Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Favourite Sweater Story: sweater history off Canada's west coast

Before publishing the submission, please allow me to add these few words.

Knitted sweaters have a long history. Traditions, fashions have come and went like the ocean tide.

Here, off Canada's west coast, Cowichan sweaters have been fashionable since 1860. Artist Joe Jack writes that 'traditional designs of animals, birds, sea creatures, geometric shapes' are knit into these sweaters. These designs 'have been passed down' for generations, generally from 'mother to daughter.' However, 'there are, and have been some excellent male knitters.' To learn more about the Cowichan sweaters, please visit: http://www.joejack.com/cowichanindiansweaters.html
To view images of Cowichan sweaters, please visit:

The submission:

My name is David and I'm addicted to sweaters.
My sweater that I am presenting for your contest is a native cardigan style.
It is special to me because it has a bright orangy red motif and is cozy warm!
My good friend John in Vancouver gave it to me last week.
It is a heavy knit with outside pockets and a zipper.

Thank you David for your contribution.
Stay warm,

Please visit 30 Days of Decadence (http://30daysofdecadence.blogspot.com) Ellen Keener shares her Christmas with you. One lucky commenter will receive a hand-made ornament.
Next post: Tutorial: the 3-needle cast off

Monday, November 29, 2010

Meet Knitwear Designer Rosemary Hill

I met Rosemary when I requested to interview knitwear designers. I'm grateful for her generosity.

Who taught you to knit?
My mother, but only after I begged for months! She was a crocheter through and through, but she taught me to cast on, knit and purl. I taught myself the rest!
What knitting method do you use? Continental or English?
I started out English, but then one day I just started knitting Continental without thinking about it. I'm sure it was because I was so used to crocheting with the yarn in my left hand. I haven't gone back to English. : )
What is your favourite stitch pattern?
Hmmmmm. That's a tough one! I think it would have to be the many variations of Print o' the Wave, a Shetland lace pattern.
Why did you become a knitwear designer?
At first, I did it to promote my shawl pins! Then I realized how much I really enjoy it and it took on a life of its own. : )

Tell me about your first pattern.
My first pattern is called Toque. Yo! It's a hat I made using the stitch patterns and leftover yarn from Hanne Falkenberg's Tokyo kit. It was rejected by Knitty, but I self published it at a later date. My first published pattern was Venezia, beaded wire napkin rings.
Where did it appear? On your website? In a magazine? Ezine?
Venezia appeared in Knitty.
Are you a member of a knitwear designer association? Why? Why not?
No, I'm not. There's no real reason, I suppose, other than I've never taken the time to find out about them! (I guess I should do that, eh?)
(Note from Leanne: Rosemary I plan to write about post about knitting groups this week.)

Do you attend fibre festivals? Why? Why not?
I always go to Stitches West, but that's about it. In California, we're so far from everything that the travel time and expense is prohibitive. There's no driving in just for the day! I have two young-ish kids and I really try not to stress my husband out too much by traveling around incessantly. It's difficult to function when your partner is MIA!
Have you taught knitting classes? Where? When?
Yes--I've taught at some yarn stores and at Yarnover in Minnesota, a fun one day festival. I really enjoy it!
What inspires your designs?
What doesn't inspire my designs?! : ) Everything I see, hear and experience inspires me. It doesn't hurt that I live in one of the most beautiful places EVER!
What are you currently working on?
I'm finishing up a toy design and working on three more shawls for my 7 Small Shawls eBook. They need to be finished by the end of the year!
What is the most rewarding aspect about being a knitwear designer? Challenging?
Creating something that people love to knit is a fabulous feeling! I think self doubt is the most challenging. Every time a design goes out, it's a part of me, and I'm hoping that I wasn't fooling myself into thinking it looks good!
Please share knitting/design advice.
My advice? Find your style and what you really like doing and then stick with it.

To view more of Rosemary's breathtakingly beautiful designs, please visit her website http://www.designsbyromi.com and her blog http://rosemarygoround.blogspot.com

Please visit with A. Faris as she explains how to make the perfect cup of chai on the 30 days of Decadence blog (http://30daysof decadence.blogspot.com)

Next post: Another entry in the My Favourite Sweater Contest.
Have you written yours?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Six Sentences Sunday

This is my first time sharing, and I'm so excited. Here goes...

Leanne Dyck
This isn't Heaven. It isn't Hell. And I'm not alive.
Picture this: a bus stop, tons of people packed into the same small space all waiting to continue their journey. Many buses stop here. Some passengers get off, others get on. Young children with sickly white complexions huddle together in the shelter. Teenagers with rope burns around their necks get off the bus. Old men with bullet holes climb on.
To be continued next Sunday.
Next post: Meet Knitwear Designer Rosemary Hill

My Favourite Sweater Story

I'm delighted to share the first story contribution to the My Favourite Sweater contest. The author, Laurie Buchanan, is entered to win a free copy of The Sweater Curse.

Laurie writes...
Growing up I often admired a sweater that my mother only wore on special occasions. Hand knit by my grandmother for my mother's high school graduation, the body was deep red and the yoke was intricately patterned black and white mohair.
Mom kept the sweater folded carefully in tissue that crinkled softly as she removed it from her cedar chest. We were instructed to "Look with your eyes, not with your hands" when she laid it on the bed as she got ready to go out to dinner with dad. While mom was in the shower, my sister and I would gently finger the mohair, and rub our cheeks against its softness.
I longed for the sweater. What do you suppose I received on my 15th birthday? I cried and cried when I opened the tissue and saw the sweater. I knew then that in my mother's eyes I was grown up.

