Monday, March 19, 2018

Is knitting design art?

I would be the first to say that I like to make useful things.  Things that become well-used, well loved, and worn until they wear out.  this has been true about many (but not all!) of the sweaters I make for my twins.  This year, for the first time, I wrote patterns for something I was doing anyway.  The patterns themselves were untidy and needed work before I published them (a lot of editing!), but the sweaters have been workhorses.  The sweater pictured here, Stripe Freestyle, has been worn perhaps every other day since I finished it.  The professor washed both Woolly and Stripe Freestyle the night before last, and I set them both out to dry (doing a little stretching and reblocking) on the basement playroom floor.  Then, last night, I used the Gleener on them --AGAIN--to get rid of as many pills as I could.

This AM, the sweaters were back in rotation and two little boys headed out the door to grade 1 in the same sweaters. It's hard to argue with that level of enthusiasm.

There are a lot of technical writing details to writing or knitting a pattern, and these were no different than any other.  However, I am terrible at doing sketches of my designs.  This deficit often keeps me from pitching to magazines or yarn companies' call for submissions--it just takes me forever to do the sketch, and since these pitches are all a gamble, I don't often do it.  I don't know if someone will choose my rudimentary sketches, and I'd rather just get to knitting the sweater and writing the pattern.  My architect father-in-law showed me an app long ago that turns a photo into a sketch, and C4LA sitting around on my iPad ever since.

I decided to play around with the photos of Stripe Freestyle to see what it looked like.  The funny thing is that Woolly sells more patterns (so far) than Stripe Freestyle...but Stripe Freestyle is more useful on a daily basis.  It is getting more wear.  So, what makes a sweater more usable, more beautiful, more serviceable than its sibling?  They both use the same yarns and were made at the same time, in roughly the same size...

I think that it has a lot to do with the personality of the person choosing the sweaters...Woolly's owner feels that many more of the handknit sweaters fit him and are acceptable to him.  Stripe Freestyle's owner, twin A, basically would live in his sweater, day and night, if he had the opportunity.  Nothing else compares.

I am enthralled by the ease of clicking a button, doing a little editing, and getting these sketches instead of the photos.  Does it make anything art?  I don't know--but as long as we end up warm in the winter time as a result of the sweaters?  I keep knitting and designing.

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Friday, March 09, 2018


I think you'd have to be fierce like a lion to be a fundraiser in the Jewish community.  (Note homemade lion Purim costume for emphasis...he wore an orange -handknit-sweater and a pair of pants with a big handmade tail, too...!)

I read this article about harassment of women who work as fundraisers in the Jewish community, published by the JTA, and it really bothered me.  I followed it up by writing this opinion piece, which was published by the Jewish Independent this week:
A need for ethical guidelines
(My working title was something along the lines of: Ritual Sacrifice?  Or sacrificing fundraisers?)

On the broader topic, I've written little so far that specifically addresses the #MeToo movement.  That isn't because I have nothing to say.  I have so much to say that I don't know where to start.  The problem is so pervasive.  The worst part is that I haven't encountered a single woman who doesn't have something to say about this, based on her lived experience.

For me, it seemed so clear when I had a brief conversation at the dining room table with my mom and she said something like "Oh, what's coming out now is only the tip of the iceberg."  We talked about how we'd handled it previously, often with laughter. For a long time, all you could do is talk about the harassment or awful unwanted attention/physical assaults with your female friends and family and---laugh.  It was embarrassing and awful and...there was little one could do to fix things. Bringing up these issues in public only resulted in shame. It potentially also drew more abuse--as if we, as victims, caused this unwanted male attention, touch or assault. (If I'd only worn something else, sat in a public area, taken a different train...the list goes on.) This movement is a first step in a long process.

As a writer, I feel obligated to amplify unjust things as I can.  I am not fierce or as brave as some of these professionals who spoke out in a way that threatened their livelihood...but I owe it to them to step up and help.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Famous? For all the wrong, buggy reasons...

Long story short, a colleague of my husband's is a science writer.  She wrote a good article about ticks in Canada and Lyme disease, and it came out today.  Here's the link:
Ticks creep into Canada...

Famous?  Infamous? The article leads with my name.

The other part of this post is an apology.  Canadians, I am sorry if you tried to follow my links and they all failed for you.  I know why now.

A while back, I was told by Amazon, hey!  We see you are an 'affiliate' in the USA!  You can do this in Canada, too.  What's that?  Well, it means that when I link to my books on Amazon, it gives me a few cents each time a person clicks through and purchases one.  This was something I was signed up for by my publisher, no kidding, in 2009, when my first book came out.  It earns very little, maybe enough for me to purchase a single paperback book every year or two.  (We're talking less than $10US!)

Some people use these to place ads on their sites and generate income.  I never did that, I have never been into monetizing things, although I did figure that if I was recommending a sale on Amazon?  I might use the link so I could afford to purchase something myself as well. 

