Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18: Changes

There are changes afoot.

Months ago, freshly returned from my Nova Scotia vacation, I applied for a job in Halifax. A good job. A good job with good people, in one of my favourite parts of the world.

And then life got busy, as it does in September, and things kept rolling and the weeks went by, and it was a bit of a surprise when I was asked in for an interview. (!) And then a second interview. (!!) And then I received a job offer. (!!!) Which I accepted. 

In less than a month, I'll be moving to Halifax.


It has all happened so quickly that I find myself a bit bamboozled. I've ticked a lot off my to-do list but there's still so much to be done—so many papers to mark, boxes to pack, friends to see, and last visits to favourite places before I get on that plane heading east. 

So that's where I've been, and where I'm going. I'm pretty excited to be heading back to Nova Scotia—a move I've been planning for almost as long as I've lived in Toronto. (Sorry Toronto: you're just not my type.) I can't wait to be close to the ocean again.

All this means my crafting has slowed down considerably—I've been knitting a stitch here or there when I can fit it in, but my mind is elsewhere. In fact, I'm thinking a lot about the crafty adventures that await: I'm looking forward to taking a class at Patch Halifax, and I just discovered this rug-hooking shop in Amherst. My new apartment will have room for a spinning wheel, so there's surely a trip to Gaspereau Valley Fibres in my future, too. Hooray!

Now if I can just figure out how to trick my Toronto friends into some of the bigger moving boxes I've got lying around, I'll be all set...

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20: Story of a Rhinebeck sweater

Rhinebeck was great. There were sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas and rabbits; just about every kind of fibre you can imagine; nifty little (and big!) trinkets; treats of every description, including apple cider donuts; trees aflame with fall colour.

I loved seeing my knitting friends – many of whom I only know via Twitter, or who I get to see once a year at Squam – in person. I loved seeing so many people I didn't know parading around in their knitted finery. It was a true feast for the eyes.

I didn't do much parading around in my knitted finery, because I spent the weekend trying to finish my finery. The first clue that I wasn't going to be wearing my sweater was when one of my non-knitter friends looked at my knitting last Monday and said, "Hey, nice scarf."

Hm. She had a point.

Try as I might, I didn't think I'd be able to pull off the "knitted cummerbund with matching arm warmers" look. Thus ensued much fevered knitting, but by Thursday night I had yet to join the sleeves to the body. I stitched and stitched and stitched...and I carried that WIP with me all weekend.

I finally cast off in the car on the way home, about 65 miles from the US-Canada border. At the next rest stop, I changed clothes at the gas station for a quick victory photo. It was supremely, sublimely itchy, but oh boy: I am in love with this sweater.

It's blocking now and I can't wait to wear it. Maybe I'm being silly, but I'm actually a little bit happy that it worked out the way it did. Now it's more than a sweater; it's a sweater with a story. My favourite kind.

(Details on my version of Strokkur here. Next up: Carpino.)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

October 5 – Bits and pieces: changes and the gathering in

Not much new these days really: reading, walking, stitching, cooking. Perhaps not revolutionary, but still things to be savoured in the early, not-too-cold days of early autumn.

I finished the afghan at long last. The seaming was a bit of a chore, but the final border – a round of double crochet in navy – went on without much fuss. It's not a huge blanket, but it'll be just the thing for a baby at some point or other. I'm glad to be retiring the crochet hook for a little while.

My Rhinebeck sweater is coming along. The sleeves are done and I cast on the body today. I'll be pushing it to get finished in time, but when it comes to me and knitting deadlines, what else is new?

I read the profile of Marilynne Robinson in the New York Times last week on the subway as I made my way home from school, and when I got to my stop I walked directly to the bookstore to buy a copy of Gilead. It has captured me in a way that books seldom do these days. I'm savouring it.

Two weeks ago I finished my job at the yarn store. It was a difficult decision, but after working 30 days straight in August/September, I knew I needed to make a change. I celebrated my first real weekend off in more than a year by heading to the farmer's market yesterday, which is where I found the dahlias.

