Book Recommendation


I had the pleasure of attending a short workshop done by Sylvia Olson who has recently launched her new book. The class was pretty basic, working up a Coast Salish themed toque and didn’t require learning any new skills. The value in the class however, was in meeting and hearing Ms. Olsen speak. Plus, I like the idea of supporting local writers. Any creative in our culture has an upward battle I think, and every little bit helps.

I have written about this author before. Her Working with Wool is a lovely book, full of history and the personal. The new book hasn’t the scope of Working with Wool, given that it is a combination of patterns and essays, but there are similar themes.

The patterns are gorgeous – not particularly difficult to do, even with the larger pieces. Ms. Olsen does a brief explanation of the typical way colour work is done in the iconic “Cowichan” or coastal first nations knitting. This technique differs from other colour work in that it produces a really lovely “pebble” effect on the inside, and is also very stretchy. It has the benefit, as does all stranded knitting, in that it produces a two layer fabric – very warm and water resistant when done in a lanolin rich, rustic wool.

The essays in the book are personal and warm and make enjoyable, thoughtful reading. My personal take on the essays is that Ms. Olsen has more writing in her, more stories to tell at a deeper level than can be conveyed in a knitting book. I had a similar response to the Yarn Harlot at one point – going beyond the structure of the knitting genre there is a very good writer. (OK that is a bit precious given this is a knitting blog, with its own limitations that this typist is trying to expand from. But I digress.)

The class and the book combined to make me want to cast on. Sadly, the yarn we used in the class for the toque is what I would dearly love to use – and it isn’t widely available yet. Ms. Olsen has good suggestions for substitutes in the book – necessary if anyone is to make any of the patterns. The yarn from the class was my favourite type though – local, rustic, bouncy and lanolin rich. A workhorse like Cascade will make a nice sweater – but it won’t be evoking the west coast tradition in the same way. Can’t be helped at this point.

Unfortunately, no picture of the toque for this post. (Its been given as a gift to Sunshine, who heads to Toronto in the fall. They have real winters in Toronto Sunshine, you will need that toque!)

In true knit blog tradition then, I leave this post with a recommendation for the book – it’s well worth the price, even if only as eye candy, and with a cat picture. It’s been too long since the fur balls have been featured. I call myself a knitter?


Merit Walk

Thank you to a good spiritual friend for coining the term merit walk.

The last time Grant and I were here was in late fall 2012 – between big events. Grant was waiting for his hip replacement surgery, and I was recovering from radiation treatments. What a pair – it took us both considerably more than the forty minutes it took today to get to this viewpoint.


Grant was a generous hiker. He loved to push it and do heavy duty climbs on his own, but when we hiked together we were a team. It was always more about the process of walking in the wilderness together, not about bagging a peak, or making a summit. We did do some pretty amazing hikes – both many day back packs and great day walks. But the best part, regardless of where and when was getting to a spot, sitting down and we’d talk. Or not. But he’d always lean over, pat my back and say: “I like doing this with you, boy.”

So – I walked to this viewpoint today and talked to him. I still seem to like doing this.


A bit lower on the Skagit River, the spring flowers were exploding all over the place.


This little gem…



On the drive home I saw this youngster chomping on grass.

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This is where the trail with the viewpoint eventually ends up. Grant took this picture his last hike up here.

This post is dedicated to all the mothers who are missing someone they love.

Sewing as a Kind of Practice.


In our particular practice after the first meditation of the day we place a small vestment on our heads and recite a short set of words. Those who have formally taken the Buddhist precepts in our tradition do at least. Other Buddhists do it other ways.

Anyhow, when its done in our tradition, this taking of the Precepts formally, the small vestment called a wagesa is given to the person as part of a ceremony. When I received mine, I didn’t give much thought to where the wagesa came from. I had my mind on other things. I’ve never forgotten the kind eyes of the monk who gave it to me and placed it around my neck – “come a little closer” he said. I think he just needed to get at my neck, I was sitting a bit back but honestly, those words have stuck, and they have been taken as a teaching too.


I have bemoaned my sewing skills on this blog in the past. And frankly I doubt I have the interest to follow up on this. I have had opportunities do more sewing and it seems I would rather spend the time on new knitting techniques, learning to weave, doing other things.

Wagesas though, are essentially long slim tubes. Straight lines, a bit of ironing. And within this simple sewing it is interesting how the whole gamut of daily life, how thoughts come and go through my poor old brain as I sew.

These objects are cared for deeply. When somebody makes the decision to take the Precepts formally its a big deal. I can’t even begin to imagine what goes through someone’s mind when they do this. All I know is how momentous it was for me, with reverberations continuing to this day.

I have been offered help on the knots – they are Chinese knots of eternity. Not that hard to make, but a bit tougher to connect and sew onto the wagesa so they look tidy and dignified.


Sewing this morning was good. I wonder who made my wagesa all those years ago.