Happy 150th Birthday Canada!

I was born in British Columbia, Canada, to German immigrants. I can only imagine the courage it took for my parents to leave everything familiar, pack up what little they had at the time (and despite knowing very little English) take the long trip to this amazing place that I now call home. I’m glad they did.

I love Canada!

Anyone who has read a few of my blog posts will know that I love fibre arts. I love anything to do with fabric, thread, yarn. That love comes directly from a long line of fibre-loving women from whom I descended. You may not know that I love music just as much. This love of music was also passed down through a long line of music loving ancestors.

I am a

  • Classically trained singer,
  • Vocal teacher,
  • I’m a songwriter and

I play

  • piano,
  • guitar,
  • flute
  • and a bunch of other instruments

(though no where near well enough that I’d want anyone to hear those). My parents told me that I sang before I spoke. I remember being able to memorize songs after hearing them a mere 3 times as a child. (Those days are in the past).

On July 1st this year, Canada celebrates 150 years.

It got me thinking about the songs that I have associated with Canada Day since I was a child. I hope you can humour me as I take a Canadian trip through my musical memories and share them with you.

The first video link I want to share is a song called “Canada Is“. When I first learned this song in school, I was struck by how much there is to this country. It made me feel so proud to be Canadian. My teacher would laugh at me because I could never get through it without sobbing. I still get sentimental and proud when I hear this song and I still can’t get through it without crying.

This next video is a delightful spoof on the previous song as performed by the Muppets in Montreal back in 2012.

This next video link is to C-A-N-A-D-A. It wasn’t until my children were all grown up that I stumbled on the following Video sung by Raffi. If I had known he had recorded it I would have played it for my kids along with his other CD’s that we played endlessly!

And if Canada Is made me cry, you can only imagine what this next one did! I had no idea that there was an American version of this song until much later. When I heard it, I was convinced they had stolen our song. Of course, that’s silly. When I was 10 years old I learned the chords for this on my guitar and fully intended to sing it at a school Canada Day assembly. My teacher had me sing it to her before clearing me to be on the program; she gave me 3 tries and finally ruled that although the sobs of pride were endearing, I really did need to be able to sing it without crying. I wonder whether I could do it now? LOL

One of the things I love about the CBC is the Canada Vignettes video shorts that have been tucked between programs for as long as I can remember. One of my all time favourites (besides The Cat Came Back) is the Log Driver’s Waltz. There is just something so delightful about it that I just never get tired of it. Here is the link:

I could go on, but that would be straight-up self indulgence! I am deeply grateful to all those that came before me who made this country what it is.

To all the First Nations peoples and the countless immigrants who evolved this country into what it is today, I thank you.

I love my home in the Monashee mountains of British Columbia and I wouldn’t trade it for all the world.

To all my fellow Canadians: Happy Canada Day!

(Judy does a happy dance a la Kermit the Frog.)

And next week, we’ll get back to yarn-ie stuff again. 😀

Image by Harry Sandhu

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Shifting Perspective

I doubt it matters where you live or who you are, life perpetually lays before us an unending series of challenges and responsibilities. It just is.

Life is life.

When it gets overwhelming it’s important to carve out time for the things that bring us peace, pleasure and a way to break from the pressures and responsibilities of life.

As owner operator of a small business in a small town, I talk to a lot of people. I consider it a privilege that my regular customers allow me a glimpse into their lives. What I have noticed is that without a doubt, we are all the same. Yeah, the flavours of our challenges vary a bit, but it’s the same for everyone. Life is an ebb and flow of experiences that range from delightful to dreadful with every conceivable piece of the spectrum in between. Life is life.

When I start to feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities and the challenges they present me it’s easy to feel like I’m alone in the struggle.

But I’m not.

That feeling of overwhelm is very real. It can undermine my capacity to function well. And we all face the same struggle, every day. Often what feels like a struggle to me pales next to the woman whose daughter is recovering from a brain injury and is not the girl she was before her accident. Wow! Sharing stories about our struggles can help us to let go of the pressure (if only for a little while) and to reset our perspective.

Since opening my business I have been striving to find a healthy balance in life. It’s really easy to let business take over and the needs of my customers become the most important thing in my life.

But that’s not healthy.

Years ago a woman told me that the work she did to earn money was just a way to earn money. She had no attachment or sentiment toward that work. It was simply the thing she did so that she had the money to live her life. She considered the time outside of her work hours to be her life. Part of me admired her detachment while another part of me tried to imagine whether I was capable of doing that… or would want to.

I think for me, the bottom line comes down to perspective. When the current perspective results in undue stress, resetting it is vital. There was a time when I believed that to show anyone my struggle was a sign of weakness. I have mostly been that little duck that seems serene from what you see above the surface of the lake, but whose legs are busy, paddling like mad to keep it all together. These days, the people closest to me recognize that life is life. We can be there for each other without the need to compete, judge or blame. And what a relief that is. It makes resetting perspective so much easier.

There was a time when sewing was the thing I did to break away. Now of course sewing is my livelihood. So at the end of a day of sewing for my customers, sewing doesn’t offer me what I need for myself.  These days, knitting is that thing that I carve out space for. It’s my oasis; my mental health break. I love the fact that it can be meditative, or challenging or fun or all of that. It can be a quiet personal retreat or it can be social.

One of the things I love about our “Social Saturdays Stitching Circles” is that it creates a regular scheduled time to sit and knit with other people; to talk about our lives; to share in an activity that brings us joy, peace, and a wonderful creative outlet; to break away from the usual routine and all those responsibilities.

It’s a time to make sure that my perspective matches my core values.

Most important it’s a weekly reminder for me that it’s the close relationships in my life that deserve top billing, always.

Who knew that knitting could be that powerful?

Fair Isle Explorations

It’s been a week of knitting exploration for me. I mentioned two weeks ago that I signed up for my first ever sock knitting competition. Although the competition officially starts on July 15th, the bonus “warm-up” pattern was released upon signing up. It was a stranded colour-work pattern. Something I had not done before.

Since signing up I was motivated to complete the two pairs of socks that I had on needles. I finished them both and then proceeded to take on the warm-up pattern.

Here is a photo of the completed “Gimli” socks that I showed you two weeks ago.

I loved making these socks. The pattern was challenging; even more challenging because I chose to knit them in black yarn. I swear that black yarn truly sucks all the light from the room like Albus Dumbledore’s “deluminator”. If you don’t have excellent light your chances of messing up increase exponentially. Of course, the sense of accomplishment is fantastic completing something so challenging. These were a gift for my son and have since been sent off to him.

The other pair that I finished was Hermione’s Everyday Socks. If I do this pattern again, I will cast it on 8 stitches smaller than the size I usually do. There is not a lot of stretch in the pattern and they ended up bigger than I expected. They feel a bit like slipper socks on me. They were easy to do and I love the heel on them.

The warm-up bonus pattern for the sock competition is a secret to all but those participating in the Tour-de-Sock competition.

Because of this, I will not give the name or show any photographs of the sock or links to the pattern until after the competition completes in September.

I was excited to get the chance to do some colour-work without the pressure of competition. The last time I attempted colour-work was about 27 years ago so I thought I would do some research before I got started.

I’m so grateful for YouTube!

I found the following videos very helpful. The first link is to a playlist of videos about Fair Isle Knitting. It was definitely worth taking the time to watch numerous videos to take in the tips and get an overview of what to watch out for.

 

 

I learned a lot making this pair of socks.

Normally I like to knit socks two at a time (2aat). Because this was a new technique to me, I thought I would work one sock at a time to minimize any confusion. In future I will definitely knit them 2aat.

Adjusting the tension on the colour-work is a bit tricky. The floats (strands of yarn that span more than one stitch on the wrong side of the work) need to be kept loose enough and at an even tension so that they don’t make the sock too tight or inconsistent. On the first sock, because this technique was new to me, my tension was quite controlled (snug). It was loose enough that the fit was good and I managed to keep it even by tugging my row every 15 stitches or so to make sure it wasn’t too tight. The contrasting stitches didn’t show up quite as well with this snugger tension though.

The pattern recommended changing to larger needles for the colour-work section and I didn’t listen. So I guessed at loosening the tension and it shows in the second sock. By the time I did the second one I was much more relaxed and when I loosened my tension for those sections, I actually loosened it more than on the first. The contrasting stitches show up really nicely on the second one but the sock ended up a bit larger. I would definitely knit 2aat and change the needle size for the Fair Isle portions on future patterns that use this technique.

All that said, I’m very happy with how they turned out.

Fair Isle knitting (stranded colour-work) can be done holding the yarns in a few different ways. You can hold your main colour with whichever hand is normally your dominant knitting hand (left for continental and right for English) and the contrasting colour in your non-dominant knitting hand. You can also hold both yarns in your left as a continental knitter. I thought I would push myself to develop my muscle memory for English style knitting. I normally knit continental style and working one yarn in Continental and one in English style was definitely something to get used to. I did find that by the end of the first sock it was going fairly smoothly. Once I got kind of comfortable with it, the knitting actually went quicker than I expected.

It was definitely important to keep track of my rows. At each section of the pattern I drew two rows of little boxes to represent the number of rounds needed. I checked off the boxes as I completed each round. This way when I got to the second sock there was no confusion about how many rounds were in each section.

