My Grandma’s vintage knitting patterns

I really hoped to have an office update for you today, but it was not to be. Soooooo many boxes. So much unpacking. So much fabric and wool. I’m making progress, but it’s a little overwhelming to figure out how best to organize it all.

However, one thing that is unpacked and organized is all of my grandmother’s knitting patterns. In my last update, I promised you a peak at some of these, so that’s what I’m giving you today.

This collection is so special to me. My grandmother taught me to knit as a child, but I didn’t really make anything wearable until I was a teenager. She talked me through my first mitts, sweater, lace, cables and gave me the confidence to tackle pretty much anything. Now, I’ve taught a few other people to knit and have even started a knitting group at work.

Inheriting her patterns means a lot to me, and I’m working to take good care of them. Some of the oldest patterns date to the 1930s, I think. On the tattered bottom left corner of this book is “Canada 1936.” I’m choosing to read this as a date.

Vintage knitting patterns from the 1930s

Her patterns span the years, ages and styles. Not all have stood the test of time, but I’m not getting rid of any of them.

Vintage knitting patterns

There’s lots of clothing (she knit for all of her 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grands–we have two more greats and one great-great now), and there are other things as well like afghans or these lace patterns.

Vintage lace knitting patterns

These Mary Maxim patterns are a particular treasure. Grandma knit the sheep and sailboat sweaters for my cousins, and then they were handed down to my sisters, brother and me. My Mom eventually passed them on to my cousin’s kids.

Mary Maxim is a Canadian company started in the 1950s. Their patterned jackets–often featuring Canadian wildlife–are some of their signature designs. Check out that beaver and maple leaf jacket. Doesn’t get more Canada than that.

Mary Maxim knitting patterns

These Mary Maxim mitts are another Grandma signature. In our family, we had the birds when we were growing up, and then when my sister was a teen she convinced my Grandma to knit her a pair of crocodiles.

Mary Maxim crocodile and bird mitts

I’ve knit these a bunch of times in all sizes, even including a tiny thumbless Crocodilly for my nephew #3 when he was very wee–and apparently freaked out by Auntie and her camera.

Knitted crocodile hat and mitts

The other highlight for me is this Beatrix Potter knitting book. I remember when my Grandmother got this as a Christmas gift. In fact, the card from my Aunt is still tucked inside the front cover.

Beatrix Potter knitting patterns

The patterns in this book are all interpretations of Beatrix Potter’s stories and characters. Some are vedy, vedy British and a bit dated. Benjamin Bunny tams anyone?

Benjamin Button knitting outfits

But the graphs and the characters are timeless. I think this Jeremy Fisher with his dangling legs is super cute.

Jeremy Fisher sweater

My sister is about to add another great-grandbaby to the family in a month of so. I’m enjoying going through the patterns and picking out something for my new niece–and giving her a memento of her Great-Grandma.

Odds and sods


Preserves and homegrown apples

It’s been a busy week–really a busy month (or months)–so I’m taking it easy today with a quick list of the odds and sods that have been happening recently:

  • One of my very best friends left a whole package of homemade preserves, muffins and fresh apples on our driveway gate this week. We’ve been friends for more than 30 years and still live less than 10 minutes from each other. Life gets busy and we don’t see each other as often as we’d like, but we’re still connected. Little moments like this are what friendship is all about for me.
  • The 30th anniversary issue of House and Home was full of great rooms. A lot of the old favourites were some of my memorable spaces too. Kim Cattrall’s ocean front home (seriously, she stood in the ocean and then sat on driftwood for two pictures) is pretty special.
  • Our warm fall lulled me into a false sense of security. We’ve had windchills, negative temperatures and even snow over the past week. I need to get cracking on the annual seasonal shutdown. This weekend’s to-dos are remove the tractor mower deck and turn off the outside water.
  • Speaking of cold weather, I’ve started knitting again–and am teaching a whole bunch of people at my day job how to knit too. Yet another pair of my favourite slippers from French Press Knits are on my needles right now.

Is anyone else feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day right now? Or the things I want to/need to do are too many for the time I have available? Obviously, my friend (who is also mom to two little boys) has found some deeper level of productivity than I have yet uncovered.

