Sunday, December 30, 2012

Anticipating Downton, Season Three

I'm done with my Lord Peter Wimsey holiday marathon, but I'm still in awe of Harriet Vane's wardrobe, knits and non-knits alike. And the shoes! What one wouldn't give for a stroll through the BBC wardrobe department's closets.
So, now on to looking forward to that other period extravaganza, Downton Abbey, Season Three. OK, I was far less enamoured with Season Two than Season One--too much happening in too short a space of time, but nonetheless, it's riveting, if for nothing other than the clothes.
This seems a good time to have another look at my Downtown Jacket, inspired when the series was in its infancy and had a relatively small following. It's a seamless knit in garter and double moss stitch. The richness of the blue heather unfortunately doesn't show in these photos. I'm toying with the idea of making a new one in grey.

I took Megan, a lovely neighbour, out for some photos last December, when we hadn't any snow. Can you tell why she's a drama student?

There are a couple of different ways to configure the buttons on this design. See how it makes a difference in how the neckline lies?

Here's a closeup of the cuff detail. This design is all about the buttons. I was lucky enough to find one which was available in several sizes. FYI, it's a replica of an 18thC Russian coin (at least that's what I think it is, from the 2-headed eagle) from Dill Buttons. I just happened to find them at my LYS.

Have you noticed that old houses were usually designed to look good from all angles, not just the front? A good sweater design should work in the same way.

Just as good going as coming.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Big Dig

It turns out that we had 30 cm of snow in our last storm. I think most knitters, even those in the U.S., know that 10 cm equals 4 inches, so I leave it up to you to figure out how many inches of snow we have on the ground. That's quite a lot for us here in Kingston. Unlike our neighbours in upstate New York across the lake, we are not  prone to "lake effect" snowfalls. Usually the sidewalk ploughs come by within a few hours of the end of a storm, but so far there's been nary a one in sight. I slogged through the drifts to the grocery store anyway.

Princess Street in front of Tara Foods (where the staff had done an excellent shovelling job).
 At least it was sunny and not very cold.

House up the street from us in the "Italian style" from the 1840s.
In between dealing with the white stuff and trying not to panic about our upcoming move, I've been working on a hat pattern and getting ready to ply my merino/silk. Here's the last of my singles being wound onto a bobbin (toilet paper tube).

I confess to enjoying the low-tech aspect of this process. So far, I've no inclination for a wheel.

Time now to get on with the plying. (That's our car in background still fairly snowed in. So nice not to have to use it to get any essentials.)

Aren't these lovely? I already have an idea for what I'm going to design for this stuff, but I won't be telling for a while.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Urban Rustic Socks

The pattern for the Urban Rustic Socks is now available in my Ravelry store (see link in sidebar). These thick, cushy socks, sized for both women and men, are designed for wear inside boots or as "house" socks, although I find they fit quite well inside my clogs. The fact that the patterning terminates on the top of the instep helps to reduce bulk in the foot area. They're quick, fun knit with the horseshoe cables and seeded rib keeping things interesting. I chose to work the instep decreases on the top of the foot rather than down the sides, giving a neat tapered look to an otherwise rugged design.

We had a huge dump of snow late on Boxing Day, so we're spending today digging out and warming up with Carrot Orange soup and scones. Any special plans (knitting or otherwise) for the New Year?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas

Start with a couple of inches of fresh fluffy snow followed by copious quantities of sunshine.

Add flour, salt, canola oil, and water,

then apples, apple juice, raisins, orange juice, grated orange rind, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.

Bake in a 400F oven for 40 minutes,

and let cool.
Meanwhile, chop carrots, turnip (rutabaga), onions, celery, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and saute in olive oil,

then add a cup of water, cover tightly, and braise until tender. Put a capon in the oven to roast.
Steep a cup of this,

while savouring this new book.

Don a new pair of socks,

and head out for a long walk.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Romance, Mystery, and Britknits

The big storm more or less passed us by. While Ottawa is still digging out, we're melting after a mere dusting. This was the view out our back door yesterday,

and here's the view out our front door this afternoon.

The temperature was a few degrees above freezing, so by the time I walked downtown to buy a bit of chocolate and some wax for my winter boots, most of the snow was gone.

