Heirloom knitting

A valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.

Families here in North America used to be different. A young woman setting off on her new life would have a chest full of items that her Mother would have set aside for her. Many of the pieces would likely be heirlooms. They would be used and treasured and then passed on again, in due time.

Sometime recently, (within the last fifty or sixty years), most people give away old things. Instead, they covet brand new purchases, in glossy wrapping and a branded carry bag, from a store. More than likely, these items, (and all the components within), have travelled a very far distance. Hundreds and maybe thousands of people have been involved in the manufacture, distribution, selling and marketing of any one item.

The more popular idea of “heirloom” is often associated with vegetable seeds. A growing trend of new age urban pioneers, are going back to the land to grow food. The old seeds have been saved and the resulting plants taste better, are more beautiful to look at and are very rare.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this idea of creating heirloom products. I’ve been saving my own tomato and pumpkin seeds for years, with great success. (I even grabbed a handful of poppy seeds from a neighbour, as I walked by!) My sister’s sweet pea’s will adorn 2 areas of my garden this year. Every time I walk by their sweet scent, I will smile and think of her. But can a Mother really expect to have a wearing apparel item passed down and appreciated by her family? Even jewelry seems to go out of fashion in a relatively short period of time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if I might want to have something passed down through my family, it needs to be of a certain quality. Then I take a quick cruise through my closet and realize, there is virtually nothing in there that could become an heirloom. Almost all my clothes are disposable. Purchased from mass retailers, relatively “trend-right”, these things will not pass the test of time.

The few potential pieces I own are fabulous jewelry, hand-made by my Aunt. (One day, when she is a famous designer, they will be highly coveted pieces, even outside our family.) So I recently turned to my Aunt for help.

I had come across a fantastic pattern for a wrap from the blog of Purl Soho in New York City. Purl Bee published the details for an Amazing Seed Stitch Wrap. The yarns could easily be purchased from the link provided and I could have been half-finished by now. But, in order for this to be my piece, I needed to choose my own colors. That is near impossible to do online. Then there was the problem of the cashmere costing $50 per hank. (The project calls for 4 of them!)

As luck would have it, Gina Brown’s came to the rescue again. (I’ve written about the Calgary location before – “Increasing stash“.) So we made the pilgrimage to Kitsilano in Vancouver. With help from the actual Granddaughter of Gina Brown – Kristina, we created an array of colours and yarns that will be my signature wrap. And maybe, if I’m lucky, this piece will have stories to tell as it adorns the shoulders of women in my family as time marches on.

Gina Browns Kits_web

Gina Brown shawl_web

Yarns shown here, (from the left):

  • Glazed carrot – Malabrigo
  • (Peach) shade 0201 – Sublime
  • Lettuce – Malabrigo
  • Lavanda – Malabrigo
  • (Light lavender) shade 0011 – Sublime
  • Azules – Malabrigo
  • (Light teal) shade 0109 – Sublime
  • (Stone) colour 300027 – Debbie Bliss
  • Fresco Y Seco – Malabrigo
  • (Teal) shade 0227 – Sublime
  • Vaa – Malabrigo

More about these yarns:

  • Malabrigo Rios – Pure Merino Superwash, made in Peru
  • Sublime – 75% extra fine merino, 20% silk, 5% cashmere
  • Debbie Bliss – 55% Merino wool, 33% microfibre, 12% cashmere


Lucky I am not living off the produce from my garden. Not that I think you can actually live off a single harvest of anything like asparagus, anyway. Last count is 4 toothpick thin spears, that I don’t dare cut. The new asparagus patch has fallen to next years list of garden chores.

Lucky #2 is that we live in an area of great produce selection from local sources. So I made this fantastic salad the other night from fresh asparagus and my home-made cheese.

Lucky #3 is that I planted an early crop of radishes. April 1st the seeds for these babies went into hanging pots in my greenhouse. Tonight we enjoyed these at dinner.

Lucky #4 is the fantastic supply of perennial herbs I have growing in my front yard. I felt like making a marinade for steak with lots of herbs, garlic and roasted chillies.

Summer will come

You can feel it in the air. There has been a shift in the overall temperature. No more teasing now.

Unlike the rest of North America, we have had a long steady winter. Lots of snow in the mountains, cold and damp up until a week ago. We really were beginning to feel this winter may never end.

