Thursday, 21 August 2014

gratitude in plentitude

i've been reflecting a lot since coming back from nova scotia (since leaving red clay, really), and have been antsy in a restless sort of way that is creative and productive and flighty all at the same time. i'm not sure that any of that makes sense, but one thing that is very clear in my mind is how much gratitude i have for my life right now. when i think of the past year that i've had, i can't help but bless my heart and thank my lucky stars.

this time last year, i was barely making ends meet, finishing my master's degree, moving again, in a shitty situation, and having so much anxiety that it started manifesting in a tight chest and inability to get a full breath and painful lumps under my arms. i had some really shitty things happen, and was scared of being stuck in a situation i wasn't sure how to get out of, and was just generally really unhealthy while trying to convince myself that things were fine. over the winter, i finally broke and then spent months pressing the reset button, hunting for the person i had left behind before moving to the uk and losing myself there. i remembered that person, and knew there were parts still left inside me near the surface of my skin, but there were other parts that i was scared were lost, or buried too deep to bring back out to fresh air. 

humans are resilient creatures though, and i'm happy to report that i'm not an exception to that rule. old and new friends reminded me about things that i cared about, and i started to spend time with people again in happy silences and deep belly laughs. my eye crinkles deepened, and i remembered the little things that i used to do to make myself happy, and i started to do them again. and opportunities popped up, and i followed them, and they worked themselves into these magical situations that nourished my soul.

my white rabbit program profile photo. photo credit to the marvellous brian riley.

and so here i am, one year later. i've been out of school for the first time in my life for a year now. i've spent the summer working at one of my favourite places in the world, with lovely friends and hilarious kids. i've completed my first art residency as a professional artist, or at least not as a student anymore (in the institutional sense of the word), and fallen in love countless times, and spent time recently with some of the most important people in my life, and added a few new people to that list. i'm moving out again and in with my best friend of ten years, and starting a full-time job with benefits that will still leave me so much time to do my own work because i'm used to working on a bajillion things at once and 40 hours each week really isn't that much time, and those hours outside the 40 are even more luscious when i'm not stressing out about making rent each month. and i have so many projects on the go in the most wonderful way, and my body is craving so much nutrition, and my face hurts from smiling most of the time. and there are beautiful creatures in my life. so, so, so many of them. basically, i'm happy. and it's really wonderful. and that doesn't mean i don't have days of melancholy, or bouts of anxiety so intense i feel like my skin will crawl off my bones, or moments where i get incredibly angry about shit that has happened in the past and that i haven't let go of yet. those things all still happen. but i think that they're supposed to. it's a balance. and the balance happens to be tipping more heavily in the eye-crinkles-and-heart-bursting direction these days. and that is fucking beautiful. so thanks, universe, and thank you, beauties in my life. i'm really enjoying my ride through the cosmos these days. and you're a huge part of the reason why. 


Monday, 18 August 2014


i'm back in flatland after a whirlwind visit to utopia, aka the white rabbit residency and open air art festival at red clay studios in upper economy, nova scotia, where i spent a week living and loving on a scale higher than i can remember ever happening before. it's hard for me to describe, especially as i shift back to functioning within normal society (not the easiest, especially given the amount of overstimulation from things reliant on electricity and groups of people larger than thirty). i think that maybe i can't express how much it meant to me, because i don't have the vocabulary for it. the verbal  vocabulary, at least. i have the physical sense memory of emotions and feeling love so strong and vividly for people who were strangers hours beforehand that my heart seemed to want to explode out of my ribcage. and staring at people directly in the eye for the length of a conversation and truly being present for the whole thing and feeling a visceral reaction to the stories they shared. and falling in love so so so easily with so many people in little and not-so-little ways. and then having to return to the rest of my life after that experience, and not really knowing how to do that, and feeling totally overwhelmed by so much sadness and loss and longing, and crying into my friend's arms on his doorstep, and then thinking to myself, i have lived so much in the past week, and that is why this hurts so much, and that is not a bad thing. 

i stopped taking real photos at a certain point - i'm not sure exactly where or why - but you can see quite a few others on instagram as well. and we had a truly wonderful pair join us to provide documentation of all the projects, so once i receive that material, i'll share what i can with you. and you can check out white rabbit's own photos from the week here. in the meantime, here are some photos of my week as a rabbit, and some of the beautiful people i shared it with. the theme of my week seemed to be remnants, of various sorts, physical and otherwise. read into that as you will.

xo ash

my beautiful friend, sara. 

hitchhiking home with this goofball.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

abigail, revised

i've been preparing for my residency, which has involved gathering various items for the different projects i'll be working on. 

