The Circle(s) of Life...

Travels to the cottage...

I packed the car early Friday morning with a question I frequently ask myself...am I getting away from it all or taking it all with me?

Travails at the cottage...

A mere 7 hours later with the drive and boat ride behind us, everything was unpacked and we were all installed on the dock in the gorgeous summer sunshine. I'm a "delicate flower" and sit in the shade, wearing long sleeves and a hat but everyone else was enjoying the first real summer sun we've had up north this year. Naturally I was knitting - and unfortunately once again dropped a dpn which rolled and fell between the cracks of the dock. No problem - we have all seen this before! In no time the cordless drill was whirring and the boards were coming up for an "easy" retrieval of the needle from between the rocks that fill the dock's cribs.

(Crib dock construction uses big 5 or 6 foot square "boxes" of cedar posts with crude plank "floors" sunk and filled with rocks to hold them in place. The deck is built on top and often spans several such cribs. Its a bit of a crap shoot as to whether objects that fall beneath land on a crib within reach as my needle did or between two cribs where they must be retrieved using mask and fins. In this case, once the hole was opened up My Beloved just had to lift a massive concrete filled cinder block straight out of the hole and there was the needle!)

Sock Knitting...

With instructions from Confessions of a Knitting Heretic I have made several attempts at every element of the toe up, afterthought heel and toe sock.
Actually the toe came out perfectly on my first attempt.
Not so for the other elements of the thing - I played with gauge and tension, alternative methods of casting off, left and right slanting decreases,
mixing varying weights of yarn, holding them double and single. I knit that first sock 3 or 4 times over - all the while trying hard to see and understand how the stitches were facing, how the yarns were responding, how needle size was affecting everything. Without ever really bothering to pay such attention in the past it made a pretty boring knit quite interesting.

I have used these two balls of Debbie Bliss white Baby Cashmerino on two previous sock patterns, ultimately ripping them and tossing the yarn back in the stash. It performed very well this time despite the past abuse. The toe and bind off at the cuff are DB Cashmerino Aran. The heel is fingering weight left from the Retro Rib socks. I may rip it out and replace it with an Aran version. This iteration of pattern and yarn finally meets with my expectations for a slouchy, cozy bed sock and will very shortly be joined by its mate -
Second sock is flying along - above is the knitting from the two hour car ride home yesterday and an hour or so total between last night and this morning. It is from the working notes borne of all those experiments. (Yes, I will work to avoid a nasty hole at the junction of heel and instep that I clearly did not avoid in Sock one.)

I have two more colourways of Baby Cashmerino awaiting similar treatment when this pair is done.


Literal illustrations of the circle of life abound at the cottage. A great example came late Saturday afternoon with the "arrival" of a rather small snapping turtle (8 or 9 inches across), just off the end of the dock, essentially riding along chomping on a rather huge, recently deceased fish. We have a big snapper that cruises by late in the afternoon keeping things neat and tidy by eating dead stuff. He's either very good at his job or generally hungry because we rarely see anything dead along our beautiful lake front. This fish on Saturday though was 18 or 20 inches long - probably fatally injured being caught and released by a fisherman.

The little turtle looked like he had won the lottery. He'd found this massive prize before his giant relative had a chance to chomp it down! The little guy could not get his mouth open wide enough to get a good bite!
He would peck and nibble away until he was exhausted and then just use the thing as a floatation device and rest up for his next attempt.

Now back in the city I am whipping the garden back into shape and getting the laundry done and packed for a return north in the morning.

My Beloved (on holidays this week) and Number One Son are right now out getting a new stylus for our old turntable - they are excited to take it up north with us along with a couple of milk crates full of old LPs. Everything old is new again - the circle of life is in evidence everywhere I look!

P.S. While out with the turntable the guys are also going to Romni for me to pick up something for an unexpected baby knit I need for a cottage neighbour. It will be interesting to see what they come home with - both the yarn on their list and the story of finding it in that cavernous store!


And Suddenly it was Yellow

When I shot pictures for last week's "garden tour" the early June pink and blue phase was in full sail. In the past few days though that phase passed. Now the scene is dominated colours of cream through gold.

