Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wanted - a yarn caking station

I was caking some yarn for the next draft of the lace fingerless mitt pattern when I realized something terrible:

I haven't factored in yarn-caking space for the new house.

How could I have forgotten?  When all this adding-on project started, I dreamed of having a place where I could leave out the swift and ball winder all the time.  I distinctly remember fighting for a place in the laundry room to set out drying mats when I'm blocking a lace knit (non-knitters, they just don't get it), but I've totally forgotten a table for the swift near something where I can clamp the winder.

It's not that I mind taking them out every time I need them - it's just that the setup takes time, as does the takedown, and the point is to remove every possible obstacle between Me and Impulse Cast-ons.  To be sure I'll have more time once the renovations are over.  But still, it's such a central part of my life, prepping yarn to knit or weave with.  And I'm not sure there's any place I can set them up at all.

I know I can't tuck this gear into my office because the desk will be against the wall and I doubt it will even make 18" in depth.  Nowhere near enough spinning space for the swift.

I won't put it into my living room, or the kitchen, or the dining room - everything there is new and expensive and I wouldn't dare clamp the winder on to any of it.

I could slip it into the bedroom, or the laundry room.  I wonder how much space I'll have left in the laundry room when the heating and ventilation system is installed?

This old, chipped IKEA coffee table has been pretty good for the job, I have to say... I wasn't planning to bring it back to the house, but maybe I should, huh?

Or maybe I should just stick to my knitting and trust that the solution will work itself out as I go along.

A girl can hope.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

History walk

I don't know about you, but it's always a leap of faith for me to imagine the lives of people who died a generation before I was born.  I am fascinated by their stories and spend a lot of my downtime researching social history without being able to relate to them in a tangible way.  So - we had some fun this past weekend looking for traces of 1900 in our 2016 neighbourhood.

I started with this map from 1910, cropped to just a few blocks around our temporary condo home:

Our condo building replaced almost the whole block to the left
of St. Lawrence Market, shown bottom right

The map is from Goad's Atlas, helpfully scanned and uploaded by Nathan at Recursion.  It was fun to compare what what the area looked like in 1910 to what it looked like in Goad's 1884 map, and I made a note to pay attention to the places where there were differences as we walked by in person.

In the middle of both maps, for example, there is a police station surrounded by roads on all four sides, with a courthouse at the back that fronts onto Adelaide Street  Now though, the police station is a park, and the courthouse is a restaurant.  I had forgotten until I noticed this that in my mystery-writing days I went with a few other Sisters in Crime members with a newspaper photographer to be snapped in the jail cells that are still in the basement there.  They're small and dark and not meant for a group of people holding books.

Once I was really looking, I saw a lot of evidence of the way the city used to look.  How did I miss registering this gem on my regular walks up Church Street, for example?

I know how: I'm too busy watching traffic.  Downtown driving is only slightly less treacherous than downtown walking.  Anyway: it's the original head office of Confederation Life, and it was built in 1892. 

Another thing I did before we went out was to source some photographs of old Toronto as a reference point.  Our condo unit is just a few feet north of the second floor window on the extreme right of this photograph from the 1890s:

(the flatiron building on the left is still standing, and is the constant subject of visitor photographs.  also, the pub underneath does an awesome shepherd's pie!)

Check out this photograph of people getting on a streetcar at Yonge Street and Queen - just north of where I cropped my map - in 1908 or thereabouts:

It's crowded on streetcars today but it looks like it was then too, and certainly at that busy intersection.  Imagine coping with cramped standing space while wearing one of those hats!  You almost never see those things pictured from the side so I didn't know they were quite so crazy big.

Once you're looking, you can tell there are a lot of old buildings (by new world standards) still in use in Toronto today.  This one is at the northeast corner of Lombard and Victoria:

And this whole block is on the south side of Colborne, just west of Church.  I love how well all of it's been preserved because it makes it so much easier to imagine the little elements of what life was here like a hundred years ago.

Lots of arches, aren't there.  And you go up a few steps to access many of the main floor shops and restaurants that occupy them now.

It's funny about the ugly parking lot I stood in to take this picture.  The pretty sculpture garden I walk through most days just to the north of our building was once a run of buildings like these, torn down in the 1930s to make space for - a parking lot!  I can definitely imagine how the city struggled to adapt to the growth of the automobile industry, because parking is still a huge issue here, and everywhere else too.

Of course, after we got home again I discovered this list of all the old buildings still standing in Toronto.  Oh well, we'll use it next time!

