Thursday, November 30, 2023

An update

Greetings!  It's been too long since I updated this blog...I've had a hard time keeping up.  Here are some details about things that I've done, umm, in the last few months!  The Manitoba Craft Museum and Library has put the Accessibility for Pattern Makers and Users event online for anyone who might be interested in viewing it. (Bonus, you can knit or spin or whatever while watching the talk!)  I've been doing some occasional blog posts for Winnipeg Sews, too.  This is a great local sewing studio where both my kids have had successful sewing lessons...culminating in making pj bottoms. I'm continuing to write for the Vancouver Jewish Independent as well as doing occasional pieces elsewhere.  I wrote a piece on dyslexia, Fight for the Right to Readfor the Winnipeg Free Press in October.
I'm participating, again, the Fasten Off Yarn Along this year.  This is a great opportunity to get knitting and crochet patterns at a discount, as well as to socialize and knit/crochet along with others in an accessible environment.  All my patterns on Payhip and Ravelry are on sale for 25% off through December 8th at midnight with this coupon code: FO2023
(This is a pretty darn good deal and a fun event.)

What am I making/knitting/spinning these days?  Well, I've finally admitted to myself that I was just too overwhelmed with the household renovation and other obligations to turn out patterns this past year.  I decided 'sabbatical' might be the best term for what I've been on.  I've been at this for about 20 years, more or less, in terms of writing fiber publications and designs, it is ok to take breaks.  So I am knitting but using up stash and turning out things like this funny Snail Hat (A classic Elizabeth Zimmerman design) instead.
We've also finished up the renovations 'to paste our house back together' for now.  Does this mean it is all fixed?  Not really...but things are finally stable, the plumbing and electricity work, the holes are plugged up.  It means we'll save up and take time off for now. 
It may seem small, but part of 'getting back to normal' means emptying more boxes. Some of our moving boxes have not been emptied due to all the construction, some furniture needs to be moved.. and after a year, it's time.  I do a little every day, when I can manage, and twins and the Professor help on weekends.  Last weekend, I put our nice dishes away in our breakfront for the third time. (Yes, I tried twice before, but had to move them each time due to construction.)  I also managed to unpack some family china.  This box had been packed for our move from Kentucky to Canada in 2009 and now, it has a safe place and it's all finally out of the box...and the enormous china box is no longer in the living room. This is both a frivolous thing and also, well, a reassuring step towards making order in our house again.  


Remember the sale! Please check it out if you're interested.  There's still time to download a pattern.  Join in and make something with your hands during a stressful time.
Wishing you everything good.

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Monday, August 21, 2023

Accessibility for Pattern Makers and Users

 On Wednesday, August 23rd, at 6pm at the Manitoba Craft Museum and Library in Winnipeg, I am teaching about low vision accessible patterns, accessibility and how to make patterns more accessible.  This workshop is for knitting and crochet designers (and anyone who writes instructions for makers) as well as for those who are seeking more accessible and inclusive patterns.  There is no “one size fits all” but there are so many ways to be more inclusive.  Come explore this topic with me! 

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Monday, July 03, 2023

keeping it clean: summer edition

 Years, ago, I wrote an article about how hard it was to keep my kids' bedroom cool in the summer when we had to shut the windows...their bedroom at the time was near a bus stop. Folks leaving nearby bars and waiting for the bus on a summer evening would smoke cigarettes, talk and sing, and even smoke pot.  They didn't look up 20 feet to see the open bedroom windows, and of course, it was always after kids go to bed.  This was one of a series of articles I wrote about air quality and pollution.  Nothing has improved in Winnipeg in the past few years, either.  I suspect lawmakers do not live near the density corridors and probably have air conditioning, too.

What I found is that if you have air conditioning, live in a quieter residential neighbourhood, or have no health challenges (like asthma) to begin with, nobody thinks much or cares about these things.  I can certainly tell the difference now that we have moved to a quieter neighbourhood away from a major road, patios and restaurants.

Then the wildfires happened this year, and the smoke spread farther than usual.  Suddenly people in the US and all across Canada suffered from wildfires the way we do, every summer.  Sandwiched between western fires in Alberta and Saskatchewan and the fires in Ontario and Quebec, Manitoba gets wildfire smoke every summer.  Of course, we also have wildfires in our province, too. Air quality issues are part of the summer experience in Manitoba.

When I wrote those articles, I got an email out of the blue from someone offering me an air purifier for free.  I was shocked- in those days, if I got a freebie, it might be a skein of yarn! However, they said they felt bad about our predicament and offered this to help us keep our kids' bedroom air safer at night.

