The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving, 2014!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall trees in Caledon on the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario

Niagara Escarpment in fall glory

Ours is quiet but it’s also special – a first Thanksgiving for a new Canadian in the house, me!  N’s work-all-weekend schedule for a big project shifted at the last minute, so we headed up to visit the Cheltenham Badlands formation along the Bruce Trail in Caledon.

Sign to the public entering Cheltenham Badlands formation, Caledon Ontario

The Bruce Trail Conservancy kindly requests…

We saw no horses but one family did get called-out with a strained, “Excuse me!” after being seen to litter.  It’s so chill that even the women in heels (seriously?) were still upright as they explored the beautiful formation.


Badlands view mid-October weekend in Caledon, Ontario

Free for all, Cheltenham Badlands

The view just to the right, and above the line of vehicles parked on the road was gorgeous.  It’s a short drive, and such a lovely difference for wide-open fall colour.

Niagara Escarpment fall backdrop for Chelenham Badlands, Caledon, Ontario

We picked a good day to see the Cheltenham Badlands


After a week of rainy weather the blue sky and mild fall weather was divine – just divine.

Fall trees and blue sky at Cheltenham Badlands, Caledon, Ontario

Fall, you have grown on me

The formation itself was a playground for all the kids, and like a page from my high school geography text books.

Hills and gullies of Queenston Shale at the Cheltenham Badlands, Ontario

Queenston shale, exposed

Over-grazing when this land was farmed in the 1930s exposed the Queenston shale.  The fully dry hills and gullies just drew us in… both kids and dogs were tearing across them and all the smiles were infectious.

Cheltenham Badlands hill formation detail

Red iron oxide greening in the rain

A succinct explanation of the formation is given here.  Continued erosion is affecting the trees along its perimeter.

Cheltenham Badlands effect on tree life

As the Badlands encroach

The tree-life ringing the formation showed the effects of continued erosion.

Sitting on eroded rock in the Cheltenham Badlands

Settling in for pictures

It wasn’t all posing, and people-watching.  We had fun exploring the open sections of the trail, and even with such a huge crowd it really was a super day-trip.

Bruce Trail at the Cheltenham Badlands, Caledon Ontario

Just before the trail goes muddy

Still more thanks for friends who are reaching out on Toby’s passing.  It is gradually less raw but no, we are not looking for a new family dog at the moment.

We still miss our little guy and neither of us feels ready just yet.

Bruce Trail in Caledon, Ontario

Many happy returns this Thanksgiving


Our Toby Hopeful

First knitty appearance of Toby our Papillon-mix on the blog with socks for N

Toby’s 2009 debut on the Knit Knack’s blog

A week ago, I planned to next share my adventures in weaving.  Since then Toby’s condition has continued to decline.  He is stable and without pain, thankfully.  For those who do not know, Toby was diagnosed with brain stem damage over 8 months ago.

Now, the paralysis is advancing.  He is quickly loosing function of his legs.  He finds it so difficult to stand, and sleeps even more than in past months.  Eating and continence is what we are monitoring because no-one minds lifting his 10 lbs or making him comfortable.

Toby has always been a presence in this my only blog.  He is resting here at the foot of my office chair as I write this post.   On two levels this is how I would like to celebrate the Tobester:  in the present tense; and in the four walls of TKK where others may read as well.

Information kept, Toronto Animal Services receipt for Toby formerly called Ron

He so was not a Ron!

He came to us on April 25, 2005 as Ron.  The North York office of Toronto Animal Services chose the name because of his clear rage towards their tech, Ron.  It was an inside joke, so when Toby came right away to N and not only tolerated but enjoyed our visit the good people approved our adoption on the spot.  The clerk in charge spoke in dire tones:

Do you have children?

In unison, “No.”

Do you want children… ever?

Two surprised voices, “I guess?”

We assume that he may have neurological problems due to in-breeding, and may never be safe around children.

To N:  You are the first man that he has not tried to bite.

Other salient points were that he was estimated as 3 years, 9 months old, was brought in by an overwhelmed family who spoke little English, and had spent a month in rehabilitation.  A history of trauma was apparent, and they had never seen a dog who loved being dried off after baths more than this guy.

We named him Toby on our way home that day.  They were equally right about the abuse, and his drying-off glee.  Love, and structure took us so far.  Good, gentle vets and books on dog behaviour did as well.  We both grew up with dogs but none of them had survived cruelty.

