I’m not sure what is making today seem so lovely. Perhaps it’s the bright sunshine reflecting off the fresh white snow. Maybe it’s because it’s the day after Valentine’s Day, when everyone expresses their love for one another. Or maybe it’s because it’s Islander Day (known as Family Day in other parts of Canada) – a holiday that is not commercialised but instead has as its focus simple joys with family and friends.
But days like today do serve as a reminder that time just slips away on us. We must do our best to live in the moment and savour each day.
I have always been a results-driven person. Even when I’m knitting – especially something new – I have a tendency to just move it right along, so curious to see the end result that I don’t always just take a breath and enjoy the simple beauty of yarn over needles.
In my former existence, I used to be a road warrior. I became very familiar with the hum of airports and the nerve-wracking challenge of finding your hotel in a strange city in the dark (before the days of Google Maps). But there were a couple of special moments where I took the time to truly enjoy my surroundings and they made all the miles worthwhile! I remember taking a stroll and enjoying flowers blooming in Victoria in February. I recall the absolute majesty of Banff – gazing out of my hotel window and drinking in the stunning mountain views.
What I wish for you this Islander/Family Day is that you take the time to slow down and enjoy the day. And promise yourself to find at least one moment each and every day to just breathe.
We all joyously rang out 2020 and welcomed 2021 with open arms. But it’s important to recognise that things haven’t automatically changed when the calendar flipped a page to January.
We have been living with the impacts of Covid-19 for almost a year now….social isolation, mental stress, financial worries. And in the early days of this new year, the world witnessed the attack on the Capitol in Washington which resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer and the 2nd impeachment of the outgoing President. These are events that will live on in history.
I lived through the days of Nixon’s impeachment but it really didn’t cause much of an impact in my life. I was a teen, going to school and working 6 nights a week. I saw little television and had barely any time to read newspapers. There was no internet or social media to bombard my brainwaves. Not so today. It is far too easy to get lost in that rabbit hole of fantastical stories and opinions every where you turn. We are bombarded with horrific numbers of new Covid-19 cases and deaths. We witness the images of hate-fueled individuals beating a police officer with the American flag. And the hate that has been unleashed won’t magically disappear when a new President is inaugurated on January 20th.
All of this is causing many people a great deal of stress. And this stress, over an extended period of time, affects our health, both mental and physical. Some will experience depression or anxiety. Stress may cause high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke. Others may internalise this stress, resulting in gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers. Cuts and wounds even heal more slowly! Ongoing stress can affect one’s memory, as can the social isolation we have all been enduring.
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that there are easy, low or no cost things we can do to alleviate this stress in our lives.
Self-care is not an indulgence – it is a necessity! Self-care can include participating in hobbies like knitting, baking or playing a musical instrument. Meditation or meditative activities like those mentioned actually reduce your cortisol levels according to a study at the University of Lausanne.
Get out of your pjs. Take a shower. Dab on a little makeup if that makes you feel good! Get dressed in your warm woollies and head into nature for a little vitamin D. Take a hike, go snowshoeing or enjoy a stroll along the beach. Even shovelling that snow can reduce stress and anxiety! Enjoying outdoor activities will also help you to get a better night’s sleep.
If you adopt some form of time management system, you can not only schedule business and household tasks, you can ensure that you also schedule some time for self-care. Maybe you won’t accomplish everything on your “to do” list every day. Rather than focus on what you didn’t get done, take pride in what you did accomplish! And self-care is as much of a first-level priority as are business and household priorities.
Little things can brighten one’s day. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious, I dab a little Ewe Love Massage Oil on my wrists and temples. The lavender essential oil found in our Morningstar, Foggy Day and Moonbeam blends reduces anxiety. It also works wonders for dry skin patches!
I also read a suggestion that we consider leaving our Christmas lights on through the dark winter days. Absolutely, take down the Santa and reindeer decorations. But twinkling white lights and candles create such a cozy feeling. Why relegate these joys to only a few weeks around the Christmas season?
