11th Mar 2011

Pattern: Rathtrevor

Rathtrevor Rathtrevor

Growing up on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island in the days before superferries and hourly sailings meant most trips over the summer holidays were taken “up Island”. One of the best destinations for us kids was Parksville and, in particular, Rathtrevor Beach. When the tide went out, the sun would bake the sand which in turn would warm the water as it came back in. For a kid used to swimming in the cold waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Rathtrevor Beach seemed almost tropical to me.

When I first saw the traditional Estonian stitch used in the body of this stole, I was reminded so strongly of the wave ripples left in the hard sand by the outgoing tide at Rathtrevor Beach. Neither stitch used in this pattern is particularly difficult and both are easily remembered however they do both require attention.

Rathtrevor: Stitch Detail

Finished Size

Length: approx. 80 inches
Width: approx. 24 inches


  • KnitPicks Shadow [100% Merino Wool; 440yd per 50g skein]; color: Juniper; 3 skeins
  • 1 40-inch US #3/3.25mm circular needle
  • 1 set US#3/3.25mm straight needles
  • Stitch markers, waste yarn, yarn needle


20 sts/24 rows = 4 inches in center panel lace


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08th Jul 2010

Pattern: Cabana

This pattern combines the ease of the seamless yoked sweater, a traditional netting stitch, and cool cotton to create a beach or pool-side wardrobe must. Cabana is knit bottom up in one piece with a single eyelet row at the neck through which you can thread a pretty ribbon or even a length of I-cord if you wish.

Note: The pattern for Cabana contains two sets of directions; one for sizes XS through L and one for sizes L through 3X.

XS (S, M, L)

Finished Size
Bust: 35″ (40″, 44″, 49″)
To fit bust: 30″ (34″, 38″, 42″)

Patons Grace (100% mercerized cotton; 50g = approx. 125m/136 yards); Colour: natural: 4 (4, 4, 5) balls

L (1X, 2X, 3X)
Finished Size
Bust: 49″ (54″, 58″, 63″)
To fit bust: 42″ (46″, 50″, 54″)
Patons Grace (100% mercerized cotton; 50g = approx. 125m/136 yards); Colour: natural: 5 (5, 6, 6) balls

Needles and Other Supplies
“    32″ circular needle in size US 6
“    Stitch markers
“    Tapestry needle
“    Satin ribbon

12 stitches = 4 inches or 3st/in. in Cat’s Eye Netting stitch.


Casting On for the Armhole

Cabana uses a slightly novel cast on for the armhole section. If you’re having trouble visualising it, here is a little photo essay that might help…

First you bind off the stitches. The working yarn is on the right-hand needle:

Transfer the last stitch on the RH needle to the LH needle. Knit on 1 stitch. Cable cast on specified number of stitches.

The work now looks like this:

Knit across the new stitches.

The new stitches are not joined to the original body stitches until the next row, when you just work across them.

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17th Jun 2010

Handwork as Meditation and a Meditation on Handwork

I’ve recently been working on Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s Provence Baby Cardigan as a “welcome to the world” gift for a friend’s brand new granddaughter. Although it wasn’t part of the pattern, I decided I would sew some grosgrain ribbon onto the back of the buttonband…ostensibly to add a sturdier anchor material for the buttons but really because my grandmother used to do this on her handknits. When my own daughter was born, the cardigan sweaters knit for her by Nana all had grosgrain on the buttonbands and I suppose I consider that ribbon a sign of something well-made (and made well) with love.

As I was sewing, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into the rhythm of the stitches and not surprisingly my thoughts turned to things beyond the work at hand. At first I pondered the wonderfully relaxing effect the hand-sewing was having on me but then my mind wandered off into thoughts of handwork in general and giving handmade gifts specifically.

As much as I love to make things, there is always part of me that feels more than a little insecure about giving handmade gifts. I look at the baby cardigan and, even though I know I made it out of caring for my friend and her family and even though I know that it is a beautiful reflection of that care, I see every little mistake I made whilst knitting it and I wonder…is it good enough? Surely something bought at the store would be better, wouldn’t it?

Growing up, we did not have a lot of money. I still remember some of our family “experiments”…like eating vegetarian for a month “to be more civilised” (in fact: because meat was expensive and we didn’t have enough money for it) or going without television for six months because “it rots your brain” (in fact: the TV broke and it took us six months to save up money for a new one). Handmade gifts were part and parcel (sorry…it had to be said!) of growing up without extra disposable income. My mum would make the most amazing Barbie doll clothes for us at Christmas time. There was none of this “buy a new Barbie along with a new outfit for her”; we had one doll each and most of her clothes were handmade!

