Category Archives: sew

Collared by a Neckerchief

I was going to cast on for a snood, but I’m using the needles that I need to get proper gauge with the yarn I want to use, so that’s going to have to wait.

I started poking around ravelry, and I happened upon this pattern:  a free pattern for a knitted neckerchief from the 1800s.

I think it’s lovely.  I told Mollyann from Ariadne that I was going to knit it, and she looked at me skeptically and said, “That’s Shetland lace, hey?”

I looked back at her, tipped my jaw haughtily, and said that I was going to do it anyway.  But!  I would say that the main body of this neckerchief is actually lace knitting (with yarn overs only happening on the right side of the knitting) whereas the border is true knitted lace.  The distinction is, of course, a bit silly, but it somehow renders my attempt at this project valid.  (If you’re interested in learning more, Eunny Jang does a great job of discussing different kinds of lace here.)

I’m knitting it in Crystal Palace Panda Silk Print, colour way 4012 Forest Tones.

It’s a beautiful yarn.  It’s 52% bamboo, 43% superwash merino, and 5% combed silk.  Delicious – and I love that it’s superwash.  I like to pretend that I, someday, will wear this scarf to a picnic and end up delicately wiping my chin of a sticky sauce.

My gauge was 35 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm, so I cast on 91 stitches.  The pattern recommends that you cast on a multiple of 6 minus 1 (for a total of 89 stitches in my gauge), but I added two stitches at either end for selvage.

I really hope someone else casts on this project.  It’s gorgeous!  C’mon – knit a long!


Oh, Happy Day!

This is going to be a quickie because I’m busy as all getout today, but it’s my birthday!  And I thought I’d tell you all.

When I was about 11 years old, I embroidered, stuffed, and sewed together a teddy bear.

Now that bear is 11.

Doesn’t life go quickly?


I promised a while ago to post pictures of the baby sweater and booties I’ve knit in the past few weeks.

That’s Elizabeth Zimmerman’s February baby sweater on two needles and Saartje’s booties in Mission Falls 136 in Raspberry.   I did yarn overs instead of increases in the yoke of the sweater so I could pull some satin pink ribbon through, and used matching buttons on the booties and sweater.  I also knit the booties on 4mm needles.  I didn’t do an increasing row on the booties, and reduced my decreases accordingly.  You can look at my ravelry page for more details.  I also knit buttonholes instead of sewing buttonholes into the flaps after the fact by adding an extra knit row, and binding off in the second knit row.  I used a knit cast on instead of a long tail cast on, and cast on an extra three stitches for extra space.  I then embroidered around the buttonholes on the booties.

There are white birds embossed into these baby pink buttons.  They kind of look like cave drawings.  They’re hard to photograph, but they look really cool.

I really like how my partner and I chose the supplies for this project.  Yes, this is a gift for a little baby girl whose name means “womanly”, but I wanted to make a sweater that wasn’t just pretty and pink.  I think it’s super cool when modern mothers dress their kids in bright, lively colours and let the child’s personality develop through providing a variety of activities or styles from which the child can choose.  What resulted by our choosing a dynamic main colour and more ‘girly’ accents is, I hope, a happy medium.  A feminine garment that emphasizes this new person’s middle name, which means “noble strength” or “storm”.

The ribbons are pretty, but they also make the sweater more adjustable.  I hope that it’s usable more quickly that way; after all, the baby was only born a few weeks ago.  She’s tiny as of yet!  And I hope the buttons will keep it on for longer.

I’m going to include extra buttons and ribbon in the box, with the hope that this new baby runs and plays a heck of a lot.  I hope this sweater gets dirty, muddy, and stretched out, and that once this person grows into an adult, she can look at herself in pictures roughhousing wearing this sweater and feel good.


Is it still the holidays?  Is it?  Really?

I often refer to this time of year as the ‘holler-daze’ since it makes my head feel all static-y while everything lumbers past me with holiday gusto.  I’m pretty excited for this to all be over and for me to resume my relatively dull routine.