Obviously, I enjoy knitting – especially projects that do not have urgent deadlines! I love the fact that, for around $50.00, you can knit a Briggs and Little wool sweater. Hours and hours of enjoyment knitting your creation plus years (if not decades if you peek inside my closet) of pleasure wearing your sweater! Or, indulge in a spot of luxury. Pick up a skein of alpaca/merino wool for around $30.00 – less than the cost of an evening out. Compare a couple of hours of fun versus the sheer thrill of working with yarn as soft as a cloud. Not to say that I don’t enjoy a good evening out. But when you make the comparison, you can see that it’s pretty darned easy to justify adding something sumptuous to your stash.
I also love sharing the joy of knitting. Our “Ewe Love to Knit” nights are the perfect blend of camaraderie, laughter, chatter and knitting. In fact, I was given the best compliment!!! Toby is a regular knit-nighter as well as a shepherd who raises Icelandic sheep and she also has a full-time job. One day, she was chatting with a colleague who asked how her day was going. She said that she might need an extra glass of wine that evening. Then she remembered that it was knit night – which she said was even better for relaxing after a stressful day than that glass of wine would have been!
Whatever form(s) of self-care you choose, just be sure to take care of yourselves, my friends!
One of the things that I love the most about this time of year are all of the beautiful Christmas lights. The sun sets so early. The nights are long. The weather is chilly. These twinkling lights bring such warmth and cheer.
Just like those Christmas lights, we need to bring light to the world. We are living in challenging times. Our mood is a reflection of what we surround ourselves with, our vision of the world. If we let ourselves become overwhelmed with negative emotions, if our only focus is on what we are missing out on because of the pandemic, we will have chosen to snuff out our light. It’s not always easy to maintain a positive attitude but our own mindset has an effect on those around us. If we project negativity, it will be reflected back to us. Alternatively, if we project a positive outlook, those around us will be happier too.
It’s not just the outdoor lights that bring holiday cheer. We light the menorah at Hanukkah, or the candles on the advent wreath leading up to Christmas. Our Christmas trees are sparkling with lights. Let’s each become a candle, a small beacon of light. One candle brings only a very limited amount of light. But that one candle can light another candle and soon light is creeping into those dark corners.
Today, I had to make the decision to postpone our Tuesday evening “Ewe Love to Knit” nights until early January due to government restrictions on gatherings. I received a sweet note in response from one friend checking in to make sure we were all OK and to let us know that, if we needed anything at any time, we should just touch base. This truly warmed my heart and is the perfect example of what I mean when I speak about being a beacon of light, of hope, of kindness.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Omisoka, Winter Solstice or Hogmanay, I wish each and every one of you the joy and peace of this holiday season.
but these changes are a long time coming
The birth of my beautiful great-niece last week has opened up a range of emotions in me. Hope for the future; a fierce feeling of wanting to protect her from the evils in this world; dreaming of being able to share with her activities that some may consider old-fashioned – such as baking Christmas cookies, knitting or other creative arts that open up the doors to the joy of “making”.
I recall time spent with my Grandmother. When she would come to visit, she would open her suitcase and ask me what I would like to learn this visit! She was patient and loving in her own way. She was not the typical white-haired granny that one pictures, full of hugs and kisses. She was tall (5’11”), lean and not overly demonstrative. But she did demonstrate her love through her actions. You knew that she would be there for you no matter what. Her husband, my grandfather, passed in 1941. She spent the next 48 years living as a strong, independent woman. She was the most incredible role model. (the little girl at the top right of the photo is my grandmother)
I recall the early days of my career in Toronto. Going for an interview for an internal promotion and having the interviewer place his hand on my thigh while he told me that I had a good chance of winning this promotion. My sense of betrayal was deep. Fast forward over 40 years to January, 2017 and a worldwide Women’s March whose goal was to “send a bold message…to the world that women’s rights are human rights”. In October, 2017, I wrote a blog post that reflected my disgust at the notion that the “workplace culture” was different in the ‘60s and ‘70s and that sexual harassment and intimidation was pretty much accepted behaviour for people in positions of authority.
From the civil rights movement that started in the ‘50s under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King to women’s rights movements dating back to the 1880’s here in Canada, it seems that we have moved forward in some ways yet we have not moved forward far enough. That racial and gender rights should still be an issue decades and decades later is astounding and absolutely wrong.
