Tuesday, February 26, 2013


In the last 24 hours we've had the plumber and the electrician here, taking care of minor stuff. While they did their thing, I re-attached the double wave cable jacket to its needle. Here it is fresh from blocking,

all drapey and soft. Before blocking it was quite compressed due to the fact that aran stitches are basically a form of ribbing. The length is just what I wanted it to be. Yay! I love the feeling of movement in this stitch pattern.
We're finally getting a glimpse (no more, alas) of spring. See the open water? Wait, that's not actually thawed ice; I just realized that it's the ferry channel. Darn.

While on a trip earlier today to pick up lentils, tomato paste, walnuts, and figs, I noticed a high school class at the city rink. Don't you think gym class should always be this much fun?

As you can see from the removal of clothing, above, the air temperature is decently above freezing. The ice age is beginning to recede (that's grass at right),

 to be replaced by the age of --

mud, water, and slush.

The boxwoods at the front of the house are emerging,

and the freeze/thaw cycle is creating "sugar" snow.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature is just flirting with us. The forecast for tomorrow is (you guessed it) more snow. Sigh.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ice Sailing

After reading Kate Davies' blog yesterday and seeing crocuses blooming in Scotland, it seems unfair that here, so much farther south, we are still in the grip of winter. Granted, the temperature is hovering just a hair above the freezing mark, but nonetheless, it's been snowing lightly all day and I've had enough of it. I walked down to the lake, after a morning of yet more unpacking, and noticed that there were ice sailboats out.

Seems like an exhilarating way to spend a snowy end-of-February day.
Unpacking is a slower process than packing. There's time to peruse stuff that simply got shoved into boxes at the other end. I found my great grandfather's arithmetic workbook, dated 1871,

 and this pre-Victorian gem.

The double wave cable sweater is up to the underarms and I've just put all the stitches on a length of waste yarn preparatory to a dunking and blocking. I stopped about an inch shy of the goal so that I won't have to rip out in case I gain an inch from the wet blocking. While it's drying, I'm going to play with these.

The soft purple is worsted weight while the grey is a sport weight (labelled DK). These are a gift from Lyn Gemmell, who has taken over Shelridge Farms yarns (including the dyeing). Can't wait to see if my idea for them works out.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Recipe: The Ultimate Fast Food

One week after the move, we're settling in, but cooking remains a low priority. There have been complications all week. Aren't there always? Yesterday, I spent more time than you want to know getting rid of Norton anti-virus software from my new laptop. Norton seems to come pre-installed on most computers these days, and getting rid of it so you an opt for something of your own choosing involves effort. First you have to download a special uninstall package and then apply it, checking that you've nixed all the bits of Norton that embed themselves in all the corners of your computer. It's done now, with a little help from Isabel, my in-house computer science whiz. Then I had to figure out how to get the rather ancient alarm system in the house disconnected. The sellers were supposed to take care of it, but nothing ever goes perfectly and the alarm system was one of the blips in our closing. It too has now been taken off the to-do list (it was pretty high up because you really don't want an alarm to go off at 3 a.m.) Today, I had to figure out what the chimney balloon was and how to deal with it. See here for more about that. Then to add a little knitting-related urgency to the list, I needed to come up with some extra photos for an upcoming publication asap. Very challenging with no sunshine on the horizon and outdoor photos not an option (it's for a spring/summer issue and snow is NOT a desirable backdrop).
In the midst of all this busy-ness, the recipe that came to mind is this.

Steamed Fish

Fish is the ultimate fast food. While fresh is the most delicious, frozen can be very handy and can help you get dinner on the table with a minimum of effort.

one fillet of fish, fresh or frozen
parchment paper
baking sheet
optional: lemon slices and/or thinly sliced onion
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Wrap the fish, with toppings, in the paper so that it is airtight—you can simply crimp the ends and they will usually stay put. Place the package on the baking sheet and bake for the following times:
fresh—10 minutes per inch of thickness
frozen—20 minutes per inch of thickness

At the end of the suggested time, carefully unwrap the package and see if the fish is opaque. If not, re-wrap and bake for a few more minutes. 

Ridiculously easy, right?
Not much knitting going on here today, although there was a bit of this.