How about your neighbourhood?  Do you know what stood there a hundred years before you did? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An easy weekend with knitting

It was so nice to be able to press Pause this past weekend and just live.  I don't usually get to do that, even on a day off - do you?

The cathedral near our temporary home is open again after being closed for months for a major renovation, so I went there for Easter mass - early, to be sure to get one of the chairs that are standing in for pews until the floor is down.  And 'early' means 'knitting time.'

The temporary plywood floors bounce like crazy as people walk over them, and my chair did too... usually churches are all about providing stability, so it was an interesting sensation.

I love going into churches to see how they were decorated, and looking at the stained glass and thinking about the people who donated it in memory of somebody they loved.  My favourite church so far is the one in Bay Bulls, which I visited when I was in Newfoundland last spring:

I still remember how clean and calm it felt in there.  It's great that the placement of the wood planks gets to add to the sculpted feeling of the roof.  Also I really, really loved the light fixtures, of which I could not get a good picture because they were lit and my camera is not super exciting on the feature front.

I'd gotten used to the cathedral having scaffolding over the ceiling to support the team of artists who were repainting it, but I know this is quite a difference to what was up there before:

I was in to see it just before Christmas when there was a big open house, too, and everybody was asking out of the sides of their mouths: what is with the salmon pink??

Now that the work has progressed farther I can see that a lot of trouble has been taken with the grey on grey walls, some of which appear to have been sponged.  On the upside, it's a much brighter space than it was in the old days, though of course - it's still not finished, and we may be seeing some more dark accents to pull it all together and warm up the cement feeling.  I think the focus was on putting it back to the general style it had when it was opened in 1848.  I am trying to imagine what our frugal 1848 immigrant ancestors would have felt about stone painted to look like stone, with salmon pink accents. 

I am wrong to judge though, because I had ONE JOB and that was to wear Easter stripe socks since I wasn't knitting Easter stripe socks.  I forgot though.  And they showed, too.  Rats!

When I was prepping the vegetables for our Easter supper - Pete barbequed steaks on the shared terrace - I remembered a recipe I'd seen for fruit cobbler.  I did take a picture to show you but it does not do the thing justice, even though I used my beautiful new yellow pan to bake it.  The recipe was super simple and super delicious without being terribly sweet, so if you're thinking about cobbler, give it a try - and do add more fruit if you like.  I used 3 cups of frozen blueberries and raspberries, following advice from other reviewers.  I had it hot from the oven and cold from the fridge and it was fabulous - totally irresistible - either way.

As for prep: couldn't have been easier!  I put together all the dry ingredients while the vegetables were cooking, then quickly assembled it while Pete served the plates, and slipped it all into the oven to cook while we ate.  In the house it will be easier still because the range I picked has an independent baking oven so I won't have to do any choreography at all.

Ah, the dream of 'in the house'.  That magical time when there will be no renovation to organize or interior decor to agonize over.  Lots of windows (even if they are tinted green) with light pouring through (even if it's tinted green too) and clean new furniture on which to photograph all the knitting I'll be doing again.  Heaven!  Well, it'll happen soon enough.  Meanwhile, it's nice just to have a weekend that isn't too complicated, don't you think?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Troublesome lace: looks great, breaks hearts

The lace pattern I picked for the back of the fingerless mitts I've been playing with is super easy, but I keep messing it up anyway.  I messed it up so many times on the left hand mitt, it took me many many tries and froggings and try-overs to realize I'd actually transposed the instructions incorrectly when I adapted them for the right mitt.  GAH.  But I finally did figure it out.

The trick, I think, is to not watch Murdoch Mysteries from a chair without a lamp while trying to knit this lace.  Especially if you wear trifocals.  It's too hard to shift your glasses up or down, move the knitting closer to the ceiling light a few feet away, refer to the instructions (even if you have a chart, and have enlarged the text to 14 points) and still follow a show that has so much going on visually.  For much the same reason, home renovation shows are not a great choice either.

After I worked out all the glitches though and made sure I had a good light source, I was able to get the second mitt done and do the thumbs.  Finally!  What has it been?  A week?  Two weeks?

These thumbs look awful I know, but it's the same situation you find with a garment that looks so ugly on the rack you can't imagine it ever being flattering on, and then you slip it over your head and WOW, price no object.  The thumbs work really well and look perfect.

I'm not 100% sold on their position though. I think I want them shifted over by a stitch or two, so I'm going to knit a second pair - a little larger with the thumb offset - and then I should be good to go for sharing the pattern.