But, in exciting news, my partner has dazzled my cats with holiday cheer!

That’s Patrick Purrswayze elegantly showing off the utility of this gift.  The cats love it.  They sleep on it and scratch it all to hell and gosh – it’s pretty cute.  Show ’em, Bazzy!

I like it, even though it impedes access to my fridge – and in the winter, that means something great, doesn’t it?

I’ve spent a lot of time spinning as of late (and I don’t mean mindlessly in circles).  It’s still blue faced Leicester top and I think I’m getting better.  At least, I’m getting more fine.

I’ve been scoping out patterns for thick and thin yarn.  I want to make something for myself out of this first handspun (because it’s just special in that way, y’know?) but I don’t know what.  I’m thinking about dying it with strong black tea and making somewhat lacy fingerless gloves.  Perhaps something along the lines of the Spirogyra or even the Verdigris, both from

In the meantime, I’m chugging away at my sweater.  Unfortunately, it basically looks the same as last pictured, so I’m going to wait until I’ve finished the yoke until I show it off again.  Experiencing second sock syndrome with a sweater is a new one for me, but I guess it makes sense when you remember that I did knit the same sweater but two months ago.  I think my next project will have more colour work than cables, but who can predict anything at this stage in the game?  I just keep reminding myself that this sweater has sleeves that are completed already, so after the yoke is done all I need are button bands.  Tricking myself by sewing the ends in as I go has been necessary.

Regardless, the yoke is 1/3 done, and I’m hoping to have the entire sweater sewn up and blocked by the 31st.  Think I can do it?


this morning

This is a picture of my cats this morning.

Our old fridge has sat in our living room since last Sunday.  The cats have slept on it, played on it, and were generally adorable rolling around on top of it.

There is a program in Montreal called Recyc-Frigo where (if you have a fridge that is at least 10 years old, that works, and that consumes too much electricity) they’ll come and pick up your fridge and recycle it.  They came today and took away the cats’ new favourite toy!  I’m so pleased to have my living room back, but the cats look heart-broken.  I think we’ll have to get them a new climbing device soon.

Thursday night was knit night at Ariadne Knits, and it was super fun.  I’m always blown away at how a skill like knitting can bring together so many diverse people, and how we can all get along so nicely.  After all, there are a myriad of reasons why someone might pick up the needles and knit, and it’s no requisite that all knitters be nice and respectful.  But (at Ariadne at least) everyone really makes sure that they’re not stepping on toes even when the conversation breaches topics that are a bit uncomfortable.  I really like that, and I don’t think it’s odd that knit night makes me like knitting all the more.

I was running rather severely short of yarn on my cabled hat, so jumped out of the river denial (see what I did there?) and bought a new skein of yarn from Ariadne.  This skein has more than twice the yardage of the previous skein, although it is a 50/50 combination of wool and superfine alpaca as opposed to 100% superfine alpaca.

super alpaca on the left; ultra wool on the right

I think it’s an upgrade, really.  Both yarns are from Estelle.  The first was their Super Alpaca, and the new one is their Ultra Wool.  The wool adds a delicious springiness to the yarn that I adore.  I showed the yarn to my partner, a new knitter, last night, and he described the difference perfectly.  He said that it was warm and soft, and less fluffy (but that’s not a bad thing at all) and weightless.

And what a deal!  The price was $20 for 280 meters for a pretty chunky yarn.  I have this problem where I’m a bit spendthrift and have trouble spending any kind of money on anything, but when I wound the skein into a ball, the ball winder actually got stuck because it was too big.

I went with a blue/purple shade and I just love it.  I don’t often wear anything, well, that isn’t grey or green, but it’s gorgeous.  I was wary of looking like a grey-green super heroine, you see.  I’m much more of a Jennifer Susan Walters than a Savage She-Hulk; never mind my behaviour when I can’t find my sewing needles.

But enough of that;  now I’m reading an article about Bangladeshi garment workers.

