Saturday, November 29, 2014

401 Knitting

For those of you who live in this part of Canada, "the 401" is unhappily familiar. It's the long leg of multi-lane highway stretching from Montreal to Toronto and beyond in both directions. It's both very boring, and very dangerous, the latter in part because of the former. It's dead straight for horribly long stretches, with no views of anything other than wilderness, farms, and (especially near Toronto) industrial wasteland. Most of it is too far inland for anything but occasional swift glances at Lake Ontario. It carries far too much heavy truck traffic, pretty much everyone speeds, and at this time of the year it's prone to sudden snow squalls that can send vehicles into multi-car pileups.
My current knitting project is like the 401. It's dead boring, with only 58 stitches per row and no shaping at all. But at the same time, it's dangerous in a subversive sort of way. Every row is an "action" row; there are no "purl back" rows, so one's attention must always be on high alert. It's anti-social knitting. No possibility of conversations, no audiobooks that require close attention, certainly no Netflix or TV other than perhaps some soothing David Attenborough documentary. But because it's so relentlessly boring, the mind wanders, and suddenly, poof, you find you've made some stupid mistake that requires half an hour of picking out umpteen "purl through the back loops" to get things back on track.
Is all this pain worth it? I'm hopeful that it is.

Every now and then, in fact, I flirt with the possibility of leaving this piece completely unblocked, so taken am I with the astounding texture.
In a blast of perversity from Mother Nature, a dusting of snow arrived right after my last blog post about there being no snow. Just decorative, and it'll probably be gone within 48 hours. The best kind of snow.

Finally, are you a mystery reader? Then surely you will have read about the passing of the great P.D. James. Elizabeth Renzetti's insightful comments in this morning's Globe are worth reading. In particular, I like this quote from James:

“The underlying message [of mysteries] is that no matter how difficult problems are in life – in your own life or in the life of a country or society – in the end they can always be solved, not by divine intervention or good luck, but by human intelligence, human courage, human perseverance.”

I think, in a very, very small way, knitting appeals for some of those same reasons, not so much in the courage area, but certainly in the realm of problem solving through intelligence and perseverence. We are reassured that something in our lives is solvable and beautiful. On which note, I'm going back now to persevere with my boring, dangerous, project.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Well, here I am one week after my last post, still tied to my telecom provider via the internet, my mobile phone, and yes, our land line. It goes to show that patience and perseverence can actually pay off (literally). After waiting a few days, and calling back to said telecom company, I was offered a "deal" whereby my land line cost was reduced by only $5, but my internet (unlimited) was reduced by $20 per month. Best of all, these are not "promotional" fees, but regular ones. A win for us, I think, although I'd be embarrassed to admit the number of hours I've spent on the phone with this company over the past year.
I've been playing for the last ten days, or so. The seeds of many new ideas have formed, even it there's not much actual knitting to show for the time. Finally, yesterday I got something really launched.

The yarn is a laceweight merino from Riverside Studio, hand-dyed near Wakefield, Quebec. It's not pink (that's a trick of my camera), but a rich burgundy. Hope to have this pattern out by the end of next week, just in time for holiday knitting, in case anyone is looking for a bit of scarf knitting.
Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. I have such fond memories of our American Thanksgivings, not for the family (we had none) or food, but because I associate the holiday with a relaxed four-day weekend of knitting. Bill was usually somewhere on the opposite side of the globe, so it was just the kids and me. No expectations to fulfill, no mad scramble out the door to get everyone to work and school. Lovely in retrospect. I read this morning in the Washington Post that there's some wintry weather to our south. No snow here on the north side of Lake Ontario,


