Victoria Food Swap!

I really like sharing food with friends. (I mean, sort of - not from my own plate... Depending on how hungry I am, sometimes I side with Joey on the "Joey doesn't share food" front.) But I love situations where people make food and then everyone eats together. BBQs, holiday meals, and especially pot lucks! This year, I discovered a super super fun addition to that list of food sharing events: the food swap.

The basics: at a food swap, participants grow, forage, or make (cook, bake, can, etc.) foods, bring them to a gathering, and then trade (in an organized way). A friend of mine helps run a swap in my city (Victoria!), and first convinced me to try it out a year ago this June. Our latest swap was on Saturday April 16th - here's what my experience was like this time! 

Choosing, planning, and creating the foods I'm going to bring is a big part of the fun for me. This time, I decided to bring a few different things: salted caramel sauce, paneer, and koolickles.

The salted caramel is a recipe I'm very comfortable with. I've made it a bunch of times, usually so I can make caramel apple pie! I ended up with 7 jars of caramel.

This is the paneer being pressed to release extra whey to help it firm up!

This is the paneer being pressed to release extra whey to help it firm up!

I also brought paneer! This is something my husband and I use in Indian cooking (one of our favourite cuisines). Saag paneer, for example, is sooooooo good. Paneer takes a LOT of milk and you get a smallish yield, so I only had 4 portions of paneer. I packaged it in heavy ziploc bags.

Lastly, I brought just two jars of a super weird item that I actually love: koolickles, or kool-aid pickles! I heard about them from Alton Brown of Good Eats fame, and if it's good enough for Alton, that's good enough for me ;) (Essentially regular ol' store bought dill pickles, that are flavoured with cherry kool aid - which you can no longer buy in Canada! What.) They're not for everyone, so I didn't bring very many. They're aggressively red and kind of unique and fabulous. 

Here's all my swap stuff ready to go!

Once at the swap, it's time to set up and fill out your swap sheets. Here's my section, with my three types of item, and samples of the pickles and caramel. I brought some cut up apple and a little spoon for the caramel, too. Samples are completely optional, but they make it feel even more like a pot luck, and I love being able to share what I've made with people even if we don't end up swapping.

I may have, um, sampled my own samples :)

I may have, um, sampled my own samples :)

Next, everyone checks out the bounty! It's so exciting to see people coming in and setting up delicious things :) This is a good time to ask questions about ingredients and preferences too. Once everyone's taken a look, swap sheets can be filled in with bids. So, if you brought some amazing kombucha, I'd write on your swap sheet whatever I'd be willing to trade for it - and my name of course.

Kombucha brought to the swap! 

Kombucha brought to the swap! 

BBQ sauce at the swap!

BBQ sauce at the swap!

Our swap was held at the gorgeous Robazzo, an eco-modern design studio. Their space is GORGEOUS and they're super lovely people! Check them out here (they have some veeeery tempting wood jewelry and amazing coasters and... you want to look :) )

All that's left to do is actually swap! There's always SO much amazing stuff to choose from that even if I don't get a particular item I had my eye on, I'm never disappointed.

Here's what I came home with this time: 

A bunch of beautiful rainbow chard, red wine velvet cupcakes (I've already eaten these and they were amazing), a variety of fruit leather (so pumped to bring these to work for snacks!), spanish tarragon, rosemary, banana chocolate chip muffins, coconut chocolate cookies, BEST granola (this swapper had both "best granola" and "second best granola", a naming scheme that was delightful to me! Best had added chocolate chips), sprouted wheat tortillas, granola bars, pear chutney, chipotle bbq sauce, peach jam, daikon refrigerator pickles, leek cauliflower soup, and some super fancy mini cupcakes.

Isn't that an amazing haul?! I love having such a wide variety of treats, new things to try, and foods that I enjoy eating but don't always make myself. I'm a huge jam and pickles person, for example, so it's lovely to snag those.

I'm already looking forward to the next swap, which will be in June! Thinking about what kinds of summer-ey things I'll be able to bring... :)

If you live in or near Victoria and you'd like to get involved, YOU SHOULD! :D There's more information about the swap process, future dates, and a place to have questions answered in our facebook group HERE. Hope to see you at a swap soon! 

PIE!

I like pie a lot.

It's my favourite kind of dessert. And very high up on the list of savoury things I like, too. I don't discriminate, all pies are welcome on my plate. Fruit pies? Yes. Custard pies? Of course. Hand pies? Give them to me. Tarts? Definitely. Pot pies? No question. Quiche? It has crust and filling, don't it? ALL OF THE PIES! All of the kinds. :) :) :) 

This year, I wanted to improve my pie-making skills (to better support my pie-eating skills). For Christmas, I received an excellent, sturdy, ceramic pie plate AND a really fabulous cookbook: The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, by sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen (Thanks mom!!). The book has a lot of super useful tips for beginners (how to roll out, fit, crimp, rest, and pre-bake crusts, for example), as well as lots of details about ingredients and techniques. Even better, it has a variety of recipes organized by season, from the familiar (Salted Caramel Apple!) to the innovative (Rosemary Shoofly!) to the transcendent (SALTY HONEY!).

Since December, I've been baking a pie every week (ish). At first, my crust skills were awful: tough, crunchy crusts that somehow seeped butter out onto the pan (what?) and made me sad. Still, even terrible pie is still pie. I kept at it, and I'm FINALLY starting to improve! 