I stopped by the video store to pick up this 1987 BBC trilogy of Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries (the Edward Petherbridge version, NOT the Ian Carmichael one).

                                           Click here because small views stink.

It came out the year I was married and true to form, has some great Brit knits to drool over (check our Harriet's tam and pullover, above), as well as witty dialogue and imaginative plots. Romance, mystery, and knits--what more could you ask for?
The second Urban Rustic sock is all the way to the heel, and between dicing turnips and making pastry tomorrow, should be done by Christmas morning, although since it's for me, there's no need for a deadline.

Front door of the Secret Garden Inn, up the street from my house.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the 1930s for the next couple of hours. What (if anything) do you intend to watch over the holidays?

Thursday, December 20, 2012


I've been wanting to knit a pair of rustic, thick, cushy socks to wear inside boots or around the house in place of slippers. Yesterday I cast on for a pair, and this morning I finished up the first one.

The yarn is Cascade 220 Heathers in #4011, a grey with a very slight greenish cast. The shade has a lot of depth, but it's not coming across very well in these photos. The horseshoe cable surrounded by seed stitch is the same one I used in the Murray Jacket (still to be written up).

I chose to bring the cable around the ankle, with the decreases on top of the foot and the ribs coming together on the instep, like this.

What a great go-together with the BT hat I finished up yesterday!

I need to run out now and purchase a second skein to finish the pair.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tried and True

A knitter recently apologized to me for making changes to one of my designs. This is something no one should ever need to do. Knitting is a creative activity and NOTHING is written in stone. The number of patterns I've knitted without mods is very, very small. There are only a handful that I make over and over because they're so perfect as is. One is Robin Melanson's "Strata" gloves, which I'm just finishing up for Isabel (4th pair). Another is Jared Flood's "Turn a Square" hat. I've just woven in the few ends on this,

and now it's blocking. And speaking of tried and true, the yarn I used, Cascade 220 Heathers, has to be in the same category. This is a last-minute gift for James, to go with the striped scarf I made out of the same colours two years ago (see sidebar). When you're throwing stuff together with only a week until Christmas, you can't take chances.I took Jared's advice and employed Meg Swansen's method for jogless stripes. Worth the effort.
I'm almost at the end of my gift knitting, with time to spare. Sorry, but no peeking. Now it's time to contemplate the stash and think about what comes next.

I'm thinking perhaps about some heavy boot socks with the same horseshoe cables and seed stitch as in Isabel's Murray Jacket...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Call Me Old-Fashioned

We haven't yet put up our Christmas tree. I like to hold off until the 15th, and then leave it up until Jan.6. Call me old-fashioned. The knitting is coming along nicely on schedule, especially since I discovered "Classic Video", a fantastic shop that's been practically under my nose since we moved to Kingston. Not sure how I managed to miss it until now. American readers will probably be unaware that we don't have the same access to video material here in Canada. Our version of Netflix has a truly pathetic collection on offer (due to extremely restrictive rights) and we are geo-blocked from receiving PBS and other US networks directly (even though I can practically see the US across the water!) So, having relatively inexpensive videos available makes the holiday knitting much easier. Sorry, I can't show anything at this point or the secrets-in-progress might get out.
We still don't have any snow, but after 16 years in Washington, DC I've got past any need/desire for the white stuff to put me in the holiday spirit. Maybe I even like a green Christmas so long as there's some holly and ivy. As a knitting substitute, here are glimpses of my neighbourhood to set the mood.

The house we're buying decked with a pretty wreath.
Skaters at the City Hall rink.
Towers and domes.
Tomorrow we'll put up the tree.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Yesterday I was reading the Yarn Harlot's latest post, in which she showed off the latest version of her very handsome men's hat pattern. As I was admiring the beautiful simplicity of a man's hat knitted in cashmere, it occurred to me that I'd never actually heard the term "watchcap" until I came across it in Elizabeth Zimmermann's classic, "Knitting Without Tears". (If you haven't read this, then hop to it!) This is a type of hat I know as a "toque", pronounced "tuke". Then I realized that the whole time I lived in Washington, DC, I'd never heard it called that. So, what's going on with our English language? That's when I turned to this Wikipedia article. I suppose that, growing up in Eastern Ontario/Western Quebec it's only natural that there would be some French language crossover. Interesting, eh?
Walked past the city market on my way to do some errands. Lots of apple cider for sale,

lots of maple syrup too.

