Saturday, September 19, 2009


In my last post, almost a month ago, I said I love summer. And I do. But I also love Autumn, which seems to bring with it a sense of completion, a kind of closure almost (somehow, even here in Montreal we are aware however vaguely of the harvest), and all feels calm, secure, comfortable. Last fall found me on the highway quite a bit, and I loved watching the trees turn. This year, I will watch from the heights of the Adirondacks.

Hence the new hiking books. Dunno what
happened to the old ones. The ssports guy who helped me select the new ones said the old ones are still in great condition, ready to do quite a few more hikes before I retire them, but for some odd reason, they do not fit. Too small. Do feet grow even at my age? Can hiking boots shrink? how very odd ...

Here are the new ones. Lowa Topeka, in burgandy. These, my friends, are BOOTS! Providing my feet don't go through another growth spurt (or that hiking up some waterfall doesn't shrink my new boots) these should last a while. And they feel great. I got smart socks to go with them. Can't believe I've been wearing dumb socks all this time. Who knew?!

Friday, August 21, 2009


Pictures of the flowers that appeared on my hibiscus this week.

And of the lemon plant I've started from seed... I love summer ;-)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Molasses in August

It's hot. Very, very hot. Muggy hot.

It's also sunny, so I won't complain. Or at least I won't complain much. I don't do muggy heat very well. My aunt Aileen once said that when it gets muggy hot like this it feels like she has molasses running through her veins, and I love that description. I love it because of the way it conjures up images of what it's like to try to move about and be functional in this weather when everything gets thick and heavy and sludgy. And I especially love how that image recalls and yet contradicts the more traditional saying -- "as slow as molasses in January".

At least it's not raining.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Inspired by Jessica's blog, here are my lists for this week...

reading: Snow Crash by neal stephenson, a novel that blends ancient sumerian texts and biblical myths with cyberpunk in a crazy careening ride into the not-as-distant-as-we-once thought future. Stephenson makes his readers work a bit, but the ride is worth the effort.

And because it's now a bit too hot and muggy and the air too thick for too much work right now, I'm also reading a summer detective fiction by Louise Penny. The Murder stone, set in the woods of Quebec.

knitting: it's a surprise, so I can't tell you but here's a peak... (I'll post more about that square and what's happening with it later)

I also have some rather beautiful blue lace-weight silk that's waiting to be turned into something wonderful as soon as I settle on which pattern is most appropriate. I have never worked with lace-weight silk before, and find I am in no rush to start working something. I am looking at a lot of patterns, imagining how it would if I were to choose something as dramatic as Aeolian Shawl or something more flowing, like Shipwreck or maybe a stole, like Hillflowers. I like the unworked silk so much I'm a little reluctant to start working with it in case I find that either my knitting or the pattern I finally settle on does not do it justice...

eating: blueberries, green beans, and freshly picked peas, which I've been eating right out of the shell the past few days because they are so good, so green and so fresh! Yum.

weekend plans: vacation, which starts on Monday, and will involve waterfront and trees, and hopefully more fresh peas!

listening: Storm Front by Jim Butcher (a novel, not music) the first novel in the Dresden Files series. It's what reviewers call "hardboiled" detective fiction, only the PI is actually a wizard. But Harry Dresden ain't no Harry Potter. It's quite snappy and smart, complex and also quite fun. It's read aloud by James Marsters who, as it turns out, is an excellent reader.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Now we're talking!

I’ve been watching events unfold in Iran through twitter for the past two days and have been marveling at the experience. I’m reading reports from the street, seeing photographs and videos right after they’re being taken, hearing how the people closest to the situation are thinking and feeling about what’s going on, and also getting a look at how these events are affecting others. A mosaic of thoughts, opinions, images, sounds.

And I’m blown away by the role technology is playing. Each time the Iranian gov’t shuts down one avenue for communication, another pops up. They can’t stamp it out. They can’t completely silence the voices or stop the flow of information.

And just now, this tweet: @sarahjsmith I CANNOT wait for next semester to start so we can discuss the #Iranelection in my Middle Eastern Politics class...!!!!!

Her tweet strikes me for a number of reasons, but primary among them is the fact that there is no question in her mind that #iranelection will be discussed, and there is no question that the discussion will be fruitful. And she’s EXCITED just at the prospect of engaging in that discussion!

What’s happening on Twitter is, to me, more profound then what’s happened with other social networking tools so far. This is immediate. It’s accessible. It’s all in one spot. It’s entirely democratic. It can’t be stopped until all power sources in Iran and anywhere near Iran are completely turned off. How likely is that?

The times they are a changin’

edited to add link to a post in The Atlantic about how to sift through all the noise coming through in the various threads about Iran. Quite useful...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Autumn Arbor is blocking...

And here it is! I decided to block it in my spare room. I laid down a couple cotton blankets and laid a flat white sheet on top of that. I washed the shawl very, very carefully then wrapped it in a towel for about a half hour so the towel could soak up some of the water.

I then laid out the shawl (also carefully) and did not stretch it out right away but instead started at one end, pinned out the end and then started down the sides. I worked my way down the sides together, pinning down 7 points on one side, then 7 on the other, stretching the body in between. It didn't take quite as along as I had expected. About 45 minutes. I used up all but one of my blocking pins (I think the box comes with 200 but am not sure). The shawl is some 95 inches long. In fact, my spare room is quite cozy, so the shawl is actually laid out so that it goes just a bit into the actual doorway.

It'll dry fast. I was actually worried that the unpinned end would dry before I got it all pinned out, but it didn't. I'll leave it there for at least 24 hours, maybe longer. I cannot wait to unpin in and see how it looks.