Which recipes have I tested out so far? Here they are (in the order I made them)!

Black Bottom Oatmeal (which was sweet and crunchy, one of my husband's favourites so far.)

Rosemary Honey Shoofly, which had kind of a coffee cake vibe going on. I LOVED the rosemary flavour (one of my favourites in cooking!). I admit that it was a bit cake-leaning for my preferences ;)

Blushing Apple Pie, which includes this amazing roasted-beet-orange-cardamom-vanilla-sauce-thing. I looooooved this one; I think it's my second favourite from the book so far (even though my crust was still a bit crappy at this point.)

Green Chili Chocolate, made with jalapeno peppers for subtle spice! (This one was super rich and amazing. I like spice a lot, so if I made it again, I'd add even more jalapeno for a more obvious heat.) The chocolate crust was a fun experiment too!

Sliced Sweet Potato and Apple Crumble Pie, which was unique and sweet and an excellent colour. I thought the crumble topping (which doubles as a crust in other recipes) was completely perfect.

Lemon Chess Pie, simple and perfect! Tangy, citrusy lemon pie is a big favourite (and I much prefer lemon pie WITHOUT the overly sweet meringue), so this was right up my alley - and another fave of my husband's. This pie is on the cover of the book, but with a much fancier crust!

Cranberry Sage Pie, with a combination of fresh and (rehydrated) dried cranberries, was lovely and tart and amazing with the almond whipped cream I made! By this point, my crust was becoming decidedly more edible, although still far from perfect. 

Pear Anise Pie, which was a combo I would never have thought of myself! The anise was perfect, just assertive enough without overwhelming the pear flavour. This pie used one of the book's cool techniques - combining spices with sugar in a grinder or food processor, to release the flavours and make everything fragrant and awesome. Crust game getting stronger! (You can tell I'm feeling more confident by my decorative star shape approach.)

The next pie gets two photos - because it was HANDS DOWN my favourite so far. I love it. I want to eat it forever and make it for everyone. I totally understand why it's the book (and the shop)'s flagship pie. It is (to repeat myself) transcendent.

SALTY HONEY PIE. Here's how it looks in the book (alongside the flaky maldon salt I bought to finish it with... "soft crunchy flakes"!):

And here's mine :) It was so good. I will DEFINITELY be making this again. A lot. It's very, very sweet, so if that's not your thing, ymmv. But the salt balances it so so nicely, and honey is such a fantastic flavour. I used Wildflower honey from Babe's Honey Farm, because it's local to me and mega tasty.

Most recent (and by most recent I mean I made it yesterday), the first recipe I've made from the SPRING section of the book...

Rhubarb pie! This lovely simple fruit pie has allspice, ginger, and cardamom in it (YUM). I skipped the Angostura bitters (because v. expensive for just 2 dashes - and I'm not much of a cocktails maker, so I would never use it up). Super lovely! This time the crust shapes are (slightly janky) hearts.

My pie journey so far!! Excepting yesterday's rhubarb pie, all the recipes above are from the fall and winter sections of the book. I am unabashedly delighted to be getting into the spring and summer sections, partly because there are SO many more fruit pie options! I like custard pies a lot, but I think there's something completely magic about crust + fruit :)

Next on my shortlist are another rhubarb number (rhubarb compote on the bottom and custard on top!) and a pie featuring both honey and lavender (with a candied lavender garnish!)... oh pie, I love you :)

Check out the Elsens' excellent book, leave me your pie-baking and crust-creating tips (seriously, I need them. I am still a mega amateur.), and share your favourite kind of pie in the comments :) Yay pie!! 

Whale!

I sewed a lil' whale buddy! :D

(How, Sarah? Why?) When I wear jeans, they tend to always wear out in the exact same spot, every time. The rest of the pair can be totally fine, but the worn out spot is worn out, so I get new jeans. For the last few years, I've been saving my old jeans, thinking there MUST be something I can do with a perfectly good pile of denim... enter the whale!

I googled around a bit for sewing projects using old denim, and when I saw this whale, I knew I definitely wanted to make it (at least twice - once for my sister, who went whale watching with me years ago, and once for my best friend's one-year-old, because kids are the best excuse to make things, right? Plus also his name evokes water so I feel like a water animal is a good toy choice :) If you're reading this and you think it's your kid IT IS!)

Drafting out what I wanted the pieces to look like, ish.

Drafting out what I wanted the pieces to look like, ish.

How I imagined my assembled whale would look!

How I imagined my assembled whale would look!

My main inspiration came from the blog Valaan Villapaita, which is full of a variety of lovely things. This post is where I started: it's a super helpful tutorial, with lots of photos and step by step tips. The post doesn't offer a pattern, just a method, which I was first intimidated and then excited by. Something about the author's writing style made me feel totally empowered to try drafting my own little pattern! After all, what could be more forgiving than a toy made out of cast-off materials?

Tracing out pattern pieces (and adding a seam allowance, something I forgot to do before I cut out the pattern pieces. Oops!

Tracing out pattern pieces (and adding a seam allowance, something I forgot to do before I cut out the pattern pieces. Oops!

All the pieces cut out and laid out!

All the pieces cut out and laid out!

