Travel knitting this spring

An unexpected trip to Europe is in the final planning stages. Woo hoo! 

Cue the new coat for spring weather (it's white, eek!) complete with hood for spontaneous showers, and a newly knitted Paestum beret in a fabulous go with everything shade called Black Ice. 

I have another Paestum Beret made with Peppino in Sonora and I love it. It is one of my go-to berets. It's light, comfortable, fits well. The yarn is on the side of 'cool' wool, holds its shape, and is filled with lovely shade nuances. 

You can find the pattern here. 

Paestum Beret made with The Yarns of Rhichard Devreize, Peppino - Black Ice.

Paestum Beret made with The Yarns of Rhichard Devreize, Peppino - Black Ice.

I have more than a few shawls and pashminas, but perhaps I should make a new one for the trip? Something light, but warm, and colourful for spring? This week I picked up some gorgeous fingering weight yarn from a new (to me) Indy dyer who lives in my neighbourhood. It is so pretty that I am hoping to get it made up before the trip. I'm a fast knitter, but this may be a challenge. I mean it's only 420 ish metres to knit, but I decided that it needs to have beads. 

I may, or may not, get it done in time. 

This is the yarn for the shawl: She Sells Sea Shells, by the Ravenswood Fibre Co. of Nova Scotia. 

423 metres of superwash merino and nylon (75/25)  in a colourwash of golden yellows and clear blue. 

The Sea Shells Shawl in progress. I had the perfect colour of beads for this. Some golden, some blue.  Lace will be starting soon! 

The yarn started as a knitted blank. I've not used one of those before and was assured that I could knit directly from the blank which sounded fabulous.  

I tried it, but wasn't happy with how crimpy the yarn was and didn't want the stockinette section of the shawl to be compromised.

I skeined, washed, and then wound the yarn before starting. It didn't take long and I am happier with the results.

You may, of course choose not to do these extra steps. I admit to being a bit particular about some things.  Below are some photos of the yarn in its various stages. 

The yarn started as a knitted blank, which one can knit directly from. I chose not to, however.

Here is the knitted blank, dyed in the She Sells Sea Sells Colourway before I skeined it. 

Here is the knitted blank, dyed in the She Sells Sea Sells Colourway before I skeined it. 

The knitted blank, un-knit. See how crimpy it is?  I wound it off on my Swift and tied it with cotton yarn - it is so squishy! 

The knitted blank, un-knit. See how crimpy it is?  I wound it off on my Swift and tied it with cotton yarn - it is so squishy! 

Washed and air dried. Ready to wind into a centre pull ball starting with the yellow. It still has some crimp, but it is much reduced. I could have soaked it longer to relax it even more, but I really wanted to get started on my shawl! 

Washed and air dried. Ready to wind into a centre pull ball starting with the yellow. It still has some crimp, but it is much reduced. I could have soaked it longer to relax it even more, but I really wanted to get started on my shawl! 

The pretty yarn cake ready to knit!  I wound this to start with the yellow and transition to the blue at the edge of the shawl. 

Then of course I need to prep a travel project because I  always knit in airports and on planes. I am a joyful traveller, and even happier when I can knit.

Bring the little bamboo needles for sock knitting and no one bothers you about them. A skein of sock yarn prepped into 50 gram balls makes things even easier. The little balls fit easily into a purse and yarn tangles as you near the end of the second sock are less likely.  Now I just have to decide on the colour - that should be simple since I have a limited collection of sock yarn. And the pattern?  Probably an old favourite to keep things simple, or I could re-test a new design. I'll keep my options open and decide on the drive to the airport.

Wishing you a beautiful day, 




Nails and polish

I've got this thing about nails.  I notice them, their shape, condition, and most of all cleanliness.  I love beautifully groomed nails, on men and women.  For me, nothing can ruin first impressions faster than unkempt or (ick) dirty nails.  I've always done my own manicures and pedicures with the occasional splurge on a spa treatment. Doing it myself with the proper tools suits me, and my budget.

When I took up pottery a few years ago, it was a real sacrifice to clip all my nails as short as they could go, and they still got in the way when I was throwing clay!  I've been without a place to do pottery for a couple of years now and  I do miss it, but the good news for me is that my nails have finally grown back. They've never been particularly easy to grow to any length at all. I spent many years looking for the magic solution that would stop the peeling and splitting.  I've tried almost everything on that market and have found only one product that really works: Nail Tek II

Wearing Crabtree and Evelyn's 'Mica' in this shot. 

Wearing Crabtree and Evelyn's 'Mica' in this shot. 

I'm sure that using the coordinating base coat called Nail Tek Foundation is also helpful. 

