming online publication. So, let's say you've just knitted a V-neck cardigan and you're thinking how nice it would look with a shawl collar. How do you set about it if the pattern doesn't specifically tell how? I'm sure there are lots of other ways, but this is how I like to do it. FYI, I'm going to describe how to knit the button borders AND the collar.
1. Calculate how many garter stitch ridges you will need for a 4- to 5-inch deep collar. With the Peace Fleece I'm currently using, I'm getting 4 sts per inch and 4 ridges per inch in garter stitch. Note that 4 ridges = 8 rows, since it takes two rows to make one garter stitch ridge. If I want a 5-inch deep collar, I will need a total of 20 ridges.
2. Calculate how many pairs of short row turns you need to work. I always knit a base of three ridges, and then there's another one at the end when I work back across all the wraps, so I deduct four from my total ridge count to get the number of pairs of short rows to work. In this case, I want a total of 20 ridges for my collar and now I deduct four from that to come up with 16 pairs of short rows. Note again that I'm talking about "pairs", since there must be a wrap and turn at each side of the collar.
3. Calculate how far apart the short row wraps will be. I like the short rowing to be completed about halfway up the V-neck, which is usually about where the diagonal portion of the V-neck ends. In this case, I decided to work the short rows two stitches apart. If I'd gone with three, the short rowing would have ended too close to the shoulder.
There are a few more calculations to deal with down the road, but let's get going with the actual knitting. Usually, I go down a needle size from what I used for the body of the garment, but since I'm already working this jacket in a rather firm garter stitch, I won't be changing my needle size. I will, however, change to a LONGER needle (a 32" circular) to accommodate all the stitches comfortably.
I start by knitting up stitches all around the front borders and neck, starting with the right side facing at the lower right front edge. With the sideways jacket, it's pretty easy because the sideways construction means that the front stitches are already sitting there on lengths of waste yarn. Across the back, I simply knitted up one stitch per ridge. Place markers at the point on each side where the front border meets the V-neck.

Right front stitches knitted up for border.
In a garment like "Wakefield", I'd start at the lower right front edge and knit up three stitches for every four rows on the straight sections and one stitch for every row on the diagonals. I like to close gaps at corners by picking up a horizontal strand and knitting into it to make either a M1R or M1L, depending on the direction of the angle. Now, turn the work around and knit to the end. You've just made one garter ridge, as seen from the right side.
4. It's time to decide where you want your buttonholes to go. I refer you here for my preferred method. Mark the placement and work them on your next row. Work another WS row for a total of two garter stitch ridges. Work one more RS row. Now, from the wrong side, BO the right front border stitches all the way to your first marker, work around the collar to the next marker and BO the left front border stitches. Break the yarn. The collar stitches will be the only ones left on the needle and you will have a nice base of three garter ridges to build on.

Front borders and buttonholes completed, collar stitches left on needle.
5. Begin to work the pairs of short rows, wrapping and turning at the necessary intervals. In this case, I worked to 2 stitches before the end, wrapped and turned, then worked back to two stitches before the other end, then wrapped and turned. For the next pair, I worked until four stitches from each end, and so on. I use Lucy Neatby and Meg Swansen's method, so aptly named by Lucy as "Slip, wrap, replace" or SWR. Slip next stitch, bring yarn to opposite side of work, replace the slipped stitch, turn, and continue.
6. At the halfway point in the collar (in this case, after 10 ridges), I like to add about 3 inches worth of stitches across the back of the neck to help the collar roll and lie gracefully around the neck. At my current gauge, that means adding 3 x 4 = 12 stitches. I increase by means of knitting into the front and back of a stitch because it blends in well in garter stitch. I have 26 stitches here across the back of the neck so worked kfb every second stitch.
7. When I'm one ridge short of my total, I work 2 more rows (I ridge), working all the way to the end each time. THERE IS NO NEED TIDY THE WRAPS IN GARTER STITCH. You can ignore them! For extra fussy knitters, slip the first stitch knitwise on the last row and for the first stitch of the BO to create a nice smooth edge to weave in with the front borders when it comes to the tidy-up.
8. BO loosely from the RS with a needle that is two sizes larger. I use a dpn in my right hand for better maneuverability.