Oenothera or primrose...

Alchemilla mollis- Ladie's Mantle - I can't get enough of that chartreuse shade in the garden!

Stella D'Oro Day lilly (Stella doesn't know she's being dug for transplant to the cottage right after she's done blooming - shhhhhh!)

Masses of Honeysuckle...

Planted along the edges of my teeny herb garden in a bit of a heat sink between the houses and sheltered from the breeze by a towering rose, the heady scent hangs in the air. Its fully intoxicating in the evening as I light the BBQ.

Both pink and white peonies are still putting on a show but suddenly, their yellow hearts are unmistakable - almost as if they don't want to be left out of the Yellow parade!


The seed pods on the viburnums, having shed their white petals are now showing off the beginnings of their golden fruit...

I don't know why Hostas even bother to bloom - that colour - spread across a leaf 6 or 7 inches across is as good or better than a blossom - and you can have your yellow on the inside...

Or around the outside...
Chamomile in the herb garden - looking very 60's graphic...

And right next to Chamomile - Golden "Thyme" - which pretty much sums up the garden's colour scheme at the moment!

'Guess I know why I chose this yarn for my provisional cast on...


My Knitter's Clock

I'm sure you all clearly recognize the above as a "Knitter's Clock".

The knitting basket and cup of coffee are combined, in such a "device" to work so that when the hot coffee is gone, coincident with the knitting reaching a pre-determined length its "time" to stand up and undertake other/less entertaining activities.

This morning I used my Knitter's Clock to prevent a few stolen moments out on the porch, after My Beloved had gone to work and before our "wee babes" were stirring, from becoming more than my very busy schedule for today will allow.

The heavy scent of peonies was wafting up out of the garden. A flock of starlings was raiding my neighbour's cherry tree while he vainly tried to shoo them away. An adolescent squirrel plucked short maple stems to build the beginnings of a squirrelesque tree fort and Mr Robin was marching around the yard on the hunt for the worms that occupy our rich, organic soil. It was busy out there and it wasn't even 6:30 yet! It drew my attention down to the garden, away from the task at hand. It put my Knitter's Clock slightly off time. I had "set" the clock to get me to the ankle bone from my first ever provisional cast on for my first ever toe up sock! (To be honest, this is my third run at my first ever toe up sock in as many days - more fit issues as in Retro Rib but you know what I mean!)

It threw my Knitter's Clock right off - with the coffee gone and I was still an inch or so from the ankle.

If I make better than planned progress on my to-do list this morning maybe I'll set the "clock" with knitting and iced tea early this afternoon!

Thanks for dropping by!


Retro Ribbed Socks FO

Pattern: Retro Ribbed Socks by: from Interweave Knits Favorite Socks
Colour: Shadow
Started: May 15 Finished: June 20, 2009
Modifications: Used 2.75mm rather than 2.25mm dpns to make thicker rib when stretched for wear AND substituted slip stitch heel flap & gusset for short row heel

This yarn is lovely - the wee hits of robin's egg give it depth without being spots of overt blue. The gradations of grey/silver/almost white really show off the stitch work without overpowering it.
The knitted fabric is quite satisfyingly squishy and surprisingly soft while still being woolly.

And speaking of the knitted fabric - I love the ribbing - especially at the gauge I chose. The end result was worth knitting that first sock and then frogging it to start again. The gauge swatch was accurate for fit but not illustrative of aesthetic. The only way to understand how it would look on my leg was to knit it and try it on to see it was too tight to properly show off the pattern. Now it hugs the leg and stays up without bunching at the ankle while the ribs remain parallel all the way up.
The twisted rib keeps things extra neat as the ribs travel down the leg and past the heel where I substituted a slipped stitch heel flap for the short rows from the pattern. It will wear so much better and it adds to the squish factor. I also like the way it showcases the colours in the yarn a bit. I know no one will see that when I'm wearing them but watching the colours play out in each heel as I knit them was very pleasant indeed.

