Wednesday, July 29, 2020

"Like Dried Blood", and Other Fashion Setdowns

Bill is approaching his 70th birthday in 10 days. He is old enough (unlike me) to remember the 1950s. In particular, he remembers being taken by his mum to movie matinees while his older sister was at school. I assume these were his mother's "getaways" from the drudgery of 1950s housewifery. He seems to have especially vivid memories of Audrey Hepburn movies. Really, who wouldn't have wonderful memories of such strikingly visual movies as "Funny Face".
Unfortunately for me, Bill's application of his movie memories to some of my favourite outfits is less than flattering.  Of one of my York Pinafores (my semi-uniform), he recently remarked, "It's rather like the outfit Audrey Hepburn wore when she was working in the bookstore in Funny Face". That's when she was supposedly frumpy (as if she ever could be that). I took it in stride, and pointed out that most real women would rather spend their time in flat shoes and jumpers than stiletto heels and wasp waists. I also showed him, as proof that some people thought Audrey's bookshop outfit was stylish, the movie-inspired "Bookworm Vest" from Cheryl Oberle's book "Folk Vests".

Cheryl Oberl's Bookworm Vest
Twenty years ago, when I was an avid shopper of Flax clothing at DC's "Catch Can" I had a favourite linen outfit which I usually wore with a much-too-expensive straw hat. On an outing to Dumbarton Oaks gardens in Georgetown on a steamy summer afternoon with two small children in tow, Bill looked at me and remarked, "That outfit makes me think of Julie Andrews in her straw hat on her way to the Von Trapp family." He did not mean it as a compliment.
The thing is, in both of these latter two cases, I was actually pleased to be compared to Audrey Hepburn or Julie Andrews in their "pre-glamourous" phases. I thought those outfits were romantic and fun (and comfortable to boot). I think Bill has never got over some sort of 1950s concept of how women ought to look. I suspect a certain Mr. Trump is caught in the same time warp.
Even when movie memories aren't evoked, Bill is still the master of the back-handed compliment. While out for an evening walk a few days ago he remarked on how much he liked the drape and 1960s silhouette of my new Wiksten Shift Dress (see previous post). Then he sought for the right words to describe the colour. "It's like dried blood", he said. Now I'm pondering what I could possibly give him as a birthday gift in that same colour...

On an unrelated note, today I roasted some tomatoes and garlic with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and thyme,

and turned it all into the most heavenly soup. I only make this recipe when conditions are perfect -- ripe, juicy local tomatoes + reasonably cool weather so that the house doesn't become unbearably hot. Divinely delicious!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Hot Weather Solution

Our family spent 16 years living in Washington, DC. I know what real heat is like, the kind when at midnight the air is so thick with humidity you feel you could slice it with a knife. When we had home leave, we would drive in one long day back to Canada, and at the Thousand Islands international crossing, Bill would park and run into the duty-free shop to buy wine while the kids and I stood under the pines watching the pleasure boats in the St. Lawrence, the cool breezes wafting through our hair. There was such a sense of relief (in more ways than one, to be honest). We hardly ever experience Washington, DC-style heat here on the north shore of Lake Ontario. As I write, we are under a heat warning (as well as a severe thunderstorm watch) and the air temperature is 28C (82F). Laughable, I know to anyone who has spent time in the American South. Still, without air conditioning it's too hot to knit. My mohair on the needles is languishing on the sofa.
Instead, when it's hot I sew, at least in the mornings while the house is relatively cool, with a bit of wind coming up the street off the lake. Today I finished the perfect summer dress, the Wiksten Shift dress, shown here in Size 0.

The colour is a departure for me, and I'm not sure about it, but the pandemic is a great time to play around. It's not like I'm going anywhere. The fabric is 100% linen from here in "Pomegranate". Any scorching hot day when you can wear a loose dress over just a bra and panties is a win as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and the pockets make it a home run.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


We're at that point of summer when here in Ontario it's hard to believe that winter actually happened. (OK, I know it did; whenever I feel this way I just need to remind myself with this.) It's the coneflower, phlox, Queen Anne's lace time of year.

