Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

Jump into Intentional Pooling at the Frolic!


Knitter's Frolic ad
One of the signs of spring for me is the annual Knitter’s Frolic held by the Downtown Knit Collective in Toronto – April 26 & 27, 2014 at The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (map of location). So many great vendors, including many of my favourites!

I’m so excited about teaching this year at the Frolic! So if you’re attending, why not take my class on Intentional Pooling on Saturday afternoon (1-4 p.m.)? There’s still space and, as an added bonus, you’ll have a chance to buy some of the new Indigodragonfly colours in the class. Kim and Ron’s new colours work exceptionally well for intentional pooling (colours such as Beige) and, since the class runs until 4 p.m. and the market closes at 4:30, I was worried that people may not be able to get to her booth to buy yarn after the class finishes. So there will be a selection of these yarns for sale in the class!

If you are attending, just a reminder that the Gardiner Expressway will be closed in both directions for the weekend so you may need to adjust your transportation plans accordingly.

See you at the Frolic!

Signs of Spring


Today is beautiful and if the behaviour of my cats is any indication, spring is on the way (despite the piles of snow still all around).
Aconite, the first signs of spring
These popped up seemingly overnight. To me, aconite is always the earliest sign of spring. Their cheerful yellow flowers seem designed to provide a spot of hope during the lingering days and portents of winter. These flowers used to appear under my childhood bedroom winter until my dad dug them up and transported them to my house last fall.

While most of my back yard is still under mounds of snow, the sun lays in during the afternoon hours and warms a small patch of earth next to my back porch. In this warm spot I planted snow drops, crocuses and the early spring greens (sorrel, lovage, bloody dock, salad burnet). This year the snow drops have made their appearance almost a week earlier than last year.

Bloody Dock
I’m most excited about seeing the bloody dock make an appearance. The sorrel, lovage and salad burnet can’t be much behind which means fresh salads from my garden in the next few weeks. The greens have strong, sometimes bitter flavours which act as a palate cleanser for the heavier foods of winter.

Now I’m itching to sow the lettuces, spinach and peas but need to wait at least another month before they can go into the ground.

In the meantime I’ll enjoy the promise offered by the spring heralds.

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Intentional Pooling – Upcoming Classes


Ever wondered what to do with that skein of handpainted sock yarn sitting in your stash?
STR Farmhouse loop
You know, the one with all the bright colours that starts making blobs of colours in weird spots when you try and turn it into socks.

Well how about turning it into something fabulous like this!
Pooling Scarf
(Yes, I realize it’s not the same skein of yarn – some imagination is called for here)

I really enjoy teaching the Intentional Pooling class. This class teaches you how to assess the colours in your yarn and line them up to create vertical stripes utilizing the natural pooling effects of the yarn and leave with the start of a scarf. And if you’re new to lace, you’ll also learn to read a chart and knit a basic lace pattern.

If you’re planning to attend the Knitter’s Frolic held by the Downtown Knit Collective in Toronto on April 26 (and if you’re not you really should – it’s THE fibre festival to be at in the spring in Ontario), you can register to take my class Saturday afternoon from 1 – 4 p.m.

If you’re further south, I’ll also be teaching this class on August 2nd in the afternoon at the Lancaster Yarn Shop in Intercourse, PA. Their shop kettle-dyed yarn is perfect for this technique.

What do you need for the class? Here’s the list: 350-500 yards handpainted sock/fingering weight yarn painted across the skein (see first photo above), stitch markets (6-10), a selection of needles between sizes 3mm and 4mm, contrasting coloured thread (for lifelines), sewing needle, and scissors.

Any questions? Please leave them in the comments.

Some thoughts on “Under Magnolia”


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted book reviews here. Life has a funny way of subverting even the best of intentions. The result is that I have a huge backlog of books and reviews. I won’t necessarily post all of them but I do plan to get back to posting reviews periodically. Today’s selection is Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes.

Under Magnolia
I should start with a brief admission – I’ve been a fan of Frances Mayes since I first read Under the Tuscan Sun in the late 1990s. Like many, I dreamed of visiting Tuscany and breathing in the scents of the Tuscan hills. In moments like today, when snow is still falling after months of frigid weather, I dream of escaping to a sweet life as an ex-pat in Tuscany. So when her publisher offered the chance to read her new work Under Magnolia, about her life growing up in America’s Deep South, I jumped at the chance.

Frances Mayes shares a sense of place through her descriptive language, luring the reader to experience sensations with her. This is what draw readers to her works and makes her “armchair travel memoirs” so powerful, her use of language evoking a place so real that it pulls readers away from the everyday.

I’ve visited Georgia several times over the years, both small, rural towns and bustling Savannah. To my northern eyes, it’s as different as Tuscany. The pace of life, the smells, the food, are all deeply embedded in the landscape. When Mayes describes the sun as something that “could melt a bar of gold,” my body knows exactly how that sun would feel.

