Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Early this afternoon, when the rain finally let up, the soft grey light was perfect. I picked up my camera and surveyed the kitchen table.

Coconut chai – so sweet and flavourful it needs neither milk nor sugar – in my new teacup, a birthday present to myself.

A bunch of pink tulips for fighting the blues. The petals are tipped with the tiniest bit of green. They've gone from tight buds to full flowers in just a day. An extravagance.

A bowl of soup: sausage, lentil, kale, with ditalini pasta cooked later and added at the last minute, topped with shards of Parmesan cheese. I made a big batch on Monday night; it will sustain me all week. 

Odds and ends of yarn, mostly Koigu KPPPM. Little souvenirs. I could tell you what I made from each colourway; who it was for; where it is now. Each ball contains a story; each story a collection of days. 

I didn't think to photograph the books. I'm reading The Kitchen Diaries, Vol. II, Wolf Hall and a poetry collection by Mary Oliver. I dip in and out, between stints of knitting; I'm making progress, but slowly, on everything. The push to finish my mittens has lost some urgency with today's warm weather, an unseasonable 14ÂșC. I'm longing for another deep freeze, and the high blue skies and sunshine that extreme cold will bring. 

Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Doing the math

On Saturday afternoon I sat down to do a bit of tinkering with a knitting pattern that I've wanted to make for some time. All I wanted to do was adjust the length, add a bit of width to the bottom and narrow the bell sleeves into something that would be less likely to catch crumbs (or catch fire). 

Two hours later, surrounded by sums and looking at the schematic for a totally different sweater, I wondered: When does personalizing end, and pattern writing begin?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tromp as writ

I seem to have made a very large scarf. It's almost seven feet long and almost a foot wide. Tina and I joked that we'd made runners for hallways, not neckwear. There were the requisite Doctor Who scarf jokes (though his scarf was knitted, yes yes, I know).

The fact that it has any sort of pattern at all was just an accident. It didn't occur to me to change colours – it only happened because I ran out of yarn, twice, first while warping the loom, then while weaving. Later it occurred to me that with a bit of planning, I could have magicked up a tartan.

I enjoyed the second weaving class more than the first, but I don't think weaving will be bumping knitting out of top-hobby status any time soon. I like the portability of knitting, and the speed; the ease with which I can fix mistakes, change tacks, add colours or take them away.

Then again, it's a bit more challenging to knit plaid.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Warp and weft

My first introduction to weaving came when I was still in single digits, during a demonstration at a pioneer village. I was fascinated by the simple mechanics of the floor loom; amazed that a person could create fabric that looked just like what I saw when I went to the fabric store with my mum.

Looms were expensive, but library books were free. Inspired by the black-and-white photographs in one ancient tome, I gathered yarn and tree branches and popsicle sticks and set about constructing a belt loom. That was the easy part.

I was soon stymied by my inability to use a hole-punch to make holes in the popsicle sticks; creating a heddle was going to be harder than it looked. It took my dad's help to make the heddle a reality, but after hours of him painstakingly drilling, gluing and clamping, I was ready to weave. Many crooked belts and coasters and lopsided purses followed.

Eventually I learned to knit, and weaving was almost forgotten. (But not entirely – I still have that popsicle-stick heddle tucked away.) Fast forward twenty-five years, and here I am, once again a weaving novice.

This time, I'm taking a class at a local yarn store. The tiny rigid heddle looms we're using aren't much different from the loom I improvised out of scrap wood, and the fabric I'm making suffers from the same uneven edges and tension issues I dealt with all those years ago.

But other things are the same. The shuttle goes back and forth; the heddle goes up and down; every so often I wind the fabric up to give myself more room to work. It's the simplest of work, but still very satisfying, and I know I'll wear my raggedy-edged scarf with pride.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Starting anew

I've been thinking about endings and beginnings this week for a variety of reasons, including a bit of casting off and on again that I've been doing.

The first Fiddlehead Mitten, for all its apparent complexity, was a quick, satisfying knit, and the second of the pair will be too. Good thing – we're headed into a good old-fashioned cold snap this week, and super-warm mittens will be essential.

This sock, on the other hand, has been my travelling companion for months. I imagine I'll be spending an equally long time with the sequel.

Make something good, beautiful and true, and when you're finished, begin again. Not a bad motto, when you think about it.