Kourtney Robinson – Dollybird Workshop Rotating Header Image

Aloha <3

Oh, how I love Maui.  The energy there, the sun, the water, the whales and sea turtles… Also the complete lack of snow.

Hawaii 2015 639
(This is in a lava field near a beach – all the white rocks are coral.)

We recently spent a week and a half in Maui.  It was even better than I thought it might be – turns out that travelling with a five and seven year old is infinitely easier than travelling with a five month old and a two year old.  The lack of diapers and regular nap time and the addition of some basic self-preservation and reasoning skills really makes a difference!

Hawaii 2015 641

I don’t know how many times during the holiday someone asked where we were from.  “Canada?  There are sure a lot of Canadians here!”  Yes, we have winter.  Winter like winter really means it.

Hawaii 2015 601

People from San Diego and San Francisco do indeed have winter, I’m sure.  I’m also pretty sure that it’s an unpleasant cold, not a murderous cold.  You know, the kind of cold that will kill you if you go out without “appropriate clothing*”.  I really hope that I didn’t offend either of the lovely Californian women I was chatting with; I did manage not to burst into hysterical laughter and that will have to make up for whatever look was on my face as they were assuring me that it really does get cold at home.

I didn’t get as much knitting done on holiday as I have in the past – partially because the kids no longer need naptime, and partially because I mis-planned my holiday knitting.  I’ve been working on a large worsted shawl and I want to finish it, so I brought that along to be my primary knitting project.  I was hoping that I’d get it done, because it’s sort of mindless knitting.  It’s a large project, but I figured that would be okay.

Hawaii 2015 616
(There was the odd nap, I admit…)

It turns out that I could deal with the large project in my lap, but I had a hard time with the yarn.  You see, it’s a wool/silk/camel blend, and I’m using an undyed version.  Turns out when the undyed yarn gets even a little damp, it smells like a dirty, wet camel**.

Wet camel stench is an effective de-motivator, who knew?  I’m not concerned in the long run; I’ve wet-blocked this yarn when its dyed, and never noticed the camel stink, so I may need to wash the shawl a couple times but I’m sure it’ll all turn out well in the end.  I’m not done the shawl, but I think it’s safe to assume that my couch is not prone to rogue waves so I’ll keep plugging along at it.

…and I’ll end with another gratuitous holiday photo.

Hawaii 2015 418

*Parka, snow pants, hat, mittens, scarf; plus possibly long underwear and two or three pairs of socks.

**I’ve never smelled a wet camel but I have smelled dry camels and that was enough that I can infer that they would smell BAD when wet.

Things That Make Not-Okay Things Sort of Vaguely Okay

Do you get that?  You know how sometimes there are things in your world that aren’t okay, but sometimes there are other things that make the original not-okay thing a little teeny bit okay?  I was reflecting on those things the other day.

Item the First:  Winter

I mean okay, I live in Calgary, where there is winter.  I accept that there is winter (but I don’t like it much, most of the time).  Some of the things that make winter slightly more okay are hand knit mittens, hot chocolate, twinkle lights, and hoar frost*.

E___ made me smile yesterday morning as she was muddling through the piles of coats.  “Is it minus-ice-cube outside?”, she asked.  Yes, it was minus-ice-cube, and she did indeed need to wear her winter coat.

Item the Second: Head Colds

There is nothing to like about a head cold.  Except that it is NOT as bad a migraine, and I just got two new bottles of OTC cold medication.  (DayQuil and NyQuil, hurray!!)

Item the Third: Cleaning The House

I’m not a huge fan of cleaning and anyone who knows me can tell that a) I have a clutter tendency and b) I also have object blindness when it comes to knitting.  I really, really have to concentrate to recognize both clutter and knitting projects.  I think it’s perfectly normal to have a sweater project on the piano, socks to knit by the leather chair, socks to darn on the other side of the leather chair, and a lace project in a bag on the coffee table.  Isn’t that how everyone’s living room looks?

I try and defuse my irritation with housecleaning by reframing it as “creating a warm and loving home for my family”.  I also think: hey, I have a house that I can afford to live in and heat.  Also, I pick my battles.  The bathrooms are clean but the mantle is dusty.  I do dishes once a day – after supper.  If people** don’t like it, then they can dust or do dishes themselves.


If I had a dollar for every morning this school year that has taken place with neither of the littles saying “I don’t want to go to school” I’d be able to buy you and I each a Starbucks coffee.  I swear.  They use the same line, I use the same line.  I have never, not ever!, said “Yeah, you present a good case.  You can stay home and watch Netflix.  Why not?”  I’ve never said “Keep trying, someday I’ll say ‘yeah school is not worth it’.”

