inspired by: a wintery palette and northern skies

imageI recently went on a little getaway ski-trip with my family and since I’m somewhat slope-challenged, I was quite happy getting out and exploring on foot or snowshoe while my guys zipped up and down the mountain. Despite the biting wind (truly it was ferocious), I was rewarded by the most enchanting winter scenes, the colours of which have certainly made a deep impression on my imagination as I find those colours presently working their way from my mind onto my needles and my person.imageimage

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I think I was most enchanted by how the sun, when lower in the sky, would light up the world with the most delicate pink glow. No doubt, that bit of natural magic explains my choice of colours in this project (details coming soon):image

and how my love for all the visions of blue sky and snowy woods like these here (and at home, too):

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are reflected in my penchant for wearing or working with blues and browns like those seen here:

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I’m curious, how does your environment, natural or otherwise, influence your craft? Perhaps that influence manifests itself in colour (like me), or perhaps by certain shapes or silhouettes, patterns or motifs, or by choice of specific materials? Do these influences shift over time or do you see a re-occuring pattern throughout your work? I’d love to know!

Finally, there’s one more personal influence I’d like to share with you today, a long-time favourite that captures well, I think, the mood I associate with all of this here. So, I’m posting this with the hope that its sweet vibe will works its magical influence on you, too, and set you on your way towards a gentle, happy week ahead.

Song: Northern Sky by Nick Drake from his album Bryter Layter (1970)

knitting goals 2016: some thoughts about creating a practical storybook wardrobe

imageI’ve long since stopped justifying my picture book acquisitions as for the benefit of the kids. It’s become all too clear, as some members of my family have justly pointed out, that these books are purchased for my own enjoyment rather than for the enjoyment of my children. (For the record, I say if the boys like to read them along with me, so much the better as then there’s enjoyment for all).

So, despite pushing forty, my love for children’s books remains strong and, given the opportunity, I will happily spend hours pouring over their words and images – savouring the seemingly simple cadences of their tales and the imaginative renderings of the scenes in which those tales unfold. Being a strong visual learner, my love for illustrated stories goes back as long as I can remember, but it’s only been more recently that I’ve come to understand the influence they’ve had in my life, more specifically, my life in wool.

I suppose this kind of understanding began when I chanced to hear a little bit of Thomas King’s Massey Lectures series, called “The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative”, broadcasted over CBC Radio. In that little part of the lecture I heard and later read in full, Thomas King presented a central idea that has forever altered the way I think about the power of words and images to create stories about truth, history and how these concepts, and our perception of them, influence our past, present and future lives.

I think this phrase, taken from the lectures, sums up the idea I’m referring to rather succinctly:

“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”
― Thomas King, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative

Of course, how Mr. King applied this idea in his lectures is particular to indigenous communities here in North America, but, truly, I believe this statement applies to all of us. The stories we hear, see and read become, in many different and powerful ways, intertwined with our deepest sense of identity, with how we express that identity to the world around us as well as how our identities are perceived, however rightly or wrongly, by that same world (that has its own set of stories). Now, I don’t want to I suggest that Thomas King was the first to examine this idea about stories, it just so happens that I connect his words here to my own, more personal, “aha!” moment and thought, hope, perhaps, his words might have a similar effect on you. (That said, if you have any interest in better understanding some of the issues surrounding indigenous communities, particularly those in North America, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Thomas King’s lectures, or listen to them here, or even go so far as to investigate his other works on the matter.)

By now, I imagine, you are wondering how any of this relates to knitting, so let me get to the point. Like many of you who are captivated by the discussion about responsible and ethical crafting, slow fashion and how to create a more conscious wardrobe, I have been inspired to apply many of the principals and suggested tasks outlined in these discussions towards my own knitting projects and their contribution they make towards achieving that goal. I have evaluated my present wardrobe, tossed (if no longer useful in any way) or recycled items that don’t work and created Pinterest boards to help me identify my personal clothing style and colour preferences (a practice, I admit, that works surprisingly well) all with the intention of creating and maintaining a smaller, hard-working wardrobe and eliminating any additions that don’t play well with the whole.