With everything cut out, I got started sewing! The Valaan Villapaita tutorial gives a super clear explanation of the order to do things in - sew the fins and tail (then turn right sides out), sew the two top pieces together, 

sew the decorative belly seams,

attach the fins and sew the back pieces to each of the top pieces,

It took a little bit of easing to get these pieces lined up, but nothing too tricky.

It took a little bit of easing to get these pieces lined up, but nothing too tricky.

He's starting to look whale-y!!!

He's starting to look whale-y!!!

attach the tail to the top piece,

add decorative details (like topstitching on the fins and embroidered (or button!) eyes, sew the belly and leave a gap for filling, turn right side out, fill with stuffing, and seam up the gap!

WHALE BUDDY! I used button eyes for this one, since it's for an adult. When I make the next one (for the baby!), it will have embroidered eyes to make it super safe. 

Noble whale! I love him (but I'm still going to give him away.) All from one leg of an old pair of jeans! :D

Cold Process Soapmaking Class Review!

Many months ago, I fell a little bit in love with handmade soap. My friend Amber of Pine Creek Apothecary makes the most gorgeous cold process soaps (among many other wonderful things!), many of them from natural, foraged, or grown-by-her ingredients. Every time she has soap available, I load up! 

Before using Amber's soaps, I really hadn't had much experience with handmade soap products, but now that I can tell the difference I don't think I'll go back to using (only) commercial soap. Handmade soap lasts longer, smells better, and dries out my skin WAY less! Not to mention it can include amazing exfoliating elements, which I'm always looking for. 

When I found out that a local organic living store, The Good Planet Company, offers cold process soapmaking classes, I was VERY excited! Thanks to a lovely Christmas gift from my mom (thanks mom!), I got to check out the class this week. EXCITEMENT! (Aside: Good Planet has tons of other lovely things; I've bought baby gifts there, and have been reeeeeally wanting to try out some of their reusable lunch products, like mini bento boxes and great water bottles like Swell!)

I want to tell you ALL about this class - maybe there's a similar one near you! When I arrived, everything was organized and set out for us in tidy little stations.

Our supplies included bowls and ramekins, measuring spoons and cups, a thermometer, a whisk, a spatula, safety gloves and goggles, an apron, pre-measured oils and butters, distilled water, a digital scale, and a stick blender. Everything felt super organized! There was lots of excited chatter as participants waited for things to get rolling. (The class size is super small - no more than eight people!)

To begin, Soapmaster (his actual title!) Ian told us about why people often don't try soapmaking, what the soaping process involves chemically, and pointed out that there are a lot of products out there being sold that look like soap but aren't - instead, they have descriptions like "moisturizing beauty bar." (NOT SOAP!)

Hearing more about how safe and easy the soapmaking process would be made me even more pumped than I was when I got there (which was pretty pumped... I was already clapping my hands a little bit like an excited kid :) ). Next, we got to carefully choose ways to customize our soaps! Because the actual soap mixing process happens very quickly, we needed to choose additives first. 

To start, scents! Good Planet stocks a variety of essential oils, and even though I had thought going in that I might choose a citrus-rosemary combo (rosemary is my FAVOURITE herb), or even something in the fruit + cardamom family (inspired a little bit by an apple, beet, orange and cardamom pie I made recently! It was amazing, by the way), I ended up going for a "Christmas Spice" essential oil blend which smells a lot like cloves. YUM!

Next, we chose between adding a small amount of Shea or Cocoa butter to the pre-measured fats (coconut oil, vegetable shortening, olive oil, and castor oil). I went with the cocoa butter, which smelled AMAZING. We also had the option of selecting an exfoliating element - of course I was into that! I went with poppy seeds, although the alternatives (cranberry seeds and ground walnut shells) also looked cool. 

One more customizable element - COLOUR! In this class, we had the chance to choose two different colours (as well as pigmented clays, which could add smoothness as well). When making our final soap mix, we'd be swirling the colours together. There were sooo many pretty choices! 

I wanted a fairly subtle colour combination; no shade on those high contrast soaps, but part of what I love about handmade soaps is their natural look. Maybe because of that, I was extra interested in using spices as dyes! I chose paprika and another additive called annatto, which is used to colour TONS of food products, including Cheetos!! 

READY TO SOAP! Things went very quickly after that - Ian explained the steps we would follow, and then we all created our soaps at the same time: adding lye to water (both carefully measured), heating up and melting our fats, checking the temperatures carefully, and then combining the mixtures with our handy stick blenders. Next, incorporating each of the additives, and then swirling our two soap colours together in our cardboard moulds! I was way too involved to take in-process photos, but I can show you the aftermath...

Here's how my soap looked RIGHT after I poured it:

(A bit gross and mucus-ey, right? STILL SO COOL) And the next day:

I was excited to see that the subtle contrast I was hoping for showed up!! The more orangey parts were coloured with annato, and the pinkier parts with paprika. Our instructions were to keep the soap in a warm place for 24 hours, then cut it up and let it dry or cure for three to four weeks before using it. Curing the soap lets more of the water evaporate, which will mean a harder and longer lasting soap! I am soooo excited about how my soaps turned out.

I can ENTHUSIASTICALLY recommend the Good Planet company's soapmaking classes (which you can sign up for online!) I had a fantastic time, and I'm so pleased with the soap - and knowledge! - that I took away. I would looove to make more soap, and I'm already dreaming of different scent and additive combinations... I could add local sea salt! I could integrate tea brewed from my favourite local tea company! I could get a hold of beautiful local produce and mix it in as well! AAAH! Endless possibilities :) Hurray for soap!

