Here on PEI, I am so thankful that December is a month full of holiday celebrations. The weather has turned grey, windy and cold. The daylight hours are so short. But homes are decorated with twinkling lights. Wreaths are hung, fir trees are decorated, from the kitchen comes the aroma of gingerbread or shortbread.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Rohatsu, Kwanzaa, Yule or Winter Solstice, New Year’s Eve, Omisoka, Hogmany – it’s important to remember that we are all looking to bring some joy and light into this world. As the New Year approaches, we look inward, reviewing habits that aren’t working or no longer work for us. We look forward into the new year with hope, with plans to make our little corner of the world just a wee bit better.
So my wish for everyone this holiday season is that we can all be accepting, considerate and supportive of one another. If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Yuletide greetings, it is not meant to be insensitive or inconsiderate. The well-wisher simply wants to share some happiness. The past few years have been stressful – whether you’ve been impacted by Covid, hurricanes, personal health issues, financial worries. Let’s wrap our hearts in the delight of the season. The gifts of kindness and a smile are the best holiday gifts of all.
As we approach the holiday season, sometimes life can feel a little overwhelming. If you have a full-time job, those responsibilities don’t stop just because the holidays are approaching. If you are raising a family, you want to ensure that they feel loved and appreciated even if you have a million things on your plate. Magazines and social media depict spotlessly clean homes, thoughtfully wrapped gifts, homemade treats, and holiday décor that would make an interior designer envious. In this wonder-world, there are no furballs, puppy accidents, dust bunnies or toddler tantrums.
Do you ever wonder how everyone else seems to manage it all? It’s not that you don’t want to take care of everything - it’s that sometimes it all feels like too much at once. I know I sometimes feel this way. This, my friends, is burnout.
During these times of burnout, we have to remember the old adage "You can’t take care of anyone until you take care of yourself". But how in the world do we do this? We don’t feel we are being selfish if we fasten our seatbelts when we get into the car. But taking time for regular self-care – well that’s something else entirely.
Human beings are amazing. Our bodies tell us when we need to rest. Our minds, our “intuition”, tells us when something isn’t quite right and we need to make an adjustment in our lives. But what do most of us do? We don’t want to say “no” or “I need to go in another direction”. Our guilty feelings convince us that we ought to do more.
But what if we did less? What if we took some "me time", if only for a day or even an hour or two? There are things known as “happiness chemicals”. Our bodies can actually create them! A little bit of self-care creates dopamine – the reward chemical. Giving a compliment or taking a few moments to play with a puppy releases oxytocin – the love chemical. Knitting, exercise or spending some time in nature creates serotonin – the mood stabilizer. And laughter and certain essential oils help with pain relief by releasing endorphins. So, just imagine every single day, taking a few moments to experience life’s everyday pleasures. A hug from a child, stroking a purring kitten, getting up from your desk and stretching your legs in the fresh air. No matter how stressful my day has been, an hour each evening with a fur-beast in my lap and my knitting needles in my hands just drains away any tension. And I love to reward myself with the scent of lavender at bedtime to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep.
Life will always be hard. Some days will feel overwhelming. Let’s stop saying, “There’s no time for that.” Because you know what? Not only do we need to feel our best in order to take care of ALL the things, but our loved ones deserve the best of us as well. Make time for rest, and in turn, make way for JOY.
Late in the evening of September 23rd, Mother Nature expressed her extreme displeasure to climate change through Hurricane Fiona which ripped into Atlantic Canada. Here in PEI, Fiona toppled century-old trees that withstood Hurricanes Juan and Dorion, decimated the beautiful north shore sand dunes – the habitat of the endangered piping plover, downed power lines – cutting power to over 95% of Island homes. Three weeks later, there were still families in PEI without power. This is not a poor reflection on the work done by the crews from Maritime Electric and the many workers from other provinces who have been striving night and day to get everyone back on the grid. It is a reflection of the massive amount of damage caused by Fiona’s visit. (photo credit: Eric Stanley)
Less than a week later, Hurricane Ian slammed Florida and South Carolina as a Category 4 storm, causing death and destruction not seen since 1935.
In both instances, crops have been destroyed which will have a major impact on an already tenuous food security situation for many North American families.