Prickly pants

Pants covered in prickles

Our trails are a wee bit overgrown. After an evening hike with Baxter, I returned to the house and spent half an hour picking prickles off of my pants.

To be fair, I had ventured off trail for awhile when Baxter decided to choose his own adventure. (Did anyone read those books as a kid? I usually cheated and looked ahead to find what chapter I had to choose to get the good ending). However, half the prickles had already attached themselves to me before I left the path.

I asked Matt whether he thought a big strong man with a chainsaw might find his way out to the back woods. (Some trees are down too). He suggested a little strong woman could do it herself.

So much glamour and gallantry here on the farm.

Grandma’s locket

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a treasures post. Last week, I wore one of my most precious treasures, my grandmother’s locket.

Antique gold locket

Like most of my treasures this is inherited from family. I don’t know the exact heritage of this locket but I can see its history just by looking at it. The back and front both have several dents.

Dented antique gold locket

My Mom’s memory is that my grandmother was wearing this one day when she fell down the stairs while carrying my Mom. My Mom was tossed through the air and somehow ended up landing on a pile of towels in the linen closet. My grandmother was also alright, but the locket was dented.

Antique gold locket

Inside the locket, I’ve placed my two favourite photos of my grandmother: one from Matt’s and my wedding and one from when she was a young woman.

Photos of my grandmother inside her locket

I always wanted a locket, so I was really honoured to inherit this one from my grandmother. When I wear it, I find myself opening it every so often to look at the photos and remember her.

The epee umbrella

Rumour has it that one night in my grandparents’ apple orchard, there were some thieves stealing gas from the tank my Grandpa kept for the tractors. My uncle–who was a salesman and not the first person I would choose as a defender (no disrespect intended to Uncle Bob)–went out to run them off. This umbrella is what he took as his weapon.

Vintage pagoda ombre umbrella

En garde!

The gas incident was well before I was born. Eventually, this umbrella made its way to my grandparents’ cottage. Every so often, it would be pulled out on rainy days so that people could make their way back and forth between cottages. When my grandmother sold the cottage, the umbrella became mine.

Vintage pagoda ombre umbrella

The April issue of Country Living magazine featured vintage umbrellas, including one that looked a lot like mine. The shape is called pagoda, and according to CL, “Asian-inspired shapes generally indicate an older piece.” Given its illustrious family history, my umbrella is obviously somewhat old. The umbrella in the magazine was made in Montreal. That Canadian lineage makes me wonder if mine might be related.

Vintage pagoda ombre umbrella

I saw another umbrella very similar to mine at an antique show on the weekend. It was even rose ombre but reversed with the pink on the bottom and white on the top. The tag said it was from Montreal too. It was priced at $80. Country Living valued their umbrella at twice that–$160. I’m not sure that mine is worth that much, but maybe it’s about the price of a tank of gas–even at today’s prices.

Do you have any family hand-me-downs with interesting pasts? Have you ever spotted any of your heirlooms in  a magazine?

Green sleeves

The benefit of cleaning up my office is that I actually have space to work in there now. I may not be completely finished organizing the office, but I did accomplish something else.

I finally sewed something!

Green wool long sleeved collared dress Vogue 8630

This dress is my entry Julia Bobbin’s third annual Mad Men Dress Challenge.

Julia Bobbin - Mad Men Challenge III

The point of the challenge is to sew a dress inspired by Mad Men. I have to admit, I don’t watch the show, but I love the clothes that I’ve seen. I’ve had this dress cut out since November, so it was nice to finally make it up. Between cleaning up my office and Julia issuing her challenge, it was the perfect motivation.

This dress shares some style points with Joan’s chartreuse dress from season 3, episode 6, most notably the collar and the colour.

Joan's green dress

These photos (and lots of others of this outfit) from here.

Ms. Bobbin herself has sewed this dress, although she did a very true knock-off complete with a column of fabulous buttons down the back.

My dress does not have buttons, but I still feel pretty fabulous in it. My starting point was Vogue 8630. I made a few modifications, which I talk about in more detail in my review on Pattern Review.

