Friday, 16 December 2016

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it's been a while since i've posted a proper blog entry (sorry!). i'm a busy bee and will eventually have something for you. but i have returned to writing regular weekly newsletters, so if you don't want to miss anything, PLUS you want access to bonus perks like free patterns and tutorials and recipes PLUS you want to take advantage of a 20% off coupon right now for new subscribers, sign up for my newsletter here!

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p.s. check out my moon femme collection! i'm totally in love with it (black and white forever) and there are only two patterns left to fun!

the most recent moon femme pattern, luminous

Saturday, 5 November 2016

slow fashion october: recap

well, another slow fashion october has come and gone. i hope you've been following along in your own way. if you'd like to re-read any of my blog posts for this year, you can check them out here:
i also wanted to take the opportunity to show all the things i've made this month! for myself as much as for you, actually. i often find myself tunneling in with my vision and awareness and feel like i'm not getting as much accomplished as i actually do, and i think it's important to acknowledge the fact that, damn it, i got a lot of shit done last month. go me! so here's what i made:

in this massive pile, you can see/kind of see the following:
  • knits: two cowls, mittens, shawl, socks
  • sewing: two dresses, cape, stowe bag the second, punk vest
i also made a ridiculous amount of stitch markers (which you can purchase at wolseley wool, or if you want my special edition moon femme markers, check out my website), dyed some yarn and heirloom altar cloths, made a weaving and i even made a batch of black walnut ink (which will be available at my next studio sale and also online). it's really lovely to look at my life and see how much of it is made by hand these days, and also exciting is seeing the growth of my wardrobe from last year to this year and recognizing how so much more of it is slowly shifting to handmade/slow fashion (by me and by others) from fast fashion. i love having slow fashion october as a way to check in with myself and compare (not in a judging way, just in an acknowledging way) how much my life shifts from year to year. i can't wait for next year!

Monday, 31 October 2016

slow fashion october: known origins

this final week's topic for slow fashion october is known origins. this one is, i think potentially, the most mired in privilege, at least in western society. having a really solid local fibreshed in the states or canada is, quite honestly, really hard work. it seems like from what i've read, the southern states does ok (they have such long growing seasons), but in canada, there are a lot of barriers that get in the way of knowing the true origins of your fibres. here are a few:
  • our growing seasons are really short, and the further north you go, the harder it gets.
  • the fibre community at the really base level of growing and cultivating fibre crops (animal or plant) and then processing them into yarn or thread (so the mills) is very scattered and hard to track down. if you don't have a solid local fibre festival, you might actually never find out about what's going on in your local region, because the vast majority of these operations aren't online or don't have a particularly strong online presence. try checking the phone book for sheep farms and tell me how far you get.
  • our country is fucking huge. second largest in the world, and we're very spread out. so even if you have a decent local fibreshed, chances are you have to drive really far to get everything you need. which means you need access to a car, and time to drive around, and clear knowledge of where everything is.
  • shipping is super expensive. it's actually often much cheaper to order fabrics from overseas than to order within canada. and of course, the production costs in canada are probably more expensive (labour laws, strength of the dollar compared to other countries, etc.). 
basically, if you want to source ethical and local in canada, you need a lot of cash and a lot of spare time. 

that being said, there are some really incredible initiatives underway, and i'd like to highlight a few of my favourites:
  • long way homestead: this one is easy. my dear friend anna and her family moved to a homestead just outside the city i live in, are working on getting the fibre farm side of the production underway, and hopefully by next year i will have super local yarn that i'll be naturally dyeing using the local plants i forage and maybe also using the dyes i source from maiwa, a vancouver-based company that ethically sources all of their incredible textile supplies. 
  • taproot fibre lab: also close to my heart, this nova scotia-based farm grows flax and has built their own mill equipment to process that flax into fibre and yarn. it's incredible, and i had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners at this past year's manitoba fibre festival. i am so excited to see where they go with this, and in the meantime, i have some fantastic canadian linen yarn that i'm going to be designing with in the upcoming months.
  • manitoba fibre festival: another easy one. this festival is my favourite point of the year, fosters incredible relationships between fibre folks of all sorts, and is becoming a destination point in the national fibre scene. i'm especially excited about a large project i'll be coordinating with them and my lys, wolseley wool, in the months leading up to the 2017 festival. more on that to come!
  • manitobah mukluks: these folks are so amazing! something that gets regularly overlooked in the mainstream fashion world, as far as i can tell, is the amazing fashion scene coming from our indigenous artisans. why would you not want a pair of mukluks that will actually keep your feet warm in minus 40 degree weather? they figured this shit out centuries before the european settlers showed up and started messing with things. trust that knowledge, and support the incredible entrepreneurs who are keeping their traditions alive and growing and innovating. 
  • kelly ruth: i am 100% biased here, but my dearest kelly embodies all that is slow fashion. she's a clothing designer, natural dyer, and all-around brilliant lady. she's also one of my closest friends and my mentor and colleague. kelly is working on sourcing fabrics for her naturally dyed clothing line that are local to us, but in the meantime she has found some overseas providers who are good to their workers, ethical in all accounts, and super eco-conscious. as far as reasonable clothing manufacturing goes, kelly is making all the right moves, and her clothing lasts for years, suiting that "daily uniform" that allows a person to wear an item of clothing for as long as possible, because it never really goes out of style (something which fast fashion hinges itself on desperately).
also, as a knitwear designer, i would be remiss to not mention my favourite yarn providers. my own yarns have been reduced to two bases from handmaiden fine yarns in halifax (both are silk bases, and they work with a 7th-generation silk farming family in switzerland to source these), and once anna has the fibre farm up and running, i'll add pure wools back into the line. other folks whose yarn i love are:
  • julie asselin's nurtured: this is my favourite yarn of all time, hands down. i've used it in so many designs at this point (several are upcoming), and someday when i have time to knit for myself again, i'll knit some really simple sweaters for myself from it. julie gets the us-based fibres spun by green mountain spinnery in the states, and then she and her partner jean-francoise dye it in their quebec studio. julie is such a sweet friend, and i love that my favourite yarn happens to come from her.
  • hinterland textiles: this relatively new bc-based company uses all canadian fibres for their incredible yarns - canadian rambouillet (a kind of merino) and their own alpaca. they blew up in a big way at this year's knit social in vancouver, and i'm very excited to have a sweater's worth of their range yarn to design something with in the coming year.
  • yoth: literally all of their yarns are just so great. veronika is one of my favourite folks in the dyeing world, and their non-superwash yarns in particular (mother and father) take up the dyes so perfectly (i'm also totally obsessed with their big sister and little brother bases, so don't discount them!). i've published two designs with them so far, and we have a full collection scheduled for release in 2017. book number two, here we come!
  • sweet fiber's canadian: i'm waiting on my first batch of bc-based dyer sweet fiber's canadian yarn, which is, you guessed it, all canadian fibre! pure wools are my jam these days, and my dear friend sylvia got me onto sweet fiber. i plan on designing something super cozy once it arrives, hopefully in time for cold winter months here in the prairies!
there are other great folks out there too, both indie dyers and yarn suppliers. the states is really moving things forward in this regard: brooklyn tweed, o-wool, quince & co., a verb for keeping's exciting to see so many players on the slow fashion scene, and to see so many suppliers paying attention to the social, ethical, and environmental impact of their production processes. i hope that as we move forward, this becomes the norm rather than the exception. and i'm super excited to be a part of the growing local fibreshed movement here in southern manitoba. we'll see how far we get by next year's slow fashion october!

