Garden Party

It’s Victoria Day, a holiday in here in Canada.  Victoria was the first Queen of Canada,  and the day was originally to honour her, but over time it’s become the day that Canadians celebrate the current Sovereign’s Birthday – even though the Queen’s birthday is in April. (Don’t look at us like that. The weather in April is dodgy, this makes way more sense, and you can’t have a federal holiday moving around every time you get a new King or Queen. How on earth would you plan anything, and besides, the Brits assigned her a birthday in June. We’re not alone in this.)  Here in Canada we like to further complicate this holiday by referring to it as the weekend of the 24th –  as in “What are you doing for the May 24th weekend?” even though the weekend doesn’t always fall on the 24th.  Technically, it falls on the weekend attached to the Monday before the 24th, and as complicated as that seems when we try to explain it outside of Canada, it makes total sense here.  (As does calling it “the May long” or “May two-four” – to get that last one you need to know that in much of Canada a case of beer has twenty four bottles in it, and thus is called “a two-four”.)  It’s a traditional start to the summer, a day for (most) Canadians to put in the garden, open cottages, crank up the barbecue for the first time of the year – generally enjoy being outside after the long winter.  I say most, because it’s still snowing in Nunavut, and the warmest place in the whole country today is in Grand Rapids, Manitoba where it is only a balmy 20 degrees. (That’s 68F for our American friends.)  In many cities, tonight there will be fireworks.  (Edited to add that the forecast I looked at was clearly wrong! It’s much warmer than that in lots of places, including here.)

Here in Toronto it’s just sixteen degrees (edit: it’s twenty now!)  but that’s not stopping me. I’m feeling a bit better, shingles and all (or maybe I’ve just got better drugs, who knows or cares) and before we visit Joe’s mum in the hospital today, Joe’s headed to the Marina to paint the bottom of the boat (this is, apparently, a yearly thing) and I’m going to our tiny back garden to try and make sense of it.  Last fall my Mum had just died when it was time to prune everything and put the garden to bed, and it didn’t get done at all. That’s a shame, considering how much mum Mum loved to garden. If she were here she’d have had words with me already about the state of the thing, and as a matter of fact, I think this might be the first time I prune the rose in the back myself. My mother’s always done it for me. Lucky for me, it was always accompanied by a lecture, so I feel sure I know how.

Not much is in bloom in the garden just now, a trillium or two are blooming under the tree, the snakeshead fritilaria is finally out (every year it’s late enough that I worry it has died) violets are everywhere, but the real star is the Bleeding Hearts. They love it in my garden, and have spread everywhere, and this week of the spring is the reason I don’t pull any of the volunteers out.

Pictured with the glorious things, a fetching pair of socks. They’re hot off the needles (well, last week) and are a pair for Carol, who was complaining of cold feet in hospital.

Yarn: Paton’s Kroy 4ply sock in Dad’s Jacquard #55714. Pattern: my own plain vanilla pattern from Knitting Rules.

Also on the needles, a spur of the moment sweater. It’s version C from Seasonal Droplets Trio, knit out of Hemp for Knitting’s Allhemp3.  I snagged this at Knit City last year, and while it doesn’t look like much on the needles, the sample had that whole post-apocolyptic-my-clothes-are-all-rags-but-I-look-great Matrix vibe going for it.

I thought it was going to take about 10 minutes to knit, but so far it’s a shocking three days. I sort of regret starting it now, because as delighted as I’ll be to have a summer sweater – there’s a fleece in my office singing my name, and I can’t wait to get to it. (It’s a little Jacob. Very exciting.)  Also on the needles:

More socks – one pair off the needles, one pair on.  I’m loving this yarn, it’s Ridley Sock Yarn from Sea Turtle Fiber Arts (I think the colourway was called “Imagine”) and I thought I liked it, but as I’m knitting with it, I’m coming to love it. It’s a cabled yarn – four plies each made up of a two-ply, and that’s a structure I really love.  Complex constructions like that are such a great way to give yarns made from softer fibres (like merino) more durability.

Rather slow going on these socks at present, just because I’m trying to make good time on the sweater, poor little things have been in the bottom of my bag for a few days. I found out about Sea Turtle Fiber Arts, by the way, because Sarah’s very generously sent along skeins for the Strung Along Retreats a few times.

This upcoming retreat is our Knit, Play, Cook retreat, and if you’ve got a business and would like to get the neat thing you make in front of our retreaters we’d love to talk to you about it.  We do it a little differently than most other retreats, so shoot us an email and we can talk about it.  (

PS. We’ve got a single cancellation for the June Retreat – the only one this year that’s for knitters only. (The rest are for knitters who are also spinners.)  There’s some more info here, and you can email if you’d like to talk about that too.