In Under Magnolia, Mayes continues her exploration of “place” and the meaning of “home” in the signature style so beloved in her earlier works.

ISBN: 0307885917
ISBN13: 9780307885913

336 Pages
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Author Website:

(Disclosure: A review copy of this novel, e-book version, was provided by the publisher.)

Red Leather Booth featured interview


Somehow, in the rush to get ready for my trip to Haiti, I missed posting here about the interview I did with Red Leather Booth – although I did manage to get it posted on Facebook and Twitter. Yikes!

I was so thrilled when Jude Doble asked if I would be willing to be interviewed. I’m so pleased with the result and the promotion she has done. If you have the time, read some of her older posts. She’s interviewed fascinating people and I’m thrilled to be counted amongst the “arts and culture superstars in Waterloo Region!”

Sargaço Shawl


Sargaco Shawl
Despite the winter deep-freeze here in Ontario, I’m dreaming of the sun, blue waters and airy shawls. Sargaço Shawl is a perfect fit for dreams of tropical warmth.

Sargaço is the Portuguese word for sargasso, the type of seaweed for which the Sargasso Sea is famous. The Sargasso Sea sits in a still part of the ocean, providing the plants a place to grow and develop “a central point at which the floating bodies unite.” (from chapter 11 of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys) The central panel of this shawl provides the point of stillness, while around it swirls the foam of the ocean. Slowly one begins to see the stems of seaweed emerging until the plants fully form along the bottom edge. Sparkling among the fronds are beads, highlighting the movement of the seaweed among the waves.

Read all about it here or head on over to Ravelry to buy it now.

Whitman Hat


Whitman Hat
I’m so very pleased to announce the release of Whitman Hat, designed to match the Whitman Cowl, which was released in November 2012. With one skein of Indigodragonfly Polwarth Silk, you can make both and have enough left over for the matching fingerless mitts that will be released in April/May 2014.

Read all about it here or head on over to Ravelry to buy it now.

Gothic Forest Scarf


Gothic Forest Scarf
Tabi Ferguson runs Sericin Silkworks, a small business selling hand-dyed luxury fibers. She produces skeins that have an astonishing depth of colour and luster, that beg your fingers to fondle. Many of us buy single skeins of precious fibers because we can’t resist, but then wonder what to make. Inspired by a skein of Sericin Silkworks 100% cashmere, I designed Gothic Forest Scarf, a scarf that uses up every yard of that special skein.

The stitch pattern used for the body of this scarf reminds me of a forest of trees, their branches forming high, mysterious arches. The shape of those arches are gothic in nature and that, plus the muted yet rich tones of Sericin Silkworks’ beautiful cashmere, led to the name for this decadent scarf.

Read all about it here or head on over to Ravelry to buy it now.

P.S. Tabi was recently interviewed by Robin Hunter on her blog. You can find the interview here.

Every Which Way Cowl


Every Which Way Cowl, Hat and Fingerless Gloves
I’m pleased to introduce the Every Which Way Cowl, so named for the lines of eyelets pointing in various directions.

The cowl (and the set) were inspired by Bare Naked Wools ‘Confection’. The natural colours of the yarn made it so difficult to choose just one and so I selected two shades of grey and the natural figuring on deciding on a pattern later. A few days later this cowl sprang fully designed into my dreams and quickly flew off my needles.

Also released today were the Hat and Fingerless Gloves. An eBook featuring the entire set is also available for purchase – buy now.

Read all about it here or head on over to Ravelry to buy it now.

Valencia Scarf


Valencia Wrap in Shibui Linen and Staccato
Three patterns released in one month, I’m on a roll! I’m pleased to introduce the Valencia Scarf, a pattern that can be knit in fingering weight linen for summer or using the linen held together with a merino sock yarn for fall and worn as a wrap.

I originally called this the “zig zag scarf” because of the geometric nature of the lace pattern. Then I saw a photo of some roofs from the corner of Valencia Street and 24th Street in the Mission District of San Francisco and changed the name of the pattern to Valencia.

Read all about it here or head on over to Ravelry to buy it now.

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My Knitting Patterns

Sargaço Shawl

Whitman Hat

Every Which Way Cowl

Every Which Way Hat

Every Which Way Fingerless Mitts

Gothic Forest Scarf

Valencia Scarf

Branching Path Cowl

Flower Bell Stole

Whitman Cowl

New Tech Cowl

Vieux Carré Stole

Stacks Socks

Anna Perenna Shawlette

Taming of the Fox

Don't Ask Y

Cantilevering Leaves

Amplification Stole

Combs Cowl

Mindfulness Cowl

Tipsy Scarf

Gridwork Scarf
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