Monday, 24 October 2016

slow fashion october: handmade

whew, so this past week's topic for slow fashion october is really hitting me in the heart muscle - handmade. why do i feel this one so much? well, just have a read through of the topic breakdown:

How do you understand your style, choose projects well, advance your skills, get the right fit, and keep things interesting and long-lasting at the same time. What are your go-to patterns and most successful garments. How do you avoid mindless acquisition of yarn and fabric, or making “too much.” How do you make time and space for making — and why?

lately, i've been analyzing these questions at a very deep level. i'm doing chelsea fitch's fibreboss college course, and it's been forcing me to really look at my practice and why i do what i do. i'm also scared that i'm stagnating right now - there's not enough time to do everything i want to do, so instead i just get stuck and only do parts of things, or nothing at all (which i know isn't accurate, because i'm constantly making and churning out new designs, but i still feel stuck lately). and sales are, well, slow. slow for what i want them to be. for what i know they could be. for what i need them to be to make this a successful business venture that will eventually actually pay my bills and maybe even a living wage someday. i feel like i'm not connecting with as wide of an audience as i could be, in as significant a way as i hope to. so, it comes down to why. why am i doing this? why do i make? why do i design? is it really only for me? how do i make a business that connects with a lot of people in a deep and meaningful way, while still staying true to myself and who i am as a person (re: queer, witch, practical femme, awkward, anxious, feminist, many things that don't fit the comfortable status quo, and i'm not particularly quiet about any of them)? 

i haven't figured out the answer for those questions yet. but what i have started to figure out, in tiny baby steps, is how to keep myself in my brand. my photoshoots are primarily selfie-style these days, in my studio, which allows me to control the whole look of everything. i have bones and tarot decks and driftwood for props, and bold lipstick, and tattoos out on display, and often an outfit i've made specifically to fit the style i have in my head for that particular shoot. i'm hoping that i'll get a bit more time soon to start taking shots of friends again too, because there are a couple of folks who are a dream to photograph and who really show off my style on different faces and bodies. i'm choosing to not hide the messy parts of myself (the emotional part, the anxious part, the part that's terrified of failure even if i view "failure" as opportunities for learning and growth), and i'm learning how to craft those parts of me into the story of my brand. 

and here's the biggest part - i'm learning that even if my sales are slow and a big instagram success for me is 100 likes on a post instead of 1000 and i feel like so many people are jumping ahead of me by leaps and doesn't matter, as long as the things i make and the designs i release are things that i care about. like i said at the beginning, there's not enough time to do everything i want to do. so if i'm going to spend hours on a project, it should be something i like and am proud of. whether i'm the one who ends up wearing it after the photos are done or it flies across hundreds of miles to a new home with a dear one, it needs to be something that will be loved and cherished and appreciated. because that's why we make, or at least why i make. the whole point of slow fashion (beyond the politics, and the environmental and social impact, and the layers of privilege stacked on top of being able to make your own clothes from sources that are as ethical as possible) is to make things with love, that will be used year in and year out, and maybe even passed down through generations. kind of like the story about the blanket, that became a coat, that became a hanky, that became a patch. items that are worn so hard with use that they literally melt into us. and with the melting, comes the loving. because we put ourselves into each stitch we make, our hopes and dreams and intentions and emotions and fears and hearts. and those stitches make up a thing, and that thing gets used, and the user gets infected, just a little bit maybe, with all of those stitches and what they hold. it's why i love to make things for people i love, and why these days i only make for the people i love who also understand how precious my time is and how the thing that they receive is a labour of that love. a darling, wonderful, cherished labour for me. 

so, i make things that i want to wear, and that the people i'm making for will also want to wear. there's  only so much element of surprise in my making these days. i work with preferred colours (which in my case these days, is falling more and more into the neutrals and fall tones, resulting in some serious destashing needing to happen for those brighter colours still kicking around), and with items that will receive good wear. and high quality fibres, which in my own wardrobe is becoming more and more frequently pure wools, or silks or linens. my book collection has grown extensively in the past year, with new stitchionaries joining the library, books with new natural dyeing techniques, garment construction, sewing patterns that teach me new skills...and i take workshops where i can. i don't ever want to stop learning. there is always something incredible that can be picked up, and new depths to push our practices to, and new skills to push us out of our comfort zones. i want to still be trying new things when i'm in my nineties. which means i can't stop now. so that i guess, my friends, is my why. or at least part of it. 

what's yours? 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

slow fashion october: well worn

last week's topic for slow fashion october was well worn, those items we use that have passed through generations and been put through the ringer and maybe have been mended a hundred times and still get used. both sides of my family have a history of working with textiles, which is an incredible source of inspiration for me, so there are quite a few items in my possession that have made their way through multiple pairs of hands before getting to mine. i'm going to focus on some items i've recently inherited - the linens from my nanny and poppy's home.