Regardless of your political leanings, you must admit that the election of Kamala Harris to the office of Vice-President (elect) represents an amazing milestone. First and foremost, she is the first woman to hold this position. And she is a woman of mixed race, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India. But she is not a “token” – she also brings a wealth of education and experience. She is, to me, proof positive that we are moving in the right direction for both racial and gender equality.
There are both some wonderful memories and some memories that fuel anger in my past. I want to be a part of a movement that facilitates positive changes in this world. I want my great-niece to live in a world where there is no gender inequality, no need to fear violence even if it is hidden in flowery words of love. I want her to have faith that she can achieve anything that she sets her mind to with hard work, dedication, education and passion.
Follow your dreams, sweet Charlotte. I’ve got your back.
It’s been an odd, unsettling, unusual year, hasn’t it? One could approach this Thanksgiving with an attitude of “What do I have to be thankful for?!?” But rather than focus on the negative, I choose to look at the happy events of this year so far and the opportunities for positive change that Covid-19 has brought us.
I am thankful that there has been no community spread and no deaths related to Covid 19 here on the Island. Dr. Heather Morrison deserves a huge thank-you. With her calm and reasonable manner, she has kept us informed and made wise decisions with respect to opening up our borders, our schools and our businesses carefully. Islanders on the whole have followed the protocols of social distancing and wearing masks. No, it’s not been perfect but we have managed to keep our seniors and most vulnerable Islanders safe and healthy. (photo courtesy of cbc.ca)
I am so incredibly thankful that my wonderful niece has had a healthy and happy pregnancy. She is due in only three weeks time and will be blessing us with my first grand-niece and my sister’s first grandbaby!!! No – this baby will NOT be the least bit spoiled…..
I am grateful for the support of friends, family and customers. Yes, it has been a challenging year on the business front. Support comes in so many forms – a purchase, sharing posts, kind comments and encouraging feedback have all played a huge role in helping me keep a positive attitude and outlook. Believe it or not, I’m actually appreciative of the slowdown in business that Covid 19 brought this summer. The “season” can be so unbelievably busy that you don’t have a moment to pause, much less to think. I’ve been able to dream up new ways to keep the business active and stay in touch with my wonderful customers.
It started with our porch pick-up option for locals who have made purchases through our webstore but don’t want to pay shipping costs.
My first video tutorial on YouTube launched at the beginning of the Covid 19 epidemic in North America. I’m closing in on the number of subscribers I need to request a custom URL to make my YouTube channel easier to find. I hope you will subscribe! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzubWbpJe0Hb__hdzcAq8mQ
Because so many people were not able to visit PEI this summer, I wanted to be able to offer my workshops even if you couldn’t be here. I’ve just run my first, live online video workshop test case! Stay tuned for a calendar of video workshops – coming soon. If there is a technique or a workshop that you would like to see offered, please let me know either by commenting below or sending me a message!
I am thankful for my “Ewe Love to Knit Night” friends! When Covid-19 first hit, we had to shut down our gatherings. When we were able to get together once again, it just made my heart sing. It was amazing how much I missed everyone!!!
I am thankful for my family -that everyone has managed to avoid contracting Covid-19. I am grateful for my fur baby family members, too. Their antics make me laugh every day. Their cuddles are soothing.
Who knew that buying this property with a small feral colony (that very quickly exploded into a humungous colony) would bring such joy. Yes, dust bunnies abound. This old house requires a lot of work – and we are slowly making all the upgrades necessary. But it is cozy and crazy and full of love. And I have such a long commute across the yard to the studio! For those of you who have visited the studio, here’s a “before” picture for your amusement!
So – yes, it’s been a challenging year. But it has also been a year of change and growth. In Bruce MacNaughton’s (owner of the PEI Preserve Company) most recent blog, he quoted Shauna Niequist: “When life is sweet, say thank-you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank-you and grow.” For me, this pretty much sums up 2020.
