Wednesday, September 10, 2014

fun with charts

The best knitting lesson from my Squam adventure in June? How to read knitting charts, hands down. I've been scared of charts for years, but one class with Franklin Habit demystified those grids and now I can't imagine how I ever attempted lace using written instructions. Oh wait - I didn't.

This cowl is my third lace cowl since camp ended, and I've already started a fourth (Greyhaven, not photographed yet). It might be turning into a chart obsession? But this one is actually my favourite finished garment, though the yarn is partly responsible for that. Quince & Co's new Tern wool/silk blend has a fantastic palette and I just love this colour. It's called Dusk, and it's a smokey lavender that has a slightly heathered effect. I thought the silk would make it softer to handle, but even so, it's very comfortable to wear. And with this cool summer I've already had plenty of opportunity to wear it (and so has Sadie). The pattern is Undersea Garden and the fact that the lace creates a bias twist on the cowl is part of the charm, but what I really like is the distinct design at the top. Most often lace cowls are just topped with garter ridges, so this is a nice departure.

My summer reading has been a bit slower, partly because I've chosen books that I never felt I could devour. I enjoyed Terry Fallis' No Relation, though it was a little slow moving for me. But the question it raises is so interesting: if you were stuck with the same name as someone famous (or infamous), how would it affect your life? I quite liked the characters and especially liked the opening scene set in a NYC advertising agency. As my first novel for the 8th Canadian Book Challenge, it was a great fit.

For more knitting and reading wrap-ups, visit today's Yarnalong.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

summer shawl

There was a point before Squam when I thought I could knit a whole shawl before leaving. It was an impossible idea, but at least it moved this project along. And now it's done, blocked and ready to wear (by who remains to be seen...Sadie quite liked wearing it for the photos).

The pattern is Vintage Bouquet by Dani Sunshine though I completely skipped the beautiful lace edging. I actually chose the pattern for that detail but eventually realized it wasn't really my style, whereas stripes with a solid garter edging totally is. Plus I'd knit way past the intended stitch count and I didn't feel like doing any math. The bonus? It was much easier to finish. As for the wool, I mixed Grignasco Jguaza that I picked up at Rosehaven Yarn Shop in Picton last summer with Cascade Heritage Silk. Even though they are quite different yarns they work well together and I love the colour combo. The Grignasco looks grey indoors but it's actually a soft lavender in natural light. The resulting fabric is drapey thanks to the heavier Grignasco, but soft because of the Cascade. And it also blocked nicely.

I kicked off my summer reading with something really light and entertaining. I often forget that we need these books as much as we need light movies (how else do you justify watching The Hangover 3?). The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen was fun, fast and really the most perfect break from the stream of heavy novels I've been consuming. Summers are meant for a good dose of magical realism, not to mention characters who see silver sparkles when the scent of baking is in the air.

For other tales of knitting and reading, visit today's Yarnalong.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Books and yarn are piling up, which is never a bad thing.

There was a vendor fair the last evening of Squam where I happily picked up some wool from Kelbourne Woollens. It's hard to find in Canada, so it was a great opportunity. I got enough Acadia for a poncho project, and already I love the yarn. The colour (what's with purple these days?) is a bit risky for me, but the tweed effect makes for a great texture in simple stockinette. Immediately after Squam I was in Manhattan for a work conference. My one and only personal errand was to hop on the subway and visit Purl Soho. I could have stayed there all afternoon. Actually, I could have lived the rest of my life there. The wool, fabric and notion selection is straight up perfection. My limited time meant I had to make quick decisions, but I'm pretty happy with my picks. Linen and gingham, and yummy yarn choices - though ironically, four skeins are Koigu, which is totally Canadian. But that soft grey/purple semi-solid? I've never seen it on this side of the border.

On the reading front, I am way behind with my (really brief) reviews. This pile goes back to April but it also represents finishing up this year's Canadian Book Challenge. I met the author of Elephant in the Sky - such a smart, amazing woman! - and was eager to pick up her newest novel. Truthfully, I get a little distracted when I recognize location references because the novel is set entirely in Toronto, but the exploration of childhood mental illness is so heart-wrenching, the story just sucks you in. It's based on a true story, which makes it especially shocking and poignant. The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson was a little more slow-going. I really enjoyed Crow Lake, but this story took longer to develop and of the four books, it definitely took me the longest to get through. Little Bee by Chris Cleave kept my emotions on alert all the way through, and I actually put it down one night because I couldn't handle the possible outcome to a scary, missing-child situation. And the ending, well, I'm still numb from it. But The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Stedman was easily my favourite. It's been on my wish list for a while, yet I had to summon courage to tackle it. It's an impossible scenario - taking in a baby that magically appears, and raising her for a few years, but eventually realizing there is a mother mourning that child's loss. The storytelling laid the character's emotions bare, and it was hard to get through but entirely compelling at the same time. The story still lingers with me.