All things considered, it wasn’t until I began applying these very deliberate and conscious filters to my knitting project planning that I became truly aware of an another, unconscious filter at play. This discovery happened when I started recognizing that certain styles in my Pin boards were strikingly similar to those found in many of my most treasured storybooks. All the stories and pictures that I’ve been pouring over, loving and identifying my own person with since I was a child, have been very much informing my vision of an ideal wardrobe (knitted and otherwise). I will even go so far to say, I can now see how these stories and illustrations influence my vision of family, home, values, ethics and goals. For me, this discovery was startling but it serves as a kind of minor testament to the incredible power of stories that is so far reaching and at times, devasting, that Thomas King also says:

“you have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told.”
― Thomas King, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative

imageIn an effort to stay true to the knitting aspect of this blog, I will keep that quote directed to all things knit-ish today and highlight how I am cheered to think that a subliminal force in my knitting life is driven by my love for children’s book. However, I would do well to be aware that even the seemingly innocent influence of a storybook on the garments I wish to knit bears consideration given that I am, in reality, far from being a child myself. Garments depicted in fanciful storybooks are themselves fantasy. Such garments may very well work beautifully in the context of the story but how would they look decked out on me, on my less than childish or fantastical mid-life body in my everyday life doing everyday un-fanciful activities? So, as I approach an increasingly mindful practice of making my own clothes this coming year, I take with me Mr. King’s cautionary words and embrace the challenge of creating more knits inspired by the stories I love, ensuring that they fall in line with the vision I have for my wardrobe as one that works, in every sense of the word.

The first such project cast on this year with all that in mind, is a pair of traditionally inspired leg warmers that bring to my mind scenes from Elsa Beskow’s charming winter tale, Ollie’s Ski Trip, but can also be seen styled here (with pattern details) as part of an outfit that fits in as much today as it might have a hundred years ago.

imageSo far, these Aspen leg warmers have been a fun knit that have already made me happy on many occasions given that both pattern and yarn have been heavenly to work with. As for achieving my practical storybook wardrobe goals, I’d say I’m off to a good start.

What about you? Have you had any major revelations in your own pursuit of a more thoughtful knitting practice? What is challenging and inspiring you to knit this coming year? Dare I ask, what stories influence you?

Thanks so much for stopping by, as always, your kind comments and insights are always welcome and appreciated. Wishing you a lovely week!

food for thought friday

image“Love is not consolation. It is light.”

― Simone Weil 

Taking a moment here so extend a very big THANK YOU for all the love and encouragement that’s been shared with me lately. Truly, I am overwhelmed by the great spirit of kindness, support and generosity that characterizes this amazing online community. I feel so blessed to be part of it all.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend ahead, full of light and love. XO

favourite knits of 2015

imageDespite being absent from this space for much of last year, I was still very active on Instagram (lovely people, lots of fun!) where I shared much of my knitting that otherwise went unattended to here.  So, guessing some of you may have missed me on IG,  I thought it might be fun (for me, at least) to share some knitted highlights of the year that was.

imageMuch of the first half of 2015 was devoted to shawl knitting. Shown here (top to bottom) are Celes, Stonecrop and Terra. What I learned from these projects is that despite being slightly tedious to work, I find myself wearing the stoles I knit (Celes and Stonecrop) much more often (i.e., ALL the time!) than their triangular counterparts, like Terra (as much as I adore it).

I’m curious, which do you prefer wearing – something long and rectangular or something round, square or triangular?

imageI did make a few sweaters, patterns all by Carrie Bostick Hoge (a fact that just dawned on me now), my favourite sweater of the lot (of all-time, perhaps?) is my  Barn Sweater (shown above in cream, on top of my Lila, also a favourite). Making this cardigan was one of those magical times in a knitter’s career when all the elements involved in the project come together to make a garment that embodies everything that is loved best (about knitting, anyway). As far as I’m concerned, the yarn, Ystrad Organic Best Welshx, is pure rustic elegance – hard-wearing, warm and yet possesses a hard to describe kind of leanness, off-set by a wispy halo. Organic Best Welshx captured my heart (and will continue to do so for a very long time, I do believe).