Please visit Laurie's inspiring website: http://www.holessence.com/listenwithyourheart.html

Thank you so much, Laurie, for entering the contest.

Other places to visit on the web
Today's post: The Christmas My Sister Blew the Head Off Malibu Barbie
by Bianca Dawson (As dictated to Kimber An)
One prize awarded everyday.

Check out my friend and fellow Mayne Island writers group member --Susan Snider-- new cookbook: Favourite Recipes Shared by Family, Friends & Me http://www.recipesyoucanmake.com
Makes a perfect holiday gift.

Later today: I enter Six Sentences Sunday
by sharing the first six sentences of The Sweater Curse

Friday, November 26, 2010

Meet Knitwear Designer Donna Druchunas

Donna Druchunas is the author of numerous books, including Successful Lace Knitting: Celebrating the Work of Dorothy Reade, Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland, and Artic Lace: Knitting Projects and Stories inspired by Alaska's Native Knitters. She spent four months this year traveling in Europe to teach knitting workshops and do research for her next book, which will be about knitting in Lithuania. During her two-month stay in Lithuania, she studied with local knitters, visited fiber arts galleries and museums, and enjoyed being in her home. You can learn more about Donna by visiting her website at www.sheeptoshawl.com
Who taught you to knit?
My grandmother. I don't even remember learning!
What method of knitting do you use--Continental or English?
I use a form of Continental knitting with the yarn carried in my left hand. But I pick the purl stitches in the opposite direction of most American and Western European knitters. The way I knit is more common in Russia and it is sometimes called the "Eastern Uncrossed" or "Combination" method.

What is your favourite stitch pattern?
For simple patterns, I love moss stitch. But I have become addicted to knitting lace. I'm partial to simple lace patterns as well, those I can memorize in just a few repeats. Because I enjoy working simple patterns in gorgeous yarns, and even lace with handdyed yarns, I am especially fond of feather and fan and simple leaf patterns.
Why did you become a knitwear designer?
Because I go overboard on everything I do, and I decided to start knitting again in my mid-30s after a break since I was teenager. My family's motto is "nothing in moderation!"
Tell me about your first pattern.
About ten years ago, I was shopping at the Boulder Handweavers' Guild annual sale and I saw a marvelous felted bag that I wanted badly. It was $75, and quite outside of my budget at the time. I was with my mom at the sale and we decided we would try to figure out how to make the bag ourselves, so we went to the local yarn shop, bought some wool yarn and a book with some information on felting, and I went home and started to play. I ended up with one of my favorite bags of all time--I still use it today--and it also became my first published knitting design.
Where did it appear--your website, ezine, magazine?
My first published design was in Family Circle Easy Knitting. I always loved that magazine and was sad to see it go away!
Are you a member of a knitwear designer association? Why? Why not?
No. I was a TNNA member but my membership lapped. I'm thinking of signing up again so I can work with their intership program and maybe teach and do booksignings when my next book comes out.
Do you attend fibre festivals? Why? Why not?
I love fiber festivals and I do attend for personal pleasure. Sometimes I teach at them too, but they don't have the best pay and I can't afford to travel and teach if my travel and lodging expenses are not covered, so I mostly teach at nearby fiber festivals or at ones I plan to attend anyway just for the pleasure of the experience!
Does your local yarn shop support you? In what way?
Yes, I work with several local knitting shops. I teach and hold book signings at local shops, and they also help me find test knitters when I need help with deadline knitting.
Have you taught knitting classes? Where? When?
I teach all the time and have taught all over the United States and in several European countries. Next year I will be teaching more than usual, with workshops almost every month at home in Colorado and a tour of New England and possibly Eastern Canada in the fall. So if anyone reading this lives in those areas and wants to invite me to teach, let me know soon! I've never taught in that area before and I'm very excited about it. I've also taught on cruises and my next cruise is in New England and Canada next autumn also. You can find out more here: http://tinyurl.com/29wxzkz
What inspires you?
Mostly traditional clothing and nature, but I also love contemporary fashion. Although I'm not a fashionista and I usually can be found wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I adore seeing the new fashions that come out every season. I had a fantastic time window shopping at the designer shops in Rome near the Piazza Spagna this summer. It was amazing to see how much knitwear was on display.
I know that you're an author as well as a designer. In fact, your knitting book series Ethnic Knitting is mentioned in The Sweater Curse. Please tell me about your books.
There's too much to tell in such a short space! I have two books about knitting (Artic Lace and Successful Lace Knitting), two books about designing sweaters (Ethnic Knitting Discovery and Exploration), a book of designs for cat lovers (Kitty Knits), and a book that may be out of print, I'm trying to find out, about knitting rugs (The Knitted Rug). If my first book is out of print, I hope to get it put out as an ebook ASAP. The other books are going to be available as ebooks soon as well, and I have an audio edition of Artic Lace in post production right now. I hope it will come out before Christmas, but I'm not sure.
What are you currently working on?
I'm trying to finish my next book about Lithuanian knitting before the end of the year!
What is the most rewarding thing about being a designer? About being a writer? The most challenging?
I love making things and seeing my finished items and books. I also find it very rewarding to hear from knitters and readers who have enjoyed my work. The most challenging part is working as a freelancer and trying to stay organized and meet deadlines, especially when traveling and also holding down a day job! My day job is also location independent, so that helps. But it's still quite a lot to juggle.
Please share knitting/designing/writing advice
In all of these areas, being professional is the most important advice I can give for anyone wanting to get into the business. For those who are doing these things for fun, my advice is take it easy, remember to breathe, and above all else, have fun!
Thank you so much, Donna. It was a pleasure interviewing and corresponding with you--as always.
Donna uses the Continental Combined knitting method.
I wasn't familiar with this method so I searched Youtube and found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHbwD2jT-TI
Ellen Keener interviewed me. Please visit: http://ellenkeener.wordpress.com/
Visit the 30 days of Decadence blog (http://30daysofdecadence.blogspot.com) and visit with author Amanda McINtyre
Next post: I've joined Six Sentences Sunday and will be
sharing six sentences from my soon-to-be published thriller--The Sweater Curse

