Thursday, 31 December 2015

glance back, step forward

this will be the third year in a row that i look back on my year and plan some resolutions for the upcoming one. the rule of three is a good one in my books, and 2015 has certainly been an incredible year for me.

last year's resolutions were as follows (i've crossed out the ones i accomplished, or at least worked on a lot):
-host at least two shows this year (art/fibre/performance)
-finally get my half-sleeve…i've been planning it for five years now
-dance more often
-cultivate the openness i felt at my residency last summer
-do more residencies
-collaborate with inspiring people
-learn the ukulele? (this one is dependent on when i get Ășlfur back)
-indulge in all aspects of food - the growing, the prep, the eating, even the clean-up
-do things that make me happy, and reevaluate things that don't
-listen to my gut
-continue playing with and learning about natural dyes
-find the ritual in the everyday
-work on my photography skills
-escape to the woods more often

-fix up my website and actually keep it up-to-date
-get better at grant writing
-love my feet (this is an ongoing process)
-learn to drive…again

not too shabby! of course, a lot of this can always continue, but i'd say 2015 was pretty damn great. you can go listen to my latest podcast episode if you want to hear a bit more detail of the major things i did this year.

A photo posted by Ash Alberg (@sunflowerknit) on

my resolutions and goals for 2016 are as follows (like i said, a lot of last year's can carry over too):
-publish my first book
-finish at least six selfish knits
-cull my wardrobe to items i really love and wear, with as much of it me-made or handmade as possible
-refine my sewing skills with large and small projects
-relearn how to balance eating healthy with crazy working deadlines
-get my septum pierced (i've been thinking about it for about three years)
-reconnect with my body regularly
-keep at least one plant alive for the length of its natural season
-engage in everyday ritual
-love openly in all aspects
-continue growing self-awareness without self-judgement
-use my colouring book
-take time off without feeling guilty (this can be five minutes, an hour, a day...)
-stay on top of my emails and communications
-check my bank account regularly to help with financial management
-say yes more, and also not be afraid to say no
-go on more nerdy friend dates
-make tiny coven collective a thing

2016 will be a good year full of projects, i know and feel it already. i have a large project in the realm of my conceptual craft practice that i'll be able to reveal in the coming weeks. the book will take up most of the year with its various steps. i'm hoping to have my program in arts and cultural management totally completed by next december. several shows and collaborations are already in the planning/scheduling stages, and i'm crossing my fingers that tiny coven collective gets off to a good start. and i'll finally get back to nova scotia after a year and a half away from it. watching it from afar, there's a lot that makes me happy about not currently living there, but there are a lot of people who i love and miss who are still there, and i always always always miss the ocean. it's an ongoing ache in the centre of my bones. visiting the waves and feeling the salt on my skin this spring will be a really beautiful experience. 

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

me-made wardrobe 2016

it's nearly time for my annual reflections post, but first, i figured now is as good a time as any to talk about other resolutions for next year: my slow fashion wardrobe goals for 2016. i'm not sure how many of them will actually come to fruition, but currently this is what i would like to accomplish over the coming 12 months when it comes to adding to my wardrobe.


i've had this shirt on my needles since 2013. it's so close to being done! i just never get around to dealing with it because, well, it's a selfish knit, and my design deadlines have been so ridiculous lately that it's just never a priority. but i do really love it already, and it will probably only take a couple of days and some blocking to finish up. so i will hopefully get around to it after i deal with the book's knits. maybe i'll take it on the airplane with me when i go out east in march. it would make for some good plane knitting, and probably be finished over the course of the flights.

i bought this sweater's worth of rios in 2014 with the intention of knitting myself a lila with it. someone's instagram post about their own lila recently made me feel like that should go to the front burner. it's a pattern i know i could whip out over about a week if i really needed it, and the sweater construction would be a good reminder for me. regardless of whether it's lila, hana hou, levenwick, or escher (or maybe all of them!), i would really like to knit at least one selfish sweater for myself this year from someone else's pattern. working from other people's patterns is one of the most useful tools i have as a designer because i learn so much from working through each one, but i haven't had the opportunity to do it for a while because my own design work takes priority. but i know it would be beneficial for both my wardrobe and my skill set to continue working from other people's patterns, so hopefully i can squeeze in at least one sweater in 2016.

i bought this yarn only a few weeks ago, and have a design in mind for it that i've been wanting to do for ages. i'm adding on one of grace's buttons too. it'll be a design first and foremost, but it's also then going to quickly find its way into my everyday wardrobe. mwah ha.

there is totally not a theme of purple happening here at all...nope, not even a little bit.


all of the wikstens! i love this pattern a lot and have already sewn two of the dresses. i'm going to sew another for the photoshoot, and i will probably sew another one on top of that. they're quick, a great way to use a multitude of fabrics, and a fabulous wardrobe staple when it comes to the way i layer.

i have a slightly ridiculous obsession with vogue patterns...

i have a substantial backside, which i have come to love, but it means that dresses that start off at just the right length don't need to shrink by very much to suddenly become more of a tunic that has a very high likelihood of riding up. i always wear either shorts or yoga pants under my dresses anyway, so it's not that big of a deal, but a number of the dresses recently have really become tunic length. and i just can't quite get myself into the whole leggings-as-pants thing. so i think sewing these pants out of a lovely darker linen will save some of that - they have pockets, i can practice sewing pants (a fear of mine) out of something not too terribly fitted, and then i can at least say i'm wearing pants under my dresses/tunics/now-it's-really-just-a-long-top. 