Some conflict is to be expected when two small not-morning people are confronted by another not-morning person in the morning.  Despite that, I’m still glad because I live in a place where my (girl) children can be safely educated.  They can learn and become anything.

Item the Fifth: Pine Needles In My Socks

Now, pine needles in my socks are irritating.  But they fell off of our Xmas tree, so I feel sort of okay about them.

And what a lovely segue for me to sign off and go and vacuum the pine needles up.  Our tree is doing quite well, but he is (as always) shedding needles.

Hope that you are snug and warm with people you love as we all approach the darkest day of the year.


 **The man is the only person who has ever done dishes or dusted or started vacuuming.  When he does, I make a specific parenting choice and continue doing whatever I’m doing so that the girls see that men clean too, it’s not just the mom’s job.  (And if a man is cleaning, there is no need for the woman of the house to begin racing around to try and out-clean him.)

The Model In The House…

If you persevered and watched the Mrs Whatsit video, you would have noticed the guest star.  Mr. Tiberius Kittenbritches, aka Britches, is usually in the middle of any action in the house.

Or he’s asleep.  He is a cat, after all.

I got home the other night, and both girls were just exploding in gales of laughter.  Turns out, they had decided to dress Britches up in the teddy bear clothes.

iphone 1879

That’s a wedding veil and a pony cape.  Now, I figured that he would bolt as soon as possible, but no.

iphone 1885

Then they dressed him up in a toque and a dress.  He doesn’t really look like he’s having fun, but he wasn’t hissing or fighting or even doing the boneless flop of passive resistance.

iphone 1889

Once they got to the third costume change, though, I had to intervene.  I didn’t know if his catly dignity would survive!  I mean he is a kitten, but there’s only so much indignity one beast can handle.

After I put the kids to bed, I had to snuggle with him for forty-five minutes before he got that hunted look off his face.  Poor guy… I’ve since established “No Dressing The Cat Up” rules, although really.  It was pretty funny…

(If you don’t have cats or aren’t really familiar with them, you won’t understand how astonishing it was that the girls got THREE costume changes on him with absolutely no blood shed.  Trust me.  It’s extraordinary.)

I Think I Found A Tube…

So I think this might work better – I took another run at YouTube.

Blocking Mrs Whatsit

Or maybe not.  I am only amused by the “Royal Banana” music so long.  I promise the next blog post will be about something different!




And Now For An Educational Experiment…

I like blocking things.  I need to be in the right frame of mind, of course, and not rushed at all, but it’s very pleasing to see the transformation.

On a whim, I used an app for making stop motion animation movies to record Mrs Whatsit’s blocking process, and with luck, it will work for you to watch…


It’s only a couple minutes long, and there’s a surprise whiskered guest star, too.  Drop me a note if you can’t download it; I tried to set up a youtube account but I am apparently meant to remain tubeless.

(Re-)Introducing Mrs Whatsit

Yes, at long last, Mrs Whatsit is back!  As usual, the pattern is available through my Ravelry store for $6.00USD:


What’s that?  You don’t remember Mrs Whatsit?  Well, it was originally published in January of 2011, by Sanguine Gryphon.  The rights reverted to me some time ago, but I wanted to rework the charts and re-knit it and, well, life intervened.*  I ended up not doing the re-knit – my amazing test knitter did the knitting, and as always, her work** increases the quality of my patterns.

The instructions are fully written and charted out, and you can cross reference between the two.  I’ve also included construction and blocking schematics.

057 - Copy

I chose a new yarn weight for this re-release; I decided on the delicious Mondegreen by Verdant Gryphon.  It’s currently on a hiatus so they can carry a couple other bases***, but I happily stocked up some time ago.  You can use any worsted weight, although it really will shine (hyuck) with a blend featuring some silk.

090 - Copy

Yes, I look smug about that terrible pun; forgive me.

Mrs Whatsit is a character in a book from my childhood.  She is an angel disguised as a tramp: “It seemed small for Meg’s idea of a tramp… it was completely bundled up in clothes. Several scarves of assorted colors were tied about the head, and… A shocking pink stole was knotted about a rough overcoat, and black rubber boots covered the feet.”  She transforms to show “…a pair of wings…made of rainbows, of light upon water, of poetry.”  A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle. 

075 - Copy

I think here, you can see the idea of wings spreading.  The construction is unusual – you begin at the nape and knit out, much like a neck-down shawl.  When the shoulder depth is reached, the center portion is bound off, and each ‘wing’ is worked outward separately.  Due to the nature of the increases & decreases, the only place markers are used in this pattern are to note the BO’s of the Center Panel. 