Oh, oh, that third fret from the bottom looks as though it's come loose! Off to do a little repair.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Still Alive, Barely

I like to think of myself as someone who is good at planning, someone who is good at organizing, someone who gets things done. I spread the packing for this move over 6 weeks, had lists, crossed jobs off the list, and still it's been an incredibly stressful week. There's been NO KNITTING AT ALL for the last two days, and that says it all. Now, at last, the kitchen is set up to a functional level, the dining room has been cleared enough that we could sit down to a meal last night, and I have a load of laundry in the system while I sit and get caught up (underwearless until the laundry is done!)
I think the underlying problem with this move was the fact that this time round there were three other adults in the household. In previous moves, the kids were younger (read easier to order around) and Bill was working and/or out of the country. (While we were in Washington, DC, he once actually handed me a power of attorney and told me to go buy a house before he boarded a plane for India.)This time, it was all of us constantly rubbing elbows with each other and not always agreeing on the next priority.
On Tuesday, Bill and I walked over to our solicitor's office to sign the final transfer documents. After a few short hours of sleep on Wednesday night, the movers arrived and we actually loaded up in a record five hours. Then followed a brief respite. We walked over to the Hotel Belvedere to stay the night. This is my favourite place to stay in Kingston. The mansion, built around 1880, with a 1920s add-on, is impeccably decorated in early art-deco style. I always feel, when I'm there, that Hercule Poirot will open the door to the room next door and doff his hat to me. The atmosphere is wonderfully restful.

Fireplace in one of our rooms at the Belvedere.
Bill and I walked over to Pan Chancho for afternoon tea, and on the way back to the Belvedere we watched the skaters at the market square rink. It was a day for couples. This young man was encouraging his newbie skater partner to shuffle a few steps at a time,

 while this couple glided around in the romantic way that couples do on ice.

I made reservations at Olivea for dinner. It being Valentine's Day, we were the only non-couples table in the restaurant. My tuna and white bean salad was suberb. Back at the hotel, Isabel and I watched Simon Shama's "History of Britain"on DVD while I actually knitted a few mindless rows on my Lucy scarf.
Next morning, a much more exhausting day began. The movers pulled up their truck and started the process of dumping all our possessions over three floors of the new house.

By the middle of the afternoon, after one family member had spilled tea on the stair carpet and we had discovered that our internet connection was faulty, I found myself near tears (not all the way there, but close), which is unusual for me. I put it down to being on my feet since dawn in a freezing house (no point in keeping the furnace on when the front is open all day). The kids and I decided to go out for an early meal, stopping by the grocery store on the way home. I think we all felt refreshed with a little time away from the chaos. Here's the view out my new front door.

All moves involve a good deal of problem solving. One of the nice surprises was that my experience with Bell in getting our internet going again turned out to be pleasant and easy. Thank you Bell! So, now I can connect to Ravelry and the rest of the world while I decide what to knit next and wait for the March issue of Knitty, which I am happy to announce will feature one of my designs.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Au Revoir

The movers come in the morning. See you on the other side of this little adventure.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Not So Bad

Well, the storm has passed, and I guess we were lucky. Sure, there was quite a bit of snow, but we were spared anything of an historic nature. We had the western end of things, before the blizzard joined up with the east coast storm that's made news from Connecticut up through the Maritimes. Yesterday we woke up to find our car pretty much buried,

and even the windows snowed in.

I put James to work carving out a path to our compost bin and the car,

while Bill worked at excavating the vehicle itself.

By this morning the sidewalk ploughs had done their work out front, so things are sort of back to normal, apart from the fact that we're moving in FOUR more days. I am not having a panic attack. In fact, I spent this morning making a couple of apple galettes, one for tonight's post-concert pot-luck, and another for the family,

Apples, raisins, cinnamon, and pastry just before folding.

and Isabel's sweater, now christened "Glenora", continues to grow.

I feel as though I should be putting more time into packing, but so far everything seems under control. Is this just the calm before the storm?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Recipe: Festive Veggies

This is the first post written on my new laptop, purchased with the proceeds of my Wakefield Redux sales. Thank you very much everyone who bought a pattern! I'm still figuring out how everything works, so bear with me. Thank goodness I have a computer science student in residence. We're in the midst of the same blizzard that's hitting everyone in this corner of North America. It's a day to hibernate, pack, and knit. ALL my knitting stuff has now been packed, with the exception of my bag of current knitting. It was painful to put away my spinning things, but with what time is available I need to focus on Isabel's ink blue sweater. As mentioned earlier, I'm using Barbara Walker's double wave cable from her first Treasury, but in an expanded form. The original stitch pattern was in words only, so first I charted it, then I made my expanded version (I wanted an 18-stitch cable instead of a 16-stitch version).

I find it soooo much easier to work from charts compared to words. How about you? Next, I cut out my chart and glued it to a piece of cardboard--easy to find in our recycling box. Guess what happened to be at hand...

