Category Archives: Out and about

When in Iceland

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You dress in layers. If you go during the shoulder season (essentially equivalent to fall and spring in terms of timing, but not in terms of weather, which can be very unpredictable), you wear several layers, at least a few of which are wool. L and I both have a few of those thin, fine merino wool base layers, but what we lacked before this trip was heavier, more rugged wool sweaters. So, I spent the summer changing that.

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I thought a lot about what I wanted to knit myself for the wedding (a wedding shawl seemed like the obvious thing until I realized that I really didn’t want to cover the top of my dress at all) before deciding that knitting something for our honeymoon would be just as special. Plus, as I mentioned previously, I ended up knitting L a pair of wedding socks, so we still had a little hand knit element.

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You can see the extra fabric around the tops of the arms/shoulders, but the colourwork part of the yoke is perfect.

My sweater flew off the needles. I had heard that Stopover, by Mary Jane Mucklestone, was a speedy knit, but whoa. I am quite pleased with the finished sweater, though there’s a bit too much fabric around the shoulders I think. I debated ripping back and changing the pace of the decreases, but the extra fabric didn’t bother me when I was wearing it, just in photos. This sweater was used as a pillow, shoved into bags, worn under a backpack, worn to restaurants and while hiking, and it came through pretty much unscathed (just a little fuzz on the forearms, which can be easily dealt with).

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I’m quite pleased with how this turned out. I’ll need to work on improving the neckline for the next sweater (this one stretched out quite a bit). Maybe I’ll try casting off and then picking up the stitches for the rib, for some extra structure.

L’s sweater isn’t really Icelandic in any way except that I used lopi. The pattern — Galdhöpiggen, by Erika Guselius — was only available in Swedish when I knit this (there’s an English version now), so I spend a fair bit of time with Google Translate and, in the end, mostly winged it. I knit L’s sweater as a looser gauge than the pattern was written for, both because it was faster and because he really didn’t need a dense wool sweater to stay warm. I made sure my stitch counts lined up with the charts and then knit to his measurements, with about zero ease before blocking. It blocked out to a couple of inches of positive ease, and grew a bit more as he wore it and pulled it on and off throughout the day. He wore it every day we were there (every. single. day.)

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Handknit hat, cowl and sweater. Pretty good look, I’d say.

I haven’t quite gotten around to washing and re-blocking these sweaters since we got back (and they do need it), so I’m not sure if they’ll shrink back at all, but let me just say: lopi stretches. It doesn’t have any of the bounce of merino or even BFL, so when it stretches it just stays stretched. I’m hoping a slightly warm soak will help get things back in place, but that is definitely something I’ll be keeping in mind when I knit our next round of sweaters (of course we bought wool for one more each while we were there).

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L’s eventual sweater is on the left, mine is on the right. I thought I’d go for colours too, but I couldn’t decide, and in the end decided I couldn’t go wrong with neutrals.

L’s sweater actually took a lot less time to knit than I anticipated, so I had time to knit a few other things in addition to his socks. He is actually quite well equipped in terms of cold weather hand knits, so I did a quick survey of what I needed and in the three weeks before our wedding knit myself a headband, a cowl and a pair of fingerless mitts. Of the three, the mitts were the most successful and have taken up residence in my purse because they are perfect for the rapidly warming and cooling temperatures of this time of year. The headband is great too, though I find it a little itchy across my forehead. I’m going to try soaking it with a little conditioner to see if that helps. The cowl I knit three times and I’m still not quite happy with it. It’s just a bit too loose to really keep me warm, so I think I might rip it out one last time and knit it up with 10 to 12 fewer stitches. It’s a quick knit (I knit it twice in one day), so I’m not too worried about that being a major undertaking.

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Kind of a ridiculous picture, but the only one in which headband, cowl and mitts are all on display. (I meant to get some proper pictures of each, and then forgot.)

Of course, not everything we took to Iceland was new. L wore his cowl, gloves and this hat regularly. I stuck my Norby hat in my bag at the last minute was so glad I did, since I actually wore it quite a bit. My Epistrophy sweater was in regular rotation with my Stopover, and on a couple of the warmer days I wore my Stasis sweater. Plus, we both wore hand knit socks every day.

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Epistrophy was a perfect mid-weight sweater to bring. I actually layered it under my Stopover a couple of times!

