Friday, February 15, 2019

Things fall apart

OK, deep breath, we've had a bunch of breaking things around here.

Back in January, we had the boiler problems, and it is fully described in this article that just came out in the Vancouver Jewish Independent: Make me a Sanctuary  Well, except for one thing.  Here is the image they used, and well, our boiler is probably at least 50 years old!  (If only our utilities were so small, tidy and up to date!) Hah.

Then we had a problem with my car--at first, the battery was old and the car wouldn't start in the intense cold.  (no surprise, even when it was plugged in.)  But then, this week, I noticed the tires did not look so good, and when that was being dealt with, uhh, the suspension and a wheel bearing all needed to be fixed.  Not actually surprising stuff considering my SUV is nearly 16 years old.  However, that was a pricey date at the auto repair garage! (Think...over $2400. Yup.)

And it snowed a lot, so we had to get the snow off the roof to avoid ice dams. (An hour and three guys up on the roof of a 2.5 story hundred year old house= not free)

Then today, I went to pick up my mom (who is visiting us, hurray!) at the airport, and I lost the parkade ticket for the first time ever, I think.  (charged full rate of $25.)  I am wondering what my next lucrative career opportunities might be, because writers/knitwear designers do not make enough to cover all this!

However, some things can be fixed.  This lett-lopi Bohus-style sweater is one designed by Norah Gaughan that I knit a long long time ago.  (Probably more than 10 years ago.)  I love this sweater.  It was getting fragile.  I washed it.  It came out with big holes in the sleeves.
The benefits of a deep stash?  I found the exact yarn that will match it.  I can fix these sleeves. And I will still have my beloved sweater.  So, some things can be fixed --and the cost of this repair of my sweater?  (free.)  Can't beat that.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Deir Hart

True confessions, I was also knitting yet another hat during this cold snap. This time of year, I get bored of the every day woollies. I wrote a design to go along with it...and the tech editor approved it today.  It's now live and ready to knit!

Deir Hart

This fuzzy warm super bulky knit is perfect for your dear heart (The deir hart spelling is from an old Scottish ballad I read about recently) and's on sale so you can knit a fast one in time for Valentine's Day!

This hat is 40% off!!  Download the pattern now and use the coupon code:

until midnight, February 14th, (ends midnight, Central Time, US & Canada) and the pattern only costs $3US.

I used a fun combination of some alpaca and lett-lopi yarn in my stash to do the sample, but if you'd like to buy some super-bulky yarn and the pattern all at once, head on over to to find the pattern with yarn suggestions there, too. This design comes in three sizes, and will fit everybody from your preschooler to your biggest lumberjack!  Just change the yarn colors so they don't mix up their hats on the way out the door in the morning...

Enjoy--and stay warm!

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Monday, February 04, 2019


 I know there are people who continue to rush around outdoors even when it is -40 and the windchills are much lower.  Unlike much of the US upper midwest, Winnipeg didn't shut down last week.  This meant that believe it or not, my kids still got on the school bus, my professor went off to work last week.  Things sort of stalled out for me though.  By the time I got the kid with the cold back at school, and got Sally, the old dog eating, and the food made for dinner, there was precious little time left for much else.  Dog walks were difficult, as was waiting for the boys at the school bus stop.  I felt lucky I didn't have to commute...and I put off all but the most basic errands until it warmed up on Thursday, as well.

 However, somebody didn't read the school bus manual, because after a few days of those crazy cold temperatures?  On Thursday, the temperatures warmed up--a bit--but the buses were cancelled because there were so many accidents and buses whose lines froze, etc.  Also on Thursday, we realized my car wouldn't start, even though it had been plugged into the block heater timer.  
So, we plugged it directly into the outlet in an attempt to warm up the battery.  I drove the professor's car, and he took the bus, and we still got the kids to and from school.  Indoor recess is apparently a hotbed of paper doll activity, where my kids join several others in drawing and cutting out every kind of magical creature paper doll, and building a cardboard house for them, as well.
So what did I do from January 24th to about January 31st?  I worked on the computer, knit, cooked, and enjoyed the great indoors. (which still required woolens, by the way, even with the heat going full blast, it is hard to make inside toasty when it is so cold outside.)  Here is one of the things I worked on.  This is a new Stripe Freestyle for my kid who is outgrowing his old one!  It is getting short and I've had to knit patches on the one pictured in that link.  (It has been worn a lot and he loves it.)

