Saturday, November 28, 2020

Victoria Update

 Nothing gets done as quickly as we think it should. James is preparing to move into an apartment this coming week, Isabel is in the planning stages of a move back to Canada in the early new year (very complicated logistically in a pandemic), and I've finally given up on Bell for internet service and, after more than two frustrating hours on the phone with Bell yesterday, made the move to Cogeco with installation coming on the same day as James' move. We are going to do the physical part of the latter on our own, hoping that our little Mazda 3 can swallow enough of James' mattress and bed rails to safely get the few blocks to downtown.

In the meantime, Victoria is moving toward a final version.

I like to work from my draft before sending a version out to testers. That will likely happen at the end of next week, assuming everything else falls into place. 

Bill and I took a stroll around Fort Henry yesterday afternoon. Very Novemberish light.

This is the view toward the St. Lawrence with one of the city's four martello towers in the distance. The fortifications are part of a Unesco World Heritage site. Looking forward to a relatively nice day today, a sunny 7C.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Hunkering Down

Now that COVID-19 has finally hit our community (36 active cases as of today), Bill and I are doubling down on staying out of harm's way. A brisk walk in the neighbourhood once a day, 

some leaf raking (all done now, thank goodness), and a once-a-week curbside pickup at our local Loblaw (our milk, eggs, and local veggies are delivered by Limestone Creamery). That's pretty much it. Lots of knitting and sewing. I made new 3-layer masks after the new mask recommendations came out a couple of weeks ago. Xmas presents all made, and tomorrow I'll get a box of goodies (edible and not) into the mail for Isabel without even having to enter the post office, courtesy of the nice staff at Peters Drugs down the road. 

Victoria 2.1 is underway, but nothing to show you yet. As soon as it's done, testing will begin. 

Lentil soup and scones for dinner. This is our new favourite scone recipe.

Oatmeal Date Scones


2 c wholewheat or spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ c + 2 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp honey

½ c dairy or soy milk

1 c chopped dates*

¼ rolled oats (I use large flake)


*If you buy the kind of pitted dates sold for baking, they may be a little dry. Snip them into raisin-size pieces with scissors, then soak them in hot water for 10 min before draining the water off.


Preheat oven to 400F. Mix dry ingredients except for oats. Mix the wet ingredients separately, including dates, then add to dry mix. Knead gently for 30 seconds. Spread half the oats on baking parchment, then shape dough into a flat round about 1” thick. Sprinkle remaining oats on top and press down very lightly so they stick. Cut into 8 wedges and bake until golden on the bottom.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Size Inclusiveness: A Hot Topic

Recently, a Raveler who is also a yarn shop owner wrote to me to express disappointment that the sizing for Willingdon is not as inclusive as she had hoped for. She has a lot of larger customers who won't fit into the size range of the pattern (36 1/4 - 49"). It's a valid criticism. So, it's worth taking a moment to let you know where I as a designer am coming from.

I'm a small person, and so is my daughter. I'm 5'1" and she is 5'2", and we're both on the slim side. Both of us have difficulty finding and wearing clothes off the rack. This is how my motivation to make my own designs was born. I had had enough of re-calculating patterns to accommodate our petite stature. My designs have always arisen out of my family members' knitting desires and needs (include my son in here too -- "Stripes", Sandridge, and the "Modern Gansey" were invented just for him). So you can see that from the start, I've been something of a specialist in the small end of the size spectrum. 

It's also important to remember that size is about more than just height and weight; it's also about proportion. Isabel and I are small but pear shaped. We have small busts, skinny arms, and wider hips. That's why some of my designs don't look their best on the well endowed. Brookline, for example, has a narrow front closure which is prone to gapping on those with more frontage. (As an aside, that's not why it's not currently available. I was never happy with the magazine editing of this sweater and at some point I need to go back and restore its original features as seen in the red version on Isabel. That's a whole other tale for another day. Don't give up hope all of you who have requested this back in the lineup.)

"Grading", which is the technical name for the sizing of patterns, is complex. It has to take many factors into account. When designing a top-down raglan pattern, for example, there has to be a balance between the depth of the raglan, the width of the upper arms, and the circumference of the chest. Add to that the need to accommodate a particular stitch pattern and you begin to see what's involved. Some designs are easily adjusted to deal with all of these elements, some not. With the as yet unpublished Victoria (not a top-down design), I would probably have to add a third repeat of the lace panel if I were to add larger sizes, which would in turn change the look of the hem and neck decreases. Doable, but the end result would have a different feel. Gaps between sizes can also vary depending on the size of a stitch pattern repeat. Trellis, for instance, has a long stitch pattern repeat, resulting in relatively large leaps between chest sizes. 

Magazines (online or print) these days want to be as inclusive as possible. It's common now to see submission calls stipulating sizing up to a women's 70" bust. I applaud them for this. But, mathematical limitations aside, since my aim remains primarily to design for my family's personal use (I have no business model), so far I have not aimed to expand sizing beyond my comfort zone. That is not to say that it is not worthwhile or not being done. My friends Robin Hunter and Deb Gemmell, have done a thorough exploration of the problems of fitting larger sizes. I highly recommend their set of cardigan patterns. There are constantly more options as the demand for expanded sizes continues to increase.

I suspect I may have unleashed a storm with this post, but at least now you know why I do what I do.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Garter Stitch Heels

Until a few years ago I wasn't much of a fan of short row heels. As someone with a relatively high arch, I found them ill-fitting. So, I stuck with the traditional heel flap method. Then I stumbled across Lucy Neatby's garter stitch short row heel, and everything changed. Her simple solution? Make the heel on 60% of the stitches instead of the usual 50%. Add to that cushy, hard-wearing garter stitch and you have the perfect heel. I was lucky enough to teach with Lucy at KnitEast last year, and realize now that I forgot to thank her for this little sock innovation.

Above you can see sock #2 of my latest Snakes and Ladders pair in progress as I rounded the heel turn this morning. Notice that I chose to put the instep stitches onto a length of waste yarn -- not necessary, but I find it simpler to work the turn without those pesky instep needles in the way. 

Here's a photo of the original Snakes and Ladders socks all blocked and beautiful before several years of wear wore them down.

Can't help but love the "Colonel Mustard" colourway on this grey and chilly November day.