I do love knitting lace!

In with the new!

I am such a knitter...

On Wednesday, I finished knitting Jen's wedding shawl, wove the two pieces together (though I must say I'm a better knitter than weaver and will have to work on that skill), but it being late at night and pinning it out would take hours (well, at least 1.5 hours, plus I'm not sure where I'll block it just yet...) I decided to do it on the weekend.

The next night I started experiencing knitting withdrawal so rummaged around in my collection of current projects. Most of what's there are unfinished winter projects: Nordic Mittens, Autumn socks... but I re-discovered Hoshiko from Rowan's Bamboo Tape Collection, which I'd also started in March and which is surprisingly close to being completed. So close, in fact, that yesterday I finished knitting the body. I would have kept going, but I discovered it needs a 5 mm crotchet hook as it has a deep crocheted edging. I, unfortunately, do not have that size hook and so could not go much further since yarn stores don't tend to be open at 11 pm on a Saturday evening.

So, I pulled out some yarn I bought last spring and started working on the bottom band for Bella Blouse. Did two repeats before calling it a night.

Just goes to show you can't stop the knitting force. It's got a life of it's own. This is why we have stashes and several projects on the go at once. It's so you never, ever, get stuck without a project!

Monday, May 18, 2009

My M.O.B. dress

I've been actively shopping (and thinking about shopping even longer) for a dress to wear to Jen's wedding. I equate dress shopping with bathing suit shopping, i.e. no fun at all. Not because of the wedding. Not at all. I'm looking forward to the wedding itself. It's the business of trying to look appropriate at the wedding that is proving to be such a huge challenge. And it didn't help that when I was seeking advice from co-workers about where to shop, one of them said, 'Oh, you have to find MOB dress! Well, good luck with that!" MOB? I asked? "Mother of the Bride dress," she said.

I hadn't realized there was a particular style of dress one must wear when one is the mother of the Bride. And I truly had not realized it was the kind of dress that had it's own acronym. And what an acronym!

Despite all that, I had bravely made a couple attempts to find a dress earlier on with little luck. I'd found beautiful dresses (most of which did not fit or weren't quite dressy enough and some were just too dressy or simply not my style) and I quickly discovered that most salespeople and I have have very different ideas about what the mother of the bride should wear (though the horrible acronym began to make sense....). I'd found horrible dresses which I'd not even bothered to try.

With time growing short (the wedding is June 4th) I'd set aside the entire Victoria Day weekend to find a dress, and just to make sure I had enough time, took Friday off as well. That, I reasoned, would give me 4 days. Surely I could find a dress in 4 days!

Well, as it turned out I shopped for a bit Friday morning then met a friend for lunch. I confided my shopping woes to her as we ate and she began listing stores: "Have you tried ......? How about .....?" I had tried them all, with the results described above.

Then my wise and delightful friend suggested a store I'd not ever visited. Ever. So right after lunch I went there, and lo and behold.... After trying on several disasters, I found one that was actually pretty good! I'm not sure about rather large mum-like flower pined to the center of the front, but the salesladies seemed to think it was perfect for a wedding event. And especially perfect for a MOB dress.

The salesladies (yes, there was more than one "helping" me select, try on, and display the four dresses I ended up trying on at the shop--they, of course, loved each and every single one. I, however, liked only the one. The others were described as making me look "sophisticated" which may well be the case, but they certainly looked nothing like anything else I'd ever worn or even imagined or hoped to wear). I love this dress. It's silk. It has flirty little layers that make it fun to wear. It has a removable little jacket, and can be easily dressed up or dressed down so it's even something I can wear over and over. I love it!

Anyway, back to my point... the salesladies suggested I needed black pearls to wear with this dress. I'm not sure I've ever seen black pearls, but I dutifully went to a few jewelry stores to see if they had any and quickly realized that pearls of any colour were a little more costly than what I was imagining my own self wearing! But then I found this beauty:

pewter and pearls...
This photo does not do them justice, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder so you might not be as smitten as I, but I LOVE this necklace and like the dress, can see that I'll wear it many times over.

I even have the perfect pair of sandals. Black strappy affairs, that are somewhat gladiator-like so they're in perfect style, but not so gladiator-like that they can't be worn when the current fad is over. And I have a little silk clutch, to boot.

As it turns out, I did not need 4 days. I only needed one good friend and one afternoon!

... now all I have to do is finish the Bride's shawl... (one and a half repeats left, then weave the middle seam, then block. By gosh, I think I'll make it!) ...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring! Everywhere spring!

I just came back from a long ramble around Outremont and noticed, much to my delight, that there are buds and blooms starting up all over: I saw crocuses, leaf buds on small hedges and bushes, green shoots from all kinds of bulbs pushing up all over.

When I got home, I found two more delights! First, the hibiscus I have that stays green year round had bloomed it's first flower of the season. How wonderful is that! The flower is so high up I hadn't even noticed the bud. A complete and rather wonderful surprise.

That inspired me to get take a closer look at
another hibiscus I have, one that loses it's leaves in fall and grows them back again in spring, and lo and behold, it's got buds all over! I truly wasn't sure what that plant was going to do come spring since this is my first spring with it. I can't wait to see how it greens up...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

All that we eat

Reading the Heart of the Buddha's Teaching this morning and am particularly struck by the section on the four nutrients. The first is familiar enough: all that we eat. I particularly like the way that Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that it's not just the actual food itself we need to think about, it's the whole machinery behind it. How is that food grown, harvested? What happens to it then? How do all those processes affect other people, other species? How does it affect the land in which it is grown, the nearby streams and water sources? What impact might all of this have on future generations? If we're harming others in the process, then we're not just eating the food, we're eating away someone else's life, someone else's future? Are we creating suffering in the process of eating?