i'm sewing myself an elisalex for my twinsy's wedding, which is thankfully still ages away. i ordered the actual fabric i'll be making it out of, so up first will be a muslin using some stash fabric i've had forever, then getting mel to help me figure out the exact fit and any mods i may want to make, and then i'll make the actual dress. 

ohhh lulu is one of my favourite lingerie pattern designers. 

i want to sew more lingerie for myself. that shit is expensive, and if i can get the black lace myself (ahem...or if i already have a massive bag of various types of black lace in my stash), why not make some of it? it'll improve my sewing skills, it doesn't involve having to deal with either the mall or hunting down a small boutique, and maybe someday i'll get good enough to not have to buy any lingerie! other people can maybe buy me some sometimes. lingerie as a gift can be great, if the circumstances are right and the person doing the buying is smart about it. 

i'm subscribed to seamwork by colette patterns (and now so is mumsy!), so i'm sure i'll have random projects that pop up through that over the year. 

other stuff

i want to make more things with bones, and go on foraging hunts for bones and dye stuffs, and just generally make all the beautiful things. so we'll see. the more money i save by working through my stash and foraging in the woods, the more i can save! or put towards new ink. or both.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015


i can't believe i haven't already mentioned this on here yet, but my first professionally published pattern is now available! reflect is available in amirisu's issue 9: winter blues, or individually here on ravelry.

photo courtesy of amirisu magazine.
the design was inspired by a workshop i took back in the spring with sylvia olsen on the coast salish tradition of colourwork. the herringbone border is worked using that method, which involves weaving in your yarns rather than carrying floats. much faster and more intuitive in my experience, and doesn't involve tangled cakes of yarn or too-tight tension. the main body knits up fast with a slipped stitch repeat that looks like vertebrae in worsted weight yarn. i used julie asselin's amazingly gorgeous leizu worsted in fjord with a border in touareg and birch

photo courtesy of amirisu magazine.
i had a great time working with miyoko and the rest of the amirisu team on this one. they took such incredible photos of it! and that model's style is on point.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

taking time, and making time

i've been in go-go-go mode for so long, i can't quite remember the last time i took a proper moment to sit and focus on only one (major) project. after this weekend, that's my plan. at least for a couple of weeks.

last friday was the opening for my when nature fought back exhibit at manitoba craft council. i had a great time, and want to extend a huge thanks to the 57 folks who came through over the evening, my mum for helping out with running errands and just generally being awesome, tammy and corrie for having me, and to mel for being my host and also my social buffer for the evening ha. large social events as an introvert are interesting and frequently exhausting exercises, but they're also great. the exhibit is up until january, so pop by during office hours if you can!

my body, of course, decided to start relaxing as soon as the exhibit ended, which doesn't exactly work for me because i still have to be functional until after this weekend. and when my body relaxes after a project, it also tends to shut down because it's worn out. i've been in constant nearly-nap mode for the past few days despite work, selling at fa la la!, and getting to spend five hours helping a friend do hardware install on one of his projects (invaluable experience, because i still don't really get the electronics side of things and hands-on experiences will help cement that in my brain and muscles). this weekend will be the last big push with the ruby street studios holiday sale, and then i can chill for a little bit and focus on only one thing - knitting the samples for my first book.

for those of you who tuned into the first episode of my podcast (a new exercise i started last week and which i'll be attempting to put out consistently for at least the next few months), you already know about my book plans. but for those of you who haven't heard yet, i'm writing a book. it'll be a book of knitting patterns, available in e-book and also hard copy form, and i'm planning to release it next fall. i'll be able to talk a little bit more about it in april, after spending time with my dear one in nova scotia and doing the photoshoot for it in march along the bay of fundy. but until then, you just need to know that i'm working on a book, that it's the focus of my knitting time over the next few months, and that you'll be able to get your hands on it sometime next year.

i also received some news last night which i can't share with you yet (probably not until january, actually), but it's incredibly exciting and will allow me to take my conceptual craft practice in a whole new direction. it will be big, and juggling it and the book will probably get rather interesting. which brings me to my next point...

i've been thinking about how to balance my time better (i'm actually signed up for a webinar this friday with tara swiger on exactly that subject). the reality of my current situation is that i work a 40-hour work week outside of my home, completely unrelated to my personal practice, and when you factor in the travel time, it's really more like 50 hours that i lose every week. which is fine, because it pays my bills and forces me to not be a hermit and is teaching me skills that are useful in other aspects of my life. but it also means that i have significantly less time to devote to the various threads of my practice. and so i have to prioritize. which i am not always good at, but i need to try, purely out of necessity. so.

