Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time Out

I'm in a hiatus. I'm done writing up "Wheatsheaves", the test knit is done, and all that's needed before publication is a set of photos of Isabel modeling the design. Not so easy in the middle of the academic term with winter making outdoor photography uncomfortable. We'll do something indoors this weekend IF I can cajole twenty minutes out of Isabel. Bribery might be in order. Date squares?

I'm taking a breather from the shawl. Not sure whether I love the cast-on after all. Maybe I want the points to be a wee bit---well, pointier. I'm leaving everything on the needles while the idea stews in my brain.
Yesterday evening I went to a yarn tasting at a LYS. Not having been to the shop in a while, I had to catch up on my yarn purchases, naturally.

That's Manos del Uruguay Fino in shades of brilliant turquoise (not looking very brilliant here, alas) and some amazing dusty lilac mohair, with a touch of wool and nylon, a discontinued line from New Zealand. The new yarns are posing with my Trellis Waistcoat since they seem to echo the colours to a tee.
Over the knitting samples, I chatted with Kim about dyeing handspun. She's an advocate of kool-aid and food dyes, for their ease of use and safety. You see, I have a couple of hundred grams of corriedale fleece left over from my handspun Zora project. In a moment of idleness yesterday, I started to play with spindle spinning the rest.

This morning I checked out two terrific sources for info on dyeing wool with food colour: this article in Knitty, and this website, the same one I used when I played a bit with Kool-aid dyeing last year. I especially love the way the latter website shows in a methodical way just how different colours combine at different strengths. I plan to over-dye my pale grey heather handspun, and the result could be very interesting. If it's a disaster, I can always over-dye again, right?
While I was at the supermarket today, I picked up this in anticipation of the project,

and already, I think I need to go and fetch a "neon" pack. Turns out the colours aren't nearly as electric as you'd guess from the name. Oh boy, a whole new area to play in!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stepping Back in Time: The Sack-Back

In fashion it seems there's nothing new under the sun. If you follow this blog you'll know that I've been using our wintry weather as an excuse to indulge in some binge-viewing of a certain Swedish TV series. A result of that was some curiosity regarding eighteenth-century women's clothing, and that in turn led me to the sack-back (not featured, incidentally, in the series). The sack-back gown was a style that gradually moved from informal to formal wear and was characterized by loose box pleats at the back.
Eleanor Frances Dixie, by Pickering
L'Enseigne de Gersaint, by Watteau
There is some suggestion that the style may have been introduced by a mistress of Louis IVX to conceal her clandestine pregnancies. There is no doubt that the lines of the garment do a great deal to hide the waistline. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I think you'll agree.
The sack back appears from time to time in the knitting world. Two of my favourite re-incarnations are Kate Gilbert's Pearl Buck jacket, from The Best of Interweave Knits,

and Rowan's Bizet, from their most recent magazine,
I haven't been much of a Rowan fan in recent years, but Issue #54 has a lot to inspire. 
I'm toying with the idea of exploring this interesting and graceful shape, while I put the finishing touches on "Wheatsheaves". Barring the unexpected, that pattern should be available sometime next week. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Authenticity Revisited

