Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Distal: again?!

 The temperature dropped.
The sun sparkled off the snow.
I raced outside to take better photos of my handspun shawl...

 About 14 photos later, my camera stopped working.

It was too cold!

(my hands, without mitts, got a little cracked, too.)

So here it is, about -14C (9F), warmed up from -21C this morning.
 Look---there I am, shooting the photo!

Happy Hanukah!
Stay warm. :)

PS: Last night was the first night of Hanukah.  Not only did our twins sing the blessings (first time!) but they sang two songs that they learned at school, too.  It was great!  Almost as great as the wooden train set they got as a present...but not quite...

PPS: And the takeout fish & chips (fried in oil) was pretty good, too.  That was Mommy's gift!

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Distal #2 and another article

 Here's my most recent CBC opinion piece...this one is positive, for a change.  (feedback seems to indicate that while readers want positive pieces, editors don't usually want to publish them!) 
Ode to Winnipeg Tradespeople

Also, here's my second crack at Distal, my newest pattern.  This is my handspun yarn, a 2 ply Harlequin and longwool.  The fiber and yarn are at least 15 years old, I think.  It's been marinating in stash a long time! The pattern is on sale for 20% off until midnight tonight on Ravelry, as well.  The photos are terrible because we had a fog advisory all weekend.  When you can't see the tops of any of the high-rise buildings, it does not seem like a good time for a photo shoot, so I stayed inside. The yarn is a rich, textured red and someday maybe we'll catch a better shot of it.

I'm also almost afraid to say this...but we're all virus-free at the moment and I've almost stopped coughing from the last one.  This has resulted in several nights of reasonable sleep (only one twin wake up last night!).  It seems too good to be true.  On that wholly good note, I'll leave it before things get out of hand.  It's only a matter of time before the luck runs out.  be well!  Stay warm! 

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Monday, December 08, 2014

Distal sale and more

When I finished and posted my new pattern, Distal , last week, I felt a big let down.  Although I've been slowly working on several other knitting projects, I missed the rush of producing something new, something creative, and--most of all--something fast.  The solution was two-fold:

First, I cast on again.  A new one!  Hurray!  This time, I used a hand spun heavy worsted weight 2 ply yarn (4 sts=1" on a size #8(5mm) that has been marinating in my stash for a long time.  From notes I took in the pre-blog days, I think this was one ply Harlequin wool and one ply of Wensleydale or Lincoln long wool.  The Harlequin was a soft, marled brown/gray/white yarn that I spun woollen and felt would not last long on its own with any sort of hard wear; hence I plied it with something more durable, coarse and spun more worsted style.  Then, I dumped it into the dyepot and fell in love with the deep textured color that emerged.  I saved about 800 yards of this stuff--forever.  Well, not forever, but best I can tell, I bought these fleeces from 1997-2000.  I think this yarn has been in stash for 15 years.

Second....I decided to offer a sale.  Follow this link to get 20% off Distal from now until December 15.  (sale ends midnight, EST)  I'm hoping to sell a few patterns.  Based on rough estimates (cost of tech editing, yarn price, my time @ local minimum wage, etc.), I need to sell about 35 patterns at $5 to break even.  So, if you're tempted, please, knit a Distal!  It's fast!  It's a good gift...and it's on sale for even less than $5, too!

Last up, I had another essay published this past week on our local CBC website.  I'd clarify, before you click over, that I wish the income disparity between rich and poor in our society wasn't so great...but as long as somebody is going to earn $300,000 for a lecture, well, it might as well be an elder with amazing professional experience--that is, a woman with sound credentials.

