Friday, December 29, 2006

Skippy to the finish line....

I have finally finished "Skippy" - so named because he's the colour of peanut butter and a "jumper" - a basic pullover. I 'll not bore you with the number of times I knit the end of the sleeves - from mid-forearm down - too short, too tight, too short went on and on; but it fits! The neckline is garter stitch because I didn't start it early enough and therefore had no room for a ribbed finish. Knitting by the seat of your pants may free you from patterns; but not, human error.

Anyway I have decided that one of my New Year's resolutions is - don't worry it has nothing to do with physical exercise - I am committed; but I'm not mad!!! - to bring a little - OK a lot - of discipline to my knitting. Please feel free to knit along with me, if you like. Here's what I plan to do.

The book "Knitting in the Old Way" has been calling to me, so I decided to try to improve my knitting skills by knitting a few things (I am starting with a manageable goal) from it. I am also starting at the beginning with the Danish blouse. I have read the opening chapters of the book already - lots of things I didn't know were in there!! and I have done some web research on the Danish Nattrojer.

As a result of my research, I have found that several other people have knit the blouse as well and written about it on their blogs. I can hear mother now, "You're not the first and won't be the last."

Here's the first, if you're are interested:

and the second:

and there was lots of raving about the blouse by Beth Brown-Reinsel in Interweave Knits - Winter 2004.

The challenge here will be to stay true to the basics of the blouse but to add or change something to personalize it. After much thought, I have decided to use White DK Zephyr, which we have in stock now and to do the cropped version. I was going to use the patterns given in the book; but after some swatches - Oh yeah - those things - I have decided to keep it really simple and do a series of diamond seed stitch patterns to echo the seed stitch in the border and hope it works.

This brings me to another area of thought for 2007 - personalized knitting. I hope to post pictures of knitted samples from our patterns - we have over 1,000 which have been knit and personalized in some way by "you, the knitter." Please send me pictures!!! I love the way patterns change with each knitter adding something of themselves to the project!!

Well that should just about do it!! Notice I did not decide to work on more interesting meals, a cleaner house, better behaved children or a more organized office. No, 2007 will be all about - having fun!!!



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Here we go a-ravelling....

...among the sleeves with care....or something like that.

If sleep does indeed knit up that ravelled sleeve of care, would we sleep better the more sleeves we ravelled, err knit? I say this because I have been knitting and ripping out the same sleeve for the 3rd maybe 4th time. First it was too big. Then I didn't like the way I had tried to merge the diamond pattern in the decreases - I didn't like it twice. So now I am knitting a plain sleeve and hoping that I don't have to unravel it again.

Still I can't say that I mind the ripping back. It slows the progress of the sweater; but I have so many anyway and the longer it takes, the more money I save in buying yarn for the next project. Plus I get to listen to Christmas music. This is that time of year when magical people come to life again. Like Bing Crosby. I always have a vision of him as the priest in The Bells of St Mary's which I believe has a ravelling or unravelling scene in it. Can any one help me out there?

Then there' s Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Here again I have a vision of my grandparents around the radio in the living room - I was very small- maybe an infant. The announcer would say "The sweetest music this side of heaven" and I would ask "What side of heaven?" - OK I wasn't an infant - but I was fascinated by the concept of a many-sided heaven.

There are others all worth a mention who have contributed to the season with music - John Lennon, Nat King Cole, Burl Ives, Abba - still alive, but the group's gone. Please add your favourites...

Anyway must get back to the sweater, which I have decided is the colour of peanut butter and just as sticky - c'mon sleeve!! The stockings are a favourite from AnnNorling #1018.

Holiday Cheers


Oh Solstice, my Solstice…

I had to write to-day because, my favourite day of the year – December 21 is at hand. It is the day set aside to mark the winter solstice- the day that the sun stops going south and turns around to head north again. I know the Earth really tilts on its axis, but at one time people believed that the sun might, one day, just keep on going and we would all live in an eternal winter – not bad for knitting, but the sheep need to be shorn. So when the sun began its return, there was great celebration – the feast of the Saturnalia!

Spring for me really starts with the Winter solstice. Generally we would still be trudging through winter and looking forward to another 3 months, at least, of bitter cold and December 21 would be that spark of hope that it would all end one day in April.

However, this year we have had nothing but Spring so far. Days have been around 10 degrees Celsius when they should be closer to -10 degrees. There is no snow. The ski hills are closed. No one needs to book an escape holiday to the Caribbean and we are all looking a little “sheepish” wondering if that awful, predicted global warming has really escalated on us and was it because we begged off on our re-cycling duties one day and here is our nemesis!

This situation has been made all the worse because western Canada is buried under snow. OK they have always been a little more protective of the environment out there – they’re younger- and now it seems that heaven is smiling err snowing on them.

It’s a frustrating yin and yang. We’ve had to cancel our ski trip after Christmas and yet I can’t help enjoying the fact that we don’t have to shovel snow, wear thick boots and climb over 2’ snowdrifts after sliding into an icy parking spot! The knitting is still good, though maybe not as justifiable, because we are not “snowed in” and in need of the extra comfort and mindless activity. I would pray for snow except that it may come in spades – so to speak and well you see what I mean.

Enjoy – I think - Carol

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Goddess Knits

I think that we are very close to the sublime with these patterns; however, we may have been closer, sooner, had my “opinion” not intervened. Here’s what happened. About a month ago Renee of Bo Peep's Wool Shop in Iowa contacted me about distributing her patterns. I looked at the jpegs and thought “WOW,” these are wonderful lace shawls – something a goddess would wear. I said yes!!!

Well the patterns arrived and I had my opinion about the quality of the photos. I had put on my “knitter’s hat” and decided that if I were a knitter or a shop owner wanting to knit these beautiful creations, I would have to work a little harder because the pictures didn’t give me enough information. I got back to the designer and we were discussing improvements, while the patterns languished on a back shelf.

Then, one day Robyn Gallimore of Red Bird Knits came by to drop off some of her magical sock patterns. Robyn noticed the Goddess shawl leaflets and quickly filled me in on Renee's "mystery shawl knitting" excitement on the internet. I was in awe!!! I try to keep up with the buzz on the net, but I obviously missed this gem.

Robyn immediately scooped up an order of the Goddess patterns, indicating that the pictures would be less of a problem on the internet then they might be in stores. So now I just have a few patterns left over from my initial order and Renee tells me that she is going to retake the pictures to show more of the lovely lace details. For those who know Goddess Knits and would like some of the first edition patterns, please contact me: I will have them on the website soon.

I have to apologize for my opinions sometime. I once told Lucy Neatby that her Equilateral hat would look good in black and white – like a soccer ball – an idea we didn’t kick around for long.

Enjoy Carol

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A diamond for St. Andrew

Many apologies for the delay in posting. I have been dealing with FAMILY and I am sure that everyone can relate in their own way to the tremendous responsibility that family, be it biological or otherwise, involves. We, who do not choose to be islands, know that in order to have our infra-structure when we want it , we must nurture it - maybe when we don't actually quite have the time to do so.

Anyway, my father's house has been sold and he, my sister and nephew have moved to a newer house in town. Yesterday we were in the final throes of downsizing from 40 years and 14 acres to a suburban home - read 7 dumpsters - close to 100 hours of "free" sibling time and many heartaches, squabbles, sadness and joy - yes really the "stuff of life"!!

In the worst of "it", when the purchase of the property was going through its ups and downs and I had suffered through too many sleepless nights - remember the ill-fated steek - I began another sweater, as I had mentioned.

Well " sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care" arrived with my ravelling, err knitting. I chose a simple diamond textured pattern and "went at it"! I knit myself into a complete escape and quite exhausted myself with the frenzy that I slept. I know you have all been there. In fact there must be other versions of that classic line. Maybe:

"Ravelling the sleeve of care gives us sleep." or "Ravel a sleeve and sleep..." Any other ideas?

Anyway, I know that it is late, but it is St Andrew's day and Macbeth was set in Scotland and the diamond pattern is reminiscent of the cross of St. Andrew - though mine is not white on a blue back ground - but I have suffered!!

So "happy St. Andrews Day" to all who keep the faith or at least pay tithes on the appointed days and knit to ease the suffering. My knitting might not be divine; but, saints are said to be and believe me , sleep is!!

Dream on...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

We are so misunderstood

I was doing a crossword puzzle the other night - I know I should have been knitting - just taking a break from a sweater I had started in a nice wool and alpaca mix from Grand River Yarn. I have recovered from my steeking mishap. Well, the clue was "Crochet again" and I could see by the letters there, that the answer was "reknit."

