11 December 2017

London: The Yarn


On vacation, as with everything else, sometimes you have to be flexible. There were midweek plans consisting of taking the tube to Camden Passage for shopping at Loop of London in the morning. Then a second tube trip was meant to do some sight seeing further north. Unfortunately the morning involved lots of tea and me ill in bed with killer cramps well past noon. After rallying, plans were amended. We headed to Camden where yes, I did see the lovely Loop, as well as various vintage shops and stalls. I bought a costume jewellry brooch from the 50's and a pretty skirt from the 70's. We even managed to fit in an actual pub meal - ale, steak and mushroom pie, and mashed potatoes that were more butter than potato. Mmmm.

It was a shortened day but a nice one. We spent the evening watching tv in our suite. I'm glad that we didn't force ourselves into a strict schedule. Sometimes it's about the company as much as the content. 

The window next to the cash at Loop. The garland and the greenery with the white window framework was one of the prettiest sights of the day.

I wish I had gotten a better photo of these scarves. They are teeny tiny crocheted granny squares done in silk that's only slightly heavier than thread. So beautiful. Elegant crochet? Who knew?

One can't go to the UK without buying Shetland wool. At least I think so. I want to make some sort of shawlette with this Jamieson's DK. The skirt I was wearing that day has this palette and I was just feeling the combination. I'm thinking triangular with striped garter in 2 or 3 of the colours and a complicated border that incorporates them all.

06 December 2017

London; The Windows


We spent a whole day shopping the high end shoppes of London. We got off at Piccadilly Circus and from there it was round and about (in no particular order) Regent Street, Sloane Street, Piccadilly, New Bond, Old Bond and Jermyn. I was strangely underwhelmed by Liberty of London, but absolutely delighted with Fortnum and Masons. My partner shopped shirts and ties at the beautiful and elegant Harvie and Hudson but ended up purchasing at the more affordable Thomas Pink. Watches are his passion so we stopped into boutiques where burly but polite guards have to open the door to admit you. I tried on a 1500 pound coat at Dak's made with Jamieson's of Shetland wool. The Holiday lights were just coming on at 5pm when we, exhausted, stummbled back to Green Park station and on to our hotel for dinner.

Channeling Georgia O'Keefe here, don't you agree?

English bears wearing knits at Ralph Lauren.

LOVE this! Max Mara homages the best of the 70's


Dak's. Wool dress, silver shoes.
Watches watching the time at Cinderella's ball.

One of the many holiday windows at Fortnum and Mason's. 
The store was packed with people filling their carts full of biscuits, tea, coffee, fruitcake and Christmas chocolates.  I'm sure much of it was meant for mailing to relatives around the world.
 I purchased tea and shortbread here for The Daughter.

24 November 2017

Sweet November

It's been a diverse and busy November here. I continued to struggle for workers' rights and equal pay and I also took a posh trip - to England! The irony of this does not escape me. However, that may be a discussion for another day. 


I'm in the process of sorting through the 200+ photos I took in London. I think maybe only thirty or so are any good and of those I shall choose the best to create a holiday photo post here in the coming days.

22 November 2017

A Bill Passes and I Was There



Usually, I keep politics out of my blog. Today, however, I can't. Here are the details of the labour law reforms that passed today in Ontario. 
And here is my Facebook post about my happy reaction to watching this unfold:

"I am reflecting this evening on the experience of sitting in the Legislature today watching Bill 148 pass final reading. 
Three years ago, I called Workers' Action Centre for help with a labour dispute. I was welcomed into this crazy group and my life changed. Other than helping to raise an amazing human and citizen, the small contribution I've made to WAC and the Fight for $15 and Fairness, is my proudest achievement. This diverse group of hard working, inclusive, and ever-so-attractive individuals has been tirelessly organizing in the province for years - phoning, visiting MPPs, flyering, postering, handing out buttons, writing letters, marching, making speeches, educating, protesting, talking to anyone who will listen, and relentlessly s**t disturbing - to make life better for 1.6 million Ontarians. Tonight, I am happy and grateful.
It's not over yet. From here we push for enforcement and strengthening of existing laws . We must make sure government knows we are still paying attention. Tonight though, we celebrate a little."


26 October 2017

Bright and Delicious Sixties

One of my vintage magazines  (1967-8 McCall's) has completely fallen apart and is headed, sadly, to the recycling bin. Naturally, I've clipped my favourite patterns. However, I wanted to share the best adverts with you too. In knitting mags, just as in regular fashion periodicals, often the ads are the best part.