The list of hurricanes that caused extensive damage to Atlantic Canada include The Great Nova Scotia Hurricane 1873, Hurricanes Hazel and Edna 1954, Hurricane Juan 2003, Hurricane Igor 2010, Hurricane Dorian 2019 and now Hurricane Fiona. You can clearly see how much more frequently these angry storms are occurring – and this increased frequency is due mainly to climate change. As the oceans warm up, more intense storms will make landfall in Atlantic Canada.
Is it too late to turn the corner on climate change? Biologist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough says, “While it’s true we can never go back to the stable, benign climate that enabled us to flourish for the past 10,000 years, I do believe that, if we act fast enough, we can reach a new stable state.… If we recognize climate change and the loss of nature as worldwide security threats, as indeed they are, then we may yet act proportionately and in time.”
We can’t rely solely on world leaders and the government to take the steps necessary to stabilise our climate. Each and every one of us must take action, must make personal choices.
One of the things we can do is step away from “fast fashion”. Did you know that, in North America, most pieces of clothing are only worn 4 times before being thrown away? This is due in part to the fact that fast fashion pieces are often poorly made and fall apart after being washed. The numbers are staggering – 10,000 items of clothing are sent to landfill every 5 minutes!
The majority of our clothing choices, both fast fashion and higher end pieces, are made from fossil-fuel based products such as polyester, nylon, synthetic fleece. Clothing made from fossil fuels do not breathe and therefore keep us neither cool or warm – just sort of damp and sweaty. When we wash them, small microfibres end up in our waterways. Fish eat these microfibres and end up starving because their bellies are full of plastic. These microplastics also have been found in placentas, stools and have even crossed the blood-brain barrier! (changingmarkets.org/fossilfashion) When we throw these clothes away, they remain in landfill for generations if not centuries. (photo credit: Antoine Giret)
Wool, on the other hand, is a 100% renewable resource. It creates a breathable fabric, keeping us warm in winter and cool in summer. A piece of wool clothing could be made completely without any reliance on fossil fuels. Sheep could be shorn manually, their fleece washed and spun by hand, then knit or woven into a piece of clothing. Any waste wool can be added to your garden to reduce the amount of water needed and to add slow release nitrogen and potassium. I’m not suggesting that we do away with mills. I am saying, however, that the environmental impact of creating wool fibre is far and away better than the creation of any synthetic fibre.
But don’t sheep, goats and cows, as ruminant animals, create methane? Yes, they do. Methane gas, however, is a short-lived gas that naturally breaks down in a few decades. CO2, on the other hand, which is a by-product of fossil fuels, is a long-lived gas which will remain in the atmosphere for millennia. Farm management practices like rotational grazing and selecting higher quality feed can reduce the levels of methane produced by ruminant animals.
Sheep are actually beneficial to the environment! Not only do they provide us with wool and meat, their split hooves act to aerate the soil by breaking it up, allowing new plants to grow. When they graze, they do not pull up the roots of the plants so these plants grow again and again. In areas where there is a great deal of dry underbrush, sheep have been brought in to graze in these areas to prevent wildfires! (photo credit: Campaign for Wool Canada)
According to the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, wool has healing properties! If you suffer from rheumatism or arthritis, having wool next to your skin increases circulation which, in turn, decreases the pain (because pain decreases circulation which can make the pain worse). Wool bedding improves your sleep quality because wool helps you to maintain a constant core temperature. And, for those who are bedridden, woollen mattress pads can assist in the prevention of bedsores.
Just this morning, I was chatting with a guest who is a Reiki practitioner. She told me that it is so important to wear natural fibres like wool or linen as these fibres allow energy to flow along the surface of your body, unlike synthetic fibres which impede or possibly even block this energy flow. Reiki and knitting naturally go together. Reiki is enhanced by meditation. Knitting is not only relaxing but meditative as well. The rhythm of the knitting needles, the repetitive motion of the fingers and hands all contribute to a sense of peace and relaxation. Small wonder that knitting with wool is so wonderful! (photo credit: AffiePlass Fotografie and Campaign for Wool Canada)
October is Wool Month. Let’s celebrate this wonderful, natural, healthy, ecofriendly, breathable, flame and odor-resistant fibre! Is it any wonder that Mother Nature loves wool?