a lot of families probably have doilies and old linen table runners in their lives. they've fallen out of fashion, but the amount of work that went into them is incredible (especially when you think about all the ones selling for 25 cents in secondhand shops). in my nanny's house, we actually know who made the majority of them - auntie mac (she even embroidered an m on the doily above!). i'm going to be making a lot of different projects with the textiles, but to start with, i've got these couple of linen table runners and one linen and crochet doily. i dyed one of the runners with black walnuts, and the other has been ecoprinted with lichen that grace foraged in nunavut and gifted to me. i ecoprinted the doily with lichen as well, and dyed it in the black walnut bath. the runners will be part of my altars at home, and the doily will be going to a dear one.

i dyed up some yarn with the black walnut baths too. silks take on natural dyes in the most beautiful muted way.

other items that i love and cherish are my nanny's silver thimble (which i've actually used for leather work recently) and my mum's thigh-high legwarmers (i need to mend them again, but they're from the 70's and literally the best winter layer that i own). i also have inherited or been gifted yarn, notions, and fabric from various family and friends in the last few years, most of which hasn't been used yet. i always feel like if i'm making an item from materials with a story, the finished item should be able to have stories to match. which inevitably means something that is beautiful and can also be used or enjoyed on a regular (daily) basis, and that i will either use or that will be given to someone else who appreciates it the way that i would. i suppose this just kind of supports my stash/hoarding habits...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

slow fashion october: introduction

better late than never, right? i'm taking part once again in slow fashion october, although admittedly so far my sewing has been nil while i work on knitting. i did actually get a couple of selfish knits out of the way within a couple of days though! purely out of necessity, and both of them will be released as patterns, but these were at least completely unrelated to my current collections and deadlines. the weather dipped and i needed warmer knits that i could be rough with, stat. each week of slow fashion october has a theme, just to help structure discussions, and this first week is introductions. which kind of works perfectly, because i realized recently that i haven't actually introduced myself lately, and i've had a lot more people start following me online in the last little while. i always kind of assume i'm talking to people who already know me, but that's obviously a false assumption. so, here's me, ash.

shibori dyed indigo silk scarf.
i'm a canadian knit designer, textile artist, natural dyer, and i sew my own clothes sometimes. i have a long background in all areas of theatre production, both on and offstage, including about 8 years of wardrobe experience before i left the stage a few years ago. i learned how to knit and sew from my mum as a kid, and both sides of my extended family have a strong relationship to the fibre arts (crochet, clothing, quilting, knitting, spinning). mum and i have both also recently added weaving to our personal arsenals, which is fun. knitting is for sure my comfort zone though. mum jokes that she taught me the basic skills and i've run from there, which i suppose is true. i'm of the opinion that everyone is capable of doing what i do, it's just a matter of how much time you devote to your craft. my priority is knitting, and i spend an average minimum of 6 hours per day on it. which is a lot when you consider that i actually work a full-time, 9-to-5 job in arts administration too where i lose those hours from my day. i knit closer to 12 hours each day on the weekends. that's been the case for several years now. because i do it all the time, i've gotten very good at it. i recognize that definitely not everyone is going to knit to the extent that i do, but i believe strongly in it as a useful life skill (being able to knit warm things for yourself and loved ones, especially when you live in a cold climate, is a serious level up for the zombie apocalypse). so i encourage people to knit as often as possible, and i teach classes and workshops to that end.

i also am continuously frustrated by the lack of value placed on this very practical and beautiful practice. and on the whole slow fashion movement, as compared to fast fashion. fast fashion has allowed people (at least in western society) to ignore the environmental and social impacts of our practical needs for clothing in exchange for quick and cheap looks that change every month or two. so when someone does put the time and energy and skill into making an item of clothing by hand, its value is dismissed or severely underrepresented. add in the gender politics of clothing and handmade and craft and fashion and it's a whole other ballgame.

new shawl design and bison tooth earring.
as a queer femme, my expression through the clothes i choose the wear, the make-up i do or don't put on, the way i cut my hair, the piercings and tattoos i have on display or not, all of this is an integral part of my self-identity. making my own clothing allows me to control my body in ways that fast fashion doesn't. i determine what size i need not in comparison to a magazine or mannequin, but on what my tape measure says i need in yardage to cover whatever part of my body i'm working with. it means i can make adjustments right away to get the fit that i like best for my body. it also means that i can skip the "women's" and "men's" sections in stores with fluorescent lighting, and that i can instead document my progress and final product in a way that feels more like me (usually with bone or stone in hand). and just as importantly, it means i can make these same items for my darling ones. the ones who are so much braver than i am on a daily basis, who say "fuck your cis-tem/body terrorism/"ideal" body shape" and who will wave their hand at the suggestion that they are stronger than most by just being themselves authentically. having the ability to say "please send me x measurements" and "what's your favourite colour?" and then making something that will look and feel beautiful on them is literally the best thing about having this skill set.

socks are weirdly the one accessory that counts. maybe because they're so much effort for something so everyday?

weirdly, i often don't think about my handknits as part of a handmade wardrobe. well, sweaters yes, but accessories not so much. same goes for jewelry. i make pieces regularly with stones and bones and metal and leather, but if i'm taking stock of what handmade items i'm wearing on any given day, i often skip over them. for some reason, i think of a handmade wardrobe as the clothing i sew. i don't really know why that is. i don't think it's a hierarchy in my head. but maybe it's because sewing doesn't come as naturally to me, and so it feels more like work, and that's why it counts more than the other things. or because if i sew something, it probably stays on my body all day instead of being taken on and off. i haven't quite figured this bit out yet.

slow fashion is something that i believe deeply in, and that i'm constantly analyzing and processing and working on. it's also something steeped in many layers of privilege, which i think we don't acknowledge often enough. slow fashion requires time and money and skills that have been learned either through familial traditions or mentorship or training of some sort, all of which have their own layers of privilege. so i consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the skills that i do, and constant access to more knowledge, and a wealth of materials through my local fibre shed and the internet. a handmade wardrobe tells a whole story with so many tiny and huge threads interwoven in its fabric. you can't just pick one or two without causing a ripple effect elsewhere. it's an opportunity for constant growth and learning. and it's irresponsible of us to not acknowledge that.

another new shawl design, using julie's yarn.

so, that's me, at least in this context. rambling, and political, and kind of confused and constantly learning. and deeply, deeply passionate about all of it. i'll share more of my actual making later this month.