These gals have spunk for days mixed with awesome accessories, hair and makeup. Love the bright colours and the sassy sixties attitude.

Best legwear ever.

Serious posing.

Check out the stitch pattern of the pink cardigan. It's the same bubble pattern used in PomPom's Bombus from this past spring. I noticed it because, as you know, Bombus is my current project. Indeed, everything old is new again!

09 October 2017

Turn, Turn, Turn


You may recall me posting about breaking my umbrella swift and attempting to repair it with glue and spit. Well, the damage was just too great and I had to finally admit that it was unusable and needed to be replaced.

That unhappy occurrence turned happy quickly with a friend's recommendation that I try an Amish style swift. I'd always been curious and it certainly is much more affordable than the umbrella style, so I bought one. I just love it. It turns so smoothly and quietly. The set up and tear down are simple with no clamping required. Best of all, it breaks down into four flat pieces and a small bag of pegs so storage is easy. The only disadvantage I've found is that the ability to adjust to the skein size is not as precise as my old swift's but I can certainly live with that. 

I highly recommend this swift, especially if you live in a small space.



07 October 2017

Make Do Monday


So it's Slow Fashion October again. Though I don't really take part, it is an opportunity for a bit of reflection. This past Monday, having the apartment to myself, I spent the entire evening listening to podcasts** and catching up on my mending. When you buy second hand and wear and wear your favourites for years, frequent maintenance is required. Seams wear, straps fray, buttons fall off. Some of these skirts have been in rotation for over 20 years. It's a small accomplishment, but I am proud of it.

Another aspect of slow fashion that I've been thinking a lot about is laundry. You hear more and more about plastic fibres from our clothes getting in the ocean. All those yoga pants being machined washed! To keep my natural fibre prints clean, I of course hand wash with vegetable based soaps - when I wash that is. For here's a secret. I hardly ever wash my skirts. Unless I spill something on them, they only get laundered about every tenth wear. Honestly with a freshening iron or steam, the fabric looks just fine to wear many times. Dresses need more washing for obvious reasons. However, I find that with light wear, a spritz on the underarm area of the garment with homemade fabric refresher***, is often enough to make the dress ready for a second or even a third wear. 

There is a label I want to share.  I rarely buy new and that's a function of economic necessity as much as it is a reflection of social conscience. When I do, it has to be special. Inside my new organic cotton dress by Toad & Co. is this:

Dirty is the new clean.
Wear more, wash less.
Wear it out or pass it on.

Sounds right to me.

**Re the podcasts. Listen to Clara Parkes reading the Debbie Stoller chapter from A Stash Of One's Own on Pomcast. It will make you cry.
***Mix a few drops of essential lavender oil and tea tree oil with distilled water in a spray bottle. It works wonders.

30 September 2017

Business Casual

Pattern:  Business Casual by Tanis
Yarn by Orange Octopus 

After losing it once, finding it again, skipping a pattern repeat, ripping out the toe and restarting - they are finally done! I sent this snap to The Daughter right after weaving in the ends. They are becoming her socks because, despite my efforts, they are a tad too big for me.

Still, they're pretty cute, right?

22 September 2017

Just A Dish Cloth


I found that I was captivated by swatching the Bi-Colour Brick stitch and I wanted to revisit it. Not being able to think of a way to incorporate it into any projects, I grabbed some cotton and made a dish cloth. This 8 x 8 square intended for the cleaning of dishes, is just a large swatch after all, albeit a useful one, and I honed a new skill to boot!. This quickly completed project was a nice break from knitting a large garment. I feel re-energized. 

The cardigan goes well and I'm returning to it now. 


13 September 2017

River Knitting


I rode out to the Humber River today. Well, not all the way at once. The distance is much further from my current home than from where I used to regularly make the trip and there are still all those hills to deal with. I had an appointment at about the one third mark - my original reason for heading in that direction. Then I stopped for lunch at approximately the halfway point. From there I did all the nasty hills involved in that particular westward trip. It was a whim really.

What a beautiful day! I watched this guy fish for quite a while. Perhaps the cool fall weather is the reason he or she was the most active heron I have ever seen. He caught two fish then disappeared.

The bridge. The distance is a very easy ride but
I usually stop here a while for the view then turn back.
I am always tired. Did I mention the hills?

