Monday, 30 December 2013

merry belated xmas! (aka we're snowed in with knits)

merry belated xmas, everyone! it's a blustery day in manitoba, as pooh bear would say. the mrs. flew in (hurrah!) and we were meant to meet up with an old friend of mine for coffee, but blizzard conditions had us snowed in. so she got a sleep in after almost 24 straight hours of travel and i was cozy next to the fire with my winterberry shawl and cbc radio playing. not a bad plan b. 

the mrs. got me a magical unicorn onesie for xmas. best gift ever.
it's been a lovely xmas here in mani-snow-ba. cold, but lovely. i finished all the xmas knits with enough time to knit myself my oh bondage! cowl as soon as the digital copy of doomsday knits was out. apparently i have the first fo of the book haha! i do still need to find some leather purse straps for it. mum's suggested checking out second-hand shops for old purses to take apart, or going to the leather factory to see if they have any remnants that didn't make it to the shelves. 

doesn't matter if it doesn't have straps yet, it's bloody warm!
while trying to get all my xmas gifts mailed out before canada post significantly ups prices on new year's day (which are already high enough, thank you very much), we discovered it would cost me over $100 to send about half a dozen gifts, mostly hats. sorry, what? currently sorting out an alternative with my friends, but it does have me thinking about what i'm going to do for the etsy shop while i'm here. canada post also prices thing from post code to post code, so i can't even do a general price to any country. any canadian etsy sellers have a suggestion/methods for pricing your shipping? it's really making me miss royal mail in the uk. 

speaking of xmas gifts, i uploaded some pics of them onto sunflower knit's facebook page! you can check them out by following the link attached to this photo:

wolseley wool is having a january sale starting next week, so i plan on making a list and seeing what i can get within a tight budget. the mrs. brought me a suitcase full of yarn from my uk stash, so there will be a few new products in the etsy shop when i eventually figure out the whole shipping issue. expect some new cowls and floor pouffes...

Saturday, 21 December 2013

for the knitting designer in your life

i finished one of the xmas sweaters yesterday (finally!) and am working on the finishing touches of the other today. hopefully it'll be done by tomorrow...of course, that also means i've been wasting time on allllllll of the knitting websites. here are a couple ideas for the knitting designer in your life.

did you know that knitting graph paper is specially designed? rows and columns are not equal size when you knit, so designing, say, an intarsia design on regular graph paper (which is my current situation, but i've got a notebook i'm attached to at the moment) will give you a distorted image for your actual knitting. knitting graph paper is sized to accommodate for that distortion, giving you a more accurate idea of what your image will look like in real life. it's also often blocked using heavier lines to make counting easier (always a boon).

for the zero-budget/still-thoughtful gift:
the knitting site's downloadable individual sheets - these come in a few different size options and can be saved as individual pdfs on your computer. the cost is a bit of ink from your printer. you can even be eco-friendly and use the back of some old printings to save paper! (just make sure there's nothing important on the other side.)

for the slightly-bigger-budget/also-thoughtful gift:
fringe supply co.'s knitters graph paper journal - for those of you with a bit more money to spare/for those of you with a knitter in mind who has crazy ocd/notebook obsession/prefers everything kept together in one place, this notebook combines the awesomeness of knitting graph paper with the loveliness of a basic notebook. almost moleskine-esque in its simplicity. if moleskine ever comes out with a knitter's journal, someone send me one please?

the cheat sheet out of the knitter's graph paper journal.
toss either of these options together with a pack of coloured pencils, a spare skein from your stash or just some nice tea (maybe gather some of those mint leaves growing wild in your backyard?) and you have a fabulous gift for any knitting designer in your life!

happy winter solstice, everyone.

Friday, 20 December 2013

drool-worthy #2

as we all know, there are now 5 - count 'em, 5 - knitting days til xmas. which means, of course, that i am nearing the end of several projects and so am spending stupid amounts of precious knitting time on ravelry looking for my next project. i haven't done a drool-worthy pattern recently, but GUYS, GUYS, I FOUND IT!!!

is it not the most adorable little sweater for a wee one? i immediately thought about donning all of my (non-existent) spawn in these evergreen-covered bundles of coziness. it's called "anders", and is part of an ebook called north, written by sorren kerr and vivian aubrey. the other projects are also cute, but this one stole my canuck heart. 

