Sunday, December 31, 2006


This has been a year of enormous change and upheaval, and I think the only thing I can say with certainty at the start of 2007 is that I am no longer certain about the vast majority of the things I used to think I knew, particularly about myself. And while that is an undoubtedly profound realization, it doesn't go far towards generating a tidily bulleted "to do" list for the upcoming year. I've launched into uncharted waters - this will be the year to sail them.

In the midst of that, I find myself paradoxically clear and specific about what I want to accomplish as a knitter. Perhaps this relates to Elizabeth Zimmerman's famous statement: "Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises."

Knitting Resolutions for 2007:

1) I'm not making any formal resolutions about knitting from stash because it's a moot point - our budget simply won't allow for extravagance, and I have enough of this and that to tide me over. Any purchases will likely be good workhorse wools for specific design projects that require something not presently in the stash.

2) I want to grow my design skills, and to that end, my motto for this year is restraint. By which I mean, I resolve to set aside the obsessively overachieving impulse to try to make every project the most wildly inventive, intricate and originally dazzling thing EVER. (Also the corresponding neurosis that nice yarn would be wasted on anything but.) Rob gave me a copy of "Knitting in the Old Way" for Christmas, and between that and my little EZ library, I want to try all the shaping and construction techniques, and play with form and fit until they are firmly under my fingers. That means a series of sweaters that are simple and elegant, with one or two delicious details. For now, I intend to reserve intense intricacy for little projects.

3) Colour. Two to a project. Maximum. I wove in over 500 ends (seriously!) for that little cropped cardigan, and I am SO done with ends for a while. Not forever, but for a while.

4) Spinning. I will dig out the spindle. I may not get to be any good at it, but I will start.

5) Dyeing. Same idea as no. 4 - no pressure to do great things, but I will do the research and get started.

6) Swatching. Not just the bare minimum required to establish gauge before getting on with the good bit, but swatching for its own sake - to explore technique and texture and colour in miniature. I might even blog and gather them into a personal reference library.

7) Gift knitting. I will regularly add items to the 2007 gifting box, and will NOT be caught short next year. Seriously. I will also get DS's stocking done for Christmas 2007.

8) Knitting for DH and the kids. Primarily DD, since the men of the family are Delicate Flowers in the skin department.

9) Charitable knitting. I will get my five Dulaan items done (and mailed In Time), and design a free sweater pattern for the project.

And that's about it. I have a small number of WIP's to finish up, and I'd like to make enough socks to wear handknits all the time, (DH too, if he can get over his wool-next-to-the-skin thing).

As for the uncharted waters - I do have a compass, but it's a little like Jack Sparrow's - and I'm not at all sure where it's taking me.

Friday, December 29, 2006

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Life

But not quite yet. We're still in leisure mode, but with a growing sense of anticipation, optimism and renewed energy for 2007. (Which means that some day soon there will be another introspective bit of philosophizing - but in a happier way. The muddling fog is starting to clear just a bit.)

As for the Christmas recap - it was altogether lovely. The snow fell all night in enormous lacy flakes, drifting down pillow-soft onto the magic forest. (Then several hundred pounds of magic fell off the third story roof all at once, nearly ripping our balcony right off, but the nice maintenance guy with the big shovel saved the day.)

The children were thrilled with their Christmas Eve robes (a slight variation on the usual pajamas),

and as per tradition, we slept all together in front of the tree on the pull-out couch. (Actually, the kids slept, and Rob and I squirmed about in the little bits of space they left us, adjusting our aching backs as best we could. Tradition is important.)

Christmas morning, the stockings were opened with delight, and freshly baked croissants (yes, the real thing, made from scratch) were then consumed with large dollops of Nutella. Mr. and Mrs. Claus pulled themselves together with a pot of strong coffee, then started into the mimosas. As per tradition, the gift opening was savored one at a time, with rapt attention given to the recipient, followed by oohing and ahhing and hugs of gratitude all round. This year was much more restrained financially, but no less joyously abundant.

Speaking of gifts, I can now blog this:

A knitted Babe, with big blue eyes, and an unruly mop of blond hair, just like her new owner. I knitted her in DK, rather than fingering weight, and converted everything to round knitting, including i-cord for the limbs. The sweater was worked up from leftover sock yarn. DD was thrilled to bits, and immediately pulled out her new sewing kit in order to work on expanding her wardrobe.

Boxing Day, we headed down to the city for a slightly belated (but also wonderful) celebration with the in-laws and the cousins. While there, I finished up FIL's knit-to-order bedsocks:
They turned out just right, but as much as I love the man, I will NEVER ever again knit plain dark navy socks on size 0 needles in splitty superwash wool. Ever.

