Monday, February 23, 2015

spinning-one day at a time

Yesterday I taught my first 'intro to hand spinning workshop with a drop spindle' since 2011.  It was a blast!  The weather outside was so cold (-45 windchill) that the Professor's car wouldn't start.  (It started later, after we'd plugged the block heater in for a good long was just too cold.)

Our boys were suited up in snow pants, boots, lots of layers under the parka and more just to go to their dance class, so they took my car. After the dance class, we did a quick shuffle.  Boys were rushed inside to have a hot lunch.  I rushed outside with all my gear to the car that would start to teach my class.

Luckily, we all made it on time.  Every single one of my registered students showed up, even the one from Brandon, 2 hours away. Every class is different; this one was full of experienced fiber arts folks, who basically started spinning and kept on like they had been born to it.  It was a delight!

Also this week, my essay Reading the Whole Megillah came out in the Jewish Post & News. 

Surprisingly, there is a thread that ties all of this together.  These days, if I want to be prepared to teach a class, I have to start days in advance.  My work time is limited...and always has to be flexible.  So, for instance, last Thursday, I had a medical appointment with a specialist.  That morning, one of the boys woke up a bit under the weather, and his brother decided he wanted to stay home from preschool to keep him company.  Since I had this doctor's appointment, the Professor cancelled his workday to stay home with twins.  I maneuvered the cold weather and got myself to the appointment and made it home.  (Also got a local and 4 stitches while there, but all is well for now and nothing to worry about.)  Between the kids missing school, the mom who needed to rest after her appointment, and the cold, the whole day was just shot.  I had to budget every hour and every moment between Friday and Sunday to be sure my teaching supplies were ready to go.

I've learned from this "having twins experience" to take it one moment at a time.  The essay on Purim is about that too, in some ways.  In Jewish tradition, we read (or don't read!) the same sacred texts every year.  Over the years, we read different things in the same texts.  One time I read the Book of Esther on the floor in a crowded airport when my plane was delayed due to bad weather...other years, I heard it in other ways.  Maturity, life changes, different surroundings--these all cause us to read a text differently, whether it is a novel or a part of a religious tradition.

Finally, these photos:  When the boys were babies, perhaps in the fall of 2011?  or fall 2012?  A business named Rovings in our area that specialized in importing Polwarth wool from Australia and processing it for handspinners began to downsize and had a big sale.  The professor's father was visiting and they decided to help me get to the sale.  It was a bright sunny day and the babies mostly napped in the car while I went inside.

I bought a lot of yarn, a raw fleece (still unopened!) and a 'dyed in the locks' fleece that had won a prize.  The colors were amazing.  I rarely buy dyed fiber like this, but I loved the colors.  When the boys were about 18 months or 2 years old, I moved a spinning wheel down to our basement playroom space.  I started spinning this Polwarth wool, one lock at a time, whenever I had a moment.

Recently, I finally finished spinning up all the wool (maybe 2 lbs total) and I have now plied most of it for a total spinning process time of roughly 2 years.  I am doing a 3 ply, approximately worsted weight and this is what the first batch of washed skeins looks like.  I love it. 

In the old days, before twins, I could spin a pound of clean wool in a week, and still get lots of other things done.  Now, I guess it takes years...but I can still do it.  Little by little.  Bird by bird.    I am reminded of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  I'll finish with a quote from that, and you'll see what I mean.

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was  ten years old at the time, was trying to get a  report on birds written that he'd had three months to  write. It was due the next day. We were out at our  family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen  table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper  and pencils and unopened books on birds,  immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my  father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'"

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cause now I write about hockey...

It's a little known fact that when I was 12, I broke my leg (for the second time) playing hockey.  It was a pick-up game at a schoolyard rink in Ottawa.  We were visiting family friends and they took us to an outdoor rink for fun.  It had been warm; the ice was mushy and too soft.  I was stupid and although I had a pair of hockey skates, I'd worn my figure skates...but you know, I was from Virginia.  What did I know?  The pick at the front caught in a little bubble of soft ice and I went down.  My only solace was that I'd assisted on a goal in the process...and if you have to break your leg in junior high, it was maybe a cool way to do it.  (but I do not recommend it!  Note: First time?  At 18 months, I jumped out of my crib.)

Since then, I've skated a little, but only recreational figure skating and very little of that.  However, I've lived in both Buffalo and Winnipeg.  In both places, hockey is always in the news and in the air.  When I heard of the big trade this week--a couple players going to Buffalo and vice versa, I realized I had only a very small thing in common with them.  I wrote it about it...and it came out today on the CBC here:
 Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian: Are you curious about Buffalo?