Friday, 7 October 2016

winter is october

it snowed today. only for a brief moment, and it didn't stay. in fact, i referred to it as "fluffy rain" instead of snow. but if we're being real, there were fat fluffy snowflakes flying around in the air in the late morning. canada is apparently in for a long and cold winter. which i'm ok with for the most part. i mean, that means more opportunities for skating, wandering around in frozen wonderlands, comforting quiet snowfalls, cozy snow days at home, excuses for literally all of the wool...

i was unprepared for such a quick drop in temperature though. i managed to get ahead of my winter collection deadlines last night (sort of...being on top of them right now just means having a slight buffer for when i inevitably fall behind later). so i pulled a skein of lopi out of my stash and cast on a new pair of mittens. they'll be done (not blocked, but that's not necessary for mitts anyway) and on my hands before i head out onto the water tomorrow afternoon with dear ones. and the pattern should be ready before the end of the month. hopefully you're lucky and still have some time before the snow flies wherever you are, but these knit up quick even if you don't.

it's a long weekend here in canada, so i'll be playing catch up on paperwork amidst food and adventures! what are your plans?

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

shawl joy design-a-long

my darling friend sylvia released her first book shortly after i released flotsam & jetsam. earlier this year, she came up with a seriously brilliant new knitting method which she's debuted in a few designs now (and which others have copied without giving credit to her brilliance, but we won't go into how crappy that is...). she's outlined the method in detail in shawl joy, and to celebrate the release of the book, there's a design-a-long happening from today until november 5!

i got a head start on my design, because it also happens to be the first design for my winter collection and i need it finished, photographed, written, tech edited, and test knitted in time for an october 30th release. wooooooooo...i'm onto the final stretch, and i'm using my rumpelstiltskin yarn for it. this is my first time using this new base, and i'm totally in love with it. that sounds ridiculous, but i'm being honest. the drape of this silk/linen blend is phenomenal, and the way that the fibres take up the natural dyes is just too beautiful. my design uses two skeins that i dyed with mushrooms back in june. it's turned out fantastically, and i'm crossing my fingers that it will be blocked and dried before i head off to the woods this weekend. i won't be doing the full photoshoot in the woods, but i do want to take advantage of being in the woods to take some fun extra shots of it.

it's also slow fashion october now, and i for sure have some sewing to do. i'll be sewing a dress for the photoshoots of this collection, and hopefully also a black or dark grey camden cape. and i need to sew that replacement stowe bag for when i go on the road next month, and i need new undies, and i have some tops i'd like to make, and also maybe this skirt. i want to make all the things (to make up for the past couple of months of not making selfish things?).

i'm also doing a couple of online business courses and seminars right now, which is rather exciting, but i do need to make sure i'm prioritizing them and their homework. despite my knitting deadlines, this is a relatively slow time for me (especially compared to the past few months), so i want to take advantage of it and really start to focus on my business. so, back to work i go!

what are you making (or mending) for slow fashion october?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

stash goals

so, i've been spending a large chunk of 2016 working on culling my stash and making it more useful. that's meant destashing in the form of supplying yarn to others, doing trades, using up more yarn in designs, creating designs specifically for stashbusting...also not buying as much yarn, but honestly, i feel like as soon as i clear out space in my stash i replace it with new stuff almost immediately. and i'm getting better at replacing it with more useful stuff, but still. it feels like it never quite goes down. take, for example, four of my upcoming designs. literally all of them have been made with yarn purchased or provided this year. same with all but two for my winter collection. sigh. i'm imposing a yarn diet after fibre fest and not buying any more yarn through at least the winter. although i don't actually believe in diets, so we'll see how that goes...

this represents about 1/20th of my fingering weight stash...
i'm getting furniture from my nanny and poppy's house, which is going to replace most of my current storage options. it includes several really beautiful glass door curio cabinets, so my entire stash is going to be pulled out of its various hiding places and shifted into places where it can always be seen. which is slightly daunting, but it also means that i'll be able to more accurately determine where my deficits are (sport, dk, having more than 3 sets of sweater quantities, too much fingering weight...), and hopefully will mean that i work from it in a smarter way. and maybe feel pressure to use it more often before getting new stuff. i dunno. we'll see how it goes.

the weirdest not-so-little bundle of yellows. i think it'd make a great baby blanket though.

for this, i've been looking at my fingering weight stash especially. i have so much of it, and a lot is in partial skeins (remnants from projects past) or single skeins, and i tend to not do many single skein projects in that weight. why? because i love huge shawls, and i really really really love fingering weight shawls. but for obvious reasons (it's fingering weight), they take a while to design and make. and then they leave me with 20 or 30 or 50 grams of random skeins, and then what do i do?

i designed a stashbusting blanket earlier this summer, but the throw-sized version has yet to be made...

