The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Surprise and Shrug Roadblock

I knew I had a Babylon Falling “Owner’s Choice” set on the way but the contents blew me away!  Sean made artful picks & here’s what I have to chew on:

BF Owners Choice picnic!

BF Owner's Choice picnic!

Here the lovelies are on my bookcase:

BFs in pride of place

BFs in pride of place

I feel smarter already!  Big thanks to both the benefactor & the facilitator of this care package.  Good push forward for month-end blues.

The Wedding  Guest Shrug hit a wall.  The double-stranding was a pain in the ass.  I was bound to drop one half every stitch & mindless knitting was well nigh impossible.  Also, the colours weren’t flowing.  The silk was falling flat on the lace pattern too.  I knew to call it a day when Hubby saw only a few holes.  So I thought – time to frog.  A few deep breaths later, I had the warring balls of silk separated.  Here’s what I’ve come up with as a solution for these issues – back to basics.  Keeping it at lace weight, and going with a simpler motif.

This means more work – teeny tiny needles.  Ergo more time.  But who am I to blow against the wind?  I’ve also ditched the 1 x 1 ribbing for my preferred 2 x2.  Here’s where it’s at:

Wedding Guest Shrug take 2

Wedding Guest Shrug take 2

The new motif is called ‘little fountain.’  It looked cute on my swatch & only has a 4 row repeat.  Even if I have more stitches, the pattern is easy to remember, so I may make the deadline yet! [Yeah, if I knit every moment available, and manage to ignore the new book stash…]

I honestly cannot fault the yarn for all of this.  It was a gamble going with lace-weight.  The Hand Maiden is holding up very well, and is still a star.  It’s taking the innovation like a pro!

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Perchance a Shrug

After much ado, I finally casted on for the Wedding Guest Shrug.

Step 1 was to find a fishing line counter to accurately split my hank of Handmaiden Lace Silk in two.  I started off on the wrong foot, or as my father would say – with one of my trademark egregrious errors.  I was very certain that the local Hiker’s Haven would have a Shakespeare line counter for sure.  People must fish once they have hiked, right?  Wrong!  I was hunting for Shakespeare thanks to advice from a fellow Raveler, Feather Song.  The good folks at Hiker’s Haven pointed me in the general direction of the big box stores.  I ended up with a Rapala counter.

Step 2 was rigging it to the ball winder (formerly a dining chair support).  At this point, Hubby was highly amused.  It is attached with plastic cinch ties.

Step 3 was counting/ winding.  It is gorgeous yarn with a mind to tangle on itself.  Took most of Saturday but I managed to best that hank.

After all that, I find that even with the yarn knit double it’s a much lower gauge than the Reading in Bed Shrug pattern’s.  Will take longer to make for sure.  I’ve settled on using my 4 mm needles.  That gives me a stitch gauge of around 23 for 4″.  The yarn is making up for all this trouble with every step though.  I simply love it!

Wedding Guest Shrug started at last

Wedding Guest Shrug started at last

On Saturday afternoon we got out & enjoyed the summery weather.  It was blazing!  Hubby’s been dying to walk over to a bridge.  It’s a fair distance but we did cut through a playing field.  Toby couldn’t have been happier, even on the main road.  The bridge is over a golf course valley, and creek.  They have some benches along the side, and the view was really worth the walk.

Yesterday, I headed into Toronto for my cousin’s poetry reading.  I meant to take the train but missed it by a hair.  I did make it in by car but had to wend through & around parade-goers.  The annual Sikh New Year parade was on in the downtown core.  Although 30 mins late, I did catch the readings.  My cousin isn’t decided about having an internet profile, so I’ll keep mum about the details.  I am so proud of her though!  A great way to put the icky week behind me.

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Friday, at last

This was one long, emotional week.  I’m glad to see the back of it.

My great-aunt Gloria passed away, Monday morning.  I tried writing about her but it felt hollow.  Even talking felt the same.  I haven’t known her in my working or married life but she was a God-send in the months before I sat A’Levels.  I forget how it came to pass but she flew to Jamaica, and stayed with us several weeks to tutor me English.