Done! It goes without saying, that it will all look much better after blocking. And of course now I have to pick up the stitches on the lower edge and start working down. Happy knitting and stay warm--it was -21C when I woke up this morning.

Addendum #1 (almost four years later): If you prefer an all-in-one treatment, with everything bound off in one swoop, have a look here for this updated shawl collar tutorial.

Addendum #2 (six and a half years later): For a ribbed shawl collar, as in this as yet unpublished design,

I take a different approach, involving pairs of German short rows spaced 2 stitches apart for about one and a half inches at each side of the back neck, then spaced every 4 stitches down to the bottom of the V-neck. No extra increased stitches are necessary. Why German short rows? Because they work reversibly into the k2, p2 rib. More on this version of the shawl collar to come.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


One of my many weaknesses is a fondness for regency romance--not the hot-blooded cheap paperback variety featuring barely-clad men on the cover, but the older, gentler, more historically accurate type written by Georgette Heyer. I first became acquainted with these books back in the 1970s, when my great-aunt would have copies lying about the bedroom she occupied in our house. I lapped up "Sprig Muslin", "The Nonesuch", and "Devil's Cub". Then came a long period when these delightful novels went out of print, until about a decade ago they started to reappear (quite misleadingly) under the Harlequin label. Now I have a whole shelf of Ms. Heyer's titles, as well as "Georgette Heyer's Regency World", a useful and interesting portrayal of the era by an author who has written a doctoral dissertation on Heyer. Heyer's books were quite obviously meticulously researched, and her attention to detail in describing the clothing of the period is part of what brings her stories to life.
Why am rambling on about Regency clothing? Because, on my way to completing my latest design, it seems that I have unexpectedly created a rather charming Spencer. And what, you ask, is a Spencer? It's a short jacket derived, as many Regency women's fashions were, from men's military clothing.
Yesterday I joined the two halves of the bodice of my sideways jacket. Now I'm in the pause before picking up the stitches along the lower edge and working down and, really, I'm not sure I want to. Having tried on the little cardigan that has resulted, I love it pretty much as is, even though it still needs edgings (I-cord?) and buttons.

This jacket owes its origins to Carol Anderson's Babies and Bears Jacket for Grownups, a garment which, for all the fun knitting it provides, has never flattered me. The sleeves are too wide, the body too bulky, and the neckline unattractive on a petite person like me. For the top portion of my jacket, I'v made the sleeves narrower, created a low V-neck and tapered the body so it hugs the chest. Notice how the diagonal lines of the neckline are echoed in the diagonal increase line down the body.

The two halves were joined fairly invisibly by means of a 3-needle bind-off. Here you see the back.

I've done the garter stitch rather firmly and used plain old bar increases to created a fabric with body.
I still plan to finish the lower "skirt" as in this sketch,


but now I also intend to write up the short jacket version as a variation.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wind Chill

So far, we've had a relatively mild winter. But last night a gale blew up off the lake and the temperature started to drop. It still looks mild, because we have no snow,

City Park
Emily Street
but the wind chill is dangerous, and have a look at the lake in the background. Lots of whitecaps, and

Bottom of William Street (my street).

big surf.

Good thing I was equipped with boots,

                                                                      and wool socks.
Brookline socks.
I'll be wearing even more wool later this week when our daytime highs are predicted to be minus 16C.  Maybe the lake will finally freeze.

Friday, January 18, 2013


This morning in the midst of coping with the clouds of dust I seem to have shifted in packing up our books, I took a brief break to play with my handspun. Not entirely satisfied with what I'd explored with it earlier, I decided that its fate is to become a new Lucy scarf (see sidebar for link). I need a new scarf light enough to wear indoors, but warm enough to go outside, and the merino/silk fibre has enough sheen and twist to give the perfect amount of definition to the nubbly pattern. Most of all, I need something mindless to get me through the next few weeks.

