Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Still here

I recently got an email asking me if someone could monetize my blog and post homesteading articles.  Obviously time to get back to writing on the blog!  (and --just no-- unless you consider twins and a dog on a city street homesteading?  Huh?)  
So where have I been?  I've been supervising kids' summer time play while I spin and knit.  This is destined to be a kid sweater made out of plotulopi yarn from Icelandic.  Lightweight, warm, but a little delicate to knit.  Ideal for sitting still and knitting, but not for carrying around too much, in my experience.
Kids went back to school this past week and I was tasked with making more exciting, new masks.  Unicorn, horse, octopus, and soda pop patterns seem to be a hit...we have plenty of masks, of course, but these are the fancy new "back to school" ones.  We're grateful for the mask mandate but since our kids aren't old enough yet to be vaccinated, a bit wary about how long this 'in-school' stuff will last.  Delta variant is real. Making a masks is a good way to cope with the mom worry!  
I've also been busy putting up food.  Plum apple chutney, apple chips for school lunches, applesauce, and more. Having food on the shelf in the winter is great, but I don't think it makes me a homesteader?  (Please, give me more land for gardening and some sheep, as well as access to take out food options...that would be a heck of a farm.)

I've also continued to work as I can.  Part of the reason why there have been fewer blog posts is that I decided this past year to narrow my focus.  It was very important but also a lot to manage, having my kids home to do remote schooling/home learning for 11 months.
I optimized my time...I kept writing a regular column for this Vancouver paper.  I also have had occasional pieces run in other publications.  All my knitting patterns (around 80!) are still available on RavelryLovecrafts.com and Payhip.  
However, I realized that if a gig wasn't paying much, or might take a lot of time or risk exposing kids to COVID?  It just wasn't worth it. I'm considering my options now about what work will look like for me in the future. I miss the teaching I used to do, and the collegiality of editing for someone on a daily basis, too...but for now, I want to find ways to ensure I'm both available if kids need me and earning something for my writing, editing, designing and teaching.  People talk about work being satisfying (and that's important to me!) but work is also valuable.  My experience, skills and time should be worth something, too. 
In the meanwhile, we'll be exploring outside while the weather holds and eating lots of delicious stuff as we cruise through the fall holidays. That's an apple cinnamon challah I made.  It was a hit!

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

weaving-a new article!

Exciting news!  I've just had an article come out in Digits & Threads magazine on the tradition of weaving tallitot (Jewish prayer shawls) in Winnipeg.  It was a tradition in my family in Virginia too...shown here is a photo of my dad, weaving my youngest brother's tallit for his bar mitzvah. Also-clear proof of my family's maker/DIY history: this black and white photo was likely developed in my dad's dark room, and the Winnie the Pooh play room curtains behind my father were sewn by my mom. In later years, (cough cough) I ...may...have cut up some of that Winnie the Pooh fabric to make myself a pair of shorts--Which I then wore out and about in junior high and high school. Yes, I have always had a quirky fashion sense, excluding my handwoven tallit, of course! 

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021


I recently had an article run that explained more about where I've been.  As the pandemic has been a constant, (nothing's back to "normal" for us yet)  I've worked and written at night when I can, but there's been a lot of time spent on other things.  Here is a link to the article: Recalibrating our life route 
This summer is another freeform one, where twins spend a lot of time on creative play in the yard, reading, making stuff and even doing a little learning...with outings to pick berries, swim at a lake for a day trip, etc. I mostly have stayed home with Sadie the dog while the professor does the out of town offerings.  I seem to be Mom in charge of playgrounds, farmer's market, wading pools, and long dog walks.
I've done some spinning, knitting, and lots of sewing....made my own version of MC Hammer pants...and even a brand new bag, with zippers... for taking care of business on those dog walks.
I've canned some jam (natural outcome after all that berry picking!) and, despite our hot summer, managed to make a pie recently after a kind neighbour gifted us with an entire quart bag of pitted sour cherries.  She pitted them for us!  This, of course, is neighbourliness and treasure beyond measure in our household...local fresh fruit and the gift of her time!
The tricky bit? We love many of our longtime neighbours but the infill and a recent construction in our area - also more generally targeted as part of Winnipeg's densification efforts- has caused our house's walls to be damaged. The noise and construction is hard to live through.  We also live along a very busy road. The increased traffic that returns, post-pandemic, from the nearby restaurant patios and their drunk clientele, the high schoolers going out for lunch, increased bus traffic, etc. - it gets to be a lot of noise. 

