Friday, February 14, 2020

Value each other--a Valentine

Valentine's Day is a chance to show how much we value each other.

Today, my article about kidnapping, human trafficking and MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) went live here, on the Jewish Independent website:

When Joseph went missing

This is a serious issue, and it's not just something that happens to "other" people or other communities. Moms, daughters--our family members, people we value--are going missing.

Valentine's Day also made me think about how my household makes stuff to show we care about each other. This morning, one of my kids gave me a handmade beaded bracelet and a lot of art he's made me.  I've hung up the art!  I am wearing my "mom" bracelet!

In the last few years, I've focused on designing things and offering special releases and sales for Valentine's Day.  This year, there's no new design and no 'special' sale. Why?

I've spent a lot of time reformatting older patterns lately so that they are now Low Vision Accessible.  This is a long process...I'm not done. This means knitters with vision challenges can use a pattern with easier to read, larger fonts, single column formatting, no italics, and photo descriptions.  It takes time to redo each pattern, but --I am doing it because I value all of us, and it would be great if all knitters could find patterns that they can read.

Reformatting these patterns also helped me to see that many of my patterns haven't sold a lot of copies, and perhaps they have only sold when they were on sale.  I try not to make my patterns without a sale, they are accessible.  However, the message sometimes seems to be that only things 'on sale' or 'free' are good.  That message doesn't value me or my time or efforts, either.

My choice for Valentine's Day this year is to be proud of my knitwear design work, to keep trying to improve it, and also, to stop 'de-valuing' it, too.  So, no sale today.  Does this mean fewer patterns sold overall?  Maybe.  Does it mean I earn less income from patterns?  Yes...I'll need to find a way to make up that loss elsewhere in my freelance work.  At roughly $5US a pattern, it is not an easy way to earn income, even without a sale.

However, we, as people, have great value. Everyone is important.  I'm trying not to let financial issues get in the way of recognizing matter who we are or what we create.   Each person has value and is a gift.

 All of these knitwear patterns, including "Deir Hart" and the "Thump Thump Mittens"--are available
on Ravelry and on Lovecrafts.

More importantly, let's value each other every day...not just Valentine's Day!

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Friday, February 07, 2020

Value of work

This week got lost entirely.  I've only made slow progress on a variety of work fronts--I had some medical appointments, and it's been cold, which makes everything seem harder and more tiring.  Today my article ran in the Jewish Independent (a version also ran in the Jewish Post & News earlier this week):
What is the worth of work?

I think about this often because much of my work -as a writer, designer, maker or mom-- isn't compensated or valued in the ways that society sees as important.  (That is, I don't earn much.)  For instance, I ordered two pairs of wool tights and by the time they came to Canada, I'd paid an awful lot per pair.  (taxes, fees for postage and handling, etc.)  But one pair arrived with a big hole on this seam!  The shop reimbursed me for the pair of tights, which was great.  I was able to mend the hole, and now I have what amounts to a $90 CDN pair of tights--which I got for free, because I know how to mend.  Whew!

I also got to fix three pairs of little boy jeans this week...iron-on patch, and then I use the sewing machine to stitch the holes up as well.  This sort of reuse and repair is nothing new, but it does seem less common among their classmates than I'd expect.  These skills are less common now, and seen as something special or an important statement about the environment.  And yes, I care about the environment, but I also hate to buy new jeans when my kids wear through them this fast!

If you're a spinner, are you going to any spinning retreats?  For the most part, I don't go to these--I have young kids and they need me.  Also, these events are expensive and usually on Shabbat (Friday night to Saturday night.) But they do look like fun!  I was recently asked if I wanted to contribute to a "goody bag" for Plyaway, which is happening in April.  I thought it might be fun to include special coupon codes for my knitting patterns.  

The coupon needed to be in black and white.

So, part of my work this week?  Creating a fun graphic to include on the coupon.  I transformed the photos for the Due North Mittens into something new.  Here were some of the steps along the way.  If you happy to get a coupon in April, you may recognize where it came from!!

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Monday, February 03, 2020


This is a quick post--I had an article run in the Vancouver Jewish Independent on Friday:
The comfort in imperfection

and speaking of imperfection, we have imperfect immune systems...and spent much of our weekend resting on the couch and playing indoors here.  We've got a revolving door of colds and respiratory viruses going on, nothing important, but keeping us from feeling perfectly good, too.

I continue to slowly update my knitting patterns so that those with vision challenges can use them more easily.  I've created a bundle here on Ravelry so that the Low Vision Accessible ones are easier to find.  So far, I've done ten patterns...but I've a lot more to go!

Wishing you a healthy week!

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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Those Granola Bars

I make mostly homemade lunches for my kids...aside from the granola bars.  A while back, I tried making homemade granola bars and our twins really didn't dig them, no matter what.  (The professor and I can vouch that the homemade ones were delicious, we ate two whole pans of them and probably gained a lot of weight during that experiment!)

As a result, I just buy a big box of granola bars with chocolate chips but no nuts from the grocery store and I carry them around as extra snacks, especially for doctors' appointments or during vacation periods.  It's safe to say I've thought WAY too much about these granola bars.

Two things happened.  Today, my opinion piece about the granola bars ran on the CBC-Manitoba website:
Mom's emergency granola bar is there when you need it-no matter who you are

Second thing...
My kids' school is having a program this week called "The litterless lunch."  They want to reduce lunch time waste and trash by asking kids to bring homemade foods, packaged in reusable containers, so that everything in the lunch can be reused, recycled or composted.

Turns out that my twins were already in second place in the classroom when it came to bringing lunches with no trash.  What made them second place?  The granola bar wrappers!

