Tag Archives: inspiration

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.


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.

Shetland_SweaterThis photo was taken about two years ago, before the elbow patches.Shetland_Yoke

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.


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.





The rail trail from west of Halifax was in fair conditions and we enjoyed our morning ride. The rhodora was in peak bloom and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. DSC_0182DSC_0194As we approached the city, the trail turned into a paved path with dozens of pedestrians and cyclists out for a bit of exercise. We hoped that this path would continue into the city center, but of course, it ended and we were shot out onto the sidewalk along a busy parkway. From there, the ride into the city was stressful, and we took a few wrong turns despite receiving unsolicited directions from “helpful” strangers. By the time that we were nearing downtown, we were both hungry and irritable. Thank goodness for the Split Crow Pub, the first restaurant with outdoor seating that we passed on our way to the Barrington Street hostel. G and I sat outside, ate too many french fries, drank beer, and were cooked by the sun. DSC_0204Following this experience, I was in desperate need of a nap. We treated ourselves to a private room where I lay down and slept soundly for an unknown amount of time. In the evening, we had planned to go out for a nice dinner but chose instead to walk the citadel until close to 9 PM and then eat mediocre burritos in the hostel kitchen. No regrets.

On June 8th, we left Leonid behind to relax at the hostel and headed out to explore Halifax by foot. Our first stop was the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. As G has worked at a few nature preserves with interpretive centers, he always pays attention to good natural history displays. At this museum, he was especially impressed by the indoor honey bee hive, and I loved the larger-than-life trailing arbutus sculpture. I was also interested in the display on Sable Island, as I had been reading The Nymph and the Lamp by Thomas Raddall, a novel set on said island in the years following WWI. DSC_0207DSC_0213The museum includes a display on the craftwomanship of the M’kmaw people. I took dozens of dark through-glass photos of the motifs on the clothing samples and the detailed porcupine quill boxes, which I hope will serve as inspiration for future textile projects.

At lunchtime, we walked through the city’s botanical gardens to touristy Spring Garden Road where we finally found much-needed delicious ice cream and also bought a load of souvenirs.

We spent the afternoon near the water at the Museum of the Maritimes, where we learned more about two tragedies – the sinking of the Titanic and The Halifax Explosion of 1917. G and I were both surprised that we didn’t know more about the Halifax Explosion before coming to Nova Scotia. The catastrophe occurred in the Halifax Harbour during WWI when a Belgian relief ship collided with a Canadian vessel loaded with explosives. A fire began and less than half an hour later, the Canadian ship exploded. It was the largest explosion in the world before the atom bomb. Thousands of people were killed or injured and entire neighborhoods were leveled. The exhibit on this event was moving, and I was particularly struck by the last transmission sent out by the Halifax train dispatcher, Vince Coleman:

“Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”

He remained at his post sending this message to trains as far away as Truro until his was killed by the force of the explosion. Coleman’s message was heeded and hundreds of people were kept safely away from the disaster zone.

In the evening, we treated ourselves to a special meal at Edna’s. This hip restaurant has gotten abundant positive reviews online and in Halifax magazines, and it lived up to our expectations. Sorry, no photos of our artistic entrees. After dinner, we took the ferry to Halifax’s sister city of Dartmouth. Dartmouth is outrageously hilly, but we pushed our way up to an Air BnB for a sound sleep.


A Day of Wildflowers

G and I woke up early on the foggy morning on June 5th. We cooked oatmeal, lay our tent to dry in the sun, and admired the wild bleeding hearts growing in next to the picnic table.
DSC_0097DSC_0096DSC_0095These bright pink beauties hearts were just the start of the day’s wildflowers. The route from Louis Head, West Sable Road, was lined with lady slippers, mayflower, and starflower. We even found blooming blue-bead lilies and bluets along the fringe of route 103.DSC_0100DSC_0104

Lunch was a fried food feast at Seaside Seafood in Liverpool. After we indulged, G took a power nap right in his seat.

Late in the afternoon, we came to Petite Riviere and the town’s well-stocked general store. It was here that we each bought a delicious beverage for the evening and were even ID’d, though neither of us have looked 18 in some time.

From there it was a short ride to our home for the night, Rissers Provincial Park. The wind was blowing off the ocean and there were few other campers around. We set up our tent in view of the water and then made our way across the beach to the Rissers Beach Boardwalk. The sand was soft and appealing, but it was far too cold for a swim. Beautiful seaweeds were scattered across the shore and I thought about “color stories” and stranded colorwork as we strolled.


