Monday, December 30, 2013

Wrinkles and All

The trouble with the aging process is that inside, one feels much the same as one did at 26, while outside, wrinkles, blotches, and sagging are taking their toll. At 56, I'm getting braver about posing for photos, but it's not easy. Nevertheless, it may be a month before I get another version of my new design ready to photograph on Isabel, so for what it's worth, here are a few "selfies" of same as modelled by yours truly, wrinkles and all.

I'm calling it "Wheatsheaves". See you in the New Year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Harriet in the Blogosphere

Yesterday I spent a little time browsing the internet to see what you've been up to with "Harriet's Jacket". Although there are only 21 projects showing up on Ravelry, this pattern has been selling extremely well, especially in Germany and Denmark. I located some interesting blog posts from knitters regarding this project. Check out these (you can use Google to help with translation).

One stitch at a time: October 2013

Strikkebibliotekar: En dejlig varm troje 

Strikkebibliotekar: En halv troje

Tichiro--knits and cats

Also, do have a look at some of the great projects on Ravelry here. You can see how the jacket looks on different bodies and in different types of yarn. Seeing what others have done with a pattern is the most exciting part for designers. Are you inspired yet?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Boxing Day and Beyond

I love Boxing Day. I missed it when we lived in the States. Having the day after Xmas as a holiday makes so much sense. It offers a day of quiet to relax, recover, and come down from the high of the Big Day. When I was growing up, we used to go out to the country for a buffet-style lunch with friends--usually soup, bread, and cheese, surrounded by snowy hillscapes. Lovely.
One of the very best aspects of Boxing Day for me is that it is a day without cooking. Especially after the pressure of producing a festive dinner the evening before, it's fantastic to have a day when all anyone need do is open the fridge and throw delicious leftovers into the microwave. Now, the leftovers are mostly eaten and today I'll have to venture forth for some fresh supplies, but I'm ready for action after yesterday's respite.
Yesterday also marked the completion of a new design, as yet unnamed, currently drying on the floor of our library.

It has a kimono shape with a very wide body (12' wider than my actual bust measurement) and relatively short sleeves. When worn with a shawl pin, either at the top of the neck or at the bottom of the front border, the slight crossover causes the whole thing to drape quite attractively. When worn unclosed, the back flares to create a flatteringly graceful line.
This piece is constructed from the top down, starting with a provisional cast-on and short rows. Apart from those two techniques, it is very straightforward and quick to knit. I hope to have it written up, and another one knitted for Isabel to model soon.
In the meantime, while this dries, I'm going to knit up a hat and scarf for James for his New Year's Day birthday. Probably Brig by Veronik Avery. She does wonderful, classic stuff for men. Do check out the whole Brooklyn Tweed Men's book.
We are having a little bit of a melt. Temps still slightly below freezing, but the sun is enough to make life somewhat hazardous, as you can see from this photo out the library window of our eaves.

Hoping you are safe and warm.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Essentials

In this season of ice and cold, with so many Ontarians freezing in the dark, the essentials of Xmas have been boiled down to the very basics--family, warmth, and food. We're fortunate that here in Kingston, we missed the worst of the ice, although yesterday when the sun came out, the terrible beauty of the storm became apparent.

Like diamonds in the sky, and with an eerie rustling, the trees are encased in ice.

Branches down everywhere, as well as whole trees.
Berries suspended in ice.

The path in the park completely buried under a hard-packed crust.
The temperature today is still around -15C, so none of this going away in a hurry. But with heat and electricity still functioning, I have time to enjoy the day and comtemplate the little things that make my day special.
1. Mince meat pie. Veggie version from an old edition of Laurel's Kitchen. I've made it for Xmas desssert every year for at least 20 years.

2. Braised vegetables--turnips (rutabaga for some of you), carrots, celery, and onions, to go with the capon (a turkey is too large for us). The recipe is here.

3. My favourite tea, Buckingham Palace Garden Party, from here.

4. My bright red reversible Tumnus scarf, shown here in Berocco's Ultra Alpaca, cheerful on what is unfortunately a rather grey day, and necessary for staying toasty.

5. A new design almost completed and ready for blocking. It has a very Japanese silhouette, although you can't see that yet, especially in its unblocked and still lumpy shape.

 Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

So Far So Good

It's not yet over. We're experiencing a third wave of precipitation. And it's hard to define exactly what's coming down. It seems to be some sort of combination of rain, sleet, snow, mist, drizzle.... We've been lucky so far. The power went out yesterday night around 10:00 p.m., but then miraculously it returned about ten minutes later. Our previous house had a wood-burning stove just for such occasions. Now, all we have is a fireplace, but I suppose that would be better than nothing. After two days of  this "Texas Low" (so-called by Environment Canada), I got a little stir crazy this afternoon and decided to risk taking a walk downtown to see if anything was open. Actually, I needed to see if Cooke's was open so that I could stock up on a few last-minute must-have stocking stuffers. Cooke's didn't disappoint. Here's how things looked about an hour ago.

See that skater on the left? He knows how to make the best of a bad weather weekend. Stay safe, stay warm.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's Official

It's official. "Knitting is hot" according to Sarah Hampson, in today's Globe and Mail. No mention of some of Toronto's hottest, including the Yarn Harlot and Fiona Ellis, but the article is a good read from an excellent writer. Check it out.
We are having a momentary respite between two ice storms. My bedroom window looks like this.

The back door is glazed shut. The power is still on, but I'm not sure for how much longer. See you on the other side.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Working Out the Kinks

The sweater design I'm working on is a new shape for me. That means that there are more kinks to work out of the pattern than usual. And it means more frogging and more kinky wool to deal with before it can be re-knitted. If you knit something and rip it out soon after, you don't need to worry about this problem--the wool won't have had time to "set" in the shape of the stitches. However, not only did I wait a several days, but I also blocked the piece of knitting in question. So, when I took it all out, it looked like this,

and this.

The solution? First, I wound the frogged wool onto my niddy noddy (you can use a swift to do this if you don't have a niddy noddy, or even the back of a chair),

then I gave it a bath, and hung it up to dry on my trusty music stand.

Trust me, it's worth taking this measures as the knitting and final product will be so much nicer. I'm pretty excited about this garment, which I intend to wear with this shawl pin just received from here.

Why are today's photos so grainy and grey? It's because we're in the midst of an ice storm and we're at the solstice when the light is in short supply to start with. My new (and hideously expensive) beeswax candles are at the ready in case of a power outage,

and I've just sent James out on foot for some last-minute supplies (and instructions to stay safe). I gave him some cash and only just noticed our new polymer ten-dollar bills with transparent sections.

That's supposed to be Sir John A. (our first PM). He looks different for some reason, but I can't figure out why...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Tales

It seems that this is the time of year when there is a lot of knitting to be done in a relatively short period of time. For some knitters, the way through all of this is intensive TV viewing. For me, though, the path is made easier with audiobooks, and this year I've returned to two old favourites with delicious Xmas scenes. Both are by Elizabeth Peters, a remarkable lady, who died just last August. She lived in Maryland and about ten years ago, when we were living in the area, I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the Barnes and Noble in Bethesda. Her Amelia Peabody books, as well as her Vicky Bliss series, got me through some stressful years when Bill was travelling the globe and I was managing the household (through 9-11 and the DC sniper among other harrowing times) on my own. In fact, there is a connection between the two series, which she revealed in her last book, "The Laughter of Dead Kings". While the Amelia books are written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there are moments, particularly in "He Shall Thunder in the Sky", that are quite poignant. The Emerson's holiday celebrations in Cairo of 1914, during the first winter of the Great War, are bittersweet, and the strain of maintaining good cheer is painfully evident. However, the humour is wonderful too, especially when Emerson gives his beloved Peabody a rather unique Xmas gift. "A sword umbrella! Oh Emerson, I have always wanted one!...I rose to my feet, kicking the elegant flounces of my gown aside. En garde!"
These books are among the few that are made even more enjoyable when narrated, at least when done so by the incomparable Barbara Rosenblatt, who over many years managed to take the voice of Ramses from childhood through his emergence as a fully grown man. How she does all the voices and accents of the numerous characters is quite beyond my comprehension! In an interview with both Peters/Mertz and Rosenblatt on NPR, it came to light that Peters eventually came to hear Rosenblatt's characterizations as she was writing. The two had become inextricably intertwined.
Rosenblatt does an equally stunning job with the Vicky Bliss series. Like the Amelia books, they began as an apparent one-off, then morphed in a slightly different direction as Vicky's art thief/lover, John Tregarth, a.k.a. Sir John Smythe entered in the second volume. However, it is the touching Xmas eve Vicky and John spend in the fourth book, "Trojan Gold", huddling for warmth on a mountainside in Bavaria, nibbling on remnants of gingerbread and heating water for tea in a broken flowerpot, that I enjoy listening to most at this time of year.
Both He Shall Thunder in the Sky and Trojan Gold (narrated by Ms. Rosenblatt, of course) are available as unabridged audiobooks. I couldn't possibly get my knitting done without my subscription.
Here are a few suitably wintry scenes from Kingston.