On Not Knitting.

It has been very quiet on the blog.

That's because for the last few months, I haven't been myself. (I know that sounds hella dramatic, but it feels true.) I've talked about it in the past: for the last year and a half or so, I've had intermittent problems with arm pain, related to knitting, spinning, sewing (pretty much all crafting), typing (which is super hard to handle because I'm a grad student in the throes of dissertation-ing, which involves typing a lot... and I used to have a job where all I did was type, which I had to stop doing), and even some household chores like chopping vegetables and ironing. 

I've been seeing a physiotherapist who specializes in arms and hands since November, and he's had some great advice. I've been trying to rest a lot, and that means minimizing typing, taking breaks, trying to sit in a more ergonomic position, and absolutely no crafting of any kind. Also, testing out heat vs cold for soothing flare-ups and relaxing muscles, gentle self-massage, and figuring out which stretches help my particular body to feel better. 

It's not carpal tunnel or de Quervain's or any of those more specific things; the medical people I've talked to all say it seems like just a bad case of tendonitis that isn't going away, or that keeps coming back. 

Today, after having very responsibly not crafted at all, not even a little, since February, I knit one row, to see how it would feel. Not an especially long row, no intense stitches, just a row of purl on my Clincher. I was really, really hoping that all the rest and care would have paid off. I'm feeling pretty good most days, able to type for short period as long as I stretch and use my wireless keyboard instead of the laptop keyboard, and generally not having pain all the time. But, I could tell by about two thirds of the way through the row that my muscles were already getting tight and the telltale tickle of burny feeling was creeping in. Sigh. 

This is probably a pretty boring blog post to read, but since it's my blog, I'm putting my thoughts here. I really, really miss crafting. Over the last ten years, creative things, knitting especially, have become central to my life, and an important part of my identity. Not being able to do the things I love, the things that make my brain hum happy and my spirits feel joyful, is very hard. I feel silly about those emotions, sometimes, because geez, what a first world problem to have. But man, it hurts my heart not to be able to make things.

For now, I'm going back to no crafting. I'll keep stretching and massaging and hoping. Maybe in another three months, things will be different. Until then, my yarn is put away and my heart feels a little bit on hold. 

Adding a fabric band to a dress; or, super short to super cute!

Hi! It's been a hot minute! I'm still not knitting. Bummer. I did go and see my physiotherapist again this week, and I have some new stretches to try, so keep your fingers and other appendages crossed for me!! 

In the meantime, I've been going medium stir crazy. I HAD to find an outlet. Now, I'm not much of a sewer; advanced beginner at best, I think. One thing I do have a little bit of experience with is simple alterations - mostly hemming, but the occasional tweak as well. Recently, I picked up a couple of really cute, really cheap dresses, and with a simple alteration, made them WAY more wearable! 

Photos? Yes. Let's. 

The top two in this little pile are the dresses I altered. Both are exactly the same shape, just different prints: a simple rectangle with holes for sleeves and neck, and an elasticized waist.

Also, um, quite short. Even for under-five-feet me. But! I had an idea! What if I could find some plain, bold coloured fabric and add a bright band to the bottom? Lengthen just enough and add a little extra PEP? (I hate to admit it but I do kind of like pep.)

I googled around and found several encouraging tutorials  - the last link was particularly instructive, and I followed a lot of the method used there (so go check it out!) I was imagining a bright, punchy mustard fabric, but...

Then I found this awesome coral pink! It seemed like it would be great with black and white...

And it totally was! YEAH! So I got down to business. SEWING BUSINESS. First, I unpicked the existing hem. I wanted to squeeze out all the length I could.

I could have just sewn the new band on top of the existing hem, but I didn't want it to be bulky - it's a pretty lightweight fabric, and it would have shown. Then! I cut two identical pieces of the band, in the length I wanted, plus allowance for seaming and hemming. I sewed the two side seams, and zigzagged (alas, I am WAY not experienced enough to have a serger, so I finish edges with zigzags.) Then, I sewed the tubey band to the bottom of the dress. 

In this one, you can see the band-to-dress seam and its zigzag finish, and the hem pressed & pinned, ready to be sewn. Oh, and also my feet. Oops. 

In this one, you can see the band-to-dress seam and its zigzag finish, and the hem pressed & pinned, ready to be sewn. Oh, and also my feet. Oops. 

Hopefully this won't jinx future hems, but I think this is the straightest hem I've ever sewn! (Note: not actually that huge of an accomplishment, most of my previous hems were hella wonky.)

YAY! It turned out cute! I love the colour!! PLUS, surprise surprise, the extra band fabric matched really well with the other print, too! 

This was a quick and fun alteration that I'll definitely try again in the future, if I end up with any more too short dresses. Normally, though, I'm HEMMING instead of trying to add more dress. On that subject, up next...

(I'm not turning this into a sewing blog. I just need to do SOMETHING creative while I can't do my regular creatives. Plus also fun dress things!)

Bringing Cold Mountain Out Of Hibernation

Hi! This week, I've actually done a teeny tiny little bit of knitting. My wrists and arms are still pretty easily irritated by any kind of repetitive activity (including typing, knitting, spinning... sigh), so I've been extremely careful to only knit one or two rows a. at a time, and b. per day. As long as my muscles only feel a little bit tight and not achy-burny-bad, it seems okay.

