Book Review – Botanical Knits: Twelve Designs Inspired by Trees and Foliage

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Big love for Alana Dakos

Alana Dakos is the super-talent behind the Never Not Knitting blog and podcast. I’ve been a fan of hers forever (who doesn’t love Coastal Knits, the legendary Cedar Leaf Shawlette and zillions of her other pretty things?) but I went into immediate obsessive-adoration mode when I saw the previews for her amazing new book: Botanical Knits.

Inspired partly by the plants and forests of California, every single one of the 12 gorgeous designs cries out to be made. Immediately. Colour-work like Fair Isle and stranding are very beautiful but in my heart, I am a texture knitter.  There is just something about the way cables weave together impossibly to make a squishy delicious fabric that really makes me happy.  And this book makes me very, very happy.  A quick read of various comments on Ravelry will tell you I’m not alone in wanting to make every leafy, twiggy thing in the book.

Here are some of my very most favourites from the book:

Entangled Vines cardigan
Entangled Vines cardigan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Floor beanie

Forest Floor beanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrapped in Leaves

Wrapped in Leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivy Trellis Socks (also available as mittens)

Ivy Trellis Socks (also available as mittens)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twigs and Willows cardigan

Twigs and Willows cardigan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instant Gratification – buy it now!

Purchase this beauty now at www.botanicalknits.com. The “real” book is available for pre-order (it ships in May 2013) and the price includes a free ebook that you can download today and start drooling over immediately. You can also buy the ebook only if that’s what you prefer. But after listening to Alana’s podcast on the subject (episode 69), the book is a piece of art in itself and while ebooks are awesome for pattern portability (especially when you can mark them up on GoodReader on your iPad), I love holding a real book in my hands.

N.B. all photos in this post are from the book and are by Carlee Tatum (prettyminded.com)

 

Knit City 2012 (or the best way to have fun at the Croatian Cultural Centre)

Free Stuff – wheeee!

I’m so glad I got up early today – I managed to be among the first 50 attendees at Knit City 2012 this morning and was lucky enough to receive a gorgeous Knit City tote filled with awesome freebies:

Just look at all the awesome stuff I got!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously Gorgeous Yarn – SweetGeorgia and Blue Sky Alpacas

Then I trolled the many vendor booths before deciding on some very special items.  First off, I picked up a skein of SweetGeorgia Yarns‘ specially dyed Tough Love Sock.  It’s an exclusive colourway called “Knit Social 2012”, made especially for Knit City.  I’ll probably use it for a scarf or shawl or cowl or… who knows!  Just look at it.  It is gorgeousness:

Tough Love Sock in “Knit Social 2012”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also stopped to chat with the gals at the Knits by the Sea booth (they’re from beautiful Tofino) and snagged some Blue Sky Alpacas Sport Weight yarn in a delicious green at 50% off.  There’s no colour name on the tag so I’m calling it Lime Squishy.  Because it’s a lime-y green and it’s very squishy.  This yarn must be touching skin at all times and therefore has “cowl” written all over it.

Blue Sky Alpacas “Lime Squishy” Sport Weight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I went back to the ATM and got some more money for the piece de resistance, SweetGeorgia’s CashLuxe Fine (in “Charcoal” and “Silver”) and Silk Mist (in “Mist”) to make her Five by Five cowl.  My respiratory system almost shut down when I clapped eyes on these colours and buried my face in the heavenly softness of this yarn.  I’m sorry people, but there really is no substitute for the combination of cashmere and silk.

SweetGeorgia’s CashLuxe Fine and Silk Mist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the best kind of book?  A knitting book, of course!

I also sprang for some books, both of which I’ve been coveting and both of which the authors signed for me.  Sigh.

First is Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel‘s ridiculously fantastic new book, Pacific Knits.  Not only are they simply beautiful designs, but all of them are written to fit babies from 0-6 months all the way up to adult sized 4XL.  (Whhaaaa!??  Everyone should be doing this!) Would someone please alert the Nobel committee – these gals deserve a prize for total awesomeness!  Bonus points – I had a lovely chat with the uber-talented Alexa at her booth – she and her wee newborn bairn were a delight.