i've pulled a bunch of them together, and have determined that i have substantial quantities in a literal rainbow of colours, plus a very lovely pile of neutrals. so, my plan is to do some more stashbusting designs. i did two for flotsam & jetsam (flotsam and jetsam, in fact), and i've got another blanket design that's in the process of getting rid of more of them. blankets are great, but i think i'll also do maybe some more shawls too. freer designs, that don't require lots of math or thinking or planning of colours and specific amounts. just pick your yarns and go. we'll see how they do, since realistically i have a bunch of other projects that i still need to deal with between now and the spring at the very least. my moon femme collection is going to be keeping me busy through the early winter and then i'll need to play a bit of catch-up for the yoth collection, which still has oodles of time before i need everything ready, but i don't want to be stuck scrambling and/or going mia like i was with flotsam & jetsam. balance is a fickle creature in my life. eventually though, i will do some major stashbusting, and it's going to feel so great. and possibly terrifying ha.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

slow fashion october prep

i have two weeks left in the (primarily very enjoyable) hell that is my september this year. between the book launch, fibre fest, and neurocraft, i haven't had much time to look at other making projects. when i do procrastiknit, i'm working on the patterns for my winter collection, because the first pattern will be released at the end of next month and i need the pattern and sample ready by the first week of october to be fair to my tech editor and test knitters. normally i sew myself a new outfit to wear for upcoming events, but given my current situation, i doubt i'll get a chance to even whip up another wiksten before neurocraft, and i for sure don't have time to make anything before the book launch on wednesday. all of that being said, it's almost time again for slow fashion october, and i do have a few goals to try and squeeze into next month if i'm able.

from ohhh lulu sews.

first up, undies. i need to make a bunch of new ones. i actually just caved and bought a new bra, because those can be finicky and i'm still not totally confident in my ability to deal with all those tiny details. but undies are easy, and i've made them before, and i have literally metres of lace in my fabric stash, and the cost of a new pair just seems foolish when i could make a new one for pennies and a couple hours' work. i really love ohhh lulu's patterns, and the hipsters are my go-to when i need to make new undies, so that's my plan. they're a great blank slate for playing around with fabric scraps.

next, i need to replace my stowe bag. i'll get my other bag back eventually, and i'm in no rush to get it (beyond demanding that it be returned in person, and i do love seeing dear ones, so sooner would be nicer than later, but it's not a necessity by any means). but i've got some big projects on the go at the moment, including a sweater (which will not be done in time for the sskal, but that's ok) and a 7-skein chunky yarn pattern for the winter collection. i'm going on the road for a week in november, which means lots of potential knitting hours on the bus, so i'll be wanting a new stowe bag by that point at least to shove a few projects into instead of taking up my entire duffle bag.

and then, clothes would be nice. i picked up the merchant & mills workbook in toronto and want to make the heron top and bantam tank. i'm also thinking of remaking a couple of deer & doe patterns i have, including the chardon skirt. i have some lovely brown linen, and i think a slightly longer version would be perfect for the fall. especially because it has great pockets. maybe i'll just get lazy and make another wiksten. i do actually want to make one with a faux button placket, so maybe i'll make a slightly fancier one. it's for sure my default pattern when i want to make a new dress.

so, there you have it. my sewing goals for next month's slow fashion practices. they're lovely dreams, to be sure. for now, i need to do more building for my neurocraft installation and do some dishes and maybe eat something. and maybe even eventually go to bed at a decent time for once.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

"flotsam & jetsam" book launch!

it's finally happening! flotsam & jetsam's book launch is one week from tomorrow! perfect timing, because the books are being picked up tomorrow afternoon.

it'll be at wolseley wool from 7-9pm on september 21st, and it will be so much fun! i'll be there signing books, there'll be snacks to eat and samples to try on, and there will be prizes! great prizes, featuring stuff from yoth yarns, longway homestead's anna hunter, velvet plume, sunflower knit yarn and notions, and more! i'll also be selling limited amounts of the sunflower knit yarns used in the book (mermaid hair, five of hearts, and dappled). i really hope you can come and join me for the festivities!

the e-version of the book will be made available after the launch, so if you're not local and you miss out on the hard copies, you'll be able to get the pdf at that point. i'll also be sending signed copies of the book off to baaad anna's for knit city and be bringing more to manitoba fibre festival.

yay! things are finally happening!

Friday, 9 September 2016


i just spent the weekend along the bay of fundy, where i went to attend my poppy's funeral. it was a good death, one that i hope i can do similarly when i reach his point in life, and was a true celebration of him. i was glad to go, and to spend time with family, and to return to the part of nova scotia that really does home my heart. there are many things i could say about the whole experience, like how the last time i was there my heart was breaking for so many reasons, and how i managed to catch one of his last good periods of time before he started a slowish road to where he ended, and how i am so grateful to have had samson capture so much of that visit and now i need to figure out how to incorporate some of that material into a project i need to have finished in four weeks without it feeling weird and wrong. but instead, i will focus on this. i will focus on intentionality.

the concept of home is one that travels with me and in me and around me constantly. i've analyzed and studied and practiced it in various ways over the past several years. i am certainly a creature who needs roots, and a place to return to, and a safe space at all moments. i've been learning how to create that safe space in myself instead of relying on others, and when it is ok to rely on others, and how to identify those others, and also how to create that space in physical spaces. as i delve further into my witchcraft practices (which are quite casual, and not at all religious, and barely spiritual, but definitely important for my health and wellbeing), i have been thinking more and more about altars. i have many not-quite-altars in my house, where i place items because it feels like that spot is their home, and i acknowledge them in different ways at different points. but i have no central altar. that is something i am slowly starting to build, with a consciousness of what items and tools will grace it, and what area i want it to take home in, and what pieces i am still missing for it.

last week, a dear old friend came through and left me with a beautiful piece of amethyst that she and her girlfriend mined themselves. amethysts are my main safety stone. they have been all my life. so the appearance of this particular piece, timed so perfectly with my thought bubbles rolling around in my head about altars, felt significant. and then i went to the ocean, and found so many pieces of flotsam, and family heirloom textiles that i will dye. and then i came home to find a healthy harvest of lichen from nunavut from my darling grace, and these things from have company, that just solidify everything.

i rarely move things once they find a home, particularly large things. i hate moving furniture, or clearing out too many things at once, or just the concept of minimalism in general (which is incredibly classist, so much of the time - check out anna maltz's really great article about this in the spring 2015 edition of pompom). but right now feels like a time i am meant to be settling more into my home, and making it into a proper safe space, and so i am thinking about rearranging my room, and shuffling around some furniture in the studio and back room, and moving my bed so it's not just tucked in the corner. right now feels heavy, in a good way. and i would love to have more time to nestle into it a little more fully on a daily basis, but i have some very large projects to get out of the way this month. so i will chip away at it all, slowly and intentionally and bit by bit, until i have time to really sit back and look at it. and maybe by then, it will be almost all done anyway. it feels good.