The Difference between Western and Indigenous Mindsets
A cousin shared this photo with me and it really resonated! So often, especially during these days of Covid-19, we hear people say that their rights are being infringed upon because they are asked to wear a mask, or they need to wait to enter a retail establishment because the retailer is over their customer limit in the shop, or because they can’t freely travel throughout Canada and instead may be required to quarantine for a period of 14 days. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically states that every Canadian citizen and permanent resident has the right to “move and take up residence” in any province. Some folks point to this to say that it is their right to travel freely within Canada. The Canadian constitution, however, allows for the balancing of rights against “other legitimate societal objectives, like public health”.
What if, instead of taking the position of the possible infringement of our rights, we looked upon these concerns from the perspective of what are our obligations? It is our obligation as members of the human race to care for and look out for one another. If the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask can help to slow or stop the community spread of Covid-19, can save the lives of our children, our friends, our elders, is it not our obligation to do so? Is the immediate purchase of that sale item or school supply more important than the health of the retail workers and other people who are in the store? Are your rights as a customer more important than waiting 5 or 10 minutes to help out the retail employee who is trying to provide a safe shopping environment? As much as I am heartbroken that I can’t see my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew this summer, we all agree that it is our obligation to one another and to the people in our respective communities that we forego this year’s “haggisfest” (an inside joke). Hopefully, by the time January 2022 rolls around, we’ll be able to travel to attend my niece’s wedding!
Next, let’s look at our obligation to this planet we call home. The wildfires on the west coast of the United States are truly frightening. Yes, it was the right of that family to hold a gender-reveal party (whether or not you are in favour of such parties, it was still their right). It was also, however, their obligation to ensure that they did so in a safe fashion. This family is not responsible for destroying the 2.3 million acres currently ablaze but they are responsible for 10,000 acres of destruction. Climate change is the main contributor to this destruction. Drought conditions combined with the tail end of a tropical storm that combined high humidity with consistently high air temperatures created storm clouds that produce very little rain but loads of lightening. The smoke from these fires has made its way into the province of British Columbia and just a few days ago, their air quality index reached 10+, the highest rating for pollution! Here in PEI, we can’t bury our heads in the sand dunes and believe that what’s happening on the west coast has no impact here. Those colourful sunsets of the last couple of days are caused by the wildfire smoke in our atmosphere.
It is our obligation once again as members of the human race to take immediate steps to reduce the conditions that create climate change. Look at how our air quality improved during the early days of Covid-19 when we weren’t travelling to and from work and international travel had ground to a halt. My niece is expecting her first child. I want this planet to be healthy for this wee one and future generations! Even small steps, taken by many people, can have a big impact. Picture a pebble thrown into the water. It is just a small pebble but the ripples spread wide. Reduce our fast fashion purchases and instead look to quality and natural fibres. Recycle old clothing into hooked or braided rugs! Look for natural health and beauty products that have little to no packaging. I have been using a locally-made PH balanced, sulfate free shampoo bar – leaves my hair in great condition and the only “waste” is a compostable coffee filter used for packaging. Take up knitting – it’s relaxing and meditative. And choose wool for your projects. It’s compostable, fire retardant and regulates your body temperature (need we even mention how important this is if you have hot flashes?!?). And thank heavens for sheep. By munching on underbrush, they can help to reduce the spread of wildfires. They convert plant matter into a beautiful fibre year after year. Their responsible shepherds ensure that absolutely no harm is done to these sweet creatures when shearing takes place.
We can’t overlook an important obligation – the obligation of self-care. No matter your age, it is never too late to take care of your physical and mental health. Life can be busy and full of stressors. We cope better if we get a good night’s sleep, fuel ourselves with proper nutrition and take steps to deal with these stressors. Speak to family members, friends or a professional if you are experiencing depression. Hobbies, enjoying outdoor activities, listening to music are beneficial to both your physical and mental wellbeing. If we meet this obligation of self care, we will be in a far better place to be able to meet our obligations to our family, our job, our community, and our beautiful planet.
I read an interesting article by Amber Bradshaw about the movement towards an urban homestead mentality. Part of this trend, no doubt, has evolved as a reaction to both the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change – the interest in greater self-sufficiency and the need to respect Mother Earth. I looked at the key elements in her article and I realised that, here at Knit Pickers PEI, we are definitely on the path to an urban homestead!