this kid is rocking out in a handknit sweater and plaid pants in front of a fireplace with a bunny. awesome.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

peasant cookery

most of my time for the last couple of weeks has been spent sitting and knitting. there have been a few outings, but mostly, i've been in the house frantically trying to finish xmas gifts. so any excuse to get out of the house is more than welcome. tonight's excuse was an xmas party being thrown by my uncle rodney and auntie pauline at the peasant cookery in the exchange. 

it was an evening filled with new connections, a few business-y plans, and delicious food. the staff were absolutely amazing - on top of everything, friendly, and just generally delightful. one of the appetizers was oysters in their shells, so of course my crafty self naturally started hoarding my dad's shells for a project that's been in the back of my head. (it's an easy-peasy one that i may share via photo tutorial on here - take a peek after xmas.) a couple of other people at our table noticed my hoarding plate and kindly added their shells to the pile. one of the servers came by to clear things and started to take my collection, at which point i stopped them and explained (in my usual awkward manner) that i was collecting them. next thing i know, another server appears with a take-away container and a heavy brown paper gift bag to take them home in, as well as another container filled with more shells! seriously, these folks were amazing. 

these are actually oysters from peasant cookery, courtesy of the urban spoon.
the food was delicious - a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings. it tasted like the best homemade turkey supper your mom has ever made (assuming your mom knows how to cook). i had mine minus the stuffing and gravy to avoid the gluten. i made the mistake yesterday of cheating and eating a couple too many shortbreads, and paid for it in the evening. rather than being ill in public, i figured skipping a couple of elements would be appropriate. 

the company was wonderful. we met some new folks who were great to chat to, and caught up with some old friends as well. and, of course, got to see uncle rodney and auntie pauline. i'm trying to arrange a date with auntie pauline to make dreamcatchers and learn some of the traditions surrounding smudging. she's an elder, although she doesn't make dreamcatchers. luckily, some of her family do, so it'll be a group date! all in all, a much nicer evening than just sitting at home, watching sunday night television and knitting. i've done enough of that at this point to fill my boots for a while...10 days left. the countdown is on.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

hoe hoe hoe!

for years, i've had an xmas tradition with mumsy and a few hundred other people. this year, that number upped itself to 1100 folks. the tradition, dear ones, is going to my friend jp hoe's annual xmas concert, the jp hoe hoe hoe holiday show. (see what he did there?)

a world of pure imagination, courtesy of my iphone.
this tradition does tend to depend on whether i'm in the province in time for it, so i'd say that in the past 6 or 7 years, i've managed to catch 3 or 4 of them. not perfect, but damn if it's not one of my favourite events all year. jp is absurdly talented, and for years he's been selling out the park theatre within a few days of tickets going on sale. this year, he moved to the burton cummings theatre downtown, significantly increasing seats from 250 to 1100 spread over floor seats and two sets of balconies. and, wouldn't you know it, he sold out again. mumsy and i got our tickets early, so we were fine beyond battling a bit with ticketmaster's incredibly annoying methods for selling seats. 

this year also marks the first year jp is a dad, and his wife and baby were a couple rows ahead of us, with the wee one sporting massive noise-cancelling headphones. the life of a music baby! at one point, jp had him brought onstage for an "instragram opportunity", and while everyone cheered and posed, the baby slept like a rock. jp's song for his son was beautiful and heart-wrenching, which is no surprise. there were the usual shenanigans: jp opened with o holy night (which, if you remember, is one of my favourite xmas songs), fred penner came onstage for a short skit, and massive lollipops were brought onstage for the encore, which began with pure imagination (always a good choice) and jp sporting what looked like a cardboard top hat. my personal favourites this year weren't the holiday songs, although i did love them. no, they were the ones he wrote for the folks who help street kids and the inuit communities up north. i think i missed the titles, but i'm going to go with better soon and deliberate, respectively. hopefully they're either filmed or recorded soon.

jp is a delight to see onstage, and he's always a friendly lad to chat to after shows as well. so if he happens to be coming through your town/city/village/home (he does house concerts), be sure to check him out and support some fabulous prairie music. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

spirit of the season

mumsy called me this afternoon while she was out to tell me she'd just received two tickets for the huron carole, which is a fundraising concert tour put on by tom jackson to help raise money and awareness to combat hunger in canada. tom has said in interviews that he wishes the concert wasn't necessary, but it's back this year with 18 stops across the country, and tonight was winnipeg's turn. 