I suspect that that sort of existence was pretty much the norm for most people prior to the rise of rampant consumerism. Gifts were handmade because they had to be and they really meant something…you certainly didn’t have the time or money to hand gifts out like Chiclets. As being a consumer became a sign of prosperity, handmade gifts settled into the world of the underclass. And there they’ve remained for quite some time.

Over eighty years ago, the promise of “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” was issued and I think it’s safe to say that, for the vast majority of people, that promise has been fulfilled. Why then are so many people returning to the idea of handmade gifts? It’s not just knitting a sweater for a new baby…it’s also baking cookies for a helpful neighbour, giving a hand-drawn card to a friend on their birthday, sewing an apron for someone who loves to cook.

It’s awfully trite to say “money can’t buy you love” or “money can’t buy happiness” but maybe it really is that simple. Or maybe we’re just waking up to the fact that the care and love put into a handmade gift should have a higher value than the cost of a similar gift from a store.

As for me, I will continue to make and give handmade gifts. And I’ll try not to feel too bad about it.

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03rd Jun 2010

Pattern: Crosby

Crosby (Zippered Vest with Cables)

This cabled sleeveless vest with ribbed side panels is fantastic for those “not-too-warm-and-not-too-cold” days. It’s knit in one piece with minimal seaming and features a simple but attractive cable pattern. The 2-way zippered closure makes it a very versatile addition to any wardrobe while waist shaping and short row shaping in the bust make it customizable to any body type.
Note: This is a plus-size pattern.
Crosby, front

Crosby, back



L (1X, 2X, 3X)

Finished Size

Bust: 38” (42”, 46”, 52”)
To fit bust: 42” (46”, 50”, 56”)

Skills Utilised

  • Increases; Decreases; Cable; Cable cast on; Attached I-cord; Seaming; Short rows; Basic sewing (for sewing in the zipper)


Full Belly Farm Organic Worsted (100% wool; 4 oz. = approx. 250 yards) or other heavy worsted weight wool; Colour: natural: 5 (5, 6, 6) skeins

Needles and Other Supplies

  • 40” circular needle in size US 7 (or size required to make gauge)
  • 24” circular needle in size US 5
  • Cable needle
  • Stitch markers
  • Waste yarn
  • 22” two-way separating zipper
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine (optional)


11 stitches and 12 rows = 2 inches in Crooked Cable stitch

For yarn substitution purposes:

8 stitches and 13 rows = 2 inches in stockinette


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14th Sep 2009

On unexpected pleasure: Paolo Nutini, Arctic Monkeys, and Ewan MacGregor

I’ve known for some months that Paolo Nutini would be playing at Oakland’s Fox Theater this month; the Spawn made sure of that! She is a huge fan and has been for several years. Two years ago, her first “grown-up” adventure involved travelling to San Francisco with a friend on the train to see Paolo perform at the Warfield and then staying overnight in a hotel. (It probably wasn’t as much as an adventure for Lucy, her friend, as she was visiting from Germany at the time…alone.)

Those months of “Squeeeee! Paolo’s coming!” prepared me for the inevitable request for ticket money, gas money, spending money, blah blah. (<sarcasm>Thank you, Uncle Sam, for withholding our work permits, thus denying me the opportunity to teach my child fiscal responsibility by having her pay for her own adventures.</sarcasm>) Kathleen searched high and low for a companion for the event but ran into two problems:

  1. not many of her friends knew who Paolo Nutini was, and
  2. of those who did know and love him, they had to work!

And so I found myself in the odd position of either denying the Spawn her heart’s desire (and thus thoroughly crushing her spirit) or accompanying her to the concert. Normally, I wouldn’t be averse to the whole spirit crushing thing but, as I don’t mind Paolo myself, I thought I’d be the hero (read: Mum the Martyr) and go with her to the event. Never let it be said that I’d pass up an opportunity to squirrel away a little capital in the Emotional Blackmail Bank.

Last week, my thoughts were filled with complaints about the upcoming trip to Oakland.

I’ll have to stand all night in front of the speakers and then I’ll have no hearing left. My hearing might never come back; I’d be deaf. Forever. I asked Kathleen if I should take some earplugs with me. The look on her face said it all…”if you put earplugs in and people see it and then know that we’re together, you’re walking home.”

My feet would be sore from standing all night. What if my Achilles tendons started to act up? I’d never walk again!

I’d be the oldest person there! I’d be trapped all night, deaf, with sore feet, standing in a sea of screaming groupie girls and UNABLE TO WALK AWAY.

