Saturday, August 15, 2009

Who Taught You to Knit?

Paying respects to my Nana

Greetings my lovelies, if you're eagerly awaiting fall like me, you'll have welcomed the rain in the Terminal City these past few days. Two days I didn't have to water my out-of-control basil, oregano, and catnip plants. The tarragon may have a good chance of recovery too.

The cooler days have me also awaiting the fall fibre mags, especially Knitscene because I will cast on the Heather Hoodie Vest by Debbie O'Neill, in a reddish-brown shade of Bernat Softee Chunky yarn, my favourite acrylic. Warm and soft, it will be that extra hug I'll likely be looking for this fall.

My Nana taught me to knit and crochet at my request when I was about five years old and I've knit for the past 32 years since then. I've knit many sweaters, hats, and scarves over the years, designed some of my colourwork charts, and crocheted doilies and Christmas ornaments from many antique pattern books. In later years, Nana has been impressed with my fibre arts; knit and crocheted baby clothes, more complicated sweaters, hats, larger lace projects, my search to teach myself tatting, and finally my dream to knit socks.

Sadly, my Nana has had several strokes in the past six months which have now left her blind and with serious bleeding in her brain. The care home where she and now my grandfather both live has an amazing staff who don't just check on her every hour, but the care aides sit with her and listen to music, hold her hand and describe the day outside her window. They paint her nails a different colour each week. They make sure she's had a little puff of perfume if she's up to visiting in the great room. They promised us she would be not only kept comfortable but also kept groomed, cared for, and kept company. It's difficult to admit even to myself that we are just left to wait for her passing, but we are reassured that above all else, she will not suffer, and neither will her dignity.

I left her care home after hearing the doctor's prognosis and the promises from her care staff that they will take care of her, and stopped at my LYS initially for the fall Knitscene and Interweave Knits but they were out, so instead I picked up some sock yarn. When all else fails, I knit socks.

And really, the best way I can think of to honour my Nana for all that she taught me is to keep these skills and traditions alive. In my last post I wrote about my first foray into home canning, something I'm excited to keep up. It worked through the Great Depression and was a common household practice in the 40's and 50's. I hope home canning and preserving makes as much a comeback as the fibre arts have; I knew many classmates growing up whose parents didn't can fruits and veggies, make their own jams and relishes, nor did they knit or sew like my mom and my Nana did.

Because of the moves from a gated community to assisted living, and now to a care home, I've been receiving things that belonged to my Nana. Some are heirlooms, some have a monetary value, some only sentimental. There are jewelry pieces and antiques that were already decided would go to me, but some of the things I wanted most were my Nana's recipes. And the devilled egg plate with the centre pickle/relish dish with the chicken-shaped lid. I love that plate. Nana taught me how to make devilled eggs, too.

I'd love to hear what family traditions you're keeping alive, so please leave us a comment below, or email us at

On My Needles

With my need for a quick knit fix, I picked up a skein each of Noro's Kureyon Socks and Silk Garden Socks, on sale at 30% off at 88 Stitches in Langley's Walnut Grove neighbourhood. I've just started the toe decreases on the second cuff-down sock in Kureyon, and debating whether the Silk Garden Socks skein should be actual socks or the first fingerless gloves of the year.

But good news still happens in my family, I just found out my brother and sister-in-law are expecting a little sister for my nephew! Hooray! I get a niece! No plain booties and sweaters, I can knit something lacy and pretty! Squee!!

Review: Pic-Knit at Surrey Museum

Emily and I had a great time this year, the event coincided with the Cloverdale Blueberry Festival so there were local artisans in the courtyard with a stage for musicians along with some of the yarn vendors. Inside were our usual local vendors, an info table from my guild, the Fraser Valley Knitting Circle (more members for fall?), and the guest speakers were Vancouver's Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore, co-authors of Yarn Bombing: the art of crochet and knit graffiti (Arsenal Press). We had met Leanne and Mandy at Fibres West this past spring as they were promoting the book, and it was great to see them again, hear about their experiences in putting the book together, and obviously to get our very own signed copies. We hope to score an interview with them for a future podcast, once our professional-quality microphone arrives.

Barbara Braaten of Langley Yarns and Crafts was happy to see us again, and I was even happier to show her... a finished project! My Entomology scarf made out of some Yarns Plus tencel in colourway "Twilight" I bought from her near on three years ago. And I didn't have them with me, but I also knit a pair of socks in the Opal sock yarn I'd purchased at the same time.

But Barbara knows she'll see Emily and I at these events and she steered us toward a new project from Ashford, a kit to make your own nuno-felted scarf (see kit here). with silk merino sliver, a piece of silk chiffon (upon which the felting takes place) and complete instructions, you can bypass the sold-out nuno felting class at Maiwa and teach yourself for about $16 Cdn. Things you need to have on hand to complete the project include a rolling pin, hot water, detergent (for the felting), bubble wrap (for cushioning), a long flat surface to work on, and towels. It looks like a fun kit, I can't wait to give it a try!

Another yarn vendor I want to mention is the new line of yarns called Yarn Candy by Melissa. Melissa is the daughter of Sue, owner of 88 Stitches yarn shop in Langley and has been working her way into the yarn world. She started out selling handmade stitch markers and shawl pins on consignment and through her own etsy shop,, and she's now expanded to her own hand-dyed yarns.

She currently offers a range of base yarns including cashmere, cashmere blends, silk blends, and a super sock merino, in a variety of weights. Identifying her colourways by batch number rather than name, her eye for colours truly speaks for itself. I picked up two skeins of Super Sock Merino - she recommends two skeins for a pair, most people knit longer socks than I do - in a fuchsia-violet mix that caught my eye.

The yarn knit up beautifully, the colours blending perfectly with NO POOLING! I knit a sock from each skein and the colour shifts were subtle but still held their own. And after washing and blocking they were some of the softest socks ever on my feet. Next time I'm getting that brown-and-pink silk blend! Check her out online or pop in to 88 Stitches to pet her yarns and check out their stock of great yarns.

Housekeeping Stuff

As previously mentioned, Emily and I are awaiting the arrival of our new, professional-quality, "Snowball" podcasting microphone from Blue Microphones. It better work, and I just hope there's no import tax on it. But soon, my yarnies, soon we will be regaling you with our tales of bad fashion, rowdy SnB's, and our plans for dominance over the West Coast's fibre-arts community!

Coming soon: FALL KNITTING!! Hooray!!

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