Monday, February 29, 2016

Accessibility Matters

Our local CBC website has been running a series on disabilities and accessibility in Manitoba.  By some strange coincidence, I had submitted an opinion piece on the issue as they were organizing the series behind the scenes.  I feel proud to have my piece included:
Let's get serious about making Winnipeg public schools more accessible

This is so important.  I wrote this for every kid who has broken a leg (I have) or had any sort of disability, short or long term, that makes gaining access to school difficult.  I feel so lucky to have had a place to submit this essay, because, well, we all deserve equal access to education, no matter how we get there.

On a lighter note:  Thanks to all who have taken part in my February sale opportunity on Ravelry!  Knitting (and dreaming of new projects) is a great way to get through a cold, cloudy, and long February.  I sure would like to kick my cough and get to enjoying knitting (and everything else) again.  Viruses, be gone!  :)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bermuda bag! On sale now!

Some time ago, I wrote this book, Knit Green: 20 Projects and Ideas for Sustainability and I designed some knitting patterns to go with it.  It worked out that I could offer some of the patterns as downloads online...but for one reason or another, some of these designs were not available, aside from purchasing the book.  Yesterday, I was able to fix that!  Now, the basic Bermuda bag and the Pin Check Bermuda Bag are both available for download on Ravelry, and also available on Love Knitting.  If you buy them both on Ravelry before the end of February, you can get $2 off, too! 
When I was a kid, I had one of these bags and I loved how "matchy matchy" it made everything...and it also seems like a perfect, vintage but new sort of thing....never really out of style or out of date.  Unfortunately, I am not able to carry one of these things now and hold onto the hands of both my twins in school parking lots, etc. so for now, I'll just have to say how cool they are for everybody else.  :)  And, imagine how neat it would be to knit matching covers for your outfits!  Cool!

For people who know me, I have a little bit of a bag thing going on.  I dig gorgeous bags---not fancy handbags, but useful, utilitarian bags for holding stuff. (heaven knows, I shlep around a lot of stuff while dealing with twins...)

 Just today I saw this field bag and these these bento bags--I tell you.  I feel seized by irrational desire.  I think I am subconsciously trying to contain clutter this way.  Our house is filled with clutter.  Piles!  Stuff everywhere.  And, you know, I'd like to be one of those zen tidy people, but I am not.  However, a good container...a good bag...well, it makes all the clutter appear to go away for a while.  Ahhh.  That's better.

Yesterday, I took a new handmade enormous wooden crochet hook I'd picked up at Ram Wools and I made something...a while back, someone passed along some old sheets and remnants her mother had saved, and said she thought I'd find something to do with them.  I contemplated getting rid of the box several times, but held out.  I'd cut and ripped one threadbare white sheet into a big ball of fabric yarn a while back.  Here it is in its new holds all those bits of paper with phone numbers scribbled on them, all those business cards that littered this area near the phone in our dining room until recently.  We are old school--we still have a landline, with a pile of phone numbers near it.  Now they have their own crocheted container/basket thingee.  It's not a fine job, I'm no professional when it comes to crochet...but it is tidy for the moment.  Ahhh.  Bags.  Containers.  I see a green ripped sheet in my office, and I'm imagining its future now.  If we can only contain it all?  Maybe I won't have to go through it or throw it all away?!

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, February 22, 2016

Gray February

Most exciting things first:
This weekend I submitted an opinion piece to the CBC and it went live less than a day later:
Why Manitoba needs a more diverse teaching force

I'd want to point out, of course, that good teaching is crucial, but it is only one part of this assessment; we have no idea if Manitoba's students' test scores are representative of their skills, if the tests done were biased, on and on.  There are a lot of unanswered variables in social science, but, well, this is only one essay about the U of Manitoba's faculty of Education's new diversity admissions policy.
You can't say all that in less than 1000 words. :)

The best part of it all, I felt, was reading the (as usual) mostly knucklehead comments, which sort of illustrate why a diverse, effective teaching force is a good thing. (in aiding tolerance, for instance, which was seriously lacking in some comments) Then there was one absolutely erudite comment about the certification standards from a really qualified Manitoba teacher, educated in Britain.  That made my week.

Other things that are making my week... We have completed our first weaving, with a lot of Mommy help.  These were done on picture frames, using loopers cut from wool socks with holes in them.  The warp was cut up felted sweater strips, leftover from all the wool soakers I made for cloth diapering.

