Another Hat

Western New Yorkers are fortunate to have the Western New York Land Conservancy working to permanently preserve ecologically valuable land. A couple of weeks ago, G volunteered to carry out their annual monitoring at the Bryant Hill Preserve near Ellicotville.

Here he is at near the preserve’s entrance sporting the only project that I have finished in many months – a colorwork beanie made of fingering weight yarn.
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It is knit from Quince and Co Finch yarn and comfortable. More details on Ravelry here.

Changes

My life has changed in wonderful ways since my series of posts about Nova Scotia last year. We adopted two kittens and then welcomed a new human to our family.
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The kittens are always nearby and ready to pounce on and eat any yarn that they see. As a result, I have had fewer opportunities for knitting than I would like. Than I need.

This lull simply can’t go on because I have too many projects in my mind and two neglected works in progress on my needles, including my sister’s 2017 Christmas Present (eek).

Island

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Island by Alistair MacLeod is a beautiful collection of short stories by Cape Breton, Nova Scotia‘s most beloved author. The unromantic lives of Cape Breton’s people are shown with simple, lyrical language.

The stories were written between 1968 and 1999, and touch on themes including family obligations, loss, tradition, and change. The land and sea of Cape Breton are essential characters in each. With each story, I reflected on my impressions of the places we had briefly visited on our loop of the Cabot Trail.

My only criticism is that all the stories have a similar tone as though there is one speaker, although they are each written as a different person. MacLeod tries but does not convincingly write from a child’s perspective, and he does not even try to write from any woman’s viewpoint. This tome took me over three months to make my way through as I usually took a break between stories, but it was worth all the library overdue fees.

Lupines in Wool

Route 4 through Nova Scotia does not have the vistas offered by many of the other roads in the province, but it does have lupines. In June, the verges were lined for miles with tall purple, blue, and pink inflorescence. Nothing, it seems, is more purple that a purple lupine.

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Upon returning home, I started knitting lupines. This is something that I have tried out with before without satisfactory results. It turned out that buying almost every purple available from Jamieson and Smith was essential, and I was able to design a motif that unmistakably represents a lupine in full bloom.

I have wanted to knit a sweater for my mother for a long time, and for a long time I have wanted it to be purple. This is because she once owned a purple Archie Brown & Son yoke knit of Shetland wool. She says that she bought it in 1983 while vacation in Bermuda. Sometime in the 80’s, the sweater was stored away in the basement and it remained there until my sister and I found it around 2000. There were dozens of moth holes, and I wore holes and all it for a decade before discovering darning. It now has mends, some more visible than others, as well as elbow patches, and I wear it regularly.

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Using Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern as a template, my sister and I decided to knit a lupine cardigan for our mother’s birthday. In July 2017, I shipped main color yarn to M, she knit the sleeves and shipped them back to me, and then I joined them with the body before knitting the yoke. When my mother’s birthday came in early August, I had just joined the body and sleeves. She was patient through the fall and early winter as I finished knitting the yoke, cutting the steek, and painstakingly sewing a ribbon over the steek’s raw edge.

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For those interested in knitting details, Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern is available as part of her YOKES book. Kate Davies’ sweater sits nice and flat across her chest, but this is not the case for many other knitters. Based on Ravelry photos, I think that knitters have struggled with the yoke shaping and the neckline sits high and wide on many women. I modified the yoke, beginning with extra short rows in the back at the join of the arms with the body, and then more short rows at the top of the colorwork. I also decreased more within the yoke than is called for in the pattern. This allowed for a closer neckline that is wide enough not to scratch our mom’s neck. I cut the steek without reinforcement and then hand stitched it in place, rather than using a crochet reinforcement. The method that I used is described in Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting and works well with Shetland wool. My Ravelry project page is here.

We are all three – M, Mom, and me – very happy with this cardigan and hope it sees decades of wear.

Snow Geese in Wool

After sighting a flock of Snow Geese in March 2017, I have been thinking about how to capture the migration of Snow Geese in wool. Last week, I finally sat down and knit up a hat in the species’ honor.

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The simple triangle motif based on quilters’ flying geese is knit in black, gray, and white to resemble Snow Geese flight feathers, and the three repeats form subtle V shapes to imply movement.

This hat is now winging its way to my uncle in Pennsylvania in time for winter.

Sister’s Lake

Back in September, G and I spent a warm weekend in the Adirondacks. I was desperate for the smell of spruce forests and the feel of cool water. We packed our car, loaded the canoe, and headed east after work on Friday September 22. It is a long drive from Buffalo to the Adirondack State Park, so it was well into the night by the time we pulled over at a trailhead and lay down across the trunk and back seats in our small hatchback. Gazing through the back windshield, the wide canoe on our roof cut a black gash across the starry sky.


