Friday, March 28, 2014

Drip drip drip

If you're looking at our kitchen faucet and wondering what the green tape sign says, it says..."Please leave water dripping."  I bet for many people reading this, they are totally confused.  Why is a person who cares about environmental issues a little bit, one married to a biology professor, purposely leaving her water dripping?

We're on the risk of frozen pipes list.

In Winnipeg, it is still most definitely feeling like winter.  Yes, the sun is a bit brighter and spring is slowly moving northward. (we hope.)  The ground is still ice and snow covered, and boy, that snow is looking dirty! This morning when I walked the dogs, it was -6F.  Right now, it is -15C, or 5F, with bright sunny skies.

This winter is the coldest Winnipeg has seen in 35 years, and the frost line-that is how deep the frost goes beneath the soil- is at around 8 feet.  (2.5 meters or so)  You might guess, if you were thinking about plumbing, that there are water mains at that depth, and you'd be right.  Water mains are breaking in Winnipeg, and a whole lot of houses in our city do not have water.

Our next door neighbor's pipes are frozen, and she has water because her water line was connected with the neighbor on the other side of her house.  We live on the corner, and our one neighbor has no water and is connected to the other neighbor.  We hope our pipes don't freeze.

In our favor, we have twin two year olds and use a lot of water so it is still flowing!  We run the dishwasher and washing machine every day (potty training, but still using our share of cloth diapers...!) and that has helped.  Then in mid-March, we heard our neighbor had lost water and we started the trickle at the kitchen sink, 24 hours a day.  The city put us on the at-risk list and may compensate us for some of the water loss...but it is a necessary cost, no matter who bears it.  We so don't want to lose water!

If I think about it (and I try not to), this situation begins to sound like one of those bad comedies where things have to be funny so you don't cry--there are businesses and homes here who have been without water for weeks.  The professor talks about our "coy pond" and makes jokes about streams, water falls, and fountains.  In between my sleep deprivation (the boys have had a cold and they just don't sleep through the night) and the dripping water and a sinus headache or two, I think maybe I am feeling a little like I know how people in horrible war time work camp environments might feel.  (just kidding, definitely a first world comment)   I am even more upset now that so many people in the world do not have easy access to clean water...just the threat of it is scary to us.

We collect the water in the pitcher and try to water plants, fill the dog bowl, our water glasses, etc. with it, but we're using a lot of water.  Luckily, we are blessed with a lot of water here in Canada.  Drip drip drip.  Can you hear it running over there at your house?

I so can't wait for spring.  Please drop me a note or leave a comment or something if you can see flowers or the ground or even a melting pattern where you live!

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Friday, March 07, 2014

drive-by knitting

I'd really like to get back to posting more frequently, so this is a speedy attempt.  Here are some (not very good) photos I've taken with my iPad to show off recent knitting and life here.  I have finished my version of Kapp, an Icelandic sweater pattern with Lite-Lopi in Size 4. It is too big for our boys now but will be just right come next fall, I suspect.  It was a pattern that required the knitter to already know how to do an Icelandic type sweater.  (in the round, bottom up, attach two sleeves and do a yoke, etc.)  The instructions were well-intended, but minimal.  There is a mistake in this, and it is around the collar area, and I hope you can't really see it because of the buttons (ancestral button stash buttons!) the slanty photo and the collar. :)  Whatever, it will keep someone warm!

Now I am on to the next sweater.  This will be a stripy zip-up-the-front one, I suspect, as requested by my (skinny) boy, unless he goes for buttons at the last moment.  He likes long coatlike sweaters, and this one is being knit at a size 2 width but size 4 length.  There is no pattern to this.  I am just making it up as I go.  Winging it for me is only slightly more complicated than following a well-intended pattern without many details!

Long ago, I started a pair of Selbuvotter mittens, using a pattern from Terri Shea's great book.  However, things got distracting and I found I just could not concentrate on finishing those mitts at the time.  Hah.  You know, when I was writing books and getting ready to move to Canada, but not yet the mom of twins....well, it was the twin thing that did it, I guess.  Put me right over the top. 

I bumped into that little bag of half-finished project recently, and huh.  There was some very nice fingering-sport weight handspun 2 ply that I had done years ago.  It was just waiting to be mitts.  I took one look at that pattern I was trying to follow, and my eyes crossed.  (No, my twins still do not sleep through the night.  5 or 6 wake ups last night alone.  I lost count.)

I just cut the handspun right off the half mitten I'd done and started winging it.  I made some top-down mitts in the 20 minutes before I fell asleep or during odd moments here and there.  They fit fabulously and I was ready to go when I looked at them.  They looked sort of, umm, homespun.  Not bad, but just sort of homemade in a way I wasn't quite satisfied with wearing out and about.

I washed the mitts, gently fulling them in the process.  Then I grabbed some grape kool aid packets on a grocery store errand, and the mitts took a little dip.  They now are a lovely variegated purple/lavender contrasted with rich brown.  They look good and more importantly, they feel very warm, especially with another pair underneath.  Sadly, they do not photograph well in the spare moments when I have a chance to shoot a photo.

