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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.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve had a couple different queries about my designing lately.  I’m still designing – there’s been a long gap in publishing things because life is busy right now.  The quiet may last into the fall; and that’s just how things go sometimes.  I’m well, I’m busy, I’m still knitting all the time.

In lieu of knitted projects*, here’s something I did this morning.

I’ve been looking for a piece of art for the bathroom; specifically something to hang above the tub.  The man and I are both frequently enjoy tubs, and while he reads a lot in the tub, I like to just float.  There’s a bare wall I look at that  has been crying out for something since we finished the reno a couple years ago.

I gave up on finding the “RIGHT” thing and instead bought a beautiful piece of paper at Mona Lisa Art Supply here in Calgary.  It’s a tad heavier than tissue paper, but not as heavy as ordinary paper.  Then I ironed fusible interfacing on to the back of the paper, stretched it, and hung it up.


This is the paper with the fusible interfacing; I used a fairly heavy interfacing that’s typically used in suit jackets.  It’s what I had; I don’t think woven or non-woven would have made a difference.  I just wanted fusible.  The interfacing adds some substance to the paper – it was quite filmy before; now it looks the same but has a much more stable hand.  I did use steam when I ironed the interfacing; I used a press cloth to protect the ironing board in case the ink was affected by the steam at all.  (No problems from the paper at all.  Still glad I erred on the side of caution.)


This is the paper with the frame (which I got from Ikea ages ago).  Turns out, it’s square.  Huh.  I thought it was a rectangle, but I don’t care enough to McGuyver it into  different shape or go buy another frame from somewhere.  Lucky it’s just wide enough to wrap or I’d have had to put this back into the “I’m Working On It” pile.**


I carefully nailed the paper into place; I started with one nail in the center of each edge then worked my way outward.


The corners weren’t challenging at all – I think without the interfacing I may have worried about tearing the paper but with the interfacing I had no problems.


(I tried to photograph how I did the fold/pleat/fasten, but Ikea does it better.)


Here’s the finished item, just waiting to be hung up.  It’s like this project was meant to be – I can’t believe that the paper and the interfacing and the frame were all the perfect size to work together with minimal trimming.


And here it is in place – I know that it looks like it’s hung a bit too high when you look at it from eye level, but from the tub I think it’s just right.  I also think a rectangle would have been a better shape, but eh.  I may find the perfect piece of humidity-resistant art; I may buy another piece of $8 paper and a different frame shape; any number of things could happen!  For now, I’m pleased with it.  Orange is my favorite colour – and as luck has it, the goldfish plant that hangs in the bathroom is blooming right now.


Lovely! I’m going to have a tub tonight for sure :)

*I hate to share pictures of knitting before they are DONE-done, you know?

**The “I’m Working On It” pile is not an oubliette, but it’s close.

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!




The First “along” of Dollybird Workshop!

A word to the non-knitting, non-Ravelry using public:  A knitalong (KAL) is a project where multiple people commit to making the same project at the same time.  It’s a fun way to support each other, get help with any questions you may have, and be encouraged to actually finish things.  KAL*’s have evolved in several different directions, and for the first one that I’m hosting in the Ravelry group**, “Dollybird Workshop”, we’re going non-traditional and having a UFO***-along.

What qualifies? Any project of yours that has been in progress for a while, but is stuck for whatever reason. A knitting project that got put in the bad knitting box for a time-out, a spinning project that was superseded by holiday deadlines, a crochet project that you set down and just haven’t got back to… heck, for the first ‘along’, we’ll accept any projects. Paper mache? Macramé? Woodwork? If it’s something that you’ve started and would like to actually finish, go for it.

Because we are picking up projects that have already mated yarn and pattern (or whatever), we’ll start off today; and it will run until Saturday Feb 15th (six weeks, ish). I’ve decided to make things a little fun, and have a little contest. A random winner will get their choice of one of three skeins of yarn. (I’ll troll through my destash box when I get home, then post a pic.)

To qualify for entry in the contest? Post a photo of your UFO in it’s current state, and post an photo of the progress you make with it. (Some projects do meet completion in the frog pond, it’s true.)

I also want to hear about why you began the project, if you remember why it’s been in a time out, and why you’d like to finish it up.

I’m hoping to finish my version of Zigmund – I spent a lot of time deciding  on the colours; I knit almost to the armpits, and then…. I put it in a bag and set it under my desk.  For no reason that I can recall.  Maybe it was full summer and a worsted-weight stranded sweater was too hot to sit under as I knit?  At any rate, it’s the perfect weather to wear that sweater now… so I’m going to get it done!