The Slow Fashion October theme for this week is “Long Worn,” with the idea being a celebration of garments long loved — hand-me-downs, thrift-store finds, pieces you’ve refashioned, etc. — and I really had planned to write about a couple of my oldies-but-goodies, but as I was writing this I realized that in some cases, long worn starts with the making. Barring some very unfortunate accident (looking at you, washing machine), we’ll be wearing these sweaters for decades. They are well made, using good quality wool, and they’re not really tied to any particular trend. They aren’t long worn yet, but they will be, and knowing that is part of what made the knitting so rewarding.

I’m still finding sand

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We’ve been back for two weeks (two weeks!) and it feels both like we were just there and like our trip was months ago. In the first five days after we got back, it snowed three times (three times!). But, now that the weather as turned decidedly spring-like (plants outside during the day, the balcony door regularly left open, socks optional), I can look back at these bright, sunny, warm photos without quite as much wistfulness. And with that, here’s a quick spin through our holiday.

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Recognize this view? It had been three years since we were there, but it felt immediately familiar.

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I could post one of these for every night we were there, but I will restrain myself.

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Doesn’t it look like they’re all floating in six inches of water? The ocean is so, so clear — it doesn’t seem like it could be real.

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If you look closely, you can spot the edges of Balta, which was perfect for the warm, humid (perfect) weather.

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My parents have a 6 o’clock piña colada tradition when they’re there. My dad makes them and takes great care to garnish them with flowers each night. Lovely and delicious.

Last time we went to Eleuthra, I knit a lot and read just a little. This time, despite planning for more of the same, I ended up doing just the opposite! I did finish the second sleeve of Sibella (and I am so close to being finished the whole thing now), but that’s it. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t feeling the pull to my needles — less/no stress, is my bet — and instead I read two entire books and started a third. To all of you who recommended/endorsed All the Light We Cannot See, wow. I couldn’t put it down and have been thinking about it ever since. Absolutely stunning.

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I am not usually a pink person, but I would wear this colour.

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I have no idea what this is, but it grew all over the rocky landscape. Such a perfect yellow-green.

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We did a big walk through the Leon Levy Native Plant Reserve, which was fantastic (but breezeless and very hot) and the Epiphyte Trail was a definitely highlight. This one was easily taller than my hand.

Aside from reading, of course, we did lots of other things. We swam (a lot! I was very glad I invested in a new swimsuit — this one — before we went. It was well used), kayaked, walked along beaches, and played a lot cards — euchre and cribbage, mainly. Besides all the general fun of being on holiday, this was a great family trip. It’s rare for me to spend so much consecutive time with my parents, and rarer still to spend that much time with my grandparents (and rarer still for L to do so), and getting to that time together in such a gorgeous, relaxing place is a real treat.

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Really, though, Eleuthra is an island of beaches. We swam every day, sometimes on the Caribbean side (which our house faced) and sometimes on the Atlantic side (like here). For the most part, we had them all to ourselves.

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Yes, that is the actual colour of the water.

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The Blue Window. Perhaps not the easiest beach to find (on the Atlantic side), but well worth seeking out if you’re ever in the area. (I definitely recommend trying to be in the area.)

Heading for the sun

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A couple three years ago (where does the time go!?), L and I treated ourselves to a little spring escape and flew down to Eleuthra to spend a week with my grandparents (who go every year) and my aunts and uncles (whose visits overlapped with ours). It was, for us, the perfect kind of getaway: Sand, sun, sea, piña coladas, and family. Eleuthra has almost no hotels, and real resorts, so it’s very quiet — perfect if your idea of a vacation is to do your own thing.

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This isn’t a wistful post, though — this is me saying we decided to do it again! The last year (two years?) has been crazy, both in our work and home lives, and really, things are not going to slow down any time soon. When my parents booked their visit at a pretty amazing discount, we decided to just go for it. We leave on Sunday and will have a full, glorious week to soak up sunshine and family stories and generally just relax (whether that’s kayaking, reading, knitting, swimming, playing cribbage, or whatever).

But enough about all that! We booked our tickets ages ago, so my real concern right now is about what to pack. Namely, what I want to read and what I want to knit. Sometimes, these questions feel really high stakes on a vacation, but I think I’ve just about made up my mind. I finished Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis the other day (I don’t blog about books anymore, but whoa, if I did…) and then cleansed by palate with Emily Carroll’s gorgeous and spooky Through the Woods. So, I’m due for something new. Right now, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is topping the list (and the stack of books on my bedside table). It’s long enough that I probably won’t finish it while I’m away, but I might still pack a backup…

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Just a few more stripe repeats and I’ll be at the heel. I’m about a third of the way through this sock, I think.