i'm keeping the etsy shop closed over the holidays (it's closed right now anyway because of the studio sales). after the holidays, i'll reopen it, but i'm not going to worry about keeping it regularly stocked. maintaining a full and comprehensive etsy shop is a lot of work, and realistically, i don't really sell my yarn much online. i'll continue making stock for in-person sales, and fill wholesale orders, and i'll keep some undyed bases on stock so that if someone wants to place a custom order, i can fill it quickly. this will save me countless hours of photographing and listing orders that basically sit on an online shelf until i sell them in-person, and then i have to remember to pull them from the shop. because natural dyes mean i can't just repeat colourways in a consistent manner, i need to photograph every single item that goes in the shop, and i just don't have time for that these days. so this is the solution, at least for now.

so in the new year, if you want to order corrie, or perfect sweater, or mermaid hair, or ecoprints or gradients or 80/20 sock, you absolutely still can. and you can order regular or large stitch markers too. but i'll be doing dyed-to-order instead for the yarn, and hopefully that works better for all of us. and if you want a set of five of hearts, don't forget to ask your lys to place a wholesale order. they can grab some mermaid hair at that point as well (those are the two options available for wholesale orders, just fyi).

Saturday, 28 November 2015

small business saturday to giving tuesday, and all of the in-between

this weekend is black friday, small business saturday, and thanksgiving sunday (in the states), followed by cyber monday and giving tuesday. i have conflicting feelings about all of it except for giving tuesday, including small business saturday. despite running a small business myself. despite offering sales over this weekend. despite despite despite...but this year, i've been unpacking it a lot more, and i've come to some conclusions. which are open-ended. like most of my conclusions. i'm learning more and more that absolutes aren't really a thing in this world. 

use code SHOPSMALL this weekend in my ravelry store.

black friday was an annual event that started in the states - huge doorbuster sales offered by massive corporations on the friday before (american) thanksgiving (i'm not going to touch my issues with thanksgiving, because that's a whole thing in and of itself that involves talking about colonialism, genocide, white privilege, and a whole host of other awful things - go do some research about indigenous peoples' day here in canada, which is a great alternative). of course, with our economies so intertwined, canada soon followed suit with black friday. small business saturday grew as an attempt from the small business community to redirect shoppers away from the big box stores, especially as so much of the advertising is centred around holiday gift shopping. cyber monday is the result of the online world (ahem, amazon) jumping on the consumerist weekend bandwagon, and now giving tuesday tries to redirect some of that spending into donations for charities. 

i am conflicted about all of this because it goes against so many of my morals (specifically black friday and cyber monday - i strongly believe in supporting small/local/independent businesses as much as possible, and donating to charity is important for a lot of reasons). it's consumerism and capitalism in their purest forms - buy these things for a holiday, and fight all the other people (sometimes literally) to get them because procuring them will make you a better parent/partner/friend/family member/person in general. plus this way you can beat all those fanatic december shoppers. shopping for random shit we don't need feeds into a throw-away culture, a culture of worker exploitation, a culture of angry shoppers who think it's appropriate to take out their frustrations on retail workers being paid minimum wage which isn't enough to pay their bills and definitely isn't enough to justify the abuse received at the hands of total strangers.

this is great and important, even in the smallest ways, if you're financially able to do it.

but my being able to say maybe i won't shop this weekend. i'll abstain from the whole thing and use my dollars in another way/at another time comes from a place of privilege. because by saying "not this weekend", what i'm really saying is "if i really need it, i can afford to buy that thing at full price some other time." and that's major. we are in a society where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing all the time, and the have-nots (those who end up in those shitty exploitative jobs, or maybe there's not even a job available for them for a million possible reasons) have to participate in the consumerism of black friday weekend. not even because they feel the need to get the latest toy for their kid (although the amount of cultural shaming for not "providing" for your child in this way would certainly be enough incentive for a lot of people). but because they need new winter coats because last year's are too small or are too worn out for even mending to help. or because they need to replace their sole computer, which is barely working (and nowadays, being able to function within our society without constant access to the internet and to a personal computer is getting harder and harder, and for those who choose to not use one, that's often another choice stemming from privilege - they don't need to access their work schedule that's sent out last-minute every time, or jump on the parent/teacher sign-up because they have a limited window of availability between their two jobs without benefits). and if they can get a good winter coat or computer that will last them ten years instead of six months because that item is on 70% off, who are we to judge them for doing that? 

and as a small business owner, it's hard to not jump on the bandwagon. especially when so many others are doing it. especially when it means the extra sales might mean i can afford that electric winder that speeds up my ability to wind my yarn post-dyeing, saving me literally hours of work and my shoulder joint. and especially when it means that maybe someone who couldn't afford the full price of my pattern but who felt too shy to ask about it now can download my pattern and buy the wool to knit their dear one something with love. 

so you see, i don't think there's a clear solution. not in our current climate. yes, shopping with our dollars is a strong political statement every time we choose small over mega, indie over global conglomerate, artisan over mass-produced. but, as gibby says, that sentiment often comes from folks (and i will include myself in this):
"sipping lattes in coffee shops
with people who talk radical art and politics
while making no mention of the amount of privilege it takes
to have the option
to not shop at walmart"

i think, ultimately, that choosing to partake in black friday and the like, or not, is a personal choice. made for many reasons. and for a lot of people, that choice might not even really exist due to a lack of privilege. so you do you, and i'll do me, and leave the shaming - all of it - out of it.