We arrived home around suppertime last night, and fell into bed early, exhausted and slightly dyspeptic with merriment. One more cup of coffee now, and the post-Christmas excavation begins!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like....

If there's a happier place to be this time of year, I'd be hard pressed to think of it!

Wishing you all Peace, Joy, Love, Light and Hope now and in the year to come.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Love the Yarn You're With

Here, modelled on the slopes of our personal patio avalanche zone, is the Andean Silk sample pack sweater. The name, of course, refers to the song - because I would much rather have had a bag full of blues and blue-greens, but with a little determination, managed to come up with something that I like very much and that suits me (which is saying something, as the red/orange spectrum is not friendly to my complexion.)

front sweater

Pattern: my own, worked in one piece to the armscyes, sleeves picked up and worked down in the round. I discovered the concept of short row sleeve caps in Elizabeth Zimmerman's kangaroo pouch sweater, although I believe the idea has been explored by a number of designers. I used woven stitch to blend the stripes, which had the pleasing effect of making the contrasts less jarring.

Yarn: Knitpick's Andean Silk - I purchased the (one of each colour) sample pack on sale a number of months ago, and used 14 different colours in this sweater. Of these, I used almost all the (three) blues, most of the dark purple, and varying amounts of the others. The sweater itself weighs around 420 gms, which would put the actual yardage at a little over 400 yards. Maybe 450, considering the number of ends I wove in and snipped.

Closure: In the end, I opted against buttons, and devised a hammered sterling silver pin:


I am quite pleased with the pin - it's my first go at pin making, and I think I will work up more in future. (It occured to me after the fact that one could quite easily thread stitch markers onto the wiggles, too - decorative and less prone to loss.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fetchingly Last Minute

I am probably the last knitter on the planet to get on board with these, however, last night at supper I was mulling over what to give DD's teacher that I could finish by tonight. I was going to go with jewellery, but then she was kind of "eh" on what I was wearing at the school earlier in the week, so I had a crisis of confidence since I don't really know her all that well. The last thing I need is another looming knitting deadline, but I remembered Charity blogging about Fetching as a quick knit and an ideal teacher gift, so 10 minutes later I had located and printed the pattern, dug out one of my remaining balls of Andean Silk and cast on. (Yes, there is a good reason for the name of my blog.) And this morning, I present:

Pattern: Fetching - Knitty 2006

Yarn: KnitPick's Andean Silk in Olive - 1 ball, with about 5 yards to spare.

Gauge & Needles: I chose to knit these a little small at 22 st / 4 in. on 3.25 mm bamboo dpns. (Also, those were the largest dpns I could find last night - should I even admit that?) I wear size 6 to 61/2 gloves (ladies small) and the recipient is quite petite, so I figure they should work.

They certainly fit me perfectly.

Modifications: Just the bind-off - I replaced the picots with a simple 2 stitch applied I-cord. I'm happy with the effect - smooth, tidy, and comfortable.

Time: 4 hours from start to finish - definitely an authentically last minute project! Also an excellent choice for small amounts of luxury fiber - mine took 91 yards.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Back in the Real World

We are - finally - back online. I fervently hope the repair job was sturdy, since there is another hurricane equivalent coming to the coast in the next 24 hours. Up here in the mountains we just tend to get magnificent snow and a mild breeze, but all of our cabled and wired type services originate down in the storm zone. So if I don't blog for another week, you'll know why.

Where to begin? The happy sweater is finished and I am thrilled with the result, but it deserves a) a post of its own, free of whining about winter storms, and b) to be photographed in daylight. Remains to be seen how much of that will filter through the clouds today, but I will get out the camera as soon as I can.

The show. I realized after reading Rosemary's comment that it might be an idea to actually say where it was, since I have some readers in the Lower Mainland. I had planned to blog the details Friday morning but.... you know. It could have been worse, the power was out to the site of our venue (Function Junction, just south of Whistler Creekside) for all of Friday, and came back on in the absolute nick of time. As far as the show itself, the foot traffic was disappointing (we were competing with 60 cm of fresh powder) but we made a few sales and the feedback was very encouraging, we covered our costs and learned a ton, the kids had a blast at daycare (which they hardly ever get to go to) and Rob and I had a whole weekend of adult conversation just like an actual date. All good.

I gave Rob the job of documenting the weekend in pictures.
That was it. Just the one. (Which pretty much sums up the difference in our respective approaches to photography. I have virtually paralyzed our computer with the number of jpg's stored on the hard drive whereas, if left to his own devices, Rob would still have plenty of room left on the camera card six years after purchase.)