Friday, 26 August 2016

home again, home again

i've been back home for almost a week after spending a week in toronto, which is weird and familiar and a little bit heartbreaking. i had the most magical trip, spending time with people i love, actually reading and cooking real food and taking naps, and also exploring nooks and crannies of the city on my own and following others. i gave myself a few things that i definitely wanted to do (textile-related, of course), and managed to get all of them done without stressing myself out or overbooking myself. a bit of a miracle, i have to admit. my most cherished memories are the ones i spent curled around the people i missed, but i'll share some of the less human-specific, more travel-related ones with you.

i went to both the royal ontario museum and the textile museum of canada. while the textile wing of the rom was closed (damn it), there were plenty of other textiles scattered around the four floors to soothe that part of my wants. plus, there were lots of dinosaurs, ancient bones, an exhibit about tattoos, and another exhibit about japan's edo period, aka the time in history when japan had a third gender built into its everyday society. so basically all the things that i love under one roof. the textile museum had a couple of interesting exhibits. very historical-artifact-heavy, but there were some truly stunning javanese batik examples in the garden exhibit that i particularly enjoyed going cross-eyed over.

i made it to three of toronto's yarn shops - the knit cafe, the purple purl, and yarns untangled. each did a great job of representing (different!) small batch canadian and indie dyers. they're all in different areas of the city, so it would be easy find a nearby lys no matter where you happened to settle. yarns untangled is in kensington, so there's a ridiculous amount of delicious food within a single block, making it pretty ideal for plopping yourself down for a few hours to knit and hang out (yes, that happened, and yes, it was great).

here's what i picked up:

brooklyn tweed's squishy quarry from the knit cafe.

canadian-dyed speckles for a mini collection i'm planning for the spring, some of julie's leizu dk in a gorgeous bronze, and titus from baa ram ewe for what will probably be the most luscious pair of mittens ever, all from purple purl.
finally found kat's riverside studio and grabbed two skeins of her single ply lace in graphite (more grey than this photo shows), a beautiful carved shawl pin, and lichen and lace's single ply fingering weight, which was actually picked out by a dear one who has very good taste in yarn without me even needing to train them...

i also picked up a lot of books while i was in town. another story bookshop in particular grabbed my alt bookworm heart. i actually left most of the books behind for the dear one i stayed with to read eventually. good books are better shared, as far as i'm concerned. i also accidentally left my large project bag (the stowe bag that i sewed earlier this summer) behind after we went foraging with it, so i'll need to sew a new one. clothes and a bag are next on the sewing docket! of course, first i need to deal with the bajillion things currently on my plate - namely, neurocraft, prepping for manitoba fibre fest and knit city, and my book launch, all in the next six weeks. gah! the book should be back from the printers around september 14th, so expect news very soon about the official book launch with wolseley wool! i'm busier than ever, but am trying to retain some of the ease i found in toronto, particularly around prepping and eating proper food. it's so much easier for me to justify cooking for two, but there's actually absolutely no good reason that i don't cook just as well for myself. i'm going to be working on learning how to carve out time to cook for myself on a regular basis again. it's always an ongoing process.

Friday, 12 August 2016


i've fallen behind with blog posts, and now i'm about to escape to toronto for an actual vacation! i'm going to unplug (except for my phone), only bring a single knitting project with me, and spend time with a bunch of people i love and miss a lot. it's going to be magical! but first, here's some stuff to tide you over while i'm gone!

flotsam & jetsam is available for pre-order! you can order it from my newly revamped website (it needs some work, but the important thing is that you can now order my book as well as other products directly from my website). books will ship in september, and e-books for pre-orders will be available after i get back from vacation. e-books will be available for individual purchase once the books come back from the printers too.

double scoop has been revamped to match my brand new look, all thanks to f&j. it's so pretty! but the actual pattern hasn't changed except to be cleaned up and made clearer, so if you've already bought it, just update your pattern. and if you haven't bought it, now's a great time to jump on the bandwagon haha.

finally, crocus just went live! it's the first in a mini-collection i've made with julie asselin's yarns, and the other two hats in this collection will be available in september. i wanted to give you all something to do while i go galavanting around the big city, so here's a quick little project to get you all sorted for those cooler nights.

that's all for now! see you on the flip side!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

trans canada doc en route

as some of you may recall, my dear samson (who photographed flotsam & jetsam) was getting ready to embark on a summer of travel and filming while i was visiting him back in the spring for our photoshoot. he and his producer, jake, just left yesterday to continue their travels west after stopping off in winnipeg for a few days. i'll hopefully catch them again on their way back through at the end of the summer, but right now i'm a little bit sad because they're gone and my house is empty.

teaser video for 2016 OUTeast, before the guys hit the road.

this project is huge and really incredible, and i'm super proud of all the work the guys are putting into it. you can follow along on their adventures in the following ways (editing and wifi access means releases are a little bit behind where their current travels are, but they're updating pretty constantly on all platforms!): 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

drool-worthy #22 - sheltered

i haven't done a drool-worthy post in months, which is probably because my design to-knit list is so bloody long that i just can't even look at other people's patterns (i mean, i do, but to even consider making them is just too laughable/depressing when i look at my to-do list). andrea mowry always releases patterns that i really enjoy, and if i had the time i would probably make a bunch of them as selfish knits. but i just don't have the time. fast-forward to this morning when andrea released her latest pattern, sheltered, and i'm totally in love. i even bought it! will it hit my needles before the end of 2016? not a chance. will i get to it in 2017? probably not then either. but i don't care, because i love it and will make it someday (probably when i'm no longer working a 9-to-5 on top of my practice).

ok, but you guys, seriously. it has a HOOD! hoods are just practical when you're outside. it blocks the wind and keeps you warmer than a hat and cowl alone.

i also really love the silhouette. big drapey over-layers are my absolute favourite. i think this would be perfect knit up in julie's nurtured yarn or yoth's father base.

did i mention one of my favourite things about andrea is how many tats she has? i love knitters with ink.

and finally, those shorter sleeves are perfect for when you're foraging and don't want your sleeves all caught up in the muckiness of playing in the dirt. i did mention that, right? the whole reason i'm so obsessed with this design is because it's the most perfect layer for wearing while foraging in the woods. maybe i'll take a trip sometime and knit it while i'm on the trip. the relative mindlessness of not needing to be writing a pattern while i knit it kind of lends itself perfectly to road trips. now i just need to convince someone to take me on a road trip...

