Thursday, August 30, 2012

The End of Sleep

After some back and forth, our offer on the Victorian pile was accepted late yesterday. Now we are systematically working through the various conditions attached to our offer. Inspection set for Sunday morning. Frantic preparations to show our current house. I keep waking up in the night thinking about all that needs to be done. Forced myself to sit down and calmly knit two rounds on Trellis after lunch. No time for anything more. Now, off to collect the beer cans from James' room and dump them in the recycling bin. He has the next two days off work. Not sure if that will make things easier or worse...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cut Short

Had to leave a sock workshop with the Yarn Harlot in Perth, ON early today in order to return to Kingston to sign offer documents on a house purchase. Yes, we're at it again! This time we decided to make an offer on a Victorian house with two and a half baths (with original clawfoot tubs), five bedrooms, a dressing room, a sunroom, and no parking. Now we're sitting here waiting to hear how our offer has been received. No offer on our current house in the offing. Crazy! No time to write anything more just now, except to say that Stephanie was informative and LOL fun, as usual.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Supervision Required

We're having our bathroom painted. Actually it's being painted, AND the disgusting sliding doors over the tub are being removed and replaced with a shower curtain rod. This is meant to be a quick, relatively inexpensive fix, until we get around to doing a full bathroom reno (which might be years away). Unfortunately, once you get workmen into your house, especially this old house (150+ years old), nothing is quick or easy. This was my second-floor hallway this afternoon,

                                                                 and my stairway.

However much I'd like to leave the house (as Bill has done) and return when it's all over, bitter experience has taught me that all workmen, even the most intelligent, require supervision. Questions inevitably come up, problems must be solved, wanton destruction avoided... You get the picture. On the plus side, I'm loving the new colour (Benjamin Moore CC 150), and the room looks much larger without the impossible-to-clean sliding doors.
The only problem with being the supervisor, is that you never get as much other stuff done as you think you will. I had visions of knitting all day in my breezy sunroom, while the magical transformation was taking place. Instead, there've been so many interruptions that I've had to rip out most of what I did this morning.

 Even so, you can see progress. Compared to Trellis v.1, I've been removing bigger chunks of the contrast colour (burgundy/pink) to keep the two colour families in synch. Kauni is like that. It's a little bit unpredictable, but in a good way. Here's my little collection of removed bits.

I'll probably add them back in at strategic points further on.
In my last post I forgot to show off the glass buttons I picked up in Lake Placid. They're tiny, but real gems.

The violet colour of the top row didn't come out very well in this photo.

These little rosettes look almost edible, don't you think? Yum!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


This post is really just a collection of good things (I sound like Martha Stewart-ugh!)
1. The new Trellis Waistcoat is progressing.

So far, I'm loving the way the burgundy is sliding into soft pink while the periwinkle has moved into turquoise. It's easy to maintain momentum and interest with this project because there's always something interesting happening.
2. Finally, here's a selection of goodies I picked up in Lake Placid.

From right to left: 
a) a wheel of multi-stranded chunky weight wool (some strands of chocolate, some black). Ironically, this was spun in Canada, but I found it in the U.S. Go figure.
b) a couple of balls of the now discontinued Mission Falls 136 to make a new pair of these gloves for Isabel.


She lost one of them at the end of  last winter. They'll look great in cherry red. I know, I know, Mission Falls was a Canadian company, so why did I travel to Lake Placid to buy it? (Because it was there and there's none left here.)
3. Two skeins of  Louet's Kidlin in a jewel-like periwinkle blue. Scarf/shawl in the offing, I think.
4. One skein of Cascade's chunky alpaca. Unbelievably soft and a lovely pearl white with no yellow tinge. Probably will become a cowl for next winter.
5. Here's a closeup of some buttons I found.

There are also some small glass ones made in Vermont, but for some reason I forgot to take photos of them this morning. Another time...
Why haven't I mentioned the yummy roving I'm spinning up? Because I didn't buy it in Lake Placid. It just happened to be on the tray this morning. It's Fractals Roving from Hilltop Fibre. I'll write about it another time...
 On Saturday, my friend Margaret (who will be one of Isabel's computer science profs this year) invited me to attend a performance of the 1812 Overture at Fort Henry. This is part of a Unesco World Heritage Site and a magnificent setting.