This yarn, which you may remember I recently spun and Kool-Aid dyed, is actually a fingering weight. The original Lucy was done in a DK weight--Green Mountain Spinnery's Sylvan Spirit to be precise. To make the pattern work with this lighter yarn, I've gone down to a US #3 needle and I'm working an extra repeat of the lace stitch. I'll write it up and post it to Ravelry in case anyone wants details. Here's a better photo out in the sun. We have no snow, but the air temperature today is -6C or 21F. Brrr! My fingers were freezing while I was trying to take these shots.

In the background you see half of the bodice of my sideways jacket. Here's a better view.

The second half is almost done and I'm looking forward to the excitement of the joining. Then on to the collar and the "skirt" (for lack of a better word).
 The Friday recipe is for:

Braised Red Cabbage

½ head red cabbage
¼ c cider vinegar (OK to use white vinegar if that’s all you have)
½ c water
1 cooking apple
2 tbsp sugar or honey

Shred the cabbage finely. I prefer to do this by hand. The texture is better than when it’s done by a food processer and it takes less than 10 minutes. Peel the apple and chop it into ¼ inch dice. Put the cabbage and apple into a heavy bottomed pot with the vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Stir in the sugar or honey and serve.

This is a lovely and colourful accompaniment to winter dishes such as tortiere or shepherd’s pie.

Newly chopped cabbage and apple ready for cooking.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I'm packing up my stash, but find I have more yarn than I need (are you surprised?), so I'm offering some nice little giveaways for anyone close enough to Kingston, ON to pick up a package directly from me (I want to avoid postage costs, which here in Canada can be rather high). Here's what's available:
1. 2 skeins of Brooklyn Tweed's Loft in "Long Johns",
2. 2 skeins of BT's Loft in "Soot",
3. 4 skeins of BT's Shelter in "Woodsmoke",
4. 4 skeins of BT's Shelter in "Button Jar", and
5. 3 skeins of Americo's Cotton Flamme in J079, a sort of plum/burgundy (enough to knit Mags Kandis's cute Amiga cardigan from Knitty)
Send me a message via Ravelry if you're interested in any of the above, then we'll make arrangements for pickup.
P.S. I might have some buttons on offer too. No photos. No time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Recipe Project

Three years ago Bill and I thought we were going to be empty nesters and we downsized to a smaller house. Now we're about to upsize because I have two young adult kids who are living at home and attending university. For my American readers, this is common here in Canada. Both of my kids, who attended private schools in the Washington, DC area, would have balked at this arrangement back then, but they've now become culturally acclimatized and realize that graduating with no debt is a good thing. Fortunately, they're both reasonably able in the kitchen, although they frequently end up coming to me to find out where my copy of a favourite recipe is to be found. So, to encourage greater self-sufficiency, I've devised "The Recipe Project". Every week, I'll type up one of my basic recipes and add it to a file on my computer. By the end of a year, I'll have a printable booklet to give to each of them next Christmas. Every Friday, I'll post the week's recipe so anyone else who wants it can have a copy too.
To start things off, here's my recipe for plain bran muffins. These are old-fashioned, medium-sized muffins that don't resemble the giant super-sweet cake-like goodies you find in fast food courts at your local mall. They're nice cut in half and spread with butter for breakfast or with afternoon tea.

Bran Muffins

½ c canola oil
½ c sugar
2 ½ tbsp molasses
1 ½ c milk
3 eggs, or 3 tsp egg replacer + 6 tbsp water
2 ½ c bran (not bran cereal, just the plain unadulterated stuff)
1 ½ c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray. Mix everything in a large bowl in the order given. Spoon into 12 muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch.
Makes 1 dozen.