The second nutrient comes through all that our senses consume: our eyes, ears, skin, nose, and our minds. The things we read, the music we listen to, the sights and sound and smells we encounter every day. Are these things creating suffering in us, in others? or are the helping to ease suffering?

The third is our intention, volition, our will. What is it we want? what are you aiming for? what's your ambition? Think carefully, is that thing you're working towards going to add to your suffering, or will it ease it? this morning I'm thinking of this one as the "be careful what you wish for, you'll probably get it" kinda thing.

And the fourth is consciousness. And this, I think, is the hardest to understand but in some ways the most important. I'm not sure I fully understand it, but it goes something like this: Our consciousness comes from our history, our family's history, our social and cultural history. Without developing some kind of awareness of what that consciousness is, we cannot hope to understand why we do the things we do. That consciousness isn't fixed. It's a fertile ground. It develops and grows and shifts and changes. What we need to be thinking about is what seeds are you sowing in your mind with your thoughts? Are you sowing compassion, love, equanimity in your own consciousness? Or are you sowing greed, hatred, ignorance, fear, distrust for yourself?

These teachings are having an amazing affect on me. It will take probably the rest of my life to really be able to live them, but the more I read the more I feel as though I'm coming home. I have read all this before, but it's resonating in new ways now. I'm not sure why, exactly, but it all deeply reassuring. Time for work, now. Let's see what nutrients I take in today.

Monday, April 6, 2009

One foot in front of the other

Towards the end of my stay in Pullman WA, I hooked up with a Tibetan Buddhist group (Golden Blue Lotus Tara Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center) and I loved a lot of what the group was all about. I loved the walking meditation, the chants, the sitting meditations, the discussions. I did a lot of reading outside that group as well, and found that the writings of Thich Naht Hanh resonated deeply for me. The concepts behind the Eightfold path just made so much sense ...

As much as I appreciated (and still do) what the Blue Lotus Tara group had to give, I gradually found that I was more interested in talking about how to follow the Eightfold Path than I was interested in other aspects (like repeating long sutras) that seemed to me a lot like the kinds of liturgies I had to repeat or listen to as part of my Roman Catholic upbringing. I didn't want to repeat long sutras unless that was followed by a discussion about why we were reading it, what I should get out of it, how to apply that to my own life. I gradually slipped away from the group, and shortly after moved from the area entirely.

But more and more lately I find myself looking at my life and wondering if this is all there is. I keep asking myself why I'm here, and I don't just mean this city or in this job, though those are really good questions too. And the fact that I'm finding it necessary to ask those questions suggest to me that I'm not on the right road just yet, not on the right path. I've been feeling close to a crisis point over these questions. They are authentic, not just academic or philosophical. More and more I feel I am not living an authentic life, and that knowledge is highly unsettling, discomforting, and lately, quite intolerable.

After months (nay, more like a couple years) of asking myself this, I have been reminded of how deeply Thich Naht Hanh's teachings touched me, and so I looked on my bookshelf, and yes, there it was: The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings. I pulled it out and began re-reading and what can I say? It's like coming home again.

And after re-reading only the four noble truths this weekend, I felt a shift in my world. The lens got a bit clearer, the world a bit more vivid and real, my feet more firmly planted on the ground and my burdens so much lighter. My life is not "fixed" yet, my world is not all that it could or should be. But it's that much closer to working for me for anyone else who ends up getting entangled in it's periphery.

Even I was surprised, though, when I realized part way through the day that I was having moments of contentment and quiet, even happiness. And on a Monday, no less, a day that is always full of meetings and politics and all the usual busy craziness of my work. Something has clicked and shifted in my world. I didn't walk the path fully, but did totter along a trajectory that got close, and I recognized when I was straying off of it a little too far and took notes (literally!) and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I was able to release some of my habit energy, to let go of some of the stuff I tend to cart around. I'm sure to bump into it all again soon, but hopefully I'll be able to resist the urge to pick it up.

It feels good. It feels like home. And like Dorothy says, there's no place like home. I hope I find a way to stay for awhile. I like it here.

Meanwhile, those questions aren't going to go away, but at least now I'm heading toward a path that will help me investigate them and come up with some answers about what I need to do next to ensure I live an authentic life.

Time's a-wasting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

stranger in a strange land

Panopticon raises an issue that has been coming up for me a lot lately. I can think more incidents than I'd like to where different realities have collided or even just bumped into one another, and where no clear interface or connection could be found. I've recently experienced and/or heard about heartbreaking situations where two or more people come from such different spaces that their words, instead of connecting people, hold them apart at worst or simply fail to convey a shared meaning at best.

We each of us create our own life stories, our narratives, our mythologies. We create them out of our familial and social and all sorts of other contexts. They give us something to structure our lives by, and to use as a framework for interpreting and understanding the world around us. It's not always easy to see what those frameworks are and even when we do, we can't always work with someone else's. We can see why the gaps, we can even see how they got to be there, but even then we can't always bridge them.

