Thursday, October 27, 2016

Additions and deletions

So, I think the whole #slowfashionoctober movement has passed me by, because I'm not on instagram.  I'm a bit retro: when we moved to Canada, we didn't get cell phones here, and I eventually gave up on the US one I had.  I haven't kept up with the smartphone, texting, selfie stuff that I see people doing all around me.

In fact, I found it to be a relief.  We don't get a lot of phone calls and to be honest, I don't miss it, mostly.  Life with twins and two dogs is noisy.  I don't think I always have to be available--and juggling the folks in my household takes all of my attention a lot of the time.  Truthfully, the only time I really thought I should have a phone was back in the spring time, when I had my little surprise trip to the ER and was too sick to use one myself anyhow.

Although I have dropped in on the instagram conversation as a lurker, I realized I wasn't debating things in the way others have.  I haven't been wondering how I could make all my own t-shirts, or spelling out the origins of every piece of fabric or yarn in my stash.  I haven't sworn off anything much, either.  On the other hand, I don't buy a lot new in the first place.

My only recent purchases have been out of necessity.  I bought another pair of All Birds Wool sneakers when I visited the US.  They are all wool and biodegradable materials, and I have fallen in love with how comfortable they are...and since I am not really up for making my own shoes right now, I'll settle for an ethically made pair, ready for next spring, summer and fall, instead. (winter time in Winnipeg = boots from November to April)

Then, I had (gasp) an underwire pop out of one of those essential female undergarments.  I was down to way too few of those anyway, and had to go to The Bay and check out their lingerie sale.  Now, I think I bought all of "last year's models" and saved a lot of money.  Were all those bras and pairs of underwear made in a place with good working conditions?  With a decent minimum wage?  I just don't know...but Rome wasn't built in a day.  I have to take a middle path about this.  There's no way I'll have time to figure out how to make underwear this month.  It's just not in the schedule.
This month, as usual, I've fixed lots of things.  I mended and patched many pairs of little boy pants.  I knit up an extension on this sweater.  Instead of cutting off the old ribbing, I left it in place, picked up stitches right above it, and knit down.  Luckily, I had matching yarn left over, although I have a feeling the kid in question would have been fine with contrasting yarn, if that were on offer!

I debated cutting off the ribbing at the end, but felt it was risky.  This kid is narrow in the hips, so instead, I just basted down the ribbing on the inside, and it forms a double layer band towards the bottom of the sweater.  It looks tidy enough on the inside.
Now, in this action shot, over a hand me down polar fleece, if you undo the sleeve cuffs, you can see there is still room to grow this season, and the sweater has already been in action again...worn out and about.
The kid in question is pleased as punch to have his sweater back.
I haven't done as much writing about Slow Fashion this month as I had intended.  However, maybe I have some excuses to fall back on.  Pre-twins, I did write a whole book about this back in 2009.  You know, about making ethical and green choices when it came to choosing knitting yarns and textiles in general...Knit Green.

I also realize that while I may not be snapping so many perfectly staged photos, I am indeed spending those moments trying to mend, recycle, reuse, and maximize what we've got at home when it comes to clothing.  Yesterday, I showed someone the knitting in my purse.  It's the sleeve to one twin's fall sweater (each kid gets one handknit sweater a year, if I can manage it) and one half of a handknit kid's sock.  It's all from my stash--no new yarn purchases.  I'm still trying, one stitch at a time, to make things from scratch in a responsible way.

Today, in other activities: I've made 3 loaves of challah, one loaf of banana chocolate chip bread, pureed the soup (and froze some) that I cooked yesterday, put chicken and potatoes into the slow cooker, got my freezer lamb for the year delivered, dealt with another house upkeep issue, and submitted an article on a deadline to an editor.  You know, nothing much... there's still time to fit in a little more mending and knitting, I hope! (and all before I pick up boys from kindergarten, too...)

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Thursday, October 20, 2016


I planned to write lots about slow fashion in October, but we took a big family trip east to see relatives in NYC and Virginia (near DC) and we only got home yesterday. (Priorities here: family travels overruled all blog posts and computer time)

All went smoothly, and I think our twins mostly had a great time.  ...We had one 'throw up on Mommy on the airplane incident' but luckily, I had a change of clothes for everybody with me.  You know, par for the course when travelling with a couple of five year olds...

So, here are a few things to catch up:
Here's my latest piece on the CBC, which ran while we were travelling.  It is (surprise!) about priorities...educational ones.  How do we decide which students get priority?  Why do some misdeeds related to stealing intellectual property get seriously penalized while others are ignored?

International students pay more, get less at University of Manitoba

Also a matter of do you know when to salvage something, how to mend it, and when to give up?

