09 October 2017

Turn, Turn, Turn

You may recall me posting about breaking my umbrella swift and attempting to repair it with glue and spit. Well, the damage was just too great and I had to finally admit that it was unusable and needed to be replaced.

That unhappy occurrence turned happy quickly with a friend's recommendation that I try an Amish style swift. I'd always been curious and it certainly is much more affordable than the umbrella style, so I bought one. I just love it. It turns so smoothly and quietly. The set up and tear down are simple with no clamping required. Best of all, it breaks down into four flat pieces and a small bag of pegs so storage is easy. The only disadvantage I've found is that the ability to adjust to the skein size is not as precise as my old swift's but I can certainly live with that. 

I highly recommend this swift, especially if you live in a small space.

07 October 2017

Make Do Monday

So it's Slow Fashion October again. Though I don't really take part, it is an opportunity for a bit of reflection. This past Monday, having the apartment to myself, I spent the entire evening listening to podcasts** and catching up on my mending. When you buy second hand and wear and wear your favourites for years, frequent maintenance is required. Seams wear, straps fray, buttons fall off. Some of these skirts have been in rotation for over 20 years. It's a small accomplishment, but I am proud of it.

Another aspect of slow fashion that I've been thinking a lot about is laundry. You hear more and more about plastic fibres from our clothes getting in the ocean. All those yoga pants being machined washed! To keep my natural fibre prints clean, I of course hand wash with vegetable based soaps - when I wash that is. For here's a secret. I hardly ever wash my skirts. Unless I spill something on them, they only get laundered about every tenth wear. Honestly with a freshening iron or steam, the fabric looks just fine to wear many times. Dresses need more washing for obvious reasons. However, I find that with light wear, a spritz on the underarm area of the garment with homemade fabric refresher***, is often enough to make the dress ready for a second or even a third wear. 

There is a label I want to share.  I rarely buy new and that's a function of economic necessity as much as it is a reflection of social conscience. When I do, it has to be special. Inside my new organic cotton dress by Toad & Co. is this:

Dirty is the new clean.
Wear more, wash less.
Wear it out or pass it on.

Sounds right to me.

**Re the podcasts. Listen to Clara Parkes reading the Debbie Stoller chapter from A Stash Of One's Own on Pomcast. It will make you cry.
***Mix a few drops of essential lavender oil and tea tree oil with distilled water in a spray bottle. It works wonders.

30 September 2017

Business Casual

Pattern:  Business Casual by Tanis
Yarn by Orange Octopus 

After losing it once, finding it again, skipping a pattern repeat, ripping out the toe and restarting - they are finally done! I sent this snap to The Daughter right after weaving in the ends. They are becoming her socks because, despite my efforts, they are a tad too big for me.

Still, they're pretty cute, right?

22 September 2017

Just A Dish Cloth

I found that I was captivated by swatching the Bi-Colour Brick stitch and I wanted to revisit it. Not being able to think of a way to incorporate it into any projects, I grabbed some cotton and made a dish cloth. This 8 x 8 square intended for the cleaning of dishes, is just a large swatch after all, albeit a useful one, and I honed a new skill to boot!. This quickly completed project was a nice break from knitting a large garment. I feel re-energized. 

The cardigan goes well and I'm returning to it now. 

13 September 2017

River Knitting

I rode out to the Humber River today. Well, not all the way at once. The distance is much further from my current home than from where I used to regularly make the trip and there are still all those hills to deal with. I had an appointment at about the one third mark - my original reason for heading in that direction. Then I stopped for lunch at approximately the halfway point. From there I did all the nasty hills involved in that particular westward trip. It was a whim really.

What a beautiful day! I watched this guy fish for quite a while. Perhaps the cool fall weather is the reason he or she was the most active heron I have ever seen. He caught two fish then disappeared.

The bridge. The distance is a very easy ride but
I usually stop here a while for the view then turn back.
I am always tired. Did I mention the hills?

Knit for about an hour on my Bombus until the sun became too direct and started to burn my knees. This blue looked so lovely in the outdoors. It makes me love this project even more than I already do.

06 September 2017

John Ashbery: Jul 28 1927- Sept 3 2017

How do I write an appreciation of John Ashbery? He died this past Sunday at age 90 and was a writer always. I started to say, in my Facebook post about his passing, that his words were often comfort and joy to me until I realized this is a quote from a holiday carol. See how easy it is to fall into maudlin cliche and bad writing?