After the farmer's market I walked down to the Distillery District. I like it there, like the glimpses of the city's industrial past and the reassuring hum of highway traffic in the near distance. I poked around, took some pictures, bought some fancy chocolate and drank a chai latte while I watched little kids chase pigeons and sparrows chase crumbs. The sun was in and out; the rain was on and off. There was a teasing breeze.

On the way home I walked through back streets, deliberately choosing unfamiliar routes. It was refreshing to see the familiar skyline from an unfamiliar perspective; almost as good as being out of town. (Almost.) When I stay away from the thoroughfares I can feel my pace slow and my head come up – more time for sauntering, more time for looking and wondering. I need to do that more often.

At home, the nights draw in and the lights go on earlier day by day. My mind is turning to roasted meats and veg, puddings that simmer in the oven. I brew mug after mug of tea. I pulled an old favourite pullover out of the drawer today; it's not one of my fancier sweaters, but putting it on felt like being reunited with an old friend.

I do love the fall.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24 – Lately

Here we are and somehow September's almost over. Last week there was a definite chill in the air; this week the warmth has returned, albeit for a limited engagement. I've been busy with all manner of work, which hasn't left much time for the fun stuff...but here are a few things from the in-between times.

The deadline for the crochet blanket CAL came and went and I'm still the proud owner of a bunch of piles of granny squares. Oh well – you win some, you lose some, I guess.

There were no hot dogs to be found.

My neighbour's copper beech has turned, and so has the oak just up the street. I love walking along the street in the morning and watching the way the early sun turns the leaves into stained glass.

I made a hat. If you're looking for a quick-and-easy FO hit, Jared Flood's Turn-a-Square has got to be it. Apple optional but highly recommended.

From this morning's walk to school.

Anyway, miles to go before I sleep. More soon.

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15 – Change is afoot

Less than a week left of summer now, but I already feel deeply entrenched in autumn. The hint of chill that dogged those late-summer mornings never really lifts these days; I've put away my summer skirts and sandals and it's back to jeans and boots once more. My sweaters are serving their purpose again, old and new favourites alike in heavy rotation. Sometime this week I'm going to cull my scarves and cowls, see what's ready for the fall and what's ready to be retired. I think there's a new hat in my future.


Two perfect images from yesterday:
1. Walking to work, I saw the early sun glint off an office tower, bouncing the light onto the crenellations of the neighbouring church. For just a moment, everything glowed silver. Then the church bells rang, tolling the hour, and a flight of pigeons launched, soaring out over the street, graceful in silhouette despite their panic.

2. At the end of the day, waiting for a bus with my face turned toward the setting sun, I saw the light catch the telephone wires. They flashed and pulsed like beads of mercury. Mackerel-belly clouds lined the sky; off to the west, the beacon atop the CN Tower flashed its secret messages. A streetcar sang in the distance. The sun dropped down behind the trees.


It's dark earlier every day.


In the kitchen, I'm all about comfort food: roasted root vegetables and sweet sausage; homemade spaghetti sauce simmered on the stove; baking powder biscuits and apple crisp hot from the oven. Today I had a sudden craving for oatcakes with raspberry jam. The kettle's on constantly and the dish rack's scarcely cleared of pots and pans before I've filled it up again. I'm in the mood to roast a chicken.


My Rhinebeck sweater is progressing now, finally. I'm making Strokkur (a modern take on the traditional Icelandic lopi sweater), but I'm adding colourwork to the sleeves and around the hem, and adding length all over; the two not unrelated, actually. It's coming together relatively quickly, the blessing of big yarn and big needles, but (agreeable swatch notwithstanding) I'm not convinced about the size. There's a trial sleeve-blocking in the cards. We'll see.

(The afghan and the socks continue to crawl along. I'm ready to be finished the former and not devoting enough time to the latter, but there's always something that falls to the bottom of the pile. They'll get their due in time. Meanwhile I'm secretly obsessed with this slipper pattern. Might sneak a pair of those in somewhere, too.)