A girl and her dog, Papillon-mix, Toby Hopeful

Toby the inveterate lap dog

It was a long time before anyone earned their way into this core truth – Toby is a big suck.  He loves the love in cuddle form.  In 9 years he has never bothered with a single toy but if you sit at his level then your lap will be occupied.

On-lead and happy, Toby the Papillon-mix

Toby in on the family walk

Before his eyesight started to fail, Toby loved his walks.  We all enjoyed going out on long walks in the neighbourhood, together.  Snapping his lead for a good run through an open field was as close to bliss as we ever have seen our little big dog.  It’s a close second to the drying-off fun times.

Carding CVM wool under Toby's supervision

Toby the fleece inspector

His middle name is Hopeful for a reason.  If cheese, chocolate or your glass of water can be nosed then this dog is hopeful.  If you rustle a plastic bag within ear-shot then this dog is hopeful for a walk.  When he met new people, and a cramped apartment this dog was hopeful.

We love him dearly.  That we even got a small breed dog through the city is marvellous.  His simple, uncomplaining way over the course of this tough year for him teaches me each day that I have with him.    Yesterday, I asked our vet’s office how they handle such things if we need to cross the road of putting him down or if he dies at home.  That was a hard call to make but I am better prepared come what may.

Your thoughts & kind comments, replies on Twitter have all helped.  Thank you, all.

Leave a comment

Water under the bridge

On this the eve of Le Tour (yay!), I had to come around and post already…  This was no case of writer’s block but really just a short hiatus for needed medical stuff.  It meant spinning until I couldn’t, stress knitting, and re-entering.

Big surprise.  I knit socks before, during & after this rough patch.

I was still in denial that they fit heel-to-toe.  The soles are way short.  Mostly because I knit all of the soles through the back loop with a vengeance.  Also, memory fail on length of foot.

Much appreciation to Ann Budd for such a great (and free) pattern, “Seduction Socks.”  This was my second time knitting this design & I could do it again.

Full disclosure:  it was early spring.  I remember taking this picture, and being so excited for my ostrich ferns coming forth:

Nothing beats knitting handspun through an ordeal.  Truely.

In a typical year there’s no way I would have finished my logwood-dyed socks by June 7th.  But they were a natural comfort to me, and they got warm-weather knit love.  All 242 yards of them.

And I was far from done with the sock mania.  For there were trips to Lettuce Knit to make the not-fun appointments doable on some bad days.

Kim of Indigodragonfly spoke to me.  Seriously, it’s sock yarn called ‘Polite Loner’.  Yah, 2 skeins, please.

It’s Bavarian Cable Socks from Wendy Johnson’s book, “Socks from the Toe Up.”  The bouncy merino yarn is making up for the fact that I find the stitch design a bit meh.

Most satisfying of all was making NICU & Preemie hats.  They were for Hunter who my girlfriend had to deliver at just 29 weeks.

It was great finding all the bits of yarn that I needed from remnant skeins.  Hunter’s doing well, and moved up to the next care level this week.

Most of my spinning is at various stages coughno picscough but I did finish my Wee Peggy’s Corriedale project.

That friends is 1,008 yards of 3-ply S-twist yarn.  Loved spinning the 12 oz from Diane at Schafenfreude Fibers, and I’m excited to make a twine knit vest for the fall.

Thank you to everyone who wrote or has called.  I really appreciate the support.  My family and you mean more than the lace shawl or socks I knit.  N has been amazing.  He’s taken care of me – again, and we celebrated our 10th anniversary this month.

It wasn’t Québec City like we planned but a great time, considering.  We thought my brother would love a close-up of that tree by the way.

Babylon throne gone down!

I’ll be back to say what I’m doing for the 2012 Tour de Fleece!

1 Comment

I told you!

The Yarn Harlot blogged her Toronto book launch here.  I told you I had front row appearance – that’s me 2nd from the left in Stephanie’s Hello Toronto photo!  I love her pic of Megan & the charming Miles (aka Monkey).

I have a ton more knitting & spinning to blog but am dashing to rake leaves.  A storm is forecast for this afternoon.  Why I need to hustle:  this is my backyard with only ½ of the leaves dropped.

Those got raked.  Here’s what’s currently on the ground:

The firebush was beautiful this year.  Yes, past tense.

And so, I kid you not when I say there is raking that needs doing.  Before rainfall would be ideal.


Easter report

Whad’ya know – my handspun has use!  I finished the Sweet Fern fingerless gloves over the weekend.  Ferns in the mini-roses:

The Polwarth is soft but firm at this gauge, and I even have a left-over skein.

The pattern was great as-is – no modifications this time!