Hope you had a great Easter weekend, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fireplaces of doom

The other day - I mean, literally, just a couple of days ago, after more than a year of saying NO to a fireplace in the living room because our original fireplace was in what will now be the dining room and hello: tradition - I said to Pete, what do you think about a fireplace in the living room and in the dining room?

From Laura Ashley's U.S. blog - Ambleside Collection

Two things prompted this crazy notion.  One, it has always bugged me that we will have our fireplace in the dining room where nobody (read: me) can curl up in an easy chair with a book or the phone or, duh, some knitting to enjoy it.  The room in question is long and narrow and therefore terrible for a sofa and chairs, so it's not like I could just say 'Meh, let's put the living room there and leave the bigger square room for the dining table.'  Believe me, I've tried.  For more than a year.

This Windsor Arch fireplace from Valor is just 22" wide, but it kicks out the heat of a 30-incher.

The other thing is that Andy and I are finalizing the custom cabinetry that is spilling out of the kitchen into the living and dining rooms, because without him magically designing them for us we will have zero space for a china cabinet or bookcases.  We don't have a ton of china, but books?  I will be stacking them up as end tables if I don't have shelves for those.  However, when I looked at the elevations for the living room I thought: something is missing.


Don't knitters all need a fireplace in their dream homes?  In fact, now that I think of it, all I've ever wanted in a house is a fireplace and a window seat, not that I'm getting a window seat either, though I am getting a bump out that's sort of like a window seat, which is better than a kick in the teeth.

So here is what happened when I suggested the fireplace to Pete.

He said Well, let's look into it.  Mistake Number One.  His job is to squash my more ludicrous ideas, not encourage me to spend more money on the house.

I politely refrained from pointing this out to him and said Okay, and did that, and then let Andy know we were thinking of a living room fireplace too.

Andy was Very Patient (because we are about ten minutes away from finally submitting the cabinetry order to production after months of trying to come up with a kitchen design that met everybody's wish list) and asked me to get him specs for the fireplace we wanted.

The 'Bolero' face for the Valor fireplace is growing on me...

I immediately looked into more fireplaces and asked Brian, our HVAC friend, about running gas lines: Brian said Sure, no problem.  Then I mentioned the idea of a living room fireplace to Ray, who ever since has been saying a series of variations on "Mary, you're not really putting in a second fireplace, are you?  I mean, seriously?  I think it's overkill."

And the thing is, Ray is not wrong, and I know he's not wrong.  Gas fireplaces are expensive, and two on one floor is a lot, even if you are only being sensible and providing a backup heat source in case of a long power outage.  Even one of them kicks out SO much heat, and we are going to have crazy amounts of insulation to hold all that in - a second fireplace for backup heat is unnecessary.  Plus, they take up valuable sitting and storage and TV space, and our house is pretty tiny already.  Did I mention the tiny?  If we install two fireplaces - even though they would be at opposite corners of the house in totally separate rooms - we are installing two fireplaces into a 780 square foot space.  That is insanely well insulated and will probably almost never be cold in the first place.

Pete loves Valor's President front, shown here with a mantel from Fires of Tradition

I know too that if we really want a second fireplace Ray will do his part to make it happen - and indeed, he's already suggested a tidy route for running the gas line through the house to the opposite corner from the entry point such that it won't intrude on any rooms, and he even offered to mount a metal plate over the line where it drops from between the joists so that if anybody ever decides to nail a hole into the wall where it is, they will not puncture said line.

Ray is fantastic, and he might not only be Not Wrong, but Right about the second fireplace. I mean, I'm not a huge fan of running a long gas pipe through the entire house, apart from everything else.  Everything else being $$$$$SSssszzzzzzz why does everything I like have to cost so much.

Meanwhile... I have been showing Pete pictures of fireplaces, and today we had a date to go to an actual fireplace store, and now he has reached the point where he can no longer see the living room without a fireplace in it.

Once again, Mary Creates Monster.

Valor's Portrait series fireplace, with a 'Clearview' frame: as design-neutral as you can get

So, this might be my last post for the week.  If we're gonna do a second fireplace I have to do a lot of research to make Andy's job as easy as possible on Monday.  And then I gotta tell Ray, who thought I was joking when I texted him from the store that the fireplaces are gorgeous and I want one in every room now.  Ha ha, Ray!  I wasn't joking, even when we laughed about putting a fireplace in the bathroom.

(good thing he doesn't read Hugs, huh?)

Happy Easter if I don't see you before that, and knit something great so I can live vicariously through you from my Pinterest and Houzz screens!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Focal points: how to control them

When it comes to interior design, my perspective has always been the same as the one I have on fashion: ignore what's 'in' and just choose what suits you and your specific, practical needs.  I can't get into the whole complexity of why one lamp works better than another any more than I can understand Vogue magazine (the latter being a deep disappointment to me, because as a textile- and vintage-loving person I have always loved clothes and their construction.)  To borrow a cliche, I just know what I like.

