Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hanukah, 2017

 On Tuesday night, Hanukah started around here.  We have been very busy--every afternoon after the twins get off the school bus, there is a mad rush.  We have to choose the candles, Mommy!  We have to help make latkes, Mommy! (that was a huge mess, but sort of fun, too)  We have to read books about the holiday, Mommy!  We have to play dreidl and discuss what our friends have gotten as presents, Mommy!  (and onward.)

This is a pretty exhausting whirlwind, since we have to fit in all the celebrations and parties around school and work.... which is still happening every day. The reactions have been funny, too.  Each night, the kids get gifts.  Most nights, the gifts are small.  Last night, we got one story book, some colored pencils, coloring books, and wool socks.  This is, in the scheme of things, not a big ticket present, and cost is totally irrelevant to enjoyment, we find.  I had two boys busy coloring non-stop, and they were thrilled by new warm socks.  The book went into a pile; they would "read it later, Mommy!" 
My guys are at an age where counting the candles and putting them into the menorah is a fun math project.  Singing the songs they learned at school is fun.  Eating one piece of chocolate gelt per night is great, too.

One of my guys has scarcely unwrapped his gift before he wonders what he will be receiving the next night.  The other twin is very worried--what if there are too many great presents?  It might make his first night gift, a parrot stuffed animal that he really wanted, seem not as great? " Mommy," he says, "hold off on all the presents.  That is not what this is about."

All these photos are from old Hanukah posts on this blog!  Click here to read a fun (random) collection of stories from Hanukahs in years past.  (When I did not have twins yet, and when we threw big parties for 14 students from the Professor's lab, for instance...)

I hope you're having lots of fun celebrating, whatever you celebrate! 

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Some updated listings

It's so dark this time of year!  I try to spend a lot of time enjoying the bright mid-day light (when it happens) and seeking out lots of color, images, and ideas.  I have just been notified that Loveknitting.com has updated the listings of a few of my patterns there.  Here are some pictures and links.  The Hole Inside Mitts come in nearly every size one might need and has a short story included!  Available here on Loveknitting.com or on Ravelry. 

Another story + pattern is Riverbend Garden Hat, and this one is also sized for everybody.  Hat and mitt patterns are still well within reach for holiday gift giving, particularly if you have a chunk of time for knitting. You can check out this pattern here at Loveknitting and also, on Ravelry.

Some people love a textured mitt, and last year for Valentine's, I released the Thump Thump Mitts.  The striated texture reminded me of heart muscle. Here's a link to more info on Rav about these mitts--they too are available in lots of sizes.

Last but not least in my "flood a cloudy snowy day with happy knitting pictures" is the Undertow Hat.  This is very quick indeed and also available in lots of sizes.  Read more on Ravelry here.
This time of year, I am very grateful for wool and its warming qualities --and lots of it! 
More than once recently, I've been asked about why I pair writing articles with knitwear design.  The short answer is that knitwear design is creative, but also very stimulating detailed math and technical writing.  It serves an important function, too.  It keeps people warm and comfortable, as it has done for hundreds of years, as well as allowing smart people the opportunity to create their own clothing.  It's clothing that fits properly, exactly sized rather than mass-produced...and tailored to our tastes and needs. 

Often, this comment (about why I do this kind of design) is paired with some sort of belittling statement. I am lucky though--I had a strong liberal arts education.  Good education and flexibility allow us to do different kinds of work, and I'm grateful I have this opportunity to diversify my work life.  Also, as the person belittles me, I sometimes look at his/her clothing. I rarely see something handmade at that moment.  In our busy society, handmade often means one is wealthy, or that someone really loves you.  I focus on the latter.  It allows me to move along quickly, think of that love I've given and received, and I try not to say anything I'll regret later--because I know that a handknit item from someone you love is a precious thing.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Hydro rates: Increase Demand, We’ve got Supply


This weekend, my op-ed article on our province's energy surplus (and potentially huge rate hikes) went live on the CBC-Manitoba webpage:
The answer to Manitoba Hydro increases?  Use more electricity, not less


Meanwhile, on the home front, we had busy times.  Another 'I've turned 6!" birthday party (we've done 4 in 3 weeks, and it's wearing this mom out!) and our last fun music class of the year.  Both kids needed haircuts, we shoveled some new snow, and were very busy.  The birthday parties (loud, often chaotic events) really make me realize that I'm an introverted old curmudgeon. 