Saturday afternoon finally arrived and, despite my internal whinging, I put on a brave face and Kathleen and I headed off to Oakland. We took our time getting there, stopping for a bite in Fairfield and then for gas and cash in Cordelia. Kathleen was getting more and more excited as we drove on and the drive from the Carquinez Bridge to Oakland was spent singing along, loudly, happily, and badly, with Arctic Monkeys.

Finally, we were in Oakland! And there was the theatre!

Fox Oakland

At this point, I started to perk up. Why?

Well, first of all, it was cold enough in Oakland that I could actually wear my newly-knitted Zetor scarf/shawl and, more importantly, the woman ahead of us in the line had a good 15 years on me. I wouldn’t be the oldest one there!

At this point, I was feeling somewhat better about life in general and kept eyeing the marquee:


“The ride in hadn’t been so bad. Maybe we should come back on Wednesday for the Arctic Monkeys’ show…”

Things continued to improve as we entered the theatre. After zooming to a spot in front of the stage, Kathleen looked at me and said “I’d be okay with sitting at one of those tables.”

Just behind the railing enclosing the orchestra pit stood tall bar tables with tall bar stools. Except that, unlike most bar stools, these ones were padded. And had backs.


The theatre itself was beautiful and, as it began to fill, I noticed the oddest thing: the average age of the concertgoers seemed to be in the mid-30s. There were even people who were visibly older than I am. I might actually enjoy the evening!

Paolo’s opening act, Anya Marina, came on and, although I didn’t get too excited over her music (a little too Rickie Lee Jones for me) she was really really funny. Especially when she asked the groupie girls waving the Brazilian flag at the very front of the pit if it were true that all Brazilians liked anal sex. (Yeah, I confess to feeling a little schadenfreude at the expense of the SYTs. I’m middle-aged and that’s allowed now, right?)

Soon enough, it was time for the man-boy himself:


I have recently found myself thinking that Paolo was going all Ernest Hemingway on us; after seeing any and all of his performances on TV or YouTube, I couldn’t help but think he was becoming a caricature of an old blues singer. You know, performing with an “I seen troubles” sort of aura…and I couldn’t help but snort at it. I mean, the lad’s what? 22? 23? How many troubles could he have seen?

I’ve got to say though, after seeing him live, he really does pull it off. His performance didn’t strike me as being affected in any manner and I found myself singing along, screaming when the moment called for it, and generally having a damn good time.

It was truly an unexpected pleasure.

The concert ended right around 10:30 with Last Request. Kathleen and I sang along and tried our best to carry the chorus but, without the rest of the lumps singing with us, Paolo was forced to sing the whole thing. (Don’t these people from Oakland know anything? Second chorus of Last Request is ALWAYS audience participation time! Don’t just stand there…sing, dammit!)

The drive home was long and tiring and Kathleen’s eyes were getting sore from the headlights. As we got closer to our home exit, Kathleen asked me to find something on her iPod to help her stay alert. First up, Mardy Bum…that got us to the exit but we still needed something for the last 5 miles. I knew it had to be something guaranteed to perk her up, a catchy tune, maybe with a bit of humour in it. I found it quickly: The Fray, covering Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. (For those who aren’t familiar with it, this is where the Ewan MacGregor reference comes into play. Go listen.)

All in all, I had a wonderful, wonderful evening.

Along with the unexpected pleasures of not feeling out of place, finding a comfortable chair with a great view, listening to some truly fabulous music, I had the not-so-unexpected-but-always-thrilling pleasure of seeing my child very, very happy:

Happy Kat

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30th Jul 2009

Pattern: Thatched

(Note: a PDF version of this pattern is also available.)


Finished Size

To fit a woman’s medium foot


v 1 skein Knit One Crochet Too Soxx Appeal, 50g/190m (See note!)

v Set of 5 US 1/2.25mm double-pointed needles

v Set of US 2/2.75mm double-pointed needles

v Tapestry needle


16 stitches and 23 rows = 2 inches in thatched bamboo stitch before blocking


v I highly recommend trying these socks on as you go, especially if you are not used to knitting with elasticized yarn. It took me several goes at the pattern before feeling comfortable with my tension.

v Stitches should be increased in increments of 4 if adjustments are needed in order to get a well-fitting sock.

v After finishing the pair, I had about five yards of yarn left over. If you think your foot or ankle is larger than a woman’s size 8-8.5 with a medium width, you might like to buy two skeins of yarn. As they say, better safe than sorry!