And I definitely like this interior from Vintage South Development.  Wow.

For me the most important thing to put into a home - apart from functional considerations like a bathroom, laundry, and clothing storage - is horizontal surfaces for books and other interests, and comfy chairs to sit in, and a place to prep food and eat it, and a place to sleep.  And I've always been able to put together a welcoming, comfortable space around those elements without having to think too much, even if I make mistakes like putting an eye-catching bright blue cloth on the plainest of the tables we inherited with a home, so that the cutest table fades into the wall.

Guest room at the cottage: it won't win design awards, but it's functional.

Ha!  I miss those days.  I can see now that interior design is complex because it's art.  When you look at a magazine spread you are seeing whatever lifestyle trends are coming down the road, and specific products that the magazine is promoting, but you're also seeing Staging.  If a photograph of a room calls out to you in a way that makes your shoulders drop a little, or your eyebrows come together and lift in the middle while your mouth opens to let out an ohhhh? sound, it's because it's communicating a way of life that you wish was yours.

Like the photo I opened with - that space would never work for me as a back door. I'd need a space for shoes, for the seat cushions I'd be bringing in from the rain, for the books that would need to pile up on a little table.  But for the life I'd like to have, it would be a dream back door.  Because there would be someplace else to put the books, and somebody else would be dealing with the cushions or else they'd be all-weather and never need to come inside, and I wouldn't have to wear shoes outside or take them off inside because the deck and grass would be pristine.  The focal points in that image - the very tall window, the open door that draws the eye because it's darker than the walls, the beautiful light fixture on top that balances the grainy darker floor below - they all say Peaceful and Escapist and Pampered to me.

I feel the same way about this image, which I know I've shared here at least once before.  It's at the side of a driveway  for a condo building at a busy, noisy corner I would not choose for my home, and I'm sure nobody ever goes to sit or walk there because hello, driveway off of four-lane urban street?  But I don't care.  Every time I walk past the place I just want the life that's implied by the landscaping.

It seems to me that if you break down the details of what your instinct tells you is attractive, the things that create feeling in a room are shape, texture, and colour.  They're important because they all create contrast, and contrast draws your eye.  Framing helps too, as with the arches over that driveway, or the dark hits of light fixture, floor, and door in the entry picture.

I feel the principle is much the same with fashion - and for the purposes of this discussion, knitting in particular.  If you throw a cable or a colour block or a cool button onto a sweater, that's where people look first.

Remember this sweater?  I notice the buttons first, and the dark line of the raglan sleeve second. The ribbed front opening barely registers because the contrast is so minor.  If I were doing it over, I would get a grip and go out and buy bigger, more neutral buttons.  I am pretty sure I picked the pink because I had them, I loved them, and I wanted to use them somewhere.  Not always a recipe for success.

Now that we're almost at the decorating part of the house project, and facing the issue of preparing the condo for new occupants, I'm fixated on focal points and my inept approach to them in the past.  They are so powerful!  If they are on something you really want to see, your heart sings.  But if they aren't, no matter how much else you get right, your heart screams.

Our house is going to have a lot of white in it, especially on the main floor - tons of white custom cabinetry on many walls.  Many other walls are all window, which leaves me little room for paint.  And the floors will be pale because we chose a high-grade maple, with minimal grain and a natural stain.  Our colourful furniture is going to stand out as a stark focal point, as opposed to an alluring one, unless I anchor the few walls we do have with colour and texture that tie it all in.

The condo, on the other hand... well.  If we're selling it, we can stage it with furniture and carpets that conceal the parquet floor because the cost of staging might result in a better sale price.  If we're renting it, there's a going rate and there will be no return on the staging expense.  So all people will see is this super dark, dated floor.

I keep reading that staining parquet as dark as you can is the answer to making it look fresh and new and stylish, but I don't see it.  This floor isn't so dark as to show every single piece of lint - a problem with ebony stain, apparently - but it dominates everything.  Except over by the huge living room window of course, where it changes abruptly to a honey toned parquet floor that stands out because of - yep - contrast.  Yay, former 'solarium' and division strip!

We've decided we want to keep the condo and rent it out, so we have to figure out how to deal with this floor.  My vote is this:  sand the parquet, stain it white, seal the heck out of it, and park a really amazing large plant at the living room window.  Then all our prospective tenants will see is green, indoors and out, and a huge clean space to live in, hopefully with a fantastic new kitchen to match.

