Saturday, September 26, 2009


Last night was our last scheduled knit together for a while. It was in New Hamburg, which is about 1.5 hrs west and a little north of Toronto. It was in an amazing store called Shall We Knit and I really do want to write about it, along with the other knit togethers that are patiently waiting in line, but I feel a little fried and not able to give the experiences the proper amount of insight and eloquence that they deserve. I do apologize. I also have been fighting a cold for several days and finally, last night in the car ride home, it decided to fully make itself known. I can't really complain since it did wait until the last knit night was over, but it does tend to cloud the mind a little.

I promise to have photographs and text soon. It has been a mind blowing experience on so many levels. I want to do it justice.

Instead, I have for your viewing pleasure, some pictures of knitting. There have been a few yarn accidents along the way.

I finished knitting the Uncle David cardigan and didn't want to attempt to sew it up while talking, so I purchased some sale yarn at The Knit Cafe, which conveniently is not so far from where we are staying. Actually Lucy picked out the yarn (can you tell?) and I promised to make her a poncho from it.

Of course once I got started I realized I needed 1. bigger needles and 2. more yarn. So much for my $10 poncho.

But it is awfully nice yarn, you have to admit.

And here is the smiling Sonya. She finished her scarf! She managed to do all that in between filming, which is impressive on its own but especially so when you consider it was her first ever project.

I was a little surprised that she didn't immediately buy more yarn but I happen to know for a fact that they have yarn stores in Berlin too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Ok, I know I need to post information about our experiences in Peterborough, Hamilton and our one urban foray into Toronto itself. Instead, we are taking a wee break. Tonight we have to head out to Whitby (about an hour outside of Toronto) and tomorrow we will spend the day west of Toronto in the Kitchener area (we will be at the New Hamburg knit night at Shall We Knit). But today, we rest a little.

Last night, as I tried to engage the knitting group at Lettuce Knit, my energy was at zero or maybe below zero and their enthusiasm was not really there either. It wasn't really a great experience for anyone. I felt badly that I was so lackluster but it was very clear that two groups in a day was too much. If I am learning any lesson from our eastern experiences it is that I need to schedule a few rest days (and nights) in there too. The relentlessness of our schedule has been challenging, not just in physical terms, but in terms of keeping the good energy up. I really felt it last night. I was in a "screw it" mood and I discovered that no one else is going to get excited about the project when the person leading the conversation (that would be me) is half asleep.

Plus I kept messing up my knitting.

Definitely time to take a day off.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Ottawa, Ontario

It is hard to know how to properly write about Ottawa. It wasn't because it was a bad experience, indeed, quite the opposite - we all absolutely loved it there. I photographed very little, so perhaps that is the problem. On the other hand, the knit group we visited was amazing so we have nearly two hours of video documenting that.

In any case, here is some of what I learned about Ottawa. First and foremost, do not make the mistake of thinking that you know Ottawa if you have been to Toronto. Jeesh - who would be so stupid to think that?? (ahem...) Ottawa is quite fascinating in its own right and, now that I have spend almost 24 hours in Toronto, I can fairly say, they are nothing alike. I know 30 million people actually understand this important distinction, but I will just point it out for the rest who might be unclear about that.

I (again, mistakenly) imagined that once I crossed into Ontario, French would disappear, but not so in Ottawa. It retains a strong French presence because Quebec is just across the river. Ottawa might be the opposite of Montreal where French is first, then English. Here English is definitely first, but French is strong too.

But enough explaining through comparisons to other places! Ottawa is it's own thing. And we were digging it, big time. Here is a photograph I took for the long suffering husband. Note the remarkable eclectic style. Where else might you see a large wooden structure near a rotating restaurant in the sky, near a glass facade, near a whattayacallit British style architecture. All on the same street.

We saw churches of this style in Quebec too. Really lovely.

Ok, I know every tourist who visits Ottawa must have this photo, but dang it. The thing is photogenic! Especially with that blue sky.

May I insert a more cranky note here. I was not so impressed with the National Gallery's installation of Canadian Art. I was feeling mighty proud to be Canadian in Ottawa, but nowhere less so than there. Nearly every single woman represented was an anonymous Aboriginal artist, or so I am guessing. But why was I left guessing? It was obvious that they were trying to be inclusive of First Nation artists, although their works were often placed in the farthest, darkest corners of the galleries. Also noticeable was that there were simply very few works by women ANYWHERE in the museum. It was especially noticeable in the Canadian section but none of the special exhibitions featured any women. Sigh. It is hard to believe that we are still living in a time of such obvious discrimination.