CO cast on
K knit
k2tog knit two stitches together as one
P purl

RHN right-hand needle
Sl slip stitch
SSK slip 1 stitch knit-wise, slip next stitch purl-wise, knit the two stitches together through the back loop
YO yarn over
* starting point of repeat

Stitch Guide

Thatched Bamboo

Row 1 K1, *yo, k2, pick up yarn over, draw it over the two knit stitches, and drop it from the RHN,* k1

Row 2 Knit

Row 3 k2, *yo, k2, pick up yarn over, draw it over the two knit stitches, and drop it from the RHN,* k2

Row 4 Knit

Eye of Partridge Stitch

Row 1 Sl 1, p to end

Row 2 Sl 1, *k1, sl 1,* repeat from * to end, knit remaining stitch

Row 3 Sl 1, p to end

Row 4 Sl 1, k1, *k1, sl 1,* repeat from * to end, knit remaining stitch

Gusset Decrease

Row 1 K to last two st on ndl 1, k2tog; k across ndl 2 (instep ndl) in pattern; ssk at beg of ndl 3, k to end

Row 2 K across ndl 1; k across ndl 2 in pattern; k across ndl 3

Toe Decrease

Ndl 1 Knit until 3 st rem, k2tog, k1

Ndl 2 K1, ssk, k to end

Ndl 3 As ndl 1

Ndl 4 As ndl 2


Using larger needles, CO 48 stitches and join in round, being careful not to twist. Distribute stitches evenly between needles.


Switch to smaller needles as you begin cuff stitches. Work in k1-p1 rib for 1 inch.


There is no leg! But you will need to divide for the heel flap by placing 24 stitches on each of two needles.

Heel Flap

Work in Eye of Partridge stitch for 24 rows.

Turn Heel

Row 1 Sl1, p12, p2tog, p1, turn.
Row 2 Sl1, k4, k2tog, k1, turn.
Row 3 Purl to first st before gap formed on previous row, p2tog, p1, turn. Row 4 Knit to first st before gap formed on previous row, k2tog, k1, turn.
Repeat rows 3 and 4 until all stitches have been worked. Fourteen stitches remain on your needle.


Using a new needle, pick up and knit stitches along edge of gusset. Knit across instep needle in pattern. Using another new needle, pick up and knit stitches along other edge of gusset. Knit across half of the remaining heel stitches. Transfer remaining stitches to the first gusset needle; you now have three needles.

Begin your gusset decrease rounds; continue to decrease until 48 st remain (24 on instep needle and 12 each on needles 1 & 3).


Ndl 1: knit in stocking stitch; Ndl 2: knit in pattern; Ndl 3: knit in stocking stitch. Continue in this manner until you reach your desired foot length less 1 inch, ending with Row 4 of the Thatched Bamboo stitch pattern. (Note: this is where you’ll want to try on the sock for size; elasticized yarn can be very stretchy!)


Divide instep stitches onto two needles.

Knit two rounds even. Work one toe dec round every other row until 32 st remain.

Work toe dec rnd every row for three more rounds (20 st rem).

Knit across Ndl 1 with Ndl 4. Combine stitches on Ndls 2 & 3 onto a single ndl (10 st on each of two needles).


Graft st together using Kitchener stitch. (Tip: Knitting Daily’s Sandi Wisehart has a fantastic blog post for those who hate the Kitchener stitch!)

Weave in ends and block.

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23rd Jul 2009

The Invisible Dog

Every now and again, Rogie does something that utterly cracks me up. Okay, he often does things that crack me up but, every now and again, he outdoes even himself. Most recently was him picking apricots by standing on his hind legs and jumping up to pull them off the branch with his teeth but one Rogie incident that remains in my memory occurred on the big road trip.

Yes, Rogie became invisible.

The Great Invisible Rogie

While we were still in Atlanta, we had an email from a friend in Texas, wondering if we would be passing near her home on our return journey and, if so, if we’d like to stop in for the night. We had originally planned on taking I-10 across Texas, through El Paso, Las Cruces, etc., but the thought of a good visit with friends (and the chance to avoid SoCal traffic) had us revising our travel plans.

And so we found ourselves in Poetry, Texas, visiting with Marilyn. The dogs had a great time running around her property, swimming in the pond, and making new friends. We spent the day just hanging out relaxing and, as evening approached, decided we’d head to Trevino’s for some TexMex food. All we had to do was gather up the dogs, put them in their crates in the van, and load ourselves into Marilyn’s car.

I guess Rogie thought he was going to have leave his newfound Nirvana and was desperate to do anything to avoid this…he took off down the driveway. Even from a distance, I could hear the tiny little cogs and wheels in his brain turning, searching for a solution to his predicament.