Hard to believe that winter hasn't yet officially arrived.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Time for the Heavy-Duty Stuff

When I woke up this morning the temperature on my I-Pod said -17C. It's now early afternoon and the temp has risen to a balmy -16C. That's about +3F, for my American readers. I was in shock, until I looked at the temps for Ottawa, two hours north and not under the moderating effects of Lake Ontario. There it's -20C (-4F). I know this is Canada, but I just checked with Environment Canada and the normal high for where I live at this time of year is +1C. I'm not sure what's going on, but we've been slammed straight into the middle of winter about six weeks too early.
The only thing I am sure of is that if ever there was a time to drag out all our heaviest-duty knitwear, this is it. Time for layers, and especially for the thick stuff. I'm living in "Petrova", with the cowl buttoned right up.

A lot of the time I add a down vest on top of Petrova and, if I sit down for any length of time I have to throw my MacKay shawl over my knees. It's SERIOUSLY cold! Bring on the thick socks, the steaming mugs of tea, and the hot water bottles.
Undaunted, I'm working away at experiments which are part of a new design.

Can't show you more, unfortunately. Stay warm.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Return of Downton

Downton Abbey returns to PBS this Sunday. To mark its return, I'm planning a re-knitting of my "Downtown" jacket (I'm playing it safe with the name, to avoid any possible copyright issues--it's the former lawyer in me). I made the first jacket just after Season 1, before the show became widely popular. I wasn't trying to copy any of the fashions in the show; I merely wanted to knit an elegant, ladylike jacket that could go to work as easily as it could be worn on a fall weekend at the cottage. Remember this?

My neighbour, Megan, was kind enough to model for me while she was home from university on Xmas break. No snow that December, although I recall that we made up for it in February and March.

How I miss my brick wall that was so useful for displaying knits!

There are two sizes of button on display here. This jacket is ALL ABOUT THE BUTTONS. The original no-sew jacket was knitted in Ella Rae Heather, but this time I want something a bit dressier, so I'm going with Berocco's Ultra Alpaca, a 50-50 wool-alpaca blend. So many colours to choose from. Do you have a fave? Help me choose!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Styling "Harriet's Jacket"

I've noticed, since taking up designing, that knitters seem to enjoy learning about HOW I wear my handknits. It seems there are lot of knitters out there who make stuff but aren't sure how to wear it. Granted, I'm never going to make it onto the style pages of the Globe and Mail, but then we knitters have our own sense of style, don't we? I knit for myself and my family; if something's not getting worn, then there's something wrong with the design, at least as far as I'm concerned. And I like to keep in mind that a handknit doesn't have to be complicated to be a wonderful part of one's wardrobe. Some of the best designs rely on simple shapes done in beautiful yarns.
All this is just a preamble to showing you how I like to wear "Harriet's Jacket". You've probably noticed that I have a fondness for neutrals, and so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I've styled Harriet in shades of grey (with hints of blue).

When you're going for a monochromatic look, it helps to have different textures going on. Here you see the jacket with a crushed velour tunic from Cut Loose and grey bamboo/cotton leggings purchased from Chris Reynolds up in Westport. I have five pairs of these leggings in different colours--they're the best fitting ones for my small stature that I've ever come across. I've added these boots (not the socks--there's such a thing as wearing too much handknitted stuff at once),

and these favourite silver earrings which have an artisanal feel, purchased here in Kingston at Stirling.

Notice how my Fibonacci Neckerchief fills in Harriet's neckline perfectly. My big red bag completes the look.

As you can see, our snow has disappeared, although the temperature remains quite cold. I drove up to Westport (not to buy leggings!) a couple of days ago, and all the lakes were frozen.

Yes, that's ice, not water, in these pics.

Not much to show in the knitting department. That's because I'm working on things for future publication that can't be shown. I can, however show you how my Westport Cowl has grown.