The rink was open for business,

but although there was one man getting ready to skate (see under the window on the left?), he was wearing a helmet, not a toque.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Knitting for Male Persons

Knitting quote of the day: from "He Shall Thunder in the Sky": "At least I pressed on him a parcel of food and a nice warm knitted scarf, made by my own hands. My friend Helen McIntosh had shown me how to do it, and I found, as she had claimed, that it actually assisted in ratiocination, since the process soon became mechanical and did not require one's attention."

Sometimes I fantasize about what my life would have been like to have had only daughters. In so many ways, raising males presents challenges. I think of how, when James was a toddler, I had to stuff our books into our bookcases so tightly that he couldn't pull them out and destroy them and how Isabel, his little sister, would, at the same age, gently pull them out, slowly examine the pages, and methodically put them back in place. I'm not into gender stereotyping, but experience suggests some broad differences which stretch beyond what mere individual personality differences can account for. Author Elizabeth Peters is spot-on in her characterization of life with a son, especially in her quartet of novels from "Seeing a Large  Cat" through to "He Shall Thunder in the Sky". She has acknowledged that she based her character of Ramses on her own son and his friends. Still, I'm aware that having an all-female family is not necessarily the road to familial bliss, as my close friend, Mary, mother of four young women, has confirmed.
When it comes to knitting for male persons, author/designer Bruce Weinstein has it mostly right. The young man in my life (my son, James) wants knits that will not stand out, but that will make him look cool while keeping him warm. Examples:

James does not (fortunately) demand easy-care fibres, having been brought up to understand the proper care of handknits. (I still remember the stunned look on the face of a yarn shop owner when then 4-year-old James pronounced, after looking and feeling a skein of yarn, that it probably contained mohair.) Two days ago he asked me for a new sweater for Christmas. Note that at least he has the sense to ask for this in November. So, now I'm thinking about what direction this design will take. I'm looking at photos I like of men in knits and compiling a little gallery to go over with James, so that I can nail down exactly the characteristics he's looking for. I'm tending to think about something in a gansey style, but in a chunky weight of wool, because James says he wants something thick and warm. In knitting for men, there's always a balance to strike between keeping the style understated and the actual knitting interesting. I'm looking at this book for inspiration, and thinking about using this wool.

Of course, that colour choice might be up for grabs, since over dinner last night (baked beans over mashed sweet potatoes, accompanied by fennel salad), James informed me that he might actually like a cream-coloured pullover. Quite a shocking revelation--perhaps his fashion sense is maturing, along with everything else!

BTW, for anyone who wants a simple winter salad, very light and refreshing, here's my recipe, such as it is, for the above-mentioned salad.

Fennel and Apple Salad

1 fennel heart, thinly sliced
1 apple, of a crisp, juicy variety such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Fuji, unpeeled, 
and thinly sliced
¼ c of thinly sliced red onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of lemon juice

Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Use a whisk to emulsify the oil and lemon juice. Toss with fennel, apple and onion. Chill before serving.
If you double it, you'll have enough for lunch the next day; it keeps very well overnight.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looking Ahead

The prototype mitt I'm working on is almost done. It would have been all done, but I had to run out to the Bay (Hudson's Bay Company for non-Canadians) to take advantage of a mattress sale. We've had the same mattress on our bed for 25 years, and it was way overdue for replacement. How do we know that? None of our sheets fitted it properly any longer because its innards had compressed over time, resulting in greatly reduced depth. So, with a replacement on the way, I thought I'd share some views of where we're going. These photos were taken yesterday while briefly in the new house with our agent.

Living room, with enormous window

Master bedroom

View from first floor landing


Third floor bedroom, back of house

Third floor bedroom, front of house

Ship's cabin bedroom

View from ship's cabin room


Back garden
Cherub from the front garden
Appropriate, don't you think, given that we're moving on Valentine's Day?