And just as I'm about to be overwhelmed by it all (how can we achieve world peace when we can't bridge gaps between friends, family, colleagues, two strangers on a train?) I'm reminded of that truism: we all live alone, together. So, I'm not alone in feeling disconnected at times: others feel that lack of connection too. I'll bet that most of the time when I'm feeling disconnected from someone or a group of someones I'm interacting with, one or more of them feels the same way and like me, they are puzzled or even frustrated by it and maybe sometimes we each feel saddened or even angered by it. Maybe I can't always bridge the gaps between me and the people I meet or even all the people I love, but I can try to make experiencing those gaps less stressful by remembering I'm not alone in experiencing it. That others do too and are probably having very similar reactions to it. Maybe I can help ease the discomfort that sometimes arises when those gaps become visible by recognizing my personal narrative is but one reality at play, and if can behave with right speech and right action, it'll be less painful, less discomforting. And maybe I can simply just recognize why sometimes I succumb to my own narrative and in recognizing how that happened, I can learn more about how to disentangle myself from my own stories.

The problem is, I'm not very good at right speech or right action, I'm very much a novice. But Panopticon's post came to me when I needed the reminder that I'm not alone in this the most. It resonated with me, reminded me to strive for right speech and right action.

And for that, I am grateful to him. Thank you, Franklin, for your words and for being there and for sharing yourself and for creating a space where people can connect. You make a difference.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wedding Shawl

"The" shawl to date. I've completed 1.25 repeats. It's a 40 row repeat over some 125 sts plus and additional 6 -12 on each side for the edging. I will do 16 repeats, then put these stitches on a holder and repeat the process again. Each half will measure approximately 40 inches. When they're both done, I will weave the two halves together. That join will form the center, so that both sides fall to the front allowing the pattern to be the same on both sides. The pattern is a one way pattern, which means if I don't knit it two halves the way I've described, you'd have one straight end (like the one you see here on the needles) and one with the lovely scallops, like you see at the lower end in the picture. The idea is to have scallops at both ends. I'm not sure I've explained that well, but I hope it's clear. I must say I'm happy with how it's turning out. I find there's always a certain period of uncertainty about a lace or cable project until the pattern actually makes itself visible.

I do love watching the pattern emerge: I think that's a big part of what I find so enjoyable about knitting lace or cables or colourwork. Seeing the pattern take shape and then grow out of simple manipulations of those loops of yarn held on a pointy stick just never fail to fascinate and enchant me. We do these things, we human beings. We take rock and find ways to drag it about, to cut into it and shape it and pile it one on top of the other in majestic columns, graceful arches... and we take colour, add it to various medium so it's smearable and then we do just that, we smear it onto canvas, wood, and other surfaces so we can express our thoughts and feelings and observations of the world around us. Knitting is like that, for me. It's the looping of long string over point sticks, and manipulating those loops in ways that represent waves or sky or simply just re-create sensations of calm (like the rippling cables in the sweater-wrap I knit earlier this winter) or, like this shawl, representations of core elements like leaves or waves, and in a medium that is light and airy, and blending those things together so that we feel both grounded and elevated when looking at it.

I subscribe too much to a knitted object, perhaps. But then again, maybe I don't. The yarn is so fine (lace-weight, baby alpaca) it sometimes feels like I'm knitting a frothy cloud, and until I block it, that's pretty much what it looks like. But when I smooth it out so the pattern becomes visible, I see leaves (it is called Autumn arbour, and so is meant to evoke images of falling leaves) but it also reminds me of waves, perhaps because the wedding I am knitting it for will be held on a ship in the Halifax Harbour. Weddings are, by definition, frothy and fairy tale events. But they are also foundations for many families and for our society.

I wasn't thinking all this when I started knitting this shawl, nor am I always thinking about it while I'm knitting. These thoughts are too weighty and would add a heaviness to both the process and the shawl that neither can bear. But every once in a while, when I pause to look at it, these are the sensations that hoover in the very back of my mind, and while I won't often pull them to the forefront in the same way I have now, I'm glad they're there.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The sweater that was doomed

All done... seams sewn, ends woven in, buttons sewn on. I discovered when I was done that I'd forgotten to make button holes, so I did a crotchet slip stitch up the side that should have had button holes and made loops through which I could look the buttons at all the appropriate places.

It still doesn't fit (just like it's predecessor knit of the same yarn but using a different pattern), but I like it anways!

After all, it's a Norah Gaughan design. What's not to like?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rainy wednesday

View of my sitting room, looking out onto a very rainy neighbour- hood. The weather man is promising high winds as well.

A day to stay indoors and read and knit and listen to soft music.

I'll entertain that fantasy for just a bit longer before I go leave this quiet space and get dressed and ready to head out into the elements.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I finished "unknitting" the sweater I knit last month and that ended up being too big, re-rolled all the yarn and knit an entirely new sweater. New pattern, different size, fresh new beginning. I just finished it, blocked it, sewed most of it together, and added the collar. All that's remaining is to finish up one sleeve seam (sleeve is sewn in, I just didn't finish the long seam all the way to the wrist yet), and I have sew on the buttons and then add some loops to close them with.

Just tried it on, and am happy to report it is not too big. Nope. No sir-ee. Not at all. Not too big.

But it also doesn't fit. Because, you see, it's just a bit TOO SMALL. And the reason for that is although I took great care to measure me, measure the sweater, test the gauge and all those other good things, I knit it to fit the size I was at when I began, I have since gotten a bit bigger. Not a lot bigger, mind you, but apparently just enough to make this lovely sweater fit a little more snug than it ought to. So the sweater fits, but it only fits me in the past and since I haven't figured out how to bend time, I'm stuck in the now with a sweater that fits me in the past. And until I can either figure out how to get the sweater to me in the past, or I somehow figure out how to lose the weight I've gained (and let's face it, even though it's a small amount of weight it's not going to go away on it's own and at this stage of the game it might be easier to invent time-travel) I may never get to wear this sweater. And I really don't think I can bear to unknit this yarn once again.