Gradually, the sky over the lake grew dark until we were treated to the climax of muskets, canon, and fireworks.
Thanks, Margaret. Great fun.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Trellis, v.2

Taking a deep breath yesterday, I hauled out the Kauni I had set aside for a new Trellis Waistcoat, and began the process of starting in on it.
Step 1: Wind both balls into centre-pull wheels. Kauni comes in tightly wound balls of slightly varying yardage, so tightly wound, in fact, that it's difficult to pull a strand from the centre. However, the main purpose behind the re-winding is that it allows me to see how the colours within each ball are trending. For the winding, I use a tall plastic bin to hold the ball while it bounces around,

and my ball winder.


Step 2: Since I want to have the dark colours of the pink showing simultaneously against the light colours of the turquoise, I have to pull a little of the yarn out of the centre of each wheel until I get to the right point in the colour cycle in each.
Step 3: Cast on. For my size, 36 inches, I need to cast on 223 sts in the dark pink. I insert markers about every 50 sts so that if I'm interrupted (and I was!) I don't have to count all the way back to the beginning. Also, I wind the short end into a yarn butterfly to allow it to re-twist the yarn as I work the longtail cast on. Otherwise, with a delicately spun yarn like this, it's easy for the yarn to unply itself, become weak, and actually break.
Step 4: Start knitting.Yay!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lake Placid, Now and Then

Deb wrote after my last post that she wanted to see my stash enhancement post-Lake Placid, but the truth is that I had my purchases shipped to me here in Kingston and I'm still waiting for their arrival. In the meantime, here are some photos of the village of Lake Placid.

View from the top of the hill entering the village.

View from the top of the hill at the other end of the village.
As you can see, there's a car problem--too many cars trying to funnel down the main street and too few parking places--the eternal problem of most resorts. There's a free shuttle bus that comes by every 15 or 20 minutes, but traffic remains a big issue. We left the car at our motel and walked.
Unfortunately, we ate an indifferent dinner, not having had the foresight to make reservations at a better place, but were treated to a great view anyway.

View of Mirror Lake from our restaurant.
While we ate we watched a swimmer doing lengths (very long ones) from one end of the lake to the other.
For those not engaged in hiking, kayaking, or swimming, shopping seems to be a popular pastime.

Even the shops have that "Adirondack" style (at least the ones not trying to look as though they ought to be in the Alps).
I adore the little library. Very inviting.

The gardens on the hillside next to the library were a lovely surprise in a space that might otherwise be considered useless.

This is a hangover from an older, quieter time.  Probably it looked much the same when my grandparents spent their honeymoon in Lake Placid.

Grampy posing on his honeymoon in October, 1922.
I suspect it's this sense of a lost, simpler era that has much to do with the appeal of the place.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

By Land or by Sea

We're back from a couple of days in Lake Placid, New York. I suppose the timing of our trip was appropriate, given that the Summer Olympics are still on (for a few more hours at least). On Friday, I rented a little Ford Focus and we took off on the Wolfe Island Ferry. Now, you must understand, there is no good way to drive from Kingston to the Adirondacks. Either you drive northeast along the 401 to one of several border crossings (the Thousand Islands at Hill Island, Prescott/Ogdensburg, or Cornwall/Massena) and then crawl along a 2-lane highway through upstate New York, or you island-hop by ferry and crawl along a 2-lane highway through upstate New York. It happened to be raining on Friday, so we opted to try out the ferry route, since driving on the 401 with heavy road spray from massive trucks isn't my idea of a holiday. We chose adventure over speed.
The first leg of the journey on the Wolfe Island Ferry was pretty straightforward. The publicly-funded ferry, which can handle up to 300 passengers, travels from Kingston to Marysville on Wolfe Island in about 25 minutes. (Yes, all these islands are named after British generals.) This is the view of downtown Kingston as we headed out of the harbour.

The tall building with the dome is the City Hall, a nationally recognized historic site. I got out of the car to feel the cool wind in my face and to enjoy the view.

A laker with cargo bound for who knows where.