Work and life and all the rest of it continues apace. More soon. Be well and do good.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September 10 – Seven

Today marks seven years since I moved to Toronto. Thinking deep thoughts over here...but I'll leave you with a photo from a windswept evening at a beach not far from Tatamagouche, instead.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Still chipping away at my African flower hexagon afghan. The end of the crochet-along is now in sight, and with two weeks to go and 44 hexes under my belt, I'm looking at an impressive to-do list.

Or maybe finishing the last 19 hexes, sewing in all the ends, and crocheting it all together into something that vaguely resembles a blanket will be easy to achieve in the next 15 days (she said wryly).

But deadline notwithstanding, I'm still enjoying this project – working on motifs is pretty satisfying, because it doesn't take long to finish each square, in the grand scheme of things. So although school started again last week, and despite the fact that I've got a series of writing projects on the docket, and – well, you've seen me list my current WIPs – I'm still happy to take half an hour here and there to cross another hex off my list.

Slow and steady wins the race (or, at least, gets the blanket finished) – right?

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 1 – Nova Scotia memories

My time in Nova Scotia is already receding in the rear-view mirror, so today I scrolled through the photos on my phone and picked out a few of my favourites.


The view from my friend Tara's front porch.

Heading into the city for Rise Again. Driving across the MacDonald bridge beats riding the 501 streetcar any day of the week.

We went and visited Elizabeth Bishop's house, then took the scenic route home, stopping to pick up lobster pie for dinner.

The beach!! It was cool and blustery, with a storm rolling in, but that didn't stop us from having a picnic by the shore and getting our feet wet. It was the best.

My friend Andy (he of the growler cozy) made me pizza – and beer. So delicious! Also, if anyone ever gives me static about my yarn stash, I'm going to tell them a thing or two about what a home brewer's stash looks like. Way more impressive than a dozen skeins of sock yarn, I'll tell you what.

A beautiful morning on Citadel Hill. Ate brunch at EDNA –  I'd recommend it in a second.

Familiar sights in Halifax Harbour.

I loved these wild rose bushes, creeping right down to the water. Bumped into long-lost friends at the farmer's market – a serendipitous meeting!

Revisited an old favourite: books and coffee, hard to go wrong.

Stopped by campus for a bit of a wander. The students were starting to trickle back, but for the most part it was just me and the bumblebees in the gardens.

This is the colour that I think of when I think of Nova Scotia. I walked under these skies to meet other friends for dinner – more pizza! Again, absolutely delicious.

A quick trip to Yarmouth to visit my friend Sherrie in her new old house. We walked back to the camp and spent the afternoon at the lake. Now that is a view!

Meanwhile, her husband Adam was tending to the bees. I was fascinated but didn't dare get too close.

Soon enough (too soon) I was homeward bound.

Now I'm back in the city with my nose to the grindstone. Already thinking about next summer's trip...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31 – Bottoms up!

Don't look now but I'm finally making some progress on those Christmas socks...
(Turtletoes self-striping sock yarn in "Nano.")

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29 – Striped socks (at long last)

I spent some time in Nova Scotia last week, and for the first time in a long time, I didn't take a special vacation knitting project with me. Instead, I took along a few small projects—the last of the washcloths and two pairs of socks—that I've been longing to actually finish.

And, happily, I did end the trip with a few FOs under my belt. The washcloths were a foregone conclusion (and well received—in fact, I saw a previous washcloth gift in use at someone's house, which made pretty happy) and I finally finished these socks.


These socks are my first pair of designed-by-me socks, if you can call choosing a favourite toe and a new heel and joining them with miles of stockinette "designing." (Debatable, but I'm going to roll with it.) 

CO 24 sts with Judy's magic cast-on, using YOs for the increases (ktbl on the non-increase row) until I got to 64 sts. Knit the foot, then added a Fish Lips Kiss heel,* which doesn't look like much in two dimensions, but look at that, now:

Very tidy. Then I carried on with the rest of the sock. I flirted with the idea of making knee socks to use up ALL the yarn, but it gradually became apparent I'd be knitting these for the rest of my life if I didn't pop in an inch of ribbing and cast off. (Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind-off works but I find it a bit messy looking—what's your favourite for toe-up socks?)