But at least the problem is new. At least I corrected the whole "knit a sweater that's too big thing". That's some kind of improvement, right?

PS> I feel the need to point out the weight gain is not due to overindulgence (though I've been known to do that too ....) but to a very effective anti-thyroid medicine.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Technology, progress, and creativity

I spent the last two-days in a workshop intended to give an overview of a complex new technology the unit I direct just purchased. I've been to these kinds of workshops before and knew it was more than likely the content was going to be either too basic to interest me, or too irrelevant to my own role relative to the project and it was equally likely that the workshop would be very dry. So I knew I was going to have to find some way to stay engaged but also busy. 

so of course I decided to bring knitting. The knitting would keep me busy, and in a very satisfying and productive way, but it wouldn't demand so much attention that I wouldn't be able to follow what was happening in the workshop providing, of course, that I chose the right knitting project.  So I stuck a ball of cotton sock yarn and 5x2mm dpns and armed with Knitty's basic sock recipe, headed off into the workshop. 

I stuck out the first 60-90 minutes, noticed I was getting distracted by email and Twitter and my computer in general and barely paying attention so I pulled out my knitting and very briefly mentioned to the three colleagues in the room with me, that it was my plan to knit so I could keep busy but stay attuned to what was happening all around me. 

Oh yeah? said one. What are you going to knit? 

A sock, I replied. It's easy and fast so I can still pay attention to the workshop. 

A sock! he said. And how long would it take you to just go down and buy one instead of knitting one? 

Well that stumped me a bit. He seemed to be suggesting that time was a factor here. I wasn't knitting a sock because I wanted one quickly. I wasn't even knitting a sock because I had any urgent need for a sock! Though I will someday need a sock and when I do, I'll be glad I have this one. Or it may end up going to someone else, at this point I don't know. I'm knitting a sock because I like to knit. Because I enjoy the craft. Because I far prefer putting on a sock I made than putting on one some factory churned out. 

I tried to articulate that a bit. I pointed out that it felt good to wear a sock I made rather than one made by a factory. That I was more aware of the sockiness of socks because I knew what was involved in the construction. To me it's still something of an astounding bit of history that we humans figured out how to turn one long piece of yarn into something that has a cuff, a perfectly turned heel, and a smoothly grafted toe. I love to knit at least in part because it makes me feel connected to human beings through time and space, it gives me a sense of being grounded and rooted. And it's such an amazingly creative craft. Not that I think we should tear down all factories and force people to knit their own any more than I think everyone needs to write their own code or fix their own cars or sew their own quilts. We each of us have things we find more fascinating than others. The diversity in passion is good!

Well I didn't say all that to my colleague. Just a couple sentences along those lines. 

He nodded. Seemed to get the gist of it. But several hours later he glanced over to see my progress just as I was just about to start the heel flap. 

Well I guess you don't knit those instead of doing laundry, he noted. 

And of course, he's quite right. I don't. I don't knit a pair of socks because I'm too lazy to wash the ones I already own. That would require my going sockless for more days than living in a climate of -14 celcius would make reasonable. Washing socks when I need a clean pair is so much quicker than knitting a whole new set. There is no denying that. 

And again today, just as I finished the first sock only some 20 minutes before the two-day workshop ended, he peered over, looked at my finished sock and said "That still the first one?" 

It was.  One sock during the boring bits of a two-day workshop. Not bad. Especially considering that I didn't think to bring a tapestry needle with me and so had to do the kitchener stitch without one, which I'm sure is no problem for more experienced kitcheners, but this being only my second time kitchenering... 

I just need to pause here for a minute to say something about my colleague because I don't want anyone to get me wrong. My colleague is a very intelligent, witty, and like-able man. I have nothing against him. He speaks out of a set of assumptions that many others who are just as intelligent and knowledgeable and as like-able as he is... our exchange was light-hearted and I took no offense, though as you can tell, it got me to thinking....

It got me thinking about why I knit, not just socks, but also sweaters, shawls, mittens, hats, scarves, and why I prefer complex cables, and lace, and using multiple colours because I really enjoy the craft of those techniques involve, I especially enjoy watching patterns emerge, seeing something recognizable forming at the end of my needles. As I thought about that I was reminded of how I felt after visiting a museum in Boston that housed some victorian gentleman's collection of scientific apparatus. (I wish I could remember either the name of the museum or the gentleman, but I can't though I will see if I can find out). Each piece, no matter how large or how small, was unique. Each piece represented amazing craftsmanship: beautiful carvings, inlay, stonework. Each piece was not only functional in terms of what it was intended to do, but it was a piece of art in it's own right. Using those tools would bring the handler a double joy: not only were they clearly well-constructed and efficient at the task they were intended to fulfil, but they were beautiful to hold, amazing to look at. They were, to my more modern sensibilities, rather ornate for my taste and even while admiring it I recognized why more streamlined and clean lines became so appealing to us all. 

But steamlined and clean and efficient doesn't have to mean that there is no room for craft, for art, for beauty, for creativity. 

And this is what modern technology and the resulting predominance of factories and mass production often deprives us of. Each time I knit a sock I marvel at how someone somewhere figured out how to do the whole heel so that the sock conformed to the foot more naturally. And how that better fit probably resulted in greater comfort inside of boots and shoes. In my minds eye I see a knitter sitting, perhaps in front of a fire or out in her garden somewhere, puzzling over the challenge of how to turn a tube into something foot-shaped, about an tiny eureka about some part of the process and trying it out, then sharing it with others, and those others pondering over some bit of it that's just not quite right, not yet, until he, too, has his own eureka moment. 

