Saturday, August 05, 2006


My better half has graciously pointed out that as we are not about to be battered by a Category 5 hurricane, I might want to revise my calculations. So, for the record: 100 km/h = 62.5 mph winds. I blame today's creative mathematics entirely on the number thirteen, which has caused massive brain malfunction by its less-than-two-full-weeks-ness.

Thirteen: Saturday Stuff

It is now officially less than two weeks until we move and time for panic to kick into high gear.

Today's sky:
There is presently a weather warning in effect, forecasting 70-100 km/h winds. (That's 112-160 mph.) This calls to mind our last move - from Winnipeg, when a very late spring storm dumped several feet of heavy wet snow and broke big chunks off of all our trees, two days before the house was to go on the market. Thinking happy thoughts.........

Speaking of weather, here's Thursday's sky:Happily, it was travelling away from us and, as far as I know, didn't do anything nasty to anyone.


On to this week's chromatic challenge:

I pulled out quite a wide range of colours:

There are inumerable stitch patterns which give a lovely impression of tree bark - cables and twisted stitches and the like, but I eventually forced myself to focus on interpreting it in colourwork alone.

A 30 x 22 stitch repeat:

Carefully plotted so that all four sides line up thus:

I envision pulling colours from the palette above, and arranging them in random stripes , with the pattern in a deep chocolate brown or even a charcoal gray. Then again, a suitably hued handpaint would also make a lovely background. In the original photo, I love the way the little bits of buttery yellow lichen on the bark make the rest of the colour scheme pop - I would be tempted to duplicate stitch a few spots here and there for effect.

This would make a lovely little shell in a fingering weight silk blend, perhaps peeking out from under a sober suit jacket or plain black cardigan. A delicious cable in the pattern colour twining up the centre would add textural interest.

For a subtle effect, one could also interpret it in a single colour as purl stitches on a stockinette background.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Fourteen: Toying With Twine

I was perusing the pantry yesterday, hoping vaguely for lunchtime inspiration, when out of the corner of my eye I saw - twine! It lives next to the poster paints, on one of the few remaining household surfaces that can't readily be reached by scaling the kitchen cupboards or precariously stacking IKEA toy boxes. The paint is banished to a secure location because: This is not a once-in-a-lifetime photo op, but rather the inevitable outcome of every paint encounter. My DD is a remarkable and precocious artist, but she perceives paint as a primarily tactile medium, to be spread and splashed over the widest possible area, rolled in, walked through etc. It is washable, but there's only so much of any pigmented substance that one wants footprinted throughout the house. Consequently, paint is reserved for special occasions outdoors.

And the twine? That gets wound around the legs of every piece of household furniture, creating a remarkable resemblance to one of those laser beam grids that cat burglars are always shimmying through on their way to the treasure. Generally there is also a second layer at doorknob level, which unfortunately happens to coincide with her brother's neck.

But I digress. The point of my interest in twine is that one of the many projects floating about in development is shopping bags. It is high time we gave up plastic (although it does come in handy cleaning up after two giant dogs) and I just can't bring myself to buy grocery bags. Besides, it's the sort of project that cries out for something fun and funky and imaginative (never mind that we've carried on with plastic for an extra year already waiting for just the right funky and imaginative idea to come to fruition). I have a series of handprinted cotton canvas bags in the works, but I'd also like to develop something knitted. What fun it would be to knit a shopping bag in a traditional lace pattern, rather than plain boring mesh. I could just buy cotton yarn, but the idea of lace done in something as humbly utilitarian as twine appeals to me.

Not, however, in this: It made my hands itch, and my wrist still hurts this morning. Seems I'll be making a trip to Canadian Tire this weekend.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fifteen: Organizing Inspiration

I have struggled for years to find a workable way to collect my brainwaves and bursts of inspiration into a tidy, loss-proof package. Being just the teensiest bit perfectionistic, I felt my design journal should be a work of art in itself, or at the very least, impeccably neat and categorized. I had a lovely image in mind of curling up in a leather chair, surrounded by books, cappucino in hand, Bach on the stereo, brilliance spilling from my pen onto the crisp archival pages of a beautifully bound journal.