The cuff on these is another detail I like very much. The top edge give just the barest hint at a ruffle - giving the eye a break from the regimented seriousness of the ribs.

These are knit on four needles. I usually use three. It was painful changing needles so much more frequently than I'm used to but the way the pattern is divided between the needles gives an automatic check on where you are in the pattern repeat which meant much more relaxed knitting throughout.

Don't you just want to reach in and give those a squeeze?


Numbers Don't Lie

Last week when I posted about "popular" knits I was just going from my impression of popularity - the knits I most often see blogged and ravelled (I wrote the post and just grabbed and added stats for the items in my list by searching them on Ravelry - I never looked at the larger list. When Anonymous "C" commented that she never saw any of those knits walking around in real life I suddenly realized neither had I!

Now I don't have anyone in my day to day life that's a knitter so on the face of it its not that surprising but a DKC meeting can have well over a hundred knitters in attendance, the DKC Frolic many more times that number and still - how interesting I've never seen a one of those walking around!

The comment got me thinking about what really are the most popular knits on Ravelry so I checked it out and I was surprised to see my impressions didn't come close to accurately reflecting the top patterns...
The only one I got right was Monkey Socks!

Beyond that - I found within the first 60 most popular - I had, in fact knit 5...

So I think I should probably drop the idea that I'm just not into the trends and maybe also offer a few thoughts of thanks to the knitting gods for giving us Knitty! What would we all be knitting without it?

Thanks "C" for holding the mirror up for me!

BTW I've mentioned this before but I want to reiterate - I try to personally respond to all comments that I can - but many comments come in with a "no-reply" address. If you've selected that, you probably aren't surprised when I don't reply but if you haven't chosen that and you don't hear from me its because I'm blocked by doing so by that "no reply" setting :(


I May Not Stash A Lot of Yarn But...

I admit to being a plant stasher of the highest order. ( The Secret Garden is an annual winter read for me!)

At one time I crammed every possible inch of garden I could into our relatively small lot. Then I crammed every square inch of garden with plants. There was never soil visible anywhere and the plantings were several layers deep - two or even three plants - often with bulbs planted beneath all that - coming up through the same surface space - planned to have each subsequent flush of growth overtake that which had already reached its peak. It was serious organic perennial gardening and it was hard physical work but I achieved the goal of having constant flowering (February through October), interesting/complimentary foliage, winter interest and greatly improved soil to boot.

About 3 years ago though, the whole thing stopped being entertaining and just started being work. It also started to seem to me to be as crazy as it probably always was. It was just too much! So 2 seasons back, I rethought the whole works. All the garden bullies - spreaders and seeders were yanked, anything that couldn't hold its own head up (other than climbers - yes I've got climbers scrambling up through flowering shrubs so any one of the trees can seem to have multiple and differing flowering periods.) were unceremoniously removed as well.

What I kept was long lived, well behaved perennials, any bulbs that didn't get dug up in the revamp and the foundation shrubbery. I reduced the depth of some beds to facilitate ease of maintenance - reasserting the lawn in places and adding rubber edging to the whole works just to keep me honest.

What I gained was space for stepping stones and little "paved" paths through the largest bed as well as space for vegetables. The garden is now also much less time consuming to maintain over the summer when I'm rarely here to do the work. I also won over My Beloved who could never really relate to the secret garden premise of hysterical abundance I had so long embraced.

It occurs to me, however, when I'm assembling these little collections of photos to post and I'm only putting up shots of a select few of all the plants currently in flower that I am far from a fully reformed hoarder of plant material.

So there, now I've come clean with you - here is a little peak at today's lovelies...

A reprise shot of the Wegielia - 'hard to believe it has become even more laden with blooms - I thought it was peaking last week!

Don Juan climber is doing just that. I love it against the white brick!
Jacmanii clematis - he's struggling to be seen - I will have to see to his pushy neighbours once his flowering is done.
This is known in the neighbourhood as "Momma's Rose" after a woman, who has since moved away, gave many of us clippings to root from a rose her mother gave her many years previous...(If you recognize what its really called - please let me know via the comments!)
Peonies - doing what peonies do after June rains - drooping...