Christmas knitting. Sigh. I think number 2 child will have to wait another year for his proper heirloom stocking. Talk about second sock syndrome. Somehow I managed to cast on 165 stitches, count it three times to ensure it was 144, and knit the plain facing for several hours on 2 mm needles before discovering (last night) that I had 21 too many stitches, and since I had already spent a full couple of days creating the intricate charted design for 144, there was no form of fudging that could save me. And I still have two other gifts to finish by Friday. Not going to happen. Baaaaad mother. (Liam of course, could care less, particularly since his "temporary stocking" is twice the size of his sister's magnificent hand-sewn masterpiece.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Help! The Sky is Falling!!! (Internet is down for an extended time)

This will be quick, since I am paying rather dearly for access at the moment. A severe winter storm has knocked out Internet access to the entire North Shore area since Thursday night - Shaw and Telus are being worryingly vague, but rumor is that it was a fairly nasty event and could take up to a week more. (Try to imagine the happiness flowing through a world class ski resort that can't take web reservations the week before Christmas.) After begging door to door, I have managed to find a back room in a hotel that is on an alternate system - but it costs rather a lot.

Anyway - Merry Christmas to all, and many apologies to anyone who has emailed me since Thursday night, particularly Lorna to whom I owe money. For anything urgent, try my gmail address: as I will attempt to check it every day or two.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Scottish Monochrome

My KP order arrived yesterday:

Some DK merino for the hat version 2.0. I plan to knit this at a very tight gauge for warmth, as well as wind and water resistence - it is not uncommon to ride the lift on the bottom half of the mountain in pouring rain, especially early and late in the season.

Fingering weight for the mittens - the white is merino, the black is merino with a bit of silk. I am completely thrilled that Lorna is in the process of procuring the Sanquhar pattern leaflets from Edinburgh for me - what a marvelous thing this blog community is!

And one tiny little splurge snuck into the shopping cart: a couple of balls of Suri Dream for a soft snuggly neckwarmer.

It's an interesting thing, this business of giving up the comfortable income in return for more time to create (though unless the weekend goes exceptionally well I may be scuttling back to the salt mines in the New Year, but I'm trying to think happy thoughts...). Suddenly there is far less money for raw materials. But while I occasionally cast a longing eye at the scrumptious yarns floating around blogland, it is an excellent opportunity to connect with knitting's more traditional roots - taking ordinary, serviceable wool and using texture and pattern and ingenuity to create things of beauty. Not such a bad thing at all.

This week hasn't seen much knitting - mostly frantic polishing and tagging and boxing and preparing for the weekend. Today's task is to do a dry run of my display set-up - pictures tomorrow. The happy sweater is down to the last cuff, and eleventeen thousand ends to weave - with any luck I may have an FO for tomorrow as well!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Snowy Lichens

While poking around under a tree felled by a recent windstorm, it occurred to me that blue and red aren't the only colours that look handsome in a minimalist pairing with white. First iteration:

Much better:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Silent Night

One of my very favorite Christmas albums is Count Your Blessings, a (seemingly) unknown little gem recorded live at the Glenn Gould Theatre in 1993. The women (Holly Cole, Rebecca Jenkings, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Jane Siberry, and Victoria Williams) restore a sense of authentic, raw intimacy to carols that have become trite with commercial abuse over the years. Their rendition of Silent Night in particular, reduces me to helpless weeping - it is imbued with a womanly vulnerability that connects deeply with my own experience.

Christmas 1999. I was pregnant for the first time, and Rob was away for six months on a particularly nasty peacekeeping tour in East Timor, having been given a week's notice to sail. We found out we were pregnant three days before he left. I had come within a hair's breadth of miscarriage, my only contact with my husband was by email, the misogynist element in my workplace had ramped up his bullying by a considerable degree, and all in all, I was feeling more lonely and vulnerable than I ever had in my life.

Shortly before Christmas, it fell to me to assist with the delivery of a young woman with advanced HIV whose lifestyle and racial origins had relegated her to the outer margins of the marginalized in our (not entirely idyllic) community. The child was to be apprehended by Social Services shortly after birth, there were layers upon layers of waterproof barriers in place, and all the facts of the matter pointed only to sorrow and hardship and disease.

But the babe was beautiful - robust, alert, innocent, perfect - and there was still that moment - that magical moment where he came to rest on his mother's breast and their eyes met, and all her damage and torment and self-loathing fell away and she loved him as purely and truly as any mother on earth.

