Monday, July 24, 2017

Catch Up

This morning, in the aftermath of heavy rain and flooding, I got around to clearing out the backlog of photos on my smartphone (don't ask which model I have, it's embarrassingly old). Here they are in groups according to date and topic.

1. Canada 150. For my non-Canadian readers, this July marks our country's 150th birthday since Confederation. Our new house is fortunately just up the street from Bellevue House, the brief home of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald ("Sir John A." for short) in the early 1840s when Kingston was the capital of the united Upper and Lower Canada.

Visitor centre at Bellevue House.
During that period, Kingston experienced a construction boom and Bellevue house is a perfect example of the Italian villa style so popular at the time. The house is situated on a rise above Lake Ontario so as to capture cool breezes on hot summer days. Our house up the street benefits from the same, so we are finding that life without air conditioning is quite comfortable (large windows, verandahs, and 10-foot ceilings help too). OK, I confess this summer is on the cool, wet side so perhaps we haven't yet been put to the test.
Gentleman on the front porch at Bellevue House.
Ladies under a tent greeting the public on Canada Day (July 1). This was the pre-hoop skirt era. Lots of petticoats for volume instead.
The orchard at Bellevue House. My son, James, spent a summer working here. One of his jobs was to scythe this grass under the trees.
And, while on the topic of Sir John A., you MUST see this feat of felting. In June I attended a spinning event here in Kingston where this life-size model turned heads. Frighteningly life like.


2. Lilies. I have a thing for them, and it's the peak of lily season here. Bear with me.

Pale yellow lilies in front of Queen's medical school building.

A riot of colour at my local garden centre.
Classic orange lilies across the street from our new place.


3. Spinning update. This is mohair/silk fingering I spindle spun during the move. It's waiting to become something. Ideas?


4. While in Toronto staying with a relative and apartment hunting with Isabel (who is now settled into her first real job there), I took this pic of a portrait of my Great Granny White. She was a remarkable lady who lived from 1835-1934. This was done in the 1850s. Her husband owned the Montreal Gazette (and several other newspapers), and became Sir John A's Minister of the Interior during the expansion of the railways. White Pass in the Yukon is named after him.


See the gold bracelet? It's now owned by Isabel, who I think is the only family member with a wrist tiny enough to wear it!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Historical Flare

I have a new obsession. It's the 18th-century "short gown", really a sort of jacket that was worn mostly (but not always) at hip length. It all started with this blog post about the rarity of finding an intact piece of work clothing from that era. In spite of this being a working woman's piece, look at the graceful shape, including the flared body and princess seams.

From an exhibit at Pottsgrove Manor, PA.
From there I discovered other interesting versions of this top, which like other work garments came to have more upper class versions, like this beauty.

See http://www.durantextiles.com/newsletter/documents/news_7de_07.asp for more about this Swedish reproduction garment.
The short gown even survived into the early 19th-century, when it evolved to have longer sleeves and a high waist.

A reproduction short gown based on what would have been worn around 1805. See http://www.sew18thcentury.com/2012/03/c1805-short-gown.html.
A large part of my fascination with this topper is its method of construction. In an era when the greatest cost in garment production was the fabric, the short gown was cut all in one piece from one length of fabric, thus reducing the amount of waste yardage. At the same time, the lack of piecing meant that a short gown could be sewn in a relatively short number of hours. Here's an example of a pattern:

From https://threadingthroughtime.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/the-18th-century-short-gown/.
This construction method was a feature of both the working and dressier versions of the short gown, as were straight 3/4 length sleeves with turned back cuffs, and a lack of buttons. The jacket was either pinned closed with straight pins and then held in place with an apron, or in the dressier versions closed with ribbons or tapes. The essence of it is reproduced in this simple print version:

From http://fashionablefrolick.blogspot.ca/2014/05/.


