Friday, 27 November 2015

why so slow

i've been taking a mini-programmable electronics workshop over the past couple of weeks through video pool here in winnipeg. andrew milne has been leading it, with help from andy, and there are seven of us in the workshop. all of us are artists looking to work electronics and new media into our practices somehow. by coincidence, three of us are textile artists (kelly was the one who reminded me to sign up). we are learning about analog versus digital, coding, ttl and cmos, how to build arduinos, the whole bit. all crammed into about 16 hours spread over four evenings. it's basically been a crash course into "here's electronics, here are their fundamentals and math and basic theory, here are some ways to apply them, try to build some shit, get past that initial fear so when you leave here you can jump into this with a little bit of comfort." and it's working. somehow, it's sort of making sense. a little bit.

plaster hands for the when nature fought back exhibit next week. trial and error and settling happily on imperfection.

i started investigating (in the most rudimentary of ways) the incorporation of new media into my practice during my master's degree in london. i studied aurality (the study of sound, not music, within the context of live performance) and started doing my first explorations into installations. when i got back to winnipeg, kelly was actually the one to introduce me to the new media scene here through cluster festival. i am fascinated by the idea and possibilities and theories behind interactive installations; how people interact with situations where they are given few concrete instructions (but where many unwritten rules, like how to behave in an art gallery, are a given); how to build soundscapes to manipulate an audience's emotions and journey (in a consensual way, if that makes sense). i'm also fascinated by the incorporation of electronic media into traditional craft - what if you knit a sweater that is somehow fitted with sensors, in a way where they're not just plunked onto the finished fabric, that then feeds a soundtrack and light show within a gallery space? the workshop has been very useful for learning major limitations to my imagination within reality, which is helpful.

huge blown-up photos from the photoshoot by leif norman. they'll be aged and burned and find their way to exhibit walls.
electronics and i have a lifelong and complicated (it's not me, it's you) relationship. i just don't get it. i'm great with math, theory makes sense, and i know what i want the output to be. but when it comes to programming the fucking circuit board, forget it. there is some level of magic that just doesn't quite connect in my brain's synapses. i'm starting to get a little bit better with it, but i have nearly burst into frustrated tears literally every single night of this workshop. electronics make me irrational. so why, given all of that, would i find myself being drawn to the most complicated, slow, arduous means of programming? and by that, i mean working in analog and using serial sequencing.

i don't totally grasp the concepts yet, so i'm not going to attempt to explain them, because i'll probably get most of it very wrong. but the philosophy is so beautiful to me, and it fits into my practice so nicely, that it just makes sense. analog is slow and often painful. you do things by hand rather than allowing a pre-programmed digital component do the work for you. even if you are a novice at whatever you're doing. even if the digital program could make you seem like you're an expert. serial sequencing is similar in its theory - things happen step by step rather than all at once. one component speaks to another which speaks to another, and you get this whole dialogue and conversation rather than the singular monologue of parallel sequencing. and if you fuck up with serial sequencing, good luck. you need to go through the whole chain until you figure out where the error is. but you take the time, and make the time, and ultimately, if you ever figure out where it went wrong, you understand the whole series much deeper by the time you unravel it. 

my textile process is slow. i knit hundreds of thousands of tiny stitches to make a single garment over a series of days and weeks and months and sometimes years. if i make a mistake that i can't bear to live with, i sometimes rip back three hours worth of work and spend five more fixing it and getting back to where i was. i make things with my hands, which are progressively getting achier and more creaky every month. i will most likely have early onset-arthritis by the time i hit thirty from the combination of repetitive movements and my genetics. right now, as i type this, my left index finger's top knuckle is sending pangs through the rest of my hand, and that's because i spent about five hours today knitting while also doing other things. there is no logic to this, if we were to look at it from a purely productive standpoint. i could have bought that sweater. i could have done other things with my hands that were not so repetitive. i could not spend an average of 60 hours a week knitting and making my finger joints into angry little demons. 

but that's not the point. the process of knitting is also a process of self-awareness and discovery and reducing anxiety and constant learning and of pure, unbridled love. when i knit for someone else (seldom these days, but there are specific situations where i fit it in), i try to practice mindfulness and intention, setting each stitch into place with as much peace and love and caring that i can fit into it. it's not always successful. in fact, it's often not successful. but that's part of the process, and part of the self-discovery. i learn more about myself, and about others, and how i and we and all of us connect together through the slowing down of life and making things stitch by stitch with my hands. which is why analog and serial sequencing just make sense. yes, they are electronics and they will be frustrating as fuck and i will get angry and cry because i don't understand why the hell the stupid doohickey isn't working again. but that will be part of the process, and it will inform and suggest and lend itself to the theories of interconnectivity, and community, and taking time, and making space, and failing, and spending more time figuring out how and why you failed before slowly getting back to where you were before you failed. that's the way i prefer to work. art is an extension of life, and the simulation is just not the same as the precision and messiness and effort that is the real thing. so i may as well do it the slow way, and the end result will be so much more fulfilling, and isn't that the point? that we swell with emotion until we feel like we are going to burst out of our skin and our hearts will escape their rib cage? 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

winter is here

global warming seems to have delayed winter for a lot of us here in canada this year, but it's finally making an appearance here in winnipeg. luckily, it gave me enough of a break to walk the boxes for wolseley wool's retreat this weekend over on knit night (i don't live that far away, but let's face it - who really wants to carry two huge boxes anywhere when there's ice and snow?). the appearance of snow heralds several things for me: the annual random half-hour nosebleeds (none yet, knock on wood); xmas crafting, or at least the dreams of xmas crafting (i should probably just do that in july so i actually have time come december); watching the family stone on repeat and crying every single time at the end (yes, i am a huge crybaby). 