What did I pull out to work a (FEW) rows on? This is Cold Mountain, by Kieran Foley (a free pattern on Knitty.com!) . I should also mention that this isn't exactly the same as the version in Knitty. There are several variations on the original offered on Kieran's website, and I'm making the Chevrons version. The yarn is Juniper Moon's incomparable Findley, a wool/silk blend with tons of drape & shine and truly impressive yardage. This colour is a favourite of mine, unsurprisingly - it's sort of gold and sort of green and all kinds of shiny. 

The pattern is lovely - super well laid out, easy to follow, and great once you get into a rhythm. (I can't get into much of a rhythm when I'm only working one row at a time and then taking a long break, but one row is better than zero rows!)

I've added lots of my own notes to the charts, to help me keep track of where I am and what's coming next; I've also been using a sticky flag to mark which row is next as I proceed. 

I chose to give my (extremely limited) knitting time to this project for a particular reason: for the last few summers, I've entered pieces of my knitting into our local agricultural fair. Normally I have quite a few items to submit, but this year I already know I won't have many, or maybe none at all. So, I thought I would try to focus on projects that, when finished, I could see entering in the fair. Although there's no specific category for lace, there is a "hand knitted shawl" category where I think this will fit. (Aside: This fair's categories are oriented much more around types of garment than types of technique, which seems strange to me, but that's how it is! They also have a LOT of categories for children's and babies' garments...)

It's possible that I still might not finish it in time; I've been working on it for a year already, and I'm only nearing the halfway point now (keep in mind that I haven't been at all project-monogamous, though). The last time I posted about it was back in September! And even if I finish, there will probably be lots of other fantastic hand knitted shawls for it to compete against. But I still want to try! I'm also thinking about focusing some energies on smaller sized projects that I could enter in other categories - a hat and mittens, for example. I can't decide whether I'm really crazy to be allotting knitting time based on future fair entries, but I LOVE the fair, and thinking about not entering anything at all makes me sad. Fingers crossed that I make the deadline! 

Marimekko Love!

Bold prints, bright colours, lots of nature, and general happy-making: that's how I would describe Marimekko, a Finnish design company. This weekend, I got to check out the Marimekko exhibit at my local art gallery - total delight! I had a really great time. I love Marimekko's design esthetic and loved seeing some of their work up close and in person. The exhibit tour also raised some great questions and got me thinking.

The docent for our tour group asked us consider whether items produced by Marimekko, things like fabric and clothing and housewares, are still art. She told us that Marimekko sometimes called their fabric "Art by the yard". Does being on a purchasable commodity or consumer product mean that their images are no longer art? It seemed that nearly everyone in my tour group felt strongly that Marimekko's work IS art, absolutely, even though apparently some tour guests (in previous tours) had argued that it wasn't art and did not belong in a gallery at all. 

I wish I had participated in the discussion more. The casual but thoughtful chat reminded me in a very visceral way of grad school seminar discussions. In particular, it reminded me of that feeling of being able to have an opinion in response to an idea, and then to articulate it coherently, with both respect for dissent and discussion as well as confidence and excitement. I love the exhilaration and adrenaline high of exchanging ideas like that, where if you're quick and thoughtful at once, it feels like a huge victory.  Discussion groups were really what I enjoyed most about grad school.

Anyway! The gallery docent's central questions for us were around the relationships between art, craft, and consumerism, especially since Marimekko creator Armi Ratia's explicit intent was to create "a lifestyle", not just things for people to buy. I feel really strongly that wearable, usable, tangible objects CAN be and are often art. Why shouldn't they be? If they bring us joy, if they stimulate an emotion in us, if they challenge us or make us think, then to me, that brings them into the realm of art. Our docent quoted William Morris: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Yep, that seems like a pretty excellent thing to strive for.

A little bit of Marimekko gift shop swag. Who could resist? A couple of notebooks and a cool postcard in my favourite green. I think these are both useful and beautiful.

A little bit of Marimekko gift shop swag. Who could resist? A couple of notebooks and a cool postcard in my favourite green. I think these are both useful and beautiful.

I'll also say that I think clothing and self-fashioning are important and can be deeply meaningful, artistically and creatively. Just because you buy something and use it or wear it doesn't empty it of meaning and value. On the contrary - I think that choosing items to put on your body and then to go out into the world can be a powerful moment of meaning-making and of communication. (It's not always: sometimes clothes are for utility or safety or necessity. But clothes can be rich with intentional and chosen meaning, if you have the means and opportunity for them to be.) When I choose clothing, what other items have I chosen to pair with the thing I bought? How do I wear them? Where? Why? How do I FEEL when I wear them? How do others feel? Wearable art isn't just a cliche. Not everything we wear at all times has to be art, but the point is that it CAN be. 

Dresses: 100% fantastic. Where can I get some? :)

Dresses: 100% fantastic. Where can I get some? :)

The Marimekko exhibit also raised themes around feminism and freedom in dressing, which I love thinking about and wrestling with. Armi Ratia intentionally chose simple, non-fitted silhouettes for her garments, at a time (post WW2) when fitted waists and skirts with volume were much more dominant. Both as a historian (I study beauty and body history in Canada during WW2) and as a woman who gets to choose what I wear, thinking about why and how people, especially women, have chosen to dress and style themselves, as well as the societal constraints and freedoms around clothing, gender, and style, feels natural and meaningful for me. A few months ago, I read Women in Clothes, a book which gave me SO much to think about (worth checking out if you're into these ideas!) I find the shapes, boldness, and brightness of Marimekko's clothing exciting and compelling; I also really admire Ratia's original intension, for women to have clothing that they can feel free in. Of the dresses they had on display at the gallery, I would enthusiastically wear all of them.