Here's the new easy-to-work with chart, complete with sticky notes to mark my progress.

And here's the actual knitting in Elann's Sierra Aran in "blueberry".

I've been invited to a potluck dinner on Sunday and realized that the only thing I could take would be an apple galette; all the baking dishes are packed. I'd offer up that recipe today, but find I'm short of time, so here's a useful winter vegetable dish that's extremely popular in our house. It's standard fare at Xmas.

Braised Turnips and Carrots

1 yellow turnip, peeled and diced
1 c diced celery
1 c diced carrots
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c water
parsley, optional
salt and pepper to taste

In a non-stick skillet, combine the vegetables with the olive oil and saute over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and have a little colour. Add the water, bring to a simmer, cover, and turn down the heat. Cook until the vegetables are very soft. This may take up to 45 min, depending on the size of your dice. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in a bit of chopped parsley for colour (I never have it in winter, when it's not growing outside my kitchen door).

An inevitable part of packing is the unearthing of things forgotten or, in this case, never previously discovered. This gem turned up this morning.

I wonder where it was meant to be worn...some event at Rideau Hall maybe?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Why is it that odd bits and pieces of information come to mind when you wake up in the middle of the night? This seems to happen most often at moments of turbulence and change, such as we are experiencing in the run-up to moving day. I am THE ORCHESTRATOR, the manager, the person-in-charge (the nag). I am the one who realizes at 3:00 a.m. that we will have a 24-hour window to get a copy of our transfer deed to the City in order to meet the deadline for requests for monthly automatic debits for our property taxes (this is because we won't own the property until Feb. 14 and the deadline for requests is the 15th). I am the one who knows that the junk guy needs to be scheduled to drop by our place next Monday (we have a one-bag limit for garbage in Kingston, not counting our compost bin), and I am the only one who knows (or cares) that the bathroom will need a good cleaning the night before the movers come.
So, thank goodness for knitting. It's keeping me sane. I've started on a variation of "Wakefield Redux" for Isabel in a deep inky blue. She is adamantly not a hearts and bobbles person, so she's getting an interesting cable, Barbara Walker's "Superimposed Double Wave", from p. 254 of her first Treasury. I'd show it to you, but I just frogged a couple of inches after realizing that I forgot to mirror-image the cables. It's that kind of week.
I do have some photos of the Lucy scarf I'm making from my handspun merino/silk. Considering that it's my travel knitting and that the last time I worked on it was last Thursday while listening to a lecture at Grant Hall by Geoffrey Simpson, it's growing surprisingly well.

I couldn't resist photographing it on top of Lisa Lloyd's inspiring book. Note that said book remains unpacked in order to provide much needed periodic emotional lifts.

I'll have another opportunity to work on the scarf next Sunday when I attend a concert at St. George's.

View out our bedroom/sunroom window.
At this rate, it'll be done just in time for spring, though apparently, that might still be some time in coming.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Backward Loop Increase: Underrated and Underused

My first encounter with this type of increase came in the summer of 1980, when I first read Elizabeth Zimmermann's "Knitting Without Tears". It was the month between the end of my M.Mus. and heading off to law school, and we were staying at our summer cottage on the Gatineau River, north of Ottawa. I actually stayed up almost all night assimilating the contents of that book, so inspirational it seemed to me. I suspect it may be difficult for today's younger knitters to fully comprehend how such a book transformed the knitting world, how it liberated a generation of knitters from being "blind followers" and gave them the confidence to be thinking, creative people. I digress. In her book, EZ explained that her favourite increase was the simple backward loop. In cases where increases were to be done in pairs, she showed how to make them lean toward each other.
Before I discuss the uses of this increase, let me illustrate how it is done.
Make 1 left (backward loop): M1L (bl)

Make 1 right (backward loop): M1R(bl)

You can see that I employ EZ's suggestion, which she illustrates in her video, "Knitting Glossary", to wrap the left-leaning increase around my first finger and the right-leaning increase around my thumb. Don't get caught up in the mechanics of winding the wool. Focus on the direction of the crossed over yarn and make it happen by whatever means works for you. ALWAYS WORK INTO THE BACK OF THE M1R(BL) ON THE NEXT ROW. Otherwise, the whole thing will unwind itself.
When I first read about this method, I thought, "What? That's going to leave a great gaping hole!" It's true that this increase is in some circumstances more visible than the type of M1 that is worked into the horizontal strand between two stitches. But, there are situations where, believe it or not, this increase is the most invisible.