This is a mending job I did recently on a beloved quilt.  It belongs to one of my twins, it was handmade for him and has his name quilted right into it!  However, some of the stitching came out.  So, I made a very obvious repair.  I used matching embroidery floss and stitched it a bit like a crazy quilt, so that it was clear what I was doing.  I knew I couldn't make the repair invisibly, so instead, I fixed it like I meant it--in the tradition of meaningful mending that makes beloved textiles last a long time.

By contrast, I've developed a "two time and you're out" method when it comes to kids' pants.  I started by using cloth wipes left over from our cloth diapering days.  These are clean bits of well-used fabric, I hemmed and stitched them across knees as necessary.
Here is the backside of the pair of you can see, the stitching is not fancy.

Then, as the patches loosened, I went with iron-on patches on the back and front to keep the patch in place longer.  The patches are random; I bought a big bag of them, so I don't always choose a perfect match.  (at this point though, the priority is to keep the pants in circulation, so I don't focus on high fashion!)

After a few more wearings, this may or may not last..we may have to re-use this in the rag bag soon.  While visiting my family, my dad kindly did a third mending/repair job on two pairs of trousers that were worn hard and re-torn while playing at playgrounds.  We have a history of fixing things when they break, and having help on this was really a nice respite!  (This trip was a tour of living rooms, backyards, playgrounds, gardens, and a synagogue, for the most part; no major site-seeing despite the big city locations.)

The thing that I focus on when it comes to Slow Fashion (or how educational institutions work) is this:  What are one's priorities?  What is most important here?  Do we need to waste time or money unnecessarily?  How can we put people's needs first? Can we optimize conditions to re-use, recycle, or learn to make good use of new material to meet the needs of both people and the environment?

Those needs can be basic (food, water, housing) or a little more advanced (higher education tuition, registration, etc.) but it all comes to how we prioritize.  We need to use our ethical and moral values in the mix.  Let's not throw things out unnecessarily- but people's needs (and the environment) come first in the equation to maximize long usage of things into the future.  At least, that's how I hope it works in my house.  What do you hope for?

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Thursday, October 06, 2016

extending a sweater's life

Maybe two? years ago, I made this sweater.  I can't seem to find a record of it on the blog, but I combined two relatively inexpensive wool/wool blend yarns (Patons Classic Wool/Merino Worsted and Patons Kroy Sock yarn) and made this sweater.  It has never fit either twin perfectly,  it's been too long in the sleeves or the body or both...but it has been worn a lot and well-loved.  This morning, it was just above freezing and definitely a sweater moment.  Sadly, it is now too short in the torso...but in the make do and mend way/the Slow Fashion October way...there is hope.

Someone recently asked how I make these, and here's a snippet of my response.
As for the boy sweaters, I have gotten to the point where I take their measurements and knit in the Icelandic way: body in the round, two sleeves in the round, join at the yoke, etc. I followed a pattern or two when they were smaller but found that there was just no rhyme or reason to sweater sizing for little kids. Inevitably, some part of the sweater would be vastly too long or too wide. (my guys are small for age five) And, my twins are fraternal, and one has a very small chest measurement and the other has a broad one. So, at this point, I make my own bottom up, in the round pattern every time. (and I see no point in publishing it, as every kid is a different size, sizing is all over the place, etc.)

These days, they prefer henleys to v-necks, and will take a regular pullover with a round neck if it is offered.  They do like cardigans but are still struggling to do zippers or buttons on their own, so I prefer pullovers as they save time and promote independence.

Anyhow, the smaller chested twin is still definitely the right size for this sweater in the arms and chest.  However, it is maybe 3-4 inches shorter than we would like it to be.  I will cut off the ribbing, pick up the stitches at the bottom of the sweater, right above the ribbing, and knit down a couple of inches in stockinette, and then add more ribbing.

The sweater is worn and the yarn looks new--people may be able to tell it is an addition.  So what?  My child will be wearing a warm, handmade, wool sweater this winter.  Again.  

I am in the planning stages for two new sweaters.  Every winter, I try to make two new sweaters, one for each twin.  Each kid gets to choose his own colors and styles--within reason--and I'm just about to cast on for the first one.  Sometimes the sweaters get rotated among twins, and whatever I planned ends up on the other kid.  It's all good.  In the meanwhile, this is a quick fix that reuses and values my work.  I'm all in favor, and my kid is thrilled he will wear this beloved sweater for one more season.