I’ll add photos in the next post.  All of my stash (for prizes) and UFO’s (for shame) are at home, and I’m currently ensconced in the glorious silence of the public library.  I’m so glad school is back in session.  The holidays were lovely, but the lack of schedule wreaks havoc on my productivity.

*KAL – knit along, CAL – crochet along, SAL – spin along, etc.

**I started a Ravelry group, http://www.ravelry.com/groups/dollybird-workshop .  There’s the “along”, a thread all about cute animals we know or covet, an errata thread, etc.

***UFO – Unfinished Object.  Although you could be very meta and start knitting a flying saucer… that would be pretty funny, actually.

Well, We Hit The Road…

Yes indeed.  We covered 1800km in about a week, and saw our families.  The weather cooperated, mostly.  I have all sorts of photos and projects to share, but first…


The road.


Or, the view from the side window.


The sun setting…


High pretty clouds.


A sock in progress – but with the road in the background, so I think it belongs with this grouping.


The most astonishingly clear sun dog I’ve ever seen.  It was amazing, and enormous.  Also, effing COLD.


Blowing snow.


Less blowing snow.

I’m the passenger – the man did all the driving.  He’s happier as the driver; I’m happier napping and knitting and keeping the littles occupied and fed.  These were all just quick snaps with my phone; Saskatchewan really does have an amazing sky.

All I Want For Christmas Is To Help Others Feel As Lucky As Me, Part II

Last night, my family and I went out for supper.  I was feeling a little down, simply because of some negative stuff in the news.  I was sitting, determined to turn my mood around, because I know how truly fortunate I am.  As I waited for a table, I thought about how awful this season could be for people if they didn’t have a solid and wonderful family, a warm safe place to live, enough disposable income to meet the stresses of ‘Giftmas’ without distressing themselves needlessly…  And then there are people who are suffering from illnesses, whether it’s a mental or physical illness.

I felt that I needed to do something to try and help.  So I set up an impromptu sale in my Rav store, using my mobile phone, and posted a couple notes about it.  The deal?  You can have any self-published pattern of mine that you want, from now until the end of the 16th.  That’s it.  No coupon.  “Please feel happy and pay it forward”, is roughly what my note said!

We had supper and I ignored it until after I got the kids to bed.  Then I logged on to Rav, popped a note onto each pattern that says: “Okay knitters, it looks like it’s getting to be a rough time of year for some us. So, to cheer me and all of you up, from now until midnight Dec 16th, you can have any pattern of mine that I’ve self-published. For free! No code, no strings. Pick one, put it in your cart, check out, and cast on!”

All I was really hoping for was to make some knitters smile.  And knitters, you are making me smile!  I woke up to find that I had patterns in Ravelry’s top five!  There had been over two thousand downloads!  Great googely moogely!!

Right now, right this second – all top five patterns on Rav are mine.  I am flabbergasted.  There have been a stunning amount of downloads; and a stunning amount of messages in my Ravelry inbox saying “thanks”.  Over five hundred messages!  And two lovely people sent me patterns!  I would tell you how many patterns of mine have been downloaded but I can’t get the file to export to make a pivot table to say for sure… But lots.  Thousands.  Thousands.  Like, wow, man.


I had a quick panick, wondering if I would be paying some extraordinary top-tier fee for my Rav ‘sales’ (I couldn’t remember how they’re calculated, if they include “gifted” patterns or not), I figured out that I would only have to pay $50 max in Rav fees.  Then I wondered what this is going to do to long term sales, etc etc…

Then I decided to quit wondering.  I decided to give the knitters (and the Universe) a gift; that impulse came from the heart and was in no way calculated.  So, I’m going to receive what the Universe sends (primarily in the form of knitters) with a joyous and open heart.  Today, I got to see that my patterns were widely admired, and see the top five all mine!  This, this is a special thing that never even crossed my mind.  If it had, I would have thought I’d have to photoshop it…

I gotta show you this again.  Seriously?




All I Want For Christmas Is To Help Others Feel As Lucky As Me, Part I

I wrote this article for my knitting guild late last month – what I’d really like for Christmas?  Donations to MSF.  A good, solid way to help those who are in need.  Without further ado, a slight adjustment of what I wrote*:

Helping Refugee Children

The short version: A small charity named LILY (Love In the Language of Yarn) is run by a British woman in Turkey.  She is collecting blankets to keep the Syrian children in refugee camps warm through the winter.  She’s requested knit or crocheted 8” squares, and I’ve begun sending things to her.  If you’d like to join me, her address and info is:

‘LILY’ c/o Dianne Jones,
Cumhuriyet Mahlesi
Sürücü Sokak
Yildrim Apart 11/2

Parcels have to be less than 2kg (which cost about $30 to mail), and marked “Knitting for Charity – No Commercial Value”.