And then there is that one day, when the scale tips. No matter how many days ahead will not be “nice”, the trend is sliding towards favourable conditions and I like it.

Last night I spent a good 30 minutes watering in my greenhouse where a bunch of different herbs and veggies are in various stages of growth. I like to watch the water seep down around the plants and smell the oils from the leaves of each one. I imagine the new and vigorous growth to come. And eventually the tasty harvest.

“Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”   ~Winnie the Pooh

Time to think, (and keep thinking), is one of the things I like about summer and having a garden. There is a good amount of time spent weeding and watering and thinking. I think these kinds of activities are what our modern brains need. Easy mechanical tasks that allow your muscles to develop and your brain to wander over and work on more significant thoughts.

And summer is when you truly can stop and smell the roses, for that is when they come into bloom. Or notice the other types of flowers as they have their days in the sun.

This sea of cherry blossoms lasted for only a couple of days before they faded and then turned brown. If you don’t sop and notice, you just miss these great sights.

Tomato whisperer

I’ve really done it this time. Of the 288 seedings that I planted in March, I transplanted almost 25% of them today, all tomato plants. Even for me, the woman who once grew over 200 pounds, this is a bit much.

Here is how it breaks down:

  • Peron 4
  • Oregon spring 7
  • Prudens purple 1
  • Yellow Roma 6
  • Persimmon 2
  • Tan 2
  • Pink grapefruit 6
  • Rocket 6
  • Black krim 6
  • Brandy wine 5
I am particularly proud of the black krim. Those are from seed that I saved over 2 years ago. And those plants look the best of them all. Not too leggy, no yellow leaves, not drooping over.
Last week before I left for Oslo, I should have transplanted my babies into the greenhouse. I thought that my family could water while I was gone. But my daughter confessed that the plants got pretty dry, hence the yellow leaves.
But, as the list above can confirm, I can afford to lose a few plants. I do not have enough room for even 1 of each variety. So I will have to find other places in my garden and other gardens in general to adopt some seedlings.
And another year of growing tomatoes on the Coast is underway. Beyond hoping for enough sunshine, not too much moisture on the leaves, blossom end rot and blight, a good crop is a sure thing.
The life of a farmer.

288 plants

That is how many I will have if everything germinates for each divided spot in the seedling trays. Some have many tiny seeds in each spot, but some seeds are really old and won’t come up at all.

But still, that could be a lot of plants to deal with in 6 weeks time.

It is not the first time I have over done it. Once the seeds are sprouting into a plant, I am done. I cannot kill a plant. It has to be potted up in my greenhouse into a bigger pot, labelled and brought along until the weather is reliably warm. Then I have to find a home for everything, whether it is in my garden or not.

We once rented a house that was located on a working orchard. It was the original family house and there was a huge garden in the back. I planted tomatoes that amounted to over 200 pounds of fruit. My dear friend came to my house and processed most of it for me, while I was away on a business trip in Asia. If she had not done so, most of that crop would have been lost.

This year I have planted a bunch of different things:

  • a full tray of flowers with 36 possible marigold plants, (my husband loves them)
  • half a tray of onions and exotic herbs
  • almost a full tray of tomatoes, about 8 different kinds
  • 4 different basil varieties
  • 6 artichoke plants, which I really hope are going to the garden

It is going to take a good deal of organization and strict time management to keep up the garden this season. Or I’ll give most of the seedlings away. We’ll see.

Water for the garden

Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’)

I have spent many hours watering my garden over that past 15 or so years. It does require a little bit of skill, like not crushing surrounding plants when moving the heavy hose around and only watering the tomatoes at the base. I guess there are a few more, don’t crush seedlings with a heavy spray of water, but also remember to water seedlings every day. Don’t water in the evening, especially in the Spring as the plants get soggy overnight. Be nice to your little babies, water in the morning.

There is a good chunk of time to listen, watch and contemplate. We have a neighbour who is learning to play classical piano and according to my ear, is already quite good. People who pass by have interesting conversations that I get to catch a glimpse of.

You never know what you will find by having a good look at your plants, both good (a harvest almost ready to enjoy) and bad (pests that are being, well pests!).

Like washing dishes, watering the garden gives a person time to “have a good think”. That is a special time without the interruptions of modern life. It is probably as close as I am going to get to meditation. Today I thought about how much I appreciate my garden, how big the plants are getting and how happy I am we got the mulch down and the weeds somewhat under control.

Figs & Pansies & Apples