As someone who actually can’t remember not knowing how to ply at least some kind of needle to cloth, I have a hard time relating to the idea that all garments should be ready-made.  To me, ready-made clothes are for when you don’t have time to make something, or don’t have the equipment at the ready.  Other than that, there’s no reason to wander around colossal malls that aren’t interested in providing clothes with a good fit or with longevity.  Making clothes doesn’t feel so much of a privilege as common domestic labour.  I sweep the floor, I patch my pants, I wash the dishes, I knit my own mittens: it’s all the same to me.  And yes, it is luxurious to have pants that will last more than six months, but if you put the work in it’s not so much of a luxury as something to take pride in.  And I think that we should all take pride in taking care of the basics.

Reading this makes me so upset:

The calorific intake of ready made garment […] workers is deficient, causing stunted physical development. With income reduced by static wages and rising costs of basic foods, malnutrition has become so widespread that in 2008 some workers were reported to be hallucinating in a delirious state during long shifts.

It’s not right.  It’s not fair.  And it seems as though there’s no escape, because workers like these are the people who spin our thread and weave our textiles.  Why should they starve for our fourth pair of pants?  They’re so malnourished, their growth rates are stunted and they’re hallucinating.  I can’t fathom being that hungry.

Living sustainably seems so far away, and yet, I think it’s inevitable.  This recession has affected so many aspects of daily life that I think most people have started to scale back, but not enough.  I know that I still do things like shop at discount stores, even though I know the labourers that manufacture my socks and clothes hangers weren’t paid enough.  I hope that we can figure this out;  until then, I’m going to try to live as reasonably as possible and not buy ready made garments unless my current clothes are falling to shreds.

Excerpted from the article:

As a female garment worker explained;

‘You see, as women, one of our wings is broken. We don’t have the nerve that a man has, because we know we have a broken wing. A man can sleep anywhere, he can just lie down on the street and go to sleep. A woman cannot do that. She has to think about her body, about her security. So the garment factory owner prefers to hire women because men are smarter about their opportunities, you train them and they move on. Even when he compares a small boy and an older girl, he will think, “She’s only a girl, she can’t wander too far away.”‘

Naila Kabeer – The Power to Choose, taken from article.

Fibre Content

Yesterday, I went for a big walk.  I walked down to the Loblaw’s in my neighborhood, and I shopped for sweaters.

Last October, my partner and I moved to Venezuela. You can read about our adventures here. Because we knew we were going to be there for many months, we had to get rid of most of our things.  And by “most of our things” I mean that when we left, all that we owned could be carried on our backs.  And because we were going to be about 11 degrees away from the equator, our sweaters were not a high priority.  In other words, I had to sell or give away most of my sweaters.  The only ones I kept were light enough to be useful in a desert climate.

Now it’s getting cold in this lovely island city and I need to be much more cozily wrapped than in Venezuela.

Also, (and this is perhaps an unrelated gripe but I’m including it) the person who maintains my apartment building tried to turn on the furnace the other day, and it’s not working.  Not.  Working.  It is so cold inside my house that my coffee is the temperature of one of those fancy summer coffee drinks – which could be a plus, except that now is the season for piping hot beverages.  I understand that it takes a while to get things fixed, but my goodness, my toes aren’t too happy.

As a knitter, I have to say that I hate the idea of buying things that I could knit at a higher quality and have some pride in my work.  Knitting sweaters takes time and energy though and I physically can’t knit a sweater fast enough to snuggle in as of right now.  I also loathe shopping.  But it had to be done.

I toddled down to the grocery store and got me some new sweaters.  I bought two oversized raglan pullovers that are 50% cotton/25% lambswool/25% nylon.  I also got a 100% cotton flannel shirt that feels like flannelette.  That got me thinking.

You see, when I shop, I shop primarily for fibre content.  I always check for quality.  I see no point in buying a 100% acrylic sweater, for instance.  Sweaters are supposed to keep you warm, but acrylic can’t do it.  You’ve got to invest in those natural fibres in order to get what you want.