one of my aunties (you know, the ones who aren't blood-related but rather soul-related) is an old friend of tom's, and so mum went to chat briefly with him about auntie pauline and about the child nutrition council. i shook his hand, and friends, he has the warmest eyes you'll ever see. i was expecting one of those professional "nice to meet you, fellow canadian, i have ten other things to do before getting on stage in fifteen minutes but i'll chat with you for a moment" handshakes, but this was so much more than that. it was genuine, and warm, and kind. what a soul. he of course did need to get a bunch of other things done before the concert, and so after saying goodbye to him and briefly running into an old friend and some of mum's colleagues, we took our seats...row 4, centre seats.

i swear one of these days i'll use a real camera instead of my iphone.
the music was faith-based a lot of the time (there were country artists singing christmas songs - what do you expect?), but the tone of the evening was more one of giving and the (non-retail) xmas spirit than of just jesus. which was nice, and not so uncomfortable for me. and, i will tell you all this, o holy night remains one of my absolute favourite xmas songs. those soaring notes just make my heart swell and ribcage open. george canyon sang it at the end of the first half, and that man's voice filled the hall spectacularly. yup, i love it. so, all in all, a very lovely surprise of an evening. and we still have my friend jp hoe's annual hoe hoe hoe holiday show on friday! (tickets are still available for the second balcony. do it.) music, my friends, is the reason for the season. and kindness. that too.

very slow progress slowly progressing

i've given up on doing a sneaky knit for mumsy. it's two weeks until xmas, and i have to have this sweater knit, seamed, blocked, dried, and wrapped up before then. plus the other xmas knits i'm still working on. i've reverted to my usual holiday tactic, which is make the gifts under everyone's noses and just make sure that the finishing touches aren't seen before it's unwrapping time. i've been knitting the gift since yesterday and actually got through almost a full skein of wool today alone, but it's still slow slogging. it's nice to see it coming along, it would just be nice if it came along a little bit faster. and if my wrists and finger joints wouldn't act up. seriously, you guys, you can complain in two weeks as much as you like. until then, i need you to keep functioning. k, thanks.

for myself and all the other crazy holiday knitters out there coming around the home stretch, 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

oh my glob, all of the wips...

i've currently got three xmas knits on the go, plus just remembered today that i haven't made anything yet for my brother's girlfriend. i'll be making her these mount airy mittens by o-wool's jocelyn tunney. 

pretty, no? i'd like to start on them, but i'll be using leftovers from one of the sweaters, and need to make sure that i'll have enough. and that sweater is in need of wool wash, and the other sweater is a sneaky knit, and i finished one half of my brother's gift and don't want to knit the other. ugh, the issues of knitting. you get to a certain point with wips and then get bored and want to move on to another. i have my winterberry shawl to work on too, but with 17 days til xmas, i can't really afford the procrastination. sigh...

Saturday, 7 December 2013

knits in the freezing cold

prairie winters are notorious for being cold. growing up in the prairies, it was normal to have at least one week where the windchill dipped to -50 (although to be honest, anything below -30 is just cold). we've now dipped into the high -20s without the windchill, which means that the dog is able to do about three bounds through the three feet of snow and then her paws freeze up. the one good thing is that i get to practice my thai yoga massage on her paws when she gets in to get the blood flowing in them again. she's only slightly spoiled.

cold weather does encourage the knits, of course. i finally finished all the body pieces of one of the sweaters. now they just need blocking, seaming, and the addition of the collar/buttonband. i don't have any of the foam puzzle mat pieces that are so popular with knitters (mostly because by the time i started blocking large items with pins, i was already too poor to think of anything beyond groceries and xmas gift materials). luckily for me, mumsy put together a new cabinet recently, which left large sheets of 1/2" white foam in the garage. how convenient! i started on my brother's xmas gift last night, since working on mumsy's gift while she's around is too risky (i like gifts to be a surprise). i think i may need to start waking early or knitting for an extra hour before bed or something, otherwise her gift will never get finished.

yesterday i went to mondragon, which has been my favourite hangout in winnipeg since i was in high school. it's an anarchist-run co-op vegan restaurant and radical bookstore, and in recent years an organic grocery was added to the main floor. for years, it's been the place i feel most comfortable to go and sit and write for an afternoon. i'm usually more productive in cafes than at home or at the library. i've written a number of scripts at mondragon's tables. 