She had taught A’Level English many years.  So long that she tutored my Mother (favourite neice status), and by a twist of fate even taught my Father for a few months while their teacher Father HoLung traveled to China unexpectedly in the term.  In his day she was fierce – all 5 feet some inches of her.  The story is that Gloria arrived, wrote her name on the chalkboard, turned around and imperiously asked the class of Henry VII, “And what does Bradley have to say about this?”  A.C. Bradley was not a known entity to the boys, and Gloria went to each one with a withering cross-examination.  As an aside:  Father HoLung left teaching and in 1981 he founded Missionaries of the Poor in downtown Kingston, Jamaica.

It will feel empty to write more.  She was an amazing woman, and my Mother’s role model for pursuing a working life.  She also wrote beautifully.

In all of the emotion, I have decided to put the baby cardigan down for now.  I was forcing myself to finish it now.  That’s not the spirit in which it was started, so I clearly need a break.  The Baby Bamboo set nicely when blocked, by the way.  I’m finding it’s not a bad choice for this pattern after all.  It only has 20%  wool but that must be what did well with the blocking.  I soaked each piece in water, rolled each in a towel, and blocked out on our guest bed.  I have plenty more to switch into, and besides – the child isn’t even due yet.

That decision taken, I am moving into the silk shrug idea.  This will be my most complex yarn improv to date.  The plan is to use this lace-weight doubled.  The low-tech way would be to use my ruler and measure out even yardage.  As much as I love winding balls by hand, and such, I figure that counting off 300 yards of thin silk yarn could drive me up the wall (so to speak).  I’ve sat with my copy of Knitting Rules by the Yarn Harlot, and have shifted the plan.  Instead of a digital scale, I am out to get a yarn meter.  Fingers are crossed that LYS carries those… I have a vague idea about heading to Toronto if that fails…  My thinking is that a meter will be very useful in terms of using my leftover yarns.

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Walcott, our Laureate

As I probably wrote before, Brother-man’s much vaunted Lady B package also included a copy Derek Walcott’s Nobel Lecture.  It’s hardcover & the first edition.  The proper title is, “The Antilles:  Fragments of Epic Memory.”  It’s a slim (unpaginated, if you please) volume with a rather hoity-toity blurb.  I just finished reading it.  The blurb is rubbish, and the text is amazing.

For all my love of Walcott’s work, I never heard his lecture to the Academy.  I only learned about him after-the-fact.  I got a copy of “Omeros” for Christmas 1992 – precisely because he, a son of St. Lucia, won the Prize in Literature that very month.  My father’s idea of a perfect gift for his sixth form daughter and her head full of A’Level English.  I inhaled “Omeros” – it’s paginated to 325.  Then really became a fan after hearing Walcott read in April ’93 at the Globe Theatre in Kingston.

The lecture is a moving, beautiful thing.  To say, as he does:

At last, islands not written about but writing themselves.

Caribbean culture isn’t inconceivable but will be self-contradictory.  His benediction for a fresh language and a fresh people.  Spoken almost 17 years ago.

Thanks, Brother-man.  Made my day.

ETA: Well, all posts are E&OE… After reading this, my Father wrote to point out some errors.  He also took a jab at my flawless memory.  First of all – it’s the Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston.  My bad.   He quibbled with the date of the reading but that is right.  I know because Walcott dated his autograph.

Less critically, he says Auntie Gloria was teaching either Lear or King Henry IV Part 1 for Father HoLung.  While I am editing, I should add he only ever speaks of Father as Dickie HoLung.  Yep, a story lies behind that bit of irreverance.  Far be it from me to repeat it – bad memory & all!

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Harshing my mellow

Philip Street’s Fisher comic in today’s Globe & Mail is hilarious, and ends with, “Oh, Man.  You’re harshing my mellow.”  Yesterday, out of the blue, a friend harshed mine.  She called me an old woman.  As in, “You are such an old woman.  First knitting, and now orchids,” with maximum snarkiness.  Yea.  Who knows – maybe she plans on returning the handknit fingerless gloves?