It's the combination of easy construction, practicality, and a graceful shape that catches my imagination and leads me to want to interpret this as a modern knitted design. That said, the very aspects that make this a straightforward sewing job make it less friendly to knitting, at least circular knitting. A lot of thinking is required. So, that's my challenge!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Getting Ready to Ply: the Mason Jar Method

Believe it or not, this blog isn't dead yet. I'm finally on the other side of all the moving (ours AND Isabel's) and back to the point where there's some semblance of everyday life. This afternoon I unpacked two spindles of singles spun from a Wellington Fibres mohair/silk/wool blend in a colourway called "The Deep". The advantage of making my own spindles from Lee Valley materials is that they are so inexpensive I can have several. That means no more transferring singles from spindle to toilet paper tube/bobbin. I can head straight from spinning to plying with only one intermediate step--winding the singles into a centre-pull ball. Here's how I do it:


Here the mason jars are substituting for a shoebox kate. I could, of course, probably ply directly from the spindles, but I prefer to work from a transportable ball.
That's all for now. I'll be back to my regular blogging from here on, and I promise there will be pics of the new place. BTW, the principal rooms are large enough for me to hold workshops, so STAY TUNED.
P.S. Did you catch PBS Newshour's segment on the "Dirt to Shirt" movement?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fibre Fest, and Why We Should Love Wool

I'm caught up in the move coming at the end of June, so I've not been blogging, knitting, or doing anything much other than pack boxes. We had a massive culling of books over the last week. Bill agreed to junk about a quarter of his collection--mostly out-of-date economics texts. You have no idea how difficult it has been to get him to do this.
So, with the junk man and his team disappearing into the sunset, what's next?
On Saturday I'll be teaching a class in two-handed stranded (fair isle) knitting at the Prince Edward County Fibre Fest in Picton. The class is full, but there's a lot going on at the Fest and a fantastic list of vendors. Join us. Do check the twitter account for the Glenora ferry first if you're planning on taking that route. The ferry has been out of service now and then over the last couple of weeks for high winds and water on Lake Ontario.
While the knitting activity has been scaled back around here, for some reason I continue to be obsessed with sewing to make a handmade wardrobe (I'll be wearing some of it on Saturday). An article in today's New York Times is giving me some justification and should give all of us who love wool fuel to continue our "making" while being kind to our planet.

Spinning, with an eye on the calendar and my to-do list.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Later

Just letting my readers know that I've decided to halt publishing of designs from my EveryBody Knits Project until the collection is complete. Also, you can expect the publication to coincide with a new website. Something to look forward to...

Friday, April 28, 2017

That Spring Feeling




Add soundtrack of redwing blackbirds and robins. Delete thoughts of clouds of mayflies (which actually weren't bothersome when I took these photos early in the morning). Off to the Frolic in Toronto tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dress #1

After viewing the dresses on Sonya Philip's Instagram site, I just had to get sewing. Here's Dress #1 made from a crinkled linen mail-ordered from Purl Soho--the duties turned out to be reasonable for once. I used a batik fabric my local quilt shop for the bias binding around the neck and armholes and also for the pockets.

I had a lot of fun with this. Guess there's more sewing in my future.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Trip to Topsy

Took the ferry to Amherst Island and Topsy Farm with Joan of Purlin' J and my friend Deb. Joan went to pick up her load of Topsy wool to sell on her truck, and I tagged along in search of wool for an aran design. It was shearing time.

Sheared sheep in the field next to the cemetary. The sheep are mostly North Cheviot and Suffolk.


Pregnant ewes waiting their turn to be sheared.

Shearing in progress. Takes 2 1/2 minutes per sheep for a pro.

It takes three shearers working all weekend to shear the flock.

Skirting a fleece.

Joan enjoys a lanolin treatment for her hands.

Hoisting a bag of fleeces. The bags will end up at the Wool Growers' Co-op in Carleton Place.

View from the barn.