I am using all Canadian yarns on this one.  Leftovers from On Track and Woolly and a light gray that somebody chose, but then changed his mind about, I think.  The yarns are from MacAusland's Woolen Mill and Custom Woolen Mills.    The kid in question thinks a natural colored white yarn, leftover from Woolly, will go best as the next stripe.

However, something happened.  The sweater is a nice, dense plush 34" around, on a size 8(5mm) needle.  And I did all this in a week, and I inflamed my upper back/shoulder a bit.  So, now I am back to only a few rows a day, until things calm down.  I've changed knitting styles and positions, but it still hurts! That's what comes of being too enthusiastic a knitter, I suppose...?!

Meanwhile, the conversation around hate doesn't take time off in the winter.  The restaurant where my knitting group meets was targeted recently.  So, today, it's -30 windchill, 6" (15 cm) of new snow blowing around, and we're still talking about hate crimes.  Dang.

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Plugging along

 For a while now, I had this cotton white and green ticking sitting on top of my sewing machine.  When I worked at the computer, I looked at it, and thought about making more napkins for our household.

Then I realized, well, it won't get done this way, and I like doing I scraped together enough time to make one napkin at a time.  This resulted in--2 napkins, done after I'd gotten work between other writing and household jobs.
On Wednesday, I felt a big need to make and do something for myself, for the household, something tangible and real.  I did 2 napkins.  All done, a set of four (all the matching fabric I had!) is complete.  These napkins have already been used, well decorated with chocolate, blueberries and bread pudding (we're messy eaters!) and washed once.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to boost my work productivity when I can.  One article was rejected this week, several more are being considered, turns out two were published when I wasn't looking!
Here are a couple from the Vancouver Jewish Independent:
1) Complexity and Perspective: This one is about the challenges of loving friends with serious illness and --along the way--acknowledging that Jewish tradition has always taught that we can respect, love and care about others who may not be "like us." (They may not share religious traditions, customs, physical characteristics, etc.)

2) Some things better in person--This piece is about the recent decision to close Kutz Camp, a Jewish summer camp for teenagers with international reach in Warwick, NY.  While technology has allowed us to make many more connections online and closer to home, sometimes it is worth travelling to see new ideas, people and geography....  The image, borrowed from,  captures only some of the magic this place had for me as a young adult.
Finally, I am home with a sick kid (this is what January is for, right?  It's -40 windchill, why not stay home?) and while he sniffles through his virus, I've been reading some interesting articles online about race and religious identity. Even though Jewish people come from all over the world and some are very definitely People of Color, I was recently asked, during a discussion about inclusion and diversity, to "check my white privilege" by another person who says she is of "Jewish extraction."  It forced me to realize that no matter how often I try to be an ally, to do tikkun olam (efforts to fix the world) make connections with other minorities--to some, I will never have tried hard enough.
Yet, being Jews these days is pretty fraught--there is a lot of hate out there.  There was hate on the streets in Anacostia when I did my year of student teaching in inner-city DC.  There was hate and a swastika on the playground here just after the killings in Pittsburgh.  There was hate in my classrooms as a kid, and when someone shot at the windows of my childhood synagogue and vandalized it. There's a lot of hate to go around.
 Here are pieces from the AtlanticThe American ProspectThe Yale Daily News and  There's more out there.  What did I google?  "Are Jews white?" 
This person told me it wasn't "time" for me to bring up Jewish issues when discussing issues for Black and Indigenous People of Color.  I told her my Jewish community members, friends and family who were Black or Indigenous might think otherwise.  Anyway, I was reminded--January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day That seems as good a time as any to think about hate, prejudice, discrimination, and race.  
This is stuff I think about... you know, while making napkins.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Upcycle, fiction and design

It's been a big few days here.  We had a scare in our household--our boiler decided it needed some attention.  That's not scary in a more temperate climate, but it was solidly in the "extreme cold warning" range in Manitoba.  That meant real temperatures of -30 and windchills of -40.  (That's darn cold in both Celsius and Fahrenheit.)  I spent much of last week taking care of that, but thank goodness, we are all warm and safe.  A home with no heat is not a good option with those kinds of wind chills.