There they go again. No real understanding of the needlework medium - sigh!
I always like the clues around "making lace" - "tatting". They suggest that the creators have at least made an effort!

I was hoping to get the answer to the clue "Pamphlets about tangling fibers?" - It's "ravel - something. Anyone do the double crossword in the Saturday Star - Nov 11?

I guess that it's time to see that movie Wordplay. Rochelle at Grand River Yarns - yes the same one as mentioned above - recommended it to me. Maybe it's also time to make a list of yarn suppliers and their other areas of interest so you can not only buy yarn but also get a quick recommendation for a great movie to see, book to read, wine to buy, CD to purchase, vacation spot, car..etc.

All suggestions welcome.

The picture is "Funky Zebra" from Red Bird Knits - fun sock patterns to puzzle out! See more on our what's new page -

I got the answer to "frozen spike" - icicle - they're coming!

Enjoy Carol

Sunday, November 05, 2006

To steek or not to steek...?

I have just wasted another Sunday morning on It’s a great site if you like lots of semi- intellectual, semi-literary banter. It also has some of the most amazing T-Shirts that I have ever read! Slogans like:

The Pavlov T-shirt with the line – “that name rings a bell.” Or from Sigmund Freud – “There egos again” or the Gregor Mendel one that reads: “Giving peas a chance since 1856”

Of course I couldn’t resist. I know that there are a number of great knitting T-shirts out there, such as, “I knit, therefore I am”…..please add others.

So I started a list - please add and\or edit at will!!!!

To steek or not to steek that is the question?
Out, out damned knot!
As easy as ssk, sl 1, k 2 tog, psso, k 2 tog.
Come back Skein; come back!
Go confidently in the direction of your seams.
The future starts with a single stitch.
Blessed are the piece makers for they shall inherit the ……afghan?
Never confuse knitting with a finished garment.
To err is human, to knit divine.
I wear my art upon my sleeve.
Listen to your art. …do I have to add click, click or would a picture do?

I am trying to cheer myself up after hastily trying to machine stitch and cut two steeks in a 20 min. window before dinner after an exhausting day and you’ve got it. I positioned one of them about a shoulder width off the mark. Louise King of L. K. Yarns in Halifax suggested that I cut the sweater; felt it and turn it into a bag – What a great idea!!!

More knitting slogans please - I'm still depressed!!!


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Spinrite or is that Spinwrong?

Here is the story of the other dust bunny that crossed my path last week. I came home Friday night to my Oct. 23 - Nov 5/06 issue of Canadian Business and lo and behold there was an article about Spinrite under the heading "Spun Wrong". Now anyone who has ever knit with Patons, Bernat, Phentex or Lily has worked with a Spinrite yarn. Spinrite is a Canadian institution based in Listowel ON, a small farming community about 2-3hrs north of Toronto.

Actually Spinrite started under another name - Perfect Knit Mills sometime before WW I . It capitalized on the demand for wool to manufacture soldiers' uniforms and thrived until its owner, Max Beck, sold out in 1933 - I guess he believed that this was the war to end wars. The new owner renamed it Maitland Mills, which did well during WW II but flounder shortly after. At this point - 1952, David Hay bought it and named it Spinrite Yarn and Dyers Ltd. Spinrite prospered for many years as a producer of yarn for the clothing industry - the "craft industry" - that's us - was a small part of their business.

Well things change. The clothing industry moved their production off shore and Spinrite was forced to take a closer look at their craft side. They bought Patons of Coats Patons to expand the line and started to take a real interest in us!!

The magazine article was actually about private equity firms, income trusts etc. These are large investment houses that buy up firms with money and potential. The Hay family sold Spinrite to one of these trust companies. The trust company then increased the debt on the business substantially- no doubt to pay themselves a lot and their shareholders a little. They based all this refinancing on Spinrite's yarn sales of 2004. That year the company earned revenues of $105 million - everyone was batting eyelashes - so to speak!

Surprise, surprise the next year revenues dropped off sharply and no one could understand why all these woman had suddenly stopped knitting!!! Did I mention that the company was run by businessMEN. They may be able to take out the trash, but they can't take out the stash! Spinrite could no longer support its massive debt.

What amazes me is that they based the success of a multi-million dollar corporation on their divination of the female knitter's psyche, believing that:

1. Female boomers would be knitting more.
2. Younger women, learning to knit, would go on to knit larger projects - scarves to afghans - for example.
3. Fancy yarns would define and drive the market.

I guess that they had never heard of, or chose to ignore, concepts like: fashion trends -very fickle, hand dying, hand spinning, specialty yarns, breed specific yarns, the impact of independent designers, the knitting lists, the knitting blogs, the discounters, China - the list goes on, in a very specific, highly specialized market. And we're the ones who knit all the time. Many pick up the needles once and never do it again!

They gambled on slotting us into a business template and guess what - they lost. At the height of Spinrite's success, their stock traded at $14.00 a share. It is now under a dollar a share.

Time for the CEOs to take a knitting class or at least to understand that although we work with wool, we are not a flock of sheep. We are individual artists creating in our own unique ways. Perhaps our paths just happened to cross in 2004; but now we have moved in different directions.

The pictures are, at top, the Raj Shawl by Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting. It is knit in Fiddlesticks Knitting Raj Silk, which is a handspun recycled sari silk from Nepal. This is our nod to novelty yarns. It is not eyelash and it is not acrylic. Purchasing this yarn pays disadvantaged women in Nepal enough money to support themselves and their families - a novelty in deed.

The other - the Russian Ballet Capelet is also by Dorothy Siemens. It uses Raj and Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk. I think what Spinrite missed can be summed up in these two garments. Knitters are not sales generators. They are real people, with real feelings. They understand the needs of others and work through their art to enrich their lives and the lives of those they meet along the way. We are romantics, creating our own special worlds. How could anything this ethereal be captured and manipulated on a spreadsheet.

Dream on, Spinrite. I think that you should have "stuck to your knitting" and run the business, sensibly, as your previous owners had done, rather than lining your pockets with cash, fleecing investors, compromising livelihoods and well destroying a community.


Big Business...what do they know?

I've said before, - I love it when "things", interesting "things" happen in clusters, criss-crossing, like - well I would like to say ligtening bolts, but really my life isn't that exciting - how about dust bunnies - in an otherwise ordinary day....well week.

On Wednesday I took my father out to lunch for his 92nd birthday and he insisted I take his copy of Forbes magazine home because it had an article on organic cotton in it. Now I have been fascinated with naturally coloured, organically grown cotton since I first read an article in the late 1970s about Sally Fox and her work developing the natural colours that cotton grows in. (I know I should have said "in which cotton grows." ) The concept and the ability to grow, harvest and spin cotton without chemicals, has been around in North America for at least 35 years - it's been in Peru and other developing nations for over 4,000 years - seems we're just catching up. Well here was an article in the October 30, 2006 - are we there yet? issue of Forbes on organic cotton. Now I know how they claim to be leading edge - they post-date (is that the right word?) everything.

So the article - a wopping 2 pages long - listed the big business names that had helped to get organic cotton where it is to-day - companies like - Patagonia and Levi Strauss. I mention them because they were there in the early 90s and lost a lot of money in their attempts to move organic cotton into the mainstream. Once there, of course, the others like Nike, Walt Disney and Wal-Mart picked up on it - no need to lose their money. The article went on in detail about the nasty chemicals used in the growing and processing of what is often referred to as "white" cotton and suggested that you may want to pay the premium for organic cotton - given - and they didn't say this- that the growing of white cotton accounts for 50% of world pesticide use!!

The article was written by Megan Johnston. Sally Fox was driven out of California by a lobby of white cotton growers. She was hassled for her work until, it appears, she had to give it up. I haven't googled Sally or looked her up in Wikipedia. I will and report back. I mention the author's name because this lobby of white cotton growers can be very subversive. Not that her name would actually show up in the "obits", it might just, well, never show up again.

More on Sally and the story of the other dustbunny that crossed my path.

And as a foot - err - hand note. Infiknit has had organic cotton as a hand knitting yarn since the early 90s and yesterday I just placed my Spring 2007 order for hundreds of kilos of soft - naturally coloured(5 shades), chemically free yarn. They also serve who only sit and knit - I've said this before too.

Enjoy October - just 4 more days until we can chill out in November - I can hardly wait!


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Endangered species...?

I never thought that I would feel badly about the demise of a plastic ornament, most specifically a pink plastic falmingo. But there he (or she) was on the front page of the business section of Saturday's paper looking a little forlorn under the heading "endangered species" and I thought "oh no!" I never really liked them. However, they were humourous in hordes - let's say 50 - surrepticiously set out on a front lawn to the surprise of a birthday celebrant! - fun for a day and then gone. It's the ones that hung around that looked tacky.