This is the new Wool Shed, where 2-ply and 3-ply wool skeins are for sale. There's aran knitting in my future. In addition to wool for knitting, Topsy sells gorgeous (so gorgeous they're for sale at Holt-Renfrew) blankets, and frozen lamb to take home for the barbeque. What a great half-day trip! Oh, and thanks for the huge jar of honey, Sally.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tutorial: Splicing, or How to Insert Your DNA into Your Knitting

The Helium series of three cardigans I'm currently working on involves knitting with lofty, airy yarns at looser gauges. Quite apart from the fact that weaving in ends is a pain, for the two cardigans in Lett Lopi and Shelter, splicing the yarn joins makes for a more beautiful, uninterrupted finished knitted fabric (splicing is simply not an option with the slipperier Silk/Mohair). Both Shelter and Lett Lopi are perfect for splicing since they are spun from wools that easily felt, with "sticky" fibres that cling to each other. At first I wasn't quite sure how to splice the Lett Lopi--it appeared to be a single ply. Then I learned that it is actually lightly spun from two strands of Plotulopi (the unspun icelandic wool, made famous by Meg Swansen). Even though it looks as though it is a single ply, in reality there are two strands which can be separated and therefore spliced. Here's how to do it for either Lett Lopi or Shelter:

1. Break, don't cut, both ends that you wish to splice. Breaking will leave nice tapered ends which will meld into the splice.


2. Separate the two strands that make up each end, then break off one strand of each so that the ends are staggered.


3. Intertwine the ends of the strands, like this below.


4. You probably don't want to do this next bit in public. Spit or lick the palms of your hands, then vigorously roll and rub the overlapped strands into one. It will start out like this,


but very quickly will felt into a strand very like the rest of the yarn.


5. Proceed to knit with your newly joined wool. I don't recommend splicing in areas where extra strength is needed, like underarms or bind offs. Otherwise, just carry on and enjoy the fact that you have magically joined two ends of wool together.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter, 2017

Everyone is home for Easter. My new lightweight cardi is done, and named Helium, because it is SO light it feels that if I were to tie a string to it, it would fly up into the sky.


I'm working on the Lett Lopi version of it now. It's a bit more substantial, but still airy and definitely pretty in a shade of raspberry sorbet. Here it is sitting beside some more of the Hewephoria merino sock that is going to be turned into scarves eventually.


The weather has finally turned warm enough to wear our Audrey coats on their own. We discovered that Isabel's looks nice with an old tam, about 10 years old, I think, from Knitty.


Loblaws had its first pansies of the season and I couldn't resist.


Spent the morning making Victoria sponge cake, to have for tea this afternoon. Recipe below. Here is the cake, filled with raspberry jam, awaiting its light dusting of icing sugar.


Victoria Sponge Cake (eggless)



3 c unbleached flour, sifted

2 c plain yogurt (I used fat-free)

1 ½ c sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 c canola oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

seedless good quality raspberry jam, such as Wilton’s

small amount of icing sugar



Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare round layer cake pans with cooking spray or (my preference) by buttering pans, dusting with flour, and covering bottom of pans with parchment paper.

Mix the yogurt, sugar, soda, and baking powder and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.

Add the oil and vanilla to the yogurt, then add the flour. Gently combine

Pour into the prepared pans and bake for 35 min or until golden on top and a wooden knitting needle poked in the centre comes out clean (new use for dpns).

Leave in pans for 15 minutes before turning out.

Heat the jam (I use the microwave) to melt it until runny. Place the bottom cake layer upside down on the serving plate, then spread it with jam, then carefully position the second layer right side up on top. When completely cool, dust with icing sugar.
  
And in a burst of culinary energy I also made curried cauliflower soup for lunch.

Curried Cauliflower Soup



1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 potato, peeled and diced

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp curry powder

5 c water

½ c milk (can be skim)



Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until it is soft. Add the garlic, potato, cauliflower, and salt and continue to sauté until there is slight glaze on the bottom of the pot. Add the curry powder and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are very soft. Puree with a hand blender until smooth. Stir in the milk and re-heat, but do not boil.