yesterday, i went for a lunch date with an old friend. she and i have been theatre kids together since we were 9 years old, and at this point, she's one of the oldest friends i still keep in regular touch with. we went to catch up, and also for me to offer her a potential job. i've applied for a grant (which went in yesterday afternoon) to do a short-term project here in winnipeg. i won't say too much about it, but i'll find out in january whether it goes through. between now and then, i have xmas gifts to finish and the mrs.'s visit to prepare for :) 

today mumsy and i went out to replace my winter wardrobe since it was a sale day. i always need socks and tights and jeans by the time december rolls around again. the weather was -23 before the windchill and then -37 with it, so it was proper boogers-freezing-inside-your-nose weather. it was so cold that while waiting in the car at one point, i couldn't continue knitting because my hands were too cold.

started on my winterberry shawl. it's a quick and cozy knit so far.
fun fact: cold weather also means the return of curling season, and we've been watching roar of the rings, which are the olympic pre-trials. non-canucks don't really get curling, but i can tell you, it gets pretty intense. especially if you're on the ice. it takes skill to throw a rock with the right weight and amount of curl. my parents met on their workplace curling team over 30 years ago, so it's safe to say that i wouldn't be around without the sport.  


Thursday, 5 December 2013

retail therapy and a whole lot of snow

i've had a tough past few days, which i don't particularly feel like going into. suffice to say, my breathing was shallow. luckily, things are looking up, and i'm at home with my parents without any major deadlines pressing on me to worry about. i've spent a fair amount of time knitting, and a couple days ago went out with mumsy for some retail therapy.

we hit up velvet plume's open studio sale. velvet plume is a small-scale business run by a lovely married couple. their kids are adorable, and the clothes are gorgeous. i bought a wrap from them at folk fest a few years ago when i needed layers for the dance studio, but this was the first time i was able to attend any of the open studio sales. it was lovely, and mum and i had a great chat with them. we left after buying this amazing skirt, but needed to pick it up later after new wood buttons were made and sewn onto my specific chalk marks. i popped my name into a draw for custom leggings as we left. imagine my surprise when my name was drawn! conveniently i'd already had my eye on a pair at the sale, but decided on the skirt instead. karma gifted me both, i suppose. thanks, karma.
check out those buttons and that stitching!

after the open studio, we visited a new-to-me yarn shop, wolseley wool. it's actually fabulous, with a solid selection of brands like malabrigo, handmaiden, lopi, and all the cascade you could ever ask for. seriously, so many colours of 220. it's great for my commissions and sweater queue. i picked up two skeins of eco+ to knit tin can knit's winterberry shawl. it'll be a bit chunkier than the original design, which calls for worsted, but i'm happy to have a slightly larger lap blanket anyway. i'd like to get started on it now, but xmas knits take priority. 

i'm testing out larger pics since mumsy's camera is actually high quality. look ma, no iphone!
if you take a peek at the snow coming down at the moment (it hasn't stopped yet), you'll understand why i'd be keen to get a large shawl on my needles.

our dog buried up to her face in snow. she loves it, the weirdo.
i'm doing better today with expanding my lungs. breathe easy, friends.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


i've fallen a bit behind due to travel and not sitting in one place for very long until yesterday. i'm back in the prairies with my family and dog, which is really nice, and i'm knitting away as ever. how do you do sneaky knits when people are around you all the time? anyway, there's not too much to report since landing, so i'll keep this part short and then give you a recap of the past few days instead. 

oh, the etsy shop has gone on holiday until i'm back in the uk. i'll be adding new items at that point, but you can keep an eye here on the blog for sneak peeks.

(side note: i've been doing a tubular cast-on for the sleeves of a sweater i'm knitting. whoever invented tubular cast-on should be smacked over the head. i don't care how pretty the result is. it's the biggest pain i've come across in knitting in a long time.)

a list measured by time and movies (written nov. 27)

my day has been spent primarily in transit. i was on the ferry at quarter to six this morning, then on a three and a half hour coach, spent almost nine hours on a plane, and then two hours on the bus/subway/bus journey from the airport to my friend’s place.