Here’s where things stand in my knitting bag.  Massive new Lady B bag is edging me onto more projects.  Still under austerity measures, so no large projects in the works.

On the Needles – We have a 2nd sock that’s growing at the leg.  Pretty mundane, so moving along… We still have the baby cardigan (grits her teeth).  Thought I was blocked and ready to piece it all together.  Hit a snag with the sleeves.  Turns out, I made a dumb mistake, and must re-do said sleeves.  My LYSO figured it out – the sleeves don’t fit the armhole because only one side of each had the increases.  I managed to do this because I knit them both at the same time.  It looked fine with them side-by-side on the needles but they were lop-sided.  Good thing I started well before the baby is due…

In the Pipeline – A shrug for my cousin’s wedding next month.  After hours of searching, I settled on Pam Allen’s Reading in Bed Shrug.  This Hand Maiden lace silk will match the dress to a T (we hope):

Hand Maiden Lace Silk for Shrug

Hand Maiden Lace Silk for Shrug

The yarn is totally lace-weight.  I am going to double the yarn, and swatch like crazy…  I’m not generally a shrug girl, so fingers crossed.  Not sure how I’ll maintain the colourway with doubling – need to give that a think.

I am also experimenting with resizing.  The Sarah Tank Top by Christine Buhagiar (Knitting for Boozehags).  She only gave it in medium, so I am going down to my size – small.  I want to try to use my Estelle 100% silk (grey), and see if it makes for a good tank.  Means adjusting for this new gauge…  Gotta bust that stash!

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Sock to trot

Managed to finish No. 1 Straight-up Sock while listening to Carlheinz Schreiber underwhelm the Oliphant Inquiry.  This is actually my best-to-date heel, gussets & toe.  I’m glad that this ended up becoming another commoner garden sock, so I could actually have a rounded toe for once.  I better cast on its mate while all of this brilliance is fresh in the brain.

Straight-up Sock on my left foot.

Straight-up Sock on my left foot.

Straight-up Sock - gusset, heel & toe, sweet!

Straight-up Sock - gusset, heel & toe, sweet!

The white flecks are from the denim yarn.  In the Spring ’09 issue of Knits the staff reviewed Rowan Denim cotton in the ‘News & Views’ article.  They gave good information on the difference between most yarns, and denim yarns.  Traditionally indigo is used to dye denim cotton.  Wikipedia’s entry on indigo dye is here, and it says:

For many years indigo was also used to produce deep navy blue colors on wool. Indigo does not bond strongly to wool fibers, and wear and repeated washing slowly removes the dye.

Hence the white flecks in mah sock.

Back to Mr. Schreiber.  It was my first day watching his testimony before the Inquiry.  This was the 3rd, and Mr. Wolson for the Inquiry was in full flight.  At some point before the morning break, Mr. Wolson led the witness through 3 pieces of paper.  Without hesitation, Carlheinz Schreiber owns that certain named words are in his handwriting.  When asked (and asked, and asked) if he wrote the words in his handwriting, Carlheinz Schreiber maintains that he did not.  Several circles in the questioning later, Mr. Schreiber gave an explanation for this answer.  How did his handwriting get there?  He allows, “It’s a miracle.”

That was the one rise out of the witness for the day it seemed.  He was later quite flip about giving Mr. Mulroney baseless yet abject apologies in a letter he knew was destined for Prime Minister Harper’s hands.   What a tangled web he wove.

Mr. Pratt also crossed the witness in the afternoon on Mr. Mulroney’s behalf.  It was a good cross but I fell asleep at a certain point.

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Combination stitch is its name

TGFR – Thank God for Ravelers!  A Vancouverite just shed some light [like the rhyme?] on my old knit stitch.

Turns out my old knitting through the back has a name:  combination knitting.  I improvised a real, live method – without knowing it at the time.  I am very grateful for finding this Techniques discussion topic.

Will look into the combination concept some more.  A variation in the venerable English style of knitting – who knew?