I am excited to try another project with a Fair Isle design so that I can fine tune these new skills. Perhaps I need to design a Fair Isle inspired hair band? Hmmm there’s a thought.

Summer Hair-Band #1

I have a new pattern for you today. I got tired of doing dishcloths so I thought I would shift to something different. I have long hair and it is always coming loose and getting in my face when I’m trying to work. I thought I would make a series of hair-bands out of 4-ply yarn for summer. I wanted the first one to be super easy so it can be knitted up in front of the TV once the pattern is established.

The hardest part about this pattern will probably be choosing the buttons to coordinate with your yarn. It features a staggered eyelet pattern that will allow you to adjust the size to your needs. It does tend to curl along the long edges, although blocking helps with this.

This is a great project to use up little odds and ends in your leftovers bin.

I had some self-patterning cotton sock yarn leftovers that I used. I’m very happy with the way it turned out. As a summer item, I’d suggest using cotton, linen, bamboo or any combination of those fibres. Obviously you can use wool if that’s what you have. I used sock weight yarn (4-ply/fingering) but you could use thicker yarn if you like, it would just come out wider. You work the patterned section to your head measurement and then add a section to sew the buttons onto. Because of this as long as you are happy with the width you get with a thicker yarn, you can absolutely make it work. If you use a thicker yarn, the amount (weight) of yarn you need will be different than what I have listed.

What with finishing up projects, gardening, work and the upcoming sock competition, I don’t know how many patterns I will be able to create this summer. I will play it by ear and see how it goes. I want to have a variety of hair-bands for myself, and that may be what motivates any new patterns that I come up with. 😀 I have a few ideas in mind; it’s just a matter of the time to do them up.

I hope you have fun with this pattern.

And here is the pattern!

Socks on the Brain…

I am midway through creating a new beginner/novice knitting pattern design that only Wonder Woman herself could possibly finish in time for this week’s blog. I have to work today and knitting all day (although I personally LOVE the idea) is simply not an option. Hopefully I can have that ready for next week. Oh, and

it’s not a dishcloth. 😀

Meanwhile, I just signed up for a sock competition called Tour-de-Sock! This will be my very first sock competition and there is a part of me that is stoked beyond imagining and another part of me that is utterly terrified. LOL

tour-de-sock.com is where you can find the information about this FUNdraiser for Doctors Without Borders. I have joined a team that assures me that they are pretty laid back knitters (so I won’t be expected to sneeze out socks). There will be six patterns and I won’t know what they are until each respective pattern drops. The specs have been posted so I can start choosing coordinating yarns in anticipation.

Most of all, I want to get my current sock projects completed before the July 15th start date.

I’m working on a pair of black socks using the “Gimli” pattern from “The Fellowship of the Sock” book. I just want to say, “Woah, Nelly!” Knitting intricate patterns into socks in black yarn is not for the faint of heart! You need extraordinarily good lighting to be able to see. It took me a while to get it just right and boy, this pattern is a pain to fix if you make a mistake. Once I got used to it I really liked it though. This is definitely not a beginner pattern. As of today, the first sock just needs the toe grafted and I’m about half way through the heel flap on sock #2. These were far too complex for me to feel comfortable knitting two socks at a time. I absolutely love these socks. I may very well make this pattern again one day; just not in black.

The other pair of socks I’m making is called “Hermione’s Everyday Socks”.

Hermione sock progress

The challenge for me in making this easy sock pattern was not in the knitting, but in NOT obsessing about having my self striping yarn correspond exactly from one sock to the other. Don’t laugh! This was a big deal for me. See in the photo how offset the stripes are from each other from sock to sock? My normal approach is to cast on as many times as is necessary to make certain that both socks are identical. To just cast them on immediately in succession without even looking at how the colour-way was lining up was essentially b**ch slapping my desire to have control over the outcome. It may sound silly, but my heart was pounding the whole time I cast them on. As I knit each round (as you can see I cast the two socks on at the same time on two circular needles) I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. It was seriously so stressful to me that I would hold my breath for far too long. Then, once I got to the point where I could see the colour-repeat from the first sock show up in the second, all that stress dissolved. Now, I’m really enjoying them.

I feel like I conquered something in the process; and that felt fantastic!

I hope to complete both pairs of socks before Tour-de-Sock starts so they won’t distract me from focusing on the competition.

Have a wonderful week!

Rearranging

Over the long weekend we completely rearranged the store. If you have been here before, you won’t recognize it!

Isn’t it funny how when you imagine rearranging,

it all seems so straightforward and seamless in your mind?

