Sunday, 11 April 2021

Sock sudoku... brain boosting my way through year 2 of lockdown


Why You Should Step off the Beaten Track. Emerging Roses Socks by Aud Bergo. Interweave Knits, Spring 2021 using @feistyfibres When Doves Cry Rockin Sox and @freiafibers Xenon Ombre

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Knitting in the time of COVID

Knitting during the time of coronavirus... ha ... doesn't quite possess the same magic realism jauntiness of a Gabriel García Márquez or Milan Kundera novel's title, eh?

COVID hit and stress knitters just kept on knitting. 

In fact, proselytizing knitters have been positively giddy -- I can't tell you how many yarn web videoconferences I have conducted -- yes -- Zoom Yarn Interventions are a thing but I am more into the compassionate enabling indoctrination of newbie knitters in their new found yarn addiction, thank you very much.

Not surprisingly, I managed to bust my stash down to nothing by around May of last year.

At first, it was shawls (lockdown began in March, after all). Then socks. Lots and lots of socks. 

Then, when Spring rolled around, I pulled out my 20 year old beater-bike and said... a ha!

Readers, I present to you boredom in April:

To be honest... it got a lot more elaborate. Indeed, ridiculously so.  I had naively believed that a yarn-bombed bicyclette would make me more visible to horribly distracted drivers. But no. Despite the obvious chaloshesness of my colour choices... a near miss at an intersection garnered a surprising 'Sorry, I didn't see you' ... And so... I crocheted a few more hideous flowers, and bombed 2 bike-baskets, to boot. Don't you dare tell me you cannot see me. I have purposely made my ride a victim of its own personal yarn plague.  Also, I should add, no one would want to steal this fibre-besieged vehicle... so... ha .. yarn is now a security system as well, my friends.

Oh... and because I had little iddy biddy bits of odds and sods I knit this sweater. 100% mercerized cotton. If you've read Debbie Stoller's Bitch n Stitch Nation, you'll recognize the pattern.... though clearly I didn't follow the 'recipe' verbatim. If you've knit wih me, you'll know, it's not that I have the knitting IQ of a turnip, I am driven to deviate from the mandated pattern.  Hence my fibre name. Yeah. That's where it came from (thanks to my knit comrades Guerrilla Knitter and Woolly Mammoth).

Then it was May... more socks. Birthday socks.... Sorry-you-had-to-postpone-you-wedding socks.... Yes, there are two special people, close to my heart, south of the border who had to postpone their Brit Ahuvim until next year. May they walk through 5781 in comfort and health... These are their Social Justice Knitted Sox:

Featuring Feisty Fibres Yarn: 'Rockin Sox' in 'Foolish Games' & 'So Jelly'; Pattern by Mercè Janer Olives: Chasing Snakes on SHOMRIM REGEL! CHAZAK V'AMATZ!

Then sweet 16 socks.. I honestly cannot remember which pattern I used for A's sweet sixteen socks, but am certain it can be found in either's pattern library or was in a recent edition of Interweave Knitting. The yarn is from Riverside Yarn Studio, a small independent company based in rural Quebec.

And then more birthday socks.... milestone socks.... a few more birthday socks.... 


But in November, things changed.
Mum's health declined. 
The pandemic raged... and things felt different. 

A couple of months after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, a number of RBG-inspired pullovers started popping up in my social media feed. Something resonated, and I knew I needed to make one for my brilliant and amazing legal-eagle cousin south of the 49th parallel, whom I adore.  My cuzzie is an aficionado of all things RBG: how could I not?  Her daughter provided the proper sizing (and received a pair of ... wait for it ... handknit socks in thanks). And slowly but surely the I DISSENT pullover emerged (Pattern designed by Andrea Rangel, and knit in fingering weight superwash wool - Heritage Sock Yarn, Cascade).

Cuzzie-dearest received the sweater in time to wear it on January 20 (pictured below):

This pullover means so much to me. 

First, obviously, because I cherish the person for whom it was knit.