Knitting wise, the choices are much easier. Sibella is flying — if you’d told me a grey, fingering weight, stockinette cardigan would be a speedy knit, I would have laughed, but it’s true — and I’m about a third of the way through the second sleeve. So, I’ll take that and finish it up, likely on the plane ride down. I want easy, social knitting, so I’ll leave the other pieces behind and join everything up when we’re back.

But, since part of a sleeve won’t be a full-trip project, I’m also bringing my stripy Christmas socks. I cast these on in December and have picked away at them, but it’s time to finish them up, so they’re next on my list. If I manage to get them done, I’m packing more striped yarn, this time destined to become socks for L. Starting my holiday knitting early was one of my January goals, and I am on it!

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I can’t believe how good this looks in a cake. I’m excited to see how it knits up.

(I even sewed a dress in time to wear on while we’re away, so I’ll make sure to get some FO shots to show you when we’re back!)

So, this is happening

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I apologize for my extended absence, but there’s a whole other project on the go over here, and it’s not much fun to look at it. After six fantastic years in Toronto (during which time, L and I met — just weeks after we each moved here — fell in love, moved in together, and, while in Switzerland, got engaged!) we are moving. And not just apartments, but cities.

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L was offered a great job in Ottawa, so off we go. My job, which continues to grow and get more time consuming (but also more interesting), has made it possible for me to just take everything I do in Toronto and move it to Ottawa with me (there’s a bureau there I’ll work out of), which removed the only real impediment we had. I’m very excited to see our new place (L was there to see it — don’t worry, we aren’t moving in based solely on photos) and get to know our new neighbourbood, and city, but there are a lot things I’ll miss about Toronto. That’s going to have to wait for a whole other post, though, because our moving date is mere days away and there is still so, so much packing to do.

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Thank goodness my stash is pretty well packed all the time. I just had bit and pieces to box up, and as you can see, I made sure to do that first. (I also set aside lots of project-ready yarn, in case unpacking takes longer than anticipated. I don’t want to have to go looking around fr something to work on.) Priorities, right?

Have clothes, will travel

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Clothing — and, specifically, wardrobe building — has been on my mind for a while now, but perhaps never more than when I’m travelling. Somehow, despite reading quite a lot about creating capsule wardrobes and personal uniforms, it never fails that the minute I get wherever I’m going and open my bag I realize that I’ve utterly failed to pack outfits. Instead, I have a bunch of pieces that don’t really go together in any kind of coherent way, soon to be immortalized in all my vacation photos.

Shaelyn and Grace, the absolute stars of my travel wardrobe.

Shaelyn and Grace, the absolute stars of my travel wardrobe.

Typically, this initial panic recedes a bit and I realize there was some method to my packing, but honestly, it’s definitely a make-do situation. How someone who reliably wears the same basic outfit everyday can be this inept I don’t know, but I think that maybe writing it down here will help me remember this failing in the future. Having spent the last ten days thinking about where I went wrong this time, I think I’ve narrowed down where my thought process went wrong:

1. We planned to split our time between hiking and sightseeing, so I needed two totally different wardrobes. I did really well on the hiking side (clearly what I was more worried about), and left the everyday/sightseeing side to chance.
2. Me Made May distracted me. I made the pledge knowing I’d be away for a third of the time, but I didn’t really think about how that would factor into my packing. I was doing really well and wanted to keep it up, but in general, my sewn pieces all require ironing, making them less than ideal for travel. I changed my mind about half way through packing and then didn’t compensate with my usual wardrobe staples.
3. I forgot about colour. My default colour is dark blue, which serves me very well, so why I decided to change it up for a holiday is beyond me. I mean, I packed my Grace cardigan for layering, but then also a pink t-shirt. There is zero logic in that.
4. I made a bad bet on the weather. If Switzerland had been warm and sunny, I think I would have been okay. But the first half of our trip was pretty cool, and since that’s when we did the bulk of our sightseeing (saving the nicest days for hiking), the skirt and dress I’d planned to wear were pretty useless, and the necessity of layering (and thus, the uselessness of the pink t-shirt) was pronounced.

It probably goes without saying that handknit socks are a staple. They saw me through hiking, sightseeing, and just hanging around the apartment. They are the absolute best.

