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?!

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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.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

making the best of things

I've been trying to see the bright side of things.  Really I have.  A few days ago, this article came out on the CBC.
Low loonie brings lustre to buying local, Joanne Seiff writes

I was keen to post about it, but on Wednesday night, the stomach bug disaster struck.  I was barely over that first cold when a 'healthy' twin (the first twin to catch the cold), was absolutely laid low by a second virus.  The poor kid was up all night, and so was I.  Roughly 4-5 loads of laundry later, we lay in a sodden mess on separate couches...and there we stayed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  By Sunday, the kid was well enough to go to dance class, and I went off to teach spinning.

So, what's the good news?

Well, so far, only one twin has had the monster bad stomach bug, and everyone but me seems to be over the cold.  I am hoping passionately, crossing all my body parts, etc. that no one else gets sick.  To give you an idea of how bad all this was?  I did not even want to knit.  Not at all.  I sat on the couch and just gave in to the yuckiness of it all.

However, my class went really well.  It was small, but I helped three new handspinners learn to spin. They were fascinating people and despite the tail end of my cold, I enjoyed it immensely.

Both twins seem to be on a foot growth spurt...which means the wool socks they own don't fit too well, and we seem to be wearing through and running out.  This won't do!  Here's a quick snapshot of the second pair of toe-up socks I've produced...this pair is almost finished, and the third is started.  I used Tiny Treads as a rough guideline and just jumped in.  It is hard to create generic socks that fit both boys, since they are shaped differently, but I think I've got it now.  I won't lie though, I am getting tired of little boy socks. :)

Also, we're hearing lots of updates from our relatives on the east coast of the United States.  They've had somewhere between 20-30" of snow (that's up to 76 cm, folks) in the last couple of days.  Once past the thrill of a snow day or two, cabin fever sets in.  I was reminded of someone who seemed absolutely boggled by the idea that we could not just go out to play structures at parks in winter here in Winnipeg.  (well, we could, but we'd need to wade through a lot of snow and it wouldn't be fun once we got there!)  The snow never melts here.  Instead, we play outside in the snow, we take walks with sleds, and we go out on the river.  (We'll likely go next weekend for the first time this year, I think.)

On days when it is too cold, or we are sick, we play inside.  The imagination games are endless...Here is one of the boys, with a paper collar around his neck (dress up) and he is playing "stage coach driver."  He has a horse stuffed animal in front of him, and he's used his big plastic cubes to build the coach.  When I asked where he was going, he said 'China town.'  (We'd discussed going out for Dim Sum that day downtown.)

Note: It was maybe -25F (-31C) that day, with the windchill, so maybe a sleigh would have worked better!?

Even so, the imagination keeps the living room interesting around here, from November to April or so.  Stay warm and dry...and please, avoid all those scary viruses, wherever you are! :)  Joanne

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cold Snap-a sale!

It's been genuinely chilly here the last few days.  (-40 windchills) Plus, we've been fighting a cold virus in the family; it's slowly making the rounds. One or two of us are sick at a time, which means that I've had several quality days at home with somebody sitting on the couch, watching kids' programming on PBS and CBC... but that's not all bad.

First, both twins suddenly made this huge connection... their Daddy (aka the Professor on this blog) is a scientist, and on an episode of Sid the Science Kid, they learned about how scientists use computers to do science and send emails reporting on their findings.  Whew, that suddenly explained why Daddy uses his computer all the time!  Pretty cool stuff to ponder when you are four and sick on the couch with a cold.  We experimented with an iPad later; we sent an email and watched it arrive, imagining it flying invisibly through the air.  Wow. Magic.

Second, I got to do a lot of productive knitting.  When I might normally have gone out to buy a birthday present for a friend of theirs or rummaged among our special home gift box, instead I stayed home and made a hat.  I used this pattern, but revised it to suit a girl who likes purple and flowers.  The crocheted flower rosettes were actually not made by me, either!  Long ago, I got them in a stash exchange, a half finished project was included.  This was some creative re-use!  Here's the project page on Ravelry.

NOTE: no preschooler noticed the photo shoot, was harmed in any way,  or even asked to move from his comfy spot while modelling any of this. :)

The skein of Quince & Co. Puffin yarn was really lovely stuff to work with, and I thoroughly enjoyed knitting up a second hat to be donated to a newcomer to Canada who might need woollies this winter. Information on creating a liner for the hat are included in these Ravelry project notes , these big stitches will not keep out prairie winds on their own!

Playing with this yarn made me realize that it would also work really well for Over, my new sweater pattern.  (Alas, with the current Canadian dollar exchange rate, I'm probably not going to be able to swing that, but another good Lopi yarn substitute might be  Briggs and Little Super here in Canada.

I also sent out a newsletter this week to my mailing list...(want to sign up?  Check out the sidebar to the right of this text on the blog)
and I included a little sale information.

I'm having a January sale.  Use this coupon code:
Cold Snap

and get 20% off of any of my Rav patterns or my eBook until the end of January.  Happy knitting!  Happy winter!  Now you can enjoy the sale too!