Knit for about an hour on my Bombus until the sun became too direct and started to burn my knees. This blue looked so lovely in the outdoors. It makes me love this project even more than I already do.

06 September 2017

John Ashbery: Jul 28 1927- Sept 3 2017


How do I write an appreciation of John Ashbery? He died this past Sunday at age 90 and was a writer always. I started to say, in my Facebook post about his passing, that his words were often comfort and joy to me until I realized this is a quote from a holiday carol. See how easy it is to fall into maudlin cliche and bad writing?

I first wrote of my discovery of John Ashbery in January 2013 after taking the self guided East Village Poetry Walk in lower Manhatten. As I said then, I was crossing the park with Ashbery's voice in my ear reading Just Walking Around (A Wave, 1984). It was a beautiful neighbourhood park full of families and dogs and a few bench lounging drunks. During what was often a lonely trip to for me, it reminded me of my heart's home.

"But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much and wander around,
Smiling to yourself and others.
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting.
Counterproductive..."

A big dog bounded toward me, all smiling legs and tail and I felt the tight spring inside me uncoil a notch. I've listened to and read that poem countless times since that day. I can recite it by heart.

St Mark's Place, NYC January 2013

Ashbery's 1991 book length poem Flow Chart was my near constant companion through 2014. It was with me most Friday nights at my favourite diner where I sat over greasy food and pints reading and reading and sometimes trying to write myself. I marked my favourite passages with bits of torn napkin, copied them into my journal: 

"...dig our heels in and ask the cliff 
to explain itself, and the ferns erupting from its crevices:  I too 
have stood here faceless and seemingly angry for a long time, yet for all that
don't feel it time to intimidate someone, make him or her feel lonesome just 
   because there is
indeed a horizon"

Or this:

"...And will my genuine if respectful indifference militate 
against the neutrality of my performance? Is a conflict of interest shaping up, or
     what?"

Or what, indeed?

Seems to be. Perhaps. You see. If so. I feel that. However...

He used common clauses to link lengthy yet individually simple, phrases into complex and famously "difficult" poetry. 
From The Guardian's obituary:

“I don’t find any direct statements in life,” Ashbery once explained to the Times in London. “My poetry imitates or reproduces the way knowledge or awareness comes to me, which is by fits and starts and by indirection. I don’t think poetry arranged in neat patterns would reflect that situation.”

I disagree with the difficult label. His writing to me, is the flow in the Flow Chart. One reads and an impression takes hold. His writing is a mirror to the way an observant mind processes the world. Music, visual imagery, snatches of news and conversation, all spool out to form an idea. It's stated then left there as another takes shape. Perhaps it will be repeated later or perhaps not. Like waves lapping on the shore, climbing and receding, if listened to long enough, the experience of the experience becomes clear to you, even if you you don't understand exactly why.

Well thumbed.

John Ashbery was, of course, incredibly erudite, well read and well traveled.  He was also a professional art critic. He often referenced specific art work and literature in his poems and why wouldn't he? From mention of the opera Orlando Furioso in Soonest Mended (1962), to the painter Parmigianino in Self Portrait in A Convex Mirror (1975), to the Sibelius Quartet in Hotel Lautreamont (2007), it was always done with relevance and without arrogance. I have found that knowing the references is not always necessary to the appreciation of the work, but hey, we live in the world of the internet and it's delightfully easy to look these things up. 


My signed copy of  the Pulitzer Prize winning book - a gift from my Love.
We have the internet to thank as well for access to many recordings of Ashbery reading from his work. He had a pleasant and clear voice and read aloud in my favourite style; straightforward and without unnecessary dramatic emoting. He let the strength of the words carry the piece. I enjoy listening to him while I knit or take transit. I've heard him so often that when I read his poems to myself, it is his voice that I hear in my head.

Yes, I'm a little sad that he's gone but he was ninety years old after all.  He wrote until the end of his long and graceful life so he left us much to enjoy and discover - profound yet simple phrases such as "The inside of stumbling. The way to breath" (Homeless Heart, 2012). His last new collection came out in 2015. Isn't that remarkable? Mostly I suppose I'm sad because no longer can I use 'America's greatest living poet' as answer to the question, 'Who is John Ashbery? '.