Fingers crossed that it will work, and also, that I can do some of the work because ooooh man.  There is a lot of floor here and a lost of cost to make it right!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Knitting weather

I don't know whether you've ever experienced this but there is a time of day, and a quality of light, and a general feeling of Grey And Miserable, that makes me feel like I'm in a moody Rowan pattern book and should be by my fireside knitting with a steaming hot cup of something at my side.  Today was like that:

And while I mention it, can I just call your attention to the knots and/or holes in the tree on the foreground and the way they balance the front door and window in the cathedral?  I truly just stopped and snapped this picture with my phone but wow, I love it.

Sadly I did not get to knit once I got back indoors, but I did spend many hours researching fireplaces.  We had always planned to put one into the dining room but we don't have space for the 36" one we'd sourced first, so now we are in the weeds - hardly anybody does a smaller fireplace with a realistic flame and not-laughable log set.  And now I kind of want a fireplace for the living room too so... even more research to do!  yay.  Pete and I are meeting at an actual store tomorrow and hopefully we can lock this decision down.

The other day I saw an ad for a pop-up shelter that made me think of summer knitting.  In a cage. 

They should totally have had this model demonstrate knitting in that chair, instead of zipping the flap shut.  I am not mocking, either - I absolutely want one of these things so I can knit on the deck at the cottage!  after I've killed all the bugs that got in with me, of course.  I wonder whether they'd make good shade at the dock, too?  You'll find it at Lee Valley Tools, if you're with me on the insect hate.

Did you knit today?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Knitting and Netflix

I'm late to the party for Netflix - every other knitter I know is using it as a knitting companion - but it really is a fun resource.  Yesterday I noticed I was at an awkward part of my travel sock and decided to take a break from my second mitt to watch Death Comes To Pemberley while I finished the gusset.

I'll be on public transit quite a bit today and if I'm going to knit, I don't want to have to look too closely to see where I need decreases.  So: sock knitting.

And stripe admiring.

I'm not sure how I feel about Death Comes To Pemberley.  Fanfiction is a bit iffy to me - when somebody's gone to the trouble to create characters, especially ones as vivid as Jane Austen's, it seems to me that they should have the rights to them in perpetuity.  I mean, unless they were put together like a boy band, by writers working in a team to meet the requirements of the marketing arm of a corporation.  And really, what I noticed most about the TV production of P. D. James' book is how absolutely humourless it is.  Not a seamless shift from the many comic moments in Pride and Prejudice.

The other series I'm watching on Netflix is Murdoch Mysteries, which I can highly recommend.  If you don't know it, it's a Canadian series set in Toronto during the 1890s and early 1900s, and Detective Murdoch is at the cutting edge of scientific means of detection.  The first and second coroners are both very progressively-minded women, and there's a lot of humour too, not to mention fantastic costumes.  I used to be very active in the local Sisters in Crime chapter - this is a group that promotes the work of of female mystery writers - and I always loved chatting with Maureen Jennings who is incredibly nice and did a ton of historic research to write the books on which the TV show is based, so it's kind of comforting to me to be able to watch episodes back to back.

(also, the stories are set pretty much exactly where our condo is: can't get much more local than that!)

One thing I will say about Pemberly though: FABulous costumes and set design.  I mean yes, the ladies end up wearing the same dresses repeatedly, but at least they're beautifully made.  And I'm feeling kind of fixated on the collar of Darcy's coats and shirts.  I've seen that style many times before obviously but somehow in this production, I can really appreciate the construction.  Is it the light, or the fabric's weight or colour?  I don't know.  But it's riveting.

And after all that Netflix-watching, I got my sock where I needed it to be.  Yay! All set for another exciting week.  Hope your Monday goes well and I'll see you tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Smitten with my knitting

I am feeling more than a little besotted with the way this fingerless glove has come out so far:

Of course I still have to sort out the thumb, but I'm hopeful my very simple solution will be effective - or at least, effective enough to suit my needs.

The yarn is some leftover Viola in Emily's 'Orchard' colourway and while I'm not confident she still produces that particular one, her others do often feature this speckling of colour.  I am pretty sure I could have planned for six months and not have found a better stitch to display it to advantage. 

Also: this lace pattern is just complicated enough to be interesting without being a hassle to keep track of, which is pretty much my favourite setup.  Yay!!!