this year, it also means juggling the when nature fought back kal, which i am actually participating in insofar as i'm using it as an excuse to knit ashtyn's harvest moon; prepping for the ruby street studios holiday open studio sale (see the above note about xmas crafting...); pulling myself together for my first fridays exhibition with manitoba craft council; trying to get these final 6 patterns that have been in the queue published before the end of december; making xmas gifts (my list of people to gift to is significantly smaller than it used to be, but it's still a bit ridiculous, plus i rarely buy gifts for people, and if i do, they're carefully sought out from other makers); attending approximately one bajillion workshops and art shows; updating my website because it is in such a sorry state and i really should get a more polished and updated look going with all the projects that are popping up; and working on a really huge project that i am so excited about and also terrified for. things are chugging away with it, but the holiday season really does steal my days away from me. in the most beautiful and family/friend-focused ways, but still. 

so here are some updates, in photo form:

don't forget that the when nature fought back kal runs until december 1st and there are prizes!

prince charming is my latest design! it's a super squishy brioche cowl that is perfect for keeping your charming ones warm this season, and it's 50% off through december 24th!

yellow brick road is currently an exclusive design for wolseley wool's retreat, but it will be made available on december 1st to the rest of you through ravelry! 

tiny specimens that will be seen at the exhibit.

when nature fought back will be up at the manitoba craft council office at 553-70 arthur street from december 4 to january 4. i'll be there on the first evening for the opening with cookies and wine. come say hi!

the first annual ruby street studios holiday open studio sale (i will figure out a more clever/shorter name someday...) will be at my home studio on december 12 and 13 from 10-4 each day. rsvp here. melanie wesley and kami goertz will be joining me with their fabulous fibre offerings, and i'll have more five of hearts sets (available in-store and in-person only!) and stitch markers to fill your stockings with!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

scheming, or, how to fit it all in when you have no time

over the past two weeks, i have confirmed and settled a number of rather large aspects of a project i'm working on. it'll remain a mostly secret project until next spring, but if you've been following me on instagram, you already know the main gist of it - i'm working on another big collection! more details will be released over the coming months, but for now, just keep in the back of your mind that i'll be making some pretty exciting announcements next spring.

your welcomer into ruby street studios. 
so what does this have to do scheming? well, it's a rather massive undertaking. and one that i am doing while working a 9-to-5, taking an arts and cultural management program, and doing multiple shows and sales. i also have been picking up more occasional shifts at my other job and am doing several workshops in just the next month or so in a variety of areas that will ultimately help me be more skilled and more efficient at my work and practice. but basically, i don't sleep all that much these days. 

my concept of balance  isn't exactly that balanced, except in terms of one type of work versus another type of work. days off don't exist for me. to be completely honest, i don't do well with days off. my idea of relaxing is knitting something that doesn't involve too much of my brain while watching netflix, and maybe taking time to bake something. maybe if it was easier for me to escape to the woods, then i could add going for hikes into that. then i would prefer to hike, sit for a break on some rocks or along a shoreline and knit, and then hike some more. that would be a lovely day off. but i am a non-driver, and right now i live in the middle of a city that is surrounded by farm fields rather than woodlands or oceans. so my days off really just resemble slightly less intense work days. which i did do on wednesday, so i am proud of myself for that.

none of this should be taken as a grumbling. i'm doing all of these things because i either a) love it so much that i enjoy pushing myself to the limits that i am or b) don't love it that much but it's a necessity to be doing what i love. the main lesson i'm trying to learn with it all is to not guilt myself if i take a break and do nothing for thirty minutes, or an hour, or if i lay in bed past 8am on a sunday (probably i have worked until 1 or 2am on saturday anyway). the guilt is the thing that's the hardest to deal with. especially when you're a naturally anxious creature already. it's a learning process. part of that process is becoming more efficient so i'm being smarter with my time, and another part is learning from mistakes when i fuck up (which is relatively often), and then letting go of the guilt that lingers after dealing with those mistakes.

oh, speaking of being busy, when nature fought back will be at the manitoba craft council office at 553-70 arthur street from december 4 to january 4. please go check it out! i'll be there on the 4th as part of the first fridays exhibition, and i'd love to say hi to you. otherwise, you'll be able to pop in all month during their office hours. i will have a very wonderfully furry lookbook for you to pet, among other things. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

manitoba craft council

i really, really, really love our craft council here in manitoba. i've managed to wiggle my way into it in a variety of ways, but the funny thing is that i still don't totally feel like i belong in the inner circle. probably because i'm surrounded by artists who have been honing their craft (literally) for a couple of decades rather than the few years i've been seriously at it. but everyone is so welcoming, and nerdy in the most fantastic ways, that it's hard to not fall in love with everything they do.