So I enjoy them best cut in vases - but I keep them outside to avoid bringing the resident ants in with them. I must say I can't blame them though - if I could I sure would hang out in the heart of a peony! Now that I've admitted my little weakness for plant material I'm sure that news doesn't come as any surprise!

Thanks for dropping by - have a great weekend!


Vicarious Knitting

Just as planned I scooted downstairs to my Laundry Oasis yesterday afternoon leaving Number One Son to writhe around the desk disaster area with his studies. After working hard in the garden all morning it felt great to watch the rain come down and get at the ironing. (Sadly I must tell Sandra, in response to her comment, I didn't come close to finishing all that's waiting for me down there so it doesn't look like I'll be able to take her up on her kind offer to do her ironing when I'm done with mine. ;) )

There was never any hope I would get it ALL done but I may have finished more of it were it not
for my opening up all the cases in which I keep my little stash, the cupboard doors in which I keep my patterns, books and files, several magazines at items of interest, my Vogue Stitchionary and then gazing at the array while generally day dreaming my way through ironing shirt after shirt after shirt.

When something would congeal into an idea, I jotted it down. Some of what I noted was junk, wouldn't work, needed more or different yarn than I could extract from my stash but I think there were a couple of good ideas that came out of it. (Not original ideas, just ideas for projects I could enjoy working on this summer.)

It felt like good (if vicarious) "knitting" time.

Yesterday I also saw the results of some incredible real life knitting on another new (to me) blog.

This young guy is knitting lace, with yarn that looks like fuzzy thread and he drops a stitch. So he proceeds to work at picking it back up. The lace leaf "pattern" he's using features more air than yarn. The unblocked "leaves" look like indiscriminate knots. Dealing with a dropped stitch in such a pattern is surreal to me. But the comments include a lot of "yeah, been there, done that, too bad - here's what you do to fix it" kind of sentiment!

Check this guy and his traumatic story out for yourself! Will you be amazed or are you another "been there, done that" knitter?


Is Anne Hanson Calling to the Scot in Me?

Exams started today for Number One Son. The desk (we share) looks like a bomb went off on it, around it, underneath it. He tells me he knows where everything is and not to move anything or he won't be able to find it. I'm not sure how his soccer shorts and a large role of painter's tape - found lying amidst the spectacular array of crumpled papers is part of studying but anyway... I've taken pains this morning to do everything I have to in the vicinity of said desk to facilitate my avoidance of this area this afternoon while he's "in residence" so to speak. This is just a quick post before he gets home - any minute now - then I'll retreat to my lovely laundry room to iron (and maybe peek at a knitting pattern or two or rummage through the stash with Brenda's helpful comment from yesterday in mind) for as long as he's hitting the books.

After my little rant of a blog post yesterday about how nothing appeals to me in knit pattern land I thought I should admit I do love what Anne Hanson has been designing and releasing in the past several weeks. (That's as long as I've been following her blog but I bet there's more good stuff yet to discover in the archives!)

In fact one pattern in particular has been haunting me..."Fernfrost" stole.

Okay, more than one - the pearl grey Hillflowers stole also appeals to me!

As does the cardigan "Ondule"

And today I saw another cardigan - "Highlander".

In her comments on Highlander she admits to feeling a strong affinity to all things Scottish - maybe that's why her lace appeals to me when lace generally leaves me cold. (Literally, I can't get into knits with lots of holes) her designs are speaking to the Scot in me!

Okay that's all I can take of "our" desk - off I go to the serenity of of "MY" Laundry room!


Control Issues?

I'm finishing the Retro Rib Socks and ruminating about what to knit this summer. My brief visits to the city are always jammed and exhausting so I've got to get organized now while I've still got a bit of time and I've got to have knitting to supplement our "entertainment system" at the cottage...
I'm not kidding - you're looking at the sum total of electronic gear we have up north!

