Saturday, 22 November 2014

Lord Kitchener's Stitch

The Chinook winds have started here - and snow is melting.  And that means ice...  Underneath my feet...  Treacherous ice waiting for the unsuspecting.  And that means neighbourhood walks are off for the forseeable future - at least until the next snowfall at any rate.  It's been almost a year since my "big fall" and I don't mind telling you I'm terrified of falling again.

So...I retreat into the house and pick up the knitting needles, although Libby and I did venture over to the dog park this morning where she made friends with a gorgeous Doberman named Kira and we played with the frisby.  Libby's pretty good at the Frisby catching - not so good at bringing it back but we're working on it.

 I feel much more confident walking on the icy grass than I do tip toeing down the sidewalks around here - and the alleys are skating rinks - polished ice that looks like glass and is twice as dangerous.

I've just finished a very interesting scarf  designed byCarol Huebscher Rhoades and published in the September/October issue of Piecework Magazine.  You can find it at -

This was such an interesting scarf to knit - the two fan shell motif's are knit separately, one of them then turning into the narrow rib pattern and finally joined up with the Kitchener stitch.  The idea here is no bulk around the back of your neck, but a pretty ruffle in front.  I used a lovely wool/mohair blend spun at "Custom Knitting Mill" in Carstairs and given to me by a friend whose niece owns the goats and sheep.  It was gorgeous to work with and this scarf will go back to my friend to thank her for the wool - I used around 100g of the wool and 4mm DP needles.

And that got me to thinking about the kitchener stitch itself and what a great grafting technique it is...and that got me to thinking about why it is named Kitchener stitch.
So, a bit of research later I found out why this very handy joining technique is named after Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, first Earl Kitchener 1850-1916, a hero of the Boer War, the war in Sudan and the first world war.

According to the research I found, Lord Kitchener was also quite involved with the British Red Cross and "exhorted" (lovely word that) British, Canadian and American women to knit "Comforts" - i.e. mittens, scarves and socks for the soldiers.

 But here's the interesting part - Kitchener knew how to knit socks! - and he had a sock design of his own using a squarish "grawfted" toe which he distributed to the Red Cross and which he insisted would be a much more comfortable toe closure for the soldiers in their boots.  Clever eh?  And this "Grawfted" square closure became known as the kitchener stitch!  And it is more comfortable to wear - no question.

But Kitchener stitch can also be used for other things - among them, this lovely scarf I just finished.

In this case the grafting is done in the round - which can be as bit more tricky but still works like a charm.

One of my favourite technique books is Mary Thomas's Knitting book, first published in 1938 and is full of wonderful drawings.  Mary ignores the name "Kitchener" and just calls this "knitting graft" and she has a song - or chant to help remember what to do when.

 Front Needle
"Take off as if you were going to knit
Prepare as if you were going to purl
Back needle
Take off as if you were going to purl
Prepare as if you were going to knit"

 Bear in mind you have the same number of stitches on the front as on the back, and this technique is done with your tapestry needle, keeping the yarn between the needles, not over the needles. 
So simple, so effective and indeed makes for happy toes or any other invisible grafting you want to do.

Back to the Christmas knitting - three pairs of socks are finished finally - keeping the projects small this year - "comforts"
talk soon.  p

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

I am Remembering today

When the first World War started he was a 34 year old family man.  He worked for the CPR railway Company as a conductor.  He had a wife and four small children, Ron, Mildred, Lester and baby Gertrude (my mother)
Then in 1917 or there abouts, the call for soldiers reached it's fingers out to Canada and Canada responded.
He found himself training in Scotland, in uniform, having his portrait taken.  Was this the picture he carried of his family?  The small portrait underneath is taken in France in 1918.
He was a handsome man, a family man, and he was my grandfather, my mother's father..James Johnston Greer, born 1880 in Miami, Manitoba, married to 19 year old Eva in 1905.
 What an upheaval it must have been for that little family, for my Grandmother, Eva, wondering if she would ever see him again.
But he did come home and he sent and brought souveniers.

This Crib cover, hand stitched with lace and silk ribbons was for my mum, the newest baby.