Well apparently the company that created them from a picture in a 1957 National Geographic magazine had its last run of the bird in June of this year and is closing shop - Bye, Bye Birdie!

Ooops, maybe not! I read on. It seems that a Canadian company may be interested in purchasing the rights to manufacture the beast. I shall withhold comment. If you do own one, make sure that it is an original. The bird's clay molds were designed by Don Featherstone - this may actually be his real name - genuine Featherstone Flamingos have his name on the underside of the bird. Union Products in Massachusetts produced 20 million original birds - who knows how many knock offs there were. Also the originals were always sold in pairs - breeding pairs??

In 1996 Featherstone was awarded the Ig Noble Prize in Art for inventing the plastic Flamingo. It's nostagia; it's kitsch; but is it Art? Can I then elevate these knitted pink Flamingos to the sublime? You've seen them before - post Tues., Feb. 28, 2006. Should we be knitting them as icons of an age that gave us Gidget movies, pet rocks and crocheted ponchos? According to the article in the paper, the plastic Flamingo owes it's renewed popularity to aging boomers, hoping to recreate the pleasanter aspects of their past. As flamingos go, I love the real ones, enjoy these felted ones and will miss the pink plastic ones - in small doses, in just the right place at just the right time.

Enjoy Carol

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lock down....?

The times, they have changed. "Lock out," I understand. It's a union "thing" or an anti-union "thing" - I was once a teacher and I paid dues to a union - I believe in community support. Even now that I am self employed - I know that it is my knitting community that supports me and I hope that I support them in return - everything that goes around - comes around.

But a lock down?.... this is not what your landlord does when you don't pay the rent. His is closer to a lock out - of a different kind and for different reasons, but still you are on the outside of a closed door.

You, like me, yesterday, may not know what a lock down is....ask your children, your grandchildren or your neighbour's children...they, chillingly, know.

Once there was a time when we were in school and there were fire drills - great for a break from a gruelling math test - not so great in gym shorts in the middle of February - still it was one of those things, we prepared for, that rarely, if ever, happened. There were false alarms - mischievous souls, bored with routine, would pull the alarm and run. There were even bomb scares, when I was teaching. At the sound of a P.A.(public annoucement) code, we would search our area, with as little disruption as possible, and life went on. We never had "lock downs."

Lock downs, alas, are now routine drills, like fire alarms, that schools enact in preparation for an "inside intruder". Students at the sound of the alarm know to lock the classroom door; keep the drapes open and the lights on - so that the police can see in- and to crouch under their desks only when they hear gunshots.

They may even be called "lock ins". I refuse to imagine a "lock up". Time to disappear into a needlework project and try to put everything into perspective.

I am in awe of the Amish who reacted so, quickly and so generously in their time of need to the needs of others in their tragedy. It speaks volumes. Time, maybe, to unlock our souls.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dressing for Art

It is a week after Nuit Blanche and all the reviews are in. It was a huge success ! In spite of the rain, almost half a million people came out to visit Art installations both in doors and out doors - all through the night. Well done Toronto!!

I mentioned in my last post that our favourite installation was Fog in Toronto #71624 by Fujiko Nakaya. It was also the favourite of the photo-journalists - it showed up in all the newspapers. The second favourite was one that we had hoped to see first. "The Apotheosis of the Shadow" by Mario Martinelli- Shadow art against the facade of the Bata Shoe Museum. We were too early - the artist was still setting up - albeit late about 30 minutes after the slated beginning of the "show". Basically the artist trapped passersby between a flash of light and the screen on the front of the building - held their image on a phosphorous panel until another image came by - simple but very effective. The museum itself was closed for a wedding reception - well apparently at about 2:00am, the bride and groom came out and danced in the shadow art - magical!

The third most effective piece, according to one reviewer, was Freeze, 2006. It was presented in a car wash and consisted of 12 waist high blocks of ice. Each block was inscribed with a letter. The letters spelled out "Stonechild", the name of an aboriginal youth who was driven out of a Sasketchwan town one winter's night and froze to death. The blocks of ice, melting into nothingness at dawn, were a chilling statement on a heartless act.

So much of the Art that fascinated us was transitory - shifting fog, fleeting shadows and melting ice - an interesting comment on the human condition!

I had actually chosen to dress for the night in a black skirt and black velvet jacket which I had trimmed with bits of crocheted lace from my mother's sewing basket. Some pieces were done by my mother and others by my grandmother. These are tiny pieces of needlework art that had not only endured, but had found a new life - another magical quality of art - to give permanance to our fleeting time upon this earth. Knit on; create things, many things; be immortalized through your art!

Oh, I almost forgot the sheep. These woolly grazers were projected on the dome of the planetarium in a video loop. Once they reached the edge of the frame, they turned and headed back. It was called "Counting Sheep" by Michael Snow. Evocative of English pastoral paintings - proving again that escape is only a dream away!



Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche - white night - or in our case - wet night (it rained) was an all night "art thing" presented by the City of Toronto with major funding from Scotiabank. Nuit Blanche is staged annually in several European cities - most notably Paris as a way of having a city, its residents, streetscapes and general atmosphere interact with Art - very cool!

I loved the idea and was determined to support it, in spite of the rain. Anything that moves Toronto into the realm of those other special cities is a plus with me!

Basically, downtown was organized into 3 "artistic zones" and artists - many internationally acclaimed - presented their works at various points within these zones. A good number of the exhibits were outside - all the better for that feeling of casual interaction. There is always the hope that once a person is exposed to Art, they will actively seek out more opportunities to interact with it; artists will thrive and the world will improve by embracing artistic vision - well it was worth a try!

Our favourite work was "Fog in Toronto #71624" by Fujiko Nakaya. It was an atmospheric sculpture created by artificially produced water fog. We were children again, amazed at the surreal effects that a little cloud could produce. We had to stand in it; peer through it; move in and out of its folds. It was awe inspiring. This surely was the epitome of Art- to physically and mentally change us.

The sculpture was installed just behind the museum in an already sanctified area known as "Philosoper's Walk". The undulating terraine, the dark, and the light rain falling all added to the magic of the experience. Here I am looking more like Mary Poppins than her charges - then again she herself was a magical creature. - now where is that kite?

More on Nuit Blanche later. There were sheep and, of course I had to dress for the occasion which would involve some sort of needlework - art - I use the term loosely.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Knitted Neurons

I saw a knitted brain the other day in the newspaper - this is not a joke. It's from the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art - I don't think that this title is a joke either - it was in the newspaper - now some people will say that this particular newpaper is a joke - I guess you just can't win.

Anyway here is the website.
It resides in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon. Now if I remember correctly that is where the person who knit the entire digestive system came from. I don't remember the mountains being particularily high in Oregon - maybe other things are high in that state, anyway there are a lot of very unusual things going on there - hmmmm.

The idea of a brain that was made completely of knitting stitches intrigued me. I know of a number of people that could lay claim to the fact that their brains were actually knitted - boggles, or should I say bobbles the mind. Maybe someone has actually accused you of having a knitted brain - or at least - knitting on the brain.

If we knitters actually had knitted brains, what mental activity could we ascribe to various stitches. Would cable stitches, for example, be part of our strength of character - those strong sturdy rows with the regular twists for everytime we had to grit our teeth or clench our fists to just keep going.

Would the beautiful open lace stitches be the area of our dreams. I know that ssk and psso always remind me of dance steps, and garter stitch has to be those really boring repetitive activities - rote things that require no thought but have to be done to keep our worlds from falling apart - like taking out the garbage or cleaning the bathroom.

Which stitches would govern our sense of smell and\or taste? Is slip stitching like the little tricks we play on ourselves when we try to justify eating something with a few extra calories or skipping a must do in favour of a want to do - like paying a bill vs buying yarn.

And then there is I-cord - for when our mind gets twisted in knots of ideas and complex interactions - observe - "Chain d'amore" from Lucy Neatby - wherever did it get the name "idiot-cord" anyway. I know it is attributed to Elizabeth Zimmerman and yes it may appear to be simple; but it has the ability to be amazingly complex or as Lucy says - for the lunatic fringe - unsuitable for serious in-battle wear. And battled I have to turn I-cord into frog closures or handbag draw cords or brooches or...... the list goes on.

Would our sense of music come from the lovely rhythms of the feather and fan stitches? Certainly our appreciation of all things graphic would be in the fair isle lobe. And since this weblog is a search for that creative inspiration which raises knitting to the sublime as an art form. In what area of the knitted brain lives the "divine".

Please add to the list by posting your comments. Right now I must knit up some ideas for dinner tonight. Spaghetti comes immediately to mind with maybe an entrelac sauce - could be tasty.