Oil of Motherland

I went to Jamaica’s Consulate General in Toronto, today.  Panacea for homesickness, that.  The flag was flying high out front.  Most know it by sight but the black, green & gold mean – hardships there are but the land is green, and the sun shineth.  Hey, Anand Giridharadas, India isn’t the only place where Elizabethan English is still going strong!

It only got better.  Here are my highlights of the trip:  A lady closely observed me as I walked in.  That’s typical – after all, I am a white Jamaican.  She continued to stare as I pulled out each document for the receptionist to check them, and was speaking in my not-Canadian accent.  Boy was she perplexed.  So much so that she approached me, and scratched her itch thusly, “If you don’t mind me asking, which part of Jamaica are you from?”

Minding not, I answered, “Kingston.”  She caught the real terseness, and left it at that.  The question she had really asked was whether I am from Germantown in St. Elizabeth.  It’s a prejudice like any other.

Then, my  ‘number’ was called: “Next!”.  Only in a Jamaican government office could you find a card taped up onto the partition glass that proclaims the Prayer for Sinners.  Ah so.  We went straight into establishing that no, surname & whiteness aside, I am not related to one of the wealthiest men in the island.  It was all good – even the joke of being sent to take a 3rd photo down the road.  I should be okay for getting the passport back in 5 weeks, right?  I mean, I did read the Prayer for Sinners with some feeling…

I was also on the prowl for DPNs (double pointed needles) for the sock.  I was down a needle & my stop-gap measure was pretty bad:  moving a cable needle around to free-up a DPN for the knitting.  I stumbled accross a Mary Maxim store.  First time in one, I was astonished to find non-acryllics.  They only had 8″ long DPNs in my size but I had a Eureka moment in the sale bin…  Paton’s SWS (soy wool stripes)!  It’s been months of searching the GTA for some…  I know there are detractors but I love how SWS feels and felts.  My new stash, sock, and the bag that carried them all:

Patons SWS on sale; Straight up Socks; & Envirosax

Paton's SWS on sale; Straight up Socks; & Envirosax

Yep – Envirosax, baby!  Birthday gift from Cuz = a set of 5.  They are v. v. handy.  I couldn’t pull out the Lady B bag for a next-to-nothing project like this sock.  As you can see, I’m back into mindless rounds for the foot of the sock.  Did some in Starbucks, and the train home.

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Not yet afflicted

It was down to the wire with our preparations but we turned out a pretty good Easter lunch.  It was great to have the house full of company, and they also came bearing gifts!  Our blue mountain coffee stash is dangerously low, so the bag was much appreciated!  Our actual ask was for our traditional Easter bun.  It’s available in some areas of the GTA but as far as I know, not where we live.  Not only did we have bun but my cousin brought some Tastee cheese.  The makers of Tastee claim that during Easter, a kilo of cheese is eaten per person in the island… that number may be on the high side but it’s the only cheddar for our ‘bun & cheese’.  It’s a uniquely soft orange cheddar.

Going into the day we had 2 major worries – first was finishing the Great Powder Room Project; second was our guest-adverse dog, Toby.  He is famous for fixating on one male guest in any group, and going berserk.  The last time all my Uncle had to do was set foot over the threshold, and Toby was in a fit of barking, and lunging.  So for days, Hubby asked ominously, “What are you doing with the dog?”  I wasn’t about to chain him outside in 7 degree weather, and he wasn’t about to put him in a kennel, so we thought Toby would be a huge issue.  Ha!  Seems my ideas – talk to the dog; walk the dog; transition guests through door without doorbell going – all worked 🙂  Joy of joys, it seems Toby is reformed.  So much so that my Uncle had to ask what kind of higher-order training the dog had been through!  Toby wasn’t too fond of cuz’s boyfriend but it was mild – very mild.