The far right print seems like it's ripe for knitting imitation!

The far right print seems like it's ripe for knitting imitation!

Finally, textiles in general are especially meaningful for me, as a person who sometimes gets to make her own fabric with yarn and needles, or to make her own yarn with fiber and a spindle. Seeing these fabrics was a real pleasure. One of the prints on display even struck me as a perfect inspiration for a knitted blanket, in the same vein as Angles by Martina Behm. I just find colour and pattern to be so powerful and stimulating! Definitely art. Important, joy-making, art.

Some Photos That I Used to Know

Hi! I haven't been knitting much (okay, at all); still trying to rest up my chronically tendonitis-ey appendages. I do have something pretty to show you though - and it's not yarn for once! 

In high school, I was lucky enough to get to take several classes in photography. We used black and white film, developed our own negatives, and processed our own photos in the darkroom. It was fantastic, a creative pursuit that I found addictive. 

Once I was out of high school and no longer had access to a darkroom, I kept taking photos on colour and B&W film, and just had them processed at a photo store. I missed the darkroom but still loved making photos. Digital photography has never really made my heart beat fast in quite the same way, and I stopped taking (what felt like) artier photos years ago. But! I recently came across a folder full of my old photos. I'm sure to some they'll look weird, dated, blurry, juvenile, amateur, or just boring, but they remind me of a time when I felt particularly creative and when taking photos was a meditative, thoughtful and exciting experience for me. I like looking at them :) 

Maybe I'll share more of these old photos sometime! Are there creative or artistic mediums that you used to pursue but now don't? 

Lemon Yellow Happiness Explosion!

Hello! 

Remember back when I was obsessing about Vancouver indie dyer RainCityKnits' lovely bright colours, thinking that I'd like to make a Neon Ski Bonnet (designed by Lacey Volk) with some of their yarn? Well I am extremely spoiled, because my lovely mom sent some my way as a Christmas present! It had to be hand dyed, so it took some time...

FUTURE YARN! How cute is this little note she sent me?

FUTURE YARN! How cute is this little note she sent me?

And yes, I do have a "Keep Calm, Carry Yarn" magnet :)

So the lovely yarn arrived IN PERSON this past week! THREE squishy skeins of worsted weight superwash merino in the "Lemon Yellow" colourway. I thought it was so pretty and perfect that it deserved more than one or two photos. I started out just looking for other yellow things in my apartment, and ended up going a little bit glamour shots... It's so pretty, it glows. TRY not to smile looking at this yarn!

OOOH!

OOOH!

PS How beautiful are the labels on this yarn? With the Vancouver skyline? So lovely.

Okay, so other yellow stuff in my apartment that really didn't even compare to how yellow this yarn is:

Dinosaur card!

Dinosaur card!

Rubber glove!

Rubber glove!

Cat things!

Cat things!

Mustardy bedspread

Mustardy bedspread

And then um, ACTUAL LEMONS! Just to show how aptly named the colourway is.

And then um, ACTUAL LEMONS! Just to show how aptly named the colourway is.

As usual, somebody sneaky was very interested in all of this yarn action.

I'm SO excited to have this yarn in my stash. Hopefully it won't be waiting there too long! I'm still planning to make a Neon Ski Bonnet with it, but since I have three whole skeins, maybe some little matching mittens, too! If you were going to make some minimal mittens (that are conservative on the yardage side) with Lemon Yellow, what pattern would you use? And how do you feel about neon yarns? Too bright, or just right? Let me know what you think! :D

JOMA Hexagon Blocking!

Hi :) Last time I showed you how the mini skeins from JOMA yarns knit up. (Basically, gorgeous.)

Here's how they blocked out (along with a couple of other hexa-stragglers from the fall):

Going for a swim!

Going for a swim!

I usually use the Ravelry scented Soak wash to block knits, but this time I used something new: Allure Wash, created by the nice people who run Bijou Basin Ranch (they make covetable yarns with yak fiber. YAK!). I heard about Allure Wash over at MisoCraftyKnits, and signed up to get a free sample. (They'll even send a free sample to Canadians, if you get in touch with them! The shipping charges for the sample are nominal - something like $2, I think.)

Allure Wash seems like a lovely product! The Woodland Mist scent they sent me is nice, and not too strong - it struck me as having more gentle perfumey notes* (*EXPERT TERMINOLOGY ALERT! Perfumey notes = sophistication of scent analysis). My personal tastes lean a bit more towards the fruity, so I'd love to have been able to try their other scent, Prairie Breeze, which has bergamot (one of my all-time favourite smells) and raspberry (my all-time favourite fruit). Scents aside, Allure has the same awesome features that a product like Soak does - washes gently and doesn't need to be rinsed out of your garments. I'd totally recommend trying their products out! Free samples are a very nice thing :)

Okay back to hexagons!!