Enjoy Carol

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Back from the beach and other realities....

It must have seemed like a long swim – about 3 weeks or so. Actually it was a short holiday that was over too soon. By the time I arrived, decompressed, took up the leisurely pace of “holiday mode” – the vacation was over.

It drove me crazy that my husband rushed us around doing this and doing that in an “I’m going to enjoy this holiday” frenzy, when all I really wanted to do was sit and knit or crochet and write – but no… we had to bike 3.5ks for breakfast almost every morning – and then bike back or else, how would we have lunch after a swim in the pool, while the kids fished off the dock and we waited for dolphin to come into our little saltwater creek. In the afternoon we had to do a some shopping to buy fresh tuna or shrimp or clams (farmed – it was a month without an “r”) for dinner. Later, depending on the tides it was down to the beach for a little light surfing or out in the kayaks – to explore the salt water marshes. Finally, after dinner it was a quick walk up to the bar-café to hear the singer – I still can’t get “Goin’ to Carolina in my mind” out of my head. On the walk back, it was “name that constellation” – I forget how well you can see stars out of the city - and lastly to bed – because 7-8am comes early and we repeat the same list of activities. Actually I left out Tennis- that was for my husband and the kids – I don’t play tennis – that was my time to crochet.

Who said holidays are restful? I might have actually completed my Savannah Shawl had I not had to do all these holiday things, but now that it’s all over – I’m glad I did. I’ll finish Savannah – maybe after Christmas, when we start dreaming of better weather. I am still not happy with the results. Maybe it has to "sit" for a while.

Actually don’t mention my complaints about an over-active holiday to Lucy Neatby. And the next time you take a class from her, ask her what she did for a holiday in the summer of 2006. I am in awe!

The reality is that work is busier than ever. The garden is full of weeds. The temperature now struggles to reach 20°C. I have just spent most of my “free” time booking after school activities - break-dancing and remedial math – do you think there may be a connection? – for the youngest and an Art program for the oldest which is actually my 91 year-old father. My answer to the sandwich generation, this year, is to get involved. I’m taking my father, who is much better – walking now without a cane – even danced with the physiotherapist – to a painting class one day a week.

On my free time, I plan to sleep! Enjoy


Sunday, August 27, 2006

A little travelling music please......

....... Something to feed the gypsy soul. There were a few things that had to be done very early Friday morning before we set off for the first leg of our trip to Hilton Head. Yes, we were driving. It’s an 18 hour haul which we spread over 2 days, stopping for the night in Beckley, West Virginia – 10 hours from TO. I guess that there aren’t that many people these days that take long driving holidays, when it’s relatively cheap, quick and easy to take a plane – not with 4 people; but 1 or 2, yes. Still there is something about journeying through every mile, however tedious, that makes you feel that you have really earned the destination. There is also something about “hitting the open road”, that gives one a sense of freedom – no stripping to the waist, no marshalling through metal detecting arbours, no idling for hours in soulless airport lounges – just hit the gas and go!

But we do need music – traveling music. Selecting the right CDs for the journey was one of the Friday morning tasks – I still buy CDs. I deal with copyright daily and I like to think that I contribute to Art and culture by supporting the artists that enrich my life. I would hate to think that, because we are now able to enjoy without contributing, emerging artists – will never thrive – our entertainment will be limited to a few with influence, and we will lose the diversity, the endless choice that has made our lives so rich.

As a result, I took all my Paul Simon CDs – I just have 3; but I do have his latest – “Surprise”. I took Bob Dylan – for the phrase “like a rolling stone” and I took K.D. Lang in case I got homesick.

There is something about pulsing down the highway to traveling music, that feeds the Gypsy soul!

Now when I wasn’t driving, I was working on this: I will call it something like “Savannah Shawl” or “Squares of Savannah Shawl” – for everyone who has read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and has crocheted a square – you’ll understand. When I left TO, I had the small centre section started. We are now in Hilton Head – I guess I could have done this much on a plane, but I wouldn’t have felt as much like a Gypsy and the design might have lacked something! Oh, well – must get to the beach!


PS when I get back I am going to re-work the design - not quite right yet.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

maggie and millie and molly and may

"maggie and millie and molly and may"

maggie and millie and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

millie befriended a stranded star
who's rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and may

came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea.”

e.e.cummings is another favourite poet of mine. He is one of my wordsmiths -poets who are able to use words tightly in a very remarkable way. I group him with Dylan Thomas, Gerard Manly Hopkins and Carl Sandburg.

I love this poem for its simplicity and its depth - how many of us can relate to stones as large as alone!

In January when we were planning this vacation (planning holidays is my husband's escape - so we start early - very early) I said to Dorothy Siemens - Fiddlesticks Knitting - that I had already found a poem for my weblog and that I had planned to refer to her Creatures of the Reef shawl, if that were OK.

I have seen Creatures of the Reef knit in several colours of Zephyr yarn and each colour changes the shawl into another remarkable place. Shown here in Sage, it is a northern beach, in reds it becomes P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island), in Copper it is somewhere very warm and sunny, I even think that it would work in pink for Bermuda - just pick a colour; knit it; wear it and be transported.

The motifs that Dorothy used are so much like those in the poem. There are star fish, crabs, sea horses, shells, fish, waves - all original motifs in the breeziest lace. Just think of the fun of knitting each one and remembering your beach adventures, or dreaming of a time when you will go to the beach too.

I won't take the shawl as a knitting project for this holiday. I would rather wait until January, when I need to be taken back to the sea...back to the sun, the warmth, and the freedom.

But I've started thinking of the project, particularly the colour. Now let me see, how about Violet for that magical time just after sunset and a little before dark - that half light of our imagination - with the water shimmering under the rising moon...hmmmm...maybe Lilac would be better - it has more blue in it.

Dream on


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Send me the pillow you dream on....

More on organic cotton and beaches. The picture is from Fiona Ellis' new book "Inspired Cable Knits" (with permission from the publisher.......) When Fiona first started to work on her book she asked me - and others - for yarn suggestions. I was thrilled to be able to give her skeins of organic cotton. I was equally thrilled when I saw the finished project. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined such a perfect combination of pattern and yarn.

The photo from "real life" - where Fiona took her inspiration for The Beachcombing Pillow is that of a beach. Actually the very edge of the land where the water eddys up on the sand and leaves wavy lines of different sea colours. It is quiet and subtle, as is the yarn; but it also invites one to imagine, to dream, to take that first step into a sea of inspiration!

The photo was taken by Lindsey Maier. For more on Fiona's book see:

Just 2 days to go and a ton of work to finish!

Enjoy Carol

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Carolina dreaming.......

In just over a week's time, I'll be travelling with my husband and 2 of my 3 children to the beach, actually to Hilton Head at the southernmost tip of SC. I can't wait. Certainly it's the idea of a holiday, of being with family, uninterrupted by work, of eating too much SC shrimp and spending too much time in the sun, sand and water but it's also about going to the ocean!

Even though I have spent most of my life landlocked in southern Ontario, I am fascinated with the sea!

I love poems like John Masefield's, Sea Fever

"I must go down to the seas again to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."

or The Sea, by Byron
"Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean-- roll!

There is so much about "casting your bread upon the water" - about taking chances, about enduring fate, that is caught up in the image of the sea.
I know that we can be challenged by mountains, and by journeys overland; but the sea is more mysterious. For me it is like Art, itself - vast, deep, unpredicatable.......or as this quotation suggests "Art and business require you to play by the rules, without knowing them." I am reminded that the sea has her own rules - like life - we are asked to navigate through the storm without knowing the rules and/or the forces that maybe with us, or against us.

And so I will go to Hilton Head and re-affirm my relationship with all that is unpredictable - I did not have to leave home to do this. But I have a chance of a holiday and I love to be transported. We all know that knitting is a great vehicle. It transports us to places we have never been - to different locales, different eras, different stratas.

Come with me to the sea through these seaside knitting patterns.

My favourite is Sand and Sea designed by Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting. It's a favourite because it is knit in organic cotton and it has a very festive "We're on holiday" feel about it. It remains me of European beaches that have those little striped canvas tents as change rooms. There is always activity - picnics, games, flags waving, dogs barking, the constant rush of the wind and flush of the waves - in any picture that I have ever seen of Calais or other seaside towns.

When I first saw Sand and Sea I was amazed at the excitement that Dorothy had brought to an otherwise - unexciting yarn. Environmentally important yes, soft and subtle, yes, but not exciting. Well, let's face it; sustainability, however necessary, is not very exciting - I don't think that taking out the garbage has ever been considered "sexy". No matter how short the skirt, how high the heels or how cute the neighbour - composting and sorting through trash can never be considered sexy.