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pulling the Plug

I'm in a rage with my telecom company, and the fact that I've a full-blown head cold isn't helping. I loathe the system under which the companies offer a "promotion" for land line service, or an internet connection, or whatever, and then six months down the road you suddenly find your bill has doubled overnight. That's what just happened with our home phone. We no longer have satellite or cable, so at least television has been removed from our equation. I'm at the stage where I'm considering doing away with the land line entirely. I know, I know, it might have a deleterious impact on the ability of 911 services to locate us, but I'm pretty much prepared to take that chance, given the almost $50 per month that our telecom wants to bill us for "home phone light". At this point, almost everyone we want to communicate with long distance uses Skype anyway. Rant concluded.
So, I might need a little knitting to calm me down. The top-down hat has been shelved for now. It'll get a style boost down the road. Meanwhile, I've started on James' new pullover. He wants something thick and warm (sorry, Bruce Weinstein, but this is Canada and the rule against heavier sweaters for men doesn't apply). I've long had the notion of converting Petrova to a men's version. The cabled saddle shoulders are so perfect for a guy.

The slouchy cowl neck, not so much,

nor the waist shaping,

 nor the full-length button closure.

I got the project launched late yesterday, and because there are no pockets, no waist shaping, and no buttonhole borders to think about, it's clear sailing. Perfect head cold knitting, with a box of tissues, a pot of tea, and a good audiobook for company.

The yarn is this in an almost-black charcoal (it only looks light here because it's in strong sunshine).The seed stitch has been James-approved.

Guys are so fussy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I knew it last night, but wasn't prepared to admit it. My hat needs a style boost. It needs more "pouffiness", more shape, and possibly even more colour. It's a good example of how a yarn that looks lucious in the ball can suck you in, only to disappoint in the knitting. Back to the drawing board. The yarn will find it's way into something else. I never mind frogging. As the incomparable Elizabeth Zimmermann expressed it, ripping out is so "purifying".
And things aren't so desperate on the hat front after all. A little digging through our accessories basket (strategically located on a bench next to the front door) revealed these favourite tams shown in a much earlier blog post. Isabel has been wearing the darker one lately, but I'd forgotten about the one with the cream background. No need to panic; I'm covered (literally).
So, maybe I should move on to designing that sweater James has been asking for...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Not a Moment Too Soon

Finished my new hat this afternoon.

Hmm, do I want the top to be "pouffier", more slouchy? Not sure; I'll sleep on it. The wind chill this aft was -12C--January in November. At least we're doing better than Buffalo. Our side of the lake is much less prone to such lake effect snow. Still, it just started to snow here and with the gale force winds we're experiencing, the snow is moving in a totally horizontal direction. This does not bode well.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Heady Thoughts

Woke up this morning to snow on the ground. It melted, but we all know that soon it will come back and stick around until sometime next spring. So depressing. It's got me realizing that I need a new hat, mitts, and scarf/cowl/something to keep my neck and chin warm. And I need them now, or at least very, very soon.
I thought about making an amazing twisty, cabled slouchy hat, but that would take a lot of time and really, I need a hat NOW. And if I made such a lovely hat, then I'd need things to go with it, because there's the whole "matchy" problem. You know, where you recognize a knitter on the street not by the amazing knitted stuff she's wearing, but by the fact that none of it goes together. If I make a tricky, cabled hat, I'd want to do it with a fairly lightweight wool (not superwash--that wouldn't be warm enough), and then the other matchy bits would take forever to make, and they might not be thick enough to keep me warm next January when the temp drops to -21C (or worse). So, I've realized that what I want is a quick, thick hat. Something simple, but beautiful.
Looking through my stash, I found some recently acquired chunky alpaca/wool single-ply yarn in soft shades of pale robin's egg blue and green. I used Emily Ocker's circular cast-on, made famous by (you guessed it) Elizabeth Zimmermann, and in no time I had 48 sts, enough to transfer everything to a 16" circular.