That's most of the news from here.  We've been passing around cold viruses mostly...I'm thinking we should rename Autumn or Fall to "Getting Cold" or "Falling Sick" or maybe just "Virus?"  :)

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Distal: A Shawl for Winter


adjective: distal
  1. situated away from the center of the body or from the point of attachment.
    "the distal end of the tibia"
A while back, my professor was doing some research concerning the distal-less gene in butterflies and moths.  I must have proofread a paper draft or attended a lecture...but in any event, I learned a new word. (definition above)
About a week and a half ago, I picked up some lovely Létt-Lopi yarn that I bought last winter at a yarn fire sale. ($1 a ball!)  I had three skeins in the same color and dyelot.  I also had an idea in mind.  My mom wove me a wonderful shawl out of my handspun brown wool yarn several years ago.  She wove it on a triangle loom from Hillcreek fiber studio.  I've worn it to death and it is beginning to pill and show its age.
I wanted a handknit version--and I started knitting. Maybe 10 hours later, I had a shawl.  It was stunningly fast for me, given the twin lifestyle around here.
Here's the result.  I cast on Monday and I bound off on Friday.  It was blocked and ready to go by the middle of the weekend, and the pattern practically wrote itself.  My lovely tech editor, Donna, reviewed it at the speed of light.
I present: Distal -- a shawl for wintertime...#10(6mm) needles, about 327 yards of Aran weight yarn, and only a few hours of knitting...a perfect combination for this time of year.  Published on Ravelry yesterday; wore it on my dog walk at 7pm this morning.  Knit fast!  Stay warm!


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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Settling in--and a whole grain bread recipe

Well, we're settling in here for the long (LONG...did I say long?) winter season.  I think I'm still not over last year's winter, it was the worst in 118 years of recorded temperatures in Winnipeg.

 It was -11F (-23C) when I last looked at the temperature this morning, with a windchill of -25F (-31C).  Last night, as our professor was driving home through rush hour, we had a little snowfall.  Only around 2 cm, less than an inch, but enough to make driving home in the dark more of an adventure.

This morning as we got the boys out to the car for preschool, one of the dudes insisted on playing with snow with his mitts on.  I just instituted the "double mitts" one needs for this weather (one handknit mitt inside of another one, on each hand) and of course, they aren't used to getting them on and off.  Imagine wearing a coat with a liner--you put the whole thing on at once and do not peel off the liner each time...there, that's a double mitt!  Of course, said twin has not learned yet that snow play will make your hand colder, particularly if your mitt comes off. (insert kid screaming "PUT MY MITT BACK ON! Help me with my mitt! COLD! COLD!" for the third time, which means a parent has to take her mitt off to fix the problem again.) Sigh.  It's a learning process.

A while back I promised my bread machine whole grain bread recipe.  I'll offer it (with variation) below.  My whole thrust is to produce a healthy homemade bread without extraneous preservatives or other "stuff" in it--and have it be as time efficient as possible, so I can manage to make it consistently as our "house bread."  Making homemade bread tastes better, saves lots of money, and is probably better for you, but it does take time.  This new bread machine system takes all the joy of hand kneading and "making the bread" away, which I miss, but it reaches all the other goals, so for now, it's the machine..

Whole Wheat/Whole Grain (mostly) bread in the bread machine (2 lb loaf)

Put the ingredients into the bread machine pan in this order:
1 2/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups white flour
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour *** (see below for variation)
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Use the whole wheat setting (#2 on my bread machine and it takes 3 hrs and 45 min)
Set it on Medium crust

NOTES: If you like a really crusty loaf, set it on Dark crust, and if that is not crusty enough, preheat your oven (Convection Oven, if you have it) at 425F.  When the bread comes out of the bread machine, pop it out onto a cookie sheet and put it in the oven for 15 minutes.

The above recipe was "too dark" and "too crusty" to be really popular among twins in our household, despite the white flour.  I was annoyed; the grown-ups liked it!  Here's the variation--still lots of whole grain, still good for you.
Whole Wheat/Whole Grain (mostly) bread in the bread machine (2 lb loaf)

Put the ingredients into the bread machine pan in this order:
1 2/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour *** (note variation)
1/2 cup spelt flour***
1/4 cup quick oats***
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Use the whole wheat setting (#2 on my bread machine and it takes 3 hrs and 45 min)
Set it on Medium crust (skip the oven step mentioned above)

---I'm still having some tummy problems, so I mostly eat spelt bread, which I make differently.  I will save that recipe for another time. 

Anyway, after having some fresh warm bread, I've been curling up to knit.  I started a new shawl-scarf thing for myself on Monday, and I'm finding the designing to be addictive.  Here's a taste with this night time photo...I knit before bed.  (I hope a new design will be coming soon.)