I'm attempting to write this post in the midst of a problem with intermittent internet service that's been going on for almost a month. We've had tech guys visit from Bell, and I've spent HOURS on the phone with Levels 1, 2 and 3 people, and there's yet another tech guy coming tomorrow. Bell must think I have nothing else to do with my life other than troubleshoot and wait at home for technicians. My frustration with Bell's customer service is almost greater at this point than it is with the actual recurring outages. If I have to spend another two hours on the phone with someone like "Cosimo",  (my latest non-helper with apparently no surname) I might have a stroke. There, that's out of my system--for now at least.
Did you read Sarah Hampson's latest piece in the Globe? It's about moles, fashion photography, and authenticity (a different type of authenticity from my post on having an authentic life). Really, it's about how readers/viewers connect best with photography that has not had all imperfections air-brushed away. We identify best with models who combine beauty with some degree of the ordinary, although authenticity, as Hampson points out, does not mean that we don't want images that make the most of good lighting and quality photography.
I think it's this authenticity issue that attracts me to Anno 1790, which I so recently binge-viewed. Of course, none of us really knows what it was like to live in Sweden at the end of the 18thC, but this series makes it clear that there was probably quite a lot of mud and cold, not to mention a great deal of difficulty getting clean. And this was the age of the "patch", i.e. the artificial mole, those chocolate chips of beauty, referred to by Hampson.
I have to plead guilty to some misdemeanors in the authenticity department. I'm not a professional photographer. I have a tiny little Canon camera and an Ipod Touch, neither of which I have spent enough time mastering. However, I realize that I've probably been over-focused on taking shots of my daughter, Isabel, in my sweaters. She's one of those super-petite, bird-like young women (entirely unassisted I'm happy to say by any diet or exercise regime), who happens to be quite photogenic. (In real life she specializes in the geeky/nerdy look.) She is not an ordinary shape or size. It's convenient for me to use her because she's living at home while attending university, but the time is coming when she will no longer be so available to me, and I'm already giving some consideration to what comes next. What sorts of models do you like to see modeling handknits? To what extent does the model make a difference for you? I'd like to know.
In the meantime, our Narnian-style winter continues unabated. Yesterday we had strong winds combined with yet more snow. I took a couple of photos of passersby as they fought their way up the street.

The wind piled snow up against our back door and windows so that we could barely see out.

"Wheatsheaves", the test version, is almost done, thanks to the weather.

This version is for Isabel, but I think the vanilla version is the one you'll see in the finished pattern--assuming that Bell figures out how to keep us connected.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In the Not-So-Bleak Midwinter

It's the "dead of winter", according to our local newspaper. The air temperature when I went out grocery shopping yesterday was -28C. In fact, there was no noticeable wind and, with the sun, it wasn't all that bad. In case you're wondering, what do I wear for these almost daily treks on foot to keep us supplied with fresh food?

1. Handknitted socks, of course. These, specifically:

2. Shearling lined leather boots.

3. Leggings. You really need a soft layer next the skin. The idea is to build light layers to trap air, so leggings plus a second layer do the job quite well.

4. An ankle-length skirt. Everyone knows that jeans are just about the worst thing to wear on a cold day.

5. Some extra warmth for the neck:

The Bandana Cowl was the first project I made with my spindle-spun yarn. The BFL is soft against my neck.

6. My thickest cardigan with the tallest neck.

When it is buttoned all the way up with the cowl underneath to support the collar, it sits quite satisfactorily around my lower face, all the way to my nose. If I tuck my head down, I can cover my nose entirely.

7. Hand protection. Everyone in Canada knows that a single pair of mittens offers little of that. So, I wear these,

inside of these:

Of course, these mitts are already stranded, which makes this combination of gloves and mitts actually triple-layered.

8. More stranded protection, this time for the head.


9. A long wool coat over all.


It takes about five minutes to suit up before heading out the door at this time of the year. It's rather like getting ready for a space walk. Pity the kindergarten teachers who have to ready their charges for recess--all those boots and mitts and scarves to be tied around faces. At least it keeps us knitters in mind of exactly why we need wool and knitted things. It's not just about keeping our hands and our minds busy,

however enjoyable it may be to knit by a fire with a mug of tea in the bleak midwinter.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sans Internet

We've just spent a weekend without internet--both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it forces one to live minus the constant tug of distraction. A curse because one of us was trying to make housing arrangements for a summer working at Google and another was preparing for a meeting via Skype.

The weather outside made the walk to the University or to Starbucks unpleasant, so I spent the time knitting, listening to the radio and to already-downloaded audiobooks on my Ipod, and shoveling snow, and, oh yes,

watching Anno 1790, which I had read about last week on Kate Davies' blog and managed to acquire before our outage. I started off watching the first episode, but by Sunday it had turned into more of a binge as the intensity of the series kept ratcheting up. I also realized that the fact that it seemed to be snowing during most of the outdoor scenes, just as it was doing out my own window, made the series all the more realistic. Seriously, how could such a superb show have been cancelled just before the second season was about to be filmed?
Now our internet is back up and running and I'm getting caught up with e-mail, banking, etc. The second iteration of "Wheatsheaves" is more than half done, but you'll have to wait a while to see it.

