Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Frolic, 2014

On Saturday, I hopped on board the 6:45 am train to Toronto, and a little over two hours later, I walked in the front door of the Japanese Cultural Centre, one of my favourite venues for a knitting event. This year, all the vendors had booths on the ground level, and that was a great improvement. I always had the feeling that the upstairs vendors were short-changed a bit. I had as much fun as usual, and purchased these, among other things.

I know they look drab in this photo, but they're not. The two skeins on the right are from Sweet Fibre, based in British Columbia, my new favourite hand-dyeing company. Do check out their page of colourways, here. Takes your breath away, doesn't it? The two skeins I bought are "vintage lace" and "smoke", both in Cashmerino Sock.
But the best part of my trip came when I left the Frolic and headed downtown with my friend and fellow designer, Robin. Together, we "did" the Queen St.W. strip, including Romni Wools (referred to by Fiona Ellis as "the Mothership"), a button shop, an amazing ribbon shop, a handmade hat store, and finally, a meal (not sure if it was lunch or dinner!) at the Queen Mother Cafe. Then it was back onto the train for the ride home.
Oh, did I mention that Bill and I have bought a new car---finally? It's a sweet Mazda 3 hatchback, which we took to Ottawa yesterday so that Bill could hear some famous economist from MIT speak at the Chateau Laurier while I contended with the unbelievable construction mess in the city.
Finally, I loved that one of my blog readers introduced herself to me when we got off the bus at the Frolic. She reads, but never comments, she says. Like most of my readers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Japanese Aesthetic

Most people don't realize that I started off my career not as a knitter or even a lawyer, but as a violinist. I did a graduate degree in Suzuki string pedagogy, and I often wonder if that Japanese influence has stuck with me. I'm a fan of Japanese knitting books, like this one, and yesterday the mailman delivered this to me.

That's the cover of "Simple Modern Sewing". I'm in love with this book, with the natural fibres, like linen, cotton, and wool, with the neutral colours, with the classic prints, with the models, who are ordinary people.

Get a load of this skirt with a "bustle"--really, just gathers over the butt. I love it.

Some reviewers have criticized the sizing of the patterns, in which the largest is only a 41" bust. Since I'm a small woman, I'm not bothered at all. In fact, it's so refreshing to find things that work so well on the small figure. Sewing machine, here I come!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fibonacci, Ruched

While I was at YOSO, I ran into an attendee wearing this cardigan, with its delightful ruching. The version I saw being worn looked more appealing than the one in the Ravelry photo. It happens. Around the same time, the Yarn Harlot was making an adorable tiny ruched cardi. So, somehow, I got the ruching bug. What can I say? It must have been the power of suggestion, and weak-willed as I am, the first thing I did when I had time back home was to play with a bit of ruching on one of my own designs.

It's going to take a lot more time and yarn than the original version, because all those ruched sections involve almost twice as many stitches as the flat version. I'm thinking that now that I've worked out how to make it happen, I'll rip this out (I'm a bit fed up with blue for now) and make one in a gauzy kid mohair. Good thing I'm going to the Frolic in TO on Saturday where I hope to hunt down the perfect yarn for this--light, airy, and NOT blue!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fibre Roads Project Update

Just in: an update on my collaboration project with Fibre Roads. A couple of weeks ago I reported on  my conversations with Donna Hancock of Wellington Fibres on choosing a two-ply or three-ply spin for our wool/alpaca yarn. Now that first batch of yarn is back with Janice at Windblest Farm and yesterday, Easter Sunday, she sent my these photos.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

States of Matter

We live in a physical world, not a virtual one, and walking is my favourite way to maintain contact with my natural surroundings. It's a totally different experience from driving, although there is certainly something to be said for travelling along in a dry, warm bubble in the middle of February. Our very slow, late spring has offered up yet another reminder of the constant flux going on around us. In the space of 48 hours, the water in our immediate vicinity has gone through three different states of matter. Fog (vapour),

water (liquid),

and ice (solid).