We've had perhaps another 2 or three more preschooler viruses since the last time I posted...digestive issues, colds, coughs...; to be honest, I've lost track.  I have become remarkably zen about the whole thing.  When someone is too sick for preschool, or needs to come home, I take a deep breath, drop all my plans...and just resign myself to returning to the couch with whoever needs me.  I've not done a lot of things this winter.  Oh well.  The house is pretty mucky, too.  I'm thinking of trying to clean up this week, since Didi (my mom, twins' grandma) is coming to visit, but I don't have high expectations.  It doesn't help to expect too much, cause then I feel upset with myself when things are back to basics all over again.
Perhaps because of the great retirement sale at Shuttleworks or maybe just because I needed a pick-me-up, I decided to go crazy and order the bulky flyer set ups for both my Schacht Matchless spinning wheel and my Majacraft Little Gem.  Maybe it was my Valentine's Day gift to myself? This is, I think, my first big wheel-related purchase in maybe 8 years.  It's been a bit of adjustment to figure out how the new things work, but it's exciting, too.  I see very big skeins of handspun in my future...someday!

Before I switched the flyers on the Majacraft, I amazed this kid, home sick, by whipping the wheel out of its carrying case and setting it up so he could check it out.  He was stunned; I don't think he had ever seen how it folded it up before.  He got to treadle and do some wool teasing, which he enjoyed.  (fluffing up locks of wool into clouds for spinning.)  I was rewarded for all this with a seriously firm admonition to "Clean up, Mommy, your office is very messy."  He then offered helpful hints.  Great.  Thanks, kid.

 Finally, I am planning to relaunch some older patterns and reknit some too, this year.  I am also working on a sweater for myself, the third time I am reknitting the Cuddle Coat.  Honestly, this sweater design has a curse, it has never had a decent photo of it.  However, the first one (in my little headshot, that is #1, with Harry the dog) is so worn that I have to mend it, the second one was trashed after it was absolutely worn to pieces, and here's the third.  Yup.  That is some boring looking gray/brown knitting!  If you click on it though, you may see the texture, little bits of color, and softness of the yarn.  Feels great.  Looks just like?  February.

In honor of that....stretch of time, cold, dirty snow, cloudy February, I have a brief sale on Ravelry:
20% off all my designs on Ravelry, through the end of February, with the coupon guessed it:

Here's some more gray-brown in case you missed it or it happens to be sunny in your neck of the woods.... :)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Big day

Yesterday seemed like a big day; a soaring end to a good twins were back at preschool all week.  I had time to work and even make banana chocolate chip muffins. (full of spelt flour, oats, and other secret healthy bits) We had a really fun children's program at synagogue Saturday morning, everyone seemed good.

I also had an opinion piece come out on the CBC:
Snow removal-more precisely, lack of snow removal-carries hidden costs

and today we are having a blizzard warning, so it seemed like great timing.

I also was quoted in a Winnipeg Free Press article, called Wool Warriors:Knitters use their craft to campaign for change.  The online version is different from the one in the newspaper...the paper actually features a photo of me as well!  I was proud to see the focus on knitting as an activist enterprise, full of political and social repercussions...and it linked in nicely to what I heard at Ram Wools when I visited the yarn shop a couple of days ago...the campaign to provide handknit woollies (and other warm clothes) for newcomers to Canada has reached something like 1800 pieces, very nearly reaching its goal of 2000 items.  Another way knitting makes positive change for the world.

I'd even managed to deliver more skeins of handspun to Ram Wools--they are selling some of my yarn, which is great, because it boosts their locally made products AND helps me empty out some of my stockpile. (I've been spinning while watching the boys play in the basement playroom after school.  It helps me sometimes catch their fights and keep them from killing each other...)

(L to R: Naturally brown 2 ply Shetland, Brown Sheep wool mill ends/brown wool/blue soysilk and blue mohair, white skein is one ply of Romney/Texel wool, plied with commercial cotton/viscose yarn which holds in bits of shell colored silk waste thrums)

Yesterday, I noticed that the twin sweater I knit in November was already unravelling at the neck edge where a strand of the yarn had broken already.  I caught it quickly and managed to re-knit a new edging before the whole sweater unravelled.  (Note: Use more hearty yarns to make little boy sweaters next time...)