This is, at essence, what it means to me to embrace a more sustainable takes time, but it saves time and money, too.  It's worth it.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Slow Fashion October and related ideas

I started "slow fashion October" early --based on my last post--but I was inspired by the Fringe Association blog to mention it.  I'm always exploring how to re-use, or read labels, or buy less and make do...our lives are so full of waste.  Here are a few randomly connected things that relate to this theme:

1) I had a blast teaching at the Manitoba Fibre Festival.  I'm really worn out though.  The spinning class was inspired, in part, by a really out of control stash...since having kids, I just don't spin as much.  I loved sharing 10 small packets of non-wool fibers and information with my students, and maybe sending them home with these .5 oz-1.5 oz packets of flax, ramie, silk, cotton, llama, alpaca...etc. will enable them to try something new.  It also helped me to share something I'd somehow managed to amass too much of and redistribute it to good homes.
2) I also have re-issued an old favorite.  I re-visioned the Plum Ribbed Cardigan in Berroco Remix, a yarn that uses all recycled fibers.  I originally designed it for Knit Picks in 2006.  Eventually, copyright returned to me and I always intended to reknit it for myself but never got to it.  This week, I released it on Ravelry in a new format.  It includes new photos, metric measurements, and yarn suggestions.  It's also available for only $5US as an introductory (retro) price.  Please check it out!

(I loved being able to feature our family friend as a model.  This image was taken by one of my twins...there were dogs, twins and more racing around our yard as we tried to shoot this sweater in style.  I think this sweater suits her, but...I loved it too much to give away, so I am still wearing it, too!)

3) Here's my most recent piece on the CBC.  It's about international moving costs and the recent Canadian Liberal government aides who moved from Toronto to Ottawa.  They racked up enormous moving costs...roughly $126-189 per kilometer, paid by taxpayers.  Our stipend from the university? $3.95 a kilometer.  We were happy to move so that the professor could do research and teach in Canada, but why is it that some people get gold-plated moves instead?!

This seems tangential to slow fashion, but it's not.  Making economical and careful use of one's resources is important.  When I work with other people's yarn or expect to bill someone else for my services, I try to be reasonable because I don't want to promote waste or excess of any kind.  We need supplies and income, but not enough to insulate our houses!  This too (unnecessary stash, or out of control waste of yarn or charging too much)  is a form of unnecessary waste.  It's a lot of money!  Taxpayers could use it on groceries or ....sweaters... instead.

Note: "Plum Ribbed" is FULL of ribbing, (the knitting pattern) and that is why it is named this.  Please feel free to knit it in any color you like!

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mending and Making

I just read about a great idea in Sweden to boost reuse.  The article is about offering tax breaks for those who seek repairs on clothes rather than just discarding them.  It's not called Make Do and Mend but it should be!  Meanwhile, I have not even paid anyone for doing my mending.  I started with hand-stitched patches to deal with the normal knee rips that every pair of little kid jeans gets.

Then I had a good reminder about how much time I spent on it---and a suggestion to get iron-on patches.  $20 later, I had what seemed like a life time supply of boring matching colors and fun kid-friendly decals.  I am going through a surprising number of these (I put a boring patch on the wrong side and a fun one on the right side) and now wish I got that tax break on the iron-on patches instead!  I've patched three pairs of pants today...and it's the second time I've done it in the last week or so.  Twins=twice the number of jeans...

Things are well underway over at the Red River Exhibition for the 4th annual Manitoba Fibre Festival.  While I've been at home, corralling twins* and preparing for my classes,  I've heard that the festival was on TV this morning and everything!!  I'm going to be teaching two classes: One on knitting styles--Explore our Diversity and a second "Spinners' Tasting: It's NOT Wool!"  I am slowly transporting loads of supplies out to my car so I will be ready.  (Office is on third floor.  Car is on ground floor.  I am getting in my exercise.)
I also still have a few stray copies of Fiber Gathering and Knit Green available if anyone wants a signed I am shlepping those out to the car, too. :)  No special signing table or anything, but if you are at the festival, track me down before or after my 9-10:30 class or my 1-3pm one.  I'll be happy to sign it for you.

As part of my preparations (and fruitless search for one tiny tahkli spindle....) I have tidied up a bit.  It was a reminder that this (like all years) is a good one to mend more and make more from scratch!  I sure have the materials on hand.

  If, like me, you are about to celebrate 5777, Happy New Year!  May it be a sweet, happy, healthy, productive year for you.  L'Shanah Tovah!

*This week, the Professor has been off in the US doing fieldwork and attending a conference.  It's been all me, twin five year olds and two dogs.  Thank goodness for kindergarten so I get some breaks!  We've just about made it through (He should be flying home today) but I am really looking forward to a day off (even though I am teaching, it's like a special holiday for me...) at the festival!