Monday, 18 July 2016

next steps

the book has been sent off to my editors, so now it's on to focusing on other projects and deadlines for a bit. there will be edits to make before the book goes to the printers on august 1, but the biggest chunk of the work is done! so, what's next?

well, first of all, neurocraft. i have so much work to do on this beast, and the fact that it involves weaving means i'm pretty much restricted to only working on it when i'm at home (i.e. evenings and some weekends). i suppose in theory i could take it with me to my parents' on weekends, but i think it's probably easier to leave my table loom in place rather than carting it around everywhere. i've wound up a few warps on my warping board, so i can get started on setting the warp and then start playing. the weavings themselves will be fairly simple in design, it'll be the electronics embedding that takes the most conceptual work i think. i have these delicious-smelling red cedar stick shuttles that i'll be using. i can't wait for my fingers to smell of cedar all the time!

next up, knitting. i have a dozen designs in several stages of nearly-done that need to be dealt with now that i can focus on paperwork other than the book, so expect a lot of test knitting calls over the next little while. i'm currently working on a magazine design that needs to head to its destination next month. it's well underway, but i'm about to get to the areas that require a little more mental focus (i.e. not great for social knitting). once it's done, i have a lacy shawl using julie asselin's nurtured yarn (i have SIX designs scheduled for release with her yarns between now and the end of september - maybe even more, if i can get some extra paperwork done). i have the chart written out, but again, not exactly social knitting when it comes down to it. so, i'm casting on the design that i had planned on taking with me to toronto but changed my mind about. it's actually the same design, but i had originally planned to take the dk weight version with me, which is 4 skeins of yarn. instead, i'm taking the fingering weight version, which is only two skeins of ancient arts yarns' gorgeous reinvent yarn that wolseley wool just got in. because it's so easy, i think i might actually be able to whip off the dk version before i head to t-dot, but we'll see. i'm not too worried about it. there's no actual deadline with this one (for once).

and finally, more scheming. i have a winter collection planned that i am incredibly excited about, but i can't start it until i finish my current designs and the sweater for my collection with yoth. i do have all the release dates scheduled already, and photo styling plans scribbled out onto paper. i'm also in chats with manitoba fibre festival about a pretty big project for 2017 (stay tuned!), and of course there's the yoth collection! that one has a longer timeline, but if i don't want it to creep up on me like everything else seems to, i need to chip away at each of the designs over the coming months. i've actually given myself a rule that one of the winter collection designs is not allowed to happen if i don't have the yoth sweater done before september. and then there's fun stuff like sewing and making wedding quilts for friends, but that's all quite a bit farther into the future right now. for the moment, i need to try and keep my current projects not too jumbled in my brain. thank goodness for lists.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

a mini-collection and more plans

i've been exhausted lately, and just kind of accepting it as a fact without really doing anything about it. last night i decided to go to bed when i felt tired, which was before 10pm. totally unheard of for me. my usual bedtime these days is more like 1am, and i work basically up until the last ten or so minutes before my head hits the pillow. i woke up still tired, with this headache that's just been hanging out for a couple of days now, and decided to prioritize staying at home and getting some work done following my body's rhythms. it's been working so far - i spent the morning cleaning my house, which is something i haven't done properly in ages. there's still various messes in different corners, but floors got vacuumed and mopped, my bathroom got scrubbed, and my dishes got done. i also did a little photoshoot for my latest patterns - a mini-collection of hats using julie asselin's yarns.

hat selfies are hard.

i originally had planned on holding off on these until the fall, but with all my huge projects these days, i really needed a break on big designs to whip off some single skein projects. once i started on them, of course i had to do all three.

you basically just make a bunch of weird faces because otherwise you can't see the hat well.
i haven't named the collection yet, although all three designs have been named. i'll be sending them to nicola soon, but the priority for both of us right now is the book, and she's teching another book too, so they probably won't be ready for testing for a little bit. if you're interested in testing them when they are ready, do give me a shout. i'm tracking testers because so many of my designs have photos but aren't ready for tech editing or testing quite yet. i'll get around to them once the book is off my plate.

or you just straight up cover your face...

i've got a bunch of emails to respond to today and more book layout work to do, but hopefully there are some breaks in there for knitting too. i have yet another concept for a smallish collection (7 patterns is small in my books), and got a little brainstorm last night for the styling. i just need to decide whether to release patterns as they're ready, or hold off on them all and photograph and release them at once. i generally prefer to send my testers designs once i have finalized photos, so i just need to figure out how to juggle things. whatever happens won't get started until the winter, so there's no big rush. i do wish i had more time in the days though, both for work and for sleep!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

a long-overdue break

i've just booked a trip to go to toronto in august, and for the first time in years, it will be a trip for the sole purpose of taking a break. since my university days, my trips have always been with a purpose of study or work. which is fine, because it's a huge privilege to be able to travel with the frequency that i do (i think i've been on planes nearly every year since i was a baby, due partly to having family spread across a very large continent, but it's still a privilege many can't afford). and it's always been a conscious decision to use my vacation days and air miles to travel somewhere for a project or conference or course or residency. i prioritize what is almost always related to my art practice over just taking time off. realistically, i don't do days off particularly well. i get antsy, and there's always something to be working on anyway. but for the last year especially, i have really not taken time off. if i spend an hour not doing something productive, i feel guilty. and it's definitely taking a toll, and while i've been working on finding more of a balance, that balance seems to come at the expense of sleep. case in point - i've been working until 1am every night in the past week, regardless of whether it's a weekday or weekend.

tweed on the left, speckles from tanis on the right. believe it or not, those speckles are the same colourway and dye lot.