Well, this was in 2018.  Five years later, this thing is still running all the time in my kids' room, in a new house, and has made such a big difference when coping with wildfire smoke and allergens.  After all this time, the person who sent me this as a marketing intern has moved on, I'm sure...but this was a gift that made a big difference, so I'm passing along the information.

This is the model that I think I was sent. I can recommend Honeywell purifiers. It's done a marvelous job of helping us breathe through challenging air conditions. 

Note: If you click on this image, it'll take you to Amazon.  I think 5 years is enough of a trial period, I recommend this.  If you're struggling with smoke this summer, this might be worth a try.

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Friday, June 09, 2023

A month of change

This space, on our second floor, is being renovated now. When this house was new, in 1913, it was a master bathroom, very modern for its time, a light filled space on the way to a sun porch, and possibly a dressing room or nursery space,  although it is hard to tell exactly what else was there.  When we moved in, it was renovated to contain an enormous master bathroom with a circa 1980 hot tub, Cookie Monster blue shag carpeting, and failing plumbing.  In order to redo this, lots of quarter sawn oak flooring had to be pulled up (water damaged by the hot tub, of course) and we discovered the original hex tiles, a 1925 penny and other surprises.
Also during this time, I had a series of freelance articles come out, including two pieces in the Winnipeg Free Press…this one, about women’s value in the workplace, got a lot of positive responses. At the same time, my part time job ended, which has been for the best.  It was difficult juggling the renovations, the family household demands, and the freelance work with this job, which did not work out the way I had hoped it would. —In a moment where “remote” work is suddenly becoming hybrid or in-office again, I remain the parent who needs to work remotely as my professor has gone back into the research lab with new research students.

Each spring, all the woollies have to be washed - and this year, I experienced it in a new location.  After moving house, some household tasks morph.  Here, I was delighted to have the use of the new chain link fence for drying purposes as it was a windy day and the huge wooden drying rack would have toppled over.  Some day in the future, we may be able to dry everything in a sun porch or two, but right now one of ours still leaks and the other is full of construction materials, so fencing worked just fine!  (The bright orange, blue, red, and gray sweater is a brand new, upsized version of my “Stripe Freestyle” design- available on Ravelry, Payhip and  Finished for a kid just in time for warmer weather, I sure hope it still fits in the fall!)
Speaking of kids, these twins just turned 12!  Hurray!  We celebrated with a pizza and ice cream cake party with a few of their friends.  On their actual birthday, they were performing in the school musical, which was a huge production.  It went very well on a stifling hot weekday night in the school gym.

Just after that, one of our guys had a long-planned medical procedure.  He is just trying out school today for the morning for the first day, it has been a week of recovery and things are still hurting.  Recuperation was aided by handmade loose fitting cotton pyjamas - his feature unicorns and other magical creatures.

Our dog Sadie decided that a bear stuffed animal which arrived as part of an amazing “get well soon” gift belonged to her.  She thought it would be most comforting if she stayed right nearby, with the bear, nearly all the time.

I thought through everything that has transpired over the last month or so as I could, and actually, it’s been quite a lot. Five freelance articles that I wrote have been published, twins turned 12,  a kid had surgery, a long-delayed small claims legal matter has been dealt with (not as we’d hoped, but hey, we were accused of extortion because we chose to pursue this in small claims court, so it was not without its comic moments…) and, among other things, I have sewn four pairs of cotton pyjama pants and two pairs of shorts…still have more to make, but everyone is happy and sleeping comfortably, so that too is a big accomplishment. Yes, things are still busy, but I have regained some equilibrium about my work life, and that time has been a great gift.
What’s coming up?  Summer break, visits with grandparents, and more. In August, I am excited to say I have been invited to give a talk/learning event about Accessibility in Pattern writing/pattern use at the Manitoba Craft Museum.  More interesting (and flexible) work to come soon, I hope! 

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Saturday, April 01, 2023

Catching up

Since the day I started this blog, long ago, I have never let it sit so many months without updates...but it felt like I could never quite get enough time to come back and visit. Everyday things I love fell by the wayside over the last few months, and I am only now getting them back.  The first big news is that by the end of February, we finally had our new kitchen.  The one where we had to gut the old kitchen entirely, put in a structural beam, get a lot of plumbing and frozen pipes fixed, etc.  This bread would be unremarkable, except we went many months without homemade bread...everyone in our house is so "used" to having it that going from November until end of February without bread was a long wait.  (Of course now, Passover is almost here too, so no more homemade bread, but at least there is a kitchen to cook and eat in again!)
Literally the moment the cookbooks got taken out of the boxes, we were looking at recipes again, discussing what to make next, and getting excited about future meals again.