Garden gate  at early 19thC house up the street.
It's the no-need-to-get-out-the blow-dryer time of year.

Me after letting my hair dry while mowing the lawn.
I had "pandemic hair" before it was a thing -- no dye job, no salon visits, basically "as is". Want to cut your own hair? I use the second method on this video. I've noticed that many of my female neighbours have suddenly emerged as grey recently. It's in fashion!
And finally, it's time to plot out my fall knitting. Look what just arrived on my front porch!

Drops Air

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Taste of Van Gogh

Is there a better way to spend a July afternoon than sitting on the front porch savouring a slice of lemon tart with a really good cup of tea? Well, yes, if I had a cottage I'd be sitting on a dock dangling my toes in a lake. But given that that's not an option, my current programme ranks at the top. In all of these activities, quality over quantity is the name of the game. This morning I made this:

It's the lemon/olive oil tart from America's Test Kitchen (except that I always use canola oil instead of olive oil for this recipe). The crust is crunchy, the filling creamy, and the lemon taste is so exquisite that you want each bite to linger in your mouth. The vibrant flavour, the colour, the texture all made me think, "Van Gogh". Can't really explain it. Maybe it's the Provence connection.
Now that my aqua Willingdon is done, I'm moving on (or perhaps back) to something I planned out last year. The swatch looked like this:

Over a year later, I'm thinking of knitting this up in Drops Air, a blow yarn with alpaca content. I have some on order from Espace Tricot in Montreal. As soon as it arrives, it's destined to be transformed into this:

This is the drawing from my notebook, tea stains and all that I made in May 2019. I think this light, airy design will be perfect for early fall. Come on, Canada Post!

Sunday, July 12, 2020


The heat wave is over. We've had a couple of cool, rainy days and it's hard to describe my relief. Energy has returned. I spent the day sewing a new York Pinafore in a shade of linen called "Driftwood", a sort of cool brown. Actually, it seems similar to the brown in the pinafore dress worn by Keira Knightly in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. Don't ask how many York Pinafores I own. It's my year round uniform.
Here I am in my new (and already rumpled) pinafore wearing my new (and still buttonless) Willingdon.

The testers are hard at work. It's taking a bit longer than usual due to pandemic related slower mail order (for wool), as well as the enervating summer heat. Don't worry; it's all coming together.
Off now to cook dinner: McBitty's Black Bean Burgers ( I use onion instead of the dried porcini, which I rarely have on hand) + French carrot salad.

So lemony and refreshing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


Back in July of 2013 I self-published Harriet's Jacket on Ravelry. At the time it lingered for 5 days in the number one position of "hot right now" patterns. I wore it to Rhinebeck, and was asked by so many knitters about the pattern that eventually I took it off so that I could concentrate on my own purchases.

Well, it seems that Harriet is having a comeback moment on Ravelry. Hundreds of downloads are happening and it's on the first page of most popular patterns, and I have no idea why. It hasn't been mentioned in any forums that I am aware of. Anyway, the timing is good because I've been thinking about making an updated version of Harriet. It's such fun to knit. Stay tuned.
It's way too hot here to knit this week. Sewing is OK if I quit by 2 pm when the heat kicks in. I've discovered that one does actually acclimatize to not having air conditioning. The trick is to avoid exposure to air conditioning as much as possible. Going from an air-conditioned car to an un-air-conditioned house is miserable, but if you stick inside the house with the shutters closed on the south side and fans running, you stop noticing the heat. Our WW1 era house with its high ceiling, front porch and deep eaves helps, as does our proximity to Lake Ontario and mature tree cover. Plus, it's not terribly humid, thank goodness.
I finished the Tea House Dress this morning.

I made the longer version and it has an "Enchanted April", 1920s vibe. At some point I'll bother to dress up with my straw hat and get a proper photo, but it's too hot for that today.