But I wonder why labels listing fibre content have been mandated.  I found the website of the Competition Bureau that lists the regulations, but it doesn’t clearly mention why.  Allergies are an obvious reason, but the website states that quality control is the main purpose, and that’s astounding to me.  How can a product that’s been mass produced with machines for the lowest possible price have a quality control?  I don’t understand.

It’s funny; a lot of my non-knitterly friends seem to think that anything that is hand knit must be cozy and warm.  Once you break that down and mention that a.) most fabrics are knit and b.) hand knitting doesn’t automatically imbue the fabric with warmth, the value of wool becomes clear.  It seems as though the value of your labour should be reflected in the utility of the fabric, and not in its artistic value.

Regardless, as soon as I put on one of my new sweaters I felt so much more warm.  I’m planning on knitting something warm and soft for myself soon.  Fibre content is so important.

Now, here’s a kitty.


100% wool blanket


Women’s Work

I’m zonked and my head feels like it’s full of static.  Does anyone else ever feel that way?  Like all of your fingers suddenly can’t grasp small objects properly, so everything you touch flies across the room, and then ricochets several times, and lands in an unexpected place underneath an awkward piece of furniture that you really don’t want to have to look under?

Today is one of those days for me, at least, and all of this static has made me ruminate on a craigslist ad that got my goat a few days ago.

An ad requested that another person reupholster a couch within the person’s home with fabric that had already been purchased.  Compensation? $75.

Can you imagine?  Can you just imagine putting in at least 10 hours of labour pinning and tucking and sewing and measuring and sewing some more for less than minimum wage after traveling to someone else’s house?  The mind boggles.

Which brings me to an old rant of mine:  the value of labour.  Specifically, traditionally female labour.  Jobs like sewing or knitting or making things that work are traditionally considered women’s work (even though that attitude isn’t really historically true, just look at stranded knitting in Ireland or European sewing guilds in the 1420s or sweaters in Norway or tailors in the 1700s) and are therefore unimportant: but the fruit of said labour is almost considered to be deserved.  I call bullshit.

Once upon a time, not everyone had more than one or two pairs or pants, and that makes sense.  There is a lot of work that goes into sewing pants, and because of that, pants were very expensive.  Now, pants are sewn by people who have no other option but to get paid very little to do a great deal of work.  Work that is important, yet undervalued.  After all, no one thinks about what life would be like without clothing, right?  Because everyone seems to think that clothes are just automatic, a human right, and if your pants wear out, just go to the mall and buy a new pair, never mind the people who wove the denim that’s keeping your bum dry and warm.  Where is this sense of entitlement coming from?

I’ve never understood why the paradigm related to textiles today is so… distorted.  There are so many steps in producing textiles (growing, harvesting, processing, spinning, dyeing thread, weaving or knitting or crotcheting fabric, cutting, pinning, sewing, and then the inevitable transport of whatever was made, not counting the resources that went into facilitating all of this work) that it’s strange that people don’t take more account of cloth and its origins.

And yes, now a majority of women work with textiles just like a majority of women work in healthcare and educational systems – and just like textiles are undervalued, the excellent labour women provide is overlooked financially.  I think that it’s because if we did analyze in detail all the work women do, we’d be overwhelmed.  Did you know that engineers get paid more than nurses, despite the comparable time spent in school and the similar value that they offer to the community?

One time, I helped table a bake sale at UNB with some folks from the Canadian Labour Congress in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  It was a Gapzilla bake sale, and we sold baked goods at 100% of the price to male bodied people and 60% of that price to female bodied people just to point out how differences in income made goods comparably more expensive for women.  I also liked how the baked goods tied in the idea of women’s work – after all, who typically bakes in a nuclear family?  It was awesome, and made a lot of the male customers pretty grumpy while the women laughed.

I’m pretty sure a tailor today, regardless of sex, would laugh at $75 for reupholstering a couch.

I’m going to go knit, cuddle some kitties, and crack open some wine.


an evening well spent