On Saturday, we took our time reaching our final destination. We first bought cider doughnuts and coffee in Old Forge, then drove Uncas Road to the trail for Black Bear Mountain. It was a perfect blue-skied day, warm enough for mid-summer though technically autumn had arrived. The maple trees were burning red and orange across the landscape, with the birch just beginning to glow yellow.

When we first arrived, G and I were the only people at the summit, but we were soon joined by an extended family with young children. They reached the peak, and immediately began to search for something. When we inquired, the father explained that one of his sons had passed away a few years ago and he, the father, had carved his son’s initials into the rock as a memorial. Now they were back a year later and could not find the carving. They looked for at least an hour, with no success. Perhaps they were on the wrong mountain. At the risk of sounded insensitive, I must say that we were glad that they did not find their carving. Engraving the Adirondack granite is leaving a trace to say the least. It implies a sense of self-importance and a disregard for the value of a natural area. It affects other people’s experiences. Fellow hikers, please follow Leave No Trace ethics and keep your penknives away.

In the afternoon, we drove to Big Moose Lake, where we parked our car at the public boat launch and headed out for the night. Our destination was a lean-to that lies three miles past the far end of the lake and is only accessible through a combination of boating and walking. This lean-to is perched on the edge of Sister’s Lake, with a natural rock outcrop serving as a swimmer’s ideal entry. We shared the location with three men who were also out for the weekend.

I had brought my Acadian hat with me as the weekend’s knitting project, which I had first knit as a memory piece from our honeymoon to Nova Scotia. The hat is made with Quince and Co. Lark yarn in calming blue-greens that remind me of early twilight. The original was in need of brim modifications. One of the men who was staying at the lean-to saw me knitting and liked my Acadian hat so much, he requested that I sell one to him. And so, I did. Last week, PH received his own Acadian hat, with just a few modification. I hope it keeps his cozy and warm all this winter long.

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Antigonish

Antigonish, Antigonish. What a fun town name to say. (Makes me think of knish – yum.)

The town of Antigonish was recommended to us by one of our friends, by a coworker of mine, and by a man whom we met on the ferry crossing to Nova Scotia. This last recommend-er, CS, approached G and I on our ferry ride and asked if we were the cyclist he had seen boarding the boat. We admitted that we were and told him that we were at the beginning of a three week tour. CS told us that he lives in West Virginia but has spent every summer for over a decade in the Nova Scotian town of Antigonish. He lives on the St. Francis Xavier campus in a rented suite and volunteers for the theater there. CS had no Canadian phone number or regular access to email, but he invited us to find him on the campus if we came through Antigonish and told us that we could stay with him in the suite’s extra bedroom.

Antigonish is a college town with strong Gaelic influence. We rode in on an overcast afternoon after a stressful stretch on the TransCanada Highway. We found St. Francis Xavier’s campus, but had no idea where to go once we were on the property. G and I were standing by Leonid looking lost and anxious when an elderly man sitting on a nearby bench called out to us. He asked us you we were looking for and we told him CS’ name and that we were looking to stay with him. Our helpful man did not know CS, but he knew where most summer lodgers stayed and he told us the way to go. We started to walk in the direction that he had pointed, but were clearly still lacking confidence so he stood up and made to show us. This man was stooped and relied on a cane, but he took off walking with surprising speed and we had to do an akward speed-walk skip to keep up without jogging. We were led to the college hotel and the receptionist there was able to call CS who came and met us in the lobby. He was surprised and happy to see us after two weeks without thinking of us at all.

We ended up staying two nights with CS, hearing about his life in Antigonish, walking the town, visiting the farmer’s market and the local nature sanctuary, shopping for gifts, and eating at the local restaurants. (Unfortunately, we were in the lull season for the live music for which Antigonish is famous.) Taking a full day off during any trip always makes me jittering, but the rainy time spent in Antigonish turned out to be just the thing for my painful hamstring. The pain there diminished and did not bother me again for the remainder of our trip. Hurrah.

Nova Scotia’s Celtic Shores Trail

We left Cheticamp early in the morning, eager to reach Inverness, a small coal mining town — the mines are closed, but the coal mining town identity remains — and the start of the Celtic Shores Trail. Also the birthplace of Alistair MacLeod. Goodbye, obnoxiously steep grades! This section of Nova Scotia’s rail-trail system is well maintained and beautiful with views of Gulf of Lawrence and Northumberland Straight to the northwest.

We spent a night in the woods just out of sight over the trailside berm. It was not our most or least comfortable night of the trip. The next morning, we woke up with the sun and packed quickly, as one does when sleeping in a wood without permission.

Our next stop was the Celtic Cultural Center in Judique. Thanks to our early start, we arrived well before it opened. I ate breakfast at a picnic table on the front lawn while G treated himself to burnt gas station coffee and packaged doughnuts. This center is a must-see. Probably a must-hear too, but once again our schedule didn’t allow for us to stay until the live music began at 11. So it goes on rushed bicycle tours.