For those who know me, this whole thing is peculiarly funny...especially because I wrote another piece about the positive educational benefits of play (something I actually know about, because of that grad. degree in Education) but I didn't sell that one.  No, I sell the hockey essay.  Of course. 

Also this weekend, the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper mentioned The Hole Inside Mitts: A Yarn Spinner Story + Pattern in their Books section.  Here's the link:
Author Sews Together Knitting, Short Yarn 
What I like best about it is that the columnist took the whole thing seriously...and it ran as his lede.  All in all, a very sweet couple of days--like a professional Valentine.  I feel grateful.

On the home front, we're getting a lot of juicy hugs and kisses from three year olds, who even gifted us last night with only one wake up and sleeping 45 minutes late, until 7:15 AM.  Now that was the greatest Valentine! 

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tidying up...

Some news:
First, it's occurred to me that I have been writing this blog, in one form or another, for nearly 10 years!  Whoa.  Anyway, a lot of the details on this site are out of date.  I am slowly trying to fix that.  I've just cleaned up part of the list of blogs...all of those folks are still friends/interesting people/good reads...but many of their sites have not been updated in a while.  I decided to check and see what was still live and had been updated in the last 6 months, and go with that.  I'll try to make updates a little more often now. :)

It's a slow process!

I'm also trying to keep links to my newest articles up to date, so here is my latest:
Transforming Tu B'Shvat

Other good news...if you're interested in learning to spin, there are still a few spots left in my Learn to Spin Class on February 22nd.  Cloverleaf Fibre has registration information.

There's been some wonderful interest in my new Yarn Spinner Story + Pattern, The Hole Inside Mitts!  I've been very excited to see it and am beginning work on the second story + pattern.  (Hint:  On Ravelry, you can gift a friend with a pattern.  Maybe a Story+Pattern would be a great Valentine for a friend?  ....Just sayin')

Finally, I am hopefully getting over the bad stomach bug that first the professor had, and now I have.  I remain optimistic that it is-slowly- going away.  I also hope the twins don't get it.  That would be a real drag.  So, let's stay hopeful...have a sweet week!

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Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Yarn Spinner Story + Pattern

I have some big the last week or so, I have been slowly announcing the first in a new line of patterns.  I've been doing it here on Ravelry.  I am mentioning it here on my Ravelry group.  (Please join my group!  I'd love to have more chatty members there!)

 I have even been trying to resurrect my ancient newsletter email list, which has resulted in much gnashing of teeth and a loss of about 2 work days to the e-newsletter deities.  Note: If you are not on the newsletter, and would like to be, I hope to figure out how to put a sign-up on my blog soon.  It is not as easy as it looks!

So, here are The Hole Inside Mitts,
 my first new story+pattern.  Please check it out!

PS: There's still room in my spinning class, but it's filling up fast.  Sign up soon!
 The Hole Inside Mitts: A Yarn Spinner Story + Pattern

Introducing a whole new kind of knitting pattern….one that comes with a story attached! The new Yarn Spinner Story + Pattern line allows readers who knit (or knitters who read) two pleasures at once. Enjoy a piece of short fiction, accompanied by a useful pattern that stands on its own. This downloadable luxury offers a sweet combination for thinking knitters, particularly ones using a tablet or smartphone.

How knitting can help heal the hole in your heart:
The first story, The Hole Inside, gives a taste of unrequited love from an independent, travelling heroine who never forgets her knitting. While on a business trip, she encounters women who invite her to their knitting group. Settle into a coffee, a town filled with college students, and an unsettling surprise from the past that calls for some escape with needles and yarn.

This story pairs with a stranded mitten pattern in 7 sizes. Start with 2-4 years for your nearest toddler and complete right up to the unbelievably XXL hands of your Valentine, this is one flexible pattern that has you covered.

The Hole Inside: A Yarn Spinner Story + Pattern is the first in a series. Expect to see more short fiction from author Joanne Seiff soon. As well, look for the companion series: A Yarn Spinner Essay + Pattern. Joanne Seiff’s articles and essays appear on the CBC,, and in the knitting world on, Interweave Knits, Spin-Off, and Vogue Knitting. Seiff feels that linking her love of writing and knitting design in this short format offers an exciting and novel horizon for fiber arts!