Today I was out shovelling and I tried all sorts of angles in the sunlight.  There is very definitely lots of "winter" out here, and while the temperature is tropical (-10 C, around 20F), I still wear mitts when shovelling.

Here's a failed shot of mitts that shows some snow drifts.  Here's also a photo of me in my winter gear.  I've made 2 pairs of mittens for myself this winter and I am now on to a third...I wonder whether winter will beat me and I'll have three new pairs of mitts by the time the snow is done, or -- maybe, (hah) spring will come first.  I somehow doubt it!

PS: I've now managed to download all the currently available pdf patterns from my both of my books to Ravelry...but no one has bought a single one of the new downloadable patterns yet!  There's still time to make mitts before spring!  Join me...?

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Oh, for the days of Pony Express!

Here's my latest article--just out on the Op-Ed page of the Winnipeg Free Press this AM:

Oh, for the days of the Pony Express!

 As for the response?
As of 8 this morning, I have already been given a hand-delivered note by a neighbor who says she wholeheartedly agrees.  I did not think that being so frustrated by the mail this winter would result in getting additional (hand-delivered) mail!

On another topic--I am slowly uploading more patterns from my books to Ravelry.  Check out this Knit Green link to see which pdf downloads are now available.  More to come soon!

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

new downloads available!

It's definitely still winter here in Winnipeg.  About -40 with the windchill this AM (that is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius). It has been a real slog, this season.  I am getting tired of putting little boys into snow suits just to go outside! We've got one of the coldest winters on record...and we have ample opportunity to wear woollies!  This post is to celebrate the launch of a few pattern downloads now available for sale.  All of them are relatively quick knits if you are, like me, still experiencing winter. :)

The first pattern is this Icelandic Winter Cap.   I loved my personal version of this design to death!  It is now felted with snow and hard use and battered and perfect for my boys' basement toy box, but still warm. It knits up quickly with Lopi yarns and is an inexpensive boost to your winter wardrobe...covers your ears, too!

The next photo is of the Sit Upon.  This is my only crochet pattern in print.  Made quickly with an enormous crochet hook and wool roving, these sit upons can warm up a bleacher seat or dress up your dining room.  It all depends on where you need it!  One of my Sit Upons actually works as a placemat underneath my dogs' water bowl.  It is a versatile and useful thing to have, and very fast to make.

The Mary Jane Socks, a pattern featured in an earlier blog post, are an ideal way to use one of a kind hand-dyed sock yarns.  Assuming all the stars align, I hope to feature a brand new version of this pattern in a special new hand-dyed yarn line.  In the meanwhile though, the pattern is now available as a download, too!

The Deep V Sweater is an interesting pattern and I'm surprised I have not seen more versions of it posted online.  Knit with two strands of cotton yarn, it can be knit with either two strands worsted weight or one strand bulky weight yarn.  It's designed to keep the chill away, whether you're at a festival or at home.  I look forward to seeing more versions of this pop up on line now that the pdf is available.

The last pdf from Fiber Gathering that is now available as a separate download is the Unmistakably Warm Cowl.  I am featuring a photo of this one that shows it around the ears, but it is, of course, also good for your neck!  When I knit this out of lighter weight alpaca, I was living in Kentucky and it seemed mighty warm.  I won't lie, this version is not warm enough for Winnipeg winters (but then, very little is!)--if I were to make this for wear here in Winnipeg, I'd make it out of worsted weight or bulky weight alpaca, and I'd make a bigger cowl, too.  The good thing about this pattern is that it is easy to modify and very fast to make. 

I am excited about being able to market these patterns separately!  Several blog readers have either posted comments or mentioned privately that they think this is great too--thank you so much for the moral support.  I am really hoping that making these patterns available individually will offer knitters more options to enjoy knitting these designs.  As one friend explained, she already has my book, but would love to just have the convenience of a single pattern at a time--no scrolling through an ebook--available on her iPad in her knitting bag.  Here it is, friends!  Thanks for your kind words and support!

(More to come soon...I am already slowly posting Knit Green patterns online as I find spare moments.)

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

..but does she knit?

Oh yes.  I have to knit, in some small way, even if I am not designing.  I find a moment or two at a time and I never get an hour at a stretch like I did pre-twins.  I need the knitting.  It is necessary just to keep sane! Lately, I have been on an Icelandic wool kick.  This first photo is a size 4 sweater made of lett-lopi.  The boys will sit next to me on the couch, drinking their milk before bedtime.  We watch Caillou or Curious George (Thomas, Busytown Mysteries and Sesame Street, too) and I am working on a sweater for them.  They still share everything so both are excited about this one.  It's called Kapp and is from a Lopi Pattern book.  #31, I think.
When the boys turn three, each of them will start wearing a kipah (yamulka) at their Jewish preschool. I am making those now, and perhaps will come up with a kid kipah pattern, too...These are designed to fit more like a beanie so that they don't fly off when busy boys are playing. I am planning to make four so we have a back up for each kid in case one gets wet or dirty or gets lost.