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Monday, November 17, 2014

mitten fashion shoot

It's full-on winter here.  Windchills of -20C (-4F) and blowing snow.  Yup.  Happened pretty fast, actually.  We've all got a virus, complete with sniffles and coughing and general sore grouchiness, so we weren't outside this weekend.  We skipped our dance class and mostly played in the basement.

Every year I try to produce at least one pair of fancy mitts in colors that my twins want to wear. To clarify, every kid has to have at least 2 pair of mitts, so one set can dry out, if necessary, or when it is really cold, so we can double up the mitts.  Until this year, we had some wool handknit sock/mitts which we just rotated onto feet and hands as necessary, but the boys are beginning to get why we have thumbs in mittens, so that won't last much longer!

This year I was running a bit late.  I finished my second pair yesterday and we had our photo session.  Both boys got their cameras out to shoot photos, and we were off to the races!
Note in the first photo--we were checking out the inside of one of the mitts, as it's just as colorful and "beautiful" as the outside.  (that multicolor yarn is Mountain Colors Twizzle and it meets the requirements of the twin who wanted blue, purple, red, yellow, green...etc.)  Contrast colors are the leftovers of blue yarn I used for  the Wrap-Around Cardigan design and some lovely plain old natural yarn from Catherine Friend's farm.

OK, contestant #2 for the photo shoot was just not in the mood.  Very sniffley and grouchy, and dressed in his "train conductor" uniform.  (The sweater shirt has a small train emblem on it and he felt the cannonball style hat was part of the uniform, of course.)  Anyhow, his mitts were also the first finished, so he has been wearing them for a few weeks at preschool recess and cannot figure why we were putting them on in the basement.  (I know, that crazy knitting mommy) 

These mitts are special for different reasons.  I dyed the green wool myself from beast roving, which is a wool/mohair blend that is reclaimed from the machines that produce Brown Sheep yarn in Nebraska.  All the yarn for these mittens was produced on spindles, plied on spindles, and then knit up--while chasing twins.  So, all this past summer, when I was standing around in the yard while we played at the sandbox, I was spindling.  I made mitts to order.  Green, to match this kid's coat, with a gray natural colored Shetland stripe from our friend Margaret's (& Linda, but he doesn't remember Linda's) sheep.  I threw in a white stripe of some random handspun I had, which he does not seem to mind, but having Margaret's Shetland wool in the mitts was deemed very important to this kid.

It takes me forever to make anything these days but making kids' mitts (size 4, in case you want to do a pair or two for us!?) is very quick.  We have these two pair, and a couple pair our Didi made with matching winter hats (Didi = my mom) and we're very nearly set for real winter.  We've got something like 10 or 11 handknit sweaters that currently fit us, so between my needles and my mom's, I think we've got that covered.  Yes, it gets cold here.  I cope with my obsessive worries about being warm enough for knitting more. 

Sadly, it is now too cold for me to knit in the parking lot before preschool pick up, though!
Enjoy the photo shoot!  As soon as we stop sniffling, (come spring?!) we might want to smile again, too.

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Monday, November 03, 2014

DIY Winnipeg?

Here's my latest article (note: I do not choose the titles!):
DIY Winnipeg: coming together to fix the city's problems

I'm really proud to have an opinion piece up at the CBC!  It was posted online late Friday afternoon, so not many people saw it before it just became part of another news cycle.  What I meant about gaining grassroots involvement in Winnipeg is not that everybody go out and fix the potholes themselves. However, my hope is that educated and intelligent people try to help fix city problems by offering city officials suggestions, help and expertise rather than throw up their hands after electing these folks to political office.

(We've got a long winter ahead--so maybe we can use the time to come up with better ways to fix infrastructure?!)

Stay's woolly weather now.  For all my knitting, weaving, spinning,crocheting (etc) readers, check out this cool website, Wovember, for more warmth and fibery goodness this month. 

Last but not least, if you're feeling cold now that frost has settled in here in Manitoba, remember, you can always knit yourself a sweater! :)

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