And here is the carriage cover he found.  It says souvenier of Belgium - hand painted silk and belgium lace with embroidered flowers and leaves.  An amazing piece of work.

I don't know if he managed to send these treasures home to Eva or if he brought them back with him.
I do know he was in the trenches of France and Belgium and was a victim of mustard gas.

These are three hand stitched post cards and a delicate silk handkerchief - souveniers of France he sent to his wife from France.  Did he wonder if he would come back?  He must have.  Somehow these wound up in my mother's wooden handkerchief box.  The stitching is exquisite.

He did come home, fathered a fifth child - Lorraine - and saw her married to a flyer, Jack Brechan and send him off to fight in the second World War, and watched his son Lester sign up for the Canadian Army.   
James passed away in 1948 of cancer  at 62, and family legend is the Mustard Gas ultimately killed him.  He is buried in the Burnsland Veteran's Cemetery in Calgary.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Knitting Big!

Just for the record I like knitting and crocheting with fine yarn, and small needles.  I knit Socks with 4 ply fingering for goodness sake!   And I knit them with 2.50 or 2.75 mm needles.  I like this.

Knitting on 25mm circular needles with a yarn the circumference of my index finger was very far from my mind....until the call went out last week from  to the team for hats, scarves, cowls and blankets made with "Big Loop" , pure wool merino.   Stash has been invited to open a "Pop Up Shop" in Holt Renfrew, for the weekend of November 7-9.    Here is what Veronica, our intrepid leader, has planned:
"Our booth is going to feature finished knitwear made from Loopy Mango's Big Loop merino. Blankets, hats, scarves, and cowls will be for sale at our booth. We will also be selling Big loop skeins, Big Loop Mini kits, and Big Loop needles and kits. We will be knitting hats and scarves on site. We will be giving micro knitting session to anyone interested. "

So..the knitting is ON!

Veronica loves big knitting - the bigger the better.  Her reasoning is that the project goes very fast - and she's right.  One of these hats knit up in about an hour...maybe a bit more or less.  The tailing in is done with a felting needle.   The hats are chunky, clunky and very, very popular right now - actually all knitted or crochet hats and scarves are very popular right now - this is a good thing.  Winter is coming to Calgary.

I pressed the pumpkin into service as a hat model - although his head was a tad big.
The hats look warm and cozy, and they are
It will be a fun time at Holt Renfrew this weekend for sure.
Drop in if you are downtown and say hi.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Hallowe'en High Jinx

What's a girl to do - I am in the wooly business after all.  So...couldn't resist yarn bombing the jack O'lantern.  The witch got into the act.
This is the before picture - nice grin on the old boy's face eh?  The carving is courtesy of my wonderful Son, Scott who can wield a sharp carving knife with the best of them.
I  designed, and crocheted miss Witchy a few years ago.    This is definitely her time of year to shine.  I love her purple hair - very stylish.
Believe it or not those are geraniums still in the end of Calgary..  And there is NO SNOW!  Matter of fact a big chinook arch is hanging in the western sky and the little ghosties and goblins won't have to wear their snow suits under their costumes tonight.

  I hope there are no firecrackers.  Libby isn't fond of them.  She doesn't mind the little kids in the costumes though, as long as I hang on to her.  Makes for a bit of a juggle - hanging on to the leash and handing out the goodies.

I have so many things on the needles at the moment - I'm keeping them separated in plastic bags along with their patterns - otherwise I'd lose track.  I have socks, of course, and scarves, and toques, and a shawl.  When I get over half way with one project, the others take a back seat while that one gets finished.  It seems to be working.

We have had a stressful couple weeks in my country - we lost two lovely soldiers, to what the Government is calling terrorist acts, we had a shoot out in our Parliament buildings, and found another hero in our brave Sergeant at Arms, Keven Vickers who took down the gunman.
We lost a CBC radio host when his ugly can of worms got opened, and we found out US satirist, Steven Colbert likes us now.   Oh...and daylight savings is cancelled this weekend. 