Yarn aside, I also love the simple silhouette of the pattern, too, I mean, who can resist that classic collar?! I get comments on that collar every time I wear it out (which, admittedly, may be not that often, homebody that I am). On top of that, there are the buttons (purchased from Fringe Supply Co.) which I chose to reflect a certain 1960’s town & country vibe I was trying to achieve (I see it, do you?). So, all in all, I mark my Barn Sweater with complete personal satisfaction, which, in the end, is what really matters most, don’t you think?

imageOnce I got summer sweater knitting out of my system (wait, who makes fuzzy woollen sweaters in the heat of summer?!!! apparently I’m a homebody and a nutter – connection between the two? perhaps), I ushered in Fall 2015 with a slew of accessory knits (and used up a good deal of stash yarn in doing so too – woohoo! at least I’m a frugal nutter). Making both these hats, Baa-ble Hat (top) and Hillier Hearts Cap (bottom) was an act of unfettered joy. LOVE them!

imageimageAnd then of course, my knitting year wouldn’t be complete without some mittens thrown in for good measure (because, you know, mittens are my favourite). From left to right (on the image directly above) are: On the Other Hand, Starri, followed by two of my own personal patterns: Simple Stripes and Migration Mittens (motif from Robin Hansen’s marvellous book Favourite Mittens).

imageIt seemed fitting then, given my love for mitten knitting, that my final finished project of 2015 was a pair of these Fledging Mittens from one of my favourite pattern books of 2015 (if you haven’t checked it out yet, you must, it’s a treasure!).

Whew! Well, that about wraps up this post on my favourite knits of 2015. Looking back, I’d say I’m pretty happy with my progression towards an all knit wardrobe (just kidding, I’m not that nuts). Of course, now I want to know what your own favourite knits of 2015 are. Would you care to share? I’d love to know.

Wishing you a lovely week, full of your own favourite things (woolly or otherwise)! I’ll be back next week with my wish-to-knit list for 2016…

new year, new snow, new hope

 

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Happy New Year, everyone!

This past Christmas Day, my boys celebrated, in part, by skateboarding on the street wearing nothing more than jeans and t-shirts. This was an activity for the books to be sure, given how typically at this time of year we would expect to hear grumbles of protest against the cold amidst the sound of shovels scraping the pavement instead of exclamations of “did you see that?!” amidst the sounds of skateboards scraping said pavement. However, I suppose this unusual holiday scene really shouldn’t have come as a shock for us as this whole early winter/late fall here was not at all what we’ve been accustomed to, this year’s season having characterized itself not by crisp air and snowfall but rather by unseasonably warm temperatures, grey skies and rain (oh, so much rain!).

imageNaturally inclined to project my inner world on my outer-world, I saw this strange weather as an apt expression of my own out-of-kilter-ness. As my post back in September reflected, Fall of 2015 brought many new changes to my life, changes which threw off my balance and more or less made me feel like I was learning how to walk for the first time. Now, by no means were these changes bad, it’s only that I’ve never been very good at adapting to change, at least not in any manner one would describe as quick or swift and my response to this series of changes did nothing to re-define my process (i.e., slow). All in all, just as the weather these past few months felt sluggish and foggy, so have I also felt – which I guess is my way of offering an excuse for my prolonged absence here. It’s hard to write anything you believe worth sharing when you feel a little lost, when words themselves, have become elusive, shifty characters whose meanings seem to take on new definition with each passing moment.

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And yet, here I am, writing a new post for a new year. I can only guess it has something to do with the extraordinary power the birth of a new year has that brings with it new hope and new resolve and, co-incidentally, new (and wildly celebrated) snow (in my neck of the woods, at least). I can’t help feeling that the arrival of proper snow here is just as responsible for this sense of renewal as is the passing into a new year. Just as the opening of a new calendar (free from scribbles and save-the-dates) gives many of us a feeling of renewed excitement for all that has yet to be, there’s something about the clean, graceful beauty of new snow that makes many of us feel as though the world itself has been born anew, that it’s inviting (tempting) new paths to be tread upon it (or angels be made in it). And this state of things, my dear friends, makes me feel a little giddy (in my own quiet kind of way), gently hopeful and deeply grateful. It’s my hope that you feel that way too.