What actually happened, of course, is that inspiration would strike at work, or while running, or in the grocery store. I'd grab the nearest writing implement, scribble on a prescription pad, X-ray requisition, crumpled receipt from my purse, etc., stuff it hastily in my pocket because I felt rather sheepish about failing to concentrate on "important" things, put it through the wash by mistake, stack it on the counter where the kids could douse it with milk or appropriate it as drawing paper of their own, and finally, throw it away accidentally.

I persisted, though - buying notebooks and sketchpads and organizers and "systems," in the vain hope that doing so would magically impose some sort of order on the creative process. But even the most miniature of sketchbooks were never around at the right time, and when I did use them, the impulsive and scattered nature of my ideas always seemed at odds with the tidy regularity of a bound journal. A fabulous quilt block would be right next to a morose bit of premenstrual poetry, and I was forever feeling I had "ruined" it and had to start over.

It was slowly dawning on me that choosing utilitarian over pretty might be a key to overcoming my perfectionism, when Eunny posted pictures of her design journal - and suddenly, I knew what I needed to do.

design book

The covers are cut from one of the multitudinous commercial packing boxes I have been emptying and sorting, and a package of rings cost maybe a couple of dollars at Staples. I can hole punch any and every scrap of paper to my heart's content, glue clippings on cardstock, staple in ziplocks and envelopes and swatches - and best of all, it is thoroughly, reassuringly imperfect.

planning graph

collage samples



Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sixteen: The Shaun Sweater

As my last paycheck for a while will be electronically winging its way to the bank this weekend, yarn purchases are about to come to a screeching halt. (This would be the down side of opting out of the rat race to focus on What Really Matters in Life.) Therefore, the time is now to take stock of must-do projects (Christmas presents etc.) for the coming year, and add them to the stash.

One family member in particular needs a nice warm sweater before the snow flies. She has requested a replica of Shaun the sheep's lovely pullover, which I intend to reinterpret as a fabulously cabled cardigan.

The sweater:


Length (shoulder to waist): 35 inches Chest circumference: 41 inches

Wearer's weight: 160 lbs

Yarn: Alafoss Lopi


The lovely and talented Guinevere!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Seventeen: Slowly Swatching Silken Stitch Samples

My personality is a somewhat paradoxical blend of careful mathematical analysis and "oooh shiney!" I offer this by way of explanation for the decision to engage in comparative stitch swatching in fine handpainted silk. (And maybe also the intensely stubborn and competitive "this fiber will not defeat me" thing factored in just a little.) There is a method to the madness though, because the finished swatch will become a skinny tubular scarf and I believe the beauty of the handpaint will override the texture of any of the less successful stitch patterns, yielding an eminently wearable object.

The verdicts thus far:

Off-Centre Trellis Cable Pattern:

Disappointing. The fabric is a little more sag resistant than plain stockinette, but the cables wobble unevenly, likely due to the wide expanses of reverse stockinette between them. The white dotted line follows the knit stitch column that, in wool (above), runs up straight as an arrow between pattern panels. A tighter cable pattern might have potential.

Mistake Stitch Rib:A handsome stitch pattern - deep, springy, well-defined ribs. Not particularly tension resistant, doesn't pull in much.

Smocking:Love it. Springy and elastic, enough so that I could see it used successfully for negative ease. Great stitch definition, and the smocking loops rearrange the standard "zig-zag" of handpainted yarn most attractively. As an added bonus, it's easy to knit - much easier than cables in this slippery yarn.

Corded Ribbing:

Seen on the bottom, running into plain 2x2 ribbing for comparison. Slightly tidier and more sag resistent than the 2x2 but really not worth the PITA factor.

That's about 11 inches and 1/4 of the skein, so I believe I'll get a nice little scarf out of the project. Stay tuned for updates - I'm working on a tight overall cable pattern at present.