Having an urban homestead does not have to do with owning acres and acres of land. We are lucky enough to have an acre of land. My very first apple tree in my future “orchard” of three apple trees is bearing its first batch of crab apples – and I am absolutely thrilled!
I have plans for raised garden beds full of veggies, surrounded by berry bushes. But even if your garden patch is a tiny balcony in a downtown urban core, you could grow herbs, maybe some tomatoes and leaf lettuce. Or support local and buy your fresh veggies and fruit from your local farmers market or roadside stand.
Here are the six key elements to an urban homestead mentality and the small steps we have taken to move along that path.
1. Moving from Fast to Slow Fashion
I was absolutely gobsmacked when I read that the average piece of “fast fashion” clothing is only worn four times before ending up in the trash! Perhaps because it is poorly made and doesn’t wear well, or perhaps it is the fashion mentality that clothing becomes so dated in a very short period of time that it is unwearable. There is a lack of guilt in throwing away these pieces because they are generally very inexpensive. Why? Poor manufacturing standards, poor quality materials and, as is often the case, child labour or poverty-level wages paid to workers. The move to slow fashion involves owning fewer pieces of clothing but they are pieces that are classic, high quality and that you absolutely love to wear! I still have mittens and a toque that my mom knit for me when I was in my 20’s….and that was more than a few years ago.
2. Learning the Old Ways
Who took up bread making and/or baking during these past few months? A lot of folks sure did because the grocery stores were sold out of flour and yeast! I’ve been baking bread for a few years now and love the hearty flavour and texture. Plus who can resist that aroma? I’ll admit – I do use a bread maker to start the process when life becomes particularly busy, but I’ll always finish the loaf in the oven. If time permits, I love to knead bread. You sure can work out a lot of frustrations on that dough ball! There are so many “old ways” that I wish I had paid attention when my mom and grandmother were canning and making jam. A new skill set that I plan to learn in the next couple of years. My grandmother, however, did teach me how to knit and tat.
3. Respecting the Land
There are so many easy things we can do to respect the land! I don’t mind at all if my lawn has some dandelions and clover. The bees love it – and I don’t need to waste the time and energy applying a chemical weed killer. It’s also healthier for your lawn if you don’t mow it quite so frequently. It won’t require as much watering and, if your summer is as hot as our summer has been, you can avoid having your grass get a “sunburn”.
One of the items we created for our “Ewe Love” line of personal care products is “Wooly Wash”. When we moved from town with city water and sewer to the country where we have well water and a septic system, I know I became so much more aware of what was going down the drain. I sure didn’t want to be drinking all sorts of chemicals that might leach into the well water. Wooly Wash is made with 100% natural ingredients and is safe for both hand washables and for use in an HE washing machine. We now use white vinegar for the rinse cycle. It not only works beautifully, but it is far better for your washing machine than most fabric softeners. In fact, it is recommended that you clean your washing machine with white vinegar so it’s certainly safe as a rinse agent.
4. Striving to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle
As wonderful for the environment as it would be if we all drove electric cars or could even bicycle everywhere, that is not always affordable or practical in our Canadian climate. I would love to be able to afford solar panels to provide all of our heat and electricity. But, in the meantime, I can turn down the heat by a few degrees and throw on a wool sweater.
A friend of mine is a farmer, raising goats among other things. She makes all sorts of cosmetic items including shampoo bars. She gave me a sample and I love it! A gentle cleanse for your hair, great lather and also it’s zero waste. No plastic bottle. And to boot – it’s great if you are travelling. No leakage! I loved it so much that I now carry her shampoo bars in the studio and it’s also available through our web store.
We strive to practise sustainability in both our personal lives and in the studio. Everything we carry is made in Canada – with our first choice being PEI, then the Maritimes and then the rest of Canada. To me, it is so important to know and support Canadian makers, suppliers and farmers. Making “big ticket” changes may not happen all at once but even small changes add up.