The powder room did also behave itself but that was one project that didn’t want to end…  The paint.  Well, it is what it is.  Naturally, the 2nd coat didn’t tone it down one bit.  I’ve made my peace with the colour, and Hubby’s joy is unabated.  We did have a raft of other set-backs though.  Who’d a thunk that drilling a hole for the towel ring would cave a 1/2″ deep hole in the wall?  Thanks to the former owners for not filling that…  Other holes needed patching over the window.  Our idea of hanging the curtains outside the trim wasn’t to be.  A couple other fixes later we did manage to fix it up.  Remind me never to do that again…

As for the food, it was all good.  I was speaking with a lady I sort-0f know early last week about hosting this year, etc.  Her first question was, “Where are you getting the food?”  I almost answered, “The supermarket,” but realized that truthful or not, it would have been the rude thing to say.  In a great leap of maturity I quietly said that I supposed I would rustle it up myself.  I kept to traditional Jamaicany dishes – baked smoked ham; rice & peas; candied sweet potatoes with apples;  cheese and trees, etc.  Everyone loved the apps – ackee and cheese-filled tarts.  My favourite was the brownies with spiked (brandy) sour cream icing.  Cuz supplied a broccoli marinated salad that was great too.

I’m also v. grateful for all the ladies’ help clearing up.  Lord knows I had no steam left for handling that chore on my own…

I am looking forward to getting back to the baby cardi.  The other night, I searched the pattern on Ravelry and saw all the finished projects.  I also scratched the itch in terms of the Sirdar Baby Bamboo not being grand for a garment.  I have a feeling it will all be fine.  The pictures were reassuring but also what people are saying about it for garments.  It’s a small adjustment back from the domestic work but I’ll be toting the needles back to their rightful place in the couch again v. soon…  I’m not a clutter-free kind of person for long anyhow.

This afternoon I stumbled accross Anand Giridharadas on CPac (Canadian C-Span).  He was speaking in Ottawa at the India Lecture Series.  Never heard of it.  Never heard of him.  He is a columnist for the International Herald Tribune, and he seems to have been there on April 2nd.  His talk was, “The Slumdog Effect:  Afflict the Comfortable.”  It was astonishing – someone young & good-looking on CPac?  He spoke well in what I took to be an Ivy League way but also, openly.  He did not afflict me.  In fact, many of the things he described about Indian society would apply equally in Jamaica, and I imagine, other developing nations in the Commonwealth.  His arguments were not pat, and I found them very intriguing.

In terms of being open, he spoke of his parents who migrated to America from India.  By extension he alluded to his experience as a first-generation American with family ties in India.  I was surprised when he (a working print journalist) said that he gets paid to meet one-on-one to meet with people, learning their actual reality.  He said that no newspaper would ever carry that reality.  What did he say?  That what’s happening is not news that is fit to print?  Or – what I heard – that policies and journalistic conventions keep raw news from us?  Chalk it up to my overactive imagination but I think that’s what the cameraperson heard too.  We got a shot of the audience just after he gave us to understand.  They sure had some interesting expressions.  Colour me a new fan of Anand Giriharadas.  Although I have strong opinions about the first book on his reading roll – V.S. Naipaul’s “A House for Mr. Biswas.”

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All things bright and beautiful

We have one coat of paint on the walls.  Here’s my open letter on the subject.

Dear Benjamin Moore,

There comes a time when a company needs to come clean.  This handle “icy moon drops” sounds great but has nothing to do with the tin of paint that we bought.  Your paint chip has, to use my Father’s term, carried us wide.   Pastel is hardly a descriptor for what is now on those walls.  My first clue?  The colourblind husband is ecstatic about the paint choice.  Second clue?  It glows in the dark.  Tell the honest-to-goodness truth – didn’t you really mean to name this colour “moon drops on acid”?

Your response and trucks of swag will be greatly appreciated.

Yours very truly,


To quote Vonnegut, “So it goes.”

I actually like the colour too.  The issue is resale.  The bathroom now evokes memories of one of my favourite places in the wide world – Sussex in St. Ann, Jamaica:

Sussex, St. Ann - see the blue?

Sussex, St. Ann - see the blue?

I better go – the 2nd coat isn’t going to apply itself…  Knitting can happen next week – after I recover.