In the interests of honesty and all that, I feel compelled to correct the notion that I spend my weekends scaling cliff faces like a human fly. I love getting to the top of mountains, but have generally confined my adventures to summits that can be reached by a stiff hike and a bit of rock scrambling / bouldering at the top. I did spend a fair bit of time at the University climbing wall during medical school and enjoyed that hugely - since there is an indoor wall in Whistler, I expect we will head there regularly as a family. However, top-roped indoor climbing is a different matter altogether from scaling a cliff with only your own hammered spikes for fall insurance. My risk tolerance dropped dramatically when I became a mother, so I suspect I'll stick to the controlled environs of the wall for some time yet. (Yes, it has occured to me that my daughter will likely get hooked on mountain climbing herself and turn me into a nervous wreck, but what are you gonna do?)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Eighteen: Yesssss!

Today is my last day of work in Moose Jaw. It hasn't been a bad experience - great partner, excellent staff, nice patients, but........ yesssss! One more giant responsibility off my back while I focus on the still-enormous task of sorting and downsizing.

The silk sampler scarf is yielding some very instructive results - more on that tomorrow. In the meantime, check out yesterday's post, which I didn't get published until suppertime because my father was kindly scouring their archives for usable slides and photos to scan and email.

For Charity: I don't know where you live, but I just order my books online from or Chapters. I don't have a hope in you-know-what of finding knitting books locally. Have you seen Grumperina's review of Knitting Nature? I haven't seen many FO's from it on blogs - one successful roundabout tank, two other patterns causing loads of angst due to pattern errors.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Nineteen: Climb Every Mountain

Number three on the Life Well Lived list is "climbed a mountain." Rather than enumerate a tedious travel log of mountains I've climbed, I thought it would be more interesting and relevant to explain why I love them so and, by extension, why we have chosen to quit lucrative jobs, sell most of what we own, and move our family of four (plus pets) to a tiny apartment in Whistler, BC.

The terrain of childhood is the coccoon of the psyche, inextricably linked with the deepest longings of the heart. I was born in France, and for nine years, lived with the Mediterranean at my feet and the rocky hills of Provence at my back. The sea shone with infinite possibility and the richly hued light it shared with the sky was warm and vividly alive. The mountains though, were my secure protectors. The Tete de Chien watched faithfully through my kitchen and bedroom windows, witness to every secret joy, every bitter tear, a solid and certain landmark in the volatile emotional terrain of my childhood. Weekends were invariably spent exploring the hills behind Monte Carlo, and I learned that there were secret gifts and surprises around every rocky corner - terraced vineyards, stony towns with mysterious narrow passageways, fragrant bakeries, and ancient bells ringing behind the hills. I learned to climb in an old rock quarry:

My brother and I played in castle ruins, picked wildflowers, splashed in streams and watched in amazement one day as a flock of sheep poured over the rocky cliff above, shepherd in tow, to drink all around us.

Then, for three magical weeks each spring, we drove to Switzerland to camp in the Grindelwald valley. For me, the Alps came to symbolize transcendence, because one could follow their heights far beyond the places of school and supper and commonplace life, up to the alpine meadows where flocks of bell-clad goats summered, beyond the trees, beyond even the grass, right to the very tips of the bare rocks where I imagined the borders of heaven lay just beyond. It was tremendously compelling, this ability to leave the ordinary and travel to the end of all things.

I have climbed many mountains since, in other parts of the worldand across Canada, but none has ever quite matched the magic of my childhood peaks. Whistler and Blackcomb come very close, however. My husband grew up in Richmond, with the Pacific Ocean at his feet and the coast mountains at his back, and spent many happy weekends skiing in Whistler. Shortly before I met him in Labrador, he invested in a modest (and at that time, reasonably priced) little condo on the slopes of Blackcomb mountain. We have spent many happy summer vacations there as the military shuffled us around the prairies over the years, and in three short weeks we will finally be well and truly home.