To that end, I've just finished the second "twin" sweater.  It's my tradition to knit a sweater for each kid every fall, and sometimes more than two... The first this year was Woolly, and for the first time, I decided to write that kid's sweater pattern.  I'm blocking the second sweater, and we'll see if I manage photos and perhaps publishing a pattern before 2018!  In the meanwhile, despite choosing the colors and being near me whenever I was knitting, twin #2 seemed to have forgotten entirely about his sweater.  He seemed very surprised and pleased when trying it on, but told me "Mommy, I could not have chosen these colors."  He did....  :)

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Friday, December 08, 2017

Sfinj and other delights

My kids are preparing for their big Hanukah concert at school.  They go to a special public school--it offers a Hebrew/English bilingual program.  I have been (mostly) keeping up with their rapid increase in new vocabulary...but it is a bit random.  I never know what words they are learning in Hebrew.  Our dinner table is full of surprises in conversation these days.  The Professor (who knows a lot of other vocab, but not in this language) is often stunned and surprised by what comes out of our mouths.

In order to refresh my memory (It's been years since I studied or spoke Hebrew regularly), I signed up for a 'word of the day' email.  Yesterday, I found myself deep in conversation with one of my twins about the Hebrew word for "circle."  I must have known this word when I was a teenager; I spent a year abroad in Israel and my high school there was an odd mix of English for 'international' students, as well as French and/or Spanish and, of course, Hebrew.

Many of the things I learned that year have been sort of lost in the mists of time...or sleep deprivation, since having twins?  I remember how frustrating it was,  28! years ago, when I came home, to find no one knew what I was talking about when I mentioned Sfinj.

My "kibbutz sister" (adopted family for kids living away from home) was part Moroccan and for special treats, she would fry us Sfinj.  To my surprise, there was a big article this week about this "Hot Israeli treat" like it was a new thing or something.   Well, there's nothing new about it, but Sfinj is sure good.  It's also good to know others are getting a chance to enjoy it.  (Imagine a hot, light doughnut, fresh from the fryer, dipped in sugar water or honey.  We stood near the stove, dipped the pastries, and ate them as soon as they cooled enough in the honey to eat.)

To go with this post...one of my all-time, most successful patterns has been for a knitted Kipah.  The first version of this pattern appeared in Interweave Knits in 2002.  Then, the magazine sold out, and the design needed fine-tuning.  I worked on it, changed it, and came up with a new version...a Yamulka. (Note: Kipah, Yamulkah, yarmulke, yarmukah...this is all the same headcovering.  The word can be spelled any way you like in English; it's a transliteration from Hebrew and Yiddish)
  I have always sold it for a small amount of change; enough to pay for expenses.  To date, it has sold probably a couple hundred copies or more.  This pattern has also been newly updated on Loveknitting if you're curious about it.  

For my kids, I eventually developed a "stay-put" version which has not been published but probably should be---some day.

A very common (if not popular) present on Hanukah when I was a kid was a night where everyone got new socks and underwear.  Yup, some of presents are small and not glamorous...but there is still time to knit a pair of socks for someone (especially a small person...) if you hurry!

Check out the Molly Baby Socks on Ravelry or here on LoveknittingFor bigger feet, try the Mary Jane Socks...and here's the link on Loveknitting, too.

This is a time of year when I am like a bear in hibernation.  I love staying indoors, cooking, and making things...I hope this week's series on 'small things to knit' has inspired you some, too!

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Thursday, December 07, 2017

A few more speedy prezzies

 This may be something like a 'drive-by' post...but behind the scenes, I've been watching knitters download and knit some of these quick patterns in time for holiday gifts.  So, why not share them with you, too?