For more tales of knitting and reading, visit today's Yarnalong.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

squam love

I don't know how to be brief about such an amazing adventure. Where to start? What to share? How to truly explain the experience?

The idea of attending a Squam Art Retreat seemed fanciful, unrealistic, something other people did. For years my job had a direct conflict the first week of June, and anyway, who travels to New Hampshire alone to attend camp with strangers? Well, it turns out I do. 

With the job conflict out of the way, I decided that making the trek to Squam Lake was a great way to mark turning 40. The retreat sold out the day of registration but I put myself on the waiting list and magically a spot opened up. Then a carpool from Boston involving 4 women named Jen and a minivan fell into place. In the first awkward hours I met my roommate and realized that we were both there to celebrate turning 40. By the next day we were giggling about our identical, hand sewn wardrobe, comparing notes on knitting patterns and gentle sons. Our cabin was full of wonderfully warm and welcoming women, and together we spent the evenings sitting around the fire, needles moving, laughing at stories and the occasional knitting performance art video. There was canoeing, learning, drawing, great food, quiet moments on the dock, and most of all - this amazing sense of belonging. I was surrounded by strangers, but they felt like home.

As I hear myself telling people now about this recent adventure, it's clear how much of an impact Squam has had on me. Restorative? Oh yes. Inspiring? Absolutely. Full of amazing, talented people who are a joy to meet? Most definitely. There's a Squam high that I'm riding, and it's a feeling that I can't quite put into words.

But one thing is for certain: I've started plotting my return. Turning 41 is worth marking too, right?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

the colour of comfort

There has been something about turning 40 (which happens tomorrow, whether I want it to or not) that has compelled me to make things for friends near and far. And the elegant, but comfortable shawl has become my go-to thing to make.

This simple red version is for someone who has been very dear to me since we met at overnight summer camp 26 years ago. We weren't from the same town, but happened to meet again at a different overnight camp two years later (it was an arts camp for our school region). And shortly after that we moved to Kingston, starting our BFA at the same time and living in the same residence. Ours was destined to be a lifelong friendship! We've lived together, sewn together, run a business together. And the most magical thing is that we were born on the same day. It's pretty neat to wake up every May 1st as excited to wish my best friend happy birthday as it is to celebrate my own. I'm so thankful our 14-year-old selves crossed paths.

Kristen lives a province away and so this shawl is in the hands of Canada Post. Red has always been a shared favourite colour and when I saw this wool I knew it was perfect for her. The yak down/cormo blend has a lovely smell (where does that come from?) and the semi-solid is nice and subtle. After blocking the shawl, it was everything I had hoped for: a warm, red, wool hug.

Travelling in the same package is a little lavender sachet with some small scale cross-stitch that made my eyes hurt (clearly they know I'm turning 40). Shawls and sachets - I feel like we could all use them in our lives, whatever age we are.

I'll catch up on reading reviews next week - starting with The Light Between Oceans. I finished it last night with a few tears and a sad heart. I need time to digest it!

For more stories from other knitters and readers, visit today's Yarnalong.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

grey skies

Another shawl, another gift. This time Veera Valimaki's Blackcurrant Shawl using two skeins of Rhichard Devrieze's fingering weight wool. I rarely use fingering but it's really surprising how far it goes. The pattern was simple but interesting, creating a fun, drapey shape at the front. The semi-solid colourway of the wool is sophisticated and I imagine the merino will soften over time. The colour suits this elongated winter perfectly - not to mention the eye colour of the recipient! - but hopefully some warmer weather will appear soon to inspire a brighter shade for my next knitting project. I won't count on it though. 

And more books! These two novels took place on opposite sides of the world, in different time periods - but even so, I can't say which I preferred more. Linda Olsson's Sonata for Miriam was characteristically sad, but a little less haunting than her Memory of Love. Olsson tells such an emotional story full of rich and heartbreaking characters. In this case a father loses his daughter but in the process of healing finds a way back to his real family and eventually the mother of his child. From Australia to Poland to a lonely island in Sweden, it was a tough but really memorable journey. Sally Armstrong's The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor starts with a journey, but once the main character makes her way to Canada the bulk of the story happens in the young country. The novel takes place in the late 1700's/early 1800's and the description of life in that time period was fascinating. Armstrong has written about her great-great-great grandmother but even with liberties, she created a realistic, formidable character. I loved Charlotte, her gigantic family, the true love of her life Wioche and the rough, developing landscape of New Brunswick.

For more knitting and reading suggestions, visit today's Yarnalong.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

boneyard and books

At the beginning of every year, in the depths of winter, I seem to struggle finding the right knitting project. Start and abandon, start and abandon, start and abandon. Finally I had to choose something and just see it through. So I picked up a Boneyard shawl that I started ages ago and finished it. Phew.