On September 8th, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II passed away at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was 96 years old and had served her country for 70 years, longer than any other British monarch. Until her very last days, she continued in her duties – swearing in the new British PM, Liz Truss. Her final statement was an expression of condolence to the members of the James Smith Cree Nation and the people in nearby Weldon, SK whose lives were impacted by the stabbings that resulted in 10 deaths and 18 people injured.
Image courtesy of @theroyalfamily
Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau eloquently expressed his thoughts on her passing on behalf of Canada. He said, “It was with the heaviest of hearts that we learned of the passing of Canada's longest-reigning sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She was a constant presence in our lives — and her service to Canadians will forever remain an important part of our country's history”…(She was) "thoughtful, wise, curious, helpful, funny and so much more. In a complicated world, her steady grace and resolve brought comfort and strength to us all. Canada is in mourning. She was one of my favourite people in the world and I will miss her so."
Image courtesy of @justinpjtrudeau
With the dismissal of award-winning newscaster Lisa LaFlamme from her position as Chief Anchor of CTV National News, there was outrage as many felt this happened because of ageism and sexism. Her predecessor, Lloyd Robertson, retired from the position at the age of 77. Ms. LaFlamme was only 58. She did, however, have the “audacity” to let her hair go grey. Thankfully, it was announced today that Ms. LaFlamme has been hired by CityNews as a special correspondent and will be in London to cover the Queen’s funeral and the transition as King Charles III takes the throne.
It is absolutely disgraceful to think that, in this day and age, women are still subjected to the outdated beliefs that they are only valuable up to a certain age, after which point they become “disposable”. In fact ageism is something that has an impact on all genders, although it impacts women at an earlier age. Men are deemed to become more distinguished with grey hair and wrinkles; women on the other hand are devalued by these same characteristics.
As a society based on European culture, we seem to have little respect for our seniors, for our elders. We have so much to learn from our indigenous neighbours. Here in PEI, the Mi’kmaw people value their elders – they are considered to be the keepers of tradition, of history, of culture. The sharing of their wisdom is considered to be healing. The title of “Elder” is one that is bestowed upon a person by their community and an elder is treated with respect at all times.
Chief Charlie Sark of Lennox Island, PEI
Queen Elizabeth was only 25 when she ascended the throne. She held this position for 70 years with grace, with dignity, with a sense of duty. She demonstrated to the entire world that gender and age play no factor in one’s ability to lead, to give wise counsel, to inspire. She met weekly with 15 British Prime Ministers over the course of her reign. In Canada, 12 Prime Ministers served during her reign. Nearly 90% of the world’s population were born during her time on the throne! Her reign has been described as “a golden thread running through generations”.
Farewell, Your Majesty – God speed. You will be missed.
Every once in a while, we will encounter a “Negative Nellie” – someone who seems to relish criticizing, finding fault – someone who just is never satisfied unless they have managed to pass along their sour attitude. Or maybe we’re dealing with a difficult life situation – a divorce or break-up, the loss of a job. Maybe you are mistaken for your younger sister’s mom. That actually happened to me when I was in my early 30’s! My grandmother’s hair turned white when she was still in her teens – and I definitely inherited that tendency. I decided in that very moment that it was time to cover those grey and white hairs….
Whatever the circumstances, most of us are guilty of negative self-talk at some point. I’m not skilled/experienced enough to open my own business. I’m not attractive enough. I need to lose weight. Everyone else seems so much happier/more successful/more organised/more talented than me. And social media feeds those negative thoughts if we allow it. Let’s face it, most social media posts are portraying the shiniest, glossiest, perfect images of everyone’s life.
When this negative self-talk creeps into your life, of course it’s OK to vent to family and friends. But it’s equally, if not more, important to treat yourself kindly and reinforce the good and positive thoughts.
It’s important to remember that, if someone is frequently disrespectful of your feelings, it’s OK to close the door on that relationship – even if it is a family member. I’m certainly not saying that a single disagreement or spat should result in you cutting that person out of your life. But if they are constantly draining you of any positivity with their criticisms, rude behaviour or carelessness with your feelings, it may be time to move on.