Pacific Knits

Also added to my library is the amazing and beautiful Jane Richmond‘s new book, Island, available as a special pre-release at Knit City.  Elegant, original and fresh, this collection of luxe accessories and sweaters is breathtaking.  Beautifully photographed, this books inspires me to spend every waking moment knitting.  Go to luvinthemommyhood to read more and watch a cool preview video.

ISLAND: A Collection on Vimeo.

Can’t wait for Knit City 2013

Thanks Knit Social for an amazing event.  I had a blast meeting and talking to my fellow knitting obsessives.  I’ll definitely be up again at the crack of dawn to snag more swag at Knit City 2013!  But for now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to put my new yarn on the bed and roll around in it whilst I read my new books.   🙂

 

Book Review – WHO KILLED MOM?

Who Killed Mom?: A Delinquent Son’s Meditations on Family, Mortality and Very Tacky Candles, by Steve Burgess

The best book you’ll read all year

Steve Burgess, where have you been all my life? I feel like you are my long-lost brother from a parallel universe and instead of a dysfunctional family like mine (think The Corrections, without the coffee cans of urine), you had pretty decent parents with relatively high-functioning siblings. I “get” everything in Who Killed Mom? I’ve seen how hard a Mom can work for her family and how loved she was. I recognized so much of myself and my five brothers and sisters in it. In fact, I’m a little mad at you because I feel like when I write my life story, people might think it a rip off of yours! I totally “get” your humour and laughed my head off so many times, except for the parts that made me weep. But even then, I would start laughing again soon after so I was never down for long.

Not your average family memoir

Who Killed Mom? is not a murder mystery as the title might suggest nor is it one of those family memoirs where three-year olds almost burn the house down because they had to cook their own hot dogs (The Glass Castle). It’s not about enduring an impoverished childhood with a psychologically abusive father who was emotionally unavailable and unrepentant to this death and the mom who moved heaven and earth to keep everything from falling apart. (You’ll have to wait for my memoir to read that story). No, this is a beautifully written, very moving and often hilarious story about the life and death of a little red-headed prairie girl who grew up to become a remarkable woman who married a great guy and raised a big family. It’s a treatise on life, death, family and true love and every word spoke to me.

A Bookclub favourite

I read this with my bookclub (write to Steve at his website and tell him you want a “bookclub in a box” and have him make a personal appearance) and we all loved it to bits. And not just because there he was, all 6’4” of him, sitting in the living room with us, eating Barbara’s yummy food, making us laugh so hard we’d cry. We loved it because nothing beats a great story well told. And if you don’t love it too, there must be something very, very wrong with you.

Thanks for the memories

People who survived dysfunctional families often have a hard time remembering the good parts.  Bad memories have a way of overshadowing the good bits.  One of my favourite things about Who Killed Mom? is that it reminded me of the many happy times in my childhood and what a wonderful, smart and complicated person my own mother was and how much I miss her.  For instance, Steve writes of the magical year when he had his mom to himself all day while the older kids were at school.  I was reminded that I too had such a year and it was heaven on earth. Sometimes we’d go downtown to Woodward’s where we’d sit at the counter in the restaurant, she with her cup of coffee and cigarette and me stirring a spoonful of sugar into an Orange Crush. I’d swing my legs and swivel on the stool and we’d just talk and talk. Thank you, Steve, for letting me remember that anew.

Oh, more than just a memoir

Who Killed Mom? is a family memoir, but it’s also a very revealing portrait of Steve Burgess himself. As the subtitle tells you, there is indeed some high-octane delinquency and he’s as honest in his portrayal of himself as he is with his Mom and Dad. It’s obvious that he loves his parents very much but the story never gets sentimental. By the end of the book, you’ll feel like you’ve known these people your whole life. As my sister Nancy likes to say:

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll become a part of you.