When the kitchen was finished, we could move the stained glass from the old house and hang it in the new one. Everyone felt relieved at the move.  We bought this stained glass when our twins were infants, and recently the artist who has helped us with the glass in this "new" old house told us that this window stained glass was likely from the late 1800s or early 1900s, and by the way, many of the types of glass in it were no longer available.  All the more reason to treat it with caution.

Getting through this time with no real kitchen, managing two mortgages (until the old house sold), a part-time job plus my freelance work, and of course, managing our household, twins and dog--has been complicated.  We spent a lot of time outside and I have found access to winter time activities  and exercise like an outdoor rink in walking distance and the (frozen) river trail--have been a great gift.
Walking the dog out on the river trail among art displays, skaters, skiers,'s an amazing opportunity, like having a new provincial park at the end of the block.  When the trail closed, the dog and I were both sad!
I've also been sewing, knitting and spinning when I can fit it in, although not with as much regularity as I managed before.  This winter, we managed to have twins signed up to three extracurricular activities in January and February.  (Chess club, sewing studio and piano lessons) In March, we continued with piano, tried out kick sledding--with and without the dog, and also kids had an intro to racquetball.  Later in April, we're starting again with chess and sewing, but at least there will be fewer snowstorms and -30C evenings to contend with while driving around.

Each bit of renovation that happens is a triumph.  When our contractor brothers opened up this back door area and renovated it, it was like a doorway to the past.  My professor husband has been slowly getting windows fixed one at a time, rehanging the window weights, and we have so far opened up 4 windows and two doorways.  (2 more windows to go, I think.)  Whoever decided to close off windows and doors in a long-ago renovation...maybe in the 1980s or maybe much earlier...really wasn't the brightest bulb.

Here's the re-opened back door area.  Below are two high up windows in our new kitchen...both were blocked off but one of them had actually been left open, behind cupboards and walls, to vent a half-bath for perhaps 40 or more years.  No wonder why the area was cold and the pipes froze in winter!
We also finally have a working dishwasher, which is a huge deal when feeding a family all winter.  We were not surviving on take out or eating out during this time...but we did choose to use paper plates during the kitchen renovation.  It was probably the most paper plates we adults have ever used in our lifetimes.  It was worth it though, there are limits to what one family can manage...even an eco-conscious one.  It's also the first time in 20 some years when we haven't composted at all--because our dog got skunked in September right after we started composting.  So you know, we decided to stop composting until we figured out how NOT to attract skunks to the yard.  If you have tips on that, let me know in the comments!

Knitting continued as kids keep growing and needing new woollies!  This is another version of my "Stripe Freestyle" Sweater- slightly upsized as my kids are now a little bigger than the pattern I published.  The yarn for this one was my handspun Cotswold and silk singles.  I dyed it as well, the yellow was dyed with marigolds and the red came from a nice dye packet.  I wrote about spinning and dyeing this yarn on the blog in 2006.  Some yarns just need time to marinate in the stash!  In this case, I obviously had to give birth to twins first and then wait 11 years.

Here's another fun photo of kids enjoying the art installations this year--this one was taken at the Forks. This sail turned in the wind while you stood on it...but it also served as a much needed windbreak on a very chilly day.

I'm now on to knitting yet another "Stripe Freestyle" sweater for the other kid and the fuschia yarn in the background will likely be a sweater for me, someday.  (It's on hold while I knit more for kids.)  It never fails to surprise me which knitting patterns sell lots of copies and which don't.  The Stripe Freestyle pattern is a slam dunk in my household, but doesn't sell many copies on Ravelry, Payhip or Lovecrafts.  No idea why.  In any event, it's been a mainstay in these twins' wardrobes for years.

 Finally, I'm adding a much overdue photo of the lovely birthday celebration we had back in January- I had a big birthday, in the midst of all of this. We were stressed out and it went by quietly.  However, now that we're "down" to owning only one house, things are somewhat calmer.  Still lots of renovations to go and some ends to tie up, but I'm hoping for warmer weather and more time for writing, designing and playing ahead.  

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Friday, November 25, 2022

No more bandwidth?

