Thursday, January 30, 2020


There was a time when I used metal buttons more frequently. Now I try to use other natural materials (horn, shell, wood, etc). Here are the wooden buttons on Willingdon, from an old stash of Missions Falls buttons. Boy, were those fantastic! There was always a Missions Falls button for whatever you were working on. Mags Kandis, the founder of the now-defunct Mission Falls, lives in nearby Prince Edward County, and last summer when I asked her where she sourced the buttons, she said (unhelpfully), "Oh, everywhere".

Here's one of the major problems with metal. See the tarnish, not just on the buttons, but on the wool?

So, this morning I cleaned the buttons and then rubbed all the stains with Sunlight bar soap (love that lemon scent!) and then soaked the sweater for a long time. I think I've cleaned everything up, but I need to see the sweater dry before I'll know for sure. If not, I'm pretty confident a second treatment will do the trick. This is how this sweater should look:

Since I was in the mood, I also pulled out my Glenora, one sleeve of which is on the verge of developing a hole.

Some of the strands of wool have worn critically thin. This is just about my last chance to repair with duplicate stitch as opposed to a full darn job. I'm onto it.
Finally, I thought I might as well finish up my "housekeeping" by cleaning and oiling my sewing machine. There are some super videos on YouTube on how you can do this on your own and save the money you would otherwise spend paying to have it done. Here's the frightening look under the plate that houses the bobbin. Avert your eyes if you're sensitive to grunge!

 I'm happy to say that all is cleaned up and oiled, and the machine is humming away like new.  I feel so virtuous!

Monday, January 27, 2020

So Lazy

I'm a lazy knitter. Not sloppy lazy; I do insist on neat details. My laziness is more about efficiency. I want to get a lot for my efforts. That's why I love the Waving Rib stitch pattern found on page 15 of Barbara Walker's classic, "A Treasury of Knitting Patterns", Schoolhouse Press, 1998 edition. The photos may be in slightly grainy black and white, but this is the book designers come back to again and again for inspiration. And it's not just the row-by-row instructions, which unhappily are not charted. It's the little narratives accompanying them, indicating how the patterns evolved, how they're related, whether they're reversible, and what they're good for.
All of which brings me to Willingdon, the cardigan pattern I'm writing up this week.

The Waving Rib (which, incidentally I used in my Cataraqui Socks) happens to be reversible (see the basketweave wrong side in the first photo), but what I really love about it is how it produces a sophisticated texture for so little effort. There are really only two rows, each repeated four times, and that's it. Easy to memorize, soothing to knit, and lovely to look at. So much bang for my knitting buck!

Thursday, January 16, 2020


An aran knit in cream-coloured wool is so classic. That's why I've opted to do my test knit in this:

Don't worry, there's a fourth (and I think a fifth) skein hanging out in my stash, so no anxiety in that department. Getting the right "cream" is the most important thing for me. I don't look good in anything with a yellow undertone. It's probably the grey hair. This wool, Cascade 220 in #8010, "natural", fits the bill. See you later after my appointment with my swift and wool winder.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Little Night Knitting

Although I'm definitely a monogamous knitter, there are times when I'm a sort-of two-timer. When I'm crunching numbers and slogging away to get a new pattern out into the world I often want some relatively mindless knitting to work on in the evenings while I stream something (PBS Newshour, Netflix, TVO documentaries?) on my laptop screen. In 2015 I posted a photo of some mittens I made to go with my Penelope Hat.

They've become my utility mitts -- you know, the ones for shoveling snow, wiping off the car windows, etc. They've shrunk a bit from felting, and that's a good thing because it's made them a bit more waterproof. My new night knitting project is to knit a new/extra pair and get the pattern out. As I wrote on that cold, cold February day back in 2015, they can be made in nothing flat, so maybe someone will enjoy cranking these out for themselves or a friend.
Unlike 2015, we are having a season that feels like perpetual November. Some pics from yesterday...

Green grass one street over from our place.
No snow at the Gord Downie Pier at the bottom of our street.
No ice on Lake Ontario.
If you're in Ontario, were you too awoken by that accidental emergency alert regarding the Pickering nuclear reactor? At least our water is still safe to drink--for now.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Why Bottom-Up?

As I finish preparing the first draft of "Hedgewood", some of you may wonder if this is a top-down or bottom-up design. Well, it's the latter. Why? It's simple--cable patterns are much, much easier to decrease as opposed to increase. (For some discussion of how to decrease in cables, see this tutorial.) I know it's more difficult to get body and sleeve lengths just right when working bottom-up, but trust me that it's worth it for this type of sweater. To make your sizing more predictable, use an existing sweater you like (can be RTW) as a template, and make sure to take time to wet block both body and sleeves before the big join for the upper body. Cable patterns are essentially ribbing and will grow horizontally and possibly vertically when blocked. Using a non-superwash treated wool will also add some additional predictability protection.
Still no snow to speak of on the ground in this neck of the woods. All that wintry weather back in early November was a false alarm. The lake is still open. I'm still not complaining. Any day in January when you can walk out the door in shoes, not boots, is a good day.
Finally, here are a couple of my holiday makes in the cooking department. First, mincemeat pie (vegetarion filling, from an old, old edition of Laurel's Kitchen). I make this every year for Xmas dinner dessert, and my family might disown me if I didn't. The pastry is my usual oil version.

Second, shortbread. Mary Berry's as the recipe appeared last month in the Washington Post.

 Perfect for when you have two sticks of butter that need to get used up.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Charts, Thoughts On

Are you a knitter who prefers charts to words? Admittedly, being offered both can be helpful on occasion, but in general I prefer to work exclusively from charts. Knitting is essentially an exercise in spatial thinking, and for me charts simply bypass all the word tangles that get in the way of clear thinking.
For designers, a more important issue is the form the chart will take. Will I use specially designed knitting software, a chart made using Excel, or simply a hand-drawn chart? I've used both hand-drawn and Excel charts in my work, and find I prefer the former, especially when there's a lot going on, as in "Hedgewwod". THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH A GOOD HAND-DRAWN CHART.
If this was good enough for EZ, it's good enough for me. Besides, there's a certain je ne sais quoi quality surrounding hand drawn things. Think of the original Moosewood Cookbook, completely handwritten.
With this in mind, here's what I've been up to this morning.

Main cable panel chart launched.
Chart completed (minus the all-importan key).
View out my window while I'm working.
I don't expect this snow to stick around. It's been more like November for the last few weeks. Not that I'm complaining.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year, New Photos

Well, here we are in 2020, and this morning I started off the new year with some new photos of Hedgewood, my cropped aran that should be ready for testing very, very soon.

My model, visiting from California, refuses to pose outdoors in our un-California winter, so we did our best indoors. I decided to experiment with greyscale since it seemed to make the best of the sweater's texture in our pale wintry light. We have a birthday to celebrate today and I've promised homemade pizzas and apple cake. Time to get to work!