craft is often at the bottom rung of the art world. i know that that's a huge over-generalization, but hear me out. we are often talking handed-down knowledge rather than academic study; often more female and/or queer makers than male; functional items rather than purely aesthetic; in other words, pieces of art that are in everyday use, which for whatever reason has qualified them as "lesser than." think about it (and we are talking about capitalist society here), what sells for more money: a rug, or a wall tapestry? if you took the exact same item and laid it on the floor rather than hanging it on the wall, the "value" immediately depreciates. it doesn't matter how much time, effort, expertise, and materials have gone into the item - the mere location of it in a room can shave its value, at least in the eyes of a capitalist, to tatters.

i cannot tell you how incredibly frustrating this is as a crafter. yes, we make things so our hearts and souls feel fulfilled. yes, we relish in the beauty of the everyday item. yes, there are very few things that i consider as satisfying as a finished project which i have poured my heart and brain and creaky joints into and which i then get to wear day in and day out. and those things are worth so much more than the monetary compensation and social recognition in so many ways. but also, i don't get to live in an idealistic bubble. i have to pay my bills. i have to eat. i have to buy the materials for my craft, in one way or another. and so, while my happy heart is worth more than almost anything else, my mental wellbeing that is dependent on not constantly worrying about being evicted is a pretty major competitor for the "worthiness" race. 

this is where mcc comes in. they advocate for craft artisans. they collaborate with other organizations to expand the reach of local crafters, and they help coordinate events to push craft more into the spotlight and into the realm that fine art already inhabits. they support us so that we can play with the boundaries and push works into more multidisciplinary and experimental grounds. they showcase us to the public, and advocate for us to funding bodies. in short, they are some of our greatest cheerleaders. they also tend to be crafters themselves.

i'm stoked to have my first real exhibition at their office in december as part of the first fridays program. you can find some of my work in their online gallery here. and this weekend, they're having their big crafted show and sale at the winnipeg art gallery. i went yesterday after work, and had an absolute blast! i saw oodles of wonderful people, and got hijacked by my favourite little monkey, who also hijacked my shawl for a while. that kid has great taste when it comes to wool. crafters in the making, folks.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

early winter bus-y-ness

so, after finishing when nature fought back and manitoba fibre fest, i purposely scheduled myself with a few major projects spread out over the next 1-2 years (yes, i know), and have semi-promised myself not to take on any other large-scale projects during that time. and i've actually said no to medium/large-sized projects that others have asked me to join in on, which is a little bit shocking because i typically want to join in on all of the things. i realized earlier this year though that if i just tag along on a project, all i do is take time away from things i really care about and run myself into the ground. collaborations are my favourite way of working, but i need to work in a group where everyone is equally dedicated, or at the very least where i am totally committed.

part of the reason for limiting my larger-scale projects is because i get to throw a bunch of short-term or one-off projects into the mix! i realize that technically, a bunch of small projects ultimately add up to probably just as much time as the larger projects, but don't tell that to my brain. november and december will be pretty busy. first up, i'll be dyeing up a special order for wolseley wool's annual retreat. i got the bases last week and have been dyeing up some new surprises for them. i have a new naturally dyed item that will debut at the retreat, and then be available in-person only after the retreat.

i'll be doing a little pop-up at wolseley wool after the retreat. i'm not 100% what day it will be yet, but i'll have yarn available, including more of those surprise retreat debuts! and gradient cakes, since everyone seems to love those.

and then, on december 12 and 13, i'll be hosting a studio sale at my house! the first annual ruby street studios holiday open studio sale (what a mouthful) will run over the second weekend of december, 10-4 each day. i'll obviously be there with naturally dyed yarn and fibre and patterns and notions, and i'm stoked to be joined by some of my favourite local fibre artists - mel will be there with her dolls and fibre art jewelry and kami goertz will be there with her fantastic creatures. there will be a little bit of coming and going based on everyone's schedules, and hopefully other artists will also be joining us. i'll have more details in the upcoming weeks. but it should be a delightful time, and i definitely intend on having a crock pot full of mulled cider simmering for you.

if you're wondering where to find a nice little listing of all the events i'm doing, check out my new makerspace on the textile museum of canada's making makers website! this is a really fantastic initiative, and the website is just awesome. super easy to navigate, and full of brilliant canadian minds and makers. i am very happy to have ruby street studios listed on there. 

oh, and somewhere in all of this i'll be releasing two mini baby collections, plus a super squishy unisex cowl, finishing off my first course in the arts and cultural management program, and sewing some stuff for my wardrobe and for xmas gifts. and working 9-5. i love it. 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

loved - a hand-made tale

this past week's theme for the slow fashion october challenge is "loved." there are many items in my wardrobe that i love and have loved over the years, items that were made with love or gifted with love or purchased with love (beyond just the usual lust). the most consistent items in my wardrobe, though, are my rings, and since i just recently added two new ones to my collection, what better time to tell a little tale about them?

i wear my rings every single day. i never leave the house without them. it's been like this for about six years now. over the years, a few of the rings have traveled between fingers, and a rare few have completely changed. i don't feel the need to share each ring's full story, and to be honest, not all of them have incredibly complex or detailed stories. some of them are simple. here are some of their tales.