Yet, here is Sand and Sea Wrap, with all the excitement and romance of the French impressionist painters. Such, I guess, is the power of the artist to raise the mundane to the level of the sublime. More seaside knitting later. For now, I must get out there and turn my compost heap - hey do I know how to have fun!!!!



Monday, July 17, 2006

Opus Difficilis

I was reading in the weekend paper about several children's books that had been translated into Latin. Now I knew that Winnie the Pooh and I believe Peter Rabbit had both been translated into Latin - well these are classics and what better venue than a classical language! But "Walter Canis Inflatus" - Walter the Farting Dog. Now this is one of these "not so tasteful - bare all" topics that fly in the face of the subtle, cerebral classics - not that the Roman army could really be called subtle - disciplined, yes - well maybe this is really what subtlety is all about!

Anyway, I felt that Walter could be forgiven for his indiscretions because his authors had taken the time to translate their book into Latin - to preserve an ancient language, to stimulate interest in the classics, and to simply create a presence for Latin in this day and age - Bravo! Eureka - no that's Greek - just give me a minute - Will Ave do?

So I said, "Why not knitting?" I then set about to translate some fundamental knitting terms into Latin. This was not easy. I downloaded several pieces of "free" software - no suggestion that these were virus free softwares, so I might have gotten more than what I paid for - exactly, free indeed.

I keyed in knitting - there is no "K" in Latin - not even silent ones. It reminded me of all the articles that I had read on "naming your business" - always include a "K" a hard sound. Well, yes I have a "K" in Infiknit - except that it is silent - maybe I should have stopped there.

I pressed on - "needle" - no match. Surely they stitched things together. How about "sew" - no match - OK this rules out quilters too - Ha! Wait, maybe the software wasn't working? I keyed in "fight" - go figure - an instant match of "macto" and "pugna". "Veni, Vidi, Victi!" Either the Romans did nothing except fight and conquer or the writers got paid only for poems on fighting & conquering - but, I would sing of Fingers and the Artist - not Arms and the Man. Was there any use in pressing on?

Well garment was "Vestis" - getting warm and weave was "texo" - even warmer and (Eureka err Ave,) even the despised "craft" was "professio" - this is one of the reasons I love Latin - it elevates even the most mundane to the realm of the sublime!

Maybe this is why the shop teacher, I taught with, would often announce on a Friday afternoon "Illigitimus noncarborundum". It elevated the struggle to survive to heroic porportions - now if I could only do this with knitting!

Ave atque Vale!


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

To the Big Apple without our MacIntoshes

Yes, we decided to ignore the weather forecast last week that called for more rain along the eastern seaboard of the US - that is, more rain in addition to the rain that had caused considerable flooding in various NE states, including NY, and head to the "Big Apple" with the "kids".

The border crossing at Queenston/Lewiston at 3:00pm was a piece of cake - unlike one return journey where we spent 3 hours to travel 3 miles - how about "Knitters without Borders" - then again you have 3 uninterrupted hours to knit, unless, of course you are expected to play : eye spy, fish, any word games - like "keep the driver awake" - somehow a discussion of the nuances of fair isle doesn't cut it!

We arrived in Rochester - many apologies to the yarn store there with a pending order - when I travel with family - I am at their disposal, lest they dispose of me!

Anyway, we spent a great night there and then finished the drive to NY the next day - I have to pat myself on the back, as I was the last driver and therefore took the van down Palisades Parkway, over the George Washington Bridge, down to 47th St. and into Times Square, in rush hour, on my own. Piece of cake-NY cheesecake, of course!

I have to say I LOVE NY!! There is an elan there that really can't be found any where else in the world.!! We rarely slept - NY never does. We took the subway to Little Italy - even the Italians commute there. We went to Greenwich Village and I revelled in the fact that the tiny "hole in the wall" drinkeries, eateries, that nurtured Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, & of course Bob Dylan and many others were still there - different addresses, different venues, but still the same adventurous, spirit that nurtures all the Horatio Algers - rags to riches, talented "wannabees" - I love the ones who made it and wished that I could have heard from the ones that didn't quite - there is a little magic in everyone who sets out to try..and try...and try again.

As there were four of us, each one picked something that they wanted to see/do & we did it! Nicky wanted to see the Statue of Liberty - the boat ride was a little wild - it was the July 1 & 4 weekend - every country in the world was represented as passengers on the ferry but the monument was amazingly serene, steadfast, something enduring in the chaos!

I had to see the Guggenheim. I just felt that I had to be in a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and it was awesome ! What was also amazing was the bus ride up Madison Avenue from our Hotel to 89th St. on a quiet Sunday morning. I had a fleeting view of designer windows - like the passing of so many dreams - there for a moment and then gone. Still for any one interested, I saw a lot of tulle, layered and ruffled in the palest apricot, peachy pink tones on even paler white shadows of mannequins - imitating the fleeting celebrity figures that could afford them - there are some, perhaps many, who still lead a charmed life!

My magic is still relegated to unravelling yarn and sorting out errors in patterns - they also serve who only sit & knit.

After the art gallery we walked through Central Park - no major art installation there at the moment & too early for Theatre in the Park. There was, however, enough street theatre to last one for a lifetime - or maybe until the next trip, anyway. There were the usual park walkers, bikers, vendors, and come-by chancers - like the stretch Rolls Royce - the kids wouldn't let me ogle the hood ornament to see if it "curtsied" - the Queen's hood ornament on her Rolls curtsys - well it might have been royalty.

We continued down 5th Avenue and hit the hot spots - Niketown, the NBA store and the Disney Store - can you tell that I'm travelling with family? I craned my neck as we walked past Tiffany's - couldn't afford it anyway and arrived back at Time's Square - exhausted!

It was fabulous - even the part where the waitress spilled the beer on my head - it was an accident - the kids loved it, though and the part where Nicky got caught in the revolving cage-like turnstyle in the subway that didn't turn- I thought of that guy, Charlie on the MTA, who was immortalized in song. Why Nicky could have been there forever, with people passing sandwiches to him as they fled by! We were saved by a passing stranger who knew the ropes - err bars - and we freed Nicky!

Our next trip is to Hilton Head...I'll keep you posted!


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Best of the Show!

I think that I may have finally recovered from TNNA, as the orders we took there are now being shipped, our show booth has arrived home and the follow up orders, from stores who met us but needed to think about ordering, have started to flow.

Also, I have to report that in the midst of all of this exhaustion, my 91 year old father decided to do some welding in the barn, dropped the blow torch while still lit, set a small grass fire which he couldn't put out, fell into the fire and sustained second and third degree burns. A passing motorist saw him and stopped. He was airlifted to a hospital with a burn unit on the eve of Father's Day and we feared the worst.

What were Blanche's words from that Tennesee Williams' play? ...something about relying on the kindness of strangers - any help with the quotation and the name of the play is most welcome!...

Well, after 5 days, he has had an operation to graph skin to the damaged area, has been moved out of intensive care, is off morphine, ventilators, monitors you name it and is back playing the lottery!! I have given thanks more than once - believe me!

So in celebration, I am posting Dorothy Siemens description of the design process for her Peacock Feathers Shawl (as promised). This pattern, indeed, was the "Best of the Show" - with the Paisley long shawl coming a close second! To me the shawl is an example of pure joy. There is something in the flow of the lace, the curve of the stitches and the gentle development of the pattern that reminds me of smiles, happiness, laughter. It is light, airy and obviously a joy to knit! - though designing it was certainly a challenge - read on!

The Peacock Feathers Shawl

The Peacock Feathers Shawl seems to strike a responsive chord in many knitters. I originally came up with the concept for this design while admiring a peacock's tail feather I had pinned to my studio bulletin board. The usual approach would be to try to capture the wonderful colours, but since my medium is lace, I wanted to interpret the graceful shape and flow of the feather and especially the lovely, large "eye" that makes it so distinctive. I envisioned the tail in partial display sweeping out behind the peacock, and in my mind's eye could see it as a lace shawl sweeping down from the shoulders. But I find that my design ideas are often fraught with difficulty once I try to translate them into an actual product. The Peacock Feathers Shawl was no exception!

The first thing I do when embarking on a new design is look through my stitch dictionaries and reference books. If I can find an existing lace pattern to incorporate into my design, so much the better. In this case, I was looking for something that would give the appearance of feathers. I wanted the shawl to start out with a small, feather-like pattern at the top neck, just as a peacock's feathers are smaller on the neck and back. Then I envisioned the feathers gradually becoming larger and opening up into the flare of larger feathers cascading away from the peacock.