I first wrote of my discovery of John Ashbery in January 2013 after taking the self guided East Village Poetry Walk in lower Manhatten. As I said then, I was crossing the park with Ashbery's voice in my ear reading Just Walking Around (A Wave, 1984). It was a beautiful neighbourhood park full of families and dogs and a few bench lounging drunks. During what was often a lonely trip to for me, it reminded me of my heart's home.

"But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much and wander around,
Smiling to yourself and others.
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting.

A big dog bounded toward me, all smiling legs and tail and I felt the tight spring inside me uncoil a notch. I've listened to and read that poem countless times since that day. I can recite it by heart.

St Mark's Place, NYC January 2013

Ashbery's 1991 book length poem Flow Chart was my near constant companion through 2014. It was with me most Friday nights at my favourite diner where I sat over greasy food and pints reading and reading and sometimes trying to write myself. I marked my favourite passages with bits of torn napkin, copied them into my journal: 

"...dig our heels in and ask the cliff 
to explain itself, and the ferns erupting from its crevices:  I too 
have stood here faceless and seemingly angry for a long time, yet for all that
don't feel it time to intimidate someone, make him or her feel lonesome just 
   because there is
indeed a horizon"

Or this:

"...And will my genuine if respectful indifference militate 
against the neutrality of my performance? Is a conflict of interest shaping up, or

Or what, indeed?

Seems to be. Perhaps. You see. If so. I feel that. However...

He used common clauses to link lengthy yet individually simple, phrases into complex and famously "difficult" poetry. 
From The Guardian's obituary:

“I don’t find any direct statements in life,” Ashbery once explained to the Times in London. “My poetry imitates or reproduces the way knowledge or awareness comes to me, which is by fits and starts and by indirection. I don’t think poetry arranged in neat patterns would reflect that situation.”

I disagree with the difficult label. His writing to me, is the flow in the Flow Chart. One reads and an impression takes hold. His writing is a mirror to the way an observant mind processes the world. Music, visual imagery, snatches of news and conversation, all spool out to form an idea. It's stated then left there as another takes shape. Perhaps it will be repeated later or perhaps not. Like waves lapping on the shore, climbing and receding, if listened to long enough, the experience of the experience becomes clear to you, even if you you don't understand exactly why.

Well thumbed.

John Ashbery was, of course, incredibly erudite, well read and well traveled.  He was also a professional art critic. He often referenced specific art work and literature in his poems and why wouldn't he? From mention of the opera Orlando Furioso in Soonest Mended (1962), to the painter Parmigianino in Self Portrait in A Convex Mirror (1975), to the Sibelius Quartet in Hotel Lautreamont (2007), it was always done with relevance and without arrogance. I have found that knowing the references is not always necessary to the appreciation of the work, but hey, we live in the world of the internet and it's delightfully easy to look these things up. 

My signed copy of  the Pulitzer Prize winning book - a gift from my Love.
We have the internet to thank as well for access to many recordings of Ashbery reading from his work. He had a pleasant and clear voice and read aloud in my favourite style; straightforward and without unnecessary dramatic emoting. He let the strength of the words carry the piece. I enjoy listening to him while I knit or take transit. I've heard him so often that when I read his poems to myself, it is his voice that I hear in my head.

Yes, I'm a little sad that he's gone but he was ninety years old after all.  He wrote until the end of his long and graceful life so he left us much to enjoy and discover - profound yet simple phrases such as "The inside of stumbling. The way to breath" (Homeless Heart, 2012). His last new collection came out in 2015. Isn't that remarkable? Mostly I suppose I'm sad because no longer can I use 'America's greatest living poet' as answer to the question, 'Who is John Ashbery? '.

"And now that the end is near,
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there, and mystery and food.
Come see it. Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other"

Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

25 August 2017

Trying To Grow

Did you ever read The Hotel New Hampshire, in which the physically small character Lily refers to her creative attempts as "trying to grow"? That's kind of where I'm at with my knitting right now. I feel I can't keep doing the same old thing. Heck, if I'm going to spend so much of my time doing this, I should at least get really good at it. Time to learn new things, to challenge myself, to not give up when it gets hard. Time to grow.

