Friday, October 16, 2020

Mari Mitts- a new pattern!

I am so pleased to announce this new knitting pattern--finally! Yes, this is the first one released since January...there were some delays.  Many thanks to the tech editor and test knitter who pushed me onwards, and all those who encouraged me.

I am so proud of this design.  First, the Mari Mitts were a design collaboration between me and one of my twins this spring...we needed whimsy. We needed cheerful distraction.  AND, apparently, my kid needed a THUMB RING like Mommy or Aunt Jen wears sometimes.  On his mitts.  Of course!

Second, this this my first pattern that I published with a Low Vision Accessible pdf option from the first.  This means that it's accessible to those who are vision-impaired, too. It takes more time to do this but it's the right thing to do when I can...  It's worth it.

Here they are!  Just in time, as we had a dusting of snow last night in Winnipeg.
Here's an antidote to dark days ahead..

Inspired by a Marimekko fabric print, these mittens have polka dot whimsy with a thumb ring flourish. This unisex stranded pattern has two sizes, Child’s Large/Women’s Small and Women’s Medium/Large. This includes both a chart and a written instructions. This warm mitten works up quickly in three colors, with US size 3 (3.25mm) and 6 (4mm) double pointed needles at 5 stitches to the inch. Any worsted or aran weight yarn that works to gauge is a good match; yardage varies according to mitten size chosen. Ideal for an advanced beginner or intermediate knitter, this is simple stranded knitting, with only two colors per round. Mari Mitts are ideal for those new to stranded knitting or for the stranded knitting knitter who is new to mitten patterns. 

I used Aran weight yarns: Briggs & Little TuffyLett-Lopi and my own handspun gray Cotswold (from Manitoba sheep!), red medium wool, and naturally black Manitoba alpaca. 

The pattern costs $6 and is available on Lovecrafts.comin my Payhip store and on Ravelry.  Please check it out!

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Low Vision Accessible...and more

 Big news!  There are now 24 of my patterns uploaded to payhip right over here:

I did this so that all my Low Vision Accessible patterns would be available for sale on another platform...for those who cannot manage Ravelry's new look.  All of these have this note:

Accessibility Note: This pattern offers an additional Low Vision pdf option, with Arial 24 point font and photo captions, for those who need large print.

 I'm still learning this new platform, and I hope to get my other designs up there in the future, as time allows. 

Deir Hart
(yes, I'm the model) is one of the patterns that's already live. 

In other news, The Jewish Independent ran this piece-about the value of fences, neighbours, and community- on Friday:

Fences, and walls, can be good

Disclaimer: I'm not for border walls between countries, or anything big-scale. No!  This is strictly about why a fence around my yard keeps my kids and dog from falling into a construction site...or by extension, how a carefully constructed boundary, like an eruv or, say, a mask or social distancing, can offer us, as individuals, both protection and community as we navigate challenging times.

Last but not least:  Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!  I hope all is well, wherever you live, and even if you don't celebrate this- and that we all continue to find things for which to be thankful and grateful, given our current difficult (pandemic) circumstances.  Take care and eat a lot!

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Monday, October 05, 2020

Infill, apples, and a new platform

 This is a quick post...about a recent CBC article that went up this past weekend on Winnipeg's Infill Guidelines:

Winnipeg infill guidelines need improvement to protect neighbours

I also had another article go live on the Vancouver Jewish Independent's website, about apple picking, and how to value what we've got--when so many are struggling with poverty and illness.

Need to value what we have

And, last but not least, I am launching my knitting designs on another platform called Payhip, for those who choose not to use Ravelry, because of its accessibility issues. I only work part time and this process has been slow, so I've only launched the first design, with an accompanying low vision accessible pdf (for those with vision impairment)...but I'm proud to say that Rosie McStrippit is now available in three places: Payhip, Ravelry, and on Lovecrafts.comIt's getting cooler here in Manitoba, and I actually wore this sweater just a couple days snow yet,although my kids are asking when it will start. (I hope we have another month yet?!)

Take care and stay well!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Reflections on the comments section

 A few weeks ago, I submitted a piece on provincial outsourcing policies to an editor.  She responded in a way that made it unclear if she was going to buy that piece.  Instead, she asked something like, 

"Honestly, I'd be more interested in hearing from you in terms of your observations on COVID-19 and anecdotes from the world you are living right now."  

I responded with this piece which an editor bought quickly. It went live over the weekend.  I received multiple private notes and thank you comments from women. Meanwhile, the comments sections of the CBC article (and its facebook repost) were roughly the equivalent of dumpster fires, in another friend's words.