It's going to be super hard, but I'm going to do the thumb on this mitt before I move on to the other, even though I'm dying to see how the two look together even without thumbs.  I mean, this never happens: even though it did take me a whole day to find the yarn I wanted and the stitch I liked and the numbers that worked, the end result is easy and logical and balanced.  It's like writing, when a story just falls into your lap and all you have to do is type it up. That's not how writing works normally so you have to celebrate when it happens!

I was planning to do a strip of stocking stitch down both sides of the hand and knit lace for front and back, but when it came to the point I did the palm in plain stocking stitch - I like to have long stretches of knitting regardless, but I find it's more functional to have a flat fabric where you're holding things. 

Yum!  I'm so excited for these, and I can already imagine a pair wrapped up in plain paper with a pretty string, to give for next Christmas.  But I shouldn't get ahead of myself because hello: still have to knit the mate.  Gah. 

Well, maybe I can get that done over the weekend and enjoy them a bit before the weather's too warm even for fingerless mitts.  Hope you get some fun knitting in this weekend and I'll see you Monday!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Home sweet home

I did something today I've been wanting to do for years: I visited The Spadina House museum here in Toronto.  It's a stately home that belonged to the same family for five generations and, when finally let go in 1982, was part sold, part donated to the city to preserve as a museum, along with all those years' worth of household records and furniture and artifacts.  Basically, a treasure trove for history buffs (check out the images of the interiors and exterior here.)  The house has been presented as it looked in the 1920s and 1930s and is utterly charming.  But you know what?  The only handmade-looking textile I saw was this bedspread in one of the servants' rooms:

It's crochet, and it's gorgeous don't you think?  That floral wallpaper is original, by the way - not a reproduction.  It's quite interesting to see the difference between this and the other wallpapers on the third floor, and the reproduction papers on the second floor.  100+ years takes their toll, but you can see the family bought quality when they decorated.

Before I got to Spadina House I was at Casa Loma next door, which is a huge attraction - and when I say 'huge', I mean 'huge.'  It's another family home but this time, the indulgence of a very rich man who wanted his own Edwardian castle.  He was never able to finish it, in spite of living in it for ten years, and eventually went broke and had to sell it off. 

A cautionary tale for somebody who's renovating, for sure.  How much is too much when it comes to creating the house of your dreams?  And at what point does choosing quality mean putting one's financial security at risk?  Good wallpaper is obviously a wise choice, but good stables accessible through a tunnel dug under the road the city wouldn't move for you when you asked is probably not.

We're not using wallpaper as far as I know - I may yet change my mind - but Ray is taking care to ensure that every pipe and wire we need can tuck inside the walls.  He's being very firm with our HVAC team on this point too - he doesn't want us to have any boxes accommodating pipe elbows or manifolds or anything else in our living space.  Check out the plumbing for the basement bath and parts of the first and second floor bathrooms:

I love how perfect this is!  It's like a stylized tree. It never ceases to amaze and impress me, how important it is to Ray to think through every step and do the best possible job for the long term, as though five generations will live in this house too.

Meanwhile, I find I can superimpose the finished product over what's in the space now.  For example, my laundry room, with the dryer on the extreme right and the washer just to the left of it, over the drain that goes out to the city's pipes:

And the two bookshelves Ray has framed into our old basement doorways:

I am so glad we love our condo and it's not an issue that the house is still so far from done.  Also: so glad I have time to work out more finishing details so they can be as right as the plumbing locations.  I do have to commit to the bathtub this weekend though, so Ray can put in the valves and things on Monday.  Yikes.

I think knitting first though, don't you?  No point in having a home if you don't have needlework, even if it's just in the maid's bedroom!  Off I go - hope you are tucking some nice crafting time into today, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Technology for knitting

Still working on those fingerless mitts here, however slow the pace.  But I'm really loving how they are coming out with the remnants of my 'orchard' fingering from Viola... probably the lace would look better in a true solid, but if I were going for texture, I sure did hit it.

Normally when I design a pattern I'm surrounded by scraps of paper where I'm working out gauge and pattern stitches and sizing and shaping, but this time I'm just too tired.  I don't even want to get out of my chair.  So... I've done the whole thing on my iPhone. 

I did start with a pattern book, though it wasn't the one I like best.  But once I found the stitch I wanted to use, I photographed it with the phone and then transcribed it over into my 'notes' app.  That's also where I noted the gauge and the number of stitches I'd need to hit the right balance between the lace pattern and the size I want.  As I worked out the thumb opening, I just copied and pasted the first few rounds into the bottom of my Note and adapted the text for working flat instead of in the round.  Then I copied the whole thing again and pasted it for the instructions for the second mitt, since the thumb openings require mirror image mittens.  I figure that when I'm done - or sooner, lest I lose the phone - I'll just copy and past the pattern notes into an e-mail to myself, pick them up from my computer, and use them for a Word document I'll later turn into a .pdf.