5. Supporting the Local Economy
Local can mean many things, depending on what you need. Much of our food items can be purchased at local farmers’ markets – and especially if we shop for food items that are in season. A local restaurant, The Table in New London, prides itself on serving only food that can be sourced within 10 minutes of the restaurant. Here on the Island, we are blessed to have so many talented artisans – potters, jewellers, artists, fibre artists. It makes it so easy to adorn yourself and decorate your house with locally made goods that are also superb quality! Shopping locally can also mean within the borders of your own country. When N95 masks became impossible to purchase, when hand sanitizer became more precious than diamonds, many Canadian manufacturers (both large and small) transitioned their production lines to make what their friends and neighbours needed. Supporting the local economy results in greater self-sufficiency, which means we are less impacted by the dips and turns in other economic regions.
6. Sharing Your Skills and Passing Down Your Knowledge
Here’s where I have the most fun. Knitting is either seen as a skill that is passé – something your granny or great-granny did, making sweaters and scarves out of the scratchiest wool imaginable. Or it is seen as a skill that is just way to difficult and confusing. Neither is the case! Wool has come such a long way. Much of the itch factor depends on the breed of sheep, on how it is processed and spun, and even on the dye used! Ask questions at your local yarn shop. You’ll be sure to find a wool that is right for you.
Knitting itself is not difficult – it’s just learning the tips and tricks! There are really only 2 stitches – the knit stitch and the purl stitch. Everything else is simply a variation of that theme. At Knit Pickers PEI, we have a variety of workshops for all levels of knitters – loom knitting workshops for novice knitters or for knitters who would like to try out a new knitting tool; lace knitting workshops; brioche knitting workshops and even sock knitting workshops! Can’t attend a workshop? Check out our YouTube channel where we are slowly but surely building a library of knitting tutorials. Do you live in the neighbourhood? Why not come to our “Ewe Love to Knit” nights – every Tuesday evening (weather permitting) from 7 – 9 p.m. There is nothing that makes my heart sing quite as loud as when I’m able to help a fellow knitter overcome a knitting challenge.
Are you moving towards an urban homestead mentality? If so, I would love to hear what you've been doing! Stay well, stay safe - and happy knitting!
It's summer in Prince Edward Island - a summer that is so different from a typical summer here on the Island! Recently, the "bubble" opened - which allows residents of the Atlantic provinces to visit one another without having to quarantine for 14 days. While it is lovely to see our near neighbours, we are missing our friends "from away". I completely understand the need for precautions. Just recently, PEI has reported 9 new cases of Covid-19, all of which can be traced to individuals who travelled outside of PEI and then subsequently infected close contacts. We are still being reminded to wash our hands frequently, maintain a small social circle, wear masks in public situations where social distancing is not always possible.
Many businesses have reopened with new procedures and protocols in place. A fair number of businesses decided not to open at all this summer. Many folks are still working from home. While there are some real benefits to working from home, it can also create a sense of isolation. If you have children at home, this can certainly be an added challenge to planning your work day.
There is an overall sense of unease because we are dealing daily with the unknown. Will schools be open in the fall? Will there be a second wave of Covid-19? Will businesses survive the economic downturn? Am I doing enough to keep my friends and family safe? It can all be a little overwhelming.
There are things that we can do to help us maintain some equilibrium - to help to overcome our anxieties. So many folks have taken up gardening that local garden centres can barely keep up! Baking is another pastime that has become extremely popular, as evidenced by the shortage of flour and yeast in grocery stores.
For me, the fewer number of visitors this summer means that life is certainly at a slower pace. I have the time to enjoy working on custom orders rather than working 12 hour days seven days a week to meet deadlines. On the other hand, there is more time to fret. It can be a real challenge to quiet the mind, to relax and find stillness within. Thank heavens for knitting! It slows my mind down and I become more present and peaceful. The rhythm of the needles is meditative. Studies have shown that knitting can calm your heart rate, and create a sense of stability and inner quiet.
If you are just learning to knit - be kind to yourself! Don't demand perfection. Enjoy the learning process. Congratulate yourself on discovering new stitches, improving your knitting tension, creating something from "two sticks and a hank of yarn"!
If you are an experienced knitter, perhaps the challenge of a new pattern is what you need. Or, if you are feeling tired, maybe set those cables and colourwork aside and enjoy the simplicity of a quick-knit pattern!
