I Was Smiling the Whole Time

There’s no doubt we could use more reasons to smile lately. It’s been a while since I’ve knitted something that made me excited to plan, happy to knit, and gleeful to wear. But this neck warmer was just the ticket!

Happy sheep cowl neck warmer

This is the I’ll Pack a Cowl for Rhinebeck by Deb Jacullo. Pssst — it’s FREE! Another reason to smile.

Sheep neckwarmer cowl

I made a couple of modifications to the pattern. I made the cowl smaller in circumference by leaving off one of the sheep from the chart, and since the chart is repeated twice, that means the width of two sheep were left off the circumference. This resulted in a closer-fitting neck warmer which I much prefer — I’ve never understood the use of scarf or cowl that gapes open around your neck…but then again, I do have a serious hate-on for any kind of cool breeze getting anywhere near my neck. It was a 7-stitch wide sheep, so I just cast on 14 fewer stitches to start and went from there.

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Umm, those are snowflakes in my hair, not dandruff. Just sayin’.

I also made the neck warmer less tall by leaving off a few extra rows of ribbing at the top and bottom. If I did it again I would probably leave out some rounds below the sheep, as it’s still a bit too tall for me. Regardless, I feel happy whenever I’m sporting this cozy-cute thing! I highly recommend it as a pattern. And if you’re new to colour knitting, this is a great first project to give it a try. There are 4 colours in total but you only ever have to deal with two colours at a time in any given row, so it’s not terribly complex. It’s a great yarn stash busting project as well.

Here are a couple more things that make me happy: handmade knit socks. Watching the stripes and patterns develop makes them fun to knit, and wearing hand knit socks in winter is one of life’s great pleasures. Wool is naturally breathable like no other sock material I’ve ever tried, so it keeps you warm but if you do start to sweat you don’t get that horrible clammy feeling.

Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley, knit with Regia sock yarn

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Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley, knit with Turtlepurl Perfect Pair sock yarn

I must’ve knit myself about 8 pairs of socks in the last few years, and I’ve used this same Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley every time. (More free pattern happiness!) Occasionally I think I should try another type of sock design but I’m so happy with the fit of these that I figure why mess with a good thing? But I must admit that a few patterns have  made me consider cheating on poor Ms Atherley, like these Dotty Knots Socks — because colour! Or these Watermelon Slice Socks — because, well, watermelon! Or these Nightingale socks — because, holy shit, drop-dead gorgeous show-stopping outrageousness! So many happy-making sock pattern choices.

Here’s another thing that’s making me happy: next week I am leaving for a trip to Kenya. I’m taking a group of my university students who will be producing a short documentary as well as content for a social media campaign for AMREF — the African Medical Research and Education Foundation. We’ll be visiting AMREF’s drop-in centre for kids from the Dagoretti slum of Nairobi, where at-risk kids can make art, learn media production, learn cooking, and learn SEWING! We’ll also be spending a week in a Maasai village learning about AMREF’s Alternative Rites of Passage project, which aims to phase out the dangerous (and illegal) tradition of female genital mutilation by helping girls, village elders, and the young men the girls might marry to understand the risks involved with FGM, and to implement new traditions for this rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. Last week we were lucky enough to have a young woman from Kenya named Nice visit our class to tell her story. As an 8-year-old, she was scheduled to do her rite of passage, which involves having the clitoris and parts of or all of the labia removed without anaesthetic. She and her older sister ran away the morning of the ceremony, and were beaten when they were caught. Nice ran away again when the ceremony was rescheduled, and has been working with AMREF ever since to help spread the concept of an alternative rite of passage. Happily she has become a leader in her community and travels around the world to help raise awareness.

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Nice, third from left, and part of my team traveling to Kenya next week. Photo by Jennifer Foulds.

AMREF is doing amazing work and I’m so happy that my young students have an opportunity to learn about a completely different culture and have their perspectives and minds expanded. Open minds are another thing we could use more of these days, don’t you think?

I’m looking forward to telling you about my travels when I return. But beware, I’ll also be asking you to help support AMREF! I figure an organization that is providing sewing lessons to kids in need would be A-OK in your books, and worthy of support. Here’s a link to donate if you’re interested. AMREF is a registered charity and can provide tax receipts for your donation. http://www.amrefcanada.org/ryerson

What are the things that are making you happy these days?

Thanks so much for stopping by for a read!

A sock-themed road trip

This month I took a road-trip vacation with my best guy in our new(ish) car. We drove from Toronto to New York City to visit friends, then on to Cape Cod, Boston, and Vermont. Then it was home via Montreal (to shop at Simons, of course) and  a stop at my brother’s cottage north of Kingston, Ontario.

Being the first road trip we’d done in a long while, I was excited at the prospect of not having to worry about packing efficiently for a plane trip. While I did pack 7 pairs of shoes (!), which was ridiculous even for me, I did resist the momentary temptation to tote along my sewing machine. But sorry, sewing, you ain’t got nothing on knitting when it comes to traveling. So I packed up my trusty Wise Hilda’s Basic Ribbed Sock pattern, a couple of skeins of sock yarn, my metal double-pointed needles (with a weird worry as to whether they would let me cross the border with metal knitting needles, until I remembered I wasn’t going on a plane), and hit the road.

By the time we got to Vermont, I had a nifty new pair of wool socks. And I almost managed to make them exact copies of each other, stripes-wise — totally by fluke, of course; doing so on purpose would require far too much forethought and planning for measure-once-cut-twice me.

Ribbed socks

Sock Selfie

Fun fact: the state of Vermont has a law against any billboards along highways. (Not so fun fact: the state of New Hampshire kinda scares my Canadian sensibilities with their LIVE FREE OR DIE motto on their license plates. Surely there is some room for discussion if it came down to it, no?)

Fun Vermont fact #2: Vermont is the home of the Darn Tough socks company, which has a lifetime guarantee on their socks. How could I resist buying a pair, especially after just having heard a radio program all about companies who offer lifetime guarantees and the crazy returns they have to accept, including weird stories about Darn Tough Socks? They aren’t as nice feeling on the feet as my own hand-knits, but my hand-knit socks will last maybe 18 months before there’s a big hole in the heel. (I must learn how to darn socks and completely solidify my reputation as a prematurely elderly person.) A lifetime guarantee for socks is pretty freaking radical. Perhaps it would be more fitting if Darn Tough moved their operations to New Hampshire. “GIVE ME HOLE-FREE SOCKS OR GIVE ME DEATH” could be their motto.

Darn Tough socks

By the time we were on the road back to Toronto, I had begun work on another pair.

Basic Ribbed Socks in progress

Upon my arrival back in the T-Dot, I noticed a preponderance of extremely well groomed male tourists in my neighbourhood, and was puzzled momentarily until I remembered we are proudly hosting World Pride this week. There are tens (hundreds?) of thousands of visitors and locals all having a wonderful time celebrating love and diversity. I am so, SO happy to live in a city that practices not just tolerance, but real inclusiveness. There’s absolutely no place like home. Happy Pride! And come visit Toronto sometime — it’s an incredible city!

I <3 TorontoWorld Pride Toronto