The Hole Inside, Yarn Spinner Story+ Pattern’s initial offering, is available now for a Valentine’s Day 2015 release for download on Ravelry, as well as through for EU knitters. (This is a treat without calories!)

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Learn to Spin on February 22nd!

UPDATE: AS of Wednesday, February 18, this class is full...
(please let me know if you are still interested and maybe we can plan another class in the future)

It's been a long time since I offered a spinning fibre friends in our community are hosting one.  Here's the info for Winnipeg locals...I can't wait to meet you!:

Norwood Naughty Knitters, Cloverleaf Art & Fibre and Joanne Seiff present a class:

Learn to Spin!  

Taught by Joanne Seiff*
Handspinning with a spindle is an ancient craft that is still important even today.  Everyone in a household, including children as young as four, used to help spin yarn that clothed the family and kept them warm!  Join Joanne and learn a bit about wool and learn to use a handspindle to make your own yarn.  When you leave this class, you’ll own a spindle, some extra wool, and you’ll be able to practice spinning at home.
Note: This class is all you’ll need to begin spinning.  It’s also a great introduction to the skills you’ll need if you decide to learn to spin on a spinning wheel.
When: February 22nd from 1:30-4:30 pm     
Where:  Norwood Community Centre
87 Walmer St, Winnipeg, MB
Cost: $60
This includes: a $30 materials fee for a beginner’s spindle, wool, other materials & a $30 class fee per person


Spaces are Limited! Register via Paypal (click that button) to reserve your spot!

Visit for registration information, email or comment on this blog post if you have questions.

Learn to spin in a friendly, hands-on environment!

*About the Instructor:

Joanne Seiff is a co-organizer of the Manitoba Fibre Festival and the author of Fiber Gathering, a book about fiber festivals, and Knit Green: 20 Projects and Ideas for Sustainability.  She’s been spinning for over 30 years-- and knitting longer than that!  Her writing has appeared in Spin-Off Magazine.  Her handspun yarn and fiber art has been sold in galleries and won awards at state fairs and in art competitions.  She teaches throughout North America at sheep shows, fiber festivals, and yarn shops. 

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why we're lucky

Winnipeg is under a boil water advisory. 

I wrote Boil-water advisory shows how Winnipeggers are fortunate this morning...and it's already online at the CBC.  Wow!  Fast--like how fast we had to start boiling water last night. 

Let's hope kids in Winnipeg will be back to blowing swimming pool bubbles in their bathwater soon--and that kids everywhere else get access to clean water, too.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

what I've been up to...

The last few days have been a whirlwind.  The professor has a very busy term, teaching two upper level classes, so he needed to do work on the weekend.  Didi (my mom) came from the US to visit and play with twins.  One of the twins has a whopper of a cold, which means it is likely only a matter of time until the second one gets it, or the grown-ups get it.  Oh, and nobody ever sleeps through the night, have I said that before?! :)

Meanwhile, my essay, Building Jewish Identity -- for preschoolers, came out.  Suddenly, I had people I did not know (at preschool pick up, of course! where else do I go?) telling me that they were reading my work.  This was a surprise.  To be honest...a lot of the time, I write something, and I never hear a thing afterwards!  Sometimes there are negative comments, but this was totally different.  It was positive. 

Then, Maclean's magazine published a truly game-changing piece about racism in Winnipeg.  The author of that article quoted me, based on this essay I wrote for the CBC back in November.  More than anything, I am so glad that people "heard" what was being said in that important article--and I see lots of discussion about racism in the media here, in emails people send, --and who knows, maybe out on the street.  (I haven't been out much, what with the twin preschoolers, the cold virus, the lack of sleep, etc.)

The most interesting thing about all this is that I haven't been especially worried or afraid.  Back when we lived in Kentucky, if I wrote a piece with anything political, controversial, or religious in it...I often heard about it. I received hate mail, or weird phone calls.  It was really disconcerting and scary sometimes.  It did not stop me from writing or wanting to make positive change, but it did make me wonder if it was safe, if it was worth it, and whether I should keep writing. Who knows, maybe I am just too busy to worry here, but luckily, lately, the positive feedback has outweighed anything else.

Recently, I've felt like it is worth it to keep doing this writing thing.  At the same time, I've been working on a new knitting design.  This has been fortunate, because when somebody wakes me up every 2-3 hours, I find it much harder to formulate any kind of argument or point...hence the delay in posting here...but knit?  heck yeah.  I can still knit.

Even if I didn't design, this always has benefits.  People in Winnipeg will always need woollies. :)  

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