Today, one of my guys decided to help me make homemade granola bars again.  We mostly made the recipe up, but each bar has oats, sunflower seeds, cut up pieces of dry fruit, chocolate chips, a little whole wheat flour...all mushed together with condensed milk.  We baked it for a half hour, and then cooled it down fast using a Winnipeg solution: by leaving it outside in the snow on the back deck for a few minutes.  The quick cool down in snow isn't the recipe, of course!

We produced enough bars for school lunches this week, plus enough to taste test.  Turns out that now, both twins think these are darn good.  Have their tastes changed?  Are they proud of their mom's litterless lunches?  Who knows.

Now we have more granola bars (in wrappers) to give away this week, too.  It's all good.
--This photo's from the article, link above.  I'm not that hip looking!

PS: When the kids first mentioned the litterless lunch, I couldn't figure it out.  I thought they were talking about 'the literal lunch.'  And I was like, what kind of crazy elementary school program is this?  Who packs a figurative or metaphoric lunch!?  (Joke's on me, of course. Maybe I took too many literature courses at Cornell.)

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Low Vision patterns-coming soon!

This week, I've been slowly but surely reformatting some of my knitwear designs on Ravelry. 
What am I doing?

I'm reformatting these to provide an additional pdf, for free, in a Low Vision format.  This is for people who need larger print to easily read a knitting pattern.  I'm also adding photo descriptions, as I am able, and getting rid of fonts and italic that might make the design hard to read.  All my designs are already black print on a white background, which also improves accessibility for the vision-impaired.

As of this week, I've launched Low Vision Format versions of:
Rosie McStrippitThe Stay Put KippahStrippy McStrippitWorry BearDeir Hart and On Track.

I hope to add more Low Vision Format options to my patterns over time--it may not work for every design, but I aim to keep working on it.  So far, it hasn't sold a single pattern, but that's not why I'm doing it.  It seems to me that making life better and more accessible for everyone is a good thing to do...and well worth a few minutes every day, when I can fit in the reformatting.

Here are some cheerful photos of the patterns I've already relaunched-I will try to post more as I go along!  (click on the photos to see bigger images)
I've also had this article come out in the Vancouver Independent:
A page of Talmud each day

Finally, January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  

Many millions of people died in the Holocaust, including 6 million Jewish people.  (These were, in part, some of my family and perhaps yours, too) 

Please take time to remember the many people who were lost...Jewish family, friends, those with disabilities, LGBTQ*, Roma, political prisoners, and more. 

Let's work towards a more accessible, loving, tolerant and accepting world.  Never Again.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Those McStrippits!

So, how did the McStrippits get their name?
(If you're just reading the blog for the first time, WELCOME!  Strippy McStrippit and Rosie McStrippit are knitting patterns that I designed.  Follow these links to learn more!)

 When I started designing these, I was endlessly knitting these strips when we were at piano lessons or outside playing or whatever. Nobody in my household could understand these "strip" things that Mommy was making. 

Eventually, I sewed the first design together and said to my twins and to the Professor, "Well, now we need a name for this thing."  And they laughed and said--"Obviously, Mommy, it is about the Strips!

Somewhere in this conversation, my husband the Professor brought up the story of Boaty McBoatfaceThis was when the British Navy had a "Name Our Ship" poll for a new research vessel.  Only, the one that caught on and won was Boaty McBoatface, which was really kind of not dignified enough for the Brits.  They did eventually name a submersible with this funny name though. (Scientists do make lots of jokes, but dignity has its place!) 

In moments, our whole dinner table was laughing with jokes about how if there could be a McBoatface, well, these were the McStrippit designs.  And so it was!
That is how the McStrippit designs got their last name.  The first name is based in some way on the particular design (Strippy was first, so, you know, there you go!) and the last name is to pay homage to a really funny boat name.

Rosie McStrippit is Rosie for two reasons.  The square neck reminded me of some Scottish and Irish dancing outfits.  When I was in elementary school, a classmate dressed up in her costume and did a jig performance for us. Her name wasn't Rosie but I've never forgotten the square neck of her dress--and Rosie struck me as a good Scots-Irish kind of name. Second reason is that I happened to knit the sample in a rose coloured yarn, but please, use whatever colour you like!  I am sure you'll still look rosy if you knit one.

Now that I've finished two of these designs-- (and a total of 15 strips!) I sort of miss having the strip knitting in my purse.  I may have to start another soon...

Last bits of news for this post:  On Ravelry, Rosie McStrippit is now available with an additional LOW VISION pdf.  This means that I've made it more accessible to those with vision challenges.  I hope to go back and revise other patterns in the future to do this so more knitters can try out my work.

Also related to accessibility, my article, Tips for Inclusivity, has gone live on the Jewish Independent's website today.  It offers pointers for choosing summer camps for kids with special needs.
Wishing you all good things-and a laugh! --Joanne

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Friday, January 10, 2020

low tech spinning

The big news today is that my article on low-tech fiber processing is featured on PLY magazine's blog!  Here's the link:
Low tech wool (and other fibres) prep

I'm proud to be included in this processing issue--via the blog!

I often encounter new spinners who are overwhelmed by the expense and complicated nature of all the tools and gadgets they think they must have to begin spinning.  In fact...spinning can be pretty simple and low cost.  This piece spells out ways you can use your hands to do the work-without the tools.

PS: I'm not ignoring all the upsetting stuff that is going on in the world right now.  Far from it, but I'm needing distractions so I don't despair entirely.  I hope this provides a helpful distraction.  In the meanwhile, believe me, I'm thinking about peace in the world--and rain in Australia.

PPS: How did Rosie McStrippit get her name?  Well, she's clearly related to Strippy McStrippit, made in strips, and there's a story about elementary school and Irish (or Scottish?) dance in there...for another time.

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