So, my friends, let’s raise our tea cups to starting the new year fresh, to seeing change as an instrument for new beginnings, to forging new, undiscovered paths and, most of all, to sharing these new experiences with those we love best.

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Thanks for joining me here as I believe this space reflects a unique journey I share with you, my readers. I wish all of you, much joy, peace and love throughout 2016 and of, course, a year filled with many happy hours spent knitting (which I promise, proof of my own is soon to come).

vermont is for…

Vermont is for fall…

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…for friends (God love them)…image

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…for apple picking…

After Apple-Picking*
BY ROBERT FROST
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

…for poets and poetry… (though I, myself, have not had too much of apple-picking)…(nor of apple-eating)…

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…and the sweet taste of yarn**  : )

I had the loveliest weekend, how about you? XO

*found here

** purchased in the loveliest shop here

afloat

imageHello! It’s been a little while (again). You know, I’m not one for cursing but September 2015 kicked my *ss. Really. *******. Hard.

(Ahh, there’s something strangely cathartic about slipping the odd curse word every now and then, isn’t there? I feel better already.)

Anyway, rather than list off the things that have upended me this month (though this post sums up beautifully a big part of where I’m at), I thought perhaps we all might enjoy this post better if I shared with you some of the little things that are helping to keep me, graciously, afloat.

Pictured above are the soothing, encouraging words of Kim John Payne (and, yes, you can read into that title alllll you want – having kids is an exquisite challenge), the return of hand knit accessories into my morning wardrobe (thank you , Valerie!) and something hot in my cup, be it coffee or tea, all things that give comfort when comfort is needed.imageimage

Morning walks with my dog, Huck. Savouring the long shadows and dazzling light combined with the slow falling of orange and crimson leaves onto the forest floor – it’s the best recipe for keeping me grounded I know.

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imageLopapeysa knitting. Truly. Knitting this Gamaldags was a revelation to me about many things: Icelandic wool, yokes, short-rows, steeks, loft and drape to name a few. Revelations of this sort, transcend whatever awful funk I’m, lift me up into the knitting heavens and leave me grateful for the God that gave us sheep and a bit of imagination.

imageFinally, the shifting angle of the sun has meant a return of the late afternoon light and shadow play on my walls. The sheer giddiness that this dappled light gives makes me wonder if I wasn’t a cat in a past life. It’s so totally transfixing, there’s no thought left for worry.

Of course, not shown (unfairly) are all the joyful hugs, smiles, laughter, letters, stories and conversations shared with my family and friends that, truth be told, are what really keep me afloat when months like September roll me over and leave me feeling completely done for. What you see above are the little things that help when they’re not around.

So, September, I’m glad to see the back of you (though I suppose you weren’t all bad). Welcome, October, let’s have some fun. How about an extra dose of knitting to get started?

Thank you, dear readers, for being here, for coming back despite the irregularity of my posts. I’m terribly grateful for all of you.

Wishing you the loveliest of days.

lately, loving…

imageLately, I’m loving what I hope will become my first (ever!) finished lopapeysa. After reading Kate Davies’ insightful interview with Hélène Magnússon in her latest book, Yokes, as well seeing the beautiful progress my dear friend Valerie‘s progress on her Gamaldags, casting on my own just seemed the right thing to do.

Have you ever knit a lopapeysa? What, or who, inspired you to cast on?                                                     image

I’m also loving the feeling of having finished knitting a pair of socks for my husband for our recent anniversary. I think I must really love him a lot given that this is the second pair I’ve knitted him in six months despite how little I love the process of knitting socks. I wish I loved knitting socks, but I don’t. Do you?                                                                                                          image

I’m loving how friendly conversations have led me to revisit a previous life, a life when I was much younger and worked at an art gallery. I discovered so much beauty there, including that I find in the work of a favourite artist, Ross Bleckner. I love his use of line, rhythm, movement, contrast and colour in these paintings. They make me want to knit something that captures the same kind of ethereal beauty.