The Rissers Beach Boardwalk fits in the landscape as though it grew there. It runs along one side of the Petite Riviere estuary with its calm salt marsh. Lichen-covered spruce grow on the upland side of the boardwalk and shelter visitors from the open ocean winds. We lingered for the golden hour before twilight and then made our way slowly back to dinner, drinks, and a campfire.DSC_0138DSC_0143DSC_0150DSC_0141


After driving from Buffalo, New York to Portland, Maine and then taking the ferry from Portland, G and I arrived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia just as the sun was setting. There was a chill in the air, but we were warm with excitement. Our destination for the night was a bed in the neighboring town of Tusket.

Our route followed the Yarmouth County Rail Trail for 15 km/9 mi to the center of town. The trail was soft with loose gravel and we were still unaccustomed to our tandem, so we rode slowly. To our either side, the silhouettes of spruce and fir were dark against the sun’s twilight glow and we could just make out the bright white blooms of apple trees. Spring peepers were singing.

Passing by the oldest standing court house in Canada, we arrived tired but energized.

We took no photos during our ride, but here is our view from the ferry.


I have already knit a memory piece for this night – a tribute to the Acadian Forest, my favorite ecoregion. It is now carefully blocking.

The Edge of the Sea

As part of my preparations for our trip around the edge of Nova Scotia, I have been learning about intertidal zones. Growing up on the “Mid-west Coast”, my experiences in intertidal zones are few, but they are memorable. In 2007, I spent two weeks at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology taking a course in Coastal Biology.


On our day off, one of the professors let me join him for a poke around a rocky shore near Coos Bay. This professor is a specialist in nudibranchs, which are mollusks without shells, sometimes called “sea slugs”. Nudibranchs are often very small but beautifully colored. I recall him scooping a small orange blob from the salty water and placing it in my hand. And then there was this gumboot chiton with its little white wormy buddy (look near my left thumb):


My next memorable visit to an intertidal zone was in 2013. I traveled to Cape Cod for a company meeting, and had the opportunity to visit the Cape Cod National Seashore with a friend. Walking the beach, we came across mysterious clear capsules strewn about the sand like marbles. They were translucent with bright blue pigment in the digestive system.



In the Visitors Center, we learned that they were sea salps – a type of zooplankton. (Check out this National Geographic article to learn more.) How many other lifeforms exist in the ocean that I have never even imagined?

The shoreline of Nova Scotia is very different from that of Oregon or of Cape Cod and has its own wonders. Nova Scotia’s rocky coast is bordered to the north by the Bay of Fundy. Rachel Carson wrote about the bay in the Edge of the Sea. She said, “…the physical forces of the American Atlantic coast are such that the observer of its life has spread before him almost with the clarity of a well-conceived scientific experiment, a demonstration of the modifying effect of tides, surf, and currents. It happens that the northern rocks, where life is lived openly, lie in the region of some of the strongest tides, of the world, those within the area of the Bay of Fundy. Here the zones of life created by the tides have the simple graphic force of a diagram.”

This “graphic force of a diagram” appeals to me, and I have already spent hours with my graph-paper, sketching knitting motifs inspired by intertidal zonation.

Amherst State Park

Happy Winter!

It seems as though I have been looking forward to this season – wool sweater season – for weeks now. Yesteray my dad, brother, and I celebrated its official arrival with a short walk at Amherst State Park. The land that makes up this park once belonged to the Franciscan Sisters’ convent, and became a State Park in 2001.DSC_0419c

Walking down the small hill from the Mother House (now apartments), we reached the old orchard of apple and pear trees. These trees have not been pruned in a long time, though the famous October Storm of 2006 did cut them back considerably. Some years, my mom picked apples for applesauce, but most of the time we visit just to take a walk and to watch the neighborhood dogs playing in the old field.DSC_0418_01

On the far side of the old orchard, there is a bridge that crosses Ellicott Creek…DSC_0423dand paths travel both banks. DSC_0420_01 DSC_0421c

The muddy trails were flooded in several areas, and we had a few precarious crossings.DSC_0431_01



(Wearing my Icelandic wool sweater – the most wonderful Goodwill find)

The woods were gray and the only birdlife was a lone sparrow, but the creek was lovely. Along the undercut banks, hundreds of icicles were hanging.DSC_0426_01

DSC_0425_01 Here in the flat towns north of Buffalo, we don’t have scenic vistas, or epic landscapes, but these small and unexpected finds make each walk worthwhile!