Optional: throw in ½ c of raisins or chopped dates.

Yes, that's my new knitting project in the background, looking rather like the trunk of a baby elephant.

OK, a tweed elephant.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Special Offer

I'm happy to announce that has a special offer for those of you interested in knitting my Wakefield Redux. See here for a link to Elann's limited-time price on yarn packs done up for this pattern of their beautiful Sierra wool/alpaca yarn. This is a seriously good deal.

If you like the silhouette of this jacket but you're not a "bobble" person (my daughter happens not to like them), you can make this sans bobbles,

and you might be interested to know that soon there will be some nice photos of Isabel modelling a similarly shaped garment with celtic cables in place of the aran hearts.
P.S. The eagle-eyed may have noticed that my double moss stitch jacket has been renamed the "Downtown Jacket"--it's the ex-lawyer in me wanting to avoid any copyright entanglements.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Black and Blue and Tweed All Over

For a long time I've had this sitting on my stash shelf.

It's Peace Fleece in "Siberian Midnight". I'm a fan of Peace Fleece. The colours are amazingly rich (and the names imaginative). Notice the mix of black and blue with creamy tweed flecks. I started something with this yarn last year, but wasn't happy with where it was going. Now I have a new idea and, as always when an idea strikes, I'm a little excited.
Here's what I have in mind.

It involves some side-to-side work, some top-down knitting, and a lot of garter stitch. The latter can be quite beautiful in tweedy yarns. I think the buttons will be important. Yes, that's a tea stain on the paper. Tea consumption is a necessary part of knit thinking, not to mention that it helps in a Canadian winter. My swatch is done; now I'm off to cast on....

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What Became of the Witch's Brew

When last I blogged, I had this lovely concoction brewing on my stovetop.

What you see is 134 g of drop spindle-spun merino/silk, 3 packets of Black Cherry Kool-Aid, 9 packets of Grape Kool-Aid, 2 cups of vinegar, and a lot of water. There seems to be disagreement out there concerning the need for vinegar. This Knitty article says "yes", but this source says "no" (on the basis that Kool-Aid is sufficiently acidic due to its citric acid content). On the assumption that more acid probably wouldn't hurt, I added it. In a short time, our entire house was permeated with the not-so-delightful aroma of wet wool, fruity Kool-Aid, and vinegar--sort of like grape pickles! For some reason it seemed to concentrate itself at the top of our second-floor landing.
Following the Knitty instructions, I allowed the whole thing to cool, then I washed it in some dish detergent and finally gave it a soak in some Eucalan. Magically, by the end there wasn't a whiff of fruit scent left in the house or the fibre. Hurray!  After a last whirl in the spin cycle of our washer, I hung the skeins up to dry and this morning hand-wound them into centre-pull balls. Hand-spun, hand-dyed, hand-wound.Whew!

Now I've started in on the knitting. The idea is to replace my moth-eaten (literally) lacy Baktus scarf (which I just discovered wasn't documented on Ravelry--not sure how that got missed), but since it would be boring to knit the same thing, I'm adding some quirks of my own.

Guess you'll just have to wait and see where this is going. Don't hold your breath, though. The packing and other moving preparations start in earnest this week.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Now and Then

Winter seems to have returned after its little holiday last year. On my way to return "Case Histories" to the video store, I noticed that the harbour has iced over (except for the channel used by the Wolfe Island ferry).

The red roofs of the martello towers are the only colour in the landscape. The sidewalks are ploughed, but tunnel-like, as this view of King Street shows.

The intersection of King and William (where I live) probably doesn't look much different than it did in this painting by Sir Edmund Yeamans Wolcott Henderson done in 1843, when he was stationed here with the Royal Engineers (he went on to become Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police).

Before I went out, I made a witch's brew in my kitchen of Kool-Aid and handspun. Here it is gently simmering.

More about that next time. By then the potent reek of grape and black cherry drink mix and wet wool might have dissipated.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter Fruit

Happy New Year.