080 - Copy - Copy

The piece looks quite large here, but because of the lines of yarnovers, it happily wraps around your neck to act as a scarf as well as a stole.

I hope you’re as glad to see Mrs Whatsit back as I am – again, the pattern is available in my Ravelry store for $6.00USD.

*This also explains the pause since my last pattern publication.
**All mistakes are all mine, as always.
***Yes.  I’ve been working at this for a while.  Trust me, if you can find Mondegreen you will be so happy…  Think it looks familiar?  It’s the same yarn that I used for His Golden Lair… http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/his-golden-lair

Family Changes, Part Three

This is the blog post I haven’t wanted to write.  Spoiler alert – sad news ahead; don’t read this, expecting a miraculous recovery.

My goofy, sweet, funny buddy is gone.

IMG_1470.JPG (3)

I’d taken Suki and Mr. Kittenbritches to the vet for an annual & newcat checkup.  They were both healthy and fine – well, Suki hissed at the vet, but par for the course.  They each gobbled up their soft cat food reward when we got home.

The next day was a busy day; and after supper when Suki and I usually have some quality couch time, I had to go find him.  He was hiding in the basement.

“Oh dear…” I thought.

Saturday morning, I woke up and checked on him.  He was still hiding and unhappy.  So I got him a last-minute appointment with the vet.

She confirmed that he was indeed very sick, and she thought she could feel mass in his abdomen.  So Suki and I drove down to the vet hospital.

We still don’t know what happened to him – it wasn’t liver or kidney failure (had bloodwork done).  It wasn’t any kind of abdominal obstruction (they did xrays and an ultrasound too).  He wasn’t responding to the drugs they’d put him on, and on Tuesday, when the vet called and told me that they’d discovered one of his lungs was obstructed by fluid from pneumonia, I broke down weeping at the second hand store (where I was shopping for Halloween stuff).  I wasn’t willing to entertain intubating him, or scanning his brain for lesions, or more than another semester’s worth of tuition in vet fees.  The man and I have had frank conversations about DNR orders for each other; but it seemed so much harder to think about and arrange euthanasia for my buddy.

They put Suki on oxygen and kept him comfortable for the rest of the day, and after all of the day’s other commitments were met or arranged around (kids, school, dance class, etc), I drove down to the hospital again to be with him as he left.  The man had left for a work trip Saturday morning, and I’m glad that mom was around to help and lean on.

I was (and am) surprised by how much I miss Suki, and how much it makes me cry.  He was my companion for thirteen years , and was with me through a lot of tough times.  I think some of my sadness is from reflecting on the nature of life – we spend so much time, trying not to be alone, and then ultimately? We will either leave first, or be left.  I’m sure there are all sorts of deep poetic quotes I could use here, but really, all I can say is that is as long as Suki was in my life, he was well loved.

And that’s what I’m trying to do – is to love everyone in my life as well as I can, as long as I can.


Good bye, buddy.

Family Changes, Part Two

  Yes, it’s part two of the family changes updates!  Although perhaps it should be “Part Mew”.

photo 13

Yes, we got a kitten.  Mr. Tiberius Kittenbritches is about four months old now, and he is Siamese.  I’ve been looking on and off at Siamese kitten listings, and could never find any that were less than a thousand dollars.


Now, I am attached to Siamese as a breed because of their personalities, but also because they don’t bug my allergies so much.  And although there are many many adult Siamese available for adoption, I thought that a kitten would integrate into our household better and be less stress for Suki and more fun for my kids.  (Suki’s face there is saying “Wait, does he have my tail?)


A____ has taken a real shine to him.  E___ likes him to play with but is averse to snuggles… Odd, but there you go.  Z___ has gotten over her initial disappointment that we didn’t name him Oliver and they are fast friends too.


You may not be able to tell – Suki is a lynx point Siamese who I’ve had for 13 years (he was a shelter cat).  In the above photo, he’s sitting by the man, and A____ is leaning forward and Kittenbritches is sort of beside her.

photo 14

Here is the little dude asleep and hugging Z’s arm… I have a disproportionate number of photos of him being mellow and adorable.  I mean, he is adorable, and quite mellow for a Siamese kitten.  But he’s also a kitten, and when he’s moving, he’s usually moving fast.  Which means I have a good selection of fuzzy blur photos.

photo 11

He protecting me from my knitting book.  There are any number of hazards around; who knew that we were in danger from a green feather boa, a slinky, and the man’s shoes?*


This shows Suki and Britches’ comparative size (and derpiness).  Britches’ points will darken up as he gets older, he’s a seal point.  He also has his head stuck in my circular knitting needle (the derp, it is strong with all kittens).  Suki is looking disproving yet patient.

And yes, I have about seven million more cat photos.  I’m doing my best not to wallpaper them everywhere, although really.  KITTY KITTY KITTY MOAR KITTY PHOTO!…

*Well, the shoes are very large. If you’ve ever tripped over a pair in our entryway then you might see Kittenbritches’ point.

Family Changes, Part One

Forgive me if I’m a bit scattered.  I’m coming off the end of a migraine and my brain is more aphasia-prone than normal.  (Incidentally, I find it funny and ironic that I can usually remember the word aphasia*, even if I’m feeling it.

Anyways.  This is the first in a series of three about some recent changes in our little family.  About a month ago, my darling niece Z___ came to live with us.  She’s 16, and entirely funny and wonderful.  I have guardianship of her, so she and I have been explaining things as basically, it’s like we adopted her and now she has bonus extra siblings and parents.  I’m not sure how much of a bonus the siblings seem like sometimes when they are fighting with each other – or lamenting whatever**- but she seems happy here and we are very happy to have her around.

She’s going to be finishing up her high school – if we ever get in to the guidance counsellor at her school! – and that will be online courses.  And more exciting (for me), she’s started running!  I have a running buddy!  We are very slow runners; and although we are both tall and fairly lean we each seem to have sad, asthma afflicted lungs, so our cardio is our weak point.  We did run one 5K; and we run every other day.  While we aren’t tearing up the track with our speed, I know that I for sure feel better after a run.  That’s my whole motivation for running, actually: I just feel so good after a run.  I know the cardio benefits are good, and the impact bearing exercise is a good preventative for osteoporosis, and blah blah, but really: I’m running for my brain.  Other benefits are secondary.

photo 5

This is me at the end of the the 5K colour run, and that wore the new right off those sneakers!  Z____ got new running gear at the same time (it was her back-to-school outfit), and while they used to be incandescent, they no longer hurt the eyes when you look directly at them.

photo (4)

I did get all the colours out of my white running bra, but those shoelaces are still turning my fingers turquoise.

All right, I’m going to go make a pie.  It’s random, I agree, but I’m not quite focused enough for clever segues.

*Aphasia – it’s basically when something is up with your brain and you can’t word very well.  Transient aphasia is common for migraine sufferers and thankfully it’s mild for me.   No long term brain injuries here, thanks.


The Things That I Already Know…

Every so often I get a chance to relearn things that I already know.  I’m not talking about the lessons that haven’t quite stuck yet – something that I have yet to learn is to wait a moment when I open the oven door.  There is always a poof of steam and it always fogs up my glasses.  Although I’ve been wearing glasses since I was five, and cooking with varying rates of success since I was ten or so, I have yet to not fog up my glasses when I go to check on something in the oven.

No, I’m talking about things that I really do know.  In this case, it’s the fact that it’s a good idea to switch to a smaller size needle to do the ribbing at the hem of a sweater.  I’ve learned this through reading (Elizabeth Zimmerman, you darling), and the hard way as well.  “Why does that flip up like that and look floppy?… Maybe I’ll pick out the bind off and re knit the hem…  Hey look that worked… Huh…”

I’ve had that one figured out for a long time, like, a decade plus.  And given the amount I knit, I kind of feel like it’s the equivalent of knowing that a letter “t” needs to be crossed.  It just does.

So imagine how agog I was when I looked at the sweater I’m working on* and realized that I’d charged through 2″ of ribbing at the hem and NEVER EVEN THOUGHT about changing needles.  I did mull garter vs. seed stitch vs. ribbing; but changing needle size?  It literally NEVER CROSSED MY MIND.  I don’t think the capslock button is accurately reflecting how agog I am that.  I NEVER EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

photo 1

I’m proud to say that at least I DID actually look at what I was doing once I realized it, and evaluated it, instead of just telling myself that no, it will be perfectly fine just like it is, then casting off, then hating it.

Instead, I looked at it, yanked the needles out, yanked the ribbing out, found a smaller needle, picked up all the stitches, and resumed my K1, P1 rib.  Although I’m filled with resentment about it**, I am almost done (again).  Hopefully for reals this time; words don’t do this garment justice.  It really needs pictures.

*Sweater is perhaps a generous term.  It started off as an Enchanted Mesa, by Stephen West, but it’s taken some left turns and now is more like a tunic.  I hope.  The yarn is a 50/50 cotton wool that I overdyed a long time ago.  Deliciously soft.

**My own darn fault.  It never even crossed my mind!