I tried not to let the patriarchal tone of the museum get me down because I was heading to the Sunday afternoon knit group at Cuppedia. As I mentioned, they were fantastic - talking about their city in a really in-depth way for nearly two hours. And we had an excellent conversation about why knitting is such a bond between people. It was a great discussion.

Thank you knitters! Thank you Ottawa!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

And now...Knitting Sprawl on Ravelry!

After a brilliant suggestion from an Ottawa knitter (have I mentioned how much I am totally in love with Ottawa yet?), I have created a new group on ravelry for Knitting Sprawl. I am hopeful that it will allow everyone who participates to follow the project and, even better, to talk to each other about the ideas that come up. You do need to be a member of ravelry to join the group, but if you are not a member of ravelry already, what's stopping you?

The link to the group is here.

Knitting Sprawl - Montreal, Quebec, Part 3

We left la Belle Province yesterday to head for Ottawa but on the way we explored an area that had been recommended to me by one of the knitters at Ariadne Knits. It was again quite interesting because it had been a town that was considered a cottage town, where people from Montreal would go to get away from the city. There was still evidence of that - there was a very sweet little town center with cottages leading up from the river and a huge church in the middle. From there outward however told another story.

Again I was fascinated to see how successive layers of development were so evident and how each development loses its look of uniformity as time goes on. As trees grow larger, gardens are created and expanded, homes are renovated, the place begins to look more textured and unique. And the culture comes through. You can't stop it.

I took a candid shot of Sonya knitting right after she got up in the morning....she has caught the bug.

Ontario beckoned and so we arrived in Ottawa, which is nothing like I imagined it. That is to say, it is 100X nicer than I imagined it (I don't know why I had envisioned a sterile place filled with boring government buildings) Ottawa is very beautiful and we were happy to find our new accommodations were charming and our hosts, generous.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Montreal, Quebec, Part 2

Yesterday was one of those days I knew would come but I wasn't looking forward to experiencing. That is to say, we were all tired and cranky and getting on each other's nerves. It is/was inevitable when you are on the road, staying a little room with three other people and engaged in a complicated, yet personal, yet communal, project. I tried to notice what I was saying and doing and notice when what others were saying and doing got a rise out of me, but damn it, I was tired. Also, after days of only experiencing the good side of Quebecois culture, we suddenly started being on the receiving end of some of the more stereotypically negative behaviors - a bus driver who refused to speak any English and, thus, totally ripped us off (what gain to him, we wondered?), a clerk at a store who was beyond haughty and downright rude, and so on.

But I am still loving Montreal.

On the brighter side, we did have a fantastic visit with the people who run Galerie Diagonale, a fibre arts gallery/artist collective in a neighborhood that was reimiscent of pre-gentrification Williamsburg (Brooklyn). They are a mainly francophone organization so it was a good opportunity to speak with people with that perspective. One main point that came up was that the whole notion of "community", which is so central to my project in its many layers and definitions, is, in their opinion, an Anglo idea. It explained a lot.

Another thing that became clear was that I need to come back to Montreal. There is so much here to dig into and I feel like I am just making the connections on this trip that need to be explored on another visit. As it turns out, April is Textile Month in Montreal (gotta love a place that celebrates Textile Month!) and there are all sorts of special events and exhibitions happening then.

Pencil me in for April, Montreal.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Side Trip

After our many exertions of the previous day, we spent yesterday wandering a bit around Montreal with the goal of finding a shop that one of the West Island knitters mentioned. It is called Bobineuse de La Laine. If you are familiar with School Products in New York then imagine if School Products had a plying machine so that you could choose from among the cones and create your own colourways. These would be plied together and you could purchase as much or as little as you want at amazingly affordable prices. This is Bobineuse de La Laine.

I confess that I found it a little strange and hard to understand when we first walked in but the man behind the counter was very friendly and next thing you know, I was 1.5 pounds richer in yarn (a robin's egg blue mixed with a green and a varigated colour - plied to be DK weight).