I was successful in finding a suitable pattern for the small feathers-actually a small leaf motif from one of the Barbara Walker Treasuries, but the other feathers were not as easy. The secondary feathers with their eyes did not exist, and so I had to design my own. I found a lace pattern in Barbara Walker's blue A Treasury of Knitting Patterns on page 214, which had the basic structure I was interested in. But it took a fair amount of recharting and swatching to figure out how to make the "eye" work nicely. I struggled with it, but learned a lot as I went on.
Working down the shawl, the feathers become larger and now have long stalks, and again, I had to design these elements basically from scratch, but using the previous "eyed" feathers as a basis. Somewhere in the midst of this, I was overcome with frustration and wondered if I would ever be able to capture the image I had in my head. I find that I usually go through this angst in the middle of the design process.

Once I reached the edging, I wanted the lace to flow seamlessly into the really large, showy feathers at the bottom of the peacock's tail. I set myself some parameters. The edging should not be picked up and knit separately but should be knit all in one piece with the shawl. It should also be wavy and graceful and provide a really beautiful finish for the shawl. I was influenced by two books in my library, The First Book of Modern Lace Knitting by Marianne Kinzel, and Three-Cornered and Long Shawls by Sigridur Halldórsdóttir. The latter book has some of the most gorgeous shawls I have ever seen, and I particularly like the way edgings are handled on many of them. The delicate crocheted edge on some of the shawls seemed perfect for my concept of feathery ends and I incorporated this into my shawl. I also learned from both books a lot about how to structure a wavy lace edging, by swatching pieces of their designs to help me understand what they had done.

Once I had all the charts worked out, I began to knit a sample and found, of course, many things that needed tweaking and changing. Somehow, a motif that seems to look good and work well in isolation often needs to be adjusted when knit in a group. I am no stranger to ripping out, over and over again.

This shawl continues to be a favourite among knitters and is my best-selling design. I even received an e-mail from someone who saw a finished version and although had never knit before, was determined to learn so that someday she could also knit the Peacock Feathers Shawl. As you can imagine, I find that completely touching and gratifying, and am very happy that my design has been able to reach out to so many.

Thank you Dorothy!

Have a good one!

Friday, June 16, 2006


Well it's the end of a week that began June 9 and it is now June 16 - where has the time gone!!!!

1- I know that I spent two days of it travelling to and from Indianapolis and either putting up or taking down our show booth at TNNA.

2- Another hour or two was spent moving quickly from the 100 aisle to the 8000 aisle to arrange with show management, things like lighting, which I had decided not to order, but now really needed- none available - but through a little magic, I managed to secure an ancient flood light - I thank the powers that be for small mercies.

3 - Twenty one hours were spent in the booth chatting to shop owners, meeting people that I have been doing business with for years; but had never met - including Ann Norling, whose patterns I have been distributing since 1994. It was wonderful just making contact, putting faces to names and names to faces; hearing the OOOHs & AAAAWs of delight when people saw Dorothy Siemens' (Fiddlesticks Knitting) patterns, samples and the designer herself. And there were the orders for Dorothy's patterns and the patterns of other Canadian designers that I took down with me.

4 - Then there were the two dinners out with other Canadians who were exhibiting at the show - Lucy Neatby who was there launching her new DVDs which I will be distributing in Canada. Lynda and Deb Gemmel of Cabin Fever were there - it's always a delight to spend time in their company. Patricia Landry of Patricia's Yarn Cabin(Sidney, BC) and her business partner Linda, who exhibit under the name Swallow Hill, the most delightful patterns and kits for crocheted or knitted and beaded shawls, bags, necklaces and more. Lana of Lanaknits, also from BC who has a lovely selection of hemp yarns and Caroline McInnis of Sweaterkits, who invariably adds a touch of elegance to any gathering.

5 - Dorothy and I had 1 dinner out at the hotel on our own and decided that they priced the entrees by the pound with a 48oz steak going for about $48.00 and the veg. was extra!!! Do people actually eat that much? It was a window onto a world that I am surprised still exists, what with all the health concerns, social concerns, and just plain conservation and personal discipline expected of people to-day.

6 - Precious little time could be given to viewing the other booths which were staggering in number, overwhelming in product presentation and just amazing in scope - this is a very niche market and yet there were literally millions of skeins of yarn in every imaginable colour, thousands of patterns with their real-life knitted samples, hundreds of needles, gadgets, bags and accessories for shop owners to choose from and bring back to offer for sale to knitters in their area of the world.

7 - In deed companies and designers came from all over the world. I saw Hanne Falkenberg wearing Mermaid and Vivian Hoxbro wearing something different everytime I saw her. There were companies from Australia, New Zealand, Turkey.....the list goes on

In the blur of colour and texture a few things did stand out. There were 2 or 3 simple sweaters in natural (cream) yarn with a little cabling for interest in the Rowan booth that literally "jumped" out at you because there was no colour, no blending of dyes, no frazzle of texture in the yarn - just plain cream DK - how refreshing.

Also in a needlework booth there was a small evening bag in the shape of a tulip. It was perfectly executed with a little fabric in needlepoint to fill in the top of the purse and create a place for the drawstring. I wanted it and the one beside it which was a pansy.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We're off to Indianapolis in the morning...

Yes, I'm leaving very early Friday morning - the limo comes at 4:45 a.m. - alas what one does for the love of knitting! Now I know that I have some explaining to do. I haven't posted in almost a month and why am I going to are my excuses/reasons:

1. I should not complain. I had 3 months worth of orders squeeze themselves into the month of May, which customers were expecting to be delivered in a timely fashion; so I couldn't just sit there and enjoy myself - musing through my weblog, knitting, crocheting, gardening etc....I had to WORK!!!

2. Then I had decided in February to take a booth at TNNA - booth 142 for anyone going. At the time, of course, I did not even think about the work involved - it's a little like starting a very intricate lace shawl - buying the pattern and the yarn is a breeze. Even casting on isn't that bad. It's somewhere after the first or second row that you realize the commitment involved. The booth had to be designed; the design executed - fortunately Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting did most of that. But patterns had to be labelled; kits priced; forms created. The booth had to be shipped; all the small business items like staplers, pens, fishing line...Fishing line????? - indispensable, if you are hanging anything -had to be included and nothing forgotten. Anyway - it's all done and I had a day or so to collect my thoughts before heading out to the show.

3. Then there was this machine to take yarn off cones and wind it into balls that refused to work the way we wanted it too. Well we bowed to its idiosyncrasies - we had to or the orders would never have been filled. I guess you just have to be a mechanical engineer or something to appreciate this sort of thing - well it is a lovely shade of blue!

4. Then there is the never ending new website, that may end up becoming the never launched old website at this rate. Still lots of fine tuning and no time to do it!!

So now that I have made my excuses. I'll make my apologies and try and make amends after the show with at least some comments about TNNA for those who have never been. This is my first time. I know I will be in awe. I hope to keep you posted.

Oh why all the crocheted scarves? This is what a lot of nervous energy will do. I couldn't sit still, just thinking about all the work that had to be done - so I started crocheting in a yarn that we are now distributing - Fiddlesticks Knitting - Zephyr. It's 50% silk and 50% merino and too beautiful to resist. Fiddlesticks Knitting has 7 knitting patterns in Zephyr including the Peacock Shawl - more on that later. Carol

Friday, May 12, 2006

I'm back, briefly

Sorry, I've been a little behind in my posts. Just some big orders to fill, learning the ins and outs of new machinery, putting the finishing touches on the new website and getting ready for TNNA. Did I mention that the house is filthy and the kids have been eating bread and jam for more than a few days; but I do have several new patterns and the garden planted - well almost. I really did mean to take that course on time management and setting priorities - maybe next year - right now I have too much to do to even think of taking time out to get organized!

However in the midst of all this chaos, Ilga Leja visited me. Ilga was up from Halifax to visit her daughter and then to head on out to a conference in Calgary. She brought all her beautiful samples, which you may see on her new website. She talked about her Fall collection and lots of new knitting ideas. She also showed me a neat I-cord necklace which is FREE, or at least the pattern is, on her site.

On another note, my son, the artist, had an opportunity to help with catering an event at the museum for textiles and lo & behold he got a free guided tour of "A Terrible Beauty" the amazing exhibit that I mentioned in the last post. He was in awe!!! It really is hard to imagine all those bugs mounted on all those walls creating all those beautiful textile designs.

Also Sasha Kagan mentioned that she would love to contribute a coffee cozy to our collection, but she too is swamped with work at the moment so she gave me the OK to translate one of her designs into a cozy. It took me a while to locate the book that Sasha had mention - Country Inspirations; but Marsha White of the Needle Arts Book Shop happened to have a copy as she does occasionally get books that are out of print. Maybe after TNNA, I'll get that together.