1. In garter stitch, you can work paired increases almost invisibly with the backward loop increase. I used this method in the lower body of my just-completed Harriet jacket (not yet published).

The problem with the more commonly used M1 is that when you work into the horizontal strand between 2 stitches, you disrupt the flow of the garter stitch ridges. The lines become distorted. Knitting into the front and back of the stitch (kfb) is a better choice in general for garter stitch, but in cases where you want the cloak of invisibility, the backward loop method is best. See?

This is the side of the peplum-like lower portion of Harriet. There are paired increases going on here, but it's really hard to pick them out.

2. If you are working with a woollen-spun yarn, such as Peace Fleece, or BT's Shelter, you can use the backward loop method for increasing in a sleeve worked in the round. The fuzzier nature of woollen-spun yarn helps the increases to blend in, and the backward loops are simple to work. Remember, EZ's knitting was all about simplicity.

3. I like to use the backward loop method when increasing for insets as in Brookline. Because this type of increase does not create any tension on neighbouring stitches, it allows for a smooth, uninterrupted line along the edge of the inset.

This is a view of the WRONG ISIDE of the gores in Brookline. Because it is less well known, the Twist Collective editors decided not to include the backward loop increase, so when you read the published version of this pattern you will notice that there is no reference to it. Nevertheless, if you're knitting Brookline, give it a try. You'll like it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Recipe: Pastry

Harriet, the jacket, is done blocking, and Isabel and I are now in negotiation over the colour for the version she'll model for the pattern. She likes bright; I don't, at least not for this garment. Guess you'll have to wait to see who wins on this. My version went outside in our -19C windchill (though snowless) this morning for some more photos. Not as good as having an actual person doing the modelling, but better than the bedroom floor.
First shot taken at the front of the house. So convenient that some previous owner stuck a nail in the bricks between the two front windows. I'm really going to miss this photo venue. Perhaps I'll have to talk to the new owners about visitation rights.

Next shot taken in the back against the fence separating our property from our neighbour's.

A closeup of the diagonal increases out from the arms.

View of the back shoulders.

Finally, here's why checking your gauge AFTER BLOCKING is so important. The above jacket was knitted at 4 sts per inch on a US #8/5mm needle. The swatch below, in Elann's Peruvian Highland Chunky (colour: mid-indigo), was knitted in three sections: the bottom section on a US #8/5mm, the next on a US #9/5.5, and the top on a US #10/6.0. The eyelet rows simply demarcate the needle size changes.
I was wondering what needle size to use to get the same 4 sts per inch. Before blocking, it looked as though the US #10 had won. After blocking, the US #9 was the winner. As they say, "Save time and check gauge." Of course, if you've used a yarn before you can be reasonably certain about your needle size, but even then, some colours take dye differently and there's no such thing as absolute certainty.
Now for today's recipe. I thought I would give you my favourite recipe for...

All-Purpose Pastry

A lot of people have “pastry phobia”. I hope this easy, reasonably healthful version will get them over it. I use this for both sweet and savoury dishes, everything from fruit pies to quiches. It’s extremely quick, ridiculously simple, and delicious, and best of all, there’s no flour mess all over your counter and floor. What more could you ask for?

2 c unbleached flour (you may include up to ½ c whole wheat flour)
½ tsp salt (optional, depending on what’s in the filling)
½ c canola oil
½ c water
waxed paper
rolling pin or substitute such as a wine bottle or large glass

Stir the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add the water and oil and combine gently with a fork, then once everything is moistened, your hands. I move the resulting ball around the bowl to grab every crumb of flour, BUT DON’T OVERMIX OR KNEAD, or your pastry will get tough. Remember, knead bread, not pastry. If you’re making something with a top and bottom crust, divide into two balls; otherwise leave as one.

Moisten your countertop and place a sheet of waxed paper down (the dampness will hold it in place while you roll out the dough). Place a ball of dough on the paper and flatten it a bit with the heel of your hand. Then place a second sheet of paper on top. Roll from the centre out until the desired size is reached. Peel the top sheet off and lift the pastry, placing it bottom up into your baking dish. Peel the bottom sheet off and shape it in place, making sure to ease out any air bubbles from underneath. If you are using a top crust, repeat the procedure.

Notice that I haven't given any instructions at this point for how to bake this pastry. That's because it depends on what you plan to do with it--and there's so much you can do. Just think--apple galette, tortiere, quiche, pot pie, pumpkin pie, butter tarts, the list goes on. I think I'll spend the next few Fridays on some of pastry's best friends.