Nail Tek should in no way be confused with the easier to find, at least in Canada, Nailtiques. I've tried that line and had no results. 

Currently, you can order Nail Tek II online from . They offer very reasonable shipping (4.00 in Canada) or free shipping on orders over 29.00. I've ordered from them a couple of times and they are quick to ship and offer a points program. 

Nail colour wheel. All colours are 2 coats.  My all time favourite is no. 9: An Affair in Red Square by OPI. 

I added a nail colour wheel to my last order.  Here are the polishes in my collection listed by number, company name, colour name. 

1.  Zoya, Estelle

2. Crabtree & Evelyn,  Mica

3. Revlon, Pure Pearl

4. Sally Hansen, Champagne Toasts (excellent sheer shimmer for layering) 

5. Revlon, Extravagant

6, NYC, Penn Station Pink

7. Rimmel, Glaston Berry 

8. Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Extreme Wear,  Hot Magenta

9. OPI, An Affair in Red Square ( my favourite of all time!) 

10. OPI, Mod About You (my least favourite - came in a collection package) 

11. OPI, By The Light of the Moon (large silver glitter,) 

12.  My bottle of 'Franken Polish', a mixture of various colours, changing from time to time as new drops of colour are introduced. Right now, a greyed down blush-peach concoction. 

If I had to choose only one polish it would be An Affair in Red Square by OPI.  It is a gorgeous shade of red with a subtle gold shimmer. It suits my light to medium olive skin tone all year round and it wears fantastically well. 

I really should clear out the not so great ones, like numbers 10, 11, and 12, since they, in the words of Marie Kondo, do not 'Spark Joy'.

Have a beautiful day, 


The fabulous blue 'Estelle' by Zoya is becoming a fast favourite of mine. Good coverage in 2 coats and wears very well. 

Pasta, a not really a recipe, recipe

I do this a lot, take photos of food I make. I'm passionate about good food. Real food.

Meals should be tasty, nutritious, and  a pleasure for the senses. From the tantilizing smell, to the array of colours, and a variety of textures and tastes to delight the palate. It's really not too difficult. Is it?  

Start with the very best ingredients, organic or 'free-from' ingredients, a few herbs, a bit of heat applied at the right time and in the right way, and there you go. Good food, made simply, and rather quickly. 

So why is good food so hard to find these days? When eating out, that is. What should be a treat is more often than not, a disappointment that one has to pay for.



Take this vegetable pasta dish. It's vegetarian but can easily be made vegan by foregoing the bit of freshly grated romano cheese on top before serving. If you're making or buying ravioli, choose the appropriate filling for your dietary needs or concerns. Regular pasta is just as good here.

The hard part is sharing the recipes. I'm a bit of a true European that way. I cook by feel. Intuition. So my 'not really a recipe' goes like this:

Olive oil - organic, cold pressed- a generous glog, about 3 tbsp.

Garlic cloves, many (3-6), sliced or chopped

Onions, two or three - red, yellow, or a mix of both

One Hot banana pepper, seeded and sliced (add a few seeds if you want some heat!) 

One large sweet red, yellow or orange pepper seeded and chopped 

A generous handful or two of brown (Cremini) mushrooms, sliced

One larger or two smaller carrots sliced thinly

2 or 3 diced tomatoes (skin and all) 

Fresh chopped Kale or Rapini or peas (fresh or frozen) 

Tomato paste (optional) 

Cooked and drained romano or cannelini beans (tinned is fine) 


Italian herb mixture

Sea Salt (I like Maldon)

Freshly ground black pepper

Chili flakes (optional) 

Fresh or Dried Pasta - ravioli, spaghetti, penne, whole wheat, greens, etc. 

Basil pesto 

How to:

Set a large pot of water on to boil. 

In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil, add the garlic, onions, peppers and cook over medium-high heat. Add the peppers, mushrooms & carrots. Continue to cook, stiring regularly. 

Add the herbs, salt & pepper, reduce heat to medium. 

When the water boils, add salt and the pasta - cook until al dente. 

While the pasta is cooking, finish the sauce: 

Add the tomatoes, green vegetables (kale, peas or rapini), a spoonful of tomato paste (if desired).  You can add a tiny bit of water or red wine to help steam the greens. Ajust the seasongings, adding more olive oil if you like. 

Drain the pasta. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir gently. Add a generous spoon of basil pesto if you like. 

Serve with freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese. Offer chili oil  or crushed chili peppers for those who like a bit more bite. 

One of my (apparently many) food rules is that pasta should be served with a glass of red wine.  This is completely optional. 