Obviously the first thing I'll do is finish Tangled Yoke. Once I'm settled in up north I'm going to dedicate some undivided daytime (aka awake and alert) attention to the 17 measly rows of the yoke detail and get them done. After that its just decreases for the neckline and knitting on a button band.

What will I do after that? The summer issues of Interweave, Vogue, Debbie Bliss, the Twist Collective and Knitty are not filled with knits screaming KNIT ME! KNIT ME! - at least not so I can hear them.

There seem to be a lot of shawl patterns this summer. Shawls - while I admire them immensely when others knit them, are the very bottom of my "Ever likely to Knit" list.

Very close to shawls in my list are long/lacy/low cut top things to wear over t-shirts (these also seem to be everywhere this season)

Patterns for knitted dresses, tunics and skirts are available in quantity. The idea of them is lovely - not so the concept of knitting them. (One exception - Annie Modesitt's Luminarie Skirt in IK. Entrelac and rectangular lace - brilliant! - But I'm still not going to make it - at least not this summer!)

I've got sock yarn in my stash and sock patterns in my queue to last me well into 2010. I'm not even looking at sock patterns.

Fingerless gloves also seem to be a staple pattern - my fingers are the bits that cold when I'm out in the, well, cold so I won't be spending time on any of the great looking patterns for them that seem to be in every magazine.

In VK the drop stitch scarf by Laura Bryant looks fab but fast - hardly something to centre a summer on.

The only thing I've seen that's sticking out in my mind is Miss Honeychurch from the new Knitty. I like the square neckline, the side cables and most of all the idea of knitting/wearing/washing hemp - especially white hemp! It looks like the kind of thing that I would eventually leave at the cottage and wear every summer until I'm a hundred or so.

To be honest though I keep thinking about messing around with a couple of ideas I've jotted down in my little knitting notebook over the past year or two and playing around with remnants in my stash. And as I've said, trying my hand at tackling an EZ concept is intriguing - maybe using a, "Heretical" technique or two from Annie in the process.

There's a great quote from Anna Zilboorg in Confessions of a Knitting Heretic...

(...your hands) can tell you how you are really feeling when you are trying to hide it from yourself. Anxiety causes dropped stitches.

Its making me wonder whether I want to just do my own thing to regain control after 10 months dominated by having little or no control (New High School for one child, University for the other, lingering renovation work, not to mention my poor brother's terrible demise). This is not to say the fact the current trends also look lousy on me or that I rarely have occasion to wear skirts and dresses in the summer and so I don't want to knit one even if they are all the rage doesn't also factor in here somewhere.

Besides I'm rarely moved by trends - I must be in the minority of North American knitters who have not knit a pair of Jay Walkers, (6626 Ravelers report having knit these) or a February Lady Sweater (5992), or "Hey Teach"(1194), a Baby Surprise Jacket (8002) or a Swallowtail shawl (4004).

I probably need to exert control and am also just not well suited to/engaged by the most current knitting fashions. Whatever the case, I am going to feel control soon and to have something to knit that engages me because I am going to assemble a pile of yarn, needles and patterns that interest me and transport the works to the cottage in time for the Canada Day Weekend!

'Sounds like as long as I have control, I have no issue with it! ;)


I spent a lot of my weekend knitting time reading Annie Modesitt's book Confessions of a Knitting Heretic. Much like her class it was entertaining, edifying and empowering. I would highly recommend not only reading it but owning it. I'm anticipating I will refer to it often (its even spiral bound - as all how to books should be!)

I have how-to knitting books by three knitting gurus. Montse Stanley's classic, and bone dry tome, Elizabeth Zimmerman's staccato styled lists of "opinions" and now Annie Modesitt's heretical recommendations that seem to spring from a third dimension entirely.