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas

Arctic Lace is a well-crafted, informative book. Far more than a knitting book it is a book of discovery. In it we are introduced not only to work in lace but to the rich northern culture.
Traveling "north" is a treat that due to the expenses incurred not all may enjoy. Yet while reading Artic Lace I felt I was there. Donna takes us with her to Alaska,. We meet the people, hear their stories, experiences their culture.
One of the stories Donna shares is of the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producer's Co-operative. As a rural woman I know how hard it can be to make a living. The story of the co-op speaks of ingenuity, perseverance, and dedication.
Donna also introduces us to the gentle creatures whose luxurious fibre every knitter longs to knit.
Then in the final chapters Donna's thoughts turn to lace. A knitter inexperienced with working in lace may be apprehensive. Donna addresses your concerns and puts them to rest. She outlines steps to ensure your experience is rewarding. Her lace-knitting workshop in words and pictures is clear and concise. The patterns included offer hours of knitting enjoyment for knitters of all skill levels.
I highly recommend Artic Lace to both those who dream of artic travel and to those who like to or long to knit lace.

After reviewing Arctic Lace I couldn't wait to get my hands on Donna Druchunas' latest book. Ethnic Knitting did not disappoint. It serves as both a design primer as well as an exploration of knitting traditions. These diverse topics are skilfully knit together.
In Ethnic Knitting's introduction, Donna clearly states the book's objective: "'With the skills you will learn in the following chapters, you will be able to design and knit beautiful, one-of-a-kind sweaters that fit perfectly."
Chapter 2 serves as a knitting design primer. The lessons include but are not limited to basics about sweater shapes, silhouettes and sizes.
Chapters 3 to 6 serve as an introduction to the knitting traditions of the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the Andes. Each of these chapters ends with an invitation. Donna invites you to use what you have learnt in chapter 2 to design and knit projects, which adhere to the knitting traditions of each country, you have visited.
To learn more about these and the other books Donna has written, please visit: www.sheeptoshawl.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday knitting solutions

It's snowing again, and to celebrate this rare occurrence, I bring you today's post.

A winter scene motif

Try your hand at painting with yarn. Use it to decorate sweater fronts, bags, dishcloths, etc.
Note: The larger the needle used the larger the motif. I used 4.50 mm/US 7/ UK 7
Seed stitch (over even number of stitches)
Row 1: knit 1, purl 1--to end of row
Row 2: purl 1, knit 1--to end of row
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern
1 x 1 rib stitch (over even number of stitches)
Row: knit 1, purl 1--to end of row
Repeat for pattern
Stockinette stitch
Row 1: knit--to end of row
Row 2: purl--to end of row
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern
Over 38 stitches
Work in seed stitch for 2 inches
Tree trunk
Work seed stitch for 15 stitches, 1 x 1 rib for 8 stitches, seed stitch for 15 stitches for one inch
Tree branches
Row 1 & 2: Work seed stitch for 8 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 22 stitches, seed stitch for 8 stitches
Row 3 & 4: Work seed stitch for 9 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 20 stitches, seed stitch for 9 stitches
Row 5 & 6: Work seed stitch for 10 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 18 stitches, seed stitch for 10 stitches
Row 7 & 8: Work seed stitch for 11 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 16 stitches, seed stitch for 11 stitches
Row 9 & 10: Work seed stitch for 12 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 14 stitches, seed stitch for 12 stitches
Row 11 & 12: Work seed stitch for 13 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 12 stitches, seed stitch for 13 stitches
Row 13 & 14: Work seed stitch for 14 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 10 stitches, seed stitch for 14 stitches
Row 15 & 16: Work seed stitch for 15 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 8 stitches, seed stitch for 15 stitches
Row 17 & 18: Work seed stitch for 16 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 6 stitches, seed stitch for 16 stitches
Row 19 & 20: Work seed stitch for 17 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 4 stitches, seed stitch for 17 stitches
Row 21 & 22: Work seed stitch for 18 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 2 stitches, seed stitch for 18 stitches
Work in seed stitch for 2 inches
It's November 24th, there's a month of knitting days left. Don't panic. Take heart and follow this advice from the Designer's Note blog.
Situation: Giving hand knitted socks
Problem: Only one sock finished
Solution: Wrap that sock with a note that reads...
Other sock hidden. Find it if you can.
Other sock to be finished, soon.
Situation: Giving a hand knit item to a fellow knitter who has the same tension as you
Problem: Itme is half finished
Solution: Wrap item, yarn and needles with a note that reads...
Let's knit this together.
** My mom gave me this gift, and I was delighted.
Situation: Giving a hand knit item to a new knitter
Problem: You bought the pattern, yarn and needles. No actual knitting has been done.
Solution: Wrap pattern, yarn and needles alone with a note that reads...
This is a coupon for free knitting lessons.
Situation: Giving a hand knit item
Problem: You have yet to buy the yarn and needles
Solution: Wrap the pattern with a note that reads...
This will soon be yours. Come yarn shopping with me. (Give a selection of dates).
Tomorrow: I share my review of two of Donna Druchunas' books--Artic Lace and Ethnic Knitting