64 thoughts on “Garden Party

  1. Reading this today made me happy. It always does, but it being the holiday Monday and being in my pyjamas and all makes it just a little bit better. I live in northern BC and we call it May Long. I learned something about the May 24. You are such a great writer. Thank you so much for your work. I think I love reading your blog as listening to CBC radio.

  2. Lies, it’s 26 in Red Deer where we are, and 38 in fort Mac, definitely summer weather in Alberta. Also called May long weekend in Alberta. May 3 t is totally an eastern Canada thing. Just saying, we are a big country.

        • Winter is long. (I’m in Alaska) Don’t look at the calendar. Pretend those acres of white outside are a white sugar beach.Crank up the heat. Put your surf shorts on over your long johns and as long as its warm enough outside to keep the propane from gelling up or the coals glowing, shovel a path to the grill- it’s BBQ time in the Northern latitudes!

  3. Love love love your bleeding hearts, they are gorgeous! I’m a bit envious of your long weekend (just a Monday here in the US) but we have our Memorial Day next weekend, so the unofficial start of summer here.
    (And watching the Royal Wedding over the weekend was a lovely break from the madness of the world, so thank you to all the Commonwealth for that)

  4. I am talking up the newest shingles vaccine, Shingrix, and pointing them to your blog to emphasis that they do NOT want to get this malady! I’m SO glad you’re feeling better!

  5. it’s 26 C in Edmonton so I think your weather is off. Also we are hitting high 20’s/low 30’s all week.

  6. Make sure you get booster vaccines every five years and it’s worth getting the vaccine even if you’ve already had shingles. I’ve had them three times and they were no fun. Glad you’re recovering and able to knit! Show us more of your garden, please, it’s so pretty.

  7. Happy Victoria day. I’m only on the other side of town but seem to have no luck at all when it comes to bleeding hearts. Yours look lovely.

  8. Glad you are recuperating, and hope that trend continues. I think those pink socks are definitely a misnamed colorway – Dad’s Jacquard, indeed! I love them!

  9. Thank you for all the lovely pictures of my favorite things, flowers and knitting. Glad to hear the meds for the shingles are working. It’s a tough one to get rid of.

  10. Thanks so much for pointing me to a new sock yarn (sarcasm). I have a great big stash of sock yarn and a very big supply of socks but of course I’m going to have to try that Sea Turtle yarn. I really love cabled yarn. Also the colors are great. Now I just have to grow another pair of feet.
    And, it’s always nice to hear from you.

  11. Those Bleeding Hearts are beautiful! Thank you for sharing them with us.

    I love that your mum gave you guidance on how to prune the roses. Roses are some of my favorite flowers, too, because we had them growing up; and when I finally had my own house, it came with roses – only I didn’t know how to prune them at all, so they all got long and scraggly and… well… still beautiful, but not as much as they could be. So I love, that much more, that she shared that knowledge with you, and I love that the roses are something you can always share with her, even if only in memory. May it always be a good memory. 🙂

  12. Your bleeding hearts are gorgeous, and coincidentally I was reading in your archives about your handspun Bleeding Hearts Stole, in June of 2008. Whatever happened with that? or shouldn’t I ask?

    • I remember that too. (Just finished binge-reading the blog from the beginning. Loads of fun! )

      Stephanie, a while back you wrote a great post where you dug up unfinished objects & explained why. Please think about doing that again (even for just 1 UFO.) It was really helpful.

      Some were yarn reasons. Some were pattern probs or knitter error. Some accidentally got unwanted emotions knit into them. Opened my eyes to why I was avoiding some of my own projects.

      Beautiful flowers and socks. Can’t wait to see the hemp sweater.

      Sending healing energy to you and Carol.

  13. I live the socks for Carol! How bright and cheerful – extra special for someone in the hospital! 🙂

  14. Glad you’re feeling better, and that Joe’s mum is, too. (If she’s complaining, she’s feeling better! They’ll discharge her when she avoids the hospital’s “haute cuisine” by running out to Tim Horton’s.) The knitting, both finished and WIPs, looks great. Have fun pruning the roses — and giving Sam the how-to lectures.

  15. In Sydney (australia) we celebrate the Queensbirthday on Monday, June 11 in 2018 (All except Queensland, Western Australia – who for some reason do things differently) and we are almost in winter and the temperature today should be 23.
    Life can be odd

  16. I got the shingles after my mom and my best friend both died within the same year. I was only in my 40s, too. I feel your pain, but glad yours is going away a lot faster than mine did. (I also got misdiagnosed…but mine was as a migraine.) Enjoy your holidays and take it easy on yourself!