I have to say, Annie's writing and projects had a similar effect on me as did those of EZ. I want to try them, take them all for a spin. I may even do a swatch of each of the techniques illustrated in the book. (Ms. Stanley's work makes me want to check what I need to know and put it right back on the shelf - its valuable information its just not very entertaining or engaging)

Which brings me to what I now recognize was a wee bit of my own brilliance last week. For the first time I left the acrylic yarn I'm always trying to use up, at home, and took nice yarn to work with in class. It was Sheldridge Farm Soft Touch Worsted left over from last summer's colourwork. It felt great to work with at the time and now it not only displays a bunch of nifty new tricks I did but it also feels and looks great! Very motivating indeed! I even went home and finished it off with the two techniques Annie showed us at the end of class but which I ran out of time to complete. Comparing it to swatches in my collection from other classes, I think in future I'll make a point of investing in nice yarn to work with when I invest time and money in taking a class. It seems to make the results so much more satisfying!

In other weekend news - look who decided to stop sulking and put on her proper June show...

Its hard to believe its real - Just look at that face amid those amazing crepe paper-esque petals!
Have a great day! Thanks for dropping by!


Trying Not To Gush

So I'll start instead with a cold hard fact...

Annie Modesitt is a wicked great teacher.

(Yesterday I took her Combination Knitting class at the Naked Sheep LYS.)

Like a skilled pilot she navigated the class through the content and it was a smooth flight that arrived at its promised destination - on time and on target. Along the way no one crashed or burned from self criticism or self consciousness. She left adequate time for, facilitated and encouraged repetition of each new element she introduced. The class was well paced and well planned out. All of this combined to empower everyone to just be there, in the moment, internalizing the new information.

And she knows the terrain - the techniques and how her students come to learn them. She applied that knowledge to her delivery and it maximized my comprehension and retention. There was even "in flight entertainment" as she peppered the lesson with funny observations and references, personal anecdotes and apt analogies. She finished with a poetic landing of sorts teaching us her personal (and uber clever) technique for casting off.

As I left the shop I experienced a sensation no other class has ever left me with. I felt like a capable knitter with more in my knitting arsenal than when I arrived. And instead of feeling wrung out I was invigorated.

If you have the chance to take a class with Annie Modesitt do it! Take the day off, take the money out of your yarn budget, drive a distance to get there, whatever it takes its worth it! (And that's not gushing - In my opinion its just another cold hard fact!)

Thanks for dropping by - have a great weekend!

Garden Tour

Today I'm off for my knit-centric lunch and then to the Combination Knitting class with Annie Modesitt but you're welcome to visit my garden while I'm gone.

You'll notice you're not alone. Below is a shot of Mrs. Bumble going about her business on one of my rosa glauca shrub roses. She is one of several lovely Bumble Bees that live in our yard. She and the others work very hard all season (I plant early bulbs to give the Bumbles much needed food when they first emerge from hibernation - encouraging them to stay with us). They are stalwart pollinators and happily work along side me in the garden while also tolerating My Beloved's wood working antics. If you look closely or click on the picture to make it bigger you'll see a furry caterpillar laying along the branch just below and to the left of Mrs. B.

We have been strictly organic in our yard and gardens for many years and the diversity and performance that has resulted is remarkable. That's one fat caterpiller but I can't find what he's been chomping on - clearly not on rosa glauca!

The Oriental Poppies are stubbournly refusing to open until the weather warms up...
The darkly veined foliage on the Weigelia is telling me it needs some fertilizing and the Centauria (blue Bachelor's Buttons) are getting ready to make the seed pods the American Gold Finches will enjoy in a few week's time - thanks of course to lots of help from the Bumbles...
The "Summer Snow Viburnum" is in her full glory - and she'll keep that blooming up for weeks!
"Sarah Burnhardt" Poeonies are being stubbourn like the Poppies across the yard...
Sweet Lena Standard Bearded Iris isn't holding back though - lots of blooms per stem, lots of sweet scent per bloom in this variety...
Nor is her cousin and garden neighbour a Giant Bearded Iris I call "Black Dragon". I can't say for sure whether that's his name or just what he looks like his name should be. But that's what he's called around here...
As for the Allium - its a good thing you dropped by today because after weeks of flowering they still look gorgeously graphic - like fireworks held in suspended animation - but its deadheading time so by next week it'd be too late to catch them! I'll be back tomorrow with tales of my knit-filled day downtown - thanks for dropping by!