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What is an eReader?

The Sweater Curse will be published as an eBook and you may choose to read it on an eReader.

Before addressing today's topic, you may ask--what's an eBook?

I found this explanation:

'An ebook is an electronic version of a traditional print book that can be read by using a personal computer or by using an eBook reader...Users...purchase...a downloadable file from a website...Generally, an eBook can be downloaded in five minutes or less.

Although it is not necessary to use a reader application or device in order to read an eBook...they are popular.' (To read the entire article, please visit:

I don't own an Ereaders. I read Ebooks on my computer screen.

A few weeks ago I was discussing Ereaders with my fellow Decadent Publishing authors. I was intrigued by what I learnt and asked Ellen Keener to guest blog.

Ellen Keener is the author of the paranormal romance Blood Moon. (

Ellen writes:


Most people have an opinion on them, whether they've used them or not. Let's just look at the pros and cons for a moment.

Up until a few months ago I was one of those people who read eBooks on the computer, but just assumed that an eReader was another gadget I'd like to play with, but didn't need. I mean, I'd tried the eBook apps on my droid and hated them because the screen was too small. I also get migraines, so I figured anything I had to read on a screen wouldn't help that.

I told everyone I knew that maybe, MAYBE when they lowered in price I would think about it.

And then my brother got one. He travels a lot for work, so he bought one to take with him. He loved it.

So the next time I visited him, I played with his.

It wasn't anything like what I expected. It was easy to use, I could shop instantly (which is a con as far as my wallet is concerned) and I could put thousands of books in one slim little nook. That was probably the part that sold me the most, aside from instant gratification. I'd just come back from vacation where I'd only taken five books because that was all I could fit into the bag.

eReaders are great for trips. You can carry as many books as you want, read whatever you want, and if you're sometimes shy about reading those "bodice rippers" in public, no one knows what you're reading on them. Now, the instant gratification part is also nice, though I can't actually use it unless I am somewhere else. I live in the middle of nowhere, and we don't get good enough 3G to use that service. But I can go to work, the library, or the local Starbucks/Panera/whatever in the next county over and be fine.

The screens, for those of you who are wondering, are made with elink technology. And it's great. It looks like a book. No glare to speak of, and its easy on the eyes. You can make the fonts bigger if you need to. My only gripe is that because it is designed to look like a book, you have to have a booklight to read them in the dark. There is no screen lighting like in a cell phone or something.

Overall, they are an excellent choice for anyone who, like me, is running out of room on their shelves and/or purchases eBooks. Will there be books I still buy in paperback? Or course! But I'm content to use both.'

Please visit Ellen's blog:

I treasure computer savvy friends. My romance angel friend Lorraine shared this link:


Tomorrow: Holiday knitting solutions and free winter motif

Monday, November 22, 2010

What is the sweater curse?

Is it sewing seems?


Being an ancient craft, knitting has amassed a collection of myths. One of these is the sweater curse.

Wikipedia defines the sweater curse as 'a situation in which a knitter gives a hand-knit sweater to a significant other, who quickly breaks up with the knitter.'

explains the curse using humour and psychology

In this interesting article written by Katherine, she explains that the curse isn't simply pertain to sweaters, but extends to all knitting of size.

After encountering this myth, my muse danced and I began writing THE SWEATER CURSE.

Tomorrow guest blogger Ellen Keener discusses eReaders.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

...yes, but isn't it beautiful

It all started last night with a few flakes. Notice the green grass.

We woke up today to find that the ground was no longer green.

Notice the banks of snow on our truck.

My husband shovels our driveway a.k.a. the downhill skating rink. Well, maybe it's not a skating rink yet, but it does have potential.

The sky is so beautiful.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What is a paranormal psychological thriller?

To answer this question, let's focus on each of these words individually.


Answers.com defines paranormal as 'beyond the range of normal experiences or scientific explanation'


Wikipedia.org defines psychological as 'elements that are related to the mind or processes of the mind, they are mental rather than physical in nature'


In James Scott Bell's book Plot & Structure, he writes that a thriller is 'like a vise closing on the Lead. And the events get tighter and tighter, threatening the Lead in some drastic way.'

Did I set out to write a paranormal psychological thriller?

Well, no, I wrote a story. I discovered the genre, while planning how to market The Sweater Curse.

I've always enjoyed both paranormals and thrillers. So, as a writer, it was a thrill (pun intended) combining the two genres.