Play with the ingredients. I use a variety of vegetables depending on what is in season, and what is in my pantry and fridge at the time. Just don't leave out the onions & garlic! 





Labradorite Gloves, expanded

In my rebranding efforts, all of my patterns are getting various 'treatments'. All get a shiny new logo, and bigger fonts, others get additional details and tips, and some get new variations! 

Labradorite gloves in Zen Yarn Gardens's one of a kind dye. Size S, plain thumb version. 

The sleek and elegant Labradorite gloves originally came in 5 sizes, to fit ladies xs to xl size, but just one length, to the elbow. 

You can now choose from 4 lengths: from  1/4 length to 3/4 of the original length.  Shorter gloves can be more practical for suits or for wearing with long sleeved jumpers. They can also allow you to use those smaller skeins of precious yarns. 

If you've already purchased this pattern through Ravelry, you should have received an update with a link to the new version of the pattern. To purchase this pattern please click this link

If you purchased the hard copy from Ewe Knit in Toronto, please use the form on the Contact Page and I can set you up with an electronic copy.

Have a beautiful day, 


Labradorite gloves in progress on dpns. Just a bit of sparkle to this sock yarn. 

Grouse Beret & Fingerless Mitts revisited

Grouse Dance Beret in Mineville Wool Project no. 1504. Shade is Magenta and this version is new and features a Rolled edge. 

Rebranding takes time. It seems simple enough, pop in a new logo and you're done, right? Not quite that simple. The whole thing needs a new look which means new fonts, new layout, expansion of sizes for some, tutorials or new options for others, and new samples to knit too!  

I made a gloriously bright new Grouse Dance set for myself in Mineville Wool Project's luscious single ply merino DK. This shade called 'Magenta' is so electric, perfect for the darker days to come. The single ply made it a bit tricky to work with, but the stitch definition is lovely, and it is very soft with a nice bit of loftiness. 

Grouse Dance Beret, back view. the braided cables alternate with half-brioche panels. 

The pattern on the beret pays homage to the spiral, a form that occurs abundantly in nature. Human crafted spirals are apersistent motif across time and cultures. For many, the spiral is a representation of the cyclical nature of life, death, and rebirth. 

One experiential interpretation of the sacred spiral is the Grouse Dance. As we rush about our busy lives, we are reminded that even in the midst of activity, it is at once possible, and necessary, to look within. By doing this, we may remain true to our individual path, and find the peace amidst the din.

You Can see the Cable and Half-Brioche panels here and the way the cables intersect and weave together at the crown. 

In this design, half brioche stitch panels alternate with braided cables which ultimately join in an intricate spiral dance at the crown. Choose the edge style you prefer for the beret, a wider woven cable band, classic ribbing or rolled edge. The matching fingerless gloves feature smaller braided cables, bordered by rick rack lace and smooth stitches along the palms.

Grouse Dance Fingerless gloves made in the now discontinued 'Tapestry' by Rowan. A soy and wool blend DK. Any good quality wool or wool blend DK that knits to gauge can be substituted. Look for a ratio of approximately 120m/50g. 

The beret comes in one size fits most, adjustments can be made up or down by adjusting the tension, i.e. using smaller needles for a smaller size or larger needles for a larger size. The gloves come in 3 sizes. Depending on the yarn choice, there can be a great deal of forgiveness in the sizing here. My original pair made in Shetland DK has been adopted by my husband. I wear the ladies small, and he wears a men's medium. 

Less complicated than it may look, this is a lovely set for yourself, or for someone special. Come, join the dance of life...and remember, always dance, and knit, with joy!

The pattern is available on Ravelry.

Grouse Dance Fingerless Gloves in fluffy Bunny Hare, 90% angora wool. Only 20g is needed to make a pair of these fingerless mitts.  



Kombucha, a brief lesson

A SCOBY 'hotel'. Feed this periodically to keep them fresh. I have one for Genmaicha and one for Black Tea, the two varieties that I brew. 

I've jumped on the Kombucha bandwagon!  This healthful tonic is popular now, heralded for its many benefits, how could I not try it? I am always searching for something to help with my rather petulant stomach. 

Making your own Kombucha is really pretty straightforward.  Here a guide to how how I make mine. 

Delicious Black Tea Kombucha

First, you need a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and 250-300 ml of the starter liquid to adjust the PH levels. Ask a friend, many people are making their own Kombucha these days and with every batch you make, you get a new one so they are plentiful in a short period of time. I keep a SCOBY 'hotel' to host all the extras in case a friend needs one, or I want to experiment.  SCOBYs are also available to purchase online.

