The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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.

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Baby cardigan shapes up

It’s F1 season again.  I’ve come to F1 honestly… in that I married my father.  He does not look a thing like my father but there you go, I found a match!  I manage the racing cheerfully for a couple of reasons:

(a) ex-boyfriend’s passion was American football, so this looks good; and

(b) knitting makes it all so much better.

So, with F1 setting the agenda, the baby cardigan is shaping up.  The yarn seems to have taken to the wet blocking but I won’t really know until it’s unpinned:

After giving the pattern’s lace edging a go, I thought it was too fussy for this yarn.  I frogged that, and found a perfect substitue in Nicky Epstein’s lifesaver of a book, “Knitting Beyond the Edge.”  The repeat keeps it simple enough for the bamboo, and with just 4 rows it’s easy to memorize.  It’s her ‘Alice’s Drawstring Lace’:

I also did the edging for one sleeve but the past 2 days have been taken up with working on our hair-brained plan to renovate the powder room.

We’ve lived with some terrible wallpaper for over 3 years now.  The wallpaper of blessed memory was silver flowers on a pastel pink & blue background.  It didn’t go without a fight, and we are working against an Easter deadline.  For, I invited 8 family members for dinner.  I should add that I have no painting or other DIY experience, and am hopelessly clueless.  Hubby is equally lost.  So!  Days of scraping, and wall-patching are behind us.  The trim and ceiling are looking spiffy.  Working around a pedestal sink, and the toilet, I managed to apply primer yesterday.  It was wallpaper on the top, fake chair-rail, and then grey/blue on the bottom.  The top is passable but way too much of the grey-blue is showing still.  Oh, and let’s just say the dinner isn’t being catered 🙂  Wish me luck, please.

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Confrontation – here?

A couple of hours ago, I was in the den, mid-row on the baby cardi’s left front, and watching Charlie Rose on PBS.  All of a sudden, I heard a rattling at the front door.  Toby who is usually a fierce defender of the front door didn’t even flinch, so I thought it might be the wind. A quick look outside showed no movement, and the rain had stopped.  Again, the rattling, and I jumped up.  The door’s nearby, and as soon as I got there, a man in blue jeans turned and walked away.  I’ve been on low alert since reading a report in the local paper about guys breaking and entering through front doors.  So, there I am, heart racing and convinced I just foiled a robber when dude returned!  Toby is finally alive to the danger, and here is the rattling of a set of keys – SKELETON KEYS?  Goes my head…. 911 seemed pointless because clearly he’s about to get in.  I pulled out my bad-ass voice, and shouted loudly,  “Who’s there?  It seemed pretty loud because even the Superior Guard Dog Toby stopped barking to give a listen.

Dude answered me.  He claims to be a dog walker.  When I hear him say he’s there for Ritz, the penny dropped.  But the heart, that was still racing, and I was worked up, so I gathered steam for another bad-ass sentence.  I said, “Wrong house!”  He was telling the truth.  Yesterday, I was outside doing a spring rake-up when another neighbour went in for Ritz.  She told me they were away and had a dog walker, etc.  So, the dude didn’t have a ring of skeleton keys.  I very much doubt dog walkers read knitting blogs but I am sorry for not simply telling the man that Ritz is next door.  Sigh.  I was too freaked out, seriously.  I hope Ritzy got his walk.

This is front door scuffle no. 2 for the week.  The other morning, I am rushing out the door, late as usual when I see a woman with her hand about to knock.  I just opened it still rushing.  She had a school marm voice.  While holding out a full-colour brochure she said, “I would like to invite you to commemorate Jesus’ death.”  Right.  She heard that I have my own Church, thank you very much as I locked the door on the outside, and proceeded to the garage.  From the looks on her face, the exchange was as unique for her as it was for me!  I did make it to my appointment on time though.

As for today’s incident, Toby is now on alert – thanks Tobes:)

Re: knitting.

  1. This baby bamboo may not work out for a cardigan.  I may be learning something new about cardigan construction… That front left piece is very contrary.  It in fact wants to be a wee tube, and is having nothing of laying flat like a good cardi… I shall swatch for the lace edging and report further.
  2. Awhile back, I promised a picture of the sock I have on the go.  I took it into LYS this Wednesday for their sit ‘n knit time-slot.  It was just me for most of the 2 hours, so I got a fair amount done.  The ladies are great, and since I may not have weekday freedom for much longer, I’m relishing the chance to be a fly on their wall.  So, what I have on the sock needles is:
Denim Sock as of April Fools 2009

Denim Sock as of April Fool's 2009

It’s a big improvement over the heel patch I was attempting at first.  Of course neither of these tiny projects is suited for my new Lady B bag.  Even with the Louisa Harding book, it’s still practically empty with the cardigan’s stuff.  All in good time!

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New on needles

My new project is the Jasmine Cardigan for Franny’s we-hope-it’s-a-girl bump.  It’s a Louisa Harding pattern from her “Natural Knits for Babies and Moms” book (Interweave).  It’s pink right now, so here’s to hoping:)

The LYS didn’t have an organic equivalent to the recommended dk 80% wool; 20% cotton yarn.  I am keeping it math simple, and went for a non-organic sub in the same gauge:  Sirdar’s Baby Bamboo.  It’s given to split stitches, but is otherwise very easy on the hands.  I’ve knitted up the back, and am working on the sleeves:

So tiny – I’m making it for 3 months.  This is my first baby garment, so my fingers are crossed.   She’s due in early June, so if this flops I’ll have time to whip up a cot blankie, right?  I have to run but will post a pic of the sock, which is also new on my needles.