In the May/June 2010 issue of Writer's Digest there is a fascinating article on the does and don'ts of combining genres.

Next post: How did I name my story?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Knitting humour

Mom, "Oh, no, I dropped a stitch."

Son, "Don't worry, Mom. You have lots more."

Remain constantly looped...knit
Tomorrow: What is a paranormal psychological thriller?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Found in a 1936 knitting magazine

I have a small collection of vintage knitting magazines.

Knitting and Homecrafts was a Canadian magazine published monthly by Homecraft Publications Limited in Montreal. A yearly subscription cost one dollar in the British Empire (of which Canada was a member), $1. 50 United States.

Flipping through, I found this interesting article--Romance of Wool--penned by Philip J. Turner, F.R.I.B.A....
England in the Middle Ages owed much of her prosperity to the raising of sheep and the production of wool which were the principal industries of the countryside. In the 15th century wool was described as indeed "the flower and strength and revenue and blood of England." At the time of the Black Death the rural districts were depopulated to such an extent that it was almost impossible to till the land properly, and as a consequence the country districts were turned over almost entirely to vast sheep runs. English wool which was always famous, was at first exported and made into cloth on the continent, but later on King Edward III decided that it would be wise not only to grow the wool but also to make the cloth. So foreign weavers, principally from Belgium, were brought over to give the necessary instructions, and stringent laws were passed against exporting English sheep. A first offence for breaking such a law resulted in the offender being imprisoned for a year; at the end of this term he was taken to the market place and his hand was cut off; if he offend again his head was cut off.
As time went on so much land was given up to the rearing of sheep and so little was being used for the cultivation of grain that Parliament, in the days of Henry VIII, passed a law which decreed that no tenant farmer should be allowed to keep more than 2, 000 sheep.
Lavenham in Suffolk was in the 15th century one of the great centres of this woollen industry, for the Eastern countries were then world famous for the sheep they produced--a reputation that has remained with East Anglia up to the present time.
Several merchants at this time amassed huge fortunes in the production of wool, and notably Thomas Spring--the subject of this article--who became a very wealthy wool-merchant. He is known as Thomas Spring the III for he was the grandson of the founder of the family, and is referred to in documents of his days as the "rich clothier". He must have been a multi-millionaire of his time, for next to the Duke of Norfolk, he was the highest taxpayer in the 15th century. Thomas Spring was born in 1456 and died at the age of 67 in 1523, when Lavenhem was at the height of its prosperity.
Lavenham, it may truly be said, is one of the most unspoilt towns of the Middle Ages that is to be found anywhere in England. It claims to have the finest timberframed Guild Hall in the land and an excellent example of a stone cross which is at least 400 years old, --an Inn, "The Swan", containing a wealth of half-timber work and a picturesque courtyard, --a profusion of old houses of the 15th and 16th centuries, and dominating the whole town like a miniature cathedral is the church of St. Peter and St. Paul which has few equals in the whole of England. The town is in fact consistently complete, its preservation being partly due to the fact that it has always been off the beaten track, so far as the main country roads and thoroughfares are concerned.
The view from the Tower is one of the grandest in the district, and the church is a splendid specimen of flint work with stone trimmings--the cutting of flints being a local Suffolk industry over 1, 000 years old.
Just before the church was completed this great commoner had been knighted which evidently pleased him much, for he had two dozen copies of his newly-got armorial shield carved in stone around this tower's parapet.
To view Lavenham right, you should ascend to the leads of the church-tower, 141 feet high. Arriving there you will feel predominant, and so I imagine did Sir Thomas who standing here nearer the heavens than any other man in Suffolk, and looking down on the town below might well have exclaimed: "Is not this great Lavenham that I have built by the might of my purse, for the honour of my name, and for the welfare of my soul?" Try to see in your mind's eye those portraits of early Tudor worthies that hang in the National Portrait Gallery in London, and then open your eyes quickly, and you'll see Thomas Spring, the new esquire, standing beside you on these leads in brave array, telling you how many marks he and his late father have spent on the church, and how many of the red-roofed houses that look so small were built as dwellings for their overseers and workfolk. One likes this sentence in his will (spelling modernized): "I will that satisfaction and restitution be made to every person complaining and duly proving any injury, wrong, extortion, oppression, "disteyte" (distraint), or any misbehaving or demeaning against reason or conscience, by me to them done in any wise." To which the cynic may reply: "A guilty conscience, and fear of hell-fire!" Well, the next clauses in his will are to provide for the singing of masses in many churches for his soul's health--"immediately after my decease in as hasty time as it may be conveniently done." The rich clothier feared that his soul might have a hot time in purgatory pending the singing of the masses! "Priests' blackmail and medieval fire insurance" says the cynic. Yes, but it produced fine churches, and you couldn't raise the money nowadays.
The town of Lavenham and district for many centuries belonged to the wealthy de Veres, Earls of Oxford, who held the title for five and one-half centuries and they were in consequence the patrons of the place. The de Veres took their name from Ver, a small town in France and most certainly came over with William the Conqueror. At the time of the building of the church he was the principal Lord of the land. The 13th Earl who helped to build the church commanded the right wing of the army at Bosworth. Probably all parishioners vied with one another in offering money or labour, but chief of all were John de Vere, thirteenth Earl of Oxford, who died in 1512-13, and our illustrious Thomas Spring, who died 1523-24. Democratic co-operative is no modern growth; here we have belted earl of the bluest blood in England and new rich tradesmen uniting together to build the finest church in Suffolk. When the tower was begun, the Springs were non-armorial, so around its base their trade-mark alternates with the shields of de Vere, Howard, Montague, and Neville: but before it was finished, the heralds' college had granted them arms, which, because they finished the work, they reproduced two dozen times around its parapet, and also many times on , and in their south chancel-chapel. Let us hope that the de Veres smiled good-naturedly--noblesse oblige--at the pride and delight taken by these worthy tradesmen in their new toy. Little did they then realise that Bridget, the rich clothier's favourite daughter, would later on, by marrying Aubrey de Vere, second son of the fifteenth earl, become grandmother of the nineteenth Earl of Oxford, and ancestress of the Dukes of St. Albans!
Sir Thomas Spring was twice married: After the death of his first wife he was perhaps over zealous in making money, and guilty of misdeeds in making and selling cloth; at any rate he applied for a general pardon, which was granted in 1508. No misdeeds in the past could then be brought up against him. Henry VII, "pardons, remits and releases Thomas Spring of Lavenhem of all murders or felonies, or accessory murders or felonies, rebellions, deceptions, contempt, etc. also of all usurious contracts, usurious bargains, corrupts covenants, etc., also of illicit sales of cloth, wool, linen, and for non-payment of foreign merchants, and for all false deceptions in the selling of woollen cloth."
He devised in his will that on the thirtieth day after his death masses for his soul should be said in every town and parish where he owned land; if this wish was carried out masses were said in about one hundred and thirty parish churches.
Trade fell away in the 17th century and Charles II endeavoured to stimulate the trade by decreeing that all dead bodies should be buried in woolen shrouds, a law which remained on the statute book for 120 years. But Lavenhem was already decaying and its prosperity departed with the rise of the great industrial towns in the North of England. Yet the grand old houses, or many of them, still remain, and Lavenham is, in large part, a monument to the enterprise and business acumen of our old wool-merchant, Sir Thomas Spring, the "rich clothier", of Henry VIII's time.
In 1578 Queen Elizabeth visited Lavenham when Sir W. Spring was High Sheriff of Suffolk, and the present Queen Mother visited Lavenham in 1928.
Recently the roof of the Church that Sir Thomas Spring built has had to be very extensively restored owing to the ravages of the death-watch beetle. It is interesting to note in this connection that Sir Cecil Spring Rice former Ambassador to the U.S., and a descendant of Sir Thomas, was one of those instrumental in carrying out this work.

