Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chrysanthemums in Knitty!

The Winter 2011 Knitty went up today, and lo and behold, there amongst the beautiful socks and sweaters and hats and other patterns-- my Chrysanthemums!

I designed these mittens to echo the flower patterns seen frequently these days in home decor and fashion, with a cuff that suggests the lacy, pleated sleeves of Victorian blouses. Charting the blossom petals to get everything just right was definitely the most difficult aspect, but I think the end result captured the look I had first imagined. I wanted a more delicate, less geometric design than many of my other patterns-- something that would look forward to spring even in the midst of a harsh Canadian winter. The Louet Gems was a nice fingering weight to work with, adding the rusticity of a traditional mitten yarn but with a very smooth ply. 

The mittens did not get off to an auspicious start, however. When I was knitting the first test pair for Knitty's Deep Fall submission deadline, I managed to commit a classic mitten-newcomer mistake. After all the mittens I've made, you would think I would be smart enough to avoid it. But no. No. You see, it was the night before the submission deadline, and I was racing desperately to finish the mittens and block them in preparation for photos the next day. I put the left hand on, and then the right... except... something's wrong... 

Oh. Dear. God. I knit two left hands. With no time to spare, I had two left hand mittens. TWO. LEFT. HANDS.

Some creative photography, tears, and a few bottles of anxiety pills later, and I submitted the pattern to Knitty for consideration. While it didn't fit their look for Deep Fall, they sent me the lovely Louet Gems yarn (in cream and pewter) to knit a new pair for the Winter 2011 issue.  This time I knit a left hand AND right hand. I think I rechecked that chart about 43 times. The rest is Knitty history!

You can access the pattern for free at by clicking here. If you have any questions about the pattern, please feel free to contact me at Ravelry or via email at hedda (dot) knits (at) gmail (dot) com.

Special thanks to my good friend Melissa Flynn, who assisted with photography!

Purple Lotus Fever

I spent this week dying home sick with a bad cold or virus. It wasn't very pleasant, but I've come to terms with the fact that this was indeed my own fault. You see, on Sunday night I was thinking about the previous winter when I was ill for weeks with H1N1 (also known as swine flu, hamthrax, etc). I thought to my naïve little self, Wow! I haven't been sick much this winter! I must be doing something right!

Yeah, well that "something right" was not tempting fate. So much for that. Happily, I am on the mend and will refrain from commenting on how I haven't sprained my ankle this year either.

Monday saw the arrival of some beautiful yarn from Zen Yarn Garden, an Ontario dyer specializing in handpainted colourways and gorgeous yarns. I received some of the scrumptious Serenity 20 (a sock yarn composed of 70% superwash merino, 20% cashmere and 10% nylon) in "Black Lilac" from my mother for Christmas, and had to order more! I now own a yummy hank in "Melonberry", as well as Serenity Sock (same content as the Serenity 20, but with 10% cashmere) in "Bare".

Now, I thought Malabrigo yielded luxurious mittens. Serenity blows Malabrigo out of the water. The cashmere and soft superwash creates an incredibly smooth, soft fabric with excellent stitch definition and no pilling. And the colours? YUM. I think I may be in love (sorry, over-the-knee boots, the previous object of my affections!).

See for yourself:

Zen Yarn Garden - Serenity 20 and Serenity Sock

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mendelssohn and Malabrigo

After a relatively snow-free Christmas and New Year's, the National Capital Region is finally covered in a thick blanket of snow! It's the perfect atmosphere to go skating on the beautiful Rideau Canal, which opened for skating just this weekend. I can't wait to lace up and hit the world's largest skating rink!

This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend "Hymn of Praise" at the National Arts Centre, a concert of works from Schumann, Bach, and Mendelssohn (from whose Symphony No. 2 the concert takes its name). The NAC Orchestra was joined by the very talented Simone Dinnerstein on piano, soloists Donna Brown, Amber Wagner, and Thomas Cooley, and a number of choirs who stole the show during the second half of the evening.

Conducted by Carlo Rizzi, Schumann's Overture to Genoveva (Op. 81) was energetic and sweeping, if a little too similar to a typical movie soundtrack. Schumann's failings are hardly the fault of the orchestra, however, as we saw from the remaining two performances of the night.

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein illuminated Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor with her melodic interpretation of the Baroque master. Echoed by her gauzy, flowing gown, Dinnerstein's performance was almost Impressionistic in its fluidity, reminding us of the swelling piano lines of Debussy. It was a bit of a departure from the measured contrapuntal lines that I'm used to hearing from Bach, but the difference created an interesting sense of the unknown within the familiar.

The second half of the evening featured the three gifted soloists along with four choirs-- the Ottawa Choral Society, Cantata Singers of Ottawa, Ewashko Singers, and the Ottawa Festival Chorus-- in Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 2, "Lobgesang." And wow, was it worth missing the World Junior Hockey Championship game for this (sorry to my friends who suffered through that loss in bars across Ottawa and the rest of Canada)!

The program notes tell me that Mendelssohn composed this piece to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Gutenberg press, but really the piece transcends any idea of occasion or context. Anthemic choral movements combined with soaring tenor and soprano solos create what I can only call a sublime musical experience. I'm not sure why I can't find any Mendelssohn in my music collection, but I will certainly be adding some soon.

Many thanks to the NAC for a wonderful night!

Mmmalabrigo - Ochre
To round out the aesthetic indulgence for the week, this morning I headed to Knit Knackers, my lovely local yarn store on Bank Street. Although Emily keeps threatening to cut me off from the Mmmalabrigo, I found a skein in Ochre which is neither too mustardy nor too neon. Naturally I had no choice but to add it to my stash. Perfect for a new pair of mittens-- perhaps with grey as a contrast?

Enjoy your winter days!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

I love the beginning of a new year. It feels just like the start of a new grade back in elementary school-- filled with fresh pencils, blank pages, and limitless possibilities. The materials are rather different now, but the new year is still one of possibility. I love to wonder what will happen in the next twelve months, and to think about what has changed since January 1, 2010. Last year, I had only published two small patterns, and had not yet imagined I could not only develop more, but could earn some income through the designs. A year ago, I had not yet joined Twitter, and now I have so many new, wonderful friends whom I would never have met without those 140 characters.

I like to imagine the new friends I will make, people whose names I don't yet know and who have never yet heard mine. I like to wonder what wonderful new opportunities will develop. I like to believe that the coming year will be one of health, creativity, and energy, and resolve to do what I can to make it happen.

After all, who knows what the next year will bring?