Yay! Once everything was blocked and dry, onto the "done" pile they went :)

I'm still a loooong way away from having this blanket finished, but each little part of the process is still making me happy :) There are some adorable mini skein collections on etsy that are pretty tempting! Have you ever used mini skeins for a project?

Mini Skeins and Hexagons!

Hi! I'm still pretty excited about the blog's new look :) But I also have something pretty to show you! 

Back in the summer at Victoria's Fibrations fiber fest (which is amazing and if you're in town then you should absolutely go), I picked up some adorable mini skeins from a new-to-me indie dyer: JOMA yarn! Here's what I brought home from JOMA back then:

Joma Yarn haul!

And here are the little mini skeins, zoomed in:

IMG_5421.jpg

They wound up completely adorably, too.

I knit these minis up back in November. I love these little hexagons, which are destined to be part of a Six'es blanket (designed by Karen Lauger); they'e so quick to knit, and really make the most of small amounts of yarn like these mini skeins! 

Even just from this little sample, I'm convinced that JOMA yarns are here to stay. Their colourways are so vibrant and exciting! The kind of colours that make you want to knit one more row every time, just to see what's coming next. 

Speaking of what's coming next - blocking photos of the JOMA hexagons coming up soon! :)

Neon Confetti Irresistible!

Hi! Happy January! Is that a thing that people say? Happy January anyway :) So far I've spent quite a lot of this calendar year eating nachos (YES) and watching the West Wing on netflix (YES) with my favourite person :) I have not been doing any knitting (broken record: no-crafting-for-wrist-healing-for-as-long-as-I-can-stand-it-so-that-hopefully-it-really-heals-this-time).

But! I did do a little bit of knitting back in mid-December that I haven't shown you yet. (It was a bad idea wrists-wise, but I can still show it to you. Yeah!)

Remember this neon yarn that I gushed about (from Vancouver's RainCityKnits) which I picked up at this summer's Fibrations festival in Victoria?

Neon!

I love speckley, sprinkley yarns like this one, even though I sometimes have a hard time finding patterns that really make them shine. I'm using it to make (Guelph's) Ash Kearns' pattern, Clincher, and I'm still pretty obsessed with it. (Also kind of pleased that both the yarn and the pattern are by Canadians :) )

Neon!

I think the combination of yarn and pattern here is FANTASTIC. Kudos to RainCity dyer (and lovely person) Krista for doing such a beautiful and non-pool-ey dye job!

Project glamour shots time? I think so.

Neon!
Neon!
Neon!
Neon!

Neon yarn + simple, addictive pattern + bright happy project bag = COME ON

Neon!

Finally, regularly scheduled cat leg cameo:

Neon!

Yeah. I really, really love how this yarn is knitting up, and when I'm back in fighting form knitting-wise, I'm going to be all over this prettiness. It just makes my heart happy!

2014 in review!

Check it out - Wordpress has this cool "year in review" feature that compiles a bunch of statistics from a blog over the last year. Neat!

Click here to see the complete report.

My blog is pretty tiny right now (in terms of traffic, commenting, that kind of thing), but that's okay with me. First, because even chatting with a few friends (YOU GUYS!) is still lovely - and nicer than chatting just to Miss New Zealand... Second, because it means there's still lots of room to grow!

I'm still thinking about the how's and why's, but I think I'd love to make growing the blog a little bit a goal for 2015. It might be challenging, especially if my arm strain issues continue to prevent me from crafting as much as I'd like to, but I really enjoy blogging so I want to try!

I'm not normally a big "resolutions" person, but I do like the idea of goals and targets (which you could argue is just semantics... but it's a meaningful distinction to me. I think goals and targets communicate an intentional flexibility and aspirational quality, while resolutions have kind of a more rigid, "to be broken" feeling that can set you up for feelings of failure. ANYWAY!).

I have a few others in mind for this coming year that I'm still mulling over. What about you? Are you thinking about goals, craft-related or otherwise, around this time of year?

The best: I won some yarn!!

Yarn contests. They are ALL over the internet. Blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, and even Instagram: they're all fertile spaces for bloggers, yarnies, indie dyers, and designers to share yarn, patterns, and other prizes with the people who follow them. I can't even count the number of yarn contests I've entered over the years. A couple of weeks ago, I WON ONE! This package arrived...

Yarn win!

...with my prize in it!

Yarn win!

The contest I won was run by Anna from Mythic Yarns, and my prize was this gorgeous skein of merino, cashmere and nylon yarn (Anna also very generously added some delicious chocolates to my package!). The colourway is called "The Golden Fleece", and I REALLY love it! The golden, slightly mustardy yellow with little hints of white throughout is super super pretty. Miss New Zealand definitely approved!

Yarn win!

Yarn win!

Yarn win!

Yarn win!

I am SO excited to use this pretty pretty yarn. It's totally my kind of yellow, and it's lovely and soft as well! You should definitely check out Mythic Yarns. (Here's their etsy store!) I love a lot of the colourways - and their names! Like, "Aphrodite was made of seafoam?" and "LEPRECHAUN BARF"!! - so creative :)

Yarn win!

I feel crazy lucky to have won!! Yay :) Yarn is the best thing you can get in the mail, I think.

By the way, Anna, the dyer at Mythic, is also a pattern designer. She recently released a very pretty fingerless glove pattern that would pair perfectly with my winning yarn, or with most fingering weight yarns you might have in your stash. Check out Twisted Scarlet!

