Kourtney Robinson – Dollybird Workshop Rotating Header Image

And Sometimes It’s Just To Keep Going

There’s a phrase that’s been rolling around my head a lot lately – “Start the way you mean to go on”.  Seems like good and straightforward advice, right? So why has it been so stuck in my head?

After mulling, I think it’s because it’s easy.  Starts are exciting, and new, and shiny, and it’s easy to work up enthusiasm for a new project*.  But to continue to have enthusiasm for an ongoing project, well.  Sometimes that’s more of a challenge.  And sometimes when projects have been going on for long enough that they don’t even really seem like a project anymore, they just become part of the background and rote activities.  And then you realize that everything important feels like old habits and the ‘excitement’ is new otter videos and then it’s perhaps time to reflect on things.  And step back from social media a tad.

Perhaps the trick is to keep going; accept that maybe some of the shiny intentions and ideas are maybe not as shiny as they used to be, but good things are worth persevering.

(Live, from the kitchen table! It’s a PD day today, so my laptop is on the kitchen table so that I can supervise the littles playing minecraft on the old laptop.)

My new project is all my old projects.  Evaluating and re-engaging.  I want to be more mindful and involved in the world around me; I’ve been a bit wrapped up in just a lot of nothing.  I’m mulling what’s really important to me; what’s a priority to me; what’s worth working for.  In short, seeing new kitten videos on facebook is not on the top of that list**.  What is? Helping the littles grow into successful people***.  Being creative.  Being grateful for everything around me.  Staying connected to the people that are important to me.  Helping others.  Staying fit so I can stay healthy as long as possible****.

Maybe it’s that I turn forty this year, maybe it’s that the littles are not-so-little anymore, maybe it’s just that it’s fall.  I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting time, I want to cherish all the moments I have.  So in that direction, I started a new daytimer.  It’s a basic black moleskine, which is terribly functional but also sort of boring.  It’s actually like the new go-cup I got – it was on sale, but it’s so bland and innocuous that I keep forgetting it’s mine.


Happily, I know just how to fix things.  If, by fix, you mean “change to suit myself”.  Altering things is not something I am typically scared of.  I have the skills and tools to modify quite a few things, actually…  For the boring day planner and go cup, I decided to skip stickers or decoupage (both of which are fun), and go for alcohol inks (which I have in my stash).  I’ve been puttering with alcohol inks for a while; I have quite a few finished works that I am really pleased with (the preceding orchid picture is one).  They are typically done on Yupo paper, or other non-porous surfaces like acrylic or glass.  I’ve never used it on a surface like the cup or book… but I figured worst case I can wash a stainless steel cup in rubbing alcohol and if the book cover went sideways, I could always head to ModgePodge.


I’m pleased with the planner – it has a slightly luminous quality that I like.  I hadn’t planned on the etched surface texture, but one of the paintbrushes I was using decided to up and shed like crazy.  So that scratches were my technique to get the hairs off without trashing the surface I was happy with.  It has dried nicely with a pleasant finish; it’s not sticky or gummy or weird or anything.  The cup I am also happy with – although it took a little tinkering.  The indigo colour I used ran waaaaay more than I anticipated; so one side of the cup was really terrific, and one side was a solid blue blodge.  I washed it to make sure of the water-fastness – yep, water doesn’t disturb the inks at all!  Then I decided to add some surface texture… which mean that I scrubbed it with steel wool.  It abraded the dark blue into a lighter and more interesting colour, and didn’t change the pink or orange too much.  So it’s voted a win too!

(It’s a montage!)


And now that I have rebooted the blog yet again, I am off to work on other things for the day.  Sadly my deep thoughts haven’t extended to a clever closing paragraph, sooo… I’ll just leave… and feel awkward…  I’ll be folding towels, which is part of Project: Creating Home.  As opposed to The Endless Monontony of Housework.  I reframed how I look at taking care of the house.  I’m still not nuts for housework, but it helps to view it as a way to create home.

*At least, for me it is.  Ask any knitter with chronis start-itis…

**Although I do love a good kitten video.  Misdirection with cute kitten videos once helped me get the littles through the heartbreak of the end of a movie…

***People that are kind and loving and have joy in their life.  Success is not about preassigned goals of career or wage, in this house.

****All my favorite hobbies involve a nice, brisk sit.  Knitting, reading, watching movies… It takes me some work and focus to get active.

What Is It About Tiny Things?

I’m not obsessed with miniatures, by any means.  I don’t have a collection of any wee little things, unless you count buttons or stitch markers as miniatures; I think of them more as tools of my craft.  But occasionally when I run into a tiny replica of something, it evokes a visceral SQUEE IT IS SO TINY reflex in my brain.  No idea why.  Maybe it’s something to do with childhood memories, of being a small person in a big world?  I don’t know that it actually matters why I get pleasure from miniatures, I just do.  I was exceptionally pleased with myself when I came up with a plan for Mother’s Day.  At the garden center, I’d picked up a couple flats of succulent ground cover (I’m slowly planting them all over the place).  I was admiring them and thought… these would be so sweet in a tea cup! Or a little mason jar*!  I HAVE MASON JARS OH YES IT’S ON!


So I rounded up my little mason jars (and I put their rings on them, just to make them look a little festive), and I put a bit of sand** in the bottom of each.  (Mason jars with sand… Pinterest eat your heart out!)


I carefully ripped appropriately sized chunks of succulents out of the flat.  I know careful tearing sounds like an oxymoron, but I learned last year that a) the roots grow together like whoa and b) there are two different layers of a plastic mesh woven through the roots.  It adds stability to the plants as a whole but does make it hard to cut it into pieces.  Then I lovingly nestled plants into each jar; topped the edges up with sand, and gave them a teaspoon of water each.


And I decided to bust out my Tiny Mail Activity Kit*** and make little tiny letters for each recipient.  I’d love to say I wrote something deep and heartfelt in each letter, but my tiny writing skills are not so sharp, so I stuck to “Happy Mother’s Day”.  The envelope isn’t much bigger than my thumbnail.


Then I sent them out to the world!  The littles delivered a couple around our neighborhood; and I have a couple that I hope to get delivered today.  Moms will understand the lateness.

And moms that are out in the world, know that I wish you well even if you are too far away for one of my kids to drop off a little jar of plants. It’s a tough job, and you are doing great.  And if you can’t accept that you are doing great****, accept that  you are doing the best you can, and when you can do better, you will.


*I know.  Mason jars.  They are part of the hipster craftpocalypse.  I used them at Xmas to hold hand scrubs.  I am refusing to go buy more even though LOOK AT THE TINY PLANTER!!

**Sand recently released from the tyranny of the sand box.  Part of mud kitchen/garden supplies now.

***I can`t describe the awesome.  Just go look at it.  Leafcutter Design’s Tiny Mail Activity Kit.

****Slightly uncomfortable look in the mirror, here.

Introducing Clairity

I love puns… and I also love the members of my local knitting community. Recently, one of us survived a life changing accident. She is moving through it with grace, strength and humour; all proceeds from will go to help modify her reality to accommodate her new needs. This pattern has been inspired by Clair – she prefers rectangles and small stitch patterns. Work with bulky for a lush stole, in fingering for a scarf, or in anything in between.  The pattern is available now on Ravelry for $6.00USD, link is here Clairity  (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/clairity).

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This shawl is a parallelogram, with increases and decreases that shift the direction of the knitted work to the bias. In order to keep the edges as elastic as the knitted fabric, each row has a YO that is dropped on the subsequent row.

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• Bulky: Diamond Luxury “Baby Alpaca Sport” 100% baby alpaca; 100m/109yd per 100g/3.5oz skein; color: 1971; 4 skeins
• 9.0mm/US #13 needles in style of your choice

Sarah from Sea Turtle Fiber Arts came up with a special colourway for the fingering version…

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• Fingering: Sea Turtle Fiber Arts “Star Fish Sock” 84% superwash merino; 390m/430yd per 115g/4.1oz skein; color: Cosmos; 1 skein
• 3.75mm/US #5 needles in style of your choice

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Fingering Gauge: 23 st / 31 r = 10cm / 4” in stockinette stitch, flat
Bulky Gauge: 11 st / 14 r = 10cm / 4” in stockinette stitch, flat

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It’s a good scarf with a single skein of fingering; I’m very fond of the stole as an oversized scarf too.  It will work well in any weight of yarn, and written and charted instructions are given to customize the size.  The total purchase price of this pattern will go to Clair’s crowdfunding; it’s available now on Ravelry for $6.00USD, link is here Clairity  (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/clairity).

And if you would care to read more about Clair or donate directly to her crowdfunding, the link is Help Clair’s Army make her home Accessible .

Taking Care of Things

And by “Things” I mean taking care of myself, taking care of other humans, taking care of furbabies, and the garden.  And the assorted roles I’ve committed myself to – friend, designer, bookkeeper, landlord, volunteer.  You may have noticed that I put myself first on that list – there is a reason for that.  I can’t take care of anything else, if I don’t take care of myself first.


Part of that self-care is confronting that my depression was on the upswing, despite loads of self-talk, lots and lots of physical exercise (I am training for a 10K run), prescription medication, and so much love and support.  I say “was” because I’m watching it with my full attention now.  This time, the depression isn’t post-partum; it’s situational.  The situation is in large part beyond my control, and not even really about me, so I’m not going to share a lot about it.

To clarify – even though it’s not about me, I’m still affected by it.  Imagine driving down the road, and the guy coming towards you has an epic sneeze and swerves his car into yours.  Now, the sneeze isn’t about you – but you’re still left dealing with the results, right?  Right.  That’s how this is, but no  sneezes or cars are involved.   I have set boundaries, I’ve communicated about the boundaries and the consequences if they aren’t respected.  I’ve done everything else possible with the situation that I can think of.


Now I need to focus on mindfully caring for myself and the people and things in my world.  The littles are thriving – they both got haircuts and are looking so sophisticated!**  The man is good.  And most exciting, spring is well underway!  I am so happy to be out working in the yard.  I admit to some concern that we appear to be a solid month ahead of where things usually are… gardening in Calgary means Never, Ever Plant Anything Until After May Long Weekend***.  I can see the point where I’m at Costco, sucuumb to temptation, fill the cart with tender annuals, come home and plant all the things.  Then I’d watch it snow two days later.

It will snow.  I know it will.  I have seen snow in every month of the year, here in Calgary.  It doesn’t stay long, in the summer months, but that “chubby rain” can happen at any time.  Tell me it’s too soon to go get dill and marigolds and set them out.  I’ll content myself by weeding around the perennials and researching rhubarb recipes.


Can you believe the size of my rhubarb?  That is more than two feet tall.  I’ve got to go pick some and make something.  Every year, I feel like the rhubarb and I are in competition.  I’m trying to pick and use enough to keep it from going to seed, and it’s trying to grow fast enough to bury me under  rhubarb muffins.


And a last photo to close with; this are the new leaves on our trees out front.  They will be green soon; but that first tender gold of spring gives me hope.

*Well, I’m taking it easy on running for the week because I think I overextended or strained a hamstring.

**Okay, well, the new haircuts look terrific when their hair is brushed.  And when it isn’t brushed, they are still cute as anything.

***Exception: Sweet peas.  They are amazingly cold-resistant.  Pop the seeds in the dirt as soon as you can work it.

Ever Notice That There’s Always Something?

Have you ever noticed that?  That sometimes, it seems like whatever you want to do or have planned, there’s some higher power out to thwart you.

There isn’t.  There really isn’t.  If there is a higher power (and I sort of think there must be), I am confident that it is as about as interested in my knitting projects (and able to directly affect it) as I am in an ant`s attempt to move a breadcrumb.

For example, I have three patterns I’m in varying stages of writing, and a year of bookkeeping for the company to wind up.  I’d like to get all of this done by the end of next week.  And of course, a couple evenings ago, my ceiling chose to fall.  Does that sound dramatic?  It sort of was.  The littles had been in bed for maybe twenty minutes; the man & I were watching tv, and SPLAT.   Part of the ceiling stipple fell down.

SPLAT!  Splat splat.  The man got a drill, I got a bucket and a drop cloth, and we spent the next several hours messing with the ceiling and trying to figure out what was happening…


Turns out that one of the lag bolts on the toilet was broken, and the wax seal was either broken or unseated or had decided it really needed a break, and short of a trip to a beach in the Bahamas, the Calgary landfill would do.


I was feeling oppressed by it.  I’m glad we were home and awake when it happened – that would have been an awful surprise to wake up to – and the first chunk of ceiling landed on my favorite chair.  So I fixed** it.  With a staple gun and a roll of craft paper.


Call it an art installation – Phoenix Rising.  It’s about the emotional life of the ceiling.  Conceptual art.  Very high concept, actually – I could hardly reach the ceiling with the staple gun!

Anyways, despite the little voice in my head that says “Man, it’s a sign. This pattern is crap and you should trash it and do something useful”, I continue to edit the three patterns.  There’s always something; and I’ve learned that every single project of mine goes through a stage where I just want to walk away from it.  It varies from a mild feeling of distaste to a strong desire to light it on fire. It’s a neat trick to discern between that demoralizing voice, and the voice of reason that occasionally pipes up and says “Gee, that doesn’t look like the right ____and it hasn’t looked like the right ____ for about ten rows now…

I tend to err on the side of optimism, which means a good deal of the projects that I end up frogging have more work invested into them than they really should have – but I am happier knitting on an obvious failure that trashing a really fine idea.  Depression and self-doubt are sneaky bastards, I have to be vigilant against them.

Speaking of vigilance, I am due to start to work on the bookkeeping.  There is a deal I`ve made with myself – a couple hours on patterns, a couple hours on books.  The books are a heck of a lot easier, and yet, less fun!

*First we both ran upstairs – because that spot is pretty well directly below the kids’ washroom.  There was no water visible.

**Fixed, as in, rendered it funny so that until it is properly fixed by a professional, it makes me want to laugh, instead of cry.

Introducing the Lady Jayne Hat!

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I’m a nerd – this is not news. And my latest nerd-inspired knit is here – the Lady Jayne Hat. Jayne is a mercenary who works in space; he has a unique hat that he wears because his mom made it for him. I found the Sweet Georgia Party of Five yarn kit, and I just had to make a hat for myself.  It’s available on Ravelry now for $6.00.  buy now

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The beading and lace might be a bit much for even the toughest man; but I love it. The instructions are written and charted, and there are instructions to include or omit beads and how to use a group of graduated colours.

It’s in two sizes; Small[Large], with a brim circumference of 42[48.5]cm / 16.5[19]”.  The brim to crown measurement is 24cm/9.5”.

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It works well in any fingering weight – while beads in a toque might seem counter intuitive, they don’t add any chill and the lace pattern isn’t open enough to let much coldness in. That said, I tend to use it as a fashion accesssory, not as a winter survival hat. :)

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It’s available now on Ravelry for $6.00USD. buy now

Mindfulness & Gravity

We just had a long weekend.  If you have littles in school on the prairies, odds are that the school boards lined up in-services or other flavours of days off with the long weekend, and you had a super-long weekend!  We sure did – and we spent part of it on the road to Saskatchewan.  We visited my family, and swam, and had all sorts of fun.

The great thing about a ten hour drive (when you aren’t the one driving) is the amount of knitting and napping that you can accomplish.  Sure, there is some maintenance on the back-seat crew – doling out snacks, charging ipods, settling fights.  By and large, though, it’s all potentially fun* time!  And I made good use of it.  I knit, napped, listened to an audio book and did some meditating.

The focus of this meditation is gratitude – to be grateful for the goodness that surrounds you.  Perhaps I need to be listening to a mindfulness meditation instead – at Mom’s I surfed down a steep flight of stairs on my arse.  It’s good that I’ve been learning to ski – leaning back was my instinctive reaction and I’m sure it saved me from a really nasty fall.  As it is, I have some spectacular bruises.

I was headed down the stairs, looked up at a lamp, thought “I should turn that off”, then my foot slipped and the rest, as they say, is history.

So I am feeling very grateful that my fall was not worse – I’ve got a solid bruise that is 5″ tall and the width of my hips.  And bruises on my back and also my arm.  The fortunate thing is (also) that I’ve been going to the gym frequently, so my arse is more muscular than it has been in the past!

The lessons I’m taking from this is a) don’t wear socks on steep hardwood stairs and b) stop multi-tasking so much.  If I need to turn the light off, I will stop and do that, then I will go down the stairs.  Barefoot or in sneakers.  Et cetera.

I`ve always been a bit of a multi-tasker – and motherhood certainly has reinforced that.  However, I`m going to try and break the habit.  I want to move forward with intention.  Mindfulness.  Focus.  Appreciation.

And yarn ;)

*I can’t be the only person who thinks that time free to nap or knit is fun, right?

Shocking Yet True

I was at a yarn store earlier today.  (This is not the shocking part.)

I’ve taken essentially a year away to help others deal with concerns… but my knitting and design is an important part of who I am, so I’m picking the design part up again.  I missed it.  I really enjoy the puzzle aspect of turning an idea into a chart and written instructions that others can make their own versions of things.

I never really stop(ped) knitting.

I have been working on using yarn from my stash, and just in general being mindful of consumption.  The stop by the yarn store was thought-out and justified  – I wanted to see if there was anything really inspiring, and I was also on the hunt for some super bulky yarn for a project.  I have very little yarn that is heavier than a worsted.  (This is still not the shocking part.)  As well, this is a LYS that’s actually a fair ways away from me, so I don’t stop by it very often, and I took advantage of today’s errand to pop in.  Anyways.


This right here is where it gets shocking.  I liked two yarns – one a heathered, tonal green/brown/grey, and one that is Noro.


I liked the soft heathered neutral better.  I didn’t go for the pink and purple and yellow and orange and fuchsia and violet Noro madness.

Stunning on two counts.  One, I picked a neutral, and two, I RESISTED NORO.

If you have never sworn to quit Noro then I don’t think you can fully appreciate this moment. Of course, I still have (cough) some Noro in my stash… but I didn’t buy more today!  No!  Not today!  And I genuinely liked the neutral better – and if you don’t know my deep and abiding love for colour, and wild colour combos, and varigated yarn, then you may be a little mystified as to why the neutral win is shocking.

Okay, I’m going to quit crowing and get back to work.  I’m hoping to post more often – I know I say that, but I really mean it, too.  My laptop had a tragic life event, and that derailed everything for a while…

Introducing Suki’s Shawl

This is Suki.  Best Knitter’s Cat EVER.  Suki’s shawl is dedicated to him; the pattern is available here: Suki’s Shawl Link for $6.00USD.

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Last year, I let go of him. He was a good cat, who spent many hours purring companionably next to me. The last thirteen years and the initial version of this shawl were worked under his close supervision, and every time I wear this I think of him. I loved him as well as I could, as long as I could.

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This pattern is for two sizes of shawl – one smaller, and one that’s almost generous enough to use as a blanket; both are a size progression of a single motif, from largest to smallest. You may work additional repeats of SECTION II, II, or IV, OR Chart B, C, or D. If you choose to work additional motifs, you will need to work extra repeats across subsequent rows, and be aware that you will need additional yarn. As well, if you wish to move from smaller to larger motifs, you will need to make sure that you have an appropriate number of stitches for the repeats to work.

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Small[Large]: Upper wingspan 150cm/60”[210cm/84”]; center depth 75cm/30”[105cm/42”]

Small: Malabrigo “Rios” 100% superwash Merino wool; 192m/210yd per 100g/3.53oz skein; colour: 027 Bobby Blue; 3 skeins.

Large: Verdant Gryphon “Mondegreen” 60% Blue-Faced Leicester wool, 20% silk, 20% baby camel; 183m/200yd per 113g/3.99oz skein; colour: Nude; 6 skeins

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Available here: Suki’s Shawl Link for $6.00USD

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Introducing the Dapple Shawl!



This is Dapple, a small shawl worked in fingering weight.  It softens the colors of highly variegated yarns, just as dappled sunlight softens the brightness of a garden. An interesting but not overly complex knit, it’s compelling to watch the colors combine and recombine in the doubled yarn-overs.  Available here: Dapple Shawl for $6.00USD.

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Dapple contains simple stitches and a rhythmic design but still presents a challenge. The double yarn-overs mean that a marker for the spine can’t be effectively used, so you will need to be able to read your own knitting. The instructions are fully written and charted, and there are notes on how to increase the size of your shawl if desired. To make your knit easier, stitch counts are provided for every row, and the double yarn-overs of the central spine are bolded in the written instructions. The cast-on is interrupted by two twists so that the upper edge will mimic the double yarn overs of the spine.

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The upper wingspan is 130cm/51” and the central length is 43cm/17”.

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Available here: Dapple Shawl for $6.00USD.