No, those are not waves of water, but waves of ice, created by the freeze/thaw cycle we seem to be stuck in this year. The young man on the right is a mathematical physicist here at Queen's, originally from the southeast of Britain. He and his friend were tossing rocks onto the ice, then watching as the weight of the rocks caused portions of the ice to sink below the water. Physicists at play, I guess!
I've been playing too, but with wool. After admiring Kate Davies' covered buttons, I gave them a try yesterday.

Hmm---Kate's seems to have quite a bit more swirl to it. Next time, I'll aim for that. I like this button a great deal, but think it makes sense to use it only for decorative purposes, as Kate did on a tam. Probably, the wear and tear from constant use as a functional button would be too much for it.

I think I'll look for something a bit more durable for the front closure on Fernhill. Happy Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014

My (New) Favourite Things

Here they are:
1. My brand-new Denise 2Go needles, from Mary Pat at YOSO. She said I'd love them and boy, do I ever! They're light, the join is silky smooth, the points are perfect (see closeup below), and the case fits in my backpack so easily.

That's a coffee mug in the background, to give you some idea of the scale of this little package of wonderfulness. These have just become my needles of choice.
2. Briggs and Little's "Heritage" in Sheep's Grey.

This is the same colour I used for my MacKay shawl, but in a heavier weight. It's not actually grey. It's somewhere in between grey and brown, and it has the most extraordinary depth because of the myriad of natural tones in it. As usual, it's hard to capture this in a photo. Trust me; it's gorgeous. I've just knitted some swatches in it with my new needles.

The one on the left was done with a US #10 and the one on the right with a US #9. There's a third swatch, done on a US #8 soaking in some warm water, and I think it's THE ONE. Take note--when the swatches were allowed to soak for at least 20 minutes in warm water, they released quite a bit of lanolin into the water--enough to leave it cloudy. The finished yarn will be much softer than the stuff that was knitted. Remember, this is the same wool Elizabeth Zimmermann used for many of her garments. The mill has been making it since the 19th century. It's a classic for a reason.
3. Briggs and Little's "Atlantic" in Seafoam. I wound the skein this morning and can't stop looking at it. Again, it's the amazing depth of colour.

How to describe it? It's a heathery green/blue/grey/turquoise combo that my camera simply cannot do justice to.
4. "Needles in the Hay", the yarn shop in Peterborough where I picked up the last two items. Bridget, the young owner, and I obviously share the same tastes. This is shop where you want to sit down and linger. I just have to get back there. Summer road trip anyone?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Where's the Knitting?

You may have noticed a sudden dearth of knitting projects on the blog. There's a reason. I'm working on a book, and to show you everything that's coming would ruin the surprises. In the meantime, I can still share spinning projects and little technical snippets, and I can tell you that I'm at the stage when I have to make decisions regarding the overall colour theme(s) for the book and yarn selections. I'd love to hear about knitting books you love. What turns you on? What makes you want to buy a knitting book? Is it great photos? Projects you can't wait to start? Do you have a preference for printed books, or e-books? Let me know; I'm interested.
In the meantime, in keeping with the fact that we've just had a movie shoot for a gothic horror movie, here are some rather atmospheric photos of my neighbourhood, taken after mist rolled in off the still semi-frozen lake a couple of days ago.

The evening definitely had that "Sherlock Holmes" feel!

P.S. Did you catch the Peeps knitters in the Washington Post's annual Peeporama contest? See here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What I Learned at YOSO

With a couple of days between home and the YOSO retreat, I've had time to reflect on what I picked up there.

1. I learned (or really, re-learned) how to cast on in ribbing using the longtail method. Thanks Mary Pat! It's so easy, and looks so nice.

2. From Carol,  I learned a nifty way to cast on for a glove fingertip. Actually, it was a class in making covered buttons and she showed how to do a centre cast on with no hole. I'm planning to use it to make fingers for gloves.

3. Robin gave a wonderful class all about bobbles. She's a brilliant teacher and took us through a succession of bobble exercises to demonstrate a bunch of points. Most of them are covered in my own bobble tutorial, but I learned a new method for closing up the gap on the row after a bobble--by slipping the stitch holding the bobble. Can't wait to use it in a project to see how it compares with my own method of picking up an extra stitch and working it together with the next. Robin's method is so much simpler.