Later that evening, I attended a Christmas concert - symphony and choir and sing-along carols, and an auditorium filled with well-heeled "nice" folk. It was blandly pleasant enough, but somewhere in the middle of Silent Night, my own experience and the day's events coalesced and it was all I could do not to shout at the top of my lungs that we were completely missing the point.

The Story, at its root, is about the terrifying vulnerabity of an unwed woman in a patriarchal culture, pregnant by someone not her fiance, and in imminent danger of drastic marginalization or even death. The scene of radiant motherhood by the manger was preceded and followed by danger and uncertainty and darkness - its commemoration is poignant and beautiful for precisely that reason. Mary had far more in common with that young woman in hospital than with smiling facades of well-modulated upper middle class goodness.

How is it that "Christmas Spirit"- both religious and commercial - has come to be a sort of blandly generic form of cheeriness - shiny, plastic, and conflict free? The season has been polarized into the"fortunate ones," who have the money and energy to keep up the facade, and the "less fortunate" who receive their annual hamper of dutiful good cheer. The fact is that we all live with darkness in various forms, and it is no shame to acknowledge that.

If we did, perhaps we would also have less need to be territorial and defensive and fearfully correct about form and custom. We could simply be and notice and gratefully celebrate and share our moments of Light.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Busy Season

This weekend was the big push to get packages ready for mailing (sigh - I remember years when I've had them at the Post Office by October. I think those were non-moving years.) I couldn't resist getting a little creative with the wrapping, particularly since we don't have much room now to be storing leftover Christmas wrap.

The string bags are full of the cookies that Rob has diligently been making late at night for a month now. Since the gift baking is finally complete, we indulged in some of our own, and let the kids get in on the act.

Ah, the happy excess of childhood!

There was knitting too, but only a few forearm rounds on the Happy Sweater, which looks like it will make it all the way to the wrists, and with any luck will be done later in the week. The big push this week is preparations for showing my jewellery at a local artisan market on the 16th & 17th - polishing, printing, packaging and general fretting because it is my first fair/show/opportunity-to-be-rejected-live-and-in-person. Hopefully there will be a little knitting in there too, otherwise next week will be a full blown Christmas sweatshop (of the sort I promised myself I wouldn't allow because it is SO not Christmas spirit-ish, but.... live and learn.)

PS - DD just noticed that she was not included in the gingerbread photos and this is apparently Grievously Unfair, so:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Again With the White Death

So after Friday's little destructo-fest, Rob and I had a chat about the remaining stuff presently not jammed under shelter. The table and chairs (we originally harbored notions of winter barbecues in this mild coastal climate) appeared to be well beyond the avalanche zone, and in any case, the chairs were tipped up in such a way as to deflect any stray snowballs from the glass table top. Besides, the worst was over - the other section of roof had never dumped anything too big on the patio.

Guess we'll be rethinking that.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

White Death Hurtles Down From On High

OK, maybe that was a little overwrought, but still.... This guy's been hanging over our heads three stories up for over a week now.

We've gotten used to the regular "swish-thud" on our patio as the snowy convergence of three major pieces of the building's roof lets go, but with the combination of record breaking early snows and a day of steady rain, our private avalanche zone rather outdid itself yesterday.

What I didn't get a photo of (because a workman was already dismantling it) was the mangled balcony railing, with twisted metal protruding at rakish angles and the plywood barrier (the glass blew out weeks ago) dangling in splinters. (It appears to have ripped up a section of roof on its way down, as well). One of the end trays of our barbecue is rather more twisty than is strictly optimal, but thankfully, that appears to be the extent of the damage to personal possessions. Needless to say, we don't really use our patio in winter!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Snowy Sanquhar

I am impatiently awaiting my KP order, so as to have another go at the hat, this time in a more practical shape and a more finely detailed design. And since I am ordering the wool in advance this time, rather than making do with scraps, it will have coordinating mittens. It must be the combination of my Scottish blood and all the black and white around me - I have been obsessed with Sanquhar since reading Nanette's post. I plan to unvent a pair of fingering weight mittens before tackling laceweight gloves, though (and the former will also be more practical at present.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Rose

With leaves melting quietly into earth in the secret places beneath the snow, branches now reveal their silky naked skins.

The hot-headed passion of red settles into mature grace when left to dance alone on the white-cold snow.

And sometimes in the depth of winter, a rose blooms.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Creeks and Cords

Once I got to elbowish level with the sleeves, I simply couldn't go on until I knew how much cuff yarn I'd have left.It went through a few iterations, but I think this complements the two colour ribbing of the waistline reasonably well, and should block out nicely. (It appears to draw in a little more than appears strictly perfect, however, this yarn is not super elastic and has the potential to sag, so I think it will be beneficial to start slightly tighter. We shall see!)