Bacchus in the Bath: Knit a scrubby mitt, a couple washclothes, or even an eye mask...Long ago, this was a Knit Picks exclusive, but now it's available on both Ravelry and Love Knitting.
 Due North Mitts--
Dudes, up here in Winnipeg, it's winter already, you may need some mitts.
you may need some mitts.
 This is the last one for today:  The Icelandic Winter Cap is unisex and a really warm and useful hat.  I've been wearing one for years and have a new hat on the needles right now.  To give you an idea of how often this has been knit, the pattern is in both my book and available as an individual download.  It's been sold as a download somewhere north of 30 times, and it has 19 projects up on Ravelry.  My guess is there are many more of these walking around cold climates right now...keeping someone's ears warm. :)  If you're cold-- Knit up this hat, maybe?

More another day soon-I've got to throw some dinner on and head out the door...

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

When you need a boa

Yesterday, we got a new blast of snow cover in our yard.  It snows slowly on the prairies when compared to an east coast kind of storm.  We did not end up with lots of accumulation, but it sure did blow around.  I was happy to stay indoors, aside from the dog walk, as the temperatures have dropped quite a bit, too.  It was about -16C (3F) this morning.
One thing that keeps me happy while wearing winter gear is to rotate the mitts, scarves and hats.  I also try to maintain a happy selection of colors.

Way back in 2006, I did a pattern or two for the (now defunct) Magknits.  It was an online magazine.  That pattern, the Alpaca Ruffle Boa, went off-line when the magazine did.  I got a flurry of concerned notes from people who still wanted to make the design.
Sally the Pointer does her stuff...

I spent some time revising it, and then posted it again.  It's been available on Ravelry ever since,  It's a steady presence there.  I've knit this pattern a few times, and even included it in a box I sent to my family one year for Hanukah...I couldn't be in Virginia with them, so I made a huge pile of knitted things and sent it along.
Sally expresses her inner diva
I'm not really a person who is into ruffles or boas, but there is something about a bit of alpaca luxury and glamour that can really do it for your inner diva when it's cold.  AND....this is pretty fast to knit, so well-worth considering if you've got a few skeins of sportweight on your hand and a deadline approaching.
In this light, I recently updated the details of the pattern on Loveknitting.com so now you can buy the pattern and the yarn at the same time, if necessary.
Note: No Sally dogs were harmed (or even asked to get off the furniture) in the taking of these photos.

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Quick knits for loved ones

A blogger I love reading, Dances with Wool, is posting every day in order to celebrate this time of year.  I'm not able to post every day, but I've been wanting to reach out and communicate more often. 
When I first started blogging, I made lots of friendships and connections through this blog, and the comments were a joy to me.  These days, nobody seems to comment, but according to my 'counter'--a lot of people read.  I'd love to hear from you.  If you are out there and reading, well, I may as well post, too.
Lene, on the above blog, makes a lot of amazing toys and quirky folk art.  I love her creations.  I don't make as many of these toy designs these days, but I used to do a few kid oriented ones.  I looked around and thought about it...what's a good present that a knitter could start now and get done in time for a holiday gift?
I'll try to post about these when I have a chance.  For today, I think that would be--
If you have leftover fingering weight (sock) yarns around, this is a great little project to make for kids.  My twins are six, and still get out these out to make puppet shows every now and again.  You don't have to make all the puppets (of course) and you can use any colors you have on hand...it's all fun.
This design was originally published with Knit Picks way back in 2005!  Although it doesn't look hugely successful on Ravelry in terms of project numbers, it has been a consistent seller for many years--Finger puppets don't go out of fashion with little kids.

My favorite part of the design, at the time, were the beautifully drawn images. This was a collaboration with the great design coordinator at Knit Picks at that time...she had some amazing illustration skills!  I'm including them here so you can enjoy them, too.
 Buck the Butterfly:
 Carl the Caterpillar:
 Doug the Dragonfly:
 Lacey the Ladybug:
 Luna Moth:
 Manny the Mosquito:
It's snowing here today, and Sally the dog and I had a gorgeous walk in the warm flurries.... but something about these puppets always makes me dream of spring and remember summer. :)
The pattern's also available on Loveknitting

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