left-hand thumb: i am an anxious creature. while i now use my knitting to calm down my anxious self, i didn't always feel so comfortable knitting in public. which meant fidgety hands. the top ring is actually a spinner ring, which meant i could transfer all that nervous energy into fidgeting with the spinner in a slightly less conspicuous manner. it only squeaks a little. the bottom ring has a message etched inside: "be here now." i'm often in my head, which is great for creativity, but i am also trying to exist more in the present moment. it is an ongoing practice. an ironic part of its tale is that i lost it for a number of weeks following a yoga nidra meditation practice.

left-hand index finger: kristan macintyre made me this beautiful knitter's row counter ring. i love it for so many reasons. it is the perfect functional knitter's accessory.

left-hand middle finger: my oldest ring. i bought it five years ago during a summer in winnipeg. it is amethyst and mother-of-pearl, handcrafted by a manitoban artist. the shop i bought it from, artifacts, recently closed after 23 years in business.

right-hand thumb: this ring is a funny one. i bought it following a break-up, because the ring my now-ex had given me was returned to its owner and i couldn't stand the feeling of my bare finger. it added to the heartbreak. i bought this ring to replace it, and while it didn't really fit, it did the trick. it has traveled across multiple fingers now, lost part of a branch, and is nowhere near a circular shape anymore. someone close to me referred to it as a placeholder, not in a negative way. he's right.

right-hand index finger: this is one of my nanny's rings. i've inherited three of them in the years since she passed. my nan had arthritic fingers and thumbs that we joked would never work for hitchhiking because of how they bent at the joints. the arthritis meant that she had to switch out rings over the years. we think this ring is probably an anniversary gift from my poppy. it has nine small diamonds, engraving along the band, and a small gap in the engraving that seems to be from an extension made by someone who knew what they were doing. it's the only ring that never comes off, even when i shower or do the dishes.

right-hand ring finger: another one of nanny's rings, and the first one i inherited. it's a beautiful cameo, and the only gold metal i wear. it was the ring to first move the placeholder, and fits perfectly on that finger.

Monday, 12 October 2015

when nature fought back and the knitter punks

it's a blustery day in the neighbourhood on this long weekend monday, and i am curled up inside with studying (someone remind me again why i decided to go back to school) and yarn i would prefer to be knitting. i just finished a new design last night that has several test knitters already, which is rather exciting, and i'm back to the second baby collection i've been working on. but something else on my to-knit list is a harvest moon for ashtyn! so i thought, hey, why not do a knit-a-long so i have a proper deadline to stick to? so i give to you: the when nature fought back kal

photo by leif norman.
the rules: knit any pattern from the collection (there's a whole sixteen to choose from!), and have the project completed by end of day on december 1st. 

photo by leif norman.
the points: accessories count for 1 point; growth, guard hairs, and faultline count for 2 points; harvest moon counts for 3 points because it's so huge. anything not completed by december 1 still gets props, but i unfortunately can't enter half a name into the prize draw. oh yeah, 1 point = 1 entry into the prize draw. i will draw the winning names on december 2 and announce them on social media then.

photo by leif norman.
how to play: use the hashtags #sunflowerknit, #whennaturefoughtback, and most crucially, #wnfbkal (aka "when nature fought back knit-a-long") on instagram and ravelry so i can track your entries. all completed projects need to have a photo either shared on the ravelry fo board or, if you don't have rav, emailed to me ( to be considered for the draw. please include your contact information so i can connect with you if you win!

the prizes: there will be three prizes!

perfect sweater dyed with indigo.

  1. your choice of three patterns from the collection
  2. a skein of perfect sweater, my naturally dyed worsted weight yarn, in your favourite colour
  3. a surprise of perfect sweater in my choosing and your choice of deep roots, undertow, or dirty paws
what makes this all even better? there's a coupon code coming out later today! i happen to adore sylvia and jocelyn of the knitter punks podcast, so we've teamed up to have an exclusive code for their listeners. head on over to listen to the latest episode (number 12!) of the knitter punks, and you'll get a code for one free pattern of your choosing from the collection. imagine, you could technically get 4 free patterns by the end of all of this if you're lucky! sometimes i question my business practices…anyway, i hope you'll join us, and don't forget that more finished projects means more entries into the prize draw! deep roots in everyone's stockings this year!  

Thursday, 8 October 2015

slow fashion october

following on the heels of my last post, it seems appropriate that this month is #slowfashionoctober. it's being led by the lovely karen of fringe association, and i'm loving the prompts and thoughts and intentions behind all of it. i'm a bit slow to the mark (ah, the irony), but here are my thoughts and goals for this month. and some recap photos of my slow fashion outfits that i've worn so far this month. may i say before we get started: hallelujah for red lipstick. it is the best femme accessory besides a kick-ass glare for creeps and large rings.

from head to toe: take two, growth, second wiksten, undertow
fall is my absolute favourite time of year. it's the perfect layering weather, which means more handknits! i'm notorious for rarely making (re: finishing) selfish projects, so i have half-made tops and sweater patterns and cut-out sewing patterns without the fabric lying all over my house. but i do tend to finish accessories, probably because they're quicker. and in the case of knitwear, require less frequent washing...