Anyway, due to the disruptions near us and the third wave of the pandemic in Manitoba... (and likely, a fourth wave coming for those who aren't vaccinated...)
--this summer has been different than planned. Whew.  Now, the professor has a grant due, our kids are too young to get vaccinated yet, and we still can't see any of our relatives across the border.  (They're vaccinated, we're vaccinated, but the delta variant, the travelling, health issues, and kids too young to be vaccinated yet--make this too complicated at present.)
So, in the meanwhile, here are some lightweight organic crinkle cotton pants that I made!  Here are some jars of jam!
Here's to the summer that got away from me.  Now, like those GPS things in the car, we're recalibrating--and readjusting our summer route.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Knitting for kids-a new article

It's been a long time since I've posted...but this is a good one, I hope (...whew, it's been a long few months.)  Like most moms with kids in remote school, I had to cut back on -everything else- to manage our lives during the third wave here in Manitoba.  Even so, I wrote at night, and when I thought everyone could manage...and today, one of those long awaited pieces came out!
This article, Why I Value Making Clothes for Kids, is in the new online publication Digits & Threads is about why I knit for (my) kids and why, if we makers value 'me made" wardrobes and slow fashion, we should be offering that, when we can manage, to our kids, too.  It has some fun photos of my favourite knitwear models, at different ages, and some thoughts on why everyone in our household values handknits.

(It seems ridiculous to be writing this as Winnipeg faces a heatwave, again, but...obviously, from October to May, we wear a lot of sweaters around here!)
Digits & Threads features Canadian textiles and fibre arts, and it's the only Canadian publication of its kind--well worth checking it out. 
Now that school's finally out, kids are spending a lot more time playing in the shade while I spin or read or knit, so that's a plus, too!--We adults have gotten vaccinated -hurray!-but nothing's available for kids under 12 yet, so we'll be doing lots of playing in the yard, on our own, a while longer.

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Popping by

This has been a long time between blog posts...it's not usual for me. Lots has been happening, but it's kind of overwhelming.  Like, when the weather finally warmed up, and we had a radiator pipe burst in the basement.  Like that.  

When each challenge has happened this year, we've worked as a family team and well, just kept our heads down and dealt with it.  Often, it means I'm doing home school/remote school with kids and dog while closed up in the guest room while the masked professor deals with a procession of tradespeople.  But, you know, now our pipes work, our heat works, our hot water works, our dishwasher has stopped leaking, and even the mice influx seems to have finally stopped ... lots has been fixed while we continue to stay home. 
 I hear some people take exotic hot weather vacations. (not us) However, it's a pandemic, and last I checked, there are still 250,000 people ahead of us to be vaccinated in our province... so we just spent that money fixing stuff.  Thank you, careful, masked tradespeople! Did each bit of damage happen for a reason? because of construction nearby?  Because of the extreme weather? Because that one little dishwasher valve wore out? Who knows.
In the work department, I've had some articles published, but it's not been frequent work. In one case, somehow the article's comments became like, well, a real tire fire.  I've been told by my Canadian friends that in Manitoba, people say "dumpster fire" to mean the same thing. When I say the words 'TIE ER FIE ER" --my accent comes out, straight from Virginia, with hints of my time spent in North Carolina and Kentucky.  It's slow just like when you're driving on the highway and see the huge plume of black stinky smoke.  Everyone ahead of you slows down to rubberneck and you're stuck in this horrible endless traffic jam. People are all aghast at the fire, which will take forever to put out and how did it happen?  And what kind of nasty pollution will it leave?  While the thing burns on endlessly and stinks. It's so awful that it's hard to look away.  (OK, now you can imagine how negative the comments were.)
So, I'm not linking to that article.  No need for anyone to go read those comments.  Hint:  it ran on the CBC and in this personal essay, I implored people to hold on, the pandemic's not done with us yet. I say this despite really missing my family and being so tired of this, we'd been lucky so far.  We were privileged, despite losing a family member in NYC last spring. The article ran at the end of March, and well, here we are now, starting the third wave. Just. Not. Over... yet here, folks. (Sometimes the true news is an opinion that hits home.  That's what people really didn't want to hear...)
While all this is happening, I am actively making things.  Sometimes, it's lots of food to get ready for holidays.  (We had a great Passover and spring break, and having a Zoom seder works fine for us. It's also awesome not to have to go anywhere and pack soggy matzah sandwiches for lunch...)
I've also been sewing, knitting and spinning up a storm as I find it a tremendous way to relieve stress right now.  I made a really large scarf out of beautiful red silk from Japan (a deadstock fabric remnant sent to me from Fabcycle in Vancouver) and a tiny bit of coordinating floral print.  I am knitting a sweater...probably for me, maybe a new design, but I'm sort of winging it so we'll see how it comes out. 