the mrs. was too ill to come further than the ferry. she’ll be joining me on the prairies after xmas for a visit, but this bit will be the longest time we’ve spent apart. it’s especially strange given that we live together and so see each other basically every day. luckily, she has the cat to cuddle and i’ll have the dog to cuddle once i hit winnipeg. it’s a bit of a cushion for the pining that’s already setting in.

the good thing about long flights is that you can watch a load of movies. i watched four absolutely stunning films, all fabulous in their own way. the way way back was just precious, a perfect coming-of-age story that didn’t have a perfect ending, just enough hope at the end to let reality be alright. the lesser blessed was a canadian film based in the northwest territories, and was brutal, but beautiful. i love the north, and wish i could go up there more often. hopefully next summer...another canadian film that i watched was blood pressure, which was a fascinating and devastating story based in the prairies. one thing i enjoy about canadian films is how many of the stars got started in degrassi. clearly that’s the way to go if you want to do film back home. and then there’s what maisie knew. if you love kids, this one will break your heart.

i’ve been getting a fair amount of knitting done as well, of course. finished off the right front of dad’s cardigan, and started again on mumsy’s project after a false start a few weeks ago. i would have kept going on dad’s, to be honest, but i forgot my smaller set of needle tips. they were in my checked baggage, of course.

after finding my way eventually to my friend’s house in scarborough, i ventured out again to meet up with another dear friend in cabbagetown. let me just say, that for being a major city, toronto’s transit system is nowhere near london’s. while it’s a lot more relaxed in toronto, i was not a huge fan of needing to wait 20-30 minutes for street cars and buses again. my friend and i had a nice catch-up over thai food, and she gave me a gluten-free baking book for xmas. i’ll have to post some pics of the first recipe trials i do from it.

after the meal, i tried to catch up with the friend i’m staying with. unluckily for me, toronto orientates itself entirely using directions, and given that there aren’t exactly trees with moss growing on certain sides that i can check, it was kind of inevitable that i’d get lost. i waited for half an hour for a bus that ended up going in the wrong direction (later learning that i would have reached my destination if i’d walked fifteen minutes in the other direction). i decided to just head back to the house when i reached the far end of the route, since i didn’t want to risk getting stuck on the other side of the city after the subways stopped running. ah, adventure time! (written on nov. 29)

toronto was a pleasantly surprising pitstop. i've always said that i'd never live in toronto because it's big and unfriendly and expensive. then i moved to london, and let me tell you, toronto's got nothing on london in terms of those things. i was walking through the eaton's centre yesterday and people actually stepped to the side rather than careening into me. oh canada, you and your glorious manners. i missed you. although not all your political scandal. that's just embarrassing.

the main reason (well, the only real reason) for my visit to toronto was to get my next visa application done. canadian visa applications are a convoluted and expensive process, and there are only a few cities where you can even do them due to biometrics (winnipeg is not one of them). so, extended layover in toronto. luckily, i have quite a few friends living there, and one of them put me up for the two nights. it was lovely staying with her, and her parents. we went out on the full day to shop and deal with my visa. queen street west has some of the best shopping i've ever seen. and the yarn shops! we went to romni wools before the appointment, but it was just totally overwhelming and so i didn't get anything. after the appointment, we went back and checked out knit cafe (which is like the loop in halifax, just with an espresso machine). i was drooling over all the madelinetosh, but canadian funds were a bit low and there wasn't enough tosh dk in firewood to make tin can knit's winterberry from pom pom. so, i ended up with one skein of cascade 220 for my brother's xmas gift. 

then we continued on back towards yonge street, checking out various cute shops, including the paper place and americo, which is by far the sexiest knitting shop i've ever walked into. i ended up leaving with a skein of copito medio in a mottled red. i'll be using it for the "oh bondage!" project i wrote about a little while ago. 

then we met up with an old friend of mine for supper. we ended up at this delightful french restaurant called la palette, and ate some really delicious food. they serve horse meat! (it's a french thing.) they also had a gluten-free beer, which was way more exciting. here's a pic of our bill, mostly because it was hilarious. 

the "something from belgium" was a beer.
afterwards, my host headed home while my other friend and i went for a coffee and a catch-up. we've got a pretty long history at this point, and have seen each other through some crazy stuff. it was really lovely to sit with him for a few hours and talk life and theatre and mental health stuff. it had been a while since the last time we did that. i headed home after a few hours, and my host friend and i stayed up for another few hours talking. it's nice to have the opportunity to catch up with friends you haven't seen in a couple years.