Monday, May 9, 2016

A Good Time Was Had By All

Learning Japanese -- knitting patterns
Wow.  I've been back from my knitting cruise to Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Japan for weeks now, and there are places of the trip that still leave me speechless.  Our group was approximately 50 in number.  We had terrific classes with Gayle Roehm on the topic of all things related to Japanese knitting and crochet patterns.  (Yes, I crochet, usually under duress, but the classes were fun, so I crocheted.)

On our first day of class, I sat in the middle row, which is why only two people appear in this picture.  We were learning how to read the symbols for this pattern for a knitted, smocked tunic.

The cruise was with Holland America Line, and we sailed on the Volendam.  She's an older ship, but she still has some lovely attributes.  The accommodations on our "floating hotel" were quite comfortable, and the staff at HAL are truly top-notch.

Apart from classes on board, our excursions included yarn shopping and sight seeing expeditions.  In Shanghai, we "hit" no fewer than six yarn shops and one book store in one day!

Shanghai is an enchanting city, and I'm not just saying that because of the yarn shopping!   It is the fashion capital of China, and there was beauty everywhere -- from the Liuli (glass art) museum to the women on the street.

A misty night in Shanghai
At night, the skyscrapers are lit up, as are the cruise boats that glide up- and downstream.  This photo, taken on our first day in the city, doesn't show the full height of the building on the left, which is a communication tower called the Pearl Tower.  It is so named because its five spheres are separated by "chains" that make it resemble a string of pearls.

I booked this cruise with Craft Cruises out of Colorado, USA.  Our trip leader was Lily Chin, well-known knitting book author.  Gayle wasn't officially a trip leader,  but she was generous with her knowledge of  Japanese.  She helped us navigate not only Japanese knitting patterns, but also yarn labels, subways, and conversation with the staff and students at Nihon Vogue, Japan's major pattern publisher and craft school.

Lily Chin: Wallflower!
Lily and Gayle showed us many wonderful sights in the Orient.  In addition, I booked other trips through Holland America Line and Viator to see historic sights such as Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven in Beijing, the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park in Nagasaki, and Mt. Fuji.

Craft Cruise excursions included yarn shopping in Shanghai, a kimono fashion show and more yarn shopping in Kyoto, and the Silk Museum in Yokohama. Each one was a feast for the eyes, from the yarns themselves to the patterns in the terrazzo flooring.  (Tip:  If you ever go to Japan, you need to remember Yuzawaya).

Over the coming weeks, I'll be blogging about this incredible textile adventure.  I hope you will join me!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Toques and Office Update

Absence alert:  The Canadian Guild of Knitters office will be closed until April 22.  Please call or e-mail and we'll respond to your inquiry after that time.

The 25 000 tuques program is winding down for the season.  Knitters in the area of the CGK office donated over 200 toques!  A special shout-out to the gang at the Purple Sock in Coldwater, who knitted the lion's share of this number, and to the group at Grey Heron in Collingwood, who provided another huge bag of hats!

Once the office is back open, I plan to blog my way through a hat book.  It's a natural fit!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Gift of Giving

In honour of the 25 000 tuques movement, I created a new phrase.  We have a gaggle of geese, a pod of whales, and a school of fish.  Now, we have a family of toques.
Early last week, I attended a meeting of the Barrie Knitting Guild to talk about GTA Knits 25 000 tuques #GTAKnits.  Not only did they hear me out, I learned that the main part of their meeting was to do a "show and tell" of the goods they had knitted for the local Christmas Cheer campaign.

Knitters all over Canada knit for charity year round, and it's gratifying to get out and see just how much kindness and giving resides in knitters.

Today, I received word of another knitting initiative for Syrian refugees.  Kind Canada Genereux has started a campaign to make scarves for the refugees.  You can register on their website,

Of course, you can also support other groups with regard to the Syrian refugees, such as 25 000 tuques, of which I belong to the GTA Knits chapter, 1000 Stitches for Syria, and Lifeline Syria.  This blog post is merely to bring awareness to those who want to help.