You may wonder where I've been.  The answer would be, umm, completely overwhelmed with moving and all it entails!  Also, the “new” house needs quite a bit more work, so we are living in a construction zone.  Not a noisy "disrupt the neighbours" or 24 hour highway construction zone, but the kind that slowly and steadily has now lasted a year and now, in this phase, involves a lot of demolition.  Here is a shot of our kitchen, halfway through being gutted, a couple days ago.  Note the ugly ancient carpet that was found under the island, (why?!) and our dog in the shot, she sticks close by all the time right now.  This stuff is nerve-wracking at times.
Also anxiety producing?  Having freezing pipes, a half demolished kitchen, and a wall without a proper support beam in place.  So, yeah, we're getting a new kitchen that we hadn't bargained without an enormous island.  (Yes, I want a kitchen table in the kitchen.  I'm so retro.)  In the end though, it will be warmer and safer too, so that's a bonus!
Our temporary kitchen is inside of a first floor powder room, which will eventually be a half-bath again.  It was originally part of a servants' staircase and was seriously under-insulated.  This meant the pipes froze there too with some frequency.  We're revisiting that lack of insulation now while we wash dishes.  Glad it is only November and not too cold yet.  It's really good news that this old house was built in a sturdy way in the beginning, it's lived through some badly done renovations in the past, and now we get to help fix it all.
In the midst of all this, I'm juggling some new part-time work, some older freelance commitments, and of course, the care and feeding of my twins, who are very busy being in grade 6. Just today, I started volunteering at my kids'  elementary school with grade 1 kids in the bilingual program, too. It was a fun afternoon. 
So of course, I wasn't busy enough? I signed up for an event!  I am participating again as a designer in the Fasten Off Yarn-a-long.  What's this?  Well, it's a way to buy lots of knitting patterns, on sale, from November 25th until December 8th.  It's also a way to participate in a yarn-along (knitting and crochet) event, even if you can't participate on Ravelry.  My patterns on Payhip and my Ravelry patterns are all on sale for 25% off with the coupon code: FO2022.
There are also games to participate in, a Discord channel, and more.  The good news is that it's a sale with over 100 designers participating!  Lots of exciting designs to explore and enjoy.  Learn more at and have fun!

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Thursday, September 08, 2022

Summer on the move

It turns out that moving twins, a dog, and a household about a mile is a huge undertaking.  About 13 years ago, I documented our move to Canada on this blog, and I wrote a lot about it.  It involved a continent's drive, two bird dogs, a lot of boxes and plants, a moving van, my professor and me.  I've since learned that moves with tweens can be, umm, more complicated than that one.
The short story behind this is that our beautiful old house, featured in many blog posts, got damaged.  This issue continued to cause a lot of friction for us, along with a dead tree hanging over our power lines, increased traffic nearby and a lot of construction around where we were living.  It seemed like we needed to find somewhere else to live.  During the pandemic, this was no small thing.  It took us almost a year to accomplish this.  How we ended up with our "new" old house is a story for another day.  This story is a little about the summer...
It has involved moving things slowly, one at a time.  Here's my Quebec Production wheel, and the two customers who helped me move it from the third floor of one house to the third floor of the other. (Note, I still have two great wheels left to move!)
Meanwhile, my parents visited and my mom helped enormously by hemming curtains with twins. (Both twins went to a sewing camp for part of the summer and were very keen.)  Just beyond this photo were boxes, a refrigerator and a dishwasher, appliances for our as-yet-unrenovated kitchen.  Partly demolished, in fact.
Here's our old house, which is now for sale.  I will really miss things about this house, including the front porch.
However, our new backyard is quiet at night, and I can sit, watch the dog wander the yard, and there's little to no noise or light pollution - and yes, it is right in the middle of the city.  That bright light in the photo is the moon rising.
The inside of the house still looks like this though.  Our furniture was used to stage our old house, but it's being moved to the new house soon.  In the meanwhile...things are a bit hard to put away.  Necessary renovations are still happening as we have one lovely working bathroom (nothing else is functional yet) and a kitchen that needs a lot of work.  Note tiles at the front of this photo.
Despite all this transition, I tried to find space every day to do something fun with kids and dog, too.  This was an amazing art exhibit we 'toured' - it is painted on fences and garage doors in a backlane in Wolseley.  We were able to walk there from our new house.  It was a long walk on a hot day, but well worth it.
There's a lot more to this story, but now, kids are back at school and we adults are still trying to make order out of chaos.  (Sometimes the blog silence is because I am silently screaming in the background?!)

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