old pickle jars are great for natural solar dyeing, assuming you can get the smell out of them...
i'm going to play with natural dyeing while i'm in the woods, and then make projects with the materials i play with once i get back and settle into the new house. i'm taking 80g of the undyed tfa blue label, with 75g earmarked for yellow onion skins and eventually turned into my glenveagh mitts. i think the herringbone will be rather dashing in the yellow, and onion skins are a pretty safe bet for dyeing to a reliable colour. the silk is going to be eco-printed with various things i find out in the woods and in the compost heap, and will probably be dyed with onion skins or possibly carrot tops as the main wash. then i'm going to turn the huge piece into a dress, and the scraps will find their ways into other projects. it's all one big experiment since i'm still very much a beginner when it comes to natural dyeing, but i'm excited either way. i've pre-mordanted both silk and yarn with alum just to make sure whatever gets used does set. rusty nails could find their way into the dye pots though…

much of my suitcase is being taken up by gifts on my way there. these undies are belated birthday gifts for my cousins. i particularly like the burnt orange ones! might need to make myself a pair at some point... i'll also be collecting sounds and vibrations to build a soundscape for my next performance, which is turning more into an installation piece in my brain right now. the fashion show is blending in a bit as well, so the concept may have a variety of incarnations over the next year or two. i'll keep you updated as i make things and organize events, of course.

and finally, my knitting for the ten days i'll be away. shannon has launched the summer sweater kal (#sskal, for those of you participating), and i've had this sweater in the queue for months and months. i'm changing it a fair bit though, to make a design that fits into one of the fashion show looks. abigail is more a template for me now. there will be a lot of lace, and normal stockinette rather than reverse. and i don't know what i'm going to do about the collar yet. i like the overall shape though. obviously i won't be releasing a pattern for this particular piece, because a) i'm using abigail as the main guidelines and don't anticipate making major mods to the actual math of any of it and b) grading large garments is still something i'm not super comfortable with. i'll keep notes of my modifications though, and mention them in my ravelry notes. the sskal runs until september 24, so that's plenty of time to get stuff done, i hope! and i really wanted a project that would last the whole trip and not require taking a bunch of different needles that could get lost. plus, this shouldn't require too much swatching and testing, so i'm safe to actually take the project and trust it to work out how i want. and the nbk is for a second sample (that will be for me!) of another shawl i've designed. i've already started it and will probably have it  nearly finished by the time my flight lands tomorrow evening. we'll see how much i get done while i'm away!

i'll be taking photos and updating you all, don't worry. we have internet access. i think…in case we don't, please be patient with me in terms of pattern support and/or purchase issues. i've been pretty quick with responses so far, but escaping to the woods is escaping to the woods. and once i'm back, i'll be releasing a new shawl pattern! i did the photo shoot earlier today and i am very very VERY excited about this one.

bonus: check out the results of my natural solar dyeing adventures so far! the first pic is of avocado and yellow onion skins on wool and cotton jersey. the second pic is of various flowers, leaves, and compost remnants eco-printed on cotton jersey in an avocado/alum bath. whee!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


hot on the heels of double scoop (which sat at the number one spot on ravelry's "hot right now" list for  the whole past weekend - wow!), here's an older pattern which i'm finally releasing…

oh, haiiii there!
meet flopster, your new favourite multi-season floppy hat!

fyi: it was 30 degrees when i took these photos. i put on shirt, hat, socks, and shoes for you folks. you're welcome.

flopster has been my go-to pattern now for about a year. it's the perfect basic design (with three inches of ribbing!) for a comfortable, well-fitting worsted weight hat that is cozy enough for spring, fall, cooler summer nights (especially if you end up hiking in the mountains), and most of winter, even brutal canadian prairie ones. i usually switch to a thrummed hat at the -40 degrees celsius mark, to be fair, but before that, you're golden.

photo courtesy of stuart window.
flopster is the absolute best for stashbusting and being a blank slate for fun colourwork experiments. i have pages of graph paper with various choice words charted out. one of my very first flopsters, actually, was this "cunt" version, which i made for a very dear friend who loves the word as much as i do. i'd promised them a hat years ago after we'd met while chanting the word at a rally, and it took me a while, but i think the hat was totally worth the wait in the end. 

of course, you can also do not-swearing versions of colourwork, or just busting as much yarn as possible (my own hat last winter when i had even less money than i do now and a stash of worsted weight remnants from various sweater projects), or adding adorable patches to them. this fox was a patch i found during my uk travels, and was the perfect addition to a warm handmade (now very belated - it'll be delivered this week) holiday gift for my favourite mr. fox. 