Yay, no paper!

If only I'd transcribed the pattern stitch right the first time...

I went on for four rounds before I realized I'd left out a critical Knit One in the last round of the pattern.  Whoops!  Nothing for it but to rip back - and because lace is so fussy, I had to do it stitch by stitch instead of pulling out the needles and speed-frogging it.

Hope your day went well without anything going wrong that couldn't be as easily addressed as that.  See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kitchen time

I can tell I hit the wall with my years-long regimen of minimal sleep and maximum multitasking, because between rounds of garter stitch glove cuff all I could think about this weekend was baking.  And when I say 'baking', I mean that just a few months short of having to pack up everything and move to a new kitchen, I was out buying more cooking gear because I didn't have exactly the right pan for a recipe I wanted to try.

Incredible luck that the discount housewares store across the street had exactly the right pan for $17, huh?  And it's made in France and marketed by Le Cordon Bleu so I feel very fancy about having it in my kitchen.

It looked a little less fancy after I served the first few bowls of Poor Man's Pudding, but I still love it and I think I'll use it a lot.

Poor Man's Pudding came to my attention when I considered going to a Sugar Shack event walking distance from the condo (I thought better of it - knitting commitments, you know) and read that Redpath Sugar would be demonstrating how to make it.  Basically, this is a very inexpensive dessert that French-Canadian moms have been preparing for their families for many a long moon.  It consists of white cake batter you flood with a brown sugar syrup and shove into the oven; as it cooks, the syrup infiltrates the batter and forms a sauce on the bottom of the pan, and when you serve it, it looks like bread pudding and tastes like pancakes.

(and yes, I'd make it again, but I'd use WAY less sugar and sub in some maple syrup for the sauce too.  remember, this recipe and the others I lifted and pinned to my new Pinterest food board are from a sugar company, so they have a slightly different take on how much is too much.)

Even though there is still some pudding in the fridge, I decided to make cookies today.  I was supposed to make some of these at Christmas so - only 2.5 months late, right?  Better than never.

What all this nesting boils down to, I guess, is that I'm ready to stop planning a space and start enjoying it.  Sadly: the space I get to enjoy is the condo's kitchen, which leaves a lot to be desired.  I'm not talking about the finishes, which are regrettable - a busy brown faux granite laminate counter over a busy faux stone vinyl tile floor, plus a faceted super shiny white subway tile set off with a brown and blue accent line - but the layout.

I think originally, the kitchens in this building were set up with a side entrance near one end, and counters running on all four walls.  The fridge faced the quite generous doorway, and there was heaps of storage instead of any seating, since there is a generous dining area with chandelier facing the entry door.  At some point before we bought our unit, the previous owner renovated to remove some of the cabinetry in favour of an eat-in kitchen with less, but still adequate, storage. This required moving the refrigerator down to the far end of a narrow galley kitchen - past the stove, and across from the sink and garbage cans.  Pete and I fall over each other constantly even if only one of us is trying to do meal prep, because the other can't pour beverages or clear counter space without squeezing past the person at the stove for fridge and garbage access.  

Now of course everybody wants open concept and luxury finishes, and in this part of the city, a condo has to have those qualities to compete in the marketplace, so it's a no brainer that we need to put those in before we offer it for sale or lease.  We also have to move the fridge, obviously.  Actually I'd like to put a door where the fridge is, because a galley kitchen really needs an entrance at either end to manage traffic flow, but hello: budget?

Yeah, budget.  We planned for our house renovation for so long, we haven't had to be frugal with our decision making until now.  But infloor heat costs what infloor heat costs, so bye-bye easy solutions to the condo kitchen, floors (omigosh, about 1400 square feet's worth) and window treatments.

One of my many cousins is a great real estate agent with an investment property of her own in the same neighbourhood as our condo, and Andy has spent his whole career on high-end kitchens in a huge range of physical settings, and I think Ray and Al will still be speaking to me by the time the house is done such that they will agree to come back to the condo for final tweaks, but man.  All that baking time I'm doing is really about me thinking how to make that space sing loud enough for somebody else to want to live here even more than I do.

Meanwhile, Andy has sent over the almost-final CAD drawings of our house-kitchen, and I am dying to show them to you.  Soon!