The longer story – a bit about why I feel such a strong tie to Syria; some statistics about the current numbers of refugees, a little more about LILY, and the websites for the information I reference.

I’m Kourtney; I’ve been a guild member for four years now, I think.  Maybe five?  I’m paying my dues for 2014, at any rate.  I knit a lot, and design a fair bit as well.  I’m also profoundly glad to be a Canadian.  I was born here, and I’ve lived here all my life. I’m curious about the world, though, and I like travelling. In 2005, I went to Syria and Jordan with my best friend as part of a guided tour.  I anticipated my trip, despite the fear-mongering of my coworkers.  I’m delighted to report that the only horror story was food poisoning one of our tripmates had; our trip was fantastic.

Syria was especially wonderful.  We were welcomed by everyone – from artisans in Damascus who lured us in with tea, then dazzled us with carpets, to the ladies in Hama that we shared a pizza with.  I spent a lot of time with our Syrian guide, Bashar, discussing the finer points of language (the difference between jealousy and envy, for instance).  The culture was different, but people really are mostly the same everywhere.  If you look lost, someone will generally help you.  If you’re in a fabric store, odds are good a stranger will help you decide if the red is better than the blue.  Little kids who drop a plate will look stricken.  And so on.

Stricken and powerless is how I felt when the Syrian civil unrest began to develop.  My favorite charity is MSF – Doctors Without Borders – but even though they are active in Syria*, it just didn’t feel like I was helping.  It’s hard, when the problem is almost an entire world away, and so much larger than the usual problems I help solve – things like finding library books, making supper, or knitting the perfect toque (pink, with earflaps, in case you wondered).

Syria is frankly an awful mess, with a violent civil war ongoing.  There are over two million registered refugees, and about eighty five thousand that are awaiting registration.  Since June 2012, that’s “2,210,712 people of concern”, to use the numbers and phrasing of the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency), current as of November 6, 2013.  Imagine twice the current population of Calgary; imagine them leaving their homes and fleeing to try and find safety for their families.  These people have gone to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq.  About a quarter are in Turkey.

As a very rough number, half those people are under age eighteen.  Forty percent are under the age of twelve.  That’s over a million children, homeless in refugee camps.  And winter arrives in Turkey***, a bit milder than it does here, but still with snow in most places.  To be honest, I started trying not to think about Syria.  About the people that I might have known, that may have fled – or worse yet, stayed in place in the middle of the war.

I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I was to stumble across Dianne Jones, and the charity she has organized, LILY – Love In the Language of Yarn.  Dianne is a Brit living in Turkey, and LILY is very small and completely non-profit with no paid employees.  She is collecting knit or crochet blanket squares that are 8”x8” across, to sew into blankets for the Syrian children in refugee camps.  She also collates other things – she recently posted that they took their first delivery of Winter 2013 to the camps.  It included “150 full size blankets, 100 baby blankets, 495 sweaters/cardigans, 2,000 hats, 1,890 pairs socks, 271 pairs baby socks/booties, 138 scarves, cowls etc, 152 pairs gloves/mittens, 115 baby vests, 125 packs baby wipes, 2,000 bandages (various), 36 packs women’s hygiene products, 52 packets pain killers and 50 packs baby formula”.  LILY celebrated its first birthday in March 2013 and Dianne reported “they received 270,982 squares and sent out 5,964 blankets, along with baby layettes, gloves, hats, etc.”

I contacted her and asked her a couple questions, wanting to make sure that it wasn’t just a scam of some kind.  She graciously replied, and I recently completed my first parcel and sent it off.  It should be there in another week or so.  Dianne always posts on the Facebook page when items arrive, so just like when my step-mom calls me to let me know a package arrived, I’ll know that the blankets are one step closer to keeping someone warm.

I’m continuing to work on things to send to her – mailing is expensive, but I don’t think I can put a price on feeling like I’m actually helping.  My first parcel cost around $35 to mail; parcels need to be less than 2 kilgrams – that’s 4.4 pounds – and marked “Knitting for Charity – No Commercial Value”.  That size of parcel costs less to ship AND doesn’t have the same kind of customs issues.