Once you have your SCOBY, you need to make sweetened tea. I make two kinds: Black Tea and Gemaicha Kombucha. Genmaicha is Japanese Green Tea with roasted rice, my favourite green tea.

Plain green tea is also good, just be sure that whatever type of tea you use, it should have caffeine in it, the SCOBY needs it. Herbal teas are not recommended.

The only other ingredients you need are organic sugar and water.

Equipment: One 3.5-4 litre glass or ceramic jar (not metal), a fine mesh strainer, some cheesecloth, funnel, paper towels or a piece of woven cotton fabric (quilting cotton weight), 3 or 4 one litre mason jars, a large cooking pot, and patience!

Make your tea: bring 4 litres of water to a boil. Take it off the heat and let it cool to the right temperature for your tea. For black tea I wait about one minute, for Green tea or Genmaicha, I wait about 5-10 minutes so the tea is not bitter.  Add 4 bags of black tea or 4 tablespoons of Genmaicha to the water.  Add 250 ml of organic sugar. Stir gently and let it cool until room temperature. This takes a long time!  I usually make my tea in the evening and leave it to cool overnight.

Starting your first fermentation:

Strain your tea into the large glass jar untilit is approximately 80% filled.

Pour in your starter liquid.

Carefully place your SCOBY into the jar. It may float, or sink, or go sideways. Now gently pour in more of your cool sweet tea so that the liquid level comes to the base of the jar's neck.  Your new SCOBY will form on the surface of the liquid, so if the jar is partially filled, you may end up with a large and thin baby SCOBY. That is ok, but I like to keep mine a bit smaller than that.

Now secure a piece of quilting cotton or a piece of paper towel to the jar.  Cheesecloth is too porous and insects can get into your Kombucha and ruin it. Fruit flies love Kombucha; seems they know what's healthy! Date your jar, as you can see I use painter's tape and a Sharpie marker. Set your jar in an out of the way corner where the temperature is relatively stable. I set mine on a sideboard. Cover your jar with a clean tea towel.

Various coverings on my jars of Kombucha on the sideboard.  Paper towel or a piece of quilting cotton will keep your product pest free. The covering does need to be porous. 

Now the patience part. Let your jar rest (don't jostle it about) for several days. If you want your Kombucha sweeter rather than sour, a shorter fermentation time is recommended. I find that leaving the first fermentation for 6-10 days is good. After a few days, a new SCOBY will form at the top of the jar. The 'mother' may be attached to it, or not.

Black Tea Kombucha, first fermentation. You can see the bubbles and the new SCOBY forming on the surface.

Prepare for the second fermentation

The night before: make your next pot of tea for your next batch so that it can cool overnight.

Wash and thoroughtly rinse 3  one litre mason jars, or other suitable, sealable glass containers.

With clean hands, lift your new baby SCOBY and the ‘mother’ out of the large fermentaion jar, place it in a clean bowl and set aside for a few minutes.

Strain off your kombucha into your prepared jars, reserving 250-300 ml of the liquid for the next batch.

Place lids on the jars and mark the dates – I usually add the start dates of the first and second fermentations. Set these aside to rest until the next day.

Make your next batch of Kombucha. Wash and rinse your large fermentation jar then follow the steps you did to make your first batch. You can use your original ‘mother’ SCOBY again and use the baby SCOBY to experiment with a different flavour of tea. Or use both in the new batch.  When you have too many SCOBYs you can compost them or creat a SCOBY ‘hotel’.

Flavouring your Kombucha

After your jars have sat on the counter for a day, you can add flavourings if you like. Gingerroot adds flavour and additional fizz, soft or tropical fruits add a lovely flavour and colour. I’ve used fresh pineapple, plums, strawberries, raspberries. Personally, I like the tea just as it is.

Place washed and gently crushed fruits or finely chopped gingerroot to your jars then pop them in the fridge to finish their fermentation.

You can drink your Kombucha right away if you like, but wait a couple of days if you’ve added fruit. The Kombucha will stay happily in your fridge for 2-3 weeks, if it lasts that long!

Caution: Sometimes new SCOBYs will form in the second fermentation; to avoid a rather unpleasant textural surprise I highly recommend straining your Kombucha before serving! A a fine mesh strainer or tea strainer works well.  

Enjoy your healthy and tasty Kombucha! 

Ingredient Summary: 1 scoby, 250-300 ml (1-1.25 cups) of starter kombucha liquid, 4 litres water, 4 bags of tea or 125 ml (4 tbsp) of loose tea, 250ml (1 cup) organic sugar

Genmaicha Kombucha fermenting. See the 'mother' SCOBY floating on an angle while the new 'baby' SCOBY  is forming at the surface.