Here is a picture of the cover of the book, in case you have a copy, and the pattern is on page 55. Sasha does have kits on her web site for a lot of patterns in her many books so take a look.

Sorry again for the delays in posting. I'll be back at it once the orders are filled.

Have a great weekend.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Cockroaches - what's not to love....

I had just finished posting about the crocheted coral reef when "The Women's Post" - it's a free local newspaper- arrived with an article about The Museum for Textiles here in Toronto. It seems that the museum is hosting the work of Wisconsin-based artist Jennifer Angus who has displayed her personal collection of 15,000 Southeast Asian insects (some have to be S.E. Asian cockroaches) on the walls of the museum as textile designs. The bugs are precisely arranged in patterns to emulate designs from Japanese, Egyptian and Indian textiles. I did not say "It's enough to drive you buggy" - someone else did.

Yes Virginia, every spot or line you see is actually a bug - amazing!
To see more use this link and click on the photos of the bugs!

The time taken to mount the exhibition alone is awe inspiring. The fact that these are actually preserved insects, may reach the sublime. Jennifer's message is: Preservation of the Rainforests. These bugs apparently play a vital role in preserving the rainforests because they reproduce very quickly pollinating flowers and decomposing matter to keep the rainforests alive, vibrant and disease free. I presume that they were harvested after their work had been done to play yet another role in sending an environmental message, through Art, around the world.

I have a pattern for a knitted butterfly. I wonder if you could knit a few hundred of these and assemble them as a wall hanging with a message. Ooops, just added another must do before I die project - that probably makes 857 give or take a few. Now where is that pattern or the beginning of the list, for that matter?

Save the world with a crochet hook?

I came across an article in the newspaper on the weekend about an institute in California - The Institute for Figuring, which is doing, among many things, a crocheted coral reef. It is a project that is both mathematical and environmental. The project is being co-ordinated to call attention to global warming and its disasterous effect on the fragile coral reef in Northern Australia. (environmental) You are invited to submit crocheted pieces to the project, however, they must be based on hyperbolic crochet .(mathematical)

The pictures are fabulous! I would love to do something like this in knitting. Any co-ordinators out there?

The concept of trying to heal the world in some way through our art is an amazing concept. I know that a lot of knitters and crocheters regularly contribute to social causes, such as, Blanket Canada - donating knitted squares to be assembled into blankets for the homeless.

This year, many artists participated in "Knit for the Cure" which in Canada - "" raised over $22,000.00 for breast cancer research - many thank-yous again to all who participated.

Even though to date, we haven't, through needlework, been able to stop wars, curb the destruction of rain forests or correct the myriad of the social problems that effect us closer to home; still many of us use our skills in awe inspiring ways to make a difference. Please post any campaigns that you know exist for knitters or crocheters to make a difference in your area.

I actually sat down one day and figured out the number of stitches that went into a fair isle sweater that I had just finished for my husband - it was around 75,000. Multiply this figure by the number of sweaters knit in a year by the number of knitters and you have quite a formidable force. The task remains to harness this force and direct it towards the greatest good.

Now where is that crochet hook?


Friday, April 21, 2006

Happy Birthday HRH

Today is Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday. It is the day on which she was actually born, but for some strange reason the formal celebration of this day is in June. I could never quite figure that one out.

A royal birthday suggests something regal and what better than a "cuppa" high tea brewed under a monarch's tea cozy. I actually knit this years ago from scrap yarns and never bothered to write down the pattern, but I think this is what I did.

It is worked back and forth in 2 pieces. Measure with a length of yarn held in a circle the diameter needed to pass over the teapot's spout and handle, maybe with a little stretching and angling. Divide in half and cast on stitches to make one side of cozy. Work 3 to 7 ribs of garter stitch (for a S, M or L pot) in gold. Join contrast yarn(purple) and work in stocking stitch for 1, 2 or 3 ins. Begin decreasing as follows: K2. SSK. Knit to centre 3 sts. Sl 1. K 2tog. PSSO. Knit to last 4 sts. K 2tog. K2. Repeat every other row intil 5 sts on needle. Leave sts on spare needle and repeat for other side. Graph top sts together to join sides and stitch 1" on either side of top join to make join a little longer.

For gold brackets make 4 strips of 2 garter stitch ribs each by castin on enough stitches to reach top of cozy plus 1\3 more (this allows for top detail and arching of brackets.) Brackets may be knit into the base of the crown or stitched on after. Join brackets at top by folding over about 8 sts at top end of bracket and tacking fold down. The loose end of the fold will stand up to make 1 of 4 points at the top of the crown. Tack brackets to top of cozy. Make "jewels" in scrap yarn of different colours by casting on 10-12 sts. knitting 1 row and casting of. Join in a circle and tack to base and brackets at suitable intervals. Join base of cozy and enjoy.

The other picture is a crown toilet roll cover. It was part of a show co-ordinated by Lucy Neatby for the Mary E. Black gallery in NS. Lucy asked designers and designer wannabees to design a toilet roll cover in knitting - not crochet. It was a little "tongue in cheek" take off on the crocheted versions. This was my contribution. It's similar to the tea cozy ( I can't remember which came first.) but beaded and knit in the round. You can see some of the other entries - this one included at the link below. It was fun and a long time ago. I think we need another one - any takers?

Enjoy Carol

Monday, April 17, 2006

Coffee Cozy by Sarah James Patterns

Here is our first designer coffee cozy. Ann, designer of Sarah James Patterns, has kindly given us the pattern for her basic coffee cup cover. Thank you so much! To see more cozies, beyond the basic, curser down to the bottom of this page on Sarah James' site. The pattern may be ordered from your favourite yarn retailer. It's gorgeous!

Knit up this cozy to add a fabulous "designer look" to those everyday coffee containers

You will need: One empty 12 ounce coffee container.

Yarn: One 50 gram ball of sock yarn for basic cozy.

Needles: One set of U.S. size 4 double pointed. One stitch marker and daring needle.

On DP needles cast on 16 sts and work as foll:
* K2, P2*, rep * to * across row. Repeat the last row till work is 4” in height. Swatch should = 4” in width.
Change needles to obtain gauge if needed.
Instructions are given for 12 ounce cozy.

Basic Cozy:
Use a double strand of sock yarn throughout. Cozy is worked in the round just like a sock.
Cast on 44 Sts and divided evenly onto double point needles. Place a marker to designate start of round.
Round 1: * K2, P2 *, repeat * to * around.
Repeat round one throughout.
When cozy measures 3½” from cast on, bind of loosely in rib pattern.
Turn cozy inside out and weave in all ends.
Turn cozy right side out.

Put your cozy on the empty container, you now have a coffee container cozy.
When you get your coffee (same size as your container) place it inside your empty container.

Thank you so much again for this great pattern. Be sure to tell everyone about Sarah James' patterns - they sparkle!

Enjoy Carol

Sunshine and Lollipops

I thought that you might like some eye candy, just in case you didn't get any treats from the Easter bunny. Here are two new scarves from Fiddlesticks Knitting which can be joined with a twist to form Mobius'. I think it's tricky to make that one plural. What was even trickier was trying to name the pattern. We started out with "Twice as Nice" and "Twisted Twins". Well the former was OK, but didn't really sparkle, whereas the latter was just a little too weird. I needed my thinking cap. I began picturing summer things, warm weather, skinny tops, strawberries, ice cubes, fizzy drinks with swizzle sticks. I said "Swizzlers" to Dorothy and she immediately responded with Twizzlers - scarves with a twist!

Both scarves are knit in Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk - demi. One demi skein will make one scarf - shown here in Teal and Copper. We should have Cream Soda available in the demi skeins soon, as well - swirl it up into one of these!

Lucy Neatby has a new scarf out too, Lollipops. It's a fun knit and a great way to use up bits of your stash. Nothing is ever predictable with Lucy's work, so I am not going to give away the secret of how the lollipops are attached to the scarf - it's very clever!

Hope that you're having great weather - we are! Enjoy Carol

Monday, April 10, 2006

Of cats, spats and Cream Soda

The story about Sir Humphrey reminded me of a poem by T.S. Eliot in his book "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" - the basis of the musical "Cats". In fact I had had this particular cat in mind when I designed one of my cat mittens. Here is the first verse of the poem and the mitten.

Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town

Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones--
In fact, he's remarkably fat.
He doesn't haunt pubs--he has eight or nine clubs,
For he's the St. James's Street Cat!
He's the Cat we all greet as he walks down the street
In his coat of fastidious black:
No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers
Or such an impeccable back.
In the whole of St. James's the smartest of names is
The name of this Brummell of Cats;
And we're all of us proud to be nodded or bowed to
By Bustopher Jones in white spats!