When I saw the option to include Canada, I jumped at it.  However, according to the affiliate folks, I had to 'qualify' with a certain number of sales in a certain time frame. I asked my kind professor if he would use the link to purchase stuff, thus making sure it worked.  He did, and I put up the affiliate links online for you, too, on occasion.

I was told that no, those purchases had not counted!  I could not refer relatives or friends through the link, that didn't qualify.  (And yes, all the while, the elementary school was asking us to peddle cheese, coupon books, and other fundraisers TO family and friends...HUH.  Go figure.)

So, Canadians, although I am now a citizen and live here, I apparently do not qualify!  A few days ago, I got a note that said this, in part:

We are writing to notify you that your Associates Program application has been rejected and you will no longer have access to Associates Central.
This action was taken because we have not yet received qualified sales activities from your account.  As a reminder, Accounts that have not referred three qualified sales within in 180-days of sign-up are automatically rejected.
You are free to reapply to the Associates Program at any time, but we recommend only doing so if your website receives consistent traffic.
So you know, I consider blog readers my friends, and I know some of you are my family, so even if I re-applied, they wouldn't count those clicks.  If I link to anything in the future, and it goes dead for you, Oh Canadian compatriots, I am sorry.  I tried--oh, I tried! -But I was rejected.
This seems a little bit like being famous for contracting Lyme disease. :)  I wasn't clever enough to remember my tick bite (I've had a lot of them) or to get a bulls-eye rash, nor was I good enough at soliciting sales from strangers.  (Dear readers, I'm glad you aren't strangers!)
Famous?  So definitely NOT.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Sloppy Snow

I know some folks are welcoming spring--but this time of year in Manitoba, it warms up "enough" for a good snow storm or two.  I made some felted wool mitts (from felted sweaters, leftover from wool soaker days...) as back ups and they came in very handy!

Starting Sunday night, we had a very big, sloppy wet snow.  It reminded me of storms on the US east coast.  We did fine at our house, but we shoveled a lot and there were power outages elsewhere and all sorts of messes.  The school busses didn't run--and even though school was not closed, we chose to keep our kids home and have a "snow day."  It seemed like the right choice. The roads were a mess.

In the meanwhile, the Jewish Independent ran one of my articles, which is about "rebranding" and friendship:
Stressing action over just being

Also...I seem to be experiencing a sort of extraordinary switch in the knit design area.  On Ravelry, I have not sold a single pattern this month.  On, I've sold lots, including 5 copies since January of the Cozy Zip-Up Cardigan alone!  Why?  I don't know.  It's a mystery to me!  Do you have any ideas?  (Maybe LK knitters think this model is really attractive?  Do tell!)

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

River Trail

Last Sunday, we took advantage of some fabulous warmer weather (we've had highs in the 20 to 30F range, or for folks in Celsius, highs around -5 to 0C) lately.  I'm still really lacking stamina from the pneumonia, and one of my kids got knocked out by a big hives episode last Saturday, so we're doing things slowly.  We have been very sorry to miss the skating season--but we took the River Trail's walking trail and went out on the river.

For those who don't know what this is, every year, our two rivers freeze solid in Winnipeg.  There is an amazing effort to create kilometers of skating and walking trails on the river.  We have an international competition to build architecturally interesting warming huts.  Folks commute, walk their dogs, (or skate their dogs), drag their kids in sleds, and spend time outside every winter.  This year has been a special event:  10 kilometers of groomed river trail AND, as of yesterday, 69 days open to skaters and walkers--a new record.
The trail is weather dependent. Some years,it opens late, the ice is too bumpy, or it just cannot be made longer.  This year, we hit the jackpot and I was just yearning to see it...although even this one extended outdoor outing was still pretty hard for me.

The weather was perfect and everyone we saw seemed to be grinning with enjoyment. One joke that ran on the river trails "conditions" twitter feed was something like: Our Canadian Olympic speed skating champion, Ted-Jan Bloemen can do 10 k in 12 minutes.  How fast can you do the winter trail?

We did only a fraction of the trail, bumped into some friends, saw a few warming huts, petted some amazing dogs, (one husky weighed 170 pounds!) and nearly got run over by three cross-country skiers.

After we climbed off the trail, we headed back towards the Forks on the river bank trail--pictured here.  You can see a clear warming hut up ahead, where people are putting on their skates, and a maybe the big blocks of snow--(We have snow sculptures all over at this time of year)

You'll also see the weird circle in these pictures, the professor's camera got humidity inside the lens from transitions between warmer and colder places.  We also were very bundled up--me, because I am still sick--and the boys were wearing snow pants so they could stay dry and climb on things. It wasn't cold though--at least, not for us.  (Yes, we were out walking on the ice, so context matters!)

On the way towards home, we stopped to see the Nepinaks. These  elders offer their time every year to invite people into a warm teepee at the Forks to cook bannock and talk.  We cooked bannock together on whittled sticks and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  This was a highlight of the day for me - a beautiful way to make connection and break bread and acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 land.