Thus I am knitting Bombus. When I originally cast this PomPom pattern on a few weeks ago, I thought of it as just a cool cardigan that I'd like to knit. Then the stitch pattern and the construction totally whooped my butt. I had to rip back and restart several times. There is a twelve row Bubble pattern knit over short row shaping and raglan increases - no walk in the park. I was tempted to chuck it until I got a hold of myself.

I went back to basics and practiced the stitch pattern on a separate swatch until I felt I had a good understanding of it. I used whatever wound yarn I had at hand. (I forgot I had this gorgeous Hemp for Knitting and now want to find something special just for it).
The project yarn I chose is a lovely woolly DK that I know will be cozy and satisfying when knit up. It's slightly more warm in tone than I was able tp photograph on an overcast day.

I ended up drawing a schematic of every row with notes that perhaps only I can understand. I marked every increase, every count between markers and every row of the Bubble progression. I am determined not to let the math defeat me and if this is what it takes, then that is what I must do. Taking it one step at a time and with liberal use of stitch markers, I am now off and running. Exciting! Stay tuned. 

15 August 2017

Cocina Clean

So, the moths came back. 

On Saturday we finally had to admit that our old bed with its dark rickety drawers was just a moth hotel. We may as well have sent them embossed invitations to stay as long as they like. So my partner went at it, almost gleefully, with a hammer. Then we cleaned and laundered EVERYTHING. The vacuum and washing machine were in constant use all weekend.
A quick trip to Ikea later and we now have a simple metal bed stand covered in sparkly clean mattress cover, sheets and duvet. Underneath are sealable plastic drawers full of fresh clothing.

To reward ourselves for a job well done, we went to our favourite little Mexican Cocina for salsa verde and guacamole. To get there you have to bypass the expensive tourist traps and long lines of our hood, then go four blocks north to the little house with the cute patio. It's pretty much heaven there. Fresh tortilla with five sauces, lots of limes, magical rice and beans. Food and wine always taste better after labour, especially when shared. Don't you agree?

06 August 2017

Staycation and Good News

We are very lucky here in Toronto in that there is so much to do, especially in the summer. My partner and I are taking Stay-cation this week and we've done so many lovely things together, many of them free. We rode our bikes to my old neighbourhood of High Park on one day and up the street to Allan Gardens on another. We caught a play at Soulpepper Theatre (definitely not free but worth the price). We drove to Elora to look at the Gorge. Yesterday we walked to the local farmer's market where we bought our entire dinner, meat, veg and potatoes, from local sources. It's been a grand time. Admittedly, a  couple of days we spent lazing about doing nothing and that's been nice too!

Allan Gardens has been around since 1910. It's open all year providing a tropical oasis in the centre of the city.

"There's sometimes an egret in this pond," I said as we turned the corner of the bike path into High Park. And there it was! We watched it fish for several minutes until it caught a snack. 

I visited Taste of Regent Park on Wednesday as part of the local chapter of The Fight for $15 and Fairness. It was Bollywood Night. I had a delicious meal prepared by community members and bought some pea shoots from these young enterprising gardeners. This event continues every Wednesday for the rest of the summer. Come if you can!

And finally, good news! I found my missing sock. I had a chill last night and put on a hoodie. My heart soared to discover that the lump in the pocket was the dearly missed sock. Now how did it get in there?

30 July 2017

Sunday Swatching

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon at home after a late and silly night. While my lover napped I, having a little more energy than he, decided to take advantage of the peace by practicing my knitting technique. I got out my old stitch dictionary and cast-on to learn two colour Jacquard.

HOLY MOLY!! Who knew it could be this easy? This is honestly one of the simplest things I have ever done. Look at how amazing and complicated it appears. Just look at it!!

The bottom inch is Bicolour Half Linen Stitch and the top half is Bicolour Brick.

Now, how to incorporate such magic into my actual knitting?

All these effects are achieved by knitting with a single colour in a row
using various combos of knits, purls and slipped stitches.

I picked up this 1978 French publication at a second hand shop for 50 cents.
What a find.

26 July 2017

At Least I Have A Photo

Remember this lovely sock.?
Well it is no more. That is, to specify, it is no more in my possession. Yesterday it did an unobserved leap out my bag and no amount of looking could locate it. 
I am so mad I could just spit.