Her mailing address is:

‘LILY’ c/o Dianne Jones,
Cumhuriyet Mahlesi
Sürücü Sokak
Yildrim Apart 11/2

I’m very lucky to be able to afford to spend some of my time and money on this project, helping to keep children and their families warm.  If you’d like to help, but are loathe to commit to mailing costs, please email me and I’ll cover shipping costs for as long as I can.

If you’re not certain about a small charity, another great option is donating to MSF – Doctors Without Borders.  They are a registered charity, and will provide tax receipts to you while they provide medical aid around the world.  MSF is one of the world’s leading independent international medical relief organizations, working in around 80 countries worldwide and with operational centres and national offices in 19 countries.  Website is http://www.msf.ca/ ; 1 800 982 7903.


*MSF’s Syria webpage: http://www.msf.ca/campaigns/crisis-in-syria/ MSF in Syria is running six hospitals and much else; despite ongoing negotiations with Damascus, MSF has not yet been able to start any activities in government-controlled areas but has sent medical and non-medical supplies to those areas.

**UNHCR webpage: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

***Wikipedia page about Turkey’s climate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Turkey





*I tweaked a couple phrases to make this make more sense to non-members; this is the Gilli-hook Knitting Guild.  Also, I’d offered to do some mailing for the Guild members, if they were interested in helping.  Too tricky to organize unless you are here in Calgary…



All The News That’s Fit To Print

Not that I really have big news, no.  I mean, the bathroom renovation is going well, but still torture – I have worked as a trade, and I’d waaay rather go work in someone’s home laying flooring than be the homeowner, who has shifted  a goodly portion of their world (possessions and routines) and are at the mercy of tradesmen.

Although I am looking forward to the new tub.

Did I mention I got a spinning wheel in the spring?  A Kromski Sonata, new to me.  I lurve her.  I spin a little almost every day; it really zens me out.  Which is good, what with the renos.  Of course, a side-effect of the spinning wheel is that I’m making yarn and burning through stash.  I give most of the yarn to S____; I’ve been browsing online for fiber to spin, but I’m still sorting out what breeds I like and I have no idead about which dyers are really fantastic, and which are okay….  Any suggestions would be most welcome.


A gaudy color-run wool that I spun then Navajo plied.  It didn’t give me a whole ton, but I knit it together as sort of an extended swatch.  I then realized that it’s the perfect size for a shawl for a little…

Then there’s this – it was a sort of chaotic colorway from Hello Yarn’s fiber club.  It was named “Troll” and I just sort of disliked it.  Then I hit upon the idea of ripping the roving into color chucnks, then doing it as a color gradated yarn.

I am very pleased, as is S____, who was swooning over it.  This is a two-ply, and sport-ish weight? I think?

Most. Awesomest. Eggs. Ever.

And I’m not prone to exaggeration. Occasionally, I make psyanky, but I lack the attention span to do the intricate traditional ones. Over the years, I’ve made a Ford egg, a death-star egg, a pot leaf egg, a sunflower egg, bunny eggs, doodle eggs, etc.

This year, I thought I’d make the man an egg. I just finished these. On one side: dwarven symbols and a replacement sunflower.

On the other? THE EGG OF SAURON.

It’s so awesome it’s AWESOME.

Happy Halloween! (This one’s for you, L_____)

I love Halloween.  It’s not my favorite holiday, and it does have its problems, true.  (Mostly tooth-rot, messed-up bedtimes, and messed-up inappropriately sexy costumes on preteens, in my opinion.)

But when else do you get to dress up as a pirate?  Or a purple unicorn?

With iridescent wings?

And sneakers that need to be tied?

Cats, of course, are harder to photograph.

Although you can catch them when they’re eating.

I’m a bit abashed to admit that (despite the extra cat), we have some pests around.  Mostly ghosts, but some pumpkins, too.

We actually called a witch in to try and exorcise the pumpkins…

Even though they were cute, it was still a fail.  The pompoms are a nice touch, though.

So.  What to do?  When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  When your house is infested with pumpkins, well…

Carve jack’o’lanterns, clearly.

(Am’s design; she helped carve a little bit too.)

(Am’s request – “a witchkitty”.)

Eleni and I made this one – and before you think it’s a cop-out, reflect on how much time YOU’D want to spend with a two-year old covered in pumpkin guts.

This one is mine… I got a little OCD, but I’m awfully pleased with it.

It’s just waiting for one of the little people to come home!

And speaking of little people… mine are waiting (sort of) patiently.  Back to the salt mines for me!