Beautiful yarn like this calls for a simple shape. Not sure yet where this is going, but I'm loving it. Best of all, I've enough to make mitts or a cowl. Matching two out of three seems a better plan than three out of three, don't you think?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wine and Wool, Wool and Wine

I couldn't possibly do a better job than Robin has done of documenting our retreat last weekend. In fact, I confess that I took NO PHOTOS AT ALL! What can I say about this lapse? Sometimes you have to live in the moment. So, click here to see all the fun. And Brussels sprouts grow on "stalks", Robin, not "branches"!
P.S. The lace pattern from yesterday's post is from this brilliant book. Quirky charts, but a wonderful publication from Schoolhouse Press.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This Knitter Just Wants to Have Fun

With the retreat behind me, I've given myself a little knitting holiday. Note that I didn't say "holiday from knitting". I'm playing. No deadlines, no pressure. Last spring I spun up about 100g of BFL top. After plying and washing, it turned itself into a gorgeous, bouncy, slightly fluffy skein of sort-of-DK-weight yarn, EXCEPT for the fact that the creamy colour didn't work well with my going-grey hair. So, yesterday I remembered that I had some packets of Kool-Aid drink mix sitting at the bottom of a basket. In no time, I had mixed together five packets of Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade with one packet of Lemon Lime. I checked out this great chart first, just to make sure I was on track. By this morning, I had this:

By noon I had this,

which, when steam blocked, turned out to look like this:


By tomorrow, I'll probably have a new scarf, and I'll have had a refreshing little break from sweater knitting. More about the origins of the lace pattern next time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wolfe Island Gansey

This was done before I headed off for the retreat in Prince Edward County. What you see here is the first iteration. So far there are handwritten notes and charts in only one size. No photos so far on a human being, Isabel being too caught up in things at Queen's to donate any of her time (this version is in her size).

I chose to steek this little cardi to make the gansey pattern (Arbroath marriage lines) easier to work. Every row is an "action" row, which makes it much simper to work when the right side is always facing. I took this prototype with me to the retreat as an example of a non-stranded steeked garment. The yarn is Quince & Co's Lark in "Honey". My own name for it is "Dijon", but colour is in the eye of the beholder I guess. Discussions are underway at the dinner table concerning the colour for the next iteration. Red? 
FYI, Wolfe Island, named after the British General Wolfe, is just a short ferry ride from my front door.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's a Yarn Party!

Twenty-four hours to go before the Wine and Wool Retreat starts! I'm working hard at getting ready and crossing things off my to-do list.
Sweaters (and other knitted oddments) to illustrate teaching points--

 Class notes, collated, stapled, ready for action--

Trellis kits, made up in a bunch of varied colourways--everything from Kauni EQ (the famous and popular "Spectrum") to neutrals--

If you're interested in purchasing a kit containing this hard-to-find yarn, just show up at Jacksons' Falls Inn in Prince Edward County and you can take your pick of colourways. In fact, Rosehaven Yarns, which is hosting the retreat, is having a Yarn Party there as well. The marketplace, which will include local vendors such as Silver Cloud Alpacas, Purlin' J's Roving Yarn Co. (in the firetruck!), and Anwyn Yarns will all be open to all. Even if you're not registered to participate in the classes, we hope you'll show up to explore and celebrate great yarn. What better way to spend a grey November Saturday? See you there!
Note to self: in the rush of departing tomorrow, don't forget to order Kate Davies' new book. In case you've missed it, she's been previewing some of the breathtaking designs this week on her blog.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I took these photos of the rear garden last week, before I made a whirlwind trip to Toronto to accompany Isabel, who took the GRE there this morning. It would have been nice not to have arrived at Union Station at the peak of Friday rush hour, but there was no choice, and so we endured the crush of the TTC, spent the evening at a condo booked through Airbnb, walked on a bridge (with a very narrow sidewalk) over the Don Valley Parkway to the exam location in a suburban business park, ran (literally) back to the subway (which turned out to be out of service between Eglinton and Yonge), and finally caught a cab to end up back at the station just in time to be last to board our VIA train back to Kingston, where Isabel had to get to an event this evening. Whew! At least it was a good cardio workout--and I managed to knit a sample class project for the Wine and Wool Retreat next weekend during the four hours of the exam.
Toronto is certainly an exciting place, full of stimulating things and ideas, but in spite of that, I'm glad to be back home. Looking about at the faces on the subway this afternoon, it seemed that the only relaxed, contented face in sight was that of a Boston terrier sitting on the floor beside his owner. There's a lot of stress to living in the fast lane, and I think I might not be a big city girl anymore.