  17. Oh look at all the green things peeking out in your garden. I’m at a higher latitude in Alaska (or as some of us wistfully call it, the West Coast of Canada, or the Forgotten Although April this year was unseasonably warm enough to put plants outside during the day, they came in at night. We don’t plant in the ground or raised beds until June 10Th. It’s been known to snow Memorial Day weekend.
    Which is, all federal holidays are on Monday’s, regardless of when the actual original birthday or event occurred, because the honored ones would have wanted everyone to have a long weekend-they were considerate like that.
    Carols socks are an awesome colorway. Sure to perk her up.
    Thanks for explaining the cabled yarn…never heard of such a thing and glad I know now.
    Hope the shingles go away before your drugs do. Glad they’re taking the edge off.
    Hope to make it to Strung along soon. Fingers and needles crossed for next year.

  18. Not to worry, you aren’t late on pruning the roses. I just got into my garden today. It has exploded, despite the fact I didn’t clean it up in the fall. At the moment it looks worse than when I started, but in a couple of days, it will be ready (I hope) for mulch.

  19. I’m delighted to see you here and feeling better! But when I had shingles, my doctor wouldn’t let me go to work or shopping or anything, in case I came in contact with someone who had compromised immunity. I know when I was on chemo, I worried about chickenpox/shingles. A friend’s little boy was being treated for leukemia, caught the pox and died. Did you doctor say anything about this? Or was mine just being very very cautious? Love the socks, and you will love that sweater, even if it is slow going right now. It’s your colour! Take care!

  20. The bleeding hearts are gorgeous, but I’d love to see the fritillaria. I have planted these many a year with no luck. Deep envy.

    Glad to hear you are feeling better. Love Carol’s socks and the new ones and look forward to seeing the sweater.

  21. I have the basic knitting down pat. I feel as though if I stay/travel with you for 10days you can really teach me how to take off. I know. I’m coo coo. But I’m having such trouble after basic knit and purl. It’s like I can only do basic squares. Please, help me.

    • Mmm, if moving in with the Harlot doesn’t quite happen then maybe join a knit club or have a look online!

      • I highly recommend a knit group or a class from your LYS. We have 3 new knitters in my knit group and they are doing great with all the “teachers” and encouragement.

  22. Spring does something to the heart every year. When the weather warms just that little bit extra to give the plants a boost and chartreuse is the colour all around, everything starts looking just a little bit brighter. Welcome back from the long winters nap, I knew you were coming back!

  23. I used to live far enough north in the US that I learned what May 2-4 is all about. Makes me smile every time, though I’ve never had a beer, rather it reminds me of wonderful friends from Canada. Also I smile when I think of Aussie friends who call a two-four of beer a “slab.” I like that one too.

    Am so very happy your virus is beaten back in some measure and hope you will continue to feel better each day.

  24. I’m so glad you’re feeling better. And roses and your mum in the same breath seem altogether the best.
    Here in Utah we have the July 2-4 holiday which is technically called Pioneer Day for when the Mormon pioneers came to the Salt Lake valley. it’s also called Pie-and-Beer Day, for the not-so-Mormon or the very irreverent among us, for much the same reason as the 2-4 Day thing. Either way, hope it was fun.

  25. As a loyal reader from the US I have learned so much about Canadian customs from your blog (and come to love Canada so much more!) – but this May 2-4 thing is a new one to me. I wish we had a holiday celebrating the Queen. She rocks. Our presidents can barely manage 4-8 years and she is not put a step wrong for over 65 years! Adore the woman.

    If any phrase can describe the year you’ve had – it’s “Bleeding Hearts”. They are gorgeous and hope they perk up your spirits. The socks are super cheerful and people need cheer and silliness in a hospital. Am sending positive thoughts for your MIL’s recovery.

  26. Our Bleeding Heart was one of the first things to start blooming in our garden, and it’s just lovely. This year we discovered it had managed to spawn a baby on the other side of the driveway, so we transplanted it and (fingers crossed!) it seems to be doing okay.

  27. all the best to you and yours 😉 as spring deepens. thanks for the info about the cabled yarn.

  28. I knit Seasonal Trio version 3 last summer, and it turned into a year-round wardrobe staple for me. Cool enough for humid summer temps with shorts even with the long sleeves, but somehow also warm enough for winter wear over a tanktop with a scarf. Very confusing stuff, but satisfying. I also enjoy how skinny it all is after washing, then how it just lets go a bit once you’ve put it on.

  29. Wait, back up — shingles? I miss one post (grandkids visit) and you get shingles? You poor suffering lamb. Send Joe in to threaten those ER loons with mahem. I have every faith that The Faithful have warned you about your ability to pass on chicken pox, so I’ll just make wee crooning sounds and cast on a tam in solidarity.

  30. Woohoo, an old-fashioned WIP post! I still love seeing your knits. You should feel free to just post knitting photos when you feel like a whole text post is too exhausting or like you haven’t figured out anything profound to say (writes the writer who has so far today skipped her morning pages).