Question of the day

If you had old battered parquet floors covering a daunting 1400 square feet in a market that demands shiny new hardwood, and you wanted to rent or sell your place quickly, would you:

a/ rip up the parquet and put down shiny new hardwood (most expensive), or

b/ refinish the parquet and stain it in some modern-looking colour like dark grey, or even bleach it white (least expensive), or

c/ put down affordable hardwood-look porcelain tile (somewhere in between)?

This is what I'm going to ask Alana, but I'm curious to know what you guys think too.

Okay - that's it for me for today.  I have a baking explosion to tidy up and another home renovation show to watch!  Take care and I'll see you tomorrow.

Monday, March 14, 2016

How that project idea went

Remember on Friday I had that great idea for a fingerless glove pattern? I was so excited to spend the weekend working on it!  On Saturday I looked for the dream yarn I knew I'd put aside somewhere, and ripped needles out of a different project I decided I don't like any more because I needed them for this one, and then looked for my favourite stitch dictionary, and then gave up and used a different stitch dictionary, and then tried to learn how to knit veil stitch, and then gave up and found a different stitch I liked, and then did a gauge swatch, and then sat and knitted part of a cuff.

On Sunday, I noticed I'd managed to add a stitch at some point.  I tried to rip individual stitches back to trace my mistake, but...


Sometimes you need to do a proper frog.  I'd picked up the extra stitch so far back, the floats were too big to hide.  Needles out, folks.

Doesn't look shorter than it did before, does it?  And yet: it's many many rounds shorter.  I still think this is going to be a gorgeous mitt, but man, a garter cuff in fingering yarn takes a long time to knit, especially when you haven't decided yet how long it's going to be.

I know I will deeply appreciate a nice deep cuff once I'm wearing it.  If I have enough yarn to pull that off, which is another vague worry I'm going to try not to think about.  'Just enjoy the process' is the advice I'm trying to hold near right  now, rather than 'Find the shortest route between idea and actual item.'

Still... I spent a whole weekend focused on knitting and have just part of a cuff to show for it, and I can't help thinking that's at least a little sad.  I hope the second glove will go faster than this one. Faster processes are so much easier for me to enjoy, heh.

How was your weekend?

Friday, March 11, 2016

New yarn and a new project

Okay, time to look at pretty yarn!

When I pulled these new skeins of Viola out to photograph them I realized they too are pretty much the colours we picked for our living room, so technically they should all end up as pillows or something for the house, but I suppose they will be socks and hats and cowls like everything else I knit.  If I was more organized (and maybe it'll happen someday) I would just knit them all together into a big stripey sweater.  YUM.

The first thing I did when I got to The Purple Purl the other night was to ask Emily what yarns are her current favourites, and she told me I should try her totally local Mooresburg DK, so that was the first thing I picked up.

All the colours were amazing but I am trying to choose ones with some green in them, since that's what best suits my colouring... and the first thing that caught my eye were these two blues.  I discovered later that the colourway is called Sea Storm - the same thing I bought from Emily all those years ago when she first started out! 

At least it looks a little different on this base yarn, so it's not like I have a closet full of just one thing.  Really it was striking how different each colourway looks depending on the fibers in the base yarn.  The colours on the Polworth/Apalca base yarn, for example - Emily's other recommendation - were downright muted compared to the way they looked on a simple merino single.

If I could face knitting with low-twist single-ply yarn I would have been in trouble because holy crow, the colours were just glittering on that base yarn!  Sorry I didn't get a picture of that.  I didn't think it was safe for me to have a reminder of how gorgeous they all were.

My all-time favourite fiber is bluefaced Leicester so I had to have some of that.  I was drawn to this blue/purple skein called Cosmic even though I have zero plans for it.

I couldn't leave without this pretty one-off experimental colourway either.  It's sort of coppery, which I always find hard to resist, and anyway, it's such a simple merino fingering - it'll be great for gender-neutral socks or lots of other things.

I've been stalled on thinking of a new project I'd like to knit but a few days ago a friend asked for suggestions that might suit a Pride and Prejudice type knitting swap and when I dug around I found a fingerless glove pattern that floored me - Eflets, by Elise Dupont.  Sadly the pattern is in a French magazine and though it's supposed to be more widely available this month that doesn't do me much good this weekend!

So, for the first time in a long time, I'm thinking about working up a project without a pattern.  Eflets is a double layered glove with a thumb and it looks like it's worked in the round, but I'll hold off for the real thing to do that.  I've got a simpler approach in mind, just enough to get a knitting fix!  I'm determined to have actual knitting time over the next few days - no writing, no house planning (even though I need to start looking at custom mechanized blinds very soon), just rest and relaxation.

Hope you get some of that too and I'll see you next week!