The best feature of this dress is its wide collar. I dialed up the Mad Men style factor by adding one of my vintage brooches for these photos. I can see so many different accessories working here–I think a giant black button would be really cool.

Vogue 8630 modified collar

In the Mad Men episode, Joan’s dress ends up covered in blood. However, I will be keeping this dress far away from any farming and renovating activities that may lead to bloodshed. I think my alter ego and her day job will make good use of it and keep it nice and neat.

Check out Julia’s blog next week for all of the other fabulous entries in the Mad Men challenge.

Are there any Mad Men fans out there? How about Mad Men fashion fans?

Split personality

We are now officially in the month of winter. At the farm, most of our prep has been the same as last year–shut off the outdoor taps, put away the outdoor furniture, take the mower deck off the tractor, put on the snowblower. However, there was one thing that I knew I absolutely wanted to change this year: my footwear.

Our first winter at the farm taught me that my previous boots were inadequate for country life. In case you can’t tell from the photo below, they are not only completely snow-covered. They are wet. Soaked right through.

Wet and snow-covered winter boots

So, this fall I was on the hunt for better boots. Here’s what I ended up with. Can you tell which pair is the “farm” boots?

Dress boots and winter boots

The “office” boots are the divas on the pedestal afraid of our first dusting of snow. The farm boots are tall, furry, with rubber soles and removable lining. I’m hoping that they will stand up to whatever the farm throws at them in the coming season.

At my previous job, one of my co-workers had a hard time reconciling the person she knew from the office with the person she saw on the blog. I had never noticed a disconnect, but then my shoe shopping ends up illustrating the two sides of my personality… or at least my fashion sense.

Do you have a split personality between home and work or in your style? Any winter boot recommendations to share? Have you had your first snow yet?


It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a treasure post, and I wore one of my most precious treasures the other week, so I was inspired to write about it.

This is my charm bracelet.

Silver charm bracelet

It was a gift from my grandmother when I was young. She had two charm bracelets herself: one gold and one silver. I remember them as being loaded with charms and full of memories. My ambition is to create the same with my bracelet. Over the years, I’ve slowly added to it, always looking for opportunities to remember a special trip or a momentous occasion with a charm. Friends and family know that I collect charms, so they also give them to me every so often. Every link now has one charm, and a few have two.

I can tell you where each charm came from and who gave it to me. It started as a memory of my grandmother, but it has become so much more… so many people and places that have been special in my life.

Silver charm bracelet

Just in case I ever forget–or on the off chance you’re curious what everything is–I’m including the list here. Bottom row left to right: teddy bear charm from my friend Catherine, bag piper from Halifax, Nova Scotia, green stone bear from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Hershey kiss from a visit to the Hershey factory during a family trip, heart locket (my very first charm given to me by my grandmother when she gave me the bracelet), goose from my mother, maple leaf from myself, thimble to symbolize my love of sewing, Cupid given to me by my grandmother one Valentine’s Day, coin from Matt’s and my trip to Cuba, good luck symbol from my friend Catherine’s trip to Mexico, 20th birthday (and the year 2000) charm from my aunt, amethyst from my Dad and sister from a school camping trip to Sudbury, knitting needles and a ball of wool to symbolize my love of knitting, green stone totem pole from Jasper National Park, round charm from my university, fairy from my friend Laurie. Along the top, there is a running shoe from my brother Adam to symbolize my love of running, a sapphire (my birthstone) from Matt, and interlinked hearts from my sister’s engagement party.

Over the weekend, I picked up a new charm to add to the bracelet. At my sister’s baby shower, her mother-in-law had charms of baby footprints.

Baby footprints silver charm

I think this will be a great memento of my newest niece or nephew. This baby will be the first grandchild on my side of the family, so it’s definitely a momentous occasion.

Anyone else have a charm bracelet? Do you collect mementos? How do you remember special times in your life?

Big question for a big blogging weekend

You nearly didn’t get to read this post. Baxter and my walk yesterday morning came to a crashing halt (or more accurately a dashing sprint) when he pulled the leash out of my hand and went running into the woods in pursuit of something.