08 July 2017

So Many Socks

It seems that all my recent FO's have been socks.Yes, I am using stash and experimenting with new techniques. Yes, of course i love socks! However, there may be too much of a good thing - especially as it's summer and wool socks are not needed. After the current pair, my Business Casual in Orange Octopus, I shall make something other than footwear. 

So many patterns. So little time.

I worried at first that the criss-cross cable pattern would not be highlighted sufficiently with this variegated yarn. Now I think it's just fine. The effect is subtle, but definitely there.

I had fun shooting the Scrappy Socks about town. The bright colour photographed so well!
Here they are at the garden centre the day I was shopping for herbs.

The photo shoot that ended up on my Ravelry page was impromptu. I passed a gorgeous brick nook while out on my bike on a sunny day. I kicked off my sneakers, set the 10 second delay, and got several good shots of my own feet.

25 June 2017

In the Shadow of a Dream

Imagine being found
on a morning like this
in the fragrance of spring rain
every sense a painful
happiness breathing
on a morning like this
a little lonely a little dazed
eyes still filled
with longing and dreams

To see you walk through
a veil of fog and gates of rain
to meet me this morning
with a glance that says
that I am seen and found
for as long as forever

Ulrikka S. Gernes
A Sudden Sky
Brick Books 2001

14 June 2017

Distractions Part II

Sometimes I just need to get my creative juices flowing by playing with my dolls. Here they are trying on some summer outfits. 

12 June 2017


Do you ever feel, as I sometimes do, a little guilty about all those WIP's waiting for attention? I am trying, really I am, to finish the lace stole I started over two years ago. Well, maybe it was actually three years. 

How can one sit down and apply oneself when there are distractions like the Pompom Anniversary issue hitting the shelves? I ordered a copy as a birthday gift to myself and the store called the other day to say it was in. There are so many beautiful things I want to cast on. Right. Now.

However, I am only on Row 258 of the approximately 600 required to finish this lace project. Quiet opportunities to knit complex lace are few and when they do come along, I find I only manage 8 to 10 rows in a sitting. 

I am making a pact with myself. No new projects until I hit Row 310 and also finish the current pair of socks. This seems a reasonable goal. Then, who knows what delights await?

Another stole seems silly but this one by Thea Coleman is so beautiful.

A sideways sweater would be a new challenge.

09 June 2017

Another Birthday

The planet did another year rotation and I had another birthday. To celebrate we went on a spa trip to an inn not far from here. The spa experience was admittedly a little disappointing. It was far too crowded which caused me to have a "moment". Thankfully, my lovely and patient partner was there to get me quickly out. I love that I can so thoroughly trust him to help me when I need it. What a beautiful gift. I still marvel at having such reliable love in my life and am grateful every day.
Our best experiences of our overnight visit were away from the main building: visiting the stables and gardens, sitting on the deck outside our room watching the moon rise, walking down the road to see the neighbouring sheep farm. 
Yes, I said sheep!

The garden grooming achieved a planned, yet not too formal look.

Watch out for the working sheep dogs! Though we never felt  in danger, they aggressively defended their flock. We knew to keep our distance.

Wonderful to breathe the fresh, foliage scented, air.

Shortly before we left, I finished my scrappy socks. They are quite delightful, looking even better than I had hoped they would. The knitting is fast but the weaving in of ends is slow. It's a good balance that makes a great sock. I plan to make more like this.

30 May 2017

More Knitwear in Fashion Ads

The use of knitwear in fashion ads always catches my eye. This striking black and white ad is for the bag. However, the texture of that chunky knit sweater really stands out and contributes to the overall success of the shot. In photography, as in life, sometimes you need bold texture to make your point. I love this photo both as a composition and as a look.

To be honest I know Michael Kors mostly as a judge on Project Runway. This ad is actually for the crochet dress and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Hey! Bring back hippie crochet dresses (and tops and bikinis even). But that colour? With the girly hair and boring shoes? Perhaps it's just the over the top flowery, "feminine" styling that's putting me off. On the street, worn by a confident funky young woman, this might work. Big jewelry maybe? Boots? Would that help? Definitely lose the guy in the white pants and ugly sandals.