They took forever, as fingering-weight socks on 2.25 mm needles are wont to do. I cast on in January, in the shadow of my Christmas sock knitting,** and I have worked on them in the background of many many other projects for seven months now. I'm very happy to have them off the needles. How happy? This happy:

As for the other two pairs of socks I took with me? Let's talk again in April.

* I'm notoriously hard on the heels of my socks, so I'm interested to see how the FLK heel holds up. Something tells me I'll be revisiting these, and that an afterthought heel might have been the wiser choice. (Also, the FLK pattern does NOT need to be 16 pages long, just for the record.)
 ** I'm starting to think you should be playing some sort of does-she-mention-Christmas-sock-knitting drinking game, or it might be a loooooong autumn.

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 26 – Creative Blog Hop

My globe-trotting friend Alli over at Champagne and Qiviut wrote for The Creative Blog Hop and tagged me to participate next. If you've found your way here through her blog, or anyone else participating in The Creative Blog Hop, welcome!

This seemed like it might be an interesting exercise. The survey is short and sweet, so here goes!

1. What am I working on?
Sometimes I think it might be easier to list the things that I'm not working on, because my WIP list is long these days. In addition to the Christmas socks, the hostess-gift washcloths and the African flower hexagon afghan, I'm trying to finish up a couple of pairs of socks for myself, and I also recently started my Rhinebeck sweater. Oh, and then there's the embroidery project I've got going on in the background, the fibre I mean to finish spinning, and that project bag I was going to sew...

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In my mind there are as many ways to create as there are people to do the creating, so I'd hope that we're all different in one way or another. However, as I've made the transition from magazine craft editor to freelance editor over the past 18 months, I've been happy to notice the joy come back into crafting for me. I no longer have to devote valuable creative energy to coming up with ideas of things to make with paper towel and white glue, or devising Halloween costumes (always my least favourite), or sourcing fun foam or googly eyes. The freedom to choose my own projects—and to pick them up or drop them at will—has made making things so much better.

3. Why do I create/write what I do?
I grew up in a household where someone was always making something, whether that meant dinner, a tiny model airplane, a dress or a fence; making things was passed down through both nature and nurture. I think that it's important to satisfy your creative urges, both for your mind and your body; in the modern era it's vital that we work to maintain important crafting traditions, that we continue to value our hands (the original digital technology!) and that we cultivate the state of flow—a bit of respite for our tired, worried minds.

I knit because I like it – I like everything about working with yarn. The colour, the texture, the craft; the seemingly infinite ways to combine and recombine two basic stitches. I also like it because it's portable—so much easier to take along on a commute than my sewing machine. Finally, I knit because it's one of the most tangible, durable ways I know to communicate my love and caring for someone. A handknit sock lasts a lot longer than a fancy birthday cake!

Because I work with words, so much of what I write is determined by other people and their needs. My favourite assignments when I'm working involve talking to people about their passions and translating those stories to the printed page. On the other hand, here, I like to capture the tiny moments in my days that I think are worth sharing.

4. How does my creating/writing process work? 
The creating part is the easy part—once I've chosen a pattern and a yarn to work with (and given the part-time yarn-store job, I'm certainly not short of inspiration!), I'm content to knit just about anywhere, although my favourite accompaniment is a good juicy British murder mystery on the computer. I try to squeeze a bit of knitting into everyday—I especially love taking half an hour in the morning to organize my current projects and fuss with my knitting notions kit. Getting everything in order seems to help me settle my mind before I sit down to start a writing or editing project.