Just buy it for chrissakes!

Anyone who has ever been born needs to read Who Killed Mom?. There is just no excuse otherwise. Go to Amazon or Chapters/Indigo now and order copies for everyone you know. It’s also available as an ebook on Kindle and Kobo.

A paler shade of blue…

Like most people, I have my ups and my downs.  Trouble is, my downs tend to be little too down and last a little too long for my liking.  I’ve been in a fairly blue-ish phase of late and haven’t been able to muster the spirit to crank out humorous blog posts.  But today the sun was shining a bit so I thought I’d take a stab.


In this state of mind, I often sit at my desk and fantasize about rushing home from work to have a hot bath, putting on pyjamas and sleeping my time away.  Sometimes, I even daydream about finding the perfect PJs.  In my head, I see a nightie in pale pink 100% supersoft cotton lawn.  Maybe in a pale rose print.  It’s long, has little cap sleeves and just a touch of lace.  Neither too frou-frou nor too Amish and definitely not maiden aunt.   Occasionally, I’ll find myself in the lingerie department at The Bay about to buy some such garment and I have to make myself snap out of it and put it back on the rack.  I don’t need an $80 nightgown; I need to change my frickin’ life!  I’m not sure exactly how to do that, but spending a pile of money on a nightgown sure won’t change my life.  Granted, I would look adorable all snuggled under the duvet wearing it. 

Part of how I deal with being in a blue phase is hibernating, usually in my PJs with a pot of tea, and alternating between knitting and reading.  Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  One of my favourite prezzies from under the Christmas tree this year was a Kobo e-reader from my dear Seabass.  Since then, I’ve plowed my way through the ghastly Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (yawn) and am part-way through the equally dreck-ish sequel (double yawn).   I’m reading this series only so I can converse with authority when those around me are blathering on about how “great” the books are.   I don’t know if it’s a translation problem or just that Stieg Larsson is a very mediocre writer (or both), but the most common themes I’ve noticed so far are:  (a) the Dragon Tattoo girl looks anorexic yet eats like a horse (oh, how endearing); and (b) every character in the books is obsessed with coffee and sandwiches.  I’m positive that the word “anorexic” was used at least ten times and the phrase “so-and-so put the coffee on” or “made (or ordered) sandwiches” appeared at least two dozen times – in the first book alone!!  Seriously, are there no editors in Sweden?  Do Swedes really drink that much coffee?  Doubts, Ralph.  Please.   What about salted fish or meatballs?  You couldn’t put those on the menu once in a while?   A single mention of lingonberries does not make up for this alarming obsession with coffee and sandwiches.
(N.B. aside from being fantastically portable, a definite upside of an e-reader is that you can read total trash in public and no one around you can see the title you’re reading.  It’s completely judgment-free reading!)
For bookclub, though, I’ve read two wonderful books, neither of which suffer from any writing or editing problems:  Still Alice by Lisa Genova and The Uncommon Reader by Allan Bennett.  My current read is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.



Still Alice is a beautifully written story by a very talented storyteller.  However, my only problem with it was that I did not enjoy the subject matter at all.  It was a little too close to the bone for me.  In fact, it was way too close.  Both my beloved mother and dear mother-in-law were cursed with the dreaded Alzheimer’s and no matter how educational, insightful or accurate Genova’s portrayal of the disease, I could never separate it from my mom’s or Joan’s suffering (and our families’ suffering).  It was just too painful.  I am glad I read it though, if only to be able to say I actually finished a book.  (I am embarrassingly notorious in my bookclub for failing to read or finish books.)  But I have definitely sworn off reading anything again with Alzheimer’s as a central theme.

On the other hand, The Uncommon Reader was simply delightful.  Not only was it mellifluously told, I am obsessed with the British monarchy and love all things to do with the Queen and the rest of the gaggle of Windsors.  It’s a delicious peek into the Lilibet’s secret world.   Also, one learns how enjoyable it is to use sentences where one refers to oneself as “one”.  To paraphrase my sister:  One laughed, one cried, it became a part of one. 