I'm glad that knitting has not been stamped out by all those machines that do it so much faster. They might do it faster, but they do it noisier, dirtier, and often, for worker and for wearer, with much more uniformity. And we take both that technology and the things it produces quite for granted so that instead of having adequate amounts of clothes and taking good care of the ones we do have, we have closets full of things, some of which we barely look at let alone appreciate. 

Don't get me wrong. I work in information technology, can't imagine what I'd do without my computers and am never ever very far away from my iPhone. I'm online pretty much all day because the web provides me with the steady stream of information and connection with others that I keep me going on both the professional and personal fronts. When my laptop needed to be worked on for two hours last week right smack-dab in the middle of the work-day, I was completely lost. I'm no luddite. 

Knitting is a technology. And one we should keep for those who want to engage with it. 

But I do not subscribe to the concept that more and faster is better. Technology doesn't simply free us up so we can do more creative and significant things. There's a trade-off. Socks and sweaters, jeans and jackets, shoes, phones, computers, most toxic to one degree or another, and all so easily produced, so disposable, so undervalued that we now have so damn much of it we're burying ourselves and the planet under all our discarded piles of it. 'Progress' is never quite that straightforward ... 

... which reminds me of Sir Walter Scott and his novel _Rob_Roy_ where the young hero of the story looks over a huge lake nestled in the midst of a forested mountain range in the highlands. As he admires it's rugged beauty,  Bailie Nicol Jarvie (yep, the very namesake of that famous scotch) stands beside him rubbing his hands as he contemplates dams and irrigation techniques and the riches that will fall in the lap of the one who harnesses it all ... but that's another post ;-)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Knitpick Harmony

Yep, those are knitpick harmony circulars! They were in my mailbox when I got home. Which is a rather nice way to end a busy Monday! 

I've been waiting for them for almost two weeks now (mainly because I started waiting even before they were actually shipped!), and so far they're well worth the wait. I'm working on the sleeves for the Tweedy Cable Cardigan (Norah Gaughan) and since I don't really enjoy knitting the same thing twice, I tend to knit both fronts and both sleeves at the same time. Circulars come in handy for that many stitches. 

I started the sleeves on 3.75 and then moved up to 4.5. Switching the needles on the cable went very smoothly. Easier than pie (I've only attempted pie a couple times and each time I tried to roll out the dough I got something shaped more like a daisy than a pie plate, so I've never quite understood the phrase "easy as pie").

The points are nicely sharp. I just bought some Brittany's the other day and find the ends to be more rounded than I'd like, especially for knitting finer yarns (which is what I bought them for so that's been frustrating). I think I will enjoy knitting lace on the harmonies.

And it's because of the lace projects I've got in mind that I've paid particular attention to the joins on the harmonies in tonight's test run, and I'm happy to report that the joins are incredibly smooth. In fact, I know it's heresay for some, but I'd even venture to say that the joins on these needles are much smoother than those on my circular addi's and mine are fixed addi's, not interchangeables. I can't tell yet if the joins will stay as smooth after multiple needle changes, and only time will tell. Tonight, though, I'm quite happy with them! 

And happy, too, that both the fronts and the back for this cardigan are blocked. I'm trying to get lots done before the yarn for Jen's wedding shawl arrives as I'm going to want to focus on getting that knit up once I can get started. 

I LOVE new needles and new projects! 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fabulous beginner lace scarf

Finished: one beginner lace scarf! I really do enjoy knitting projects that involve a little work and concentration. This scarf really wasn't difficult, but it had enough going on that it was a pleasant and quick knit. I like having a pattern to follow, and I especially love watching a pattern unfold. 
While the actual knitting of this scarf was relatively easy, I learnt a lot while making it. I learnt a new way to do a provisional cast-on, and I learnt basics about lace making (knit loose, various ways of avoiding casting on and off as that creates a tight edge or line which you don't want happening anywhere in your lace) but the most exciting and life-changing (Yes! Life-Changing!) was how to splice yarn.  

This is one of those things that, once you learn it, you can't understand how you ever got by without it. Why sew in all those ends of yarn when you add a new ball when you can simply slice it!!! For the life of me I cannot understand why I never heard of this before. Oh, I'd heard rumours for sure, but never ever thought they were true! But apparently they were true, and I now know how to simply splice two balls together so that you cannot even tell there weren't one and the same long string of yarn all along. It's impressive. Can't even see the join. With this bit of knowledge, I will never again have to spend agonizing minutes (and often hours) knitting in all those tiny ends. And, despite all 
efforts to avoid long tails, my apartment and probably my neighbours' as well always end up with floating bits of yarn left over after I've weaved in what seems to me to be a long enough bit to be secure. 

But in the meantime, if you'd like to know how to splice, check out this tutorial (Collette is the woman who taught the lace course -- a truly talented individual!)

One more photo of the scarf. I do love it ;-)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

More unknitting....

This sock looks familiar, doesn't it? A lot like the one in my last post, right? But it's not quite the same, because this one isn't quite as big. 

It might look like the matching sock, might it not? One just like the other and intended to be worn on the other foot. As the partner or pair to the other. A pair of socks. 

The only problem is, these socks are supposed to be mirrors of one another so that the tree-like pattern runs up along the outside of each foot, and as you an see, this sock is far too much like the other to be a pair. If this is the second sock, the ribbing shouldn't appear on the right side as it does here AND in the one below. No, if it's to be the mirror of the other, then the ribbing should be running up the left.