It has taken me a long time to even shoot photos of some of this stuff as I have been busy with sick kids and plumbing, and it has been fairly overcast this winter, so I hope to do other photos another time and do another post.  In the meanwhile, below is a bath mat.  This is also made out of Lopi Icelandic yarns and from a Lopi pattern book.  I made the first bath mat more than a year ago and it worked out very well.  Wool does cope well with the constant water in the bathroom!  Eventually I needed a backup mat so I could shake out and wash one and rotate in the other.  (this was photographed in another room as the bathroom light was dim to show the yarn colors.)

Other projects lately have included more mitts for me.  I wear through mitts at an alarming rate, as car seat belts and snow shovels are not easy on my mitts!  I also designed a Lett Lopi sweater for myself which I like very much, but am not able to wear too often.  Loose bell shaped sleeves and potty training just don't work out!  (I'll leave that one to your imagination.)

On the plumbing front, today the basement floor was covered again in concrete, so we do not have any gaping holes or dirt piles left inside.  Outside, we'll have a huge pile of dirt to move, some landscaping, and fence to repair, come spring when the ground warms up enough to put a fence post in.  However, we have a new sewer line now, and flushing is a really really good thing.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Got digger?

When you feel your week is boring, imagine a lot of sewer gas coming up from the basement....a cracked sewer pipe with some perforated cast iron...and three different dates with plumbers.  Then, all of a sudden, we had a digger coming at 7am the next day.  Here is what it looks like when an outdoor sewer line gets repaired.  It is about -6F here this morning. (-20C, I think?) Before the plumbers could get to the sewer line, buried 8 feet down below the frost line, they had to move 4 feet of snow and two fence panels from our front yard.  (Never mind the new gooseberry and blueberry bushes planted last fall along the fence line...)

All this was slightly complicated by the fact that both of the twins had a virus with a low fever, so yesterday was a "stay at home" day where we missed preschool.  The day before, we missed swim class, so this was serious!  Today, they were a little better and I packed them off to preschool so I didn't have to worry about having them fall down a hole, indoors or out, in their excitement over diggers and plumbers.

Please feel free to share these photos with any two year old digger enthusiasts you might know.  Also, if you are feeling cold and sad about winter, remember that -6F is a huge warm up here.  It was -20 to -40F just a few days ago...And, you too could be replacing a sewer line to your house!  See, it could always be a little worse, right?! I am still trying to find the humor in this week's events. :)

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mary Jane Socks download-a new era

When I wrote Fiber Gathering, it was an undertaking.  It took months of travel, and constant juggling of responsibilities for my professor, so he could manage the photography and his actual work as a professor.  We had to hire dog sitters and house sitters and work hard to make it come to fruition.  In many ways, it was worth it.  I am extremely proud of that work.  I look at writing my two books as some of my most important career achievements.  I love it when Sammy (one of my twins) says that his mommy writes books in her office.  I hope to be able to get back to that reality when the twins are older and I have more time to actually sit in my office again.

However, the small advance I was given for writing Fiber Gathering just covered our travel and expenses.  I did not make any money from writing the book at all.  Despite what look like reasonable sales of the book--I have never earned anything past that advance on royalties.  Since we travelled all over the US to write the book, most of that advance went, plain and simple, for airfare, car rentals, hotel reservations, and eating while we travelled.  (For those that met us on the road, you know we weren't living extravagantly, either!)

So, when my publisher, Wiley, sold off parts of its catalog to a different publisher, I took the opportunity to ask if that new publisher would grant me some of my rights back.  I am happy to say that my requests were granted.
What that means is that I now have permission to publish and sell a few of my patterns online as pdf downloads on Ravelry.  I also have rights to make audio books too, and that is also exciting. Time allowing, I hope to put audio book versions of both my books online for sale as well.  Since I will be recording them myself, it may take me a while to do this.  However, it gives me hope that there is still an audience for the content of these books in a different medium.  (I will record the text only, not the patterns, as it would be hard to follow a pattern in an audio book!) 

This is all to say that my first pattern download from Fiber Gathering is now available on Ravelry.  The Mary Jane Socks pattern is one of my favorites.  Designed to use every last inch of a special hand dyed sock yarn, this toe-up pattern can also be used for any sock yarn that knits up at the gauge of 30 sts=4".  Since the book came out, it has been knit in Patons Kroy and other widely available yarns.  I know it is a versatile pattern, and it is one of my favorites.  I have worn out 2 pairs of handknit socks from this pattern myself!

If you read this blog and tweet, blog, or use social media in some way, I would be really honored if you might pass along the word that this pattern is now available as a download.  It is a small step, this one pattern, but it goes towards a long overdue launch of some really hard work.
(And, if you were wondering why I haven't been online much, we've had weeks of -40F weather, some serious dates with the plumber over our sewer line, and a bad virus.  I've been trying to think of something non-stinky to say about sewers, viruses, and extreme cold...but now I have something positive to say! We might just need to sell a few patterns to save a few bucks towards a new sewer line in our future. :) 

Check out the new Mary Jane Socks download here! 

More patterns soon, I hope!

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