flopster is available for download from my ravelry and etsy stores for $4.50. as the seasons slowly start to change and school supply sales descend upon us, it's the perfect quick knit to have ready for that first chilly evening by the fire.

i am an overheated gremlin...
yarn yardages: about 45g, or 100 yards/91m of worsted weight yarn
needles: 4.5mm/US 7 (either 16"/40cm circulars PLUS dpns OR long enough circulars for magic loop)

Saturday, 2 August 2014

double scoop

in my last post, i mentioned being featured in tanis's round-up post for the june shawl kal. then i thought, i wonder about those other kals i did…, and went to check them out. turns out i was featured in dianna's round-up for the vasalong AND as the top photo for shannon's round-up of the tops, tanks, & tees kal! wow! thanks, folks. it's so lovely to see my projects being so wonderfully received by others. which leads me into my super exciting news…

I WON THE WOLSELEY WOOL SHAWL CONTEST! EEEEEEEE! and now i can finally reveal my pattern, and you can actually get a copy yourself.

meet double scoop, inspired by summer and ice cream cones.

this shawl is designed to use one or two skeins of fingering weight yarn. there are instructions given for working it in either one or two colours, although the multiple sections could certainly work as a stashbuster as well. the sections are worked alternately in slipped stitches and a simple lace design, with welts separating each section and a picot bind off along the bottom edge.

skills you'll need: slipped stitches, yarn overs, k2tog, knit, purl, kfb increase, picot bind off

if you use alegría, make sure you set your shawl to soak with some vinegar to hold the dye. it's a bit of a bleeder…

yarn yardages: small - 425 yards/389 metres of fingering weight yarn
large - 630 yards/576 metres, or 65g/273 yards of colour a and 85g/357 yards of colour b if working with two colours of fingering weight yarn
needle: 4mm/US 6 circular needle, min. 80cm/40” cable length

(i used madelinetosh tosh merino light for the larger shawl and manos del uruguay alegría for the smaller one. it was my first time using tosh light, and i 100% understand why people love it so much. i can't wait to get that one back and get to wear it. it's like having a cloud on your shoulders.) 

my head is blurry, but it's the shawl that's important anyway.
you can grab a copy from wolseley wool between now and manitoba fibre fest on september 6. you can also download it for free from my ravelry store during that same period using the code "mbfibrefest", then after the kal ends, it will go up to $6.00. i'll be taking prettier photos after the kal ends and i get the samples back, so maybe there will be a discount applied until the pretty version is ready… either way, i can't wait to see everyone's projects!

thank you so much to wolseley wool! and a huge thanks to my wonderful test knitters, kaley, patrick, maren, and charlie! if you're a designer and haven't already done so, find yourself some test knitters! their feedback is invaluable, and it's really useful to see how your pattern turns out on someone else's needles. it'll give you a better idea of how gauge, yarn yardages, and clarity of instructions work out, before you send it out into the world and get inundated by strangers asking about that particular vernacular you use and forgot no one else understands…

my "it's the end of the day and it's really hot and the sun won't cooperate and everything is blurry" pose.
and here's a pic of the very first prototype. it was partially an exploration of the things you can do with an ombre skein besides just letting the colours fade in and out. i used hilori's magical yarnorium silky in snakes. why'd they have to be snakes?, which is a deliciously soft blend of 30% silk and 70% merino. the sections didn't turn out exactly the way i wanted them to, which is why this one never made it into the actual samples. mum came up with a clever idea about hosting a kind of "closet clean out" once or twice a year, in which i sell off samples and gently used knits that haven't been getting the kind of loving normal wear of my other knits. room for more knits? good idea. she's so smart. anyway, this shawl is one of those destined for the clean out. i think the first clean out will probably be at the fashion show since i'll also have a booth there, so it's just another reason for you to come check out my collection this winter!

ok, so here's the bit where i go a little bit into shock and awe over the power of the interwebs, and the online knitting community. i released the pattern a little over 24 hours ago, and since its release, double scoop has been downloaded almost 5000 times. and some people have even opted to pay for it! it's incredible. i was thinking i'd be super excited if 50 people liked it, and it's managed to get to the top of the ravelry hot list within its first day! i actually have been stumbling around a little bit in shock and glee. it's just so rewarding to know that people like the pattern. and i'm so excited to see people's projects! oh my goodness. gah. love love love. i've got a few other patterns that are in the test knitting phase, although i doubt they'll have quite the response that this one has. who knows though. goodness. okay, i'm going to get back to knitting because i actually have test knitting to do for someone else right now. and my cousin's partner is going to be going into labour at any moment and i still need to finish their gramps cardigan. yeesh! oh knitting, you're so wonderful!