But no, this is not the second sock. I am still on the first sock. But, as my little visitor pointed out last week, I am not knitting at the moment. I am unkitting. Again. (I actually do more of that then maybe you think I do. I actually do an awful lot of unknitting. In fact, I think it's safe to say that pretty much everything I knit involves some amount of unknitting. Sometimes just a little bit, sometimes a lot. And when I sew,  I do a lot of ripping out of stitches. This knitting and sewing punctuated with periods of unknitting and unsewing is, I've come to realize, something I need to accept as part of the process.)

But back to my sock. Or what I intend to eventually become a pair.... 

I didn't simply make the mistake of knitting the same sock twice. Nope. What I did was set the pattern as if I were knitting the right sock, and then I faithfully followed the chart for the left. All the way up the entire foot. Plus I set the heel and it was only a couple rows into the leg that I realized my mistake. There was no way to fake it, since the socks are mirrors of one another, the branches start off by branching to the right on the right sock and ... you guessed it, branch to the left on the left sock. 

You'd think that would have been easy for me to track! 

Apparently it was not easy enough for me, so I blithely read what was clearly marked as "Left sock chart" while telling myself it was the right. I've now spent a good part of my morning unknitting (which with fingering yarn and size 2 mm needles, can be a tricky business if you want to end up with the right number of stitches and don't want to leave any behind to unravel when least expected which is, of course, my goal). 

With icy streets out there I'm not wanting to venture too far from home this morning, so I just may be able to catch up with myself before day's end! 

Wish me luck ...

PS: omigosh! It's not just me. Check out this post by the Yarn Harlot... Could it be that winter's getting to us? 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

so little time!

You know you have a lot of projects on the go when you stumble across one you completely forgot about! While tidying up my project corner this morning, I came across this ... 

These are Bacchus Socks  by Alice Bell from Interweave Knits, Fall 2008. Now that they've resurfaced, I remember that I was completely smitten with them this fall and started them in October or November 2008. At that time I was working on cardigans for Maliyah and Aris, the vogue wrap for myself, and was still entertaining insane notions that I could also knit Christmas Gifts (I couldn't and didn't!).

I'm glad I found these. I just finished Cookie A.'s monkey socks and was debating the wisdom of starting yet another project when I already have 3 on needles (nordic mittens, fingerless mittens, and a Gaughan cardigan) and know of 2 more that need to get started in the next little while (shawls for Jennifer and I for her wedding). 

Now I'm saved. I don't need to start a new pair of socks because I've already got some on the go! Whew.  ;-)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

From the mouths of babes ...

My landlord came over to install new doors for my kitchen cupboards this morning (which have gone door-less since November, but that's another story) and he brought his four year old  son with him. He's a delightfully charming boy (I'm talking about the son, now, not the landlord though he's nice too) and after watching his dad for a while came to see what I was up to. 

I was frogging one sweater which I didn't like and am repurposing the yarn for another pattern which I think I'll like much more. 

Whatcha doing? the boy asks. 

I'm knitting, say I. 

Oh, says the boy. What's it going to be? 

Well actually, I reply, I'm taking apart a sweater I knit because I didn't like it and I'm going to use the yarn to knit another one. 

He looks puzzled. He comes closer and taps on the sweater I'm frogging. 

Is this the one you don't like? he asks. 


And what's this one? now he taps on a sweater back lying beside me. 

That's a new one, one I DO like. See, I'm using this yarn from the sweater I don't like to make a new sweater that I do like. 

He looks closely at the one I'm frogging, which is mostly moss stitch, and looks at the new one which has fancy rib, twisted rib, and cables. Then he nods.

Yes, he says with great approval. This one (tapping the one I'm frogging) is just all this pebbly stuff, but that other one has all those nice lines and stuff. I like looking at the new one. 

I smile and nod in agreement. 

He steps back and takes a good look at me. So  --  you're not really knitting then, he declares. 

I'm not? I ask, a little surprised. 

No, he says. You're unknitting. When you finish with the pebbly one and then work on this other one, THEN you'll be knitting again. But right now, you're just unknitting. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


My daughter is getting married in June, in a big boat that will be floating out in the Halifax harbour. It's going to be lovely. Lovely, and probably a bit chilly ... probably about 15 celcius, which means the bride, who will be wearing a lovely off the shoulder gown, will need something to put over her to ward off the cold. Something that won't detract from the beauty of her gown and of the occasion. And it's been driving me crazy! A sweater just didn't seem right... 

But I finally hit on it. I've never knit a shawl before, but isn't this the perfect time to start one? But I was hesitant. Should I really try something new for such an important event? I wasn't sure, so I signed up and took the first session of a two-parter workshop on Knitted Lace for Beginners  at Mouline here in Montreal. I learned that lace is all about yarn-overs and knit 2 togethers, and ssk ... then it hit me. I've knitted lace before.  Rosita is lace!! 

And I learned that lace is also all about using techniques such as provisional cast-ons so you can avoid cast-ons and cast-offs so your lace stays loose and flexible. and I learned how to do that earlier this winter when I was knitting fingerless gloves from Vogue's holiday magazine!! 

Which means I'm not risking anything. I know how to do this already. All I need is a pattern, and time, and Jen's approval! 

I got the pattern the Autumn Arbor Shawl, which Jennifer and I both love, I have the yarn (Misti Baby Alpaca Lace) and since it's only February now and the wedding is in June, I also have the time. 