 Multiple surveys and media reports have shown the employment/career issues with the pandemic when it comes to inequality in women's lives. I saw no reason to rehash that. Instead, I provided anecdoctal evidence of the pandemic's effects on women's careers--anecdotes from my life and 5 or so other women's lives (I described them vaguely and with composite vignettes, to preserve their anonymity).  These stories "from the front lines" weren't good enough for individuals who wanted to comment on all aspects of women's personal lives, bodies, marital and reproductive choices.

Nobody commented on my professional work credentials or education -nothing about book publications or degrees, but rather on my reproductive choices and personal blog posts! There were questions on why I'd bothered with graduate education (My undergrad advisors at Cornell thought I should?! It helped me teach at community colleges and universities in the past?) and rude comments about the rug I wove for Sadie's water bowl. It's sort of amazing what people feel emboldened to say online.

This is one reason why I like to write more on ideas/policy...but until then, I need to write what sells, and what I know.  It's not always the most intellectual stuff.  My articles on knitting, canning, baking, etc. sometimes sell faster than more academic or political critiques. People ask more about my children  than about my work...and all this is a sign of how women's work is valued in our society. (This isn't really a measure of my skills, it's about society's priorities for women.)

I'm going to keep posting here about my writing life as well as my 'home/making/creative life.' For me, they aren't really separate professional/personal spheres right now.  (I loved getting comments on the blog when folks used to leave notes!  It was a great way to build bridges.)

Many writers don't ever read the comments on their articles. I hold out hope that the feedback would be on topic and relevant so I read them. (...Although it often feels like self-flagellation.) Then I take a moment to remember something.  If these folks wrote opinion pieces and submitted them rather than filling up the comments section, they could also share their experiences and ideas.  Better yet, I think about the rug I made, or more generally, the work of my hands. I wonder if they are all capable of making rugs by hand when they need them. If not, there's no room to belittle others for their labours.

We can all talk about ideas and agree to disagree in a civil way.  Commenting negatively on people's bodies and choices doesn't push your views, ideas or agenda forward. It casts a shadow--but it's not a reflection of my work.  It reflects on the commenter's character..not mine. 

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Tuesday, September 08, 2020

September happenings

We're slammed with produce in Manitoba in August.  In July, it's a little berry jam warm up, but then by the beginning of September, there may even be frost.  So, this year has been something of a canning frenzy.  I've been canning for sharing, so my shelves are full now.  Some of it is mundane: apple sauce, chutney, cucumber pickles...and some is a surprise.  My kids found these (extremely long in the tooth) okra in a neighbourhood schoolyard garden.  They'd never seen okra before! (haha, I have eaten so much okra during my time in Kentucky and North Carolina...) So, I quickly shoved it into a jar and soon we'll try some refrigerator pickles. 
Meanwhile, I continue to write at night and whenever I can fit it in.  Here's an opinion piece I wrote for the CBC-Manitoba website.
It's fair to say that Manitoba's back to school options have left me very stressed.  We have been offered a "go back to school in person with some safety protocols" or a "withdraw your children and homeschool them."  This isn't a fair choice--we pay for our children's public education and kids with challenges can only get special needs support in school here.  It's hard to find privately and expensive.  There's no remote schooling option.  While I used to teach and hold a Master's in Education, I know when I do not have the training to meet some of my kids' needs.  So, today we sent them back.  I've been doing a lot of cooking to comfort myself.

Stuffed grape leaves from a friend's grape arbor... and pie.  Lots of apple pie from apples we picked at a neighbour's house.

Also, the hundred year old house next door has been demolished and there is excavation taking place for a new house.  There was no architectural salvage done, the shaking has been affecting our house, and the noise and motion have worn me out.  This photo taken from our dining room window is cock-eyed, but it sort of represents how I feel.  (Yes, that digger was 18" from the window.  Maybe 2 feet.  No kidding.)  This just makes me sad.
It's noisy and dusty and dangerous to sit around outside...but this is what Sadie the dog was doing before the demolition hit.  It has made me realize how much the out of doors helped us all this summer...and now who knows how long we'll be unable to use our yard again.
In an attempt to brighten up the inside, I wove this rag mat for Sadie's water bowl.  Making things makes me feel better....and keeps the stress level down.  Perhaps that's why I've been canning, knitting, weaving, baking and this frenetic pace.
Stay well!  Happy and healthy new year to all who are getting ready to celebrate 5781!

