Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You Can Never Have Too Much Knitting for Good

The other knitting group I am involved with also knits for charity, as well as for fun. They are affiliated with a Dorcas group that knits hats, scarves, sweaters and other warm things for low income people in the Diocese of Caledonia in Northern British Columbia. One nice aspect of the group is that it doesn't feel arouse feelings of fibre lust or pattern envy. When knitting for others, with yarn that has been donated, personal style and expression is mostly taken out of the equation. There is instead an atmosphere of sharing and generousity.

I find it interesting, although hardly surprising, that both knitting groups are made up of middle-aged and older women. They say they like to keep their hands busy while watching TV or waiting in the doctor's office. This is one of the reasons I have for knitting too, and I see it as a practise that is more process than product oriented. While I welcome the abundance of beautiful yarns and exciting patterns available these days, I am also glad to see that there is still lots of knitting going on that may not be glamorous or cutting edge, but simply comes from the heart.

Our next group project is the classic Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket. Above image is from the Schoolhouse Press site.

A couple of great books about charitable knitting are Betsy Greer's Knitting for Good and Betty Christiansen's Knitting for Peace. Both books have patterns and stories to inspire you.

For more on knitting groups, here is Sherri Lynn Wood's lovely post about the group in her neighbourhood.


It rained yesterday, for the first time in over a month.

Knitting for Good

One of the knitting groups I have joined knits bandages. You read that right - bandages. I thought hand knitted bandages went out with World War II, but apparently there still exists a need.

Our groups knits for the D.O.V.E. Fund Bandages Brigade, a charitable organization that helps people with leprosy in Vietnam. And again, you read that right. Leprosy. I thought the disease had been eradicated, but no - although it is now treatable, it is still rampant in third world countries.

The bandages are 3 to 4 inches wide and 48 inches long, and preferably knit from #10 crochet cotton. Yes, that's a lot of very unexciting garter stitch. Because they can be sterilized for reuse, and breathe better, they are preferable to gauze commercial bandages. And since lepers wear these bandages on their stumps as well as on sores, the bandages act like shoes as they move about on their stumps. Gauze would wear out too fast.

It certainly puts things into perspective. Last night, I effortlessly knit about 18 inches while watching the very funny movie "The Trip", in the comfortable luxury of my home. I think that cute sweater from the latest Knitty can wait.

Monday, September 05, 2011

In Which Rocks Speak and Frogs Glisten

I've been thinking. For those of you who have been visiting here for a while, you know now is the time to roll your eyes and fetch a cup of tea (or possibly something stronger) to fortify yourself for where the randomness of my alleged thoughts might take us.

About three years ago I posted about a comma shaped rock I found on the road. I took it to be a sign from the universe that it was time for a pause, to take a breath. And I very much needed to do that. I don't know if I really feel it's time to get moving again, but yesterday I found another rock, a perfect egg shape. It says to me, "Everything is contained within." And, although I do recognise that tuning into the whispers of rocks might seem a little strange, I'm listening.

And, as it happens, I am moving, from this small wild island to another, bigger and less wild. In spite of having moved at least 40 times since I was a teenager, this particular move feels very hard to make. There is a community here that I really love, where I feel I have a place. It's not easy living here, remote, off-grid, sparsely populated. The shared experience, the pride of being able to get through a dark winter, of surviving a ferry ride in gale conditions, of generating your own power, of eating, dancing and making music together - has created a very special community. My friend Sophia says it's the best place to have a happy second childhood that she can think of. And she's right.

In a way, moving here was like taking a vow of poverty. I live on a very small income. But since there are no stores (except the Free Store), no fashion scene, and perhaps most importantly, no place to dump stuff when you don't want it anymore (except the Free Store), the cycle of consumerism is possible to step away from. I feel like I have had a very rich, full life here - I have shared spectacular pot luck dinners, made dear friends, and walked daily on some of the world's most glorious shorelines.

There have been so many awe-some moments - just the other day I was picking apples, and as I pulled one perfect red fruit from the tree I saw there was a tiny green tree frog perched on it. I held the apple close to a leaf so the little fellow could hop back to safety, and as he reached his tiny hand up, it was illuminated against the sun shining through the branches, and I felt so at peace and in love with the world.

Okay, maybe it is time to get back into the "real" world, and see if I can sustain some of what I have learned here. I'm going to help the chef write a cookbook, and almost without lifting a finger I have become involved in two knitting groups on Salt Spring - both of which knit for admirable charitable causes. I'm planning to join the Spinners and Weavers Guild and learn more about farming and who knows what else. I think that what is contained within is about to burst forth.

As always, it should be interesting.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Figgy Goodness

I returned home to find the figs had ripened in all their sweet, luscious, exotic splendour. I picked six dozen and made jam. Now I can hardly wait for winter breakfasts. Mmmnnnn, rich summery figginess on warm buttered toast, mmmnnnnnnn.

Zodiac Garland - Bigger and Brighter!

Thank you Drucilla for asking me to repost the zodiac garland as individual images. Much better now.

Salt Spring Seeds Garden Tour

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Dan Jason, seed saving hero and proprietor of Salt Spring Seeds on Salt Spring Island. His farm, a seed sanctuary dedicated to preserving the diversity of our heritage seed resources, looks out over an open valley.

I started off bedazzled by the plump cabbages, but quickly realized that this garden was all about the seeds. Most gardeners harvest before their produce reaches this stage and never get to witness the miraculous process of growth through the whole cycle.

I had no idea that chickpea plants look like this. Their dainty pods yield only one or two peas - next time I blithely measure out a cup of dried chickpeas I will be able to picture how long a row of plants was required for my meal.

Each row is marked with a handwritten sign. Have you ever heard of this type of marigold?

The farm is deceptively small - Dan does have a few other people growing for him but when I consider the rich diversity of plant genetics this land supports my perspective changes from "It's smaller than I thought it would be." to "Wow, it's massive."

Dan graciously provides chairs for us to contemplate the expansive world a single seed can contain.

I think this is barley. (Ooops, correction, it's oats!) Dan has demonstrated that many varieties of grains can be successfully grown in the Pacific Northwest.

Quinoa, in particular, would make a spectacular addition to the home garden. The colours are gorgeous, and the seeds are abundant.

Of course, you won't have seed without pollinators. Honeybees work a leek blossom...

... and a bumblebee is busy on an echinacea flowwer.

Dan grows dahlias as cut flowers for his table, but the veggies, heavily mulched with straw, are never far away.

The meditation bench is perched on the slope, looking out to the valley. Dan told me that a Tibetan rinpoche who recently visited sat on the bench and blessed the garden.

It is indeed a place that resonates with peace, beauty and grace.