So why am I not knitting yet? Because I'm waiting for the swatch I knit so Jen can give final approval to yarn and colour, to be delivered by snail mail to her house!!!! You know, I should have sent it courier. These fingers are just itching to get started on it .... 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Space battle

I have this recurring dream, almost a nightmare, I guess. It's quite late at night, very dark, no moon but there are some stars. I'm usually inside a cabin that has a dirt road running just beyond the trees in the front of the cabin, and just beyond that, a river. Sometimes the cabin is in the bush, sometimes just on the outskirts of the city. I know it's a cabin and not a house because of how rustic it. Sometimes my brother is there, which is really unusual because we don't see each other much any more. 

I'm aware of the sky but not really watching it. I like being able to see the sky so if I am in a situation where I can see it, I'm always kind of half-watching it. The sky always feels very intimate but also so remote and otherworldly. It's part of our world and also the window to every other world, to things we can't possible imagine. So I'm in the cabin, talking to someone, often my brother, and very aware of the night sky which at the point in the dream, feels familiar and comforting and twinkly. 

But I slowly become aware of something happening in the sky. I become aware of movement amongst those stars, of lights darting and flicking, and doing so incredibly quickly. I have to watch for a long time before I'm really sure that I really am seeing movement. And as I watch, it becomes more and more clear. And I slowly realize that this is because whatever it is that's moving out there, it's coming closer and closer. I watch for some time, at one point I send my brother out to do something crucial but when I wake I never remember what it was though I know he's doing something quite difficult and quite urgent and I'm not at all certain he'll be successful. 

As I watch I can start making out shapes. Some are almost crystaline structures -- long and narrow with shapes jutting out at the tops and bottoms that remind me of giant cave crystals. these structures are enormous, bigger than most of our skyscrappers. There are also a lot of other structures more like the ones we've come to expect from watching Star Wars and Battlestar. The swift ships that dart in and out in battle, lobbing small torpedo-like weapons at one another. 

It's clear this is an epic battle. And the radios and TVs are silent, the internet isn't responding. More people appear at the cabin, and who exactly they are changes from time to time. I seem to know something about what is happening, and I'm surprised it's gone this far, surprised it's out in the open, but whatever it is, I cannot quite pull it into full consciousness so I'm left with just this vague sense. 

It's a powerful dream in the sense that it stays with me. The last time I had it was a week and half ago.  I woke up at 3:30 am stayed awake for almost an hour. If I get up like that and then go back to sleep, and I tend to remember dreams I have at that time more than others I might have. I'll have to take care to note if this dream always happens under the same circumstances. 

Anyone else out there dream of intergalactic space battles? ;-)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Petal Halter

I was just looking over the patterns in the soon-to-be-released spring edition of Interweave knits, and here's the top that everyone is going to be knitting. Well, maybe not everyone. I will be, and I'll bet a lot of others too. It's gorgeous. 

I'm curious about how it's made, though. Not being a designer myself I find it hard to figure out other people's patterns. This one looks as though you might be knitting in strips and sewing together? I can't wait to get my hands on the pattern and check it out! Trouble is, I am not sure if my subscription has already expired or is about to expire... I was going to be good and not subscribe to any more knitting magazines (or any magazine, really, but since I dropped the New Yorker knitting mags are the only ones left). I fully intend to not have them delivered automatically and instead only buy those I truly (and desperately!) have to have. And I do have to have this one right? Maybe that warrants subscribing so I don't miss out. Like I did on the cabled yoke pullover a few months back ... 

something to think about. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

LOVE knitting nordics...

Turns out I love knitting nordic mittens. I love watching the pattern emerge slowly (because I am so new to this I am going v e r y    s l o w l y), I love love love the complexity (well, it's complex for me!) of switching between the two colours, of knitting to a graph... I can't believe I've never done this before. I love the craft. I love creating something this beautiful. 

I felt the same way when I was working on the reversible cables for the wrap I just knit. I actually found that I really enjoyed knitting up those shapes, that creating those curving patterns was truly relaxing. And now that I think of it, the rolling hills of the Palouse had a similar effect. There's something soothing about those undulating shapes. 

I wonder why that is? 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Knitting projects

I'm working on a couple projects that are quite fun... I'm doing my first real lace project, a scarf. Though really Rosita is my first REAL lace project. I'm distinguishing because, being a scarf, my current project is more traditional. I'm actually taking the beginner lace course at Mouline

Here's the scarf

And, I've also begun something entirely new for me, a nordic mitten! I'm working on a pattern called Egyptian Mitten, which is written in some Scandinavian language (the women at last night's Knit night think it might be Finnish but no one there speaks it so we're not sure). I've done the cuff. It was a silly project to take start at knit night. I had to rip out the cuff twice and the first pattern row a half dozen times because I kept losing count. But it's addicting, so even though I got home last night at close to 11 pm, I knit a bit then and  whole bunch more this morning. This is what I've got done so far 
I'm also knitting a lace sock (Monkey from but I'll have to post that later since it's now time for the market!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Joy Shirts

I just heard a truly wonderful story about a 29 year old Canadian man, an artist, who makes t-shirts with the faces of ordinary people on them. When you buy a shirt, you upload a photo of yourself and he sketches it and then it gets made into a shirt so that someday someone will wear your face. The guy who does this says he does it because he believes its one way of helping people to think about other people. 

I love the idea. check it out -- Joy Apparel

Monday, January 19, 2009

Raw Eating

I'm loving this new raw diet I'm trying out. Here's what I had for supper tonight... I placed the banana pieces inside the romaine leaves, piled on the strawberries and the sprouts and then rolled it up and chowed down. Very yummy. And packed full of nutrition! Five of these and dinner's done!