We topped it off with some ice cream on the way out and headed home.
I paid for all this by being absolutely worn out from the physical effort--definitely still not 100% yet, but it was well-worth it.  I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

normal? spinning & audio books and life

I recently set myself a little challenge.  I would try out a new kind of wool--a sheep breed I'd never spun before- and spin it two ways.  Lumpy-ish worsted/aran singles, and a skinny little, relatively smooth two ply yarn. I set up my wheel over the long weekend.  (It was Louis Riel Day here)  We did go to Festival du Voyageur on Monday, but we also spent a lot of time playing inside.  This picture of the lumpy Clun Forest that I bought from Custom Woolen Mills in Alberta this past summer.

True confessions:  I haven't been spinning much these days.  Our house has been taken over by toys, art projects, and other busy things.  When I have a spare moment (hah!), I try to knit when I can.  It takes up less space...and we're always needing some new hand knits for winter here.

However, the other problem is that I'm still lacking stamina from having pneumonia.  It seems like I can do one thing a day, and after that?  I need to have a break.  Spinning was actually a sort of "active" thing for me, and I ended up very tired out.  I haven't plied the skinny smooth singles yet, nor have I washed the finished skein of lumpy yarn.  Both are destined to be mitts, I expect, as this wool doesn't felt easily, according to what I've heard.

I also discovered recently that my local library had changed its electronic subscriptions--and that I could no longer access audio books on Hoopla.  This was a big bummer.  They also have a limited subscription to Overdrive.  I only know this because I secretly cruise my parents' libraries in Northern Virginia, and they have much better subscription packages than Winnipeg's library...more access to audio books and ebooks for free.  I have even figured out, by the way, how to read an ebook on my iPad while I spin... (but only if it is a boring, skinny, plain vanilla kind of yarn.)

Where does this come from?  Well, in the old days, before twins, I used to listen to a lot of audio books while I sat spinning.  Now I listen to a lot of audio books while I do housework--and frankly, it helps me keep my sanity.  I can continue thinking about something (anything!) bigger than meal planning, cutting up vegetables or cleaning pots, etc.  In this case, multi-tasking may keep me from a sole minded focus on, say, salad, but then, who needs that amount of focus on cucumbers and carrots?  (Yeah, not me, sorry!)

To supplement what I could get from the library, which can be spotty, to say the least, I have treated myself to an Audible subscription.  The first year or two it was a birthday gift, for which I was grateful.  Then nobody wanted to give me gifts anymore--but I felt I could not give up this luxury.  I use coupons at the grocery store and cook more so we skip eating  meals out to read/listen to more books this way.

I found out recently that there is some sort of deal going on with Audible.  You can get two free audio books if you try a free Audible subscription.  That seemed like a gift I should pass along.  If you're in the US,Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks.

If you're in Canada, here is a link to the Audible membership thingee--I hope it works.  (As a dual citizen, my internet access sort of goes back and forth and I can see sales in one country but not the other, etc.  So, I hope this is the right link!)

I'm still not up to my normal pace of life and miss my walks with Sally the dog, but I'm working on it.  In the meanwhile, my brain can race with ideas while my body catches up.  I also found this gorgeous BBC clip about commuting-- ice skating to work in Sweden, and it almost made me feel like I was skating again.  (but I am definitely not well enough for that yet, either!)
(I had to edit this post to fix the Audible sale links, I hope they work now!)

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Cute as a button

 When I finished this hat, I was sitting on the couch, holding it in my hands, and the first thing that came to mind was... "Well now, ain't you cute as a button?"
And that's how I named Button, my new pattern. 

This is a simple and fast knit, and reminds me a lot of a design I did a long time ago, the Icelandic winter capI used a Canadian lopi-style yarn from Custom Woolen Mills (purchased on our family's adventure to Alberta last summer) but Istex Alafoss Lopi from Iceland, is a great choice, if you can get some.  If not, any bulky yarn will do!

This winter, most photos have been taken indoors.  It seems like every time the weather warms up enough so that someone wants to pose outside, or the camera won't freeze?  Well, that's when everyone's too sick for a photo shoot.

I must have had a premonition when I wrote that last blog post. I stayed indoors with one (or two) sick kids from February 10 through 15, and today is the first time they've both gone back to school.  I'm worried--somebody might keel over...but I was a bit desperate to go grocery shopping, and do some work uninterrupted.  (Writing columns to a deadline while trying to tune out PBS kids' shows can be hard.)  And well...frankly, I could not wait to be alone again for a few moments!

For now, Button's available for sale exclusively on Ravelry.  It should be available on in a day or two.  If you're keen to knit a hat quickly, while watching the Olympics, for instance, maybe you could download it now...and if you have yarn on hand? Be done by the end of the weekend.  To do that, you do not have to be a speedy Olympic knitter or anything, luge, skeleton, bobsled or curling necessary.  (Well, the brim does a little curling at the end, but you don't need any brooms at all, it does it on its own!)

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