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed with negative self-talk, remember these lovely words from A.A. Milne:
And, let's not forget - maybe someone in your circle needs to hear a little something positive about themselves! We should all be generous with our kind words and compliments. You never know the impact it might have on someone's day.
It’s funny - we like to think summer will be a time of calm. A “slow down” season if you will. But in reality, for many of us, things get crazier. Kids are home, schedules get more complicated, and our normal routines can fly right out the window!
And for those folks who work in the tourism industry, there is no summer relaxation. Especially this year! Every single industry in the tourism sector – restaurants, shops, attractions – has been having a real challenge finding enough staff for the summer despite offering higher wages and incentives like bonuses to cover the crazy cost of travelling to and from work.
Just yesterday, a friend posted a video about summertime and mental health. She chatted about how each of us is guilty of sharing only the best, the brightest, the shiniest moments of our lives on social media. And if you happen to be feeling a little down in the dumps, comparing your less than ideal life to the perceived perfection of what you see posted in social media, it's bound to impact you negatively. Even more so in the summer months when life is portrayed as easy, beach-breezy, all sandy toes and sunshine. (photo courtesy of Central Coastal Tourism Partnership)
Even the wonderful new theatrical production “Tell Tale Harbour” gave this a nod. Based on the screenplay “The Grand Seduction”, Tell Tale Harbour tells an amusing story about how the folks from a small Newfoundland village pull out all the stops in order to attract a full-time resident doctor – a requirement if they are to win the contract for a frozen French-fry plant. Everything in town is all spit and polished, a fresh coat of paint covering anything that might lead a “mainlander” to believe that life isn’t always idyllic in their quaint little village. (PS – don’t miss this thoroughly enjoyable show at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, running from June 14th to September 24th, 2022.)
That’s why it’s so important to take care of YOU in this busy season. I have learned that it’s vital when things get chaotic. Rest, breathe, reach out to friends, and take some time for yourself. Sometimes the thing we need the most is to give ourselves the permission to relax.
Knitting has taught me so much about life. It has taught me to slow down. The rhythmic action of knitting is similar to meditation – the repetition of the stitches and patterns just allows your mind to be calm and in the moment. I’ve learned I shouldn’t give myself crazy deadlines for my knitting projects. I’m not always successful in keeping that lesson in mind – but I’m getting better at it!
I hope you can set aside some time to take in the beauty of summer. If you are lucky enough to enjoy some summer vacation time, please remember to be kind and considerate to those folks who are working to make your vacation special and memorable.
And, as always, happy knitting!
Do you experience that knot of excitement mixed with apprehension when embarking on a new life adventure? I sure do. It could be the birth of a child, starting a new job, moving to a new city, parasailing for the first time…something that involves some risk and the possibility of reward. Will I be successful? What if I fail? What if this path is a huge mistake? But, then again – what if it isn’t a huge mistake?
We can often feel like we are stuck in a rut. Maybe we’ve outgrown our job but there is no room for advancement. Maybe an opportunity presents itself but it involves moving away from your family and friends. Maybe in order to take path you’ve always dreamed of, you need to go back to school. I remember going back to school when I was in my thirties. A few people thought that I was as mad as a hatter. “You’ll be in your late thirties before you’re done!” Well – the truth of the matter is that you are (hopefully) going to reach that age whether or not you go back to school, or take on that new job or embark on whatever adventure it may be. Time passes by so quickly. I know I don’t want to live a life full of “what ifs”.
My sister just reminded me of when our family moved to Ottawa. Our dad was already there. Our mom had to handle all of the logistics of a family move – not to mention wrangling 6 children onto an airplane! I was the second oldest at barely 10, with 4 younger siblings ranging in age from 2 to 8. We had never been on a plane before! I can only imagine my mom’s nerves, strung as tightly as fiddle strings. But she never showed her worries – at least not to us. It certainly was a tough move – leaving behind everyone you knew – but, in the end, it was definitely the best path for our family at that point in time.