concentration face. from head to toe: take two, indigo top from kelly ruth wearable, project bag by anna hunter, button skirt by velvet plume, undertow
sewing is something i wish i did more of. i love making my own clothes, even though sometimes i find the actual process tedious and/or frustrating (usually because i sew super last-minute and have thread breaking at 2am when i need to be up and out the door in the outfit by 7am...). i love my wiksten dress pattern because it's a super quick sew, looks great, and i know the tricks to make it even quicker if i need it in a hurry (like i did for fibre fest). so when mel told me about seamwork mag, from colette patterns, i was stoked. for basically the cost of netflix each month ($6 us), you get two pdf patterns each month. sometimes they're clothes, sometimes they're accessories. and if you don't like a particular pattern, you can swap it out for one of their back issue patterns! i'm trying it out and seeing if i can't add some more me-sewn items into my wardrobe, starting with the akita top. and maybe sewing for some other people to practice that too.

from head to toe: mess in time for leaves, first wiksten, gather mitts, undertow
there are some really fantastic conversations happening right now as a result of slow fashion october. about choice, and priorities, and privilege, and not shaming ourselves or others for wherever we fall on the spectrum of making slow and ethical. as always, everything is so much more complicated than just "the best (only) way to do slow properly is to source absolutely everything local/ethically/eco-consciously/organic/raise all the fibre yourself from scratch and process it and weave or spin and knit or sew and also make all the notions from the debris in your backyard." (i would just like to say, i wish wish wish that i could do that last part, if only for the sheer nerdiness of it all.) shit is not so simple, nor black and white. god, how i love the grey. i encourage you all to follow the tag on instagram, read the blog posts, and listen to the podcasts. technology is an incredible source of community and conversation nowadays.

my favourite for fall is mixing super femme with plaid. head to toe: flopster, deer heart, handmade quartz necklace, dress from my poppy's small town of 1300, secondhand plaid, gather mitts, undertow
a little bonus aka a glimpse into my planning process: my twinsy is getting married sometime next year to her sweetheart (who did hands-down the best proposal ever - all the twinsy brownie points for that one, jenn), and i will be travelling to ontario for the celebrations whenever they happen. obviously this means making my outfit, because i don't seem to do fancy events without giving myself grand aspirations for me-made outfits and then shoving them into the last minute. the planning always happens months in advance, though. someday i'll get better with time management. anyway, i'm knitting myself a shawl and my date a matching pocket square, and plan on sewing the elisalex dress from by hand london. turns out the pattern went out of print (you can still get the pdf version, but i actually really hate working from pdf patterns and would much rather spend the extra money on a printed copy), so i couldn't find a copy in canada. but fancy tiger crafts still had it! so i ordered it from them and am waiting on it to appear. i have some bee-print dress canvas that i got back at ray stitch in london, so i'll do a test version out of that before making the actual wedding version. i'm also going to make their wedding gift. seriously, weddings to me are just great excuses for a lot of crafting and making. so someday in the future, you'll see photos of me in that me-made outfit, with probably other me-made elements thrown in there. especially since i've managed to create a mini-collection out of it as of last night...

Monday, 5 October 2015


i was slow-moving today, slowly resettling into my house and catching up on the things that have been neglected recently - dishes, cleaning the bathroom, mopping the kitchen floor. things that are maybe not so glamourous, and that i didn't used to care so much about, but which now i really appreciate within my own living space. i'm also slowly reorganizing after manitoba fibre fest, photographing the yarn that came home with me to add it to etsy over this week.

perfect sweater in the etsy shop.

i have had the most incredible past few weeks, getting amped up for and finally executing the photo shoot for when nature fought back and then attending manitoba fibre festival. it's been amazing and wonderful and also absolutely exhausting. a friend dropped by the festival on friday night, after i'd been up and in "work mode" for about 12 of an eventual 15 hours that day, and i was telling her how my face hurt from smiling. she suggested taking "frown breaks", which turned out to be just perfect. it's not even that i was faking my smiles, it's just that i was in such an adrenaline-paced mode by that point that i wasn't able to release the smiling muscles in my face. 

perfect sweater in the etsy shop.
i came to the realization this weekend while talking to friends that i've been in "go" mode since the spring. i haven't really taken a break in about six months - it's just been project after project. my evenings and days off from my 9-to-5 have been filled with events and prep work and deadlines. which is incredible, because i've loved 90% of it, and 100% of it recently, but it's still a bit ridiculous. so today i embraced the slow. i putskied around my house to get little chores done, and returned to non-when nature fought back designs that have been set aside in recent weeks. 

perfect sweater in the etsy shop.
it's not like the long-term will be slow, of course - i'll be placing a bases order later this week for dyeing that needs to be done over the next six weeks or so, i'm finally able to start planning my holiday open studio sale for december, i can start conceptualizing the first fridays exhibition for manitoba craft council, i have two mini baby collections to get out between now and the winter holidays, i'm getting organized for my next big collection, and i have two new collaborative conceptual projects as a result of this weekend that will be happening in the next couple of years. but right now, my deadlines are being measured in months and years instead of days, and so that allows for some slow. which is just delicious.

perfect sweater in the etsy shop.

if you missed it, i was on tv on friday morning as part of fibre fest. you can check it out here if you'd like a laugh.