I plan to share more article from this magazine (which is the oldest I possess) as well as from others in my care.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Solve this mystery

Who is one of the newest members of the Crime Writers of Canada?
Here's the hottest lead:

Visiting the Gulf Islands Spinning Mill

Once upon a time a knitter and her husband spent a lovely summer holiday at Bullock Lake Farm Bed and Breakfast. The husband spent his days watching the sheep graze in the meadow, and scratching their ears when they flocked around him on his visits to the paddock. The knitter saw the change in her husband during their stay: his shoulders relaxed, he walked more slowly, and he seemed to be taking in more of his natural surroundings. She wanted to make this experience continue beyond the end of their say. "There must be a way," she reasoned. "That he can take the sheep with him."

And there was...

One bright and sunny day I took a ferry to Salt Spring Island. My mission: to visit the Gulf Island Spinning Mill, a co-operative established in 1999 born out of the island farmers' need for a local facility to process fleece from a variety of fibre producing animals. John Fulker, one of the co-operative's directors, was my guide. He advised that the mill--that operates Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm--processes fleece from sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas.

Although the mill was established to handle small quantities of fibre, ingenuity has been employed to increase the mill's productivity. John proudly pointed out the adaptations, which include customized machinery.

Gulf Island Spinning Mill serves farmers from Salt Spring Island, the Southern Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. The farmers receive advice on how best to care for their livestock. Information about how to care for the fibre when it is on the animal, and how to skirt fleeces helps to ensure that the finished product will be of high quality.

The Mill produces a number of products for knitters, weavers and spinners. In addition to supplying the Canadian market, Gulf Islands Spinning Mill ships goods to the United States and Great Britain. Visitors come from as far away as Japan and Australia, and many of them have taken home some of the Mill's truly Canadian souvenirs.

Two annual events are held on the mill grounds--a fibre festival in July and a Fall Fair in September. To learn more about the mill, please visit: http://www.gulfislandsspinningmill.com/index.html

After our tour of the Mill, John whisked me off to his farm, five minutes away. Bullock Lake Farm is home to a collection of fibre producing animals, a fully equipped Bed and Breakfast, and a yarn shop.

The small yarn shop is brimming over with treasures, all nicely displayed. Knitwear, patterns, batts, roving, felted wall hangings, and yarn are sold in the shop. Among the skeins is Island Blend Yarn a product of Gulf Islands Spinning Mill. It is a blend of alpaca, wool, and mohair--the wool gives loft, the alpaca warmth, the mohair adds lustre and brilliance to the colours. It has a hand spun look and is very soft to the touch.

At the conclusion of my fun and informative tour, John told me how the visitor took the sheep home. Why she purchased several skeins of Island Blend Yarn, of course.

This article was first published in November, 2003 by the now defunct Canadian knitting magazine--Knit Together.

Friday, November 12, 2010

ebooks on NY times

Novels, rock music, ebooks they're all here to stay.


While you wait, knit this hat

Deadlines come and they go.
What's truly important is quality work.

At Decadent Publishing (www.decadentpublishing.com) I fortunate to work with a team of talented editors. Together, we have polished The Sweater Curse and now it shines. I'm so very proud of it.

I can't wait until you'll be able to read it. Soon that day will come.

To help us wait, here's a free toque pattern...

Yarn: one skein (230 yards/ 210 metres)

Needle size: 1 pair 4.50mm (7 US, 7 UK)

Tension: 20 stitches x 8 rows = 4 inches over Stockinette stitch

Stitch pattern

4 x 4 rib stitch (over even number of stitches)
Row 1: *knit four, purl four --repeat from * to end of row
Repeat row for pattern

1 x 1 rib stitch (over even number of stitches)
Row 1: *knit one, purl one --repeat from * to end of row.
Repeat row for pattern.

Cast on 80 stitches
Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 11 inches (27.5 cm)
This row: *knit together --repeat from * to end of row 40 stitches remain
Work in 1 x 1 rib for 1 inch (2 cm)
Bind off, sew seam and weave in ends.

Please re-read 'Knitted in Love' to discover what inspired me to design this toque.

Please visit me at Decadent's blog --www.decadentpublishing.blogspot.com
I share facts about The Sweater Curse.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


When I was a little girl, my mom told me about knitting for the war effort. She said that teenage girls would sometimes enclose brief notes to the soldiers in with their donations of socks, hats, or mitts. I've kept this anecdote as something to hang a story on. Some day, I will write that story.

Oh, yes, and speaking of stories. I've finished my revisions and passed it on to the editors.

When will The Sweater Curse be published?


Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I apologizes for not posting today. I had planned to share the toque pattern. I still plan to do that. However, waiting for me in my email inbox this morning was a very pleasant surprise --The Sweater Curse manuscript. I've invested the entire day writing revisions. We are close, oh so close. I'm not sure if I will make the deadline of November 12th. If not, I assure you it will be published shortly after that date. Now's the time to tell Decadent Publishing (www.decadentpublishing.com) how much you're looking forward to reading it... : )
Write to you soon

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Knitted in Love

One of my island neighbours knit her husband a toque. Forty years later he still wears it.

She tells him that it has become ugly with age --he wears it. She explains that the yarn has become pilled --he wears it. She says the colours have faded --he wears it.

"You knit it for me. You knit it for me when we...when our love was oh so young," he coos. "I don't want a new toque. I don't want any toque but this one." He draws her into his arms and kisses her.

"Oh, I give up." She laughs.

Later, when he is having an afternoon nap, she confides in me, toque in hand. "I'm going to take this dirty old thing and burn it. You see how ugly it is!" She pauses. "Its just...its just that...he feels the cold so. Maybe if I could make one exactly like it it. The same colour --the same pattern..."

"What's the matter?"

"Well, dear. It just won't work."

"Why not?"

"I lost the pattern years ago and these old hands they just won't hold the needles."

I take the toque from her hands, closely examining it. "I can design a toque exactly like this one."

"Really? Well, that would be wonderful dear." She says, handing me a shopping bag with a skein of yarn. I add the toque.

Arriving home, I set to work. I'm impressed by the clever design. Still, there are things I like to change. I resist the impulse. I replicate the toque. I knit the last stitch, sew the seam, and weave in the ends.

I place the remaining yarn with both toques in the shopping bag, and walk back to my neighbour's. She is pleased to see me and enquires about my progress.

"I'm finished." I hand her the bag.

She takes the new toque out of the bag, hands the bag back to me and examines my work. She grins.

Her husband sails in to the kitchen, grabs the toque and announces, "I'm going for a walk." He kisses her and waves good-bye to me.

Victorious, we wait until he leaves and then we share a laugh.

Later, with the old toque as my muse, I design a new --and I think, better --toque. It quickly becomes my favourite toque pattern. I have knit it for men, women, children and infants. I keep several for myself.

Tomorrow: I share the pattern

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meet a Sheep Farmer: Rick

Gwen Bjarnson, the main character in The Sweater Curse, was born on a sheep farm.

Contrarily, even though I was born, raised and have lived most of my life in rural Canada, I've never lived on a sheep farm.

However, my big brother has. I'm proud to introduce you to Rick.

Rick writes...

I always wanted to be a farmer. While I was going to school, I worked on a farm that had sheep. I found it interesting and thought it would be something I would like to do when I had the chance to farm on my own.

It was close to thirty years before I could fulfill this dream. In 1995 my wife and I purchased 10 ewes.

Over the period of time from then till now, we have had as high as 250 sheep. Currently, we have 80 mature adult sheep and 90 lambs.

My day as a sheep farmer mainly consists of visually checking the flock and making sure their water supply is working. They have salt and mineral, and during the winter they have hay and straw. The busiest but the most fun time of year is Lambing time. It means long hours and little sleep but the miracle of birth and mother hood is amazing to witness. Watching those little lambs running around is neat.