We had a few moments of sunshine on Saturday and I snapped this photo of the first version, along with the start of my sampler shawl as the late afternoon rays slanted through our third floor library window. It's easy to understand the Swedish obsession with light.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Romance of One Hundred

It's snowing--again. Big lazy flakes floating gently from an overcast sky. I need to remind myself of why we moved to Kingston, so this morning I put together this collection of one hundred photos taken over our three years here to remind myself of the romance of this historic place. There's no particular order. All photos are of places within a short walk of my front door.

View from the Pavilion near Murney Tower
Pink house built in 1820s on the corner of King St.E. and Gore St.
Summerhill, 1839, on Queen's campus
Rink at Market Square
Row of houses on Sydenham St.
House converted from stables on Earl St.
Row of houses with carriageway on King St.E.
Houses on Earl St.
Hockey in City Park
The start of spring break up
Crabapples in winter, St. George's Cathedral Close
Poppies in front of La Salle Cottage, 1820s, Earl St.
Villa in the Italian style on Centre St.
Bellevue House, decked out for Canada Day

The Wolfe Island ferry, seen from Fort Henry in summer heat haze
Doorway on King St.E.
Murney Tower
Door to St. James Anglican Church, Union St.

Elizabeth Cottage

Old Portsmouth Town Hall, home of the Kingston Handloom Spinners and Weavers Guild
The Rosemount Inn at Christmas
Market Square
Queen's University
Schoolhouse, 1873, now apartments next door to my  house
City Park looking toward King St.E.
Carriageway on King St.E.
Fencepost in shape of bishop's mitre at St. George's Cathedral
Statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in City Park
Doorway on Gore St. at Easter
Lilacs on West St.
Tai chi by the lake.
Our house.
Doorway on Wellington St.
Peonies on the corner of Clergy and William Streets
War of 1812 re-enactment from Battery Park (bottom of my street)
Park on the lake in front of Queen's University
View from the corner of Barrie St. and Clergy St.
Summer concert at Fort Henry
Detail on house on William St.
Boat slips in late autumn
House in the Italian style, William St.
The carriageway at our previous house on William St.
House (now part of Queen's) on Barrie St. across from Murney Tower

The lake during a gale
Ice sailing
View of RMC (Royal Military College) from the La Salle Causeway
Fort Frederick  and boat slips in winter

House on King St.E.
Entrance to the harbour at Battery Park, early winter with ice starting to form
Law offices on Brock St.
Kingston Yacht Club in early spring
View from our third floor window, summer
Footbridge at Portsmouth
Entrance to the harbour at Battery Park
House, 1820s, on Lower Union St.
Roses on Wellington St. near Lower Union
Downtown Kingston skyline
The Alexander Henry
Frosh week 2013 in City Park
Cartwright House, King St.E.

Victorian house on King St.E.
House with turret on King St.E.
Entranceway to house on King St.E.
Verandah on corner of King St.E. and Emily St.
View of City Hall from the Wolfe Island ferry
View of Wolfe Island from the ferry
View of Cartwright Point from the ferry
 Royal Military College (RMC)
The bridge at La Salle Causeway
A wing of Summerhill, 1839, at Queen's campus
Entrance to St. George's Cathedral (1792)
View from our third floor, autumn
View of St. George's Cathedral from Wellington St.
Stalls at City Market, early winter
View from our third floor window, winter
Houses on Wellington St. near Gore St.
House on Lower Union St.
City Park
House on King St.E.
Vines on old Schoolhouse, winter
A jogger at the corner of Gore and Wellington Streets
The moat at Murney Tower
The Frontenac Club Inn

Frontenac County Courthouse
House on King St.E.
Lilly Lane, looking very grim in late winter
Red oak, dated 1815, at Bellevue House
Sydenham Elementary School
Garden gate, Gore St.
Old stables, King St.E.
Sunflowers on Wolfe Island
Gwin Gryffon, Wellington St., selling wool and wine
Sidewalk in winter, King St.E. near William St.
House on Sydenham St. at West St.
Our front door, autumn
The milkman
Door of the Hotel Belvedere, King St.E.
Sunset from the Wolfe Island ferry