Do you have a favourite artist who inspires your knitting or craft?                                                image

Speaking of colours that inspire me, I’ve also been loving the gorgeous colours of these plums I’ve been making into butter. Plum butter spread on toast, drizzled over ice-cream, dolloped on oatmeal or savoured straight off the spoon….mmhmm, it’s definitely a thing to love.

Plum butter is a very late summer, early autumn food I enjoy, do you have a favourite food you love to eat at this time of year?                                                                                                            image

And, because last week I promised tea, I thought I’d share one last love, what I love most to eat with tea, especially breakfast teabreakfast pie!

Do you have a guilty-but-oh-so-worth-it love? If you whisper it it in my ear, I promise I won’t tell a soul….

Wishing you the loveliest of days, full of the things you’ve been loving most lately…                   image

like pie for breakfast  ; ) XO

how to break a silence

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I suppose there are many ways to break a long and rather awkward silence between friends. For example, my youngest, after saying “hi”, might tell you his favourite knock-knock joke:

Tim: Knock-knock…

You: Who’s there?

Tim: Timmy.

You: Timmy who?

Tim: Timmy-Whimmy, that’s who! (Followed by peals of laughter, not likely your own, well, at least not at first. Tim’s laughter is pretty infectious)

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Or, if you were in the company of my older sons, an awkward silence would just as likely be broken by some distasteful bodily noises, intentional or otherwise. (Also followed by peals of laughter, not likely your own, well, ever.) We’re still working on social etiquette with these older boys of ours.

As for me, I think I’d prefer to break a long silence with:

Hello, you! Oh my goodness, it’s been so long! It’s wonderful to see you! How have you been? Have you had a good summer (or winter, as the case may be)?

To which you would reply: “…………”

And then I would say,”Yes. Me too.” And then we would both smile and I would ask, “Would you like to come over for a little visit, say, next Tuesday? I’ll make some tea.”

And you would say, “……! “.

Assuming your answer to be yes, I would also say, “When you come, make sure to bring your knitting – we can do a bit of show and tell while we catch up.”

Then we would part ways again, happy knowing that this silence between us has been broken and we will see each again other soon.

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Yes, that’s how I would like to break a silence, how about you? 

Wishing you the loveliest of days. See you soon! XO

this happened

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Well, hello! These past few days I’ve been trying to figure out how to reconcile my activities in recent weeks with this space. As you’ve likely guessed in the time I’ve been, well, not here, Life got a little busy – not bad, just busy. Anyway, now I’m wondering how to unpack it all and move forward.

So, how about I begin by catching up with a few simple, but meaningful, activities that have given me great pleasure this past little while?

The photo above shows how I’ve been stealing the odd flower here and there that begged to be shared with my boys at home. If only I could share the heavenly fragrance with you! (Please don’t mention this little infraction to my good neighbours though.)

The photo below shows how I also finished my Celes! This happy knit has been blocked but not properly photographed yet. A little photo session should happen soon, I hope!

photo 1Also worth mentioning is that while I was finishing up with Celes, I started dreaming and planning for a new and rather un-expected project. I’ve joined a few faraway friends for a special KAL to make ourselves a Quill shawl (you can see our collective efforts by searching #quillKAL on Instagram).

Along the way, some of us KAL-ers have decided to make a few construction modifications to Quill which has resulted in a fair bit of my time spent playing with numbers and putting them to work by way of swatching (shown below). I think I’ve got this thing figured out, but honestly, it’s still a bit of a gamble.

photoThis last photo also shows something I’ve been making more time for lately, reading!* However, I have found my reading time is often gained at the expense of knitting time since few books seem to want to stay open on their own. As a result, I’m seriously considering the purchase of an e-reader – something I never would have guessed in a million years I would ever do! If you have any thoughts or recommendations about e-readers I would really love to hear them.

Of course, not shown here is all the other, just-as-good-if-not-better, family bits, which for some reason or another, I’ve decided I’m happy just keeping to myself. Call me greedy if you like!

Whew! I think that sums everything up pretty well. How about you? What’s been getting your attention lately? Do share, I’d love to know.

Wishing you a most wonderful day!

*I’ve also been taking part in a most inspiring read-along here. If you’re looking for a book to capture your imagination, this is it!