I finished the big new wool bathmat from Churro and Hebridean wool.  It's been a great addition to kid shower or bath time!

--Also, I was recently told by one of my twins that there was no way he was going back to wearing store bought pajama bottoms as the flannel ones I made were so much more roomy and cozy.  But oh, by the way, spring is coming and both twins grew.  So, now I'm sewing a pile of lightweight pjs in cheerful colours.  There has been some dispute over who gets which fabric. (pretty much all from stash or deadstock remnants)  I've encouraged both kids to realize that since they share the same room, they can always get to see the pjs across the room, even if they aren't wearing them.  This seemed to briefly mollify them!

I've also been spinning up some Dorset/Rideau (I think) wool.  This fleece was handed to me as a gift.  It's really soft and cozy.  The first couple skeins were ones I processed myself from start to finish, but then I decided to have the rest of the fleece processed by my favourite local woollen mill.  The roving came back clean and lovely to spin. 
 Alas, despite everyone's best efforts, this fleece still has a lot of field left in it. At each stage, there's lots of vegetable matter to remove.  I'm likely to still be removing it as I knit.  However, the wool is really something...I have spun it as a chunky two ply and it will possibly make a sweater for one kid or another for next winter (after dyeing it) as they are growing like weeds.
There's lots more to tell you, dear blog readers, but no more time in a day to fit it all in.  For now, I'll leave you with one finished pair of pajama bottoms  and our table, set for the first Seder.  It was great having my parents 'sitting' at the end of the table with us.  The table was really long.  Thanks to Zoom, it started in Virginia, and ended in Winnipeg. 
-And, because we live in Winnipeg, and it's mid-April, we're expecting another snow storm.  Happy spring time!!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Scenes from February

February has been full of highs and lows...much like this textured bathroom rug I'm knitting out of my handspun Hebridean and Churro yarns.  On the good side, full of love and busy times at home.  I had a couple articles run in the Vancouver Independent: 
and Rejoice or slog? You choose
and I've submitted some pieces for publication in the fiber arts world, which will hopefully appear in due course!
We've worked hard to keep spirits up during some very cold weather.  My lovely professor bought us flowers from the local florist--while they struggled with a flower shortage and some challenging weather.  We had an extreme weather warning for two weeks or so, and every single day was -40 windchill or colder. No, kids don't go outside at those temperatures, and we adults and the dog only brave it when we must! It has finally "warmed up" in Winnipeg today to -16C (3F) with a windchill of -26C (-13F) and I just about threw the kids, husband and dog outside to get some exercise while they could.  --Note:  I did the first walk this AM, when windchill was -35C, so you know, I'm taking a pass on the second walk!!