As far as writing, there's a lot of stand-up, sit-down, walk-around involved in the process. Also making tea and looking out the window, and recreational dictionary reading. When I finally get started—after I've written and deleted half a dozen absolutely ridiculous first sentences and cranked out half a dozen puns on Twitter—hours can pass without my noticing. Then it's a matter of cutting, rewriting and refining (which involves much more tea, sometimes a phone call or three, and usually cookies). Going for a walk helps if I'm stuck, and so does baking; anything that lets me put the verbal part of my brain into neutral while I go through the motions of some sort of productive activity. I walk the same path through the graveyard or make the same cookies each time; it has to be almost automatic in order to let my brain sort the words out.


Thank you to Alli for inviting me to join in—and thank you for reading along. I'd like to tag my friend Christina to participate next. She was my roommate at Squam last year, and she's an awesomely talented Jill-of-all-crafts, from knitting to sewing to quilting to weaving. She also experiments with dyeing and does amazing things with recycled and upcycled yarn and fabrics—every project she posts makes me look at my own craft in a different way. I hope you'll pay her a visit!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19 – Late summer

I caught a glimpse of autumn this morning as this shaft of light pierced the canopy of leaves outside my window. The air is cool and there's a different tenor to the rustling of the leaves in the wind these days. The apples on the apple tree down the street are a little redder every day; the starlings come home to roost a littler earlier every night. Tonight I sat and ate dinner and listening to them chitter and chirp as they settled in for the evening, trading their tales of their days aloft.

Some people have been bemoaning the cool weather and the sight of the first scarlet leaves, but not me. I love this time of year and this time around I'm anticipating the coming season of change even more eagerly than usual. Bring on the cool nights and early evenings, the apple crisps and show-off maples. I'm ready.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15: Washcloths, or, the part where I try to transcend my inner Cordelia with quotidian household goods

Of all the ways I'd describe myself, "washcloth knitter" barely rates. And yet I'm churning them out at a rate of one every couple of days right now – a level of focused production I'm sure you'll note I have yet to turn to my Christmas socks.

The idea is to take the washcloths as hostess gifts on an upcoming trip. As much as I love knitting gifts, I think there's a limited market for "special occasion" hats and cowls and gloves – it's not unlikely that they'll end up kept for best, not worn day-in, day-out, the way I wear my handknits. 

So, much better to make something that will actually be used on a daily basis. Hence the washcloths: They might not be the most technically challenging, and they certainly aren't the most eloquent expression of my appreciation for the people who are having me to stay, but I know they will get used, and that in that use maybe my friends will think of me. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.

This was brought home to me when one of my oldest friends asked me what I'm working on these days. She's not a needleworker and (based on the look on her face when she sees the mountain of yarn I've got lying around) I think she thinks I'm a bit nuts when it comes to knitting. But when I told her about the washcloths, her face softened. "I still have washcloths my grandmother knitted," she said. Her grandmother, long gone now but beloved, and still a daily presence in her life by dint of a handful of cotton, her care and her skill transmitted by stitches across the years. I can't think of a better legacy.

(The yarn is Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Cotton in birch; the pattern is the Wedding Washcloth from Purl Bee: 45 sts//3.75 mm needles//8 rows to seed st to stop and start. I think I'll get 5 washcloths out of 2 skeins.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12: Best laid plans

I finished my Pebble Beach shawlette just before midnight on Saturday. There's nothing like getting down on the floor to block a piece of wet lace in the middle of the night. So many pins! So much danger!

But it was worth the effort, and I was able to snap a few quick photos before I headed to work on Sunday. I love the way it looks with the light shining through, and the way that the ends curl around. I didn't end up having time to add extra repeats, but it blocked out so well that I don't miss them. I can't wait till it's cool enough outside to wear it.

Inspired by the percentage checklist style of this shawl, I took my favourite sock pattern and translated it into an Excel spreadsheet. I'm hoping that having the 5% milestones laid out on paper help me get motivated to make a move on those Christmas socks I keep talking about (but not knitting). I need to live down the infamy of last year's "everyone gets 1 sock and an IOU" experience. Ahem.

(According my math, each woman's size 9.5 fingering weight sock has just shy of 11,000 stitches in it – so probably about 14,000 stitches for a man's sock. That's a LOT of love, my friends. Phew!)