I took a couple of videos on my camera (not my video camera) of the process. Here is one:

We also visited with the knit group at a shop called Ariadne Knits. It is a huge group - and very lively! In circumstances like that, I have found it better to corner, I mean, sit next to a couple of people and talk rather than try to direct the conversation to the whole group. Fortunately I sat next to a woman who is a real estate agent in and around Montreal so she filled me in on all sorts of details.

Little by little I am getting a feel for Montreal - a process so much more challenging that it was in St. John's.

PS. Sonya has started knitting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Montreal, Quebec

We spent the day yesterday on the West Island (in West Island?) and in nearby towns. We had a plan to meet up with a knitting group in that area in the evening so we spent about six hours driving around, video taping, photographing and talking with people before meeting up with the knitters.

Since we arrived in Montreal, my friend from Berlin, Sonya Schoenberger, has been with us. Her role is to be camera person and technical advisor in all things video. I am very happy she is along because she is bringing a lot of good ideas about how to frame the video portion of this project. I had lost my sense of what it would be after my St. John's experience so it is good to feel back on track with it. Also she manages to act as a moderating influence on Finn and Lucy, keeping them from getting too restless and in each other's face. And we encourage each other to be just a little more daring and take some chances that I know I would not take if I were on my own.

For example, yesterday we found a rich vein for photographs - a new development that had several model houses open. Together we hatched a scheme whereby we acted as potential buyers and got to tour two of the homes.

It was very interesting to hear the sales pitch and dig a little into that side of things. At a certain moment I found myself actually believing in our fabrication and truly considering whether or not living in this house would be a good idea. I was wanting those appliances and thinking about how the layout would work for us. The qualities that the house embodied - a certain kind of luxury (this was one of the higher end models)- were suddenly things I believed I wanted also. Is this how it happens?

Fortunately before I could write any checks, we spilled out, back into the bright sunshine and cool air of reality.

And on to our meeting with the West Island knitting group.

It was wonderful to meet up with them - so welcoming and generous with answers to our questions. Yet again, I felt that little tug when I realized that I wouldn't be meeting up with them next week. But we made some plans for Rhinebeck, so connections were made...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Où êtes-vous?

We are in Montreal and beginning our first day of suburban exploring. I am discovering that having no idea about a place can be confusing. Strange that, eh?

Pictures to follow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sending Out Some New Brunswick Love

Each year when we drive from New York to Newfoundland, we remind ourselves how nice it is in New Brunswick. Unlike its eastern neighbor, New Brunswick isn't full of "we got what you want" attitude. It is a modest province, which is saying a lot in a country that prides itself on its modesty.

As we drove from Fredericton, New Brunswick, to Quebec City, I was working under the delusion that it was only a 3.5 hour drive (um, double that and you are closer to reality). With that in mind, when I saw a roadside sign for a local museum, my first thought was that we must stop because we have plenty of time and, indeed, don't want to arrive too early. As it turned out that was a little optimistic, but since we were still flush with young love for dear New Brunswick, we stopped.

And can you blame us? For we stopped here:

Yes, Potato World. If not the world's only museum dedicated to the potato, I would venture to say it is the world's only bilingual museum dedicated to the potato.

I justified it further by telling the kids that I had specified on our IHIPs (Individualized Home Instruction Plans - as required of all homeschoolers by New York State) that we would include a study of New Brunswick potatoes in our curriculum. I was lying on that point, but now I can include it in our quarterly report. File under...biology? We can work out those details later. In the meantime...

Perhaps the highpoint, after the Pantheon du Monde of potato heros that lined the walls as you exited the museum, were these two:

Tony Oursler, eat your heart out!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Totally Illegal and Without Permission

I couldn't leave with such a downer of a post as the previous one.  So, I offer you this photograph, which I do not have express permission to share, taken in 1986 in Hoboken, NJ, of a small group of art students attending their last year of art school at Cooper Union in New York.  Not sure where two of them are at this point but I can say for certain that one has become one of our leading lights in all things dragonfly and damselfly and one of them is a kindly old preservationist who married a fellow Cooper alum/artist.  I should add that my devotion to Elvis Costello may be evident.  And further, that this picture was taken by our friend, Jeff Peter.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

(More) Crying, Damn it.

Can you forgive me this self indulgent post?  Aren't all posts self indulgent?  Perhaps, but that is another topic.  Right now, I am feeling very sad about leaving Newfoundland.  

Last night was our last yoga class and we did our practice together, rather than having me do the instructing and adjusting.  I still called the breaths and the poses but we did it all together.  It was really lovely and about half way through, I thought I would cry.  You know, it's hard to breath, maintain the bandhas, call the poses and cry at the same time.  

It is such a great group of people.  We had a potluck supper afterwards - children and partners came.  Really lovely.

I know that location shouldn't really matter.  I also know that I have so much to look forward to - new places and experiences.  I further know that our time in New York will be packed with the most wonderful things, not least of which is spending time with the long suffering husband.  I know this.  But I still want to cry.

Newfoundland is this crazy place.  Crazy, wonderful, frustrating, beautiful place that I can settle into like a favourite chair.  Despite not being born here, it is where I have come home to roost.  I feel that sense of "ahhhh" everytime I step back on the island.  So, I guess it makes sense that I get the opposite feeling, a sense of "nooooo" when I have to leave.

Sometimes I think it might have been better to never have come at all because this leaving business is so hard, every time.  

Today I decided I would let myself be sad and cry if I want to - I don't care if it makes me a bad this or a failed that.  I'm crying, damn it.

I'm crying, damn it.  And the ferry leaves tomorrow at midnight.  

We'll be there!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Packing? What Packing?

Our leisurely days have come to an end. Now we start gathering our things and making last minute preparations and eating up strange combinations of foods so as to clear out the cabinets and cleaning up four months worth of detritus.

My efforts at using up dyed fleece stash have not been without some success. I piled everything in the middle of the living room and pulled colours out as my whimsy took me.

A collection of commercially dyed merinos in lovely fall colours.

A wee little skein that looks like a posey.

Then things took a wilder turn...

Finnian started carding things together that I never would have chosen, but they work.

I stopped even looking in the bags and started pulling out pieces at random.

Digging still further for thin singles left on bobbins for plying materials.  (Have to admit, these are my favourites.)

Then I took it back a notch - all super soft merino and BFL.  Quick, someone grab me a newborn!

And I tested out my new hat recipe on a skein a handspun.  Same pattern as earlier with slight adjustment in the number of stitches and, instead of an i-chord bind off, I just single crocheted a couple of rounds.  I am please that the whole hat took slightly less than 100 yds of yarn, including the braided ties.  Bringing Hester Prynne into the 21st Century.

ETA - All the yarns are still on sale in my etsy shop!  I will be mailing them off on Wednesday to Devon House, so after that it means a trip to St. John's, which, while a worthy endeavour, will jack up the price a bit.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Don't you just hate it when you get all dressed up to go to an art opening at your local organic farm/cultural centre and everyone else there wears EXACTLY the same thing, right down the Keen sandals and handknit socks made from German yarn.

It's just so hard to have one's "I'm so cutting edge" bubble burst like that.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Knittin' and Cryin'

I am surrounded by crying people.

Lucy is crying everyday about our impending departure - she is crying about leaving her best friend, leaving the cat, and I think, just leaving this most wonderful place. Finnian is crying about leaving our cat and leaving our unofficially adopted stray cat who made an error in judgement when he chose us, as I have tried to explain to him repeatedly. Our neighbors are crying because their daughter is losing her playmates. And Dan is crying because we have been separated for so long, too long.

Sometimes it makes me want to just sit down and cry.

Instead, I have been pretending that I don't have several years worth of knitting to do in the next couple of months and I have been playing around with a new hat design. I quite like it, even if it does have a certain, shall we say, Hester Prynne feel about it.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Knitting Sprawl podcast

If you would like to hear the CBC Radio/Weekend Arts Magazine interview with Mack Furlong on podcast, click here.

You Can't Take It With You Sale

I am having a Big Sale in my etsy shop (click over there on the right). All yarns are 20% off. I don't plan on taking any yarn back to NYC (or Toronto or Montreal or Ottawa...) so I am trying to entice reluctant buyers with low, low prices.

A real creampuff - all of it!

If I add any new yarns in my attempt to use up all dyed fleece stash, I will automatically take 20% off my normal prices. At this rate, if you buy enough yarn, the accumulated discount will actually make the yarn pay for itself.

Trust me, honey. I know what I am talking about.