I cleaned & decorated the house a bit for Easter because we threw a rather spontaneous BBQ for our Jamaican friends as they get ready to move out east.  These are the friends who had baby Eden last summer (I made her a kimono).  Her older brother, Zac, found the chocolate straight off the bat!

Opening right on cue:

Even though we were both v. tired from the efforts, we did make it out to St. Jacob’s Market on Saturday for the 1st time.  A cool day-trip.  First purchase of the day?  Sock yarn from Shall We Knit, upstairs:

Always wanted me some Crazy Zauberball!  Also in the marketplace:

We headed back downstairs for a bag of bagels, and clover honey here:

Hot-cross buns in production:

Farmers feed cities!

I have no idea how/ why but DH left without buying a single sausage, cut of meat or slab of cheese – huh?!?

We lunched at the Stone Crock restaurant in town.  It was a 20 min wait for the table – good enough to pull out the Bossie spindle & create a scene 🙂

Seriously?  75% is something to brag about?!

DH was fading fast but I did get to dip into an antiques store.  They had 2 spinning wheels that not even I was moved to acquire…   A better find?   This little ‘handbook,’ on natural dying, 8th edition 1972:

Very instructive but also covers dye recipes & traditions from around the world, including Canada & the Caribbean!

On both Sunday & yesterday we had perfect hand-combing weather.  It was sunny, warm & breezy.  I got through about a  bag of  my Romney… & have the scrapes on my hands to prove it.  It’s scary how easily the long tines on these little combs will graze you.  My hands are a little worse for the wear, today.

1 Comment

St. Valentine’s

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Tomorrow is the still-new Family Day here in Ontario, so it’s a long weekend for us.  I can’t resist dropping some Emily Dickinson on a day like today…


The thought beneath so slight a film –

Is more distinctly seen –

As laces just reveal the surge –

Or Mists – the Apennine

Here’s how events are unfolding chez nous.  I thought my Friday night would only be about the Olympics… wrong!  Look what DH waltzed in with that evening:

He got full marks for the surprise!

On my end, after getting fed-up with cables & deadline knitting the other night, I punched some wool with a sharp needle for a bit…

This dish was part of SIL’s bridesmaid gift.  It’s by Paloma’s Nest, and usually holds my small knit knacks.

That’s the end of my needle-felting love but I’m also throwing in a couple of Jamaican seashells & rose quartz for good measure.  Since they’re both great for affairs of the heart.

Also on my end, I cracked open the Joy of Cooking & whipped up a batch of blueberry muffins this a.m.:

The 1½ cups of blueberries are just wicked!  I add grated cinnamon to mine.

Of course, it’s still winter here but I decided to reach for the backyard shots anyway:

I don’t want to bury the pic of my new book in this post, so that’s coming soon!

Leave a comment

No rants. It’s all good.

This turned out to be a wicked good week!

For starters, Dell wasn’t teasing – the new laptop did arrive Tuesday evening.  At long last, I’m out of the basement & back to my old digs.  As for the machine – its multi-directional touch pad is annoying the life out of me but I am otherwise a fan.

New pics. are temporarily a no-no, so here’s one from our San Fran trip in October.

Aestlight against the chill

Other good things in this week.  I had my jewelry-making friend, Sonja over for coffee.  Let’s just say that it was time for me to reciprocate… The house was clean, and I went all-out with the blueberry muffin baking:)  Adding orange zest is a good thing for that by the way.

Then yesterday afternoon, I went over to knit & hang out with my friend Megster of Knits & Kids fame.  We had a grand ol’ time – her daughter is just the sweetest thing – and as if that weren’t enough, we had more fun at Pub Night.

At last posting the Lacy Baktus scarf for MIL was looking mighty short.  Well, it was my bad.  I actually had another 106 ft of yarn to use before starting to decrease the triangle.  Yeah.  Maybe next time I’ll measure the half-way point before starting to knit.  Actually, maybe by next time Santa will have given me a digital scale….  So, my bad & I had to rip it.  Can you sense my mounting frustration with this gift?  It’s jinxed.

Now I’m off to read my first issue of Spin Off (so it begins) and the winter Knits magazines.  Nice!



I first learned about the World Wars through Remembrance Day poppy drives in Jamaica.  Like Canada and other countries, we have the same traditions of honouring and supporting our veterans.  This is one of the Canadian holidays that is part of our shared history.