I finally had the opportunity to try out an edging I've been coveting for some time: the I-cord bind-off (aka applied I-cord).

I like how neatly it attaches at the back, too.

I decided against buttons in the end - I think I'm going to have a go at creating some nifty silver clasps.


Today's little piece of happy:

And the display format I settled on:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Candles in the Dark

As a child, my favorite aspect of December was making things. My mother and I spent long hours together creating - not gifts, but detailed and finely crafted decorations - sewn, glued, embellished, embroidered, crocheted. It was a pure, unhurried kind of happiness, utterly unsullied by deadline and obligation - if a project wasn't complete by the end of Christmas, we simply carried on the next year. I kept it up for a while after leaving home, but somewhere during the years of my adulthood it dwindled away - or I failed to tend to it - creation for the sake of its own self-evident joy gave way to perfectionism and deadlines, and even our baking this year has all been sequestered in the freezer for gifting.

So this December, I plan to indulge (actually I started yesterday, but couldn't quite articulate the reasons at that moment) in a little piece of no-strings-attached beauty each day - sometimes created, sometimes simply photographed, because both looking and creating are kinds of Noticing, ways of intentionally participating in Being. This year I need more acutely than ever to touch the real things around me, find solid ground beneath my feet. As the winter solstice approaches, these are my candles.

blog photo eye

I'm still finalizing the practicalities of the format (the man of the house is concerned about Holes In The Wall), but I think I will attach the photos to wide ribbons hanging on either side of the fireplace, and they can accumulate over the month. Something like a personal Advent calendar.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fire on the Mountain

Here's this morning's sky:

close mountain

I love the way the early morning sun sets the snow on fire.

And since the sky looked like this yesterday,

sky thru trees

and it wasn't very cold, and I was over my cold, and there was no excuse in the world left not to - the world's weeniest skier took to the slopes yesterday. I did not take pictures, because I was not at all sure a sensitive piece of electronic gadgetry would survive the experience. Actually, I wasn't at all sure I would survive the experience, but I didn't fall getting off the lift, and after a painfully snowplowish start, the muscle memory kicked in (not that there was a whole lot to remember - I was only ever an advanced beginner when I last strapped on skis 7 1/2 years ago) and by the bottom it was not so bad. Fun, even.

Christmas kicks into full swing at our house today, as the tree goes up. Technically it began the evening of Nov. 30th, when Rob and I stayed up into the wee hours wrapping tiny tidbits accumulated through the year and stuffing them into the kids' Advent calendars. Now that Liam is old enough to comprehend and compare, it's a strategic exercise in symmetry (is a wind-up penguin equivalent to a turtle, for example) but I so love the behind the scenes process of creating magic.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Somebody (I feel badly I can't recall who, but I'm also not inclined to search the archives of every blog in my roll) blogged these the other day. (Edited to add: thanks for the comment, Caro, now I remember!) Which is the only way I ever would have discovered them, since the link is tucked in fine print at the bottom of the Flickr page. Anyway, I've been casting about for a nifty, artsy business card idea, and this fit the bill nicely. Here's what I sent off last night:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

North Wind

The cold front has brought windy temperatures well below what Whistler is used to (though still mild compared to the prairie winters we endured for the last 6 six years), but with that came the sun. The (happily abundant) snow is transformed from soft dove grey to dazzling, blinding white, last week's enormous, delicate snowflakes covered up by dry powder that wisps and swirls off the drift crests.

I am beginning to understand why Scandinavian sweaters are primarily two toned, white and blue / red / black designs. This is not weather to inspire subtlety and shading. But neither, in my experience, does this particularly blustery cold call to mind primly stylized snowflakes and rows of dancing children. It's beautiful, but it feels wilder and less orderly than that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Race to the Wrists

The sampler pack sweater is ticking right along, and the great sleeve race is on.

Will the yarn last to the wrists, or will I have to settle for some sort of fractional look? More to the point, will I be able to make the "best" colours last? Because I have plenty of mouse gray, carrot orange and anemic lavender left, but I'm not going to use those exclusively for the last half of the sleeves. I sometimes think I should learn to love all colours equally, but I am savoring my bits of blue, and the nice dark cranberry. It's a bit like when I was a kid, hoarding the last bites of chicken to assuage the discomfort of finishing the plateful of rutabaga that we had to eat because it would be wrong to waste food even if the original veggie was the size of a small car, and woody enough to construct a house with (and why oh why did those prairie church ladies with farms never gift the economically challenged with edible produce?)

But I digress. Here's a closer look at the shoulder shaping, in which the short rows form a bit of a design feature in their own right: