Toronto museums, part 2

Last time I showed you some of the pictures from my visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Textile Museum of Canada. I still had two more museums on my list that day! I moved on to the Gardiner Museum. I love ceramics, and I arrived just in time for a brief public tour. We started off looking at this example from Mexico and talking about all of the details on this statue:

Mexican ceramic statue

After the whirlwind tour through the ages with the guide, I went off and found a couple more things that interested me. As a spinner, I couldn’t resist a picture of spindle whorls:

ceramic spindle whorls


And then I found this gorgeous plate:



Time was marching on, so I moved across the road to the ROM, and purchased a ticket for the Chihuly exhibit:

Chihuly exhibit

Chihuly exhibit


And then I dove off into the ancient stuff and was captivated by the Egyptian jewelry:

Egyptian necklaces at the ROM

Egyptian necklaces at the ROM

At this point I was getting a little tired, but I had one more place to visit and just enough time to do it. Next time I’ll show you the Art Deco building I’ve been hoping to see for a while.






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Fall is here

I had every intention of blogging in September, but that month just kicked me in the pants. At the beginning of the month I couldn’t find the energy and then at the end of the month all of my energy was consumed elsewhere. My father had a heart attack a week ago while in Montréal and quickly had a new stent put in. My parents don’t live in Montréal. My siblings and I all went to Montréal to help out. I’m happy to report that my parents are now back at home and figuring out a recovery regime for Dad.

Also last week my web site went for a little nap, but has now been resurrected.

Meanwhile, suddenly fall is here. I noticed the colours of the leaves changing a few weeks ago, but then this morning there were piles of leaves on the ground. Rhinebeck is in two weeks, and for the first time I’ll actually have my very own sweater to wear. I still haven’t got proper pictures of it, but I’m loving the sweater. I made Laura Aylor’s Serra.

What I meant to talk about in September is a fun trip I took on Labour Day. I went to Toronto on a museum-filled day of inspiration. I took the early train by myself and arrived in town at 10:30am.

The first stop was the main reason for my visit. I really wanted to catch The Idea of North – the Lawren Harris exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario before it ended. Harris has always seemed to me to be the most Art Deco-ish of the Group of Seven. I arrived in plenty of time for a look around the gallery’s exhibits, including other paintings from the Group of Seven:

Group of Seven at the AGO

and the Henry Moore sculpture collection:

Henry Moore collection at AGO

Finally, it was time to see the exhibition. I liked this one: Miners’ Houses, Glace Bay.

Miners' Houses, Glace Bay, Lawren Harris

There were many wonderful paintings, but North Shore, Lake Superior stole my heart. I visited it a few times before I finally left.

North Shore, Lake Superior, by Lawren Harris

Next up was the Textile Museum, which had a beaded exhibition, including this vest from Borneo:

Beaded vest from Borneo

There were more stunning pieces in a garden-based exhibition. This wedding shirt from Pakistan:

Wedding Shirt from Pakistan

A piece of William Morris cloth:

William Morris cloth

And this amazing embroidered throne cover from China:

Throne Cover from China

There were 2 more museums to go that day, as well as an awesome Art Deco building, but I’ll tell you about that later on. Fingers crossed that I make it back to the computer a little more quickly next time!

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Back from vacation!

I took a bit of an unplanned vacation from the blog. It turns out that between work and multiple trips for family vacation I just didn’t have the time or energy to keep up with the blog. I’ve been knitting up a storm the whole time and I am looking forward to sharing some of the results with you.

The really big news is that I challenged myself and I finally knit myself a sweater. It’s been well over 15 years since I’ve done that. I used the precious Briar Rose Fibers Fourth of July that I bought the first time I went to Rhinebeck. I chose to make Serra by Laura Aylor. It’s a top-down cardigan that uses short rows so that the sleeves appear set in. All of that stockinette was perfect for watching the Tour de France!

The sweater had to be laid out carefully to show its shape initially:

Serra by Laura Aylor - first stop

But it grew quickly:

Serra by Laura Aylor part 2

And then it got the ribbing:

Serra  with ribbing, no sleeves

I made very few modifications. I checked the schematic against the measurements of a cardigan that I like and it was almost a perfect match. I did a gigantic gauge swatch using two different needle sizes and found one that worked. I happily followed all the directions for the body and shaping, reading ahead while I was working simple stockinette to figure out what was next. When it came to the sleeves I decided to lengthen them a little. I only managed to finish one by the end of the Tour de France:

Just one sleeve on Serra

I have finished & blocked the sweater, but the weather has been way too warm for finished pictures, so here’s the proof that I’m done:

Serra by Laura Aylor

This means that I have a Rhinebeck sweater! I even have enough yarn left over for a matching hat, but who knows when I’ll find the time for that…

This week the kids are starting school, which is a big deal. They’re ready for it, or at least they think they are. I’m not ready for a 6th grader, or for my youngest to be in 4th grade, but we’ll manage. Fingers crossed that it all goes well!


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Tour de France KAL: Winners

The Tour de France finally wrapped up on Sunday. Despite the wipeouts and broken bones, it set a record for the most amount of finishers. I really enjoyed the photo finishes and I was happy to see Mark Cavendish get a few wins.

If the TdF is done, then so is my annual Tour de France KAL. This year we knit Gavrinis, and today I drew winners. I’m happy to share their names & their knitting with you!

The first prize, the Yellow Jersey, went to Aniko whose shawl got the most (love) in the finished object thread:

Gavrinis knit by Aniko

The Green Jersey went to pinhappy from a draw among the first 5 finishers:

Gavrinis knit by pinhappy

The Polka Dot Jersey went to PurpleHaze, who also happens to be my frequent model. Her tail of woe got the most love:

This is my first knit along…yay…. but i’m on fire trying to finish. The faster I knit the more I have to rip back!!!! this morning I ripped back 700 sts! be still my heart. The shawl is now in a time out .

She did finish in the end!

Gavrinis by PurpleHaze

The White Jersey went to ahraitte. Although she’s an accomplished knitter, this was her first lace shawl!

Gavrinis by ahraitte

The Finishers prize went to Skippie. This was a prize draw from among the people who finished who had not already won a prize.

Gavrinis by Skippie

The Lanterne Rouge Prize went to choconut. This was a prize draw from among people who started the KAL but didn’t finish before the TdF ended.

Gavrinis started by choconut

The Spectators prize went to knittingspinner. This was a prize draw from among the members of my Ravelry group and of my mailing list.

Over the next few days I’ll sort out the information from the winners and get their prizes in the mail. I’m already working on a few potential ideas for next year’s KAL!

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Le grand départ: Tour de France KAL

Just as the Tour de France (and my Tour de France KAL) is kicking off, my final Gavrinis is off the needles. This rectangular version was made with almost all of a skein of Posh Yarn Sylvia Lace (871yds/800m used) and it went so quickly off the blocking wires & to an impromptu photo shoot that the ends aren’t darned in yet!

Rectangular Gavrinis - just off the blocking wires

I’m loving the green. Sometimes it’s very tempting to stop what I’m doing and move on to the next thing. I’m glad I persevered and finished this one off.

Rectangular Gavrinis

The final size is about 15.5″ wide and 76″ long. I suppose I should go and darn in the ends now!

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New & interesting: Urban Knit Collection by Kyle Kunnecke

Over the last while on Ravelry I’ve noticed some interesting new designs popping up. Then I realized that they were all part of the same book!

The Urban Knit Collection (ebook here) from Kyle Kunnecke is a new Interweave book that’s got all kinds of appealing designs in it. Given my love of all things Art Deco, it was only a matter of time until I told you about it.

The book contains 18 different urban-inspired patterns: sweaters and accessories in fabrics that include colourwork, cables, texture, and lace.

Savoy is the cardigan that stole my heart. I mean look at this gorgeous colourwork!

Savoy by Kyle Kunnecke in Urban Knit Collection

(c) Interweave

The Ellington Mittens have a simple chevron pattern that pops with the change of yarn:

Ellington Mittens by Kyle Kunnecke in Urban Knit Collection

(c) Interweave

The texture & diagonal lines in Edwin are fabulous:

Edwin by Kyle Kunnecke in Urban Knit Collection

(c) Interweave

The D’Amour Wrap is another beautiful bit of colourwork:

D'Amour Wrap by Kyle Kunnecke in Urban Knit Collection

(c) Interweave

The Skyscraper hat has beautiful lines & texture. It doesn’t hurt that I also love the colour too.

Skyscraper Hat

(c) Interweave

I could have kept highlighting designs for a while, but these are *my* top picks. There are plenty more beautiful designs in the book. It would be hard for me to figure out where to start knitting.

In short, the Urban Knit Collection is my kind of book. If you’re reading this blog, then it just might be your kind of book too ;) What’s your favourite pattern from Urban Knit Collection?



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A trip to France

Late in May I surfaced from what felt like a fog due to lack of sleep and tried to find out when the Doors Open Ottawa event was. It’s the one weekend a year when buildings, many not usually accessible, are open to the public for free. I was in luck: it was the upcoming weekend. Even more lucky, I was able to secure reservations for us to see the French Embassy in the only remaining time slot: 9 am.

The children had to come with me (Ron was busy that day), and we all needed a picture id to enter. It’s a good thing we all have passports! I sold the kids on the trip by telling them that we were going to France and explained a little bit about embassies.

Getting from the outskirts of Kanata to downtown Ottawa proved an almost insurmountable problem that morning. Having been out of touch with current events, I didn’t realize that it was the weekend of the Ride for Dad, and that the route went right by the embassy. There were roadblocks at every turn, but just in time we ended up parking almost within sight and dashed across the road in time for our tour.

The French Embassy is on a lovely parcel of land on the Ottawa River just next door to the Prime Minister’s house. It was built in the 1930s and has many custom-created features done by artists of the period. As an Art Deco fan, I had to get to see it. You can do a virtual tour, so I did just to figure out what I needed to pay close attention to.

Here are some of the highlights:

French Embassy in Ottawa

There are large tapestries by Marcel Gromaire representing the seasons. Spring in Paris, Summer in St. Malo & Winter in Canada are visible. The fourth tapestry is in the ambassador’s private residence.Gromaire tapestry: Spring in Paris

Gromaire tapestry: Summer in St. Malo

Gromaire tapestry: Winter in Canada

The Smoking Room is unique. The walls & ceiling are covered in birch. I’m sure it is a bit of a challenge to keep the temperature & humidity in that room at the right levels!Smoking room, French embassy

The Round Salon was my favourite room. The carpet was made especially for the room. Round Salon, French embassy

The Round Salon also has three amazing terra cotta panels by André Bizette-Lindet. This one depicts Joan of Arc.


There is a representation of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in the hallway upstairs.Vimy Memorial, French embassy

Oh, and the gigantic doors to the Grand Salon are impressive. There are 2 pairs of these doors.

Doors to the Grand Salon

The handles of the doors have unique castings by Robert Cami with different themes:










I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the embassy. It was well worth the wait and the kids held up fairly well, taking plenty of their own photos.

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Tour de France KAL: Gavrinis

Last week I showed you some of the carvings at Gavrinis that inspired this year’s Tour de France KAL shawl:

Gavrinis picture from Wikipedia user Athinaios

And here’s the shawl Gavrinis. I knit this large semicircle with about 3.7 skeins of Loðband Einband from Istex (~910yds/832m). It’s a heavy lace weight yarn and I thought both the colour and the rustic nature of the yarn fit the inspiration. The shawl’s wingspan is 66″ and it is 28″ deep.


I also made a medium semicircle in West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 Ply. It took about 150g (682yd/623m). It’s about 60″ across and 24 inches deep.

Gavrinis by Natalie Servant (West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 Ply)

I hope to be able to finish up my rectangular version soon to be able to show it to you before the Tour begins. It starts at the middle with a provisional cast on and works outward in both directions with the main repeating motif from the semicircular version.

Gavrinis is up for pre-sale now. Until July 1st, only the first 2 pages are available. This should help you plan out what yarn & needles you want to use and to get a feeling for the stitches involved. The full pattern will be uploaded on July 1st. I hope you’ll be able to join in the KAL over on my Ravelry Group. We’re getting started in a week on July 2nd!!

Gavrinis is $4 USD until the end of July, when it goes up to the regular price of $6.

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Tour de France KAL – more about the prizes & the rules

A few days ago I gave you a preview of the prizes for my annual Tour de France KAL. Starting on Saturday July 2, 2016 and running along with the Tour de France, we’ll be knitting my Gavrinis shawl until Sunday July 24th, 2016. I’ll have the shawl up for pre-sale later this week.

Today I want to tell you more about the prizes and how you can win them. The yarn is all from my stash. This is yarn that I bought fully intending to knit with it. Every year I comb through the stash looking for yarns that I think you’ll love. I always hope that my favourites aren’t chosen by winners and that I get another chance to knit with them!

First up, something new this year, is a copy of Franklin Habit’s new colouring book, I Dream of Yarn. If you’ve already achieved SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy), perhaps this is the choice for you!

I Dream of Yarn by Franklin Habit

I’m also offering a copy of my own book. One printed edition of Canadian Art Deco Knits is also up for grabs.

Canadian Art Deco Knits by Natalie Servant

Now on to the fluffy stuff: Belisa Blend is 500 yards in 50g and is made up of 65% Lambswool, 25% Possum, 10% Silk.


Manos del Uruguay lace is 438yd/400m. This skein is mostly black with silver & bronze highlights and is 70% alpaca, 25% silk and 5% cashmere.


Silent Valley Alpaca sock is local to me. This skein has 415yds/385m of super soft alpaca (80%), nylon (10%), and merino (10%).Silent Valley Alpaca Sock

Indigodragonfly Merino Silk Lace in “Have Fun Storming the Castle” and it’s got 720yds/658m of a 50/50 merino/silk blend.

Indigodragonfly Silk Lace

This skein of Malabrigo Sock in Arbol is 440yds/402m of merino squishiness.Malabrigo Sock

Old Maiden Aunt BFL 4 ply in Brass Taps and Oak is 400yds/366m of wool.


Peppino by Rhichard Devrieze in the colour Frankly Scarlet. 450yds/412m of merino.

Rhichard Devrieze Peppino

Sundara Silk Lace in French Lessons – how appropriate! It’s 1000yd/914m of silk.

Sundara Silk Lace in French Lessons

Tosh Sock in Dusk is 395yds/361m of merino.

Tosh Sock in Dusk

Sweet Georgia Merino Silk Lace in goldmine is 765yds/700m of 50/50 merino/silk.Sweet Georgia Merino Silk Lace

Alchemy Juniper in Barceloneta is 464yds/424m of merino.
Alchemy Juniper in Barceloneta

Finally, Posh Yarn Olivia Sock is 460yds/421m of shiny blue silk.


Now you’ve seen the loot, it’s time for information on how you can win. The prize categories are pretty much the same most years. Winners will pick from the prize pool in the following order:

1. Maillot Jaune – Yellow Jersey: The first prize goes to the person whose post with a picture of their finished object gets the most love in the designated Finished Object thread in my Ravelry group.

2. Maillot Vert – Green Jersey: The sprinting prize will be a draw from among the first 5 finishers of shawls – this only counts for people knitting the rectangle (20 repeats), the medium semicircle, or the large semicircle.

3. Maillot à Pois Rouges – Polka Dot Jersey: The mountain prize will go to the person whose tale of tribulations experienced during knitting gets the most love in the designated thread in my Ravelry group.

4. Maillot Blanc – White Jersey: New to lace? New to knitting? This prize for rookies will be drawn from among the list of finishers who tag their project with the “white-jersey”. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you belong in this category.

5. Finishers: A draw will be done among all finishers who haven’t already won a prize.

6. Lanterne Rouge: Started but didn’t finish? You’ll be eligible for a draw for this prize, provided you’ve got a picture of your progress on your project page.

7. Red Devil (Spectators): We don’t all have the time and space to compete in the Tour, but there will be a prize category for those who wish to follow along and cheer on the competitors. Join my Ravelry group or join my mailing list and you’re in the running. The inspiration comes from Didi Senft, a notorious spectator, bike-builder, and cycling fanatic. Here’s a great short video of Didi.


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Tour de France KAL preview: a look at the past and the prizes

It’s June. In two and a half weeks the Tour de France begins, and with it my annual shawl KAL. Every July since 2010 I’ve created a shawl pattern inspired by something French, and this year is no different. My past inspirations have come from architecture (Eiffel Tower Shawl, Père Lachaise Shawl, Labrouste), archaeology (Childeric’s Bees), agriculture (Sunflower Fields Shawl) and even the Tour de France itself (Peloton).

This year the inspiration for my shawl comes from Neolithic times – around 3500 BC. Gavrinis in Brittany is the site of an ancient passage tomb. It’s now on an island, but it was once connected to the mainland. The stones inside the passage of the tomb are covered with intricate carvings. They’re amazing.

Some of the carvings are meant to represent axes. These came close to making it on the shawl, but in the end it didn’t work.

Gavrinis Axes

Some of them remind me of fingerprints. These are referred to in the interpretive material as shields. These symbols form the basis of this year’s design:

Gavrinis picture from Wikipedia user Athinaios

That’s it for today for design hints. I’ll show you the full thing next week when I’ve taken the formal pictures! The pattern itself has options: it can be worked as a semi-circle or as a rectangle, and is suitable for solid or semi-solid yarn in lace weight or fingering weight.

While you’re pondering your stash, here, let me distract you with a look at the prizes for the KAL. Here’s the yarny goodness – as well as a copy of Franklin Habit’s new colouring book, I Dream of Yarn. It’s all up for grabs.

prizes for Natalie Servant's 2016 Tour de France KAL

The yarn includes (from left to right): Belisa Blend, Silent Valley Alpaca, Indigodragonfly Lace, Malabrigo Sock, Old Maiden Aunt, Sundara Silk, Rhichard Devrieze Peppino, Tosh Sock, Sweet Georgia Merino Silk Lace, Alchemy Juniper, Posh Yarn Olivia Sock.

As in other years, there will be prizes for both participants and spectators. Stay turned to the blog & I’ll give you the full scoop on all of the prizes & what you can do for a chance to win them.

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