Let's take the time to appreciate some of the lessons that these disquieting times have to offer. The importance of supporting your local farmers, fishers and retailers. How lovely it can be to not always be racing from point "a" to point "b". Cherishing the additional family time. And of course, the joys of knitting. Stay well, stay safe - and happy knitting!
learning lessons all life long
Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 97 years old. My dad would have been 94 years old this year. For that day and age, we were raised in a very progressive fashion. Because my father lost his father at the age of 3, he was raised by his mom and grandmother. He saw firsthand how important it was that women have an education, be prepared for a career path whereby they could support themselves and their family.
We were raised to know that women could do anything, could achieve anything. While we are physically different from men, we are equal to men and should never, ever be treated as lesser beings.
My parents were partners in the truest sense of the word. Yes, my father was the “breadwinner” and my mom was the “homemaker” – but no one role was considered more important than the other. There was mutual respect and so much love.
We were not only taught gender equality as shown by their words and the way they lived their lives, we were also taught racial equality.
Back in the early ‘60s, finding a baby to adopt was nowhere nearly as challenging as it is today. Premature babies were difficult to place because they often had special needs and required extra care. My mom had a lot of experience caring for “preemies” because all 5 of her children were born early. My brother was born at 5 months, 3 weeks and weighed in at a whopping 3 pounds, 2.5 ounces. The first time I saw him, I remember thinking that he looked like a little plucked chicken.
I don’t recall how it all came to be, but my mom and the Children’s Aid Society partnered up. The CAS would bring a preemie infant to my mom. She would care for them, bringing them to a point where they were healthy, happy infants – readily adoptable. The third little preemie, Warren, had just left our home a week before Christmas. Mom was looking forward to a rest, a Christmas without a baby to care for. Her own 5 children ranged in age from 14 down to 1.5 years old. On Christmas Eve, the CAS called. They had a preemie baby that they couldn’t place anywhere – nobody was willing to take her in. This wee one was known as “Metis” – half French heritage and half Indigenous heritage. My mom couldn’t bear to turn a child away on Christmas Eve, and that is how Gloria came to live with us.
Months passed and nobody was interested in adopting Gloria. Our family decided that she would be ours. We loved her dearly. Dad loved family heritage and felt it was important to know one’s roots. So, the formal adoption process was on hold until Gloria was old enough to decide whether or not she wanted to retain her Indigenous name and rights. The CAS was aware of the decision our family had made and why the formal adoption was on hold.
About 18 months later, we moved to Ottawa. Of course, Gloria moved with us. Mom continued caring for preemies – all together, she took in 10 wee ones and one troubled teen over the course of a few years. Then came a devastating blow. The Ottawa CAS, without any discussion with our family or with the original CAS, determined that Gloria would be better off in a foster home with “Metis” heritage. I lost my sister to another family on my 11th birthday. I recall so clearly not wanting to go to school that day knowing that, when I came home, Gloria would be forever gone from my life. It was around this point in time that my parents decided that their children had experienced enough “goodbyes” – 10 wee ones including Gloria who had been a member of our family for over 3 years.
Life has a way of bringing balance. My cousin, Bill, whom I adored as an older brother, married a lovely young lady by the name of Jackie. As a child, I remember Jackie’s musical voice and her beautiful hair, which she always piled on the top of her head. She was also very ‘60s fashionable. As children, we were completely unaware that Bill and Jackie had encountered ridiculous difficulties finding someone who would agree to perform the marriage ceremony. Bill was of Scottish heritage, with fair hair and fair skin. Jackie was Jamaican, with dark hair and dark skin. They ended up with a ceremony at City Hall. I don’t ever remember thinking Jackie was different from any other member of our family – I do remember wanting to emulate her!
Within a short period of time, Jackie and Bill had a sweet little daughter named Cindy. She was born with a disease that meant her lifespan would likely be less than a year. There were tons of medical expenses. Both Jackie and Bill worked and mom took care of Cindy during the day. We were blessed to have her in our lives for five years - more time than anyone anticipated.