I’m working on a new project right now. I don’t know whether or not it will get off the ground. I feel very positive about it – I did loads of research and am very excited about all of the possibilities. So I’m taking that leap of faith with my fingers crossed and my eyes wide open. Not to worry – Knit Pickers PEI and your chief knit picker (me) will still be here in beautiful “downtown Mayfield”! Hopefully with something new to share with all of you!
Is there anyone who does not enjoy spring? For me, I think it is my favourite season. After a long winter, it is so delightful to be able to pop outside without having to don boots, a heavy coat, mitts, and so on. Perennials are starting to poke their beautiful shoots out of the ground. As farmers start to prepare their fields for planting, the contrast of our red soil against green grass is absolutely stunning. And barns everywhere are welcoming new lambs, kids, chicks….. (photo courtesy of Blomidon Farm)
A part of my spring routine involves a good spring cleaning of the studio. I nourish the wood furniture with a fresh coat of Ewe Love wood wax. I do the same for any wood knitting tools that have worked hard for me all winter – knitting needles, looms, swifts. To once again throw open the windows and give the studio a good airing is not just delightful for me but also inspirational!
But sometimes we do not give ourselves the same care. We don’t always nourish ourselves physically with proper nutrition and healthy sleep habits. We don’t take the time to give our mental health a good spring cleaning. What?!? Well – what I mean is that we need to take the time to reassess our daily lives on occasion. What brings us joy, what brings us peace and tranquility. Each of us has only a finite amount of time on this beautiful planet. And I’m finding that, the older I get, the faster that time flies by. I can’t change what has happened in the past. And while we can’t control or predict the future (who could have foreseen Covid?), we can alter our habits to change our life path.
Just like we prioritise tasks we need to get done at work, we need to prioritise those things that bring us joy. More quality time with family and friends, more time spent with activities that you find fulfilling – knitting, gardening, yoga, playing a musical instrument.
I recently read an inspirational quote: “You are the author of your life’s story. Start creating the life story you want to read.” (photo courtesy of Carrie Green, Female Entrepreneur Association)
My life story won’t be the same as yours. You’ll never find me mountain climbing, bungee jumping or parachuting. That simply is not my cup of tea! In fact, my cup of tea tends to be a cup of coffee. But isn’t that what makes life interesting?
April 22nd is Earth Day. Did you know that Earth Day was founded over 50 years ago? And over 40 years ago, it became recognised on an international scale. Today, the entire month of April is celebrated as Earth Month because “we should care and learn about our home for more than just a single day of the year. Focusing one month of the year on climate change and sustainability can help everybody develop more eco-friendly lifestyles.” (credit: www.pela.earth)
At Knit Pickers PEI, we strive to celebrate Earth Day every single day of the year. We are always taking time to reflect and ask ourselves what kind of company we want to be for you, our customers. When we think about how our products can bring value to you, environmental sustainability and ethical treatment of animals remains our priority.
Part of what we do is to source everything we carry as locally as possible. Nothing in our studio comes from outside the borders of Canada. We are proud to support Canadian farmers, shepherds, mills, and artisans.
We also support the concept of slow fashion. What is slow fashion exactly? It is the concept of purchasing fewer clothes, and the clothes that we do purchase are of a higher quality with a longer life. Did you know that brands like H&M burn 12 tonnes of unsold garments each year? (credit: The Campaign for Wool Canada, The Wool Plan 2021-26) Wouldn’t it be far better to reduce this waste and focus on quality garments made with sustainable fabric?
I read a couple of articles recently that were profoundly disturbing. Did you know that 92% of the microplastic pollution in seawater samples came from synthetic fibres; 73% of this was polyester. (credit: Campaign for Wool). Of course, these microplastic particles end up being consumed by aquatic beings (fish, seals, etc). Often they feel full but end up starving because of course there are no nutrients in the plastic that they are consuming. But it’s not just in our earth’s water. Microplastic has been found in human blood – in almost 80% of the people who provided blood samples! Also, we are breathing in microplastics. Polypropolene and PET were the two most common of the 39 microplastics found deep in the lungs of living people. (credit: World Economic Forum)
If we wish to leave a planet and a human race that is healthy for generations to come, we need to focus on a move towards natural fibres. Wool is an ideal solution! Wool is biodegradable, offers UV protection, is durable and breathable.