And on that note, I wish you all excellent luck in entering yarn contests in the future; I hope you win something someday too!

Happy Christmas!

Happy holidays, no matter what you celebrate! I hope you've had a good break, or at least some time with family, some tasty food, and some rest. Ideally, I hope you've had hugs and lots of yarn to squish :) My holiday has been lovely, with so many good things, and LOTS of snacks. No knitting (wrists, ugh), but lots of Ravelling and thinking about future projects.

xmas!

xmas!

xmas!

xmas!

xmas!

Aside from all the holiday niceness above, I also got this package in the mail yesterday...

Yarn win!

It contained yarn :) I'll show you what was inside soon! Happy, happy holidays.

Chevron Blanket: Forest Heather or Bust!

Last time I updated you on my Heirloom Chevron Throw, it looked like this (ugh, this photo is blurry because my corner of Canada + November = dark all the time!): And the after!

Since then, I've made some fun progress! I finished the last rows of the 4th stripe, in Cascade 220 "Irlande".

Green stripey pileup!

Shiny needles ooo

5 colours finished!

After I finished the last full chevron, the next bit of the pattern is to work two corner triangles to square everything off, using the last colour. I really love changing colours in striped projects. It just always feels really momentous!

First row!

First row!

First row!

The last colour is also Cascade 220, in "Forest Heather". I've been pretty impressed with the Cascade 220 colourways that I chose for this project, especially the Heathers, because they're actually fairly layered and interesting. I think of Cascade 220 as an affordable workhorse yarn, and I think it's been just right for this project. Good drape, enough squish factor, and lots and lots of colours to choose from. I'm so pleased with how all the colours are looking together! It's definitely a greeny-goldy bonanza. Not colours that would make everyone happy, but I really like them.

Aw yeah that goldy greeny gorgeousness

Of course, somebody still thinks this project is JUST for her, so when I spread it out to look at my progress and take a few photos, she opportunistically jumped up and settled in. Sneak!

Cat burglar!!

To Sale Shop or Not to Sale Shop?

Hi! Are you keeping an eye out for yarn sales right now? I'm not a big fan of the craziness of Black-Friday-Weekend-Whatever shopping, but I have noticed some pretty tempting yarn and fiber sales being mentioned on twitter... For example, did you know that RainCityKnits (a huge favourite of mine) is offering 20% off ALL of their yarn for the next few days? AAAH! See this tweet for the deets!

I've been plotting and planning to order some RainCity Merino Worsted for a while now. I want to make the NEON SKI BONNET with it, for several reasons:

1. Neon. 2. Cool stitch patterns and construction 3. POMPOM RIGHT?!! 4. It will make me look even more like an adorable tiny child.

This image of the hat is from the designer, Lacey Volk's, blog:

Neon Bonnet

Ooooh yes. So! I know I want to use RainCity's yarn and Lacey Volk's pattern. The remaining questions are:

1. Which colour of yarn?!! 2. Should I buy it now, while it's on sale, even though it's right before the holidays (when I should be buying things for OTHER people...)?

Colour-wise, I've narrowed it down to...

Lemon Yellow Lemon

Electric Coral Coral

Kelly Green Kelly

Wasabi Wasabi

OR Apple Green Apple

(**ALL images of RainCity's yarns belong to them and are from their Etsy shop, which you should go and check out!**)

I just cannot decide which colour or whether to hold off until the New Year... it's not like I don't have PILES of yarn already, and I have plenty of projects on the needles. Even if I got the yarn now, I wouldn't have the hat ready super soon or anything. But it's so pretty!!

What do you think, readers? Would you pick it up now, or wait until later? Which colour would you choose? Leave me all of your opinions in the comments! :)

Chevron blanket update... and blanket surgery!

It's been a while since I've posted anything about my chevrons blanket (aka Heirloom Chevron Throw by Jocelyn Tunney - the pattern is FREE)! Despite still having generally terrible wrists/forearms, I'm managing to sneak in tiny bits of knitting here and there (mostly because I am not typing very much right now - my typing job is on hold for a little while, so I can stand a bit more knitting as a result). Here's the blanket with gratuitous cat blanket thief! Cat blanket thief

Chevron blanket progress

Looking good! Wait a minute... what's that in the apple green stripe?

Ugh!

Ugh! A weird little tuft of yarn! At first I thought maybe I'd done a bad job of felted-join-ing, but upon closer inspection, I remembered that it was just a felty nep in the yarn, and when I knit it in, I'd thought it would blend in fine. But because everything else is so smooth, it's REALLY obvious. And annoying. I decided I could probably fix it with some surgery, by cutting the yarn, unpicking the few stitches where the nep was, and grafting with new yarn... weaving in the ends on the back for close to seamlessness.

SURGERY!

EEP!

Ooh messy

I worked on figuring out the kitchenering with contrasting yarn, to make it easier to see what was going on. Then I tied on the right colour of yarn to the contrast yarn, and gently pulled/guided the correct yarn through. (I really should have taken more photos... but it was intense.)

A little bit better

A little bit fuzzy, but:

And the after!

Pretty good, right?

Can you see where I fixed it?

This is the spot I fixed! Could you tell?

Here!

I am loving this blanket, even though it's sooooo slow going. 20 more rows (10 more ridges) of this colour and then I'll be on to the final triangles to square it off!

Chevrons progress

What are you knitting these days??