Oh...and don't forget!  Please remember to register if you'd like to learn to spin on Sunday, January 24th, here in Winnipeg.  I can't wait to meet you and spin with you!

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Monday, January 04, 2016

A new article- a new year- a new half-finished project...

I attempted to post this sentence somewhere around December 21st, while we were in Florida over winter break:

"We are on vacation, visiting family, but this article came out on the CBC:

Ditching online anonymity could actually make us better people"
but as you might guess, it didn't work.  In fact, I am not sure if it was the Blogger app, or juggling twin 4 year olds in a new place, or what!?  but I just got down to basics.  I gave up on the complicated online stuff, and focused on the essentials.

There were a lot of things to focus on: sunshine, sand, beaches, digging (our guys love to dig) and trying to keep them from killing themselves or others.  In the process, in the first week, we visited Sarasota, saw 21 relatives from the Professor's family (yup.  21.) and in the second, well, that was my family, and there were only (wait here....) 11 of us, getting together to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.  Yet, on the second week, we drove across Florida to Cocoa Beach, took our first ever cruise (Disney cruise), and you know, there were over two thousand people on that, and that does not count the crew.

We ended the vacation back where we started.  Our direct flight to Winnipeg left from Orlando, and if you have ever been to Orlando during winter break, well, even if you do not go to Epcot or Disney?  Even if you just try to drive to someplace for dinner?  Crazy making.

But?  It was warm and sunny, there were endless amounts of sand, and the boys met a lot of relatives. We had some important celebrating to do.

I think it would be fair to say that I am an introvert, and that I was absolutely peopled-out.  We are very glad to be home, in "snow time" again, with our dogs.  Yesterday, both twins cheerfully pulled on their snow suits and boots, and the Professor, our sons and dogs all went out to the front yard together to dig, move around about a foot of accumulated snow, and chase each other.  Ahh.  Home.

I will definitely be adding more excitements to other posts, but in the meanwhile:
Here is a quick snapshot of twin sweater #2, knit on #5(3.75mm) needles.  That's 2 ply handspun Shetland naturally brown yarn for the body of the sweater, and the collar is 2 ply, hand-dyed (by me) silk/merino handspun.  This is the only shot I could find where he wasn't moving at the speed of light.  The sweater already looks a bit worn= he likes it!

I brought a small Turkish spindle, a little pocket of Tussah silk, and some sock knitting on the beach adventures.  Each morning while we were in Sarasota, we took all our borrowed sand toys and walked to the beach for an hour.  I tried to sit still as much as possible, watch two boys constantly, and I fit in a bit of spindle spinning.  (More on that coming up, too.)

I plied the yarn yesterday, in between loads of 'coming home' laundry.  It's about 22 yards, for a friend who makes books.  She will use it to sew exposed bindings, I think.  It's shiny, skinny, and strong stuff--just a bit of gorgeous fluff can do with a spindle.

I'm continuing to use that Patons Kroy sock yarn.  I've always found it wears well, but am noticing that the most recent batch seems silkier than I remember...always good for little boy feet.  Their feet are growing like weeds so I need to get going on making more woolly socks!

Last, but certainly not least....if you're interested in picking up a spindle and beginning to spin, I've got something for you!

I'm teaching a Learn to Spin class on January 24th in Winnipeg.  It's a Sunday afternoon event, hosted by the Norwood Naughty Knitters, and it's designed to enable new spinners to walk away spinning on a spindle by the end of class.  You'll leave with a spindle, some wool, and a brand new skill!  Please sign up soon to get your spot!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Worry bear X 2

We thought we'd lost him.  Worry bear.
(also known as snuggle bear...but never mind.)

A month or two ago, one of my twins seemed to need some extra support at preschool in a few terms of feeling anxious and not behaving himself.

  (Developmental and physical delays are very common for twins, I've not gone into detail about it here...the short version is that it's a challenge, but slowly improving in many ways.)  

When I was in high school, I'd had a dear friend (still a dear friend, in fact) who also seemed worried a lot.  I made him a special felt bear, maybe 2 inches (5cm) tall, that fit in his pocket.  You could stick your hand in your pocket, touch your bear, and feel reassured...and although I still have that sewing pattern somewhere, it is small and fiddly.  I remember it being fiddly when I was a teenager, with all the time in the world.  It was clear I needed to make another one, and fast.

I grabbed some size 3 (3.25mm) double pointed needles, some Rowan Pure Wool dk, some wool stuffing...and voila, worry bear was ready by the time preschool was over that day.  Since then, worry bear has had a few accidental trips through the wash---thank goodness for superwash wool!  He is a bit smaller, and a bit more worn, but fine.  Until last Sunday.  On Sunday, the professor took the twins to their dance class.  I got to attend an adult ed. myself--an hour and a half of learning, knitting, and pure joy, let me tell you!

When everybody was back home, I noticed that one twin was wearing the other twin's sweatpants...and at the end of the day, we found we'd lost worry bear.  OH NO!