Wolfe Island in the mist.
After disembarking, we scurried across the island to catch Horne's Ferry over to Cape Vincent, New York. This is when the adventure started. It turns out that Horne's Ferry is a VERY SMALL private ferry, operated seasonally. When we caught our first glimpse of it bobbing up and down on the not insubstantial waves of Lake Ontario, we almost had second thoughts. Then I reminded Bill that the ferry has been operating for a long, long time. We idled in line, paid our fare ($15) and watched while the first vehicle drove aboard. As it took its place at one end of the ferry, the entire vessel sloped to one side, at an angle that had us thinking of the Titanic about to go under. When the second vehicle was backed into place, the angle became even more precipitous. We nervously took our place when it was our turn. That's when the true horror of the situation became apparent. A large van with bicycles attached to its front was next. The ferry attendant, intending the driver to position the van sideways amidships, walked over to the side rail in front of the van just as it drove up and, rather than instructing the driver to pull right up to the rail, he unchained it and let it partially down, as if he were lowering a ramp. This allowed the front of the van, with its jutting bicycles to poke out over the waves while the driver manoeuvred into place. Then, when we thought the ramp would be returned to its upright position after the bicycle van was done, he directed another, even larger van to park with its front poking out over the drink for the entire voyage. This latter vehicle was not secured by anything other than its emergency brake. Yikes!

Fortunately, the day was drizzly, but not terribly windy. Even so, once out on the open lake, the swell grew in height,

and we rolled up and down until Bill said, "Don't talk, I need to concentrate...Does the U.S. Coast Guard know about this?" Not long after, we passed into calmer waters and I was able to stop making plans for how to cope with throw up in a rented car. We drove off, went through a pretty quick border post at a little booth at the edge of the dock, and found ourselves on the main street of Cape Vincent.
The rest of the drive was far less interesting. Upstate New York isn't beautiful until you get well into the mountains. Mostly it's poor, with ramshackle clapboard houses with boarded-up windows and rusty hulks of cars mouldering in tall grass. This is a sort of deep poverty we don't see much on our side of the border, where rural regions are pretty solidly middle-class. It's been five years since we lived in the U.S. and we'd forgotten just how big the divide is between rich and poor. I don't want to sound like a smug Canadian, though. We have the same, if not worse, poverty on our aboriginal reserves.
Finally, we arrived at our destination. Yay!

More about the trip in my next post.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

In Case...

In case I need a new duster for my tabletops and bookshelves, I have one. See?

This is the first of my new stuffed mitts, inside out. Fortunately, it looks much more attractive the other way.

While it may seem odd to be spending time on such a cold weather project at the hottest time of the year, this is the best time, in my opinion, to work on these sorts of little things. They're portable, you can stash them away for emergency gifts, and they'll be ready when you need them some frosty morning a few months from now. Wouldn't it be boring if we didn't have four such distinct seasons?
Not sure whether I'll push right ahead and make the mate to this now. I want to get going on some re-makes of previous designs. For instance, in the coming weeks I plan to knit a version of the Trellis Waistcoat for myself, since I'd quite like to wear it to Rhinebeck in October. Then, I'd also like to re-do the Wakefield jacket in a tweedy green (maybe it could be re-named Irish Moss?) with the same sort of shawl collar treatment I just gave to the Buttonbox Vest--I really like the way the latter shawl collar flares and lies flat around the neck. Also, I want to design and knit "Morrismitts", mittens inspired by the art and craft of William Morris. I'm sure the second stuffed mitten will get done before winter, just not right now. My curiosity has been satisfied, temporarily at least.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Warmer, Thicker, Stuffed!

Time for a little break while I catch my breath from some pattern writing. I'm playing with Robin Hansen's pattern for New Brunswick "stuffed" mitts from her new book, Ultimate Mittens. Bill grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, so there's a bit of a connection, although when he was a boy this type of mitt was probably only known in Newfoundland. I'm using Ella Rae Classic Heather in Colour 111 and Briggs and Little's undyed pencil roving, which comes in a huge wheel (enough for a lifetime of stuffed mitts). Robin's book is something of a reprise of her previous mitten books, but in a much slicker package and with some new material. If you're not a veteran mitten knitter, be prepared to sort out some of the details of these patterns on your own. They're not written out in the same detailed fashion you find in knitting magazines (but not as lacking in detail as Elizabeth Zimmermann's 'recipes').
After some preliminary messing around, I found that I needed to go down a needle size to produce the proper gauge. This method of "stuffing" is easier than inserting thrums in the traditional way and makes nice little hearts all over the mitten.

Here's the inside, showing the fleecy lining.

