Kourtney Robinson – Dollybird Workshop Rotating Header Image

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.

Multiple Choice Question:

Okay, pop quiz.


Are these:

a) a sign of laundry day?

b) a sign of impending major holiday?

c) a radical new way to polish floors

d) a multi-sized sock that saves a little’s afternoon?

or e) all of the above?

Hint: they do come up to her knees…


(The answer is all of the above, of course!)

FREE!, Now With Added Kitten!

Well, it’s the last day of the free pattern gift that I spontaneously set up… and you knitters, you have knocked my socks off.  If you haven’t yet, you’ve got until midnight to pop over here –> http://www.ravelry.com/designers/kourtney-robinson and use the code ‘Free1′ for a free pattern.

I’m still reeling (in positive delight) about how many of you have downloaded a pattern!  I wanted to cheer myself up, by cheering others – and holy wow.  I’m still downloading the file from Ravelry so that I can make a pivot table to see how many people, how many patterns, etc.  I’m probably going to make charts.  Because you know, I love Excel.  And pivot tables.

I don’t need Excel though, to know how much awesome there is.  LOTS.  Far more that I anticipated!  Saturday was a ridiculously busy day – eye appointments for the kids and a pupil dilation and retina exam for me – we’re all fine, although I spent a bunch of Saturday squinting and reeling, until my pupils came back to normal.  After the eye exams, we travelled to Canmore to see family and have a mini-Xmas.  Luckily, my pupils had calmed down by the time I needed to help build a Lego van and bbq set… Then home, supper, bedtime…

I’d popped on to Rav and seen that my patterns were doing amazingly well*, and I saw that there were a whole pile of messages in my inbox.  It was around ten pm when I updated my blog.  Then it was about 11 when I started reading through my Ravelry inbox.  I plan on replying to all the messages, but I’m still  tad too overwhelmed (again, in a good way).  In person, you could see me making goldfish faces and flapping my hands, but that doesn’t really come across all that well in text.

Anyways,  a couple people let me know that it looked like they could download all my patterns, as long as they did it one at a time.  A couple more people sent messages, genuinely horrified that they got more than one free.  I replied to them that it was okay; no big deal.  And after some thought, I altered the offer so that you need to enter a code (Free1) and it’s limited to one pattern per person.

Now, I didn’t (and don’t) want to be stingy – but I wanted you, dear knitter, to know that I set value on my patterns.  I wanted to give each of you a gift of a pattern.  (If you took advantage of the electronic loophole, I am not upset.  I’m not mad.  Enjoy the knitting.  Don’t feel bad.  Pay it forward somehow.)

I wanted to create a feeling of a gift.  I didn’t want things to feel like the flyers that get dropped off on the steps every week – they are free, but I don’t feel like they have much intrinsic value**.  Sometimes, when things are free, their value is eroded.  It’s s fine line; I put a lot of effort and energy into even the simplest of my patterns.  I’m glad to have thrown open the doors to the library, so to speak.  It was an impulse, but a good one.

Years ago, when I was still working in an office environment at an engineering firm, I was having my annual review.  My boss asked me about my five year career plan, and I goggled at him.  “I don’t have a plan.”  Then he goggled at me.  I explained that I don’t do too much firm planning; I believe in keeping my eyes open for opportunities as they present themselves.  If I’m too focused on a single goal, I may miss chances that present themselves.  I try not to overthink things.  That said, I think that the Universe is showing me an opportunity here – so I’ve started a group on Ravelry.

I’ve been thinking on and off for a while that it’d be nice to have one spot where people knitting the same design can discuss things, post progress shots, and we can all help each other answer questions.  The group is here: http://www.ravelry.com/groups/dollybird-workshop , and I’m going to pop on over and start a couple topics.

I’m very excited because I plan on showing you all SQUEAK, who is S___’s new kitten.  And utterly adorable.

Yes, I’m becoming one of those people who put pictures of cats on the internet.  Don’t tell me that you’re really surprised.

*You might have heard me saying “SQUEEEEE!”

**Unless I’m looking for washing machine sales.  Etc.

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…



Xmas is Coming….

I’m sure you know that – and you possibly have a calendar with an active countdown.  If so, I’m guessing either a) you have small children b) you’re giving handmade gifts this year or c) all of the above.

I am – in an extremely unusual move – actually thinking about making things for people for Xmas.  I know I need to actually commit to the idea and start if it’s going to be a reality… But for now I’m just mulling.  You see, I need to get some stealth measurements, and that’s going to be the tricky part.  If I can figure out how to get the measurements, then the project itself is pretty workable.  I think.  It could be denial talking, too.

I’m eerily prepared for the season this year – or at least, I’m acres ahead of my usual festive planning.  We’re headed to Saskatchewan, to do the grand loop of family, and I got a fake tree for the house.  Thanks to Costco and the local art markets, I’m pretty well set for gifts.  There’s a couple loose ends, but they are minor.  Things like lipgloss** for the babysitter, and some more baking.  I made bourbon spiced pecans the other day, and I’m going to need to make several more pounds.

My Amoryn is convinced that she needs a blankie*; that’s one of the things she’s asked for.  I have nothing against making her a blanket, but it’s not going to be for a deadline!  In my books, Xmas gifts should be a surprise.  And if I’m going to make Amoryn a blanket, I darn well want her to understand how long it took me!