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Saturday, August 08, 2020

It's been too long

While I've been away, making--doing a lot of making, it seems... blogger's gone and changed my ancient interface.  So I am going to throw up a lot of photos here, give you some quick updates, and hope it all comes out ok on the interwebs.  

It's been my habit recently to update everybody about what's been published lately.  Alas, between managing twins home for the summer (without camp, as we thought social distancing would be too hard) and the state of things during a pandemic, I haven't gotten to write or sell much.  Here's a link to my column over at the Jewish Independent, my only steady gig right now.
To keep myself sane, I'm fitting in sewing, spinning, knitting, and more.  I'm washing fleece and canning dilly beans, raspberry jam, gooseberry golden name it, we're considering making it.  Fancy desserts and all sorts of other projects, some with kid help,... and some despite it!

Every weekday morning, I help my kids do some learning.  We're in a reading group together.  We practice cursive, typing, math, and do some art and design.  We've done science, some sewing, and a variety of other stuff.  It keeps their brains busy and hopefully means they aren't falling too far behind...sometimes it's fun.  Sometimes, there is a lot of yelling.
We've gone on berry picking outings (social distancing is easy on farms!) and once to Delta Beach (it's big and was pretty empty).  We go to the wading pool right when it opens in the morning, and leave as soon as it gets crowded.  We play in the sprinkler, pick cucumbers from our small garden, and focus on keeping things close to home.

We make strawberry trifle, plum apple rustic tart, or whatever else I throw together really fast...
I do a lot of spinning in bits of time while kids do two pages of cursive, a page of math problems, or practice measuring parts of the furniture....whatever today's effort may be.
I have ended up with two new free fleeces lately, one Suffolk and one Texel/crossbred.  The effort to wash these as resulted in the rediscovery of several, much older fleeces that also need to be washed.  It seems that since 2010, when I got pregnant with twins, I've accumulated some wool...and haven't done a great job keeping up in processing it.  So, you know, I think I have at least three more fleeces in the queue and I hope the warm weather lasts that long!  It is a lot easier to dry a fleece quickly outside than in the basement!
I'm baking challah.  I do a batch nearly every week and share a loaf with some good friends who are both over 80.  The professor and the kids bike over there, drop off a loaf, and have a socially distanced chat in the yard every Friday.  It's a good routine.
A new "McStrippit" sweater design is in progress.  I also have a mitten design waiting to be written up.  That said, since Ravelry has rolled out its new reformat, I've been somewhat involved in discussions around accessibility and how to make my designs available elsewhere.  Why?

Seizures and migraines are no joke...and people with vision impairment are also struggling with the new design.  I spent the first several months of this year reformatting about a third of my patterns to be accessible for those with low vision needs.  Now?  Many of those people can't access the site easily, even with the toggle switch to 'Classic' Rav.  Their screen readers don't work on the new site.  It's hard to navigate even with all sorts of 'fixes.'  It's been weeks now, and it's been made much worse for many with disabilities--it's not a good look for Rav.  I used to be such a fan of the site.

I've witnessed someone having a seizure....and my dad had migraines as a young man.  I know how debilitating this is.  I take this seriously.  So, I'm still knitting, but I'm not pushing out designs at quite the rate that I used to.  My designs are all also available on   If you're having problems and need me to email you a Low Vision Accessible pattern, please let me know.  I'm happy to help.
In the meanwhile, spending lots of time in the sunshine or dappled shade of our yard is a curative.  The world is out of control these I'm making jam...cause if you want the best jam?  You've got to make  your own...

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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Sally the dog, 2005-2020

Sally, our gorgeous Pointer Lab mix (we think), died yesterday afternoon. She was 15.5 years old (at least) and was suffering from kidney failure. She was uncomfortable and not eating or drinking anymore-it was time. She was at the vet to be examined, but when we arrived, she wagged her tail and let us know—she was still ready to leave right away. (She hated the vet!)
Sally was alert, loyal and the perfect nanny. Although our twins arrived when she was 6, she adopted them right away. She told us about every dirty diaper and kept everybody from falling off beds or couches. She chewed up anything sharp or plastic (toy) she found on the floor, and left it for me on the bed to show she was ever vigilant, keeping her small humans safe. Sally was born in Kentucky (we think), we adopted her at about a year old, and she became a Manitoban. No day was too cold for a walk, and she kept us all on schedule. RIP to a truly special dog.

This is mostly a repost from my Instagram account.) I do have more things to post in a long format here, but we've been nursing a sick old dog, keeping a young dog busy, and home schooling/keeping twins busy.  It's been hard to find time to write cogent posts about much of anything.  Stay well.

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