  31. Hah! I’ve had a skein of Dad’s Jacquard in the stash for ages. How did I not know about the black’n’white speckled sections? Those will absolutely be the next pair of travelling socks. With black heel/ toe/ cuffs. Or green? Or orange? Or can I match that pink? Or…?

    Thanks for making my day. I hope yours continues to improve, for you and for Carol.

  32. Shingles! I’m so sorry for your misery. Have just caught up on the blog this moment so this question may be a bit late, and please forgive the personal nature, but should you be going to the hospital to visit Joe’s Mum? Shingles is contagious. Even if she’s been vaccinated, it might be wise to take advice from the Dr. first. Neither one of you needs another thing to worry about. I’m sorry.

    • You can’t get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.
      However, you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles, if you haven’t had chickenpox before.
      Shingles is contagious only while the rash oozes fluid.
      Info from NHS website.

  33. Ive had shingles so I totally sympathize! Also, the Bleeding Hearts are among the first blooms in my spring garden on Long Island.

  34. The Netherlands has always done the same thing with queen’s birthdays and the celebration date being different.

    Queen Beatrix (previous queen) was born on January 30 and the current Queen Maxima on May 17. The celebration happens on April 27.

    So Canada is in good company for Queenly celebrations LOL

  35. Pssst! I remember the last time you played with a little Jacob fleece… it was so fun and perfect, wasn’t it? Taking it lock by lock and turning it into a carefully spun and perfectly lovely shawl? Going from the raw greasy fleece step by step to the glorious finished work, all by the magic of your own two transformative hands?

    What I’m saying is– just a bit of playing with that fleece can’t hurt. Just wash a lock or two, just to see what it’s like, eh? Just a whiff of lanolin to break the monotony of the current project?

    (i.e. I really want to see that fleece and the plans you’ve got for it.)

  36. Here in New Zealand we also celebrate the Queen’s birthday in June. This seems to make less sense as it’s winter at the time, but since our public holidays tend to clump in the warmer months, by the time June rolls around you’re ready for a long weekend, even if you have to spend it inside by the fire.
    All we need now is a public holiday to fill in the gap between the Queen’s Birthday (June) and Labour Day (October).

    • In Canada we snuck in Dominion Day, now called Canada Day, on July 1 and on the first Monday of August, for lack of anything significant, we added a Civic Holiday, which was then renamed Simcoe Day, to honour our first Governor General. Basically, it was just an excuse for a long weekend.

  37. I love your description of our relationship with the Queens birthday amd May 24. It is all so true and so funny when you say it like that. And it sucks that you have shingles….nasty, nasty stuff.

  38. Bleeding Hearts get free reign in my garden, too, as does all the Bloodroot that cares to spring up! My mum tried (and tried and tried) to get Bloodroot established in her wildflower garden, and would get so mad that it found mine and made itself at home. It makes me think of her with a shrug and a laugh. It was a coincidence that I had Monday off of work this week, and I smiled all day knowing it was *my* day!

  39. Funny, it’s basically the same as our Memorial Day here in America! People open their cabins and it’s basically a pre-cursor to the Fourth of July (American Independence Day).

    A lot of our holidays here shift as many are celebrated on a certain day of the week, usually a Monday.

  40. I love Ridley Sock by Sea Turtle Fiber Arts too! It’s so great!! And the colors are just gorgeous! Happy knitting!

  41. Long ago, my friend gave me the recipe for your emergency soup. Today, I found your” interlude” on my Google feed. In Garden Party, I saw the word shingles. I am a healer in GA. Try to find an essential oil called Elemi. It fixed my above the eye shingles right up….no pain. Only one scar.
    Thanks for warming my world.

  42. Happy Victoria Day! Love the hemp WIP.
    I’ll be working on my business contribution to Strung Along today, yay. Tried to get a Yarn Harlot yellow for the paper of the magnets, but it’s more the shade of French’s mustard than a 70s kitchen appliance.

  43. I hope my bleeding hearts bloom this year, they’re so pretty!

    I think calling it ‘May two-four’ might be an eastern Canada thing.. Growing up in BC and now living in AB, I’ve only ever heard it called ‘May Long’ until meeting my bf who grew up in Ontario.

    Also.. Here in Edmonton we hit 25 degrees on Victoria Day. Trust me, it was hot, and I was sunburnt.

    And. Sea Turtle is great! I picked up a skein in the colourway ‘Elemental’ at last year’s Edmonton Fibre Frolic, and I LOVED the socks it made!

  44. Stephanie this must have been the Spring for knitters to get Shingles! Holy cow, more pain than my fiercest gallbladder attacks years ago. Glad you were able to get anti-virals, my Dr said my blisters were too far along Hope you will be back to yourself soon!

  45. Bleeding Hearts are also known as Lady in the bath here un UK. To see why take one heart off the plant. Turn it upside down and gently pull the two sides apart. A pale ‘lady will emerge from the deep pink bath, Never fails to tickle kids.

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