It was foreshadowing.  We got home yesterday, had lunch together, and I put both boys down for a well-deserved nap.  By 2:30, the first kid was wide awake and screaming...and the stomach bug was back, with a vengeance.  I was up nearly all night with the second kid while he was ill.  So, you know, just when things seem awesome and I'm too big for my britches, it is an important time to stay humble.  Cause there were at least three sets of bedding to change, and kids to mop up and comfort.  Cause this part, the virus part, is real life, and the other stuff?  Not nearly as likely to happen again any time soon... Oh well.

If you're local, this yarn might be waiting for you at Ram Wools on Portage Ave...but maybe wait until tomorrow, when the winds and snow die down and the yarn shop opens again?!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, February 01, 2016

Connecting to knitters' past: A UFO tale

If you've been a knitter for any length of time, this might have happened to you... one of my husband's work colleagues is a knitter.  Her knitting friend passed away.  Friend's husband gave the Professor's colleague some knitting.  One day, the Professor speaks with her in the hall, and she asks if I might help with it.  Then, my husband -the Professor- brings home a package.

First, there were a pile of needles, which I gave to a local yarn shop so they could use it in their teaching and charity programs.  Also in the pile was this pattern, a Basketweave Jacket from an Elle magazine book publication from 1986.  In the pile of yarns were a bunch of dark gray skeins of Rowan Donegal Lambswool and some skeins of tweedy brown Rowan Fox Tweed.  Also, two fronts and one back of a vest, with the 2.5mm needles still stuck in the knitting.

Now, I wear a lot of brown and gray, but I'd not voluntarily knit with this dark gray.  It's hard to see to work with it.  Plus, unless I'm knitting socks, I'd not consider knitting anything this fine...the pattern says the gauge should be 33 stitches =4".  (That's FINE KNITTING, folks!)

However, when I looked at it, I saw I could just finish the row, cast off, sew up the seams and the vest would be nearly made.  I wouldn't make it like the 1986 vintage pattern, but I'd have a wear, if it suits, or to give away.

The task was made a bit more difficult because some of the lights in our living room were temporarily not working, it's winter time, and dark as all get out.  Plus, we had yet another virus going on, and I had a hard time concentrating while watching all those kids shows and catering to a sick 4 year old. (AGAIN.)

When I'd finished, I decided to wash it to block it, because heaven knows how long it had been sitting in that bag.  Lately, I've been washing these things in my washing machine on a cold water gentle cycle.  I have world's lowest water pressure in my washer, so all my knitted things usually turn out well...very lucky, actually.  However, this time, the vest came out having sprung a hole or two.  Turns out that Rowan Donegal Lambswool, expensive and fine yarn that it is, isn't very sturdy.  I had a panicky moment, worrying about moths, so I had the Professor inspect it.  (he studies moth genetics)  He says, nope, that is a plain old hole.  Not a moth hole.  Whew!  Luckily, it is a 'sticky' wool, so I was able to mend those 3 holes right up...then...

I dug around until I found the right button.  This button was given to me at a Manitoba Craft Council sale in November of 2010.  (I remember because I was a vendor at the sale, trying to sell handwoven rugs, newly pregnant with twins, terribly ill with morning sickness, and we had a plumbing disaster that weekend.  Oy.  How could I forget?)  Anyhow, this button is handmade by Evelin Richter, and it totally matches.  Obviously, it was waiting for this moment.

Since the pattern clearly wasn't designed for a button, I went right ahead and made another hole.  This is also called an 'afterthought buttonhole.'  Basically, you carefully cut the yarn where you want the button, unravel a bit, and then sew the heck out of the buttonhole to be sure it doesn't unravel further.  Odds are this button hole won't unravel now, or at least, not before any of those other holes unravel again...

Anyhow, bing bam boom (as all those kids' cartoons say...), here's a vest.  I haven't worn it yet, but it is really a fine piece of knitting.  I didn't know the knitter, and I certainly would not have done it myself on such skinny little needles!  Even before I had twins, I did not have patience for this kind of teeny weeny stitches in a dark color.

 However, it is well worth saving.  I'm already looking forward to how I will use the rest of the yarn leftovers (doubled, in the case of the Donegal lambswool, of course) but mostly, I feel a profound sense of connection.  Throughout history, we anonymous knitters have created all sorts of clothing and works of art...and we've left plenty of UnFinished Objects (UFOs) behind.  My mom has willingly finished things for other knitters who have passed away and therefore have not been able to it themselves...a baby blanket, a grandchild's afghan, etc.  Now, I have joined the ranks.

I hope that in that great knitting group in the cosmic beyond, somebody sees this one and smiles.  It goes without saying, too, that I hope one day someone will cherish my leftovers, and do the same for me.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,