We have to vaccinate and deworm three times a year that takes 8 hours each time it is done. In the fall we weigh the lambs checking to see if they are ready for market. They should weigh between 90 and 100 lbs. With the help of a couple of good border collie dogs to do the round-up, this job takes 6 hours each time.

The most rewarding thing in sheep farming is new live lambs. The most challenging is trying to make money.

But, in closing, I really enjoy doing it and it gives me a chance to enjoy my other passion --stock dogs. You can not sheep farm in my opinion with out border collies and some breed of sheep guardian dogs.

Thank you so much, Rick.
I've added some sites to elaborate on Rick's comments about guardian and stock dogs. As a little sister who is proud of her big brother, I must add that Rick raises and trains stock dogs. His dogs have won awards for their skill.

Guardian dog

Stock Dog
Please, scroll down for the videos.

Tomorrow: I share one of my short stories

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Knitting in Iceland

Gwen Bjarnson, the main character of The Sweater Curse, is Scottish/Icelandic-Canadian. I too have roots in Iceland.
Iceland's flag
My Icelandic-Canadian Grandma taught me to knit. The craft has been handed down in my family for generations. Traveling to Iceland is very expensive so my ancestors left never expecting to return. Most Icelandic emigrates left with few belongs as space on the ship was severely limited. I imagine one of the things my great grandmother brought with her were her knitting needles. It has taken my family 150 years to return but on September 4th, 2007 I did. Now that I am back in Canada I would like to share my experiences with you.

View of Iceland
Iceland has had a significant influence on knitting. Lopi yarn and the Icelandic sweater are fine examples of this influence. This is impressive, indeed, when you realize that these adaptations have come from such a tiny island --Iceland's population is only 306, 000.
I stand in front of the Textile Museum
Icelanders were introduced to knitting in the 16th century. Traditionally, both girls and boys were instructed in the craft. Their needles soared through many projects. Two examples I saw in the Textile Museum in Blondous were a woolen undershirt and fishermen's leggings. These leggings were worn over pants and encased the leg from the toe to upper thigh. The scratchy undershirt was worn next to the skin. My husband thought the itching would drive him crazy but had to agree it would keep him warm.
I saw an example of traditional Icelandic mitts while at the Icelandic Emigration Centre at Hofsos. Traditional Icelandic mitts had two thumbs, one on either side of the fingers.
The design adaptation prolonged the life of the mitt Icelanders knew that the first part of a mitt to wear out was the thumb. By knitting a second thumb, fishermen could go on working simply by turning the mitt around. Now that's Icelandic ingenuity.

I stand in front of the National Museum
Upon a visit to the National Museum, I was surprised to discover that traditional Icelandic sweaters did not arrive on the fashion scene until the 1940s. A recent adaptation of the Icelandic sweater features detachable sleeves.

Beautiful Hofsos,
in the foreground one of the three buildings
that house the Icelandic Emigration Centre
I spent most of my time visiting with relatives in Hofsos. Hofsos is a small town with a population of 170. This meant sacrificing big town charm for an opportunity to be with family. For most of our stay we had no car and the buses only ran three times a week from Hofsos. Not for me the opportunity to roam through yarn shop after yarn shop. Which would you choose --family or wool?

One day our host, my husband and I walked into Hofsos' convenience store. There among the brown bread and hardfish I saw it --six shelves of yarn. Our host and my husband left me to engage my senses. The information on the yarn bands was written in Icelandic so I had to speculate as to the fiber content. I could tell by touch that the majority of the skeins were wool --Lopi and the like. Also present were acrylic and cotton blends. The experience left me intoxicated.
Eventually, we did visit larger towns, which meant more yarn and even knitting magazines, but unfortunately still no yarn shops. Although I am told they do exist in Iceland. In a Blondous department store our host pointed out the book section. There among shelves upon shelves of magazines I saw them --knitting magazines. There were knitting magazines from Sweden, Britain, and one form Iceland. I bought the Icelandic knitting magazine. Flipping through its pages I noticed large and small projects --much eye candy. The magazine is organized similar to a North American knitting magazine --glossy pictures in the front with black and white instructions in the back. I was surprised to see no schematics.
While in Hofsos, I had an interesting conversation with a graduate of the Icelandic school system --Rosa Tryvadottir. She informed me that the equivalent of the North American grade school only goes to grade ten in Iceland. Upon reaching this level of education students have the opportunity to enroll in the studies of their choice. Rosa elected to enroll in a school that offered needlecraft classes. She took quilting, embroidery and knitwear design. After two years of study she had the opportunity to choose one of these needlecraft's and further her study in university. She said that some of her friends had chosen knitwear design. Upon university graduation her friends banded together to form an association that sold their knitwear designs --much like the Handknitting Association of Iceland.
While in Iceland I heard about Snorri Plus. Snorri Plus is a unique program offered to Vestur Islendingur. (Vestur Islendingur is an expression used by Icelanders to describe Icelandic-Canadian and Icelandic-Americans. It means Western Icelanders.) This program is much like the original Snorri program. However, were as Snorri participants are from 18 to 28 years old Snorri Plus attracts participants who are over the age of thirty. Snorri Plus participants spend fifteen days living and working (or hobbying) with their Icelandic relatives while they tour Iceland. What an opportunity for a knitwear designer or knitter!

Tomorrow: Meet a sheep farmer.