I'm continuing to work on a new design when I can fit it in.  Some kind followers on instagram convinced me that my newest wrap looks a lot like 'wings' and a hug.  I'm working on how to name it, as well as writing up the technical details at night when twins are asleep...but hopefully will finish it soon.
I also keep sewing, and while you cannot tell from this crumply looking photo, this dress is adapted from the 100 acts of sewing dress no2 pattern.  It's a green herringbone wool, and it's cozy with a cardigan and wool tights.  I definitely made some errors there in the sewing department, it's not perfect, but I'm continuing to make myself clothing, so I'm proud of that.
We've had a lot of drama lately with keeping the household running.  The cold temperatures make for hard times when the car needs fixing, and our dishwasher line has been freezing pretty regularly. A regular service call for our boiler became a big repair, complete with a new hot water heater as well.  It meant keeping two 9 nine year olds and a dog contained on the third floor for nearly an entire work day so the plumbers could work--and almost $2200 CAD in repairs.  Ouch.  However, we never went without heat and the water wasn't off for long, and during a streak of days when the temperature high was around -30C, well, being warm was most important. 
We're still remote schooling, too...lots of projects in play, including our own virtual week of Festival du Voyageur.  (You know I can't pass up a good festival!)
What's not happening?  Those who follow me because of my opinion columns may notice--none of these have been happening.  Why?  Well, I still try to write them, at night, on weekends--whenever I can fit it in.  However, I haven't had any luck in placing them.  Some editors never respond. Others write kind rejection notes--but nothing is selling.
What's new? I've written about a recent Winnipeg city council decision to support a multi-use development in my neighbourhood which will knock down three homes-- each one is a hundred years old-- to build an enormous new building over three lots.  68 people objected to this, and only 6 people supported it (developers, lawyer, investors, and real estate agents) --but Winnipeg is allowing it to go ahead. (Developers and their money apparently outvote the rest of us?)   
One media outlet didn't acknowledge my submission at all.  The other (local publication) said they couldn't run something like this, because then it would open the floodgates to anyone else who wanted to write about these 'specific disputes' and 'local skirmishes.'
Past pieces-written, but never sold:  About the gendered power politics of mask wearing and making room on the sidewalks...and another, about how nobody likes to hear "I told you so"--even when certain pandemic related events are easily predicted by the scientists. 
Yet, whenever I'm taking it all too seriously, I'm heartened by funny 'art' installations around the house.  I'll leave you with our grassheads, named Bob and Squidward Squeeesh (formerly known as Qushy Gushy.)  Here's hoping for warmer times ahead.

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Esme McStrippit and other news

We've been busy indoors this winter.  First off, kids have been growing so I knit a new kid sweater.  He then posed, with great joy, and I had to pass it along to everyone else to enjoy.  He's sporting a one-of-a-kind handknit by Mommy striped sweater made of plotulopi (Icelandic, unspun yarn) and seems delighted by it. This twin is particular about his sweaters so I'm relieved that this seems to have been a home run!

The kids have been learning at home, doing remote school since the end of October.  This involves a lot of reading time, and we seem to have also trained Sadie the dog into enjoying reading time as well.
While I'm helping kids learn through a pandemic, I've had a slow down in terms of articles coming out... but this piece ran in the Jewish Independent on January 15th: 

During the first few days of January, I managed to make this wool tweed vest using a fabric remnant from Fabcycle in Vancouver.  I was thrilled to use up deadstock fabric and this has been a great additional winter layer so far.  (plus, it has a pocket, and I can never have enough of those!)

The kids added to their 'learn to sew' samplers with a 'here's how to do a running stitch' lesson.  I hadn't been pushing these lessons until one day, one of my boys started to cry because we weren't having enough sewing and art lessons.  Well, OK then!  Happy to oblige...!

Last, but certainly not least, I have finally (FINALLY!) released a new knitting pattern.  Hallelujah.  It took me long enough!
This is called Esme McStrippit and when I uploaded it onto Ravelry, I discovered it was my 80th pattern there.  In honour of this new pattern, I'm celebrating with a sale.  Get 20% off all my patterns!  This sale is happening on Ravelry  and on Payhip and ends on Tuesday, January 26th, at midnight, Central Time, US&Canada.
Use the coupon code:
For the 20% off discount!

Here are some of the shots of the sweater--the one shot with me in it was taken by a kid, too!

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