I’m about a third of the way through Olive Kitteridge and am loving it!  It is a series of stories about people in a New England town, all linked by the title character.   I was delighted to find that this book has been dramatized by the Word for Word Performing Arts Company in San Francisco.  Here’s a trailer from Youtube:   


Also, I’ve heard that Frances McDormand has optioned the rights to the book for a feature film and that she is set to play Olive.  I wonder if the Coen Brothers will write and direct? 

As for knitting, I’ve just finished a cowl for The Girl.  It’s called Glances and it’s from a new book Knit and Wrap.  She needed something cozy to wear with her new Courreges-style fitted red wool coat.  Jackie O never looked so sharp.  I found some black Wool-Ease Thick and Quick at Michaels (on sale even).  I modified the pattern a bit to make the cowl deeper so she can pull it up like a hood when the temperature drops.

Also, Seabass needs a cozy watch cap to wear at work and I’ve had a skein of black Handmaiden Yarns 2-ply 100% cashmere burning a hole in my stash so I’m doing a basic 2×2 rib (using Devin’s Toque as a basic pattern).  I’m pretty sure that this yarn is the softest thing on the flippin’ planet.  Baby bunnies hopping in Mr. McGregor’s garden are like sandpaper compared to this yarn.

Still on the needles are some lacy cable socks from Veronik’s Knitting 24/7.  Socks are my usual commuter knitting project but I’ve been so obsessed with reading lately that I haven’t been knitting on the bus.  However, I intend to get back to these very soon and they are super pretty and I love love love the colour and cannot wait to wear them.

Finally, I’ve taken delivery from The Backwards Loop (in Arkansas of all places!) of some delicious St-Denis Nordique yarn and will be starting on a baby gift for my oldest niece.  She’s expecting in June.   Ever since Veronik came out with St-Denis #2, I’ve been dreaming of making the Lullaby baby blanket by Jennifer Lori.  I know it’s not terribly imaginative to use the same yarn (and colour) as in the book, but it’s just too perfect for it to use anything else.  And now that I’ve seen the Champagne colour in person, I realize there really was no substitute.  It’s a perfectly vintage-y shade.

Included in my order from The Backwards Loop were two balls of the Nordique in Eggshell Blue.  Just the thing for more socks or maybe some fingerless gloves (like Ysolda’s Veyla from Whimsical Little Knits 2.)

Anyway, that’s all for now.   Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to change into my PJs and drink a pot of tea.  Happy knitting and reading, y’all!


I left my heart in Ethiopia (plus FOs and New Delights)

Well, wasn’t that a nice long break? Not being in the mood to scribble, coupled with a trip to the heart of Africa and starting my new job have all contributed to my blogospheric silence. At the end of June, Seabass and I jetted off via KLM to Amsterdam for two fun- and sun-filled days before heading to Ethiopia for a 17 day adventure with Habitat for Humanity building houses and meeting the most amazing people on the planet. We started out in Addis Ababa for a few days of museum-going, beer drinking (see pic below – our faves were Meta and St. Georges) and getting to know our awesome teammates before piling in a bus and heading to the mountain-top town of Dessie. Once there, we drank a whole lot more beer and got down to the business of building houses and discovering just how weak I am. Perched on a hilltop at about 8,100 feet, we quickly faded in the thin air under the workload, but the kinship and camaraderie we felt with our teammates and Habitat friends and the villagers more than compensated for any physical strain we endured.

I’ve since been asked to describe my Ethiopian experience and it simply cannot be explained in a few words. But these come close to describing the people we met and can also beused to describe Ethiopia herself: awe-inspiring, soulful, beautiful, gentle, honourable, funny, playful, modest, embracing, patient, wise, unflappable, strong, peaceful, serious, tolerant, generous, spiritual, kind-hearted, joyful. Remember that these are people who face major hardship every day of their lives. Poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease and homelessness are everywhere you look. Yet we were welcomed into their world, unconditionally and quite literally with open arms. Little kids would rush to your side to hold hands. A greeting of Selam or Hello was always met warmly, if sometimes shyly, with a wave and a smile.