4. Classes are a great way to sample a new technique that might be tricky to try out at home. Case in point...

dyeing. Under Lynda's guidance, we used squirty bottles in pretty colours to dye skeins of luscious fibres. It was messy, and I don't think I'm very good at it. Can you see the look of grim determination on my face? I'll stick with wool simmering gently in a pot with food dyes, thank you very much. Come to think of it, I probably have a preference for undyed wool anyway.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Water and Mud

On Friday, I drove up to the Fern Resort on Lake Couchiching for this year's Yarnover Sleepover. It was a longish drive, there being no direct road between there and Kingston, so it turned into a tour of small town Ontario. The suprise? I had thought that the area between Peterborough and Lake Simcoe, the "Kawartha Lakes" region, would resemble the countryside north of Kingston--pink granite, lakes, pine trees. But no, it was all large tracts of rolling cultivated land, probably dairy farms, from the look of things. Interestingly, the 19th-century farmhouses were also quite different from the ones around here. Instead of pink brick with white gingerbread trimmed gables, they were very tall, large and squarish. They did, however, have the same pale brick trim at the corners and around the windows. No photos, because you can't easily stop at the side of the highway and start clicking.
The weekend was a great learning and networking experience. On Saturday, a few of us went for a short hike. The lake was still frozen and there was quite of bit of snow remaining in the wooded areas. But the main obstacle to a longer hike was water--everwhere.

The soft haze of buds in the woods is something I adore at this time of the year,

especially the veil of red dogwood you can see below in the foreground. Makes me think of mohair lace...

It's a subtle landscape, one of subdued colours, but nevertheless exciting because of the anticipation of the return of warmer weather.
I left a little early on Sunday, because of the threat of flooding on my route home. I chose a different route and came back via Route 7, to avoid the Moira River floods north of Belleville. Back in Kingston, the Hollywood crews had been busy dumping loads of soil over our Market Square and on the surrounding streets,

piling up market wares on wagons and in barrels,

posting turn-of-the-20th-century ads, and generally making a big mess. On my walk to the grocery store this morning, I ran into some extras waiting around (I gather that they do this a lot).

Don't you just love this cape thing? and yes, they're wearing period underthings, i.e. corsets. I asked.

Apparently they're trying to speed up the filming in anticipation of a major rain storm. And we all know what that will do to the mix of soil and horse dung spread all over our streets.

                                          I just hope they have a good laundry crew!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Colourless, But Not Boring

I've been working this week with two different types of undyed fibre. Remember that some time ago I announced I would be working with Fibre Roads on a design project involving their beautiful (and relatively local) fibre? Well, I've been working with the Donna, the owner of the mill that's going to do the spinning, Wellington Fibres, to come up with the perfect yarn for my design. How exciting is that? Earlier this week, I received two samples from her.

Both are a 60% alpaca/ 40% blue-faced leicester blend. The one on the left is a 3-ply, while the other is a 2-ply. I quickly knitted up samples of my intended stitch pattern (you'll have to wait to see that--I'm keeping it a surprise), washed, and dried them. All I can tell you at this stage is that the fabric was so light and airy that it dried in only a couple of hours on my sunny windowsill. Gorgeous! So, now Donna will be spinning up the remaining fibre from last year while she awaits some more from this sping's clip. Our plan, as it exists now, is for Janice, of Windblest Farm, to dye some of the yarn in a soft denim blue, while the rest will be offered in a natural silver grey. Stay tuned...
It's my week for wool au naturelle. I'm still working away at the Ferne cardigan (pattern to be available in time for the Toronto Knitters' Frolic), but at the same time, I've been chugging along with my long-term spinning project. Yesterday, I plyed the first skein---about 270 yds of sport-weight BFL softness.

There's a design I have in mind for this, and it's keeping me going through our cold spring.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


                                                          Yipee, it's rubber boot weather!