Not quite the same cat, though both were Jellicles. The location, I believe, is the same as that cruised by Sir Humphrey - St James. Also in the book by T.S. Eliot is a wonderful poem about Jellicle cats - "The Song of the Jellicles" It's really worth a read!

Also if you wanted to know more about the origin of the name "jellicle" and the funnier side of T.S. Eliot, here is a clip from a British paper written in 2002.

On the left is the sock version of a jellicle, the face is on the top side of the foot of the sock, so the cat "looks" at you, when you put your feet up. The sock is knit back and forth on two needles to make it easier to knit the face details.

Enough of mittens, though, and heavy socks. It's Spring and the temperature is rising so I had to show you a new colour of Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk - Cream Soda, created especially for warm weather knitting. A whisper of a shawl in this colour maybe all that's needed at a garden party or summer wedding.

Enjoy. Carol

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Cat for All Seasons

Perhaps you've heard of Sir Humphrey Appleby, the infamous cat of 10 Downing St. Well I hadn't and I was amazed to read an article about him in a magazine recently. Apparently Sir Humphrey has been around for a long time. He appeared one day at the front door of the aforementioned address, when Margaret Thatcher was in residence. Well forget about all this "iron lady" stuff, she was really a pussycat at heart - or at least she had a soft spot for cats, especially a lonely black and white Jellicle, without a calling card. He was admitted (I can almost see him winking over his shoulder as he entered). He wasn't given a mat by the fire, immediately, in fact he was sequestered at 70 Whitehall Rd., the accommodation officer's quarters, where he immediately took up the position of "Cat in Residence." This actually is a bone fide position dating from the time of Henry VIII.

Sir Humphrey brought such grace and feline wisdom to the position that he was often allowed to sleep on the floor during cabinet meetings. No doubt his very presence enhanced their decision making. It was never actually documented that he had had an audience with the queen, but he did receive fan mail from around the world and even had a poem dedicated to him.

Once, however, he went missing for several days. The tabloids went "wild", posting pictures of Sir Humphrey, writing columns extolling his virtues and pleading for his "return". Well - the cat came back. His picture right there in black and white (he was a jellicle) in the Daily Telegraph, showed the London Bobbie (policeman) who had picked him up as a stray and brought him home-Sir Humphrey had a charmed life- that he really was a cat of renown and needed to get back to his duties. Once back at Whitehall he lived through the terms of a Prime Minister or two until he met the equally infamous - drum roll please - Cherie Blair, wife of the current PM, Tony Blair.

Sir Humphrey was "let go", no ejected somewhat unceremoniously onto the street from whence he had come so many years before. I can almost hear Cherie Blair repeating the words of Lady Macbeth on hearing of the murder of Duncan, "What in our house?"

Alas, sad indeed, that someone so wonderful could meet such an ignominious end. But wait, what's this. A photographer, a host of journalists, an invitaion to return? Yes, apparently, when an article appeared in yet another paper about Sir Humphrey' s eviction, the British public was aghast and demanded his reinstatement. Ms Blair was forced, I guess is the only word, into a photo op, posing with Sir Humphrey in her arms saying "Nice Kitty, it was all a bad mistake". I can see him winking again.

With that, he was allowed to stay and live out his days among the elite. Sadly, though, after 17 years of notoriety, Sir Humphrey died in March of this year. Cheers to a life well lived.

I have decided to dedicate my first coffee coat to Sir Humphrey. Sorry the cats aren't black and white; but really, it's the spirit that counts.

I used 4mm circular needles and worsted weight yarn. It's a little bigger than I wanted, so it will go on a large coffee cup. I think it was the short circular that was the struggle. You may want to use a set of 5 dps or knit it straight and sew it together.

Cast on 36 sts. Knit 2 garter stitch ribs (4 rows). Change to main colour (white) and increase 1 stitch every 9 sts. (40 sts on needle) Begin graph. The first stitch in the background colour is knit the first round and then purled the second round. I think that it makes a better nose. Then a row or so later the "nose" stitch is increased to create 2 stitches separating the eyes. When the graph is completed. Knit 3 more rows in the background colour, increasing 1 stitch every 12 stitches in the last round. (52 sts. on the needles) Work 2 more garter stitch ribs, cast off and drink a toast to Sir Humphrey. It works for cold drinks too.

Have a good one. Carol

PS the photo is from MacLean's magazine April 3, 2006.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Snuffiest of Snowdrops

When we use the superlative have we reached the sublime? I think we may have here. This is a link to a site with a wonderful picture of Snowdrops and a lovely poem about Snowdrops. I think that the poet must have distilled the essence of "snowdrop-ness" and had it drip (by drops) into her creative spirit. To me the poem captures the power and simplicity of this tiny white flower, which the Romans believed came down from heaven - divine indeed.

Here also is my attempt at capturing snowdrops in fair isle. I am actually quite pleased with the arching effect. It makes them look a little angelic.

Below is another poem about Snowdrops. Read this only if you like, rather love, 5 colour carries. It is as complex and convoluted as multiple yarn stranding. Really a little too much for such a small simple flower. It's by William Wordsworth. This one doesn't turn up often in anthologies - no wonder.

On Seeing a Tuft of Snowdrops in a Storm
When haughty expectations prostrate lie,
And grandeur crouches like a guilty thing,
Oft shall the lowly weak, till nature bring Mature release,
in fair society Survive, and Fortune's utmost anger try;
Like these frail snowdrops that together cling,
And nod their helmets, smitten by the wing
Of many a furious whirl-blast sweeping by.
Observe the faithful flowers! if small to great
May lead the thoughts, thus struggling used to stand
The Emathian phalanx, nobly obstinate;
And so the bright immortal Theban band,
Whom onset, fiercely urged at Jove's command,
Might overwhelm, but could not separate!

You may also have noticed a little poem about Scilla on Joann Macken's site. Scilla (or is it Scillae) carpet the ground about the same time as the Snowdrops do. I think that I'll try a little fair isle pattern to suggest a carpet of blue Scilla(e?) Maybe I'm on a little design "roll" here - let's see.

Here is the graph for the Snowdrops in fair isle. The background is blue. The X is green and the / is white.

Now back to data entry. The new site is almost ready.

Have a good one! Carol

Friday, March 31, 2006

Snuffier Snowdrops

This has nothing to do with Spring allergies. I just thought that the picture of Snowdrops in the earlier post wasn't up to "snuff." It didn't really capture the "essence" of Snowdrops - whatever that might be, so I took a few pictures of other more sheltered clumps around the garden and came up with these.

I also tried my hand at some intarsia Snowdrops. I was trying to work out a stitch pattern that would "scream" Snowdrops. Now this a little difficult to do when one is still trying to develop one's artistic skills.

However, after working out a few graphs, I came up with these as a first attempt. I didn't like the black backgound and I became hopelessly entangled in the three colour carries, I had created for myself - yikes!

Back to the graph paper. This time I decided to do two colour carries and add the flowers with duplicate stitch afterwards. You can do this. I read it once somewhere in a book; maybe by Nicky Epstein, not sure; but it is not "cheating."

I used a fingering weight cotton yarn in 3 colours - blue, green and white and knit on 2.25mm needles until I lost one of the needles. Fortunatlely I was almost finished the sample. Now I have to buy a new set of needles or take the seats out of my car to find one 14", 2.25mm needle. Where could it go in a Honda Civic?

Anyway, I am a little happier with this clump which I think might look nice on a bag or scattered over a hat or maybe even a sweater. I even graphed out an idea in fair isle using Snowdrops. I'll let you know how it works out

Now this might seem like a short post. That's because it does not take into account the 4 hours I spent this morning learning that I could not import a graph done in a table format with any of the cute little endings that they give you to try. Nor does it take into account the hour or so I spent trying to find my Stitch Painter discs, loading in the program, relearning the program - read several failed graphs and lots of re-entering small little dashes and X's. I won't mention the knitting and re-knitting of the swatch, because that was actually fun - well the 3 colour carries weren't, but the rest was.

I did this because I am in avoidance mode. I still have lots of patterns to enter into the new website format for Infiknit and I am trying to find other more pressing things to do than that. Here is the graph. The background is blue. The X's are white and the "/" are green. Please let me know if you try it. I think that it could work in any weight of yarn.
My husband, of course, just announced yesterday that there were lots of Crocuses (I know it's Croci, but I prefer Crocuses) up. Better buy some new needles and get busy. How does a Choir of Crocus sound?
Enjoy Carol