I also don’t know if I have anything in my stash that would work for a blanket for her.  I have some Noro Silk Garden and Ayatori that would be really lovely – but I only have enough for a sweater, not a decent sized blanket, so I’d need to buy a pile more.  And I sort of feel like spending $250 on yarn for a blanket for a six-year old is a slightly questionable thing to so.  And if I’m thinking it’s questionable, well then…

I have rather a lot of Eco+, but isn’t in the brilliant rainbow tones so loved by Am.  Oh!  But I do have a sincerely astonishing amount of a sincerely astonishing boucle… maybe I should knit that into a blanket for her!  I was going to weave it into a poncho, but despite my best intentions, my little loom and I rarely connect.

It’s this stuff – Noro Wadaiko.  Bulky boucle; 91m/100g.


Except this picture is maybe a little muted and doesn’t fully convey the long color run of rainbow.  I think I just decided on what I’ll be knitting over the Xmas road trip!

So.  Now if and what to knit for Xmas…

*Or something else from Sephora.

**Inspired, of course, by the creation of the new Crunchie.

Introducing Moonraker!

No, no, I haven’t produced a remake of the wonderful 1979 James Bond movie.  How could I improve upon Jaws?  Moonraker is a sibling pattern to Spinnaker; both are named after sails.  The Moonraker cowl pattern is available through Ravelry for $6.00USD, http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/moonraker-cowl .

moonraker 012 - Copy - Copy (2)

I used my super-spy skills to create a variant of my Spinnaker Capelet; the lace is now fully reversible and still sparkles with beads.  The stockinette and reverse stockinette move along intuitively, and they fold and crease wonderfully when worn.

moonraker 091 - Copy

Two sizes offer you the option of a snug neck warmer or a longer infinity cowl, for however you like to tackle adventures.

moonraker 105 - Copy

The green version uses Wollmeise Pur in Schwefel (o schwefel, how I love thee).  It used 112g of the 154g skein, and 660 beads (almost 60g).  The coral version is Tosh Sock, in Grapefruit – I used .9 of a skein, or thereabouts, and about 500 beads.

moonraker 027 - Copy

Finished (blocked) measurements are S[L] – 38 x 60cm[22 x 133]cm / 15 x 24”[9 x 52]”.

moonraker 135 - Copy

And as I mentioned, the lace is totally reversible, which is especially nice for the infinity cowl.

moonraker 116 - Copy

(Does that look like a front and back?  It totally is!)  Again, Moonraker is available on Ravelry for $6.00 USD.  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/moonraker-cowl  .

Happy knitting!

Introducing Acer!

The hardest thing about this design was settling on a name.  Sometimes patterns are like that – they have a working title (Big Leaf, in this case), but their formal name is a struggle.  I ended up using part of the Latin name for the big-leaf maple (acer macrophyllum).  When winter first arrives, I crave colour and something to snuggle up in.  Macro lace and super bulky yarn combine for the perfect accessory to ease into winter.  Acer is available on ravelry, for $6.00USD.  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/acer-shawl

acer 029 - Copy

As you can see, Acer is knit with a super-bulky yarn (Malabrigo Rasta, two skeins) and a very large gauge.  Two stitches to the inch, to be exact!  It’s a quick but athletic knit, on 12mm/US #17 needles.

acer 009 - Copy (2)

Although “exact” is a tad misleading for the gauge in this project.  The next commonly available smaller needle size is 10mm/US #15 and the larger needle size is 15m/US #19.  Unless your gauge varies extremely, I suggest knitting with the 12mm/US #17 needles.

acer 012 - Copy - Copy - Copy

Like Mistaken and His Golden Lair, this shawl also has a broader triangle shape that is lovely to wrap and flattering to wear.  Again, it’s available through Ravelry for $6.00USD; http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/acer-shawl .

Happy knitting!  I’m going to tackle the next pattern… the finished samples are sitting on my lap, even as I type!

Have A Jelly Halloween!

So, Am said she wanted to beJellyfish for Halloween.  I thought it was a great idea for several reasons.  First, not a princess.  Second, interesting.  Third, a fun challenge to sew.

It’s a simple costume, when it comes down to it; it just took me a little while to get a clear idea on how to best approach it.  There were several intermediary stages… First, there was the “flying nun”:


Then “Stagette gone Wild!”


But when you put the two together, you get a jellyfish hat.


(A couple more tweaks needed…)

I used a $6 cowgirl hat from the dollar store, and flattened the brim by ironing it.  Then I attached the streamers to the edge of the brim – the white are a little feather boa I chopped up (again, dollar store!), and the pink is neon tulle that I cut into strips about 4″ wide and gathered on to elastic.  I’d sewn plastic boning in an “X” shape on the white organza (first photo), and I took advantage of the curl the boning had, and it sits on the top of the hat and hides the cowboy style hat crown.


I also made a smock dress with more streamers and fringe – so that the costume is fun to wear!  It looks best in motion…


And the rare ballerina-jellyfish hybrid is extremely cute, too…


All right, time to go make the cat his lobster costume.  Have a happy and safe Halloween!

I Know I’ve Shown You This Before…

gauhe pic

But I always feel so smart when I use a quilting gauge to flatten and then check my gauge swatch.

gauhe pic 2

I felt even smarter the first time I took a photo of the gauge swatch, then played with the color and contrast levels.  Sure, it might not be an accurate representation of the yarn’s colour anymore… but it’s waaaaaay easier to count stitches!