so now, i have a full week in toronto with humans i haven't seen in measurements of years and love dearly, and nothing pre-scheduled that affects my ability to see them. i will go to museums, and yarn shops, and restaurants, and wander along streets, and spend time with people i love and miss. and i  will probably work like crazy right up until i leave and immediately upon my return because september is a bit of a crazy month for me (book launch, fibre fest, my last month of prep before my neurocraft installation...). but the only work i'm bringing with me will be knitting, which is currently where my brain is hanging out. since i'm gone for a week, i don't want to pack too much (need to leave some space for those yarn purchases, y'know), and i also don't want to pack a project that will either be too quick or too complicated for a lot of social knitting time. most of my projects this summer are larger ones (sweaters and that big blanket), and the other projects are fairly complicated lace ones. i've pulled four skeins out of my stash - my newest acquisitions from tanis fiber arts and two tweedy balls of wool and silk from last winter at wolseley wool. my plan is a relatively mindless and humongous shawl, which might be a mistake, since toronto is notoriously hot and sticky in august. but we'll see.

julie's sevilla yarn in shiitake, with a faux fur pompom to top it off.

in the meantime, i've been taking short knitting breaks between my large projects to whip off single skein projects with the yarn i bought from julie asselin last month. i hadn't intended on doing them until the fall, but i've been feeling really scattered and often frustrated with my larger projects. i need small accomplishments that i can tick off my to-do list every once in a while to feel like i'm still on top of my game. realistically, there's a whole lot more involved in releasing a design than just knitting up the sample (pattern layout, photos, tech editing, test knitting...), but getting those samples done does feel pretty damn great. i have a big backlog of patterns that need several of those final steps before they get released, but my paperwork priority right now is the book. and honestly, once the book is done, i think i'll need a few days (or weeks) off from paperwork. so i'll focus on other stuff at that point, like building my neurocraft installation and knitting those larger projects and planning a book launch. and maybe sleeping a little more.

Sunday, 26 June 2016


well, i ended up changing my mind about waiting to release my new yarn. sylvia convinced me to make it available earlier, and now you can buy it dyed-to-order from my etsy shop! meet the newest addition to the sunflower knit yarn family, rumpelstiltskin.

i named this yarn rumpelstiltskin because of its make-up - 65% silk and 35% linen. it just made sense! and sounded more fun than something like "silken straw", which would also be accurate.

i love this yarn a lot. the two skeins i dyed with mica caps are sitting and waiting for me to get around to knitting with them. i wish i had more time! but i think the design i make with these lovelies won't hit my needles until the fall. ah well, maybe someone else will be quicker than me ha.

i've been settling a little more into my yarn dyeing priorities. with the limited amount of time that i have available to dye on a semi-regular basis, as well as the cost of keeping bases stocked, i've decided to focus primarily on mermaid hair, five of hearts sets, and now rumpelstiltskin. i still have some old stock to sell off, and i'll be able to do a bit of other dyeing for special orders and one-offs, but until anna's fibre csa is underway, i think this will be my main focus. it feels more sustainable, and also features the yarns in my line that i love the most, both for dyeing and for knitting with. and i think if you're going to be selling yarns, you should really love to knit with them too, don't you?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

tttkal 2016 recap

it's the end of this year's tops, tanks, & tees knit-along! i hope you enjoyed yourself as much as i did. i love this annual event that shannon hosts, because it's turned into just the best motivation for me to get a new design on and off my needles. in fact, thanks to this year's extensions, i got two designs on and off my needles, including one that had a false start and a week's worth of knitting that i frogged because i got a better idea halfway through!

this year, it's all about the boxy shapes for me. i don't know if all the shaping and math and yokes for flotsam & jetsam's garments have traumatized me slightly or what, but i was all about the squares and rectangles for both of my tttkal designs. first up, a crop top using shibui knits' cima.

i love this one so much! and i kept drooling over the colour while i knit it, because it is my perfect greyish-purple. i have never designed with laceweight before, because oh my god why would you want such thin yarn you'll never ever ever finish it. but i knew i wanted a particular floaty quality to the fabric, and that this yarn would accomplish that for me perfectly. it's so worth it. (incidentally, i have a three skein project using yoth's mother base that i'll have to deal with in the next year, so let's just think of this as preparation.)

next up, this super loose top that i designed using lichen & lace's 80/20 sock. i have had so many false starts on this design. for ages, i kept imagining it as a tank top of some sort, but i could never really settle on what kind of neck i wanted it to have. i also realized after working on it for about a week, that i rarely design tops that i personally would wear. i mean, i love my top designs, and i know they look great on a lot of people, but i never end up wearing the samples once they're done. especially if they're made from any sort of wool. i think because my body is so terrible at regulating heat, i end up thinking of my base layer as some sort of plant fibre, and then oodles of wool and silk get heaped on afterwards for my other layers. so i got stuck on this design once again, and shifted over to the crop top, and then i realized that wait, a boxy top with a super loose gauge would be the perfect way to have a lightweight, breezy, comfortable shirt layer for summer months. and so i finally got it done!

i'm in the process of getting both of these designs over to nicola for tech editing, and then they'll be ready for test knitting. each design fits a size 30-52" bust, so give me a shout if you'd like to test! i think i'd like to get them out mid-summer, so anticipate about a 4 week deadline once you get the pattern (although it's certainly not set in stone). 

shannon also does a sweater knit-along later in the summer, and although i've only participated once (that i can recall), i think it would be a really great excuse to get another design on and off my needles again. i  have a sweater's worth of yoth's father base (it's so magnificently squishy, i definitely shoved my face into it when it arrived), so maybe the kal will help me move along one of my larger designs for my collection with yoth, or at least get me going on it. the big pieces are always so intimidating, not necessarily even from a knitting perspective, but from the writing and math perspective. there's just so much paperwork and brain matter that goes into a sweater design. and financially, they sell for not much more than a shawl, which generally does not involve grading an additional ten or twelve sizes on top of the sample size. but they are incredibly satisfying, and a good sweater design is just so...well, perfect. so we'll see where i get to with both of those designs when the sweater kal comes along.