And then you get started. Because the stuff is all switching places, you have to move a bunch of things to make some space to move the other things into before you can then move the first stuff to where it’s supposed to go.

Yup, then that perfect plan you have imagined in your mind’s eye? Well it turns out that the laws of physics prevent that from existing without employing some sort of inter-dimensional parallel universe… well at least that’s what happens to me. My step-son and I spent well over an hour trying to arrange the thread cabinets before we finally abandoned the original vision and put them somewhere completely different.

My sewing department was so cramped that it was frustrating and stressful to work. We now have a large area where my many industrial sewing machines have room for me to work comfortably. I didn’t realize how cramped it really was until after the move. It’s such a relief now that it’s basically done. It will take a while just to get used to the new work flow. I’m sure I’ll be tweaking it for a while to make it nice and efficient.

The yarn and notions displays are a bit more compact, but still roomy enough that several people can be browsing without being in each others’ way. The new area made it a lot easier to group all the craft supplies together; the knitting tools; the crochet tools and the yarn as well. It’s actually easier to find what you’re looking for now. I’m still hoping to come up with a better way to display the patterns.

We set up a separate table for me to work at so that the old cutting table is available all the time for cutting yard-goods for customers. We also have an incoming counter for doing up work orders for jobs and a separate check-out counter for handling sales and out-going work. Best of all, Irene and I are no longer tripping over each other. YAY!

Of course, it wasn’t actually on my radar to do all that on the long weekend. I was expecting to be sewing; I’m a little behind with that now. We definitely needed the entire long weekend to manage it. Even with me, my sweetheart and his grown son we had to put in very long days to have it mostly done in time to open on Tuesday. Then, on Tuesday I was vacuuming and dusting and cleaning in general for most of the day. Wednesday I figured I earned a day off. I left Irene in charge and took a day away. And now I just need to get the sewing caught up, which I hope I can do over the weekend.

Isn’t it amazing how much chaos you have to wade through to create order? But it’s so worth it!

Lacy Twigs Dishcloth

Ta-dah! I have a pattern for you today.

The Lacy Twigs Dishcloth includes a 4-row lace pattern repeat. It results in lacy columns that reminded me of woven twigs or climbing ivy. On either side of the lace columns are stockinette (stocking stitch) columns. It has enough going on to make it fun to watch it develop; but it’s still easy.

There are a couple things to pay attention to in this pattern.

I have you starting the pattern immediately after the cast-on. Most often you would either knit or purl a row first. I did this purposely so you can see how that affects the outcome. I think it’s pretty. (Besides, I was getting bored of the seed stitch border routine.) Knitting the first row of any project can be a little troublesome, even when you are just knitting it or purling it. It’s tricky to knit into the cast on stitches. Don’t get discouraged if you feel frustrated establishing the first row. Yes, it does kind of suck. But once you get that done, you’ll be fine.

Be patient and just take your time with it.

Rather than knitting or purling the first stitch in each row, you will be slipping them. This gives a different look to the edge of the work. On the right side rows you simply slip the first stitch as if you were going to knit. On the wrong side, with the yarn to the back, you slip the first stitch purlwise. Easy squeezy!

The decreases this time include K2tog-TBL (knit two together through the back loop). This awesome and easy little stitch results in a left leaning decrease without doing a SSK (slip, slip knit) or a SKP (slip, knit pass). It is a perfect compliment to the K2Tog (knit 2 together) on the mirror side of the pattern repeat. It lays nicely and looks sharp.

I included a wee chart with only the lace pattern repeat. Once you get your foundation done (your first 4-row pattern repeat), you will be able to see easily how those stockinette stitch columns sit between the lace. You won’t need the full chart to follow along once you have that in place. However, I did include the full chart so that you can have an overview of the entire project.

Remember that the symbols have 2 meanings:

  • one for the right side of the work;
  • one for the wrong side of the work.

This will likely only potentially confuse you on your foundation rows. Once you see the pattern develop you will be able to tell what you need to do on the wrong side rows at a glance. (Yes, honest, you will. 🙂 )

I hope you have fun with this project. I have some ideas for some other fast and easy projects that I want to create patterns for over the summer. I can’t promise that they will appear predictably regular or anything. My life is pretty full these days and I do have to sleep and eat from time to time. LOL 😀 My hope is to offer some projects that would make quick but nice and useful gifts. I want them to be interesting and fun to make without making your head hurt. Sound like a plan?

And hey, feel free to leave me a comment if you’d like. (Well, as long as it’s a nice comment.)

Oh, and

Happy Victoria Day weekend

to my fellow British Columbians! And for everybody else:

happy long weekend

of whatever sort it is wherever you are. Cheers!

And here is the pattern!