In 1999 Marc Goodman wrote an article, “Remembering when the World was at War” in Skywritings magazine.  The subtitle is, “A visit with Jamaica’s last surviving World War I veteran gives a glimpse into history’s bloodiest battlefields, and a Jamaica past”.  The host was 103 year old Ugent Augustus Clark who had volunteered for the British West Indies Regiment at age 22.  Ugent Clark served as an ammunition carrier in the war & was at the Battle of the Somme.  Goodman quotes him as saying:

They speak about (religion) a lot.  You feel religion and God.  You could dead at any time.  You just take it one day at a time…. War is no good.  It changes things, but in the changing, plenty bad things go on.

It is an excellent article.  I can see why Marc was my Mom’s favourite student.

Goodman's Article, The best of Skywritings - with my poppy

I heard McCrae’s In Flanders Fields read on Sunday.  The text is here.  What Dylan Thomas wrote is true: “And death shall have no dominion.”

1 Comment

Daddy Sharpe Toronto book launch

A few weeks ago, I missed our Knit Night for good cause – it was the Toronto launch of Daddy Sharpe:

The specs:

Title: Daddy Sharpe: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Samuel Sharpe, A West Indian Slave Written by Himself, 1832 by Fred W. Kennedy. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2008. 411 pages. Newspaper reviews are here, and here.

It is a historical novel about Samuel Sharpe, a Jamaican national hero.  Other launches have been held in Jamaica & London but Toronto is where Fred (my relative) lived most of his adult life & raised his family.  He filled the auditorium & it was great to hear him read passages from the book.

Outside of Jamaica, Sam Sharpe is not a household name.  He bravely led other slaves in the great Christmas Rebellion in 1831 to fight for abolition.  Sam Sharpe was a literate slave who gained prominence as a Baptist preacher & deacon.  The Rebellion faltered as the local colonial government worked to brutally suppress the uprising.  Slaves were ruthlessly hunted down and captured.  Sam Sharpe was one of the last to surrender, and the Rebellion ended with his hanging in the Montego Bay public square.  It was a sacrifice that advanced the cause for abolition in the United Kingdom.  The Slavery Abolition Act, which applied in Jamaica and most of the British colonies received Royal assent on August 28, 1833.

I was also thrilled because the guest speaker was none other than author Rachel Manley.  She is my favourite Jamaican author.  Hands-down. I have all of her books & naturally had to bring the latest one along for an autograph.  She spoke very well, and, and I was so excited to meet her.  I went to school with her eldest & there are all sorts of small-island connections but this was the first time I ever met her.  This is my copy of Horses in her Hair.

Inside: Lovely autograph.

We did take pics of the event but DH has yet to upload them…. I wanted to post this before Remembrance Day, tomorrow.

I am all set to go to Knit Night, tomorrow.  Here’s the plan.  Attire = new Purple Cocoon Cardi.  Needles = Angee sock & MIL’s cowl.  Also bringing = Kundert spindle & handspun efforts.  It will be nice to see what everyone is working on & catch-up.  It’s been at least a month, I think.

1 Comment

Laborious Labour Day

It was as if we caught the Labour Day bug… big preparations for FIL’s visit.  He comes today & there’s been some serious graft – everything from pruning bushes to cleaning the fridge.  This weekend on top of regular inside jobs, windows got washed, the garage got tidied/ purged, the snowblower got fixed, etc.  So, we are almost ready for the Force of Nature’s arrival!  Almost.

Of course, wool processing took a back seat.  Nearly all evidence of Peter Tosh the Fleece has been sent to the basement.  I got that it would be nuts to leave bags of wool (clean & unclean) in one’s dining room but have a Stepford-clean garage…  See, I’m not that far gone!  Instead, I whipped up a wee bunny with some clean wool & my felting needle.  Who says Romney wool doesn’t full?

We have a mascot!

We have a mascot!

The blue eyes & the nose are from some extra wool I kept.  The white bits came from the fleece.  Plan B is to needle felt my wool if all attempts at spinning fail!

I also found time to finally finish the Hottie Hottie tank top.  It fits very nicely & isn’t tight at all.  Even if Canadian weather turns decidedly autumnal, I can wear this in Jamaica when we go this Christmas…

The side view is my favourite:

And here’s a slightly blurry back view pic:

With that off the needles, I turned my attention back to the secret baby gift.  I decided against alternating yarns & ripped it back to the ribbed edge.  I’m still not too sure about the flashes of colour in the variegated yarn.  It may just want to be a dishcloth but for now I am giving it the benefit of the doubt.  The working plan is to use this as the main colour & change back to the white yarn at the other end.  Here it is on probation:

Shh - still a secret

Shh - still a secret

I’m off to finish the last of the chores!  Happy knitting if you can get some!