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Friday, September 23, 2016

the Cubby Imp

On Sesame Street, there is a segment called Abby's Flying Fairy School.  The one I can't get out of my head is called "the Cubby Imp."  Essentially, there is this lonely guy who lives beneath the cubbies at school, and he steals people's stuff.  The characters at the fairy school have to get into his little lair and retrieve all their belongings.

The thing is, our household is usually pretty good at keeping track of our stuff.  I have the same keys my parents gave me to their front door when I was eight.  I hate losing things.

When I was pregnant, over five years ago, we did a bunch of painting and moving stuff around.  Substantial parts of my fiber arts life got moved around, including my floor loom, and I was just not physically able to sort it out then.  Plus, a lot of it was still in boxes from when we'd moved the year before, because that was how I'd stored it in my office.  It's a pretty easy leap from there to conclude that I have not had loads of time to tidy since having my twins, either. :)

Since then, things have been shifted and reshifted.  I am preparing to teach at the Manitoba Fibre Festival next week.  (Please come!  It will be super!)  I have all my students' bags stuffed with goodies, and all is well except for one thing.  I cannot find my tahkli spindle.  Now, you can teach about support spindles and cotton spinning without this spindle, but I just don't wanna.  I have this spindle and its little bowl, dang it.  I do.

I think the Cubby Imp took it.  AHHHH!  Actually though, I know that I have brought it as a demo spindle to other classes I've taught.  I wonder if it got left somewhere, like at a spindling class I did last winter.  Or, more likely, I brought home everything after the workshop and dumped it in my office and thought...I'll just sort this out later.  The thing is, I am exhausted after my workshops are over, and then I have to jump right into Mommy gear, and I lose track of things.

This never happened before I had twins!  

(Clarification...I was tired after teaching workshops. I had clutter... but I cleaned up and knew where things were...nearly all the time.)

A kind friend (the one that reviewed the spindle, above) is going to bring hers so I can show everybody what one looks like at my class.  AND, I still have a week to look for the darn thing.  However, it seemed like a good opportunity to start cleaning up.  I am trying.  Still, I am plagued by feeling like this darn spindle has disappeared because of fairies, or cubby imps or something.  It kills me that I have lost MY tahkli.  I don't even want to buy another.  I want to find the one I misplaced, you know?

--If you were a student in one of my spindling classes recently and read this blog (like, in the last few years...), did you see my brass tahkli spindle with the little brown pottery bowl it spins in?  When did I last have it!?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kindergarten, summer's end, new and old projects

We're still playing outside every chance we is still warm enough, too.  While the twins are at the same school for starting kindergarten, they have been absolutely worn out by the start of school.  In fact, we've already had our first virus, which involved one fever, a lot of nose blowing, some coughing, and use of our new plaid handkerchiefs (a gift from Daddy, the Professor).

As the temperature cools, we will have to start going through all our very special treasures.  These involve "dinosaur bones," shells, rocks, and more, all piled up on the windowsill of the porch.  Pretty soon, we'll be either taking in the most special ones, or redistributing the ones that need to find some rock friends in the garden somewhere.

It would be a bad idea to leave these on our porch (near the glass window) in the wintertime.  The winds are big, and nobody wants to sort through rocks to play when it is -20 or colder anyhow!

  We also migrate in our plastic animals:
We do a lot of categorizing, sorting, playing and reorganizing our animals.  It is amazing how interesting this is to one of our twins:  Do you think his dad is a PhD in Zoology who spent a lot of his grad. school time sorting fruit flies?

I have been knitting (forever!) it seems on a ribbed cardigan.  This is a design I did for Knit Picks in 2006 or so.  The copyright long ago returned to me, and I decided to reknit and republish the design in a different yarn: Berroco Remix, a recycled yarn that is really interesting.

However, the design, while not complicated, has been hard to do while chasing boys this summer.  It has shaping, and a stitch pattern, and button bands.  The short version is that I have already knit THREE button bands because one was just not up to par.  Turns out that in August, supervising twins at the wading pool-- is a hard place to make a really precise and tidy button band.

Keep your eyes out for the design --coming soon! --though its release has been slower than I'd hoped. It's called "Plum Ribbed Cardigan."  It is, indeed, plum in color, but the joke is that I meant it as a Southern's full of ribbing. (plum ribbed)

After all that purple, you might just see a pair of small socks, worked up in Patons Kroy sock yarn.  These guys travelled around in my purse for months, and I'd knit a row or two when I had a moment.  It's always good to work ahead on the little boy wool sock front...because winter's always coming around here. :)  Might as well cherish this late summer/early fall sunshine as long as I can!

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