In the meanwhile...I was so pleased to have one of my designs featured on Upcycle's Creative Reuse Center's Facebook page.   It's this one:
Freestyle Super

And, this sweater has been in constant use during this cold snap!  We love it here.  It uses a lovely soft yarn, Quince & Co. Puffin, which I would normally deem a bit too precious for use in a kid's school sweater.  However, someone else donated it to Upcycle, in Alexandria, Virginia.  We visited Upcycle to do a play group with friends while on a trip to see family.  And I lucked out with enough of this brown yarn to make most of a kid's sweater....and design one, too.

Finally, in 2007, I won a fiction contest for a short story I wrote.  (Wow, that was 12 years ago!)  The magazine, Jerry Jazz Musician, has been doing an amazing retrospective on their fiction contest, and they featured me!

To read the feature, check out this group of profiles, and scroll down.  I won contest #15.

Here's a direct link to the short story itself:
The Prayer for Swift & University

Happy reading!  Winter: It's a good time to stay in, read, knit, and be grateful for a house with working heat.  (I know I sure am.)

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Seek peace and truth in 2019...

Sometimes things happen because of luck or good timing.  Canadians don't observe Martin Luther King Day, but as a dual citizen, I can't help but think about it, even as it's not an official holiday here.

The Jewish Independent just ran my piece:
Seek peace and truth in 2019

And this hearkens back to many things I've learned from studying Dr. King's words over the years.

(Note: Jews come from all over the world, and therefore we're a people of all colors.  Also, historically, in some societies, Jews have been seen as "People of Color" regardless of their skin colour.  We share this issue of discrimination and prejudice with King, and many others, even if the country, time period, and context sometimes differ)

An important and interesting conversation has sprung up in the knitting world about race, inclusion, and diversity.  It's all over the knitting web right now, but if you're on Ravelry, the knitting database with 8 million members, there's a good summary and discussion here. 

When I wrote Fiber Gathering and Knit Green, beginning in 2007, I was insistent that the models and designs address diversity--in women's sizes, skin color, and more.  This meant that my first book deal fell through, as that publisher didn't agree with me. I wanted to include models whose sizes looked more like the average woman's size 12.  I wanted to include People of Color.  I wanted the books to look representative of what I saw in our fiber arts communities.  When Wiley & Sons (the 2nd publisher) chose and published my books, they helped with this goal.

Unfortunately, what I noticed, over time, is that some of my favorite projects, when featured as Ravelry ads, did not seem to sell patterns.  For whatever reason, those designs were not selling.

Maybe the adverts or designs weren't good.  Or, was it because of the diverse models who represent what we see around us,  (beautiful knitters -and people- come in all colors)--but don't acknowledge--every day?

When I redid the advertisements so that skin color was less apparent... Guess what?  More people clicked through to see the designs.  To me, this informal ad campaign showed me that sadly, the knitting community, like all of us, still has lots to work on when it comes to loving and appreciating diversity.  Change and inclusion takes time.

This week, I chose to buy an ad on Ravelry again, to support their efforts in a small way.  The photos in this blog post are the ad images I am running.  This time, in 2019, and on MLK weekend, I hope more people click through.

Designs featured in this post:
Tank Empire
Spire Smock

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sweet Georgia's Make & Hue-Collaboration

I've just had a piece come out in Sweet Georgia's publication, Make & Hue!
Here's my article:
Knitting for your kids

Here's a link to the whole publication, which I am looking forward to diving into later today!

Finally, the article features photos of a few kids' designs.  Here are links to those, in case you want to get knitting right away!

Riverbend Garden Hat

Stripe Freestyle


If you'd like to see more kids' designs, check out this bundle on Ravelry.

If you're curious, today my kids went to school in these sweaters:
Twin A (made in 2014, and it still fits a 7.5 year old!)
Twin B  (also made in 2014, and still just about fits the other one!)

Happy reading and knitting!