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!

Friday, January 11, 2019

PLY SOCK Newsletter SALE!

Big News!  My article on
 Breaking out of a Rut: Getting a new sock yarn groove 
is featured in PLY Magazine's newsletter this month!

I'm excited!  To celebrate...
Please save 25% off ALL my Rav patterns, including the sock patterns until January 14th!  (ends midnight, Central Time, US & Canada)

Use the coupon code:
and get the discount!

  Here are a few socks I've designed over the years, to get you in the mood. :)
Check out just my sock designs here!

Spin On!

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Catching the light

Since the last time I was here....well, time flew by.  We had school vacation until January 7th, and I just relaxed right into doing that.  Any work that got done was sort of accidental.  I did have one odd famous moment though.  I got called by a CBC reporter since I'd written a couple of opinion pieces on infill long ago.  (I guess no one else was in town!)  He asked to interview me, and then I appeared briefly in a TV clip, and a couple of articles.
In case you think that writers are big earners, well, not so's a link to a recent NY Times article that covers how little writers make these days.  (A recent Canadian Writers Guild piece said just about the same thing.  It's depressing.)
I did get paid for my initial columns, but I did the interview because I care about maintaining historic neighborhoods and creating intelligent zoning plans so that developers and architects don't get the chance to wreck the character of hundred year old neighborhoods because they think they are boring.  (How about what I hope for? --quiet, beautiful, and mature?!)
Once school started again on Monday, I threw myself into catching up with work.  I have managed to submit three articles in three days.  (I'm tired.)  It is also a really hard time of year to take photos of anything outside.  When we had a warmish day a while back (think, a high of 30F or maybe -1C!) and it was sunny, I rushed outdoors.  By comparison, it was sunny today....and around -18C or 0F.  With the windchill, it was more like -25C or -13F.  I still walked the dogs twice.  And yes--My kids still had outdoor recess.

In the vestibule between the front door and the inside door, we have a big coat closet area with a bench.  On the bench, you can find a lot of handmade woollies at any moment--just in case you need one.  For this "warm day" photo shoot, I grabbed some handmade things and rushed outside.

These photos are outtakes, but I wanted to share the snow, the sunshine and the warmth.  In no particular order, here are:
Distal (the red handspun shawl)
The Hole Inside Mitts (kid and adult sizes)
Thump Thump Mittens (good for Valentine's Day!)
Due North Mittens (2 pairs)
and one plain jane handspun mitten, no linked pattern, that I spun and knit about 25 years ago.  That pair's still going strong.

Happy winter sunshine, when you can get it...and yes, the snow stays on the ground here from November to April.  It only looks this nice after a snowstorm and before it gets dirty.  You can tell the houses with the kids and dogs because the snow is all trampled, like in these photos.  We take playing in the snow very seriously!

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