Matt and I spent an hour thrashing around in the dark with flashlights calling his name. When we had to go to work, his parents took over and spent four hours at the farm searching/waiting for him to come home (yes, I have the best in-laws). After an anxiety-filled day that included climbing electric and barbed wire fences and calls to animal control, I arrived home to the welcome sight of Matt walking over the back field, Baxter at his side.

The Dude had spent the day getting up close and personal with a tree in the back woods. Thanks to his trailing leash, he hadn’t made it very far in his mad dash through the forest. Despite Matt, his parents and me all walking within 100 metres of him, he hadn’t made a sound and our woods are thick enough that we hadn’t seen him. Fortunately, Matt has a sixth sense… or something… and he managed to find him. Baxter had been on our property the whole time.

Holy hell, people. This dog may do me in.

Anyways, I’m not looking back at what might have been. Let’s look ahead.

This is a big weekend for me. Tomorrow I will be spending the day with more than a hundred other bloggers at BlogPodium.

I am attending Blog Podium

BlogPodium is Canada’s top conference for design and lifestyle bloggers.  There are sessions on everything from social media to monetization, a panel of high-profile editors from Chatelaine and House & Home, an opening keynote from superstar designer Sarah Richardson, exhibits from sponsors including Home Depot, Delta Faucet, Para Paints and Loblaws, and lots, lots more. I am very excited.

But one question is plaguing me. What do I wear? Bloggers are one of the best dressed groups out there. They’re stylish and chic with a definite creative edge. Stylish, chic and creative, yup, I can do that. However, my blog is Home on 129 Acres. I think I need a little bit of country in there. (Look at me branding myself through my clothing).

Here’s my idea for an outfit. (Apologies for the bad photo. I had plans to reshoot it, but my time was hijacked by a four-legged runaway).

BlogPodium outfit

White trousers, fresh from the dry cleaner in the nick of time. Pink plaid shirt, desperately in need of a close encounter with a hot iron before Saturday. Strappy nude/pink patent heels. I’m still debating which bag and which wrap work best. What do you think? Nude seatbelt bag or blue leather purse? Bright yellow pashmina or soft blue? I probably won’t wear the shawl the whole time, but I want to have it in case the rooms are cold.

Aaaah! I forgot about jewelry #cannotleavethehousewithoutearrings. Hmmm…

Cowgirl earrings

Those might be a little more cowgirl than country. I tend to be a pearl studs or big chandeliers type of woman.

Help me, people. My future as a blogger is hanging in the balance.

(For those with no interest in fashion, my apologies for the break in our usual programming. I promise to refrain from too many forays into my closet in the future.)

In turn, Baxter I would appreciate if you would please refrain from running away.

What’s on tap for your weekend? Any new experiences on the agenda? Any outfit dilemmas I can assist with?

How to match seams across an invisible zipper

I have a different type of how-to for you today, completely unrelated to home improvement or farming (not that I am any particular expert in that area yet).

This how-to is related to the dress that I sewed for my sister’s wedding. The bodice on this dress is made up of lots of pieces with a zipper in the side seam. The challenge when putting in that zipper is to line up all of the seams from front to back.

I’ll admit that the first attempt was a big fat fail. Horizontal seams were stair stepping down the zipper. Not attractive. In fact, I couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture.

Second attempt was much more successful. So, here’s my tutorial on how to line up horizontal seams across an invisible zipper.

Sew the first side of your zipper to the dress, having the zipper open and leaving the other side free.

How to insert an invisible zipper and match horizontal seams

Close the zipper and, using pins, mark the seams that you need to match. Insert the pins horizontally in the tape on the unsewn side of the zipper.

Marching horizontal seams while inserting an invisble zipper

Unzip the zipper, and pin the unsewn side to the dress, starting at each of the seams.

How to insert an invisible zipper and make sure seams line up

Baste the zipper in place and stitch. When you close up the zipper, all of your seams should match.

Marching seams when inserting an invisible zipper

Or at least match close enough.

Next week, I promise a return to our regular program of home improvement and country living. We’re heading into the first long weekend of “summer” and I have big plans. Chainsaws–not sewing machines–are involved.

Hope you have a good weekend. Happy Victoria Day to my fellow Canadians.