There is a great deal of misinformation about wool, including the premise that raising sheep is more damaging to the environment than synthetics. Balderdash! Synthetic materials are created from fossil fuels. These materials will remain in landfills for centuries and will contribute to the air and water pollution as noted above. On the other hand, using sustainable sheep farming practices such as strip grazing or rotational grazing is actually beneficial to the soil. Sheep manure contains high concentrations of phosphorus and potassium. Properly composted, it is extremely beneficial when growing fruits, vegetables and flowers. Proper dietary management for sheep helps to reduce their methane emissions. (photo credit: Blomidon Farm, PEI)
So, if you knit, crochet, weave, hook or participate in any fibre-related craft, you are already contributing to the slow fashion movement by creating quality pieces with a long lifespan. If we make the move away from synthetic yarns to wool – and specifically Canadian wool as Canadian creators – we can feel proud that we are actively contributing to Earth Year!
Just a month ago, I wrote about the heartache I felt for the citizens of Ottawa who were dealing with the hate and violence demonstrated by some of the “freedom convoy” participants. Little did I know, or did the vast majority of the world know, that in a few short days, we would all be in shock over the devastation being wrought on the citizens of Ukraine.
Yes, there had been a build-up of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border – but Russia stated that it was nothing more than war games. On February 24, 2022, missiles and airstrikes hit Ukraine with Russia claiming that it was a special operation to “denazify” Ukraine. With all of its military might, no doubt Russia believed that this invasion of Ukraine would be deemed a success in just a matter of days. But Putin underestimated the pride and will of the Ukrainian people. Ordinary citizens have aided in the defence of their country by building barriers to stop tanks and using Molotov cocktails as weapons.
The young people of Ukraine, those under the age of 30, have never known life under a communist regime. Just last year, Ukraine celebrated its 30th year of statehood and has won a hard-fought transition to democracy. Their recent ancestors, however, or those who managed to survive, endured the “Holodomor” – Stalin’s literal starvation of the Ukrainian people – a punishment of the majority of Ukrainians who resisted the collectivization of agriculture. The farmers were given outrageous quotas of grain that were to be sent to the Soviet regime. When these quotas could not be met, seed was confiscated and fines were levied on meat and potatoes. These actions have been recognized by Canada and the world as an act of genocide which resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. In Canada, the fourth Saturday in November is recognized as Holodomor Memorial Day.
On this day in 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, ““In 1932 and 1933, the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin orchestrated a deliberate famine – a genocide against the Ukrainian people – to impose total control over Ukraine, destroy the will of the people, and erase their identity. During this horrific campaign, millions died from starvation, including children, and countless others were either deported, imprisoned, or executed. Despite the brutality of the Holodomor, Ukrainians persevered. The resilience of the Ukrainian people and the survival of their culture, language, and identity is a testament to their courage and strength. After decades of Soviet control and oppression, Ukraine regained its independence in 1991. For far too long, the atrocities of the Holodomor were hidden from the world and outright denied. Today, it falls to each and every one of us to ensure this dark chapter in history is not forgotten, and to continue to defend human rights and democracy when they come under threat.”
And now, world leaders and people in every democratic nation are being asked to do just that. Severe economic sanctions have been imposed on Russia. Countries have closed their airspace to Russian flights. The US and UK are banning Russian oil. Major companies are closing down their operations in Russia. Some of these actions will have a direct impact on the worldwide economy. We’ve already seen gas prices reach unprecedented levels in Canada.
Despite the unconscionable actions of Russian leaders, all that has taken place over these past few weeks has given me a great deal of hope for humanity as a whole. The courage and determination of the Ukrainian people is unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime. I am thunderstruck by the immense response of everyday people who are gathering supplies and raising funds for the people of Ukraine in often the most creative of ways. A true “freedom convoy” of 25 trucks left Ireland this Friday with 500 tonnes of aid for Ukraine.
I don’t have a crystal ball – I don’t know when or how this invasion will end. I do know, however, that the evil of this invasion is being battled by the heart of humanity. I hope and pray that good will be victorious.
Live life luxuriously! Classic simplicity is what I enjoy the most - in clothing design, home decor and in life!