"And now that the end is near,
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there, and mystery and food.
Come see it. Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other"


Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

25 August 2017

Trying To Grow


Did you ever read The Hotel New Hampshire, in which the physically small character Lily refers to her creative attempts as "trying to grow"? That's kind of where I'm at with my knitting right now. I feel I can't keep doing the same old thing. Heck, if I'm going to spend so much of my time doing this, I should at least get really good at it. Time to learn new things, to challenge myself, to not give up when it gets hard. Time to grow.

Thus I am knitting Bombus. When I originally cast this PomPom pattern on a few weeks ago, I thought of it as just a cool cardigan that I'd like to knit. Then the stitch pattern and the construction totally whooped my butt. I had to rip back and restart several times. There is a twelve row Bubble pattern knit over short row shaping and raglan increases - no walk in the park. I was tempted to chuck it until I got a hold of myself.


I went back to basics and practiced the stitch pattern on a separate swatch until I felt I had a good understanding of it. I used whatever wound yarn I had at hand. (I forgot I had this gorgeous Hemp for Knitting and now want to find something special just for it).
The project yarn I chose is a lovely woolly DK that I know will be cozy and satisfying when knit up. It's slightly more warm in tone than I was able tp photograph on an overcast day.


I ended up drawing a schematic of every row with notes that perhaps only I can understand. I marked every increase, every count between markers and every row of the Bubble progression. I am determined not to let the math defeat me and if this is what it takes, then that is what I must do. Taking it one step at a time and with liberal use of stitch markers, I am now off and running. Exciting! Stay tuned. 




15 August 2017

Cocina Clean


So, the moths came back. 

On Saturday we finally had to admit that our old bed with its dark rickety drawers was just a moth hotel. We may as well have sent them embossed invitations to stay as long as they like. So my partner went at it, almost gleefully, with a hammer. Then we cleaned and laundered EVERYTHING. The vacuum and washing machine were in constant use all weekend.
A quick trip to Ikea later and we now have a simple metal bed stand covered in sparkly clean mattress cover, sheets and duvet. Underneath are sealable plastic drawers full of fresh clothing.


To reward ourselves for a job well done, we went to our favourite little Mexican Cocina for salsa verde and guacamole. To get there you have to bypass the expensive tourist traps and long lines of our hood, then go four blocks north to the little house with the cute patio. It's pretty much heaven there. Fresh tortilla with five sauces, lots of limes, magical rice and beans. Food and wine always taste better after labour, especially when shared. Don't you agree?


06 August 2017

Staycation and Good News

We are very lucky here in Toronto in that there is so much to do, especially in the summer. My partner and I are taking Stay-cation this week and we've done so many lovely things together, many of them free. We rode our bikes to my old neighbourhood of High Park on one day and up the street to Allan Gardens on another. We caught a play at Soulpepper Theatre (definitely not free but worth the price). We drove to Elora to look at the Gorge. Yesterday we walked to the local farmer's market where we bought our entire dinner, meat, veg and potatoes, from local sources. It's been a grand time. Admittedly, a  couple of days we spent lazing about doing nothing and that's been nice too!


Allan Gardens has been around since 1910. It's open all year providing a tropical oasis in the centre of the city.

"There's sometimes an egret in this pond," I said as we turned the corner of the bike path into High Park. And there it was! We watched it fish for several minutes until it caught a snack. 


I visited Taste of Regent Park on Wednesday as part of the local chapter of The Fight for $15 and Fairness. It was Bollywood Night. I had a delicious meal prepared by community members and bought some pea shoots from these young enterprising gardeners. This event continues every Wednesday for the rest of the summer. Come if you can!

And finally, good news! I found my missing sock. I had a chill last night and put on a hoodie. My heart soared to discover that the lump in the pocket was the dearly missed sock. Now how did it get in there?

30 July 2017

Sunday Swatching


It was a quiet Sunday afternoon at home after a late and silly night. While my lover napped I, having a little more energy than he, decided to take advantage of the peace by practicing my knitting technique. I got out my old stitch dictionary and cast-on to learn two colour Jacquard.

HOLY MOLY!! Who knew it could be this easy? This is honestly one of the simplest things I have ever done. Look at how amazing and complicated it appears. Just look at it!!

The bottom inch is Bicolour Half Linen Stitch and the top half is Bicolour Brick.

Now, how to incorporate such magic into my actual knitting?

All these effects are achieved by knitting with a single colour in a row
using various combos of knits, purls and slipped stitches.

I picked up this 1978 French publication at a second hand shop for 50 cents.
What a find.