We made it through one day of preschool without him.  I applied myself to the task, using some of the new sock yarn from  Tuesday morning, worry bear #2 was waiting at the breakfast table.  There were complaints.  He was not just the same.  He was bigger.  Squishy.  (He had not been through the wash several times already!)  However, he hopped into a twin's pocket.  All seemed well.

I raced around doing chores for a bit, and vacuumed.  Guess what?  Worry Bear #1!  We found him!  He was just resting under the couch for a while....I guess vacuuming has some benefits after all!

At the moment, Worry Bear is just something out of my head, no pattern, no design forthcoming.  I did do Lambie and Doggie years ago, and they could be easily sized down with smaller needles and lighter weight yarn...but for now, Worry Bear is something we need here, at least in one four year old's pocket, so I will have to turn them out upon request.  Let's hope Worry Bear #2 is a good back up.  Just in case something goes missing again...which it is bound to, sooner or later!

In the meanwhile, I am just finishing up knitting the second twin sweater, and then it is on to more mitts, and wool socks.  We seem to have outgrown a lot of our socks...and it's finally snowy and colder today!  Maybe winter is really here now?  Two adults have already commented to me today, "Nice Snow!" or "It's snowing!" with glee.  We enjoyed the warm fall but snow a month late? We were missing it, I guess.  It's Snow Time, indeed!

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

The art of letting go

 Remember these mitts, the ones that came in various shades of purple, and just a stripe of gold, and that I finished maybe 2 months ago?  Oh yeah, those?  We've had a warm snap here, something unheard of in December.

The above freezing temperatures and sunny days all combined to create perfect tobogganing and playing outside for preschoolers.  The most fun on earth is to pile a bunch of 4 year olds in an old plastic kiddy pool (no kidding) and slide down the hill behind the school.  The hill is man-made, since we live on the prairies, so there are no trees in sight.  Perfect.

 After that, why not play in the wet snow and mud in the sunshine?  Sure!  Why not?  Why not felt your brand new mitts in the process.... (wet mud, melty snow, hot hands inside mitts, and tons of agitation.  Viola!)

After I carefully rinsed (no agitation here!) those mitts about 8 times, I realized the water had been dirtier than most fleeces I'd ever washed.  Also, I observed that the mitts were remarkably small.  By the time I got the whole story out of the four year old, I'd long since realized that the mitts were felted and....toast.  They will probably keep an infant's hands warm, but only if I do some serious triage first.  Oh well.

So, we're in the middle of Hanukah, and this is a low-key gift holiday.   Lots of candle lighting, sweets, singing, dancing, and fun. Yeah, you maybe get some big toys, but some nights?  you get Mommy's handmade mitten liners.  I took a pair of mitts that still fit, cut this out of recycled sweaters, and used the sewing machine....  Top one there is beige cashmere (less prone to felting than wool) and the bottom one is red, already felted, wool.  I do need to make another pair of mitts for the mud pie, felting mitts twin, but in the meanwhile, he can wear the back up mitts. (back up, acrylic mitts were knit by somebody who is friendly with my mom.)  If it gets cold enough, now we have liners to make those work.

The thing is, I've had a bit of a backlog in the knitting department.  Still working on sweater #2, and after that, I have to make some (superwash wool--no felting!) mitts, but wanted to mention this first.  I got a lovely package in the mail from  It's some Patons' Kroy sock yarn.  They've got a stunning range of colors  available, more than I would ever get to see at a big box retailer.  This is good solid wool yarn, with a bit of nylon to help make for hardwearing socks.  I'd ordered these colors for my boys, and they were thrilled by the selection.  However, they are not sure they want socks, they are showing more interest in having me knit up some worry bears for their pockets.  (little knit amigurumi bears, to hold onto when you are having a worry.)  Bears are waiting their turn in the knitting line up, but I've already heard from certain four year olds that the variegated blue at the left of this photo and the purple one, beneath, are the appropriate colors!

I'll have to see if I can squeeze some socks out of these, too.  Wool socks are a necessity for all of us in the winter time....

I know a lot of knitters would freak out if somebody went and ruined their work 2 months after they'd made it.  You know, played mud pies in the snow sunshine and destroyed their mitts.  I feel oddly detached from it all.  I know both my boys LOVE Mommy's handknits.  They are proud to wear all the homemade woollies I churn out for them to order.  So, I'm ok with making another pair of mitts...or two.  I think we'll need back ups.  In any case, I know that having more to make is ok because in the end?  I like to knit.  I like to feel valued and that my work is useful.

So, yeah, even if I made it, it's just a thing, and things can be replaced.  Here's something else--something that can't:
(caption:  We're talking on the phone to Grandpa while Daddy changes bedding.  Note the line up on the bed.  2 dogs and 2 boys....and no rough housing or fighting.  A miracle....just right for Hanukah.)

PS: We are finally feeling better around here.  Thanks for checking on us!  It was a yucky, exhausting virus.

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