Hang out with the Texas longhorn? No, too big and she had scary looking horns.

Hide out with the mule? No way…she bites!

The gate? Closed. No escape there.

Finally, the little doggy lightbulb went on in his little doggy brain. He’d turn himself invisible.

To achieve this feat, he paused for the appropriate amount of time behind a shrubbery. (It might have just been a tall bit of grass.) After what must have been two, or maybe even three, seconds, Rogie emerged from behind the greenery like a superhero emerges from his phonebooth, utterly confident in his invisibility.

Knowing his presence was now imperceptible, Rogie moved swiftly to put his plan into action. Keeping his head down nonetheless, he trotted across the open space between his shrubbery and the house, edged along the side of the house to the stairwell, and zoomed up it to the door.


(Alas, there was still the pesky problem of the door handle and a woeful lack of opposable thumbs and poor Rogie suffered the humiliation of scooped up like a bag of groceries, tucked under my arm, and unceremoniously deposited in his crate.)

Wondering where the incredible invisible dog is in the picture? Click here.

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18th Jul 2009

It’s a Hard Knock Life (when you’re a knitwear model)

I’ve been on a “yarn diet” for quite some time now and, as a result, have been using up a fair amount of my stash. Part of that stash includes some very cheap (and some might say “nasty”) yarn I bought because I was convinced I was going to knit a whole bunch of dog sweaters. Some of the sweaters I’d hoped would replace the sweaters and jackets the dogs were wearing for the great Skunk Wars of 2009. (Six months on and they still reek of skunk.) I’d hoped the others might help finance a trip next spring.

Of course, I hadn’t done a thing about making the damn things. Finally, I picked up some of the yarn and cast on for a sweater. It didn’t get too far when I decided that it wasn’t going to work and so I ripped it out. I cast on again, this time using a real pattern for a greyhound sweater. Work on that sweater was motoring along nicely until I looked at the project page for the pattern on Ravelry. None of the completed projects looked at all flattering on the greyhounds modelling them. Sweater #2 ripped out.

Finally, I came up with something I thought might work and work progressed relatively smoothly on it. It’s much bigger than what I had planned and so, instead of a sweater for Streaka, I’ve got a sweater for Tighe. That’s okay…he has the biggest need for new winter clothing as he tore a hole in his jacket last year.

There are a few changes I want to make to the pattern and to the method by which it was knit but, on the whole, I’m quite pleased with the result:

Tighe's new sweater

So why is it a hard-knock life when you’re a knitwear model? Because you have to wear a fur coat AND a knit sweater in this:


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17th Jul 2009

Streaka’s Stroke

It started with a loud and clumsy-sounding thud from the patio where the dogs’ kennels are located. I could see the boys from where I sat but no Streaka. Kathleen got up to investigate and worriedly called out to me: There’s something wrong with Streaka!

Out we went…

Streaka stumbled across the patio unsteadily, one of her rear legs giving out on her. Kathleen scooped her up and brought her inside, where she immediately collapsed onto her bed. Of course, given her age, my first thought was that she had had a stroke.

Being Streaka, she didn’t want me fussing over her and really just wanted to lie down. I did give her a quick exam before letting her rest. Her rear end was hunched under, her left rear leg did not hold her weight, and she walked with a distinct lean to the left.

Streaka's recovery

So, I let her be and went to write her breeder an email, asking for advice. Just before hitting the send button, I decided to give Streaka another once-over, evaluating her gait and also checking the neurological response in her hind limbs.

Hmmm. When she gaited out, she wasn’t limping any more. What could possibly cause her leg to be completely unresponsive one minute and completely normal the next?


Yes, her leg had fallen asleep.

(I hope she doesn’t start faking strokes just so she can come in and nap away from the boys. I don’t think my heart could handle it!)

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01st Jul 2009

As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances

This day, more than any other in the year, is the day on which I most deeply feel a sense of “otherness”. It is a day on which I remember friends and family and, above all, my beloved homeland…a nation so similar on the surface to the one in which I now live and yet so very, very different.

As has become my habit, I will spend today enjoying as much Canadiana as I can.

I’ve already watched the National Film Board’s short, The Log Driver’s Waltz and, pretty soon, I’ll put Great Big Sea in the CD player. I’ll think about Kraft Dinner, stubbies, the DEW Line, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, parkades, Pierre Trudeau, high school rugby, Kids in the Hall, Cowichan sweaters, Tommy Douglas, Hockey Night in Canada, MacLean & MacLean, and yes, I will drink beer.

Happy Birthday, Canada. I love you…

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