This wool took a bit to get used to. The plies really separate and since it's cotton there is no bounce at all. But the colour - which is why I bought the Americo in the first place - is really lovely, and the cotton makes the shawl drape nicely. Now that it's finished I'm really pleased with it and I hope it's helped kick my project rut.

I haven't been abandoning books though. Each one in this stack was wonderful in its own way. Farley Mowat's Owls in the Family was probably my favourite of the four. I read it with the kids at bedtime and it's utterly charming. We learned so much about owls and Mowat is such a fantastic storyteller. My other Canadian read, Mary Lawson's Crow Lake, started out as a tough, heartbreaking story but the character development was so strong that I stayed up late into the night to find out what happened to the compelling siblings from northern Ontario. I heart rural Canadian landscapes and exploring family relationships. Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending left me somewhat indifferent but like all the theories that sprung up with True Detective, it was fun to read people's reactions to the novel's ending and their take on the narrator's trustability. I may have enjoyed that more than the novel itself! And finally, Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette? was really fun, but a little painful too. Any story about women disappearing into marriage and motherhood is tough to read. But the characters, the dialogue, the time spent in I said, really fun.

For more stories about knitting and reading visit today's Yarnalong.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

catch up

There's no such thing as too many cowls. Also - there's no such thing as too many knitted gifts. Combine these two thoughts and that's exactly what this cozy seed cowl is all about. Using Sweet Georgia's Superwash Chunky in a stormy grey semi-solid colour way, all that I have left to do is wrap up the garment and send it across the country to an old friend.

As for a reading update, I've been on a great run of fantastic novels and The Memory of Love was no exception. I loved Linda Olssen's Astrid & Veronika a few years back, but worried that my expectations might be too high. I shouldn't have worried - this novel was similarly quiet with a pace and storyline that was incredibly compelling. Marion, the main character, has a painful past stretching all the way back to her difficult childhood. Olsson reveals Marion's past slowly, taking us through her memories while we're getting to know Ika, the young, troubled boy that Marion feels uncharacteristically driven to protect. The parallel stories have equal parts despair and hope, but there's something so crisp and thoughtful about Olsson's writing that the despair never takes hold. I love her writing style so much, I ordered Olsson's other novel right after finishing. My expectations are likely even higher now but I don't think I'll worry this time.

For more knitting and reading stories, visit today's Yarnalong.

Friday, February 21, 2014

best room in the house

After a long week at work I'm crossing my fingers tomorrow brings what I consider to be the perfect Saturday morning: we have nothing to do, the sun shines into our basement studio, and we hang out in our pyjamas making things.

The flood and our collective eagerness to use the basement has kept me from taking any decent "after" pictures of the finished reno. Fabric, supplies and taped up drawings quickly took over and we still haven't brought our rug back in (the poor thing is rolled up in the garage until I figure out how to clean the groundwater out of it). If you look closely you can see the wonkiness in the flood-damaged floor, but it no longer bothers us - we've decided to live through another spring/summer before replacing it so that we can feel confident last summer's flood truly was a freak occurrence.

Basically we love this space. Everyone has their own desk, I have a cutting table and a fabric stash I can see, and if one of us goes down there it inspires others to follow. Milo has been drawing more, Sadie types up her stories and we generally make a mess. The mess might not be photo worthy but it's just what we hoped for way back when. We have the room to be creative and if the sun shines tomorrow, that's exactly where we'll be.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

back in time

The sewing bug came back this week, but instead of clothes I actually sat down and made a doll. Which I don't think I've done in...years? It's funny, because dolls were kind of my thing back in 2005 when I started this blog. I just haven't been thinking dolls. Until last Friday. And then suddenly a little bunny emerged.

Like the Bundlies I made so many years ago, I imagined a doll wearing a snowsuit so just the face would be exposed. I'm Canadian through and through - everything I make has to do with keeping warm.  But this time, instead of little children, why not an animal? I thought having ears popping out could be fun. And it was - it really, really was. Using up small bits of wool to make tiny scarves is pretty fun too, so there's a good chance I'll keep going.  There's an almost finished fox waiting patiently on my work table.

Speaking of Canada, I've finished another novel for this year's challenge. The Emperor of Paris by CS Richardson was wonderful. Much like Richardson's other novel, the lyrical, fairytale quality of his writing really appeals to me (that this tale took place in Paris was pretty magical too). The cast of characters were charming: storytellers who couldn't read, booksellers who couldn't sell, bakery assistants who couldn't see. It's a tale of love and destiny, art and literature. I only wish I hadn't exhausted Richardson's catalogue already.

For more reading and knitting take a peek at this week's Yarnalong.