The roving is so "sticky", for lack of a better word, that it's already felting together. It's hard to describe the thick cushiness of the fabric, but if you live in a part of the world where a single layer of knitted fabric doesn't cut it in January, you might want to give these a try.
P.S. What's with NBC? We've noticed that there's a dearth of live olympic coverage from the U.S. and what's shown in the evenings is heavily edited (not to mention filled with ads). Somehow, it seems disrespectful to the audience. So glad we have the option of watching CTV's live coverage--much more thrilling to see Bolt win the 100 metres as he actually does it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

No Wings!

One of my pet peeves is sleeveless sweaters (vests, in Canadian English) with "wings", i.e. shoulders that stick out. Early on in my knitting career, I undertook to knit an Alice Starmore fair isle vest for Yarns International, my LYS. While I loved the design in general, I was disappointed when I cast off the armholes and discovered that the corrugated ribbing at the tops of the shoulders stuck straight out from my gently sloping shoulders. Note that this was a fairly early Starmore design, and I haven't seen evidence of this sort of lack of shaping in subsequent photos of her designs. Not long after, I came across Meg Swanson's video based on her fair isle vest from Woolgathering #54 (later published in the book Meg Swansen's Knitting), in which she explains how to avoid the wing problem.
It's not difficult. After picking up stitches around the armhole (I do it at a ratio of 3 stitches for every 4 rows on vertical edges and 1 for 1 on diagonals), in the very next round, you simply work some decreases on both vertical edges and again at the top of the shoulder. The number of increases will vary with size and gauge; if your pattern doesn't specify how many, then experiment. It's worth it! See?

Best of all, you get the illusion that you've shaped the top of the shoulder to create a slope without having to do all the work--how can you not like that?
Now, I'm going to take a moment to show off Isabel's first FO. It's "maree", from the Fall 2011 issue of Twist Collective.

What a perfect first sweater, with no borders to pick up! Pretty much my only input in this project was to show Isabel how to eliminate underarm gaps when working from the top down. I wish my first sweater project had turned out this well. Maybe I can talk her into some photos so you can see how beautifully she modified the length to produce a lovely form-fitting result. I'm ridiculously proud.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

'Overdressed': Shopping with Intention

Today's paper copy of the Globe and Mail features an excerpt from Elizabeth L. Cline's book, 'Overdressed' (note that I could not locate this article in the online version of the Globe). In a nutshell, Ms. Cline argues in favour of ditching our addiction to cheap, disposable fashion and spending our money instead on fewer quality pieces that not only last longer, but support designers and labourers with prices that reflect their skill. She argues that "we are all stewards of our clothing, responsible for seeing it through its different phases of life." She points out that we can shift our spending without paying more by shopping less and "with more intention", and she reminds us that as consumers we need to educate ourselves about quality construction and good fabrics, so we know when we're getting our money's worth. Bravo!
One of the side-effects of moving to a pre-Confederation house in Kingston has been that we've had to ditch a lot of our possessions in order to squeeze into a house with small rooms and no closets. This has meant an inevitable culling of our wardrobes. No room for non-essentials. Two years after the move, I find that I have far fewer items, and I'm paying much more attention to what I buy. Before each purchase I ask, "Will I wear this a lot, can I wear this in several different ways, is it well made, how many years will it last?" I'm looking forward to my trip to Rhinebeck next fall just so I can visit Haldora, a shop that perfectly fits this approach to shopping and dressing.
 I do think these same principles can apply to wool purchases. I've always had a passion for classic wools, ones that might seem boring or scratchy to many knitters. I naturally tend to look for wools that have been grown and processed in North America. It's why I love Green Mountain Spinnery yarns and BT's Shelter and Loft. I'm working with Shelter right now. The yarn is airy, elastic, tweedy, all the things I adore. I don't mind having to pick bits of VM (vegetable matter) out of the strands--it's a sign that the wool hasn't been abused by over-processing, and I don't mind having to mail order it because I'm supporting shepherds, a New England woollen mill and Brooklyn Tweed, the company bringing it all to us. I urge you to give it a try, if you haven't already.
Yesterday I had tea with Deb White, who was happy to buy the skeins of Madelinetosh I was trying to unload.

We chatted about knitting, publishing designs, yarn shops, ... Thanks, Deb, for a fun time and great advice.