It probably goes without saying that handknit socks are a staple. They saw me through hiking, sightseeing, and just hanging around the apartment. They are the absolute best.

All of this aside, I am thrilled to say that both my Grace cardigan and Shaelyn shawl saw regular wear and I’m not tired of either. I could definitely use some neutral handknits though, so I’m going to have to think about how I want to handle that. I had been thinking about knitting the Sibella Cardigan in a gold colour (I’m partial to Shibui Staccato in Brass, to be specific), but now I’m thinking I’d get a lot more wear out it if I knit it in a tonal grey — maybe Tanis Fiber Arts Slate or Charcoal? My Flukra is already a great neutral (why oh why didn’t I pack it?!) but I also have some Tosh Merino Light in my stash that would be a great neutral colour for an interesting but neutral shawl (Holden or Ishbel maybe).

As I’m mulling all of this over now, I thought I’d ask your advice. What are your wardrobe staples when you travel? Are you ever surprised by what you come to rely on? When it comes to your handmade wardrobe (knit or sewn), what are your favourite or most versatile pieces?

I’ve got myself to a place where I want to be really specific about what I’m making, and I’m with my sock drawer in good shape, I’m especially interested in garments and accessories. With Me Made May ending today, I will for sure be writing more about this in the near future, but with travel top of mind, I thought I should pull this out as a separate post.

In the mountains

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I really thought I’d have time to post before now, but there’s something about going on vacation in the middle of the week that makes life crazy. I am in no way complaining though, because now we’re here, and it’s wonderful. L and I have been planning this trip to Switzerland for months, and it almost doesn’t feel real, but then we think about what we’re going to do tomorrow and it involves hiking to 2,000 metres in the alps and well, there’s no denying the reality of that (or the reality of how stiff my legs will be afterwards!)

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Anyway, there will be a more exciting, detail- and photo-filled post later, but I couldn’t resist posting these evening shots L took last night. This is the view across the valley (amplified with some zoom) and even though the clouds have been hiding the tops of most of the mountains, they work in our favour at sunset.

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Ah. So lovely. And more to come, I promise.

September adventure

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Last week I took off from Toronto and went to visit my sister in Fort St. John, B.C., which is pretty far west and north from me (it’s more-or-less in line with Fort McMurry and almost as far north as Juneau, Alaska). The travel time was a bit crazy, especially since I missed my original flight (which is to say, I missed the baggage cut off, by four minutes, and so while I could board my bag couldn’t, which meant I couldn’t really board, so I had to wait for the next flight. Ugh.) but it gave me lots of knitting and reading time.

Anyway, it was, of course, entirely worth it. I hadn’t seen my sister since May (right before she moved up there), so getting to hang out with her and her boyfriend — and their dog and their cat! — was awesome. That they happen to live in a beautiful part of the country, and that I managed to time my visit perfectly, was really just a bonus. I don’t have any photos of the actual town, but here’s a little tour of the countryside.

View of the Peace River.

View of the Peace River.

I had never seen chipmunks climb grass before!

I had never seen chipmunks climb grass before!

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Charlie Lake.

Charlie Lake.

Tully! He's an Australian Shepherd, incredibly well behaved, and super energetic at 4.5 months old.

Tully! He’s an Australian Shepherd, incredibly well behaved, and super energetic at 4.5 months old.

The view driving into Monkman Provincial Park, in the Central Rocky Mountains.

The view driving into Monkman Provincial Park, in the Central Rocky Mountains.

Kinuseo Falls, from the top (where we had lunch).

Kinuseo Falls, from the top (where we had lunch).

Kinuseo Falls after hiking down to the bottom. They're actually taller than Niagara Falls, though there's less water moving over them.

Kinuseo Falls after hiking down to the bottom. They’re actually taller than Niagara Falls, though there’s less water moving over them. (I took this just before it started to rain, so there are a bunch of photos from that day that have water splotches on them.)

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After the rain.

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View looking back over the mountains toward Tumbler Ridge.

That last photo, of the wind turbines, is a really good explanation of what it was like up there: both wild and completely affected by industry. There’s a lot of mining and oil and gas work, so even when you think you’re somewhere untouched you turn around and see that the side of a hill has been carved up or terraced. It’s a strange dichotomy, but makes for very striking views. Rest assured, if they’re still living there in a year, I’ll for sure go back.