And what did I learn from this trip? That I am not only selfish, shallow, spoiled, impatient and lazy, but spectacularly so on all counts. That it is not just possible to be a better person but that it is absolutely mandatory. After all, if people who have virtually nothing can shine their light, there’s no excuse for us pampered clods not to get off our backsides and share the love. My first project on the path to self-improvement is small but important: I’ve decided I need to be MUCH more patient, mostly with my children.

Secondly, aside from my childhood, 17 days is the longest I’ve ever gone without wearing make-up or blow-drying my hair. I was embarrassed by the depth of my vanity and struggled with it throughout the trip. I tried my best not to care that my hair looked like shit, but I could never really let go completely of my need to be groomed and “look good”. I don’t know what felt worse: knowing that I looked wretched or the realization that I have been too concerned with my appearance my whole life. I stillhear in my head something I read in Seventeen magazine and took gravely to heart when I was 12 years old: Your face is your fortune and your hair is your crowning glory. So in an effort to be less superficial, I’m working on spending less time worrying about my appearance. However, I don’t have a lot of confidence that this plan will be a raging success. I know myself and I know that this is a primal problem that goes back to my childhood and won’t be easily resolved. (Can’t you tell? Look at the amount of space I’ve devoted to talking about my hair and face.)

Lastly, but still very importantly, I’m trying to spend less money but not buying stuff I don’t’ really need. Yes, you heard me say it. Yes, I am a Pulizter prize-winning bargain-hunter extraordinaire but seriously, after seeing so many people who own nothing but their dignity and have no money at all, I’m now trying to stop and think before I buy. Wish me luck.

Finished Objects
On the way to The Girl’s graduation with minutes to spare, I wove in the last of the ends on her periwinkle shrug. Turned out though that it was much too hot that day for her to wear it. Damn, but it did look super-cute with her linen floral dress. I’ll post of pic of her wearing it as soon as I see her again. I’m almost finished the socks. Just a few more inches on the foot and the toe and it’s finito. My next commuter knitting will be more socks for Seabass, this time with SeeJayneKnit’s ode to MadMen, “Don Falls Out the Window”. I’ll probably go with a simple rib and cable pattern to show off the groovy colours.

New Projects

Everywhere I turn these days, I see projects that take my breath away and tempt me to click on the PayPal button. For instance, have you ever clapped eyes on such beauty as Carol Sunday’s Acorns? (above) I almost had to lie down and put a cold compress to my forehead when I saw it on Twist Collective Fall 2010. I couldn’t rest until I’d done the requisite clicking, printing of the PDF pattern, reading it from front to back several times, mentally knitting it in my head and finally tucking it in a smooth plastic sleeve to be gazed upon lovingly at will. [It occurs to me that this series of actions – clicking, printing, reading, mental knitting, tucking, gazing – is one I repeat with shocking regularity. Another reminder to curb the spending and buy only what I truly love and will actually make.]

Another time I woke from a reverie to find myself in the craft section at the bookstore with Veronik Avery’s delicious new book Knitting 24/7 in my hands making ooh and ahh sounds that alarmed the nearby cookbook browsers. All of the patterns whispered sweet nothings to me but, in particular the Fir Cone Shrug and Elemental Pullover made me swoon helplessly. Given my pledge to never buy a book a full retail (even with an iRewards discount), I immediately ran home to my trusty laptop to buy it online in order to enjoy a bigger discount and free shipping. Of course, this required an additional purchase to meet the $39 minimum for free shipping so I ordered the DVD set of the one and only season of the TV series Life on Mars (the US version), something Seabass and I have been coveting for some time. (We both mourned for weeks when the series ended last year.)