Whenever I speak about GTA Knits, I note to the audience that the Syrian knitting effort is there to provide a handmade welcome to people who have lived under very unwelcome circumstances for several years now.  It is not intended to detract from other campaigns that a knitting group might have, rather it is an immediate, and hopefully temporary initiative. 

While it is temporary, it has been an incredible feat of organization, one that I hope will continue and go on to help other Canadian charities once this need is over.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Power of Many

The 25 000 tuque movement marches on, and it grows every day.  Today I learned about groups in Newfoundland and Muskoka, Ontario. 

These are the first donations received by GTA Knits 25 000 tuques, which I've signed on as a section co-ordinator for the Barrie/Simcoe County area.

Our group is working with local sponsoring agencies to try and determine numbers so that we can give volunteer knitters good information.  We are also looking for dropoff locations, and we would like to have co-ordinators in a few more areas of the GTA.  If you're interested in helping, please drop me an e-mail at

Personally, I would like to have more time to knit, but at least I got a toque cast on early today and by the end of our online organizing meeting this evening, it looked like this:

Knit on, dear knitters!

#GTAKnits, #25000tuques

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Power of One: 25 000 Tuques

Today, I tip my hat to Danielle Letourneau.  When she learned that the province of Quebec was to receive upwards of 7500 Syrian refugees, and that Canada was taking in a total of 25 000 refugees, she put out word to fellow knitters by creating a Facebook page called 25 000 tuques.  Within a week, there are "chapters" all over Canada, from Nova Scotia to BC.

Some groups are keeping their efforts local -- they are donating their knits to families being sponsored in their own communities -- and other groups are sending their knitted wares to Qu├ębec for distribution on the families' initial days in Canada.

In the past week, I've been contacted by two organizations wanting to do something along this line, and I'm liaising with Heritage Canada to keep them apprised of what's going on.

Canadian Guild of Knitters is not recommending that people stop supporting their local charities, nor are we requesting your support; we merely offer the following information in case you want to join this effort.

Personally, I've linked with one of the four Ontario groups I found today (the GTA group).  There is a group in Toronto, one in Ottawa, and one in Bruce-Grey-Simcoe.  All have Facebook pages, and you can find them by doing a search on Facebook for 25 000 tuques.

If you want to help, please contact me through the website, or through Facebook.   The Calgary group Calgary's 1300 Stitches for Syria put some good information on their page as to guidelines for the knits, which I'm offering here for your reference. 

DONATE: Help by donating one or more of the items we’re collecting. Please note these items MUST BE NEW due to health restrictions. They can be purchased or handmade items. Also please be advised that currently these are the ONLY items we are able to accept.

We also ask that you ensure the items you donate are suitable for our cold winter.

We are accepting donations of the following items ONLY in sizes from infant to adult:

Please make sure your donations meet the following criteria;

 1.All items must be void of any possibly offensive religious or political graphics, phrases and or comments.

2. Please include the suggested care of your donation. (ie. hand wash in cold water, machine washable etc.)

3.Please include the fiber content of the item you’re donating. In the event of items made with wool this is critical information for those with allergies to it.

4.Please place the donated item(s) in a clear Ziploc bag (one per hat, pair of mitts etc.) to protect them while also allowing the contents to be visible for easy handling and distribution.

Please Note: If you would like to include a brief message or welcome message for the recipient of your donation please feel free to do so. Each family will be working with a translator.

Already there are photos of some of the work done by some of Canada's knitters.  Each of us is also the power of one, and with the co-ordinating efforts of Danielle Letourneau, the people on the way to us will get first hand knowledge of that power and of the warmth of Canadian knitters.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

It was an Artist's date

I'm a fool for a good play on words, and this is the one I really enjoyed this weekend:

What a GREAT name for a flower shop! Not to mention the creativity in the Celtic-looking hearts interlinked to resemble carnations.

This weekend, I got away for a couple days.  My journey took me north, to Sundridge Ontario.  Sweetie had a barbecue up there, and we decided to make a weekend of it. Zoey, my little dog, was sent to her "second family" for the weekend, so the grownups wouldn't have to worry about stopping for meals and points of interest.

One of our first stops was the "town" of Burks Falls, which is now little more than a village.  While there, we found a studio containing works of local artists.  There were egg cups hand-turned from  ironwood, quilted placemats, and some really interesting works by local artists. It is worth the stop, if you're ever up there.

At the barbecue, we learned that there was a Sunflower Festival in Sundridge, where we were staying.  We headed over there and were treated to all kinds of inspirational things -- solidly-built Mennonite furniture, metal sunflowers (I'm still kicking myself for not buying one of those for my garden), some beautiful, abstract watercolour paintings, and a rustic bench with bear-themed upholstery on its back. 

This morning, I awoke, refreshed, and got to enjoy morning coffee on the dock of the resort with some knitting.  Sweetie took a picture of me "knitting in my natural habitat", but it's on his phone... it may take a while to get it.  In the meantime,  here's one of me knitting in my natural habitat back in 2006:
(This was Newfoundland, I believe up toward Bonavista)

On our way home, at Huntsville, we stopped at a lovely souvenir shop that had lots of signs to hang around the house, beautiful hand-turned and polished wooden bowls, beeswax candles, shaker boxes made in New Brunswick, and pillows, with faces fringed with strips cut from old knitted garments. "I could make that", I observed.  (Huntsville is a must-stop if you're travelling through Muskoka -- it's downtown rivals many of the pretty ones in the province.  And, there's a chocolate shop!)

As we drove home I said to Sweetie, "You know, it has been good to get out this weekend -- we can get pretty stuck in our little box called home, and I've spent far too much time in the house so far."

Being a proponent of The Artists' Way, I like to get out once in a while and have an "artist's date".  (An artist's date is an opportunity to feed the creative, right side of the brain.  It could involve tasks that are routine or mundane that take your mind off things and allow your brain to float off on its own (gardening is a good example of this), or getting out and feeding off of the creativity and inspiration in the world around us.)  This weekend's jaunt certainly qualified as one.

This weekend, I got out there. And it was good.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Flatstock Dyeing, Anyone?

You know, no matter how much you know about a craft, there's always something else you can learn.

Last Sunday, I joined some of my colleagues from the Severn-Muskoka Knitting Guild for a flatstock dyeing workshop with Lynda Gemmell of Shelridge Yarns

In the interest of full-disclosure, dyeing isn't "my gig". It's too much like cooking, to me, but when we do it in a workshop setting, I can play along.  This is the second dye workshop I've taken with Lynda -- the first was hand-painting skeins.

The results of the day turned out like this:

My pieces are the ones with the pink in the foreground over the middle bar and the purple/iris blue over the back bar. 

Workshops are amazing things to go to with a group of creative people in your circle.  I can't recall who made the two pieces in the middle, but I know that Denise made the piece on the bottom left of the photo.  By Lynda's guidance and Denise's colour-sense, these will make some great socks!

Terry did the piece in the background with the sunset tones.  Like me, she did two pieces, and plans to make a sunset-themed piece.

The day after the workshop, once my work had dried, I unravelled the dyed blanks to create skeins.  This is how they turned out (forgive the low light of the photo):

After that, I washed the skeins to relax the yarn, then, after they were dry,  I wound them into cakes so that I can do centre-pull balls.  Because of the way I chose to paint the knitted blanks,  I got this cool-looking knitted cake that looks like a very expensive yarn kit that is currently on the market:

I'm pretty pleased with the result, and am currently working on a pattern to make a stole from the centre-back outward to the ends using a provisional cast-on.  Stay tuned to this blog.  I'll let you know what happens.