Our parents did an amazing job. We never saw “colour”. Judgements were never made based on a person’s race or religion. Some people were good; others were not – but it had nothing to do with something like how much pigment was in their skin! I clearly remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, followed shortly thereafter by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The turmoil that was the era of the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, Nixon and Watergate marked my impressionable teen years. Luckily, though, these things were happening in the U.S., not in Canada. We did not have that level of racism and unrest. Or at least that was what I believed, what my experiences to date had been.
Fast forward a number of years. I was living in Toronto. On more than one occasion in the course of my career, I had experienced sexual discrimination. Having a mentor who was old enough to be my father make moves on me when I was in my early 20s. Having a client give me a feeling creepy enough that, when I needed to go to his country home for an appointment (I was in real estate sales), I brought along a male colleague. The client came to the door in his tighty whities and, when he saw Andre, he quickly donned some clothes. Applying for a new position within a company and being told that I had a really good chance of getting this promotion – and then suddenly the interviewer’s hand is on my knee and moving upwards…..
So now I’m in a senior position and looking to hire/promote someone as my assistant. I wanted our receptionist, Charmaine, as my assistant. She was just so personable, bright, helpful. Although my boss thought she may not have enough experience, I fought for her. We made a great team. I knew I could rely on her completely. I trusted her judgement, her intelligence, her ability to deal with some challenging personalities. I wanted her experience in the corporate world to be so much more fair and equitable than I had experienced in the years past.
One evening, we were working late – preparing for a national convention. A friend called up and asked if I would like to join her for dinner. Her hubby was away and we could have a girl’s night giggle. I said sure but explained I was working a little late with Charmaine. She extended the dinner invitation to Charmaine as well. Perfect! So we wrapped up our work and headed on over. My friend was gracious and charming as always. But privately, in the kitchen, she said to me, “You never told me Charmaine was black.” I was gobsmacked! Why would I even have bothered to mention this? Living in Toronto, I enjoyed its multicultural atmosphere. I had close friends whose race and culture were so different from mine. This diversity was enriching! Why had I never noticed or experienced this subtle undercurrent of racism before?
Fast forward once again. My sister and I have moved to Saskatoon. We bought a home within walking distance of downtown. Our neighbour was absolutely fantastic – a high school coach and all-round kind person. He would often mow our tiny front yard patch of grass when he was mowing his own. He always peeked over the fence and said, “Heidy Ho, neighbour!” To which we would respond “WILSON!!!” (reference the TV show Home Improvement if you’re not old enough to understand). If someone was on the phone and he needed to catch our attention, he would signal with a flashlight – perhaps to tell us that our garage door had blown open or some other such nonsense. One day I invited a few friends from work over for a BBQ. I was cooking away on a tiny table-top Hibachi grill when Wilson peeked over the fence and laughed. He offered to wheel over a “real” BBQ and even help to prepare the burgers. Well, of course! Help on a real BBQ in exchange for some supper? Sounds like a deal to me! I was one again knocked for a loop when I discovered that some of my co-workers did not want to eat anything that Wilson had prepared. Oh – did I forget to mention that Wilson was black?
While living in Saskatoon, we heard derogatory tales of Indigenous people and their “welfare wagons” (translate to cars). It was common knowledge that you simply did not hire someone of Indigenous background because they were either drunks, drug addicts or at the very least completely unreliable. It was calmly reported in the news that the local police had, one brutally cold Saskatchewan winter’s night, picked up a couple of young Indigenous men. Rather than process them for whatever the offence had been, they drove out into the country and dropped them in the middle of nowhere. I don’t recall any charges being laid against these police officers.
I was simply devastated. It seemed like everything I knew, everything I believed, was wrong. I knew that there had been racial unrest in the U.S. but to see this happening 30 years later in Canada was beyond comprehension! As we were raised in a family that knew no colour or racial boundaries, we were not in the least bit prepared for a world where this prejudice was so prevalent.
Two weeks ago in Charlottetown, PEI, thousands peacefully participated in a “Black Lives Matter” march for justice and racial equality. Last week, a Black Lives Matter petition was tabled in the PEI Legislature. Gordon McNeilly, the province’s first and only Black MLA, said that this petition was “a historical, powerful starting point to create inclusive human rights on PEI, foster real change and collectively stand together now and forevermore on this Island”.
Today in Charlottetown, there will be an Indigenous Lives Matter