In my continuing effort to clear the clutter out of my house (and, more importantly, my head), as of this exact moment*, I am forcing myself to sharpen the point on my queue and narrow it down to three primary projects, in the following order: I am TOTALLY in love with Carol’s Acorns, Connie Chang Chinchio’s poetic Alexandria Cardigan (below in heavenly pink) and Veronik’s Fir Cone Shrug. It’s as if these women all know me personally and know what makes my heart flip and each decided to invent something just for me. Thank you!! The countless other gorgeous fripperies that I’ve faved, flagged or queued will have to wait for now. As well, the teetering stack of UFOs that are currently making my brain hurt will remain on the back burner where they can do the least harm. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants, right? There’s no use denying it.

*I reserve the right to change the terms of this queue at any time.

P.S. Obviously, the knitting photos in this post are not mine. They are from www.twistcollective.com, Knitting 24/7 and www.conniechangchinchio.com, respectively. And the Africa pics were taken by Seabass, or Clicker as I like to call him when he’s taking snaps.

Back in Action

I have no idea what happened to the last month and a half. Christmas was a complete blur. The only thing I remember from it are the gorgeous Tiffany bracelet my husband gave me and the magnificent turkey dinner I whipped up for the fam. I had the time off between Christmas and New Years and those 11 days were like a gift from the gods. Somewhere around 2:30 on the Sunday before I had to go back to work, I realized that my dreamy vacation was about to end. I was so underwhelmed at the idea that I had to lie down and take a nap.

My knitting has been proceeding, albeit at a slightly slower pace than usual. My excitement at returning to work after my holidays led to being late for my usual bus every morning, resulting in catching the next one which is almost always packed to the gills which results in having to stand the whole way downtown. I can knit standing up on a lurching bus providing it’s a straightforward knit on at least 5 mm needles. So I decided to catch up on my reading during my commute. The fantastic Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildener was a perfect standing bus-ride companion. When that was done, I started the next bookclub selection, The Cellist of Sarajevo. Ready to knit publicly again, I’ve started a new commuting project, Lisa Chemery’s Tiered Baby Coat using some Needful Yarns Bambini Soft I had leftover from Duck Soup Hooded Cardigan. The only problem is that it’s such a fast knit, I’m almost finished! It’s a gift for someone at work. Finally, after great rafts of baby boys, someone is having a girl. Yippee!

While in Courtenay this past weekend, I stopped in at the delightfully friendly and well-stocked Uptown Yarns and picked up a couple of skeins of Berroco Vintage in a lovely ivory as well as a skein of Simply Sock by local dyer Sweatermaker in a yummy green/gold shade.


I also bought the new Debbie Bliss and Knitscene magazines. In Debbie Bliss, I like the Draped Cardigan and Simple Jacket with Pockets. Also, there are a few very nice baby projects: the Entrelac Blanket with Cable and Moss Stitch Hat, Classic Baby Cardi and the adorable Pleat Neck Tunic and Sun Dress. The Knitscene mag has a couple of nice things too: Aegean Mitts, Furled Leaf Socks, Conifer Shawl and the Geodesic Cardigan.

Anyhoo – the Tiered Baby Coat is calling me.

Made in Brooklyn – in North Vancouver

After waiting patiently for what seemed like forever, I got the call from Urban Yarns in Edgemont Village saying that my copy of Made in Brooklyn was waiting for me. Of course, when I got to the shop, I couldn’t resist buying a couple of other things too. I adore the little cotton Pretty Cheep Project bags and chose the one with the blue swallow on it (perfect for toting my Netherfield socks) along with a pack of cable needles. My almost 16 year old son has an annoying habit of absent-mindedly picking up shiny objects and leaving them god-knows-where. I used to own at least half a dozen in various sizes and they’ve all disappeared thanks to him. Let’s see how long these new ones will last.

Ever since the book came out, I’ve been coveting several of the patterns. I love all the designs but my very most favourite are the Bridgewater shawl, the Seneca cabled pullover and the Rockaway cardigan.