Thank goodness for knitting.   Happy Hallowe'en to you all.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Thanksgiving Rainbow

Blue and Indigo
And Violet

All the colours of the rainbow are in the garden these days.  Autumn is full on, and my garden is quietly going to sleep for the winter.   I still need to cut some perennials down, and cover them in their beds of leaf mulch.  Go to sleep little plant, see you in the spring...hopefully.
Inside Stash Needle Art Lounge beautiful fall yarns are on display to tempt knitters and crocheters alike.  The classroom is bursting with students eager to learn to knit, to upgrade their skills, to learn something new and to just have a good time.
And at home - the work table is full of projects half done or near completion or waiting to be started in the same selection of fall colours reflected in the garden.  It's a good time of year.  The days are sunny and warm, the nights and mornings are cool.  Yesterday there was frost on the roof of the garage next door - a sure sign the next season is waiting in wings.  My lovely geraniums are crowded up against the back door under the eves of the house in hopes I can keep them alive and blooming a while longer.  If the nights get too cold, I'll start bringing them in, just to hold on to the colour a while longer.  But really, I can't save them in this climate...not all winter anyway.  It is too cold for too long, and the house is too warm.  I always try though.
This weekend if Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada - a time to be thankful for many things, and to celebrate the harvest and the change of seasons .  I do love Thanksgiving.  So, a happy one to you where ever you live.  The Turkey goes in the oven in the morning.  Cheers!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Celebrating Autumn in the Country

We took a break from the knitting, and drove  into the country today,  west along highway 1A, through Cochrane, on to Ghost Lake and then took the eastern road across to Big Hill Springs Provincial Park  which is north of Airdrie, the turned  back west again,  to stop at Glenbow Provincial Park  to enjoy the fall scenery.   Libby enjoyed Ghost Lake, as you see, rolled in a cow pie at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park and had to be dunked into the spring to wash off, but managed not to get into trouble at Glenbow Park..  Travelling with a Border Collie is never dull,   Most provincial and federal parks are onleash for dogs, so we stick pretty close to each other, which means I narrowly missed stepping in the cow pie that she was busy rolling in.   None the less, we had a great time exploring today.  It really is a pretty time of year.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Socks and Knitting tales

The travelling socks are finally finished  And it was a squeeker let me tell you.  I blithely cast on my usual 56 stitches, did my 3 inch rib cuff and moved on down the leg for 8 inches which I like, never thinking that this Lang Jawoll Cotton Stretch colour only had 330m on it.  One sock down, the second one down almost to the toe and I started to panic.
This little tangle is all the scrap I had left.  I didn't use the spool of coloured nylon so kindly provided by Lang in every one of their balls of sock yarn.  I don't think it would have made a difference in any case.  There was just enough yarn - and they are fraternal twins, these socks, not identical twins, but that's Ok too.
I like the Lang sock yarns - they have a nice twist and are easy to work with and I'm really in love with my new steel tipped, carbonized sock needles by Knitter's Pride.  But I was surprised that the Cotton Stretch has about 100 meters less on the ball than the regular Jawoll Colour.  No idea why that is.
Here is the latest shot of my problem child shawl.  I've now ripped this lovely yarn back twice - but this time, I think things will work.  Both rips were because I wasn't paying enough attention to the quantities of yarn required for the shawl pattern I had chosen.  Let that be a lesson to me - I'm beginning to see a pattern here.   At any rate..  I do like this pattern - crochet  - called the BFF Shawl and in Interweave Crochet Accessories Special issue 2014.  It's a four row pattern repeat guaranteed to keep my interest as I plow through it.   I was pleased to see the designer not only gave me the number of chains on, but told me it was a multiple of 12 stitches plus 2.  Once I discovered that the shawl would be way too wide I was able to do the math, cut to 72 stitches and one ball of this delightful manos Del Uruguay Alegria yarn named Botanico will do the trick..  Good thing - it's all I've got.
Today is a good day for knitting.
This is why.  Welcome to my snowy world.  Libby is, of course, ecstatic.  We took the Rav to the garage for it's tune up this morning, and walked back home via the park.  She was doing stop, drop and rolls in the falling snow about every three feet.  There is enough on the ground at the moment to make really good, big snowballs to throw for her this afternoon.  But my, its early for this stuff.  I hope it will melt and the warm temperatures will come back.  I'm just not sure if the plants will survive this wet snow.  That's all for now.  Time for a cup of tea.