But, moreover it is because it was commenced when I first began taking care of mum... how pleased she was when I shared with her for whom it was being knit...  and, because it was the last project my mother ever saw me working on. I finished the sweater while sitting shiva for mum. 

RBG z"l once said: My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent. To say this remark has resonated with me, is an understatement.  Mum was fiercely independent. She had a distinct strength of character, was kind, but more than anything Mum was unwavering clear in her goals; my mother knew her mind, and she made sure you knew it too! Hers was a gift of extreme aptitude and reason, gilded with unpretentious, determined intellect. The woman had moxie!  As did RBG.  As does my wonderfully, spectacularly brilliant cousin for whom this labour of love was created.

So? Nu? What now? 

Well, it's January and the mercury has dropped into a locked-down, quarantined wintery abyss.

So, naturally, I knit my daughter some eco summer accessories, of course. A woman can dream, can't she?

But they're already off the needles and blocked. And now?

SOCKS, of course. 

As if there was any doubt.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

The Chuppah

The Chuppah. Knitted in 100% Cotton. c. 2019. R.B. Rebel Knitter
The Chuppah. Cotton. 2019

A chuppah (Hebrew: חוּפָּה‎, pl. חוּפּוֹת, chuppot, literally, "canopy" or "covering"), also huppah, chipe, chupah, or chuppa, is a canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony. It consists of a cloth or sheet, sometimes a tallit, stretched or supported over four poles, or sometimes manually held up by attendants to the ceremony. A chuppah symbolizes the home that the couple will build together.
In a more general sense, chupah refers to the method by which nesuin, the second stage of a Jewish marriage, is accomplished. According to some opinions, it is accomplished by the couple standing under the canopy; however, there are other views. (

Twenty-two years ago, on the fifth day of the week, the 26th day of the month of Kislev, in the year 5758, corresponding to the 25th of December 1997, Colin and I got married.  It was a traditional, orthodox ceremony witnessed by 32 people, including the Rabbi. It was small, intimate and exactly what I wanted. 

Initially, I had wrestled with all sorts of thoughts: wasn’t a marriage contract essentially a certificate of chattels? Who were we to consider one another property? Was an Orthodox ketubah going to dispute who I was as a woman? What was the exact worth of 200 zuzim by late 20th century standards? Was the ceremony going to be too small? Should we wait until our families from all over the globe could fly in to be with us? Did the expense of such a request and a grand wedding make sense? Should we elope? In the end, we decided that the day itself was a rite -- a vital oath -- and the expense of a ceremony would be better invested in our future; not squandered on an event that would be over after a few hours. 

The idea of a large-scale knitted chuppah began in my mind decades ago, before the birth of our first child. Slowly, over the past decade I created panel after panel. Each section has a singular meaning.

On their own, before attachment, each square or rectangle’s structure was steamed and blocked into perfect regularity. However, it became apparent quite quickly: the very act of connecting a completed section to an adjacent piece necessarily altered its precision – ask any couple: the same is true in marriage. At first the irregularity upset me to no end. Regardless of the exertion and labour invested in the process, why wouldn’t this piece that had been steamed, ironed and blocked into perfectly symmetrical elements transform itself into a geometrically rigid magnum opus. This chuppah was meant to be a stunning perfect tour de force. Ultimately, the answer revealed itself: similar to a marriage, the push and pull of each section’s border provides a vibrant natural rhythm. Indeed, not unlike a musical score, The Chuppah’s perimeters ebb and flow. If the edges had been effectively maneuvered into anxious, inflexible right angles, the piece would be a fraudulent representative of a true partnership. By accepting a neighbouring edge’s faults, the unit with which it mates balances the flank by absorbing its weaknesses and providing strength.

The vocabulary and visuals of The Chuppah stem predominantly from Jewish iconography and popular culture. Reading the images from top to bottom, right to left the panels are as follows:

The Tree of Life: a symbol of a fresh start which is where a marriage begins once the ceremony concludes. It represents the future, growth, strength and immortality.

The Dove of Peace: also symbol of a fresh start, one of hope and peace. Shalom in the home.

The Hamsa: an emblem of protection over the home and those who dwell within.

Hope: in four languages. Communication is key whether in Hebrew, French, Sanskrit, English, the promise of faith in each other and the future is everlasting.

The Stag and The Lion: a diptych within The Chuppah and flanked below by the saying Ratz K’tzvi Gibor K’ari “run like a deer and be valiant like a lion” (Pirkei Avot 5:23). During the High Holidays, I gaze at images very similar to these in synagogue. Judaic imagery is exceptionally minimal, modest and precise. The stag does not tire, the lion is strong-hearted. Good advice for the natural progression of a relationship’s stormy periods. During a ‘domestic,’ when an impasse is reached, and the fight-or-flight response sparked, do not become weary or disillusioned, rather, bravely venture forth into unknown territory. It is there, in unfamiliar pastures, that relationships expand. At times, divergent temperaments seem to be at odds, but really, they are each other’s compliment. The ying to the other’s yang.

The Resonating Heart: undulating through the fabric like the currents in a brook.

M’kol Ha’Lev: from/with all my heart. Marriage should never be entered into unless done with all of one's heart and mind. It is said that, in the Garden of Eden, when Adam named the animals he looked at the dog and called it K'lev : Kol Lev : All Heart : Fidelity (fido) : Trust. That is what true marriage is: all heart. Nothing less is acceptable.

Leafy Vines: an earthly Eden. A paradise filled with hope, renewal and revival.

Aishet Chayil: A Woman of Valor from the Song of Songs. The woman described by King Solomon differs much from that of a twenty-first century significant other. Women’s roles have changed, but the dignity and value in a soul mate’s radiant vitality persists to this day.

Cables: interlaced columns entwined and made stronger by their interlinked framework, support the fabric canopy of The Chuppah. Echoes of stylized baldachins of times past.

and finally:

Ani l’Dodi, v’Dodi Li: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” – Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim), Chapter 6, verse 3A. Finding your basheret – the one true love with whom you were destined to be – can be a challenge. To celebrate the union by the act of betrothal is an incredible celebration.

In the end, The Chuppah is made perfect by its imperfection. It embodies the ever-changing fabric of matrimonial cooperation. It can cloak a couple in warmth, wisdom and comfort, or shroud, envelope and burden each spouse by the immensity of its undeniable weight.  It is a choice that must be made – lest the chuppah fray and unravel. Twenty-two years ago, we stood beneath a congregation’s chuppah. That being said, the genuine chuppah is the one we have crafted together. Love’s labours are the compilation of all that is true in one’s heart, and though at times exhausting, the ultimate asset. Marriage is an enterprise unlike any partnership; the fabric of your lives knits together, forever linked. Sometimes it is tidy, more often it’s the result of intricate interconnected vignettes. It’s not without flaw but facing imperfections as partners is what gives it strength. This is Marriage. This is The Chuppah.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

The Poet's Scarf

Noah's New Scarf
In the end, I decided, Noah needed a new scarf. 

I embarked on an intricate and complicated journey into the labyrinth known as fair isle - double knitting.  

Fortunately, it culminated with a suitably warm and lyrical scarf, invested with the same vibrant rhythmic patterning of the musician to which it was meant to give comfort.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

The Mother's Day Project

Noah's mother passed away a few months ago.  She had suffered from dementia for many years and, near the end, was unable to communicate.  However, the stories I heard about her at the funeral painted the portrait of a vivacious, lovely woman who was loved by her friends, family and most importantly, her children.  So when Noah called me a few days ago with an unusual request, I couldn't help but offer whatever assistance I could.  A scarf his

mum had knitted for him just prior to the onset and stranglehold of her disease, had become inflicted by all sorts of fibre maladies. Moth-eaten gaping holes, laddering, and various other issues (including a washing machine's destructive spin cycle) had beaten down this hand-knit fabric from its former glory. 

Could I fix it? - he asked. 
Could I fix it? - I wondered.

It was a massive responsibility I was undertaking.
But I absolutely understood, it would be a huge honour.  

When you knit your child a scarf, sweater, hat or even a pair of socks, the gift that results is a physical testament of your undying love. Stitch by stitch, this scarf was the evidence of the unconditional love Noah's mother felt for her son. 

Could I fix it? 
I had no choice. 
I had to fix it. 

The only proposal I felt comfortable offering Noah was that I was pretty certain I could make it look better, however, it would never look as it did when it was new. Still, I knew I had to try. It would be my way of honouring a fellow knitter and mother this Mother's Day weekend.

Rather than knitting, more than anything it was an act of sewing, crocheting and picking mystery-matter out the fibre that I undertook.  Indeed, at one point I wondered if Noah had tried to kosher the scarf by throwing it into his backyard. Still, I was committed to the idea of saving the scarf, in part because I was a both a knitter and a mother myself. Yarn has a memory and woven into those knitted loops was Noah's mother's labour of love.  

Also, as a mother who was asked to read Phoebe Gillman's "Something from Nothing" countless times to my children over the years, I knew, it is indeed possible to transform a piece of material without losing the beloved tenderness with which it is imbued.

After a couple of evenings of intense mending/grafting and a bit of prayer: success! Or rather... moderate success. The scarf's 'air-conditioned' quality is gone, but its linear rhythm is forever awry. Still for me it remains a success story. I am indeed the shneider's tochter and I was able to create:

עפּעס פון גאָרנישט

I hope Noah likes it, and it brings him some comfort.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

The Notwithstanding Voodoo Doll

Knitting therapy to deal with arsehole premiers.

Step 1: Find a suitable pattern to capture the Ontario Premier's character accurately. Success: Basic Zombie pattern from the Knit Your Own Zombie book. Important note: Basic and average are important here -- because bullies are never exceptional -- they're just pedestrian schmucks -- don't ever forget that.

Step 2: Recycle the brain I knit back in 2013 for the premier's late brother. Why not, I figured, they shared it back then anyhow.
Step 3: Knit-er-up ... but leave the guts-pocket empty. Hollow, just like his vapid soul.
Step 4: Create the demonic putz's characteristics -- let 'er rip...
Step 5: Put clothes on your Notwithstanding Voodoo Doll - because there's no need to make the world around you suffer by seeing all that.
Step 6: What to do with the brain? It most certainly does not belong within the confines of his soft squishy melon.  EUREKA - found a spot.  I stuffed it down his pants... as good a place as any.

Step 7: Knit Ford N-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-tion.... Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you the Ford N-a-a-a-a-a-tion ewes to accompany the Notwithstanding Doll.... Meet 'Lammoliti'... and 'Goldy the white supremacist lamb'. 

Confession: I finished knitting the voodoo doll and ewes weeks and weeks ago... I hadn't posted anything until tonight though (the night before Toronto's municipal election) because I was beyond upset. I'm still vexed... no.... apoplectic... and have rewritten this post about 6 times.  When you're full of piss and vinegar, it's difficult to be droll and clever. But tonight's the night. Frankly, I don't hold out much hope for a 25-seat Toronto city council (down from 47).
Notwithstanding .... Toronto will endure.  

So, for all of you who are considering NOT voting (I have heard this so many times these past few weeks)... shake it off... get your tushes out there and exercise your democratic rights.  Don't allow the bully to win. V-O-T-E!!!

Friday, 27 July 2018

King Douglas of Etobeekokee

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, the words of the throne:
By decree of His Radiant King Douglas of Etobeekokee, for failure as being elected Mayor of the most populous metropolitan area in Canada, in a democratic and fair election four years ago, the now King of Ontario advises the citizens of the amalgamated Greater Toronto Area that he will lacerate and reduce the representation of over three million culturally and fiscally diverse citizens to roughly half, in order to rule His subjects more absolutely.  Of his four horsemen, Sirs Mammoliti and Wee-Replica-Nephew-Ford will enforce his Royal Majesty's imperious and despotic whims until such time His Most High, Most Sacred, Most Powerful Highness, in role of Sovereign of Ontario, deems this political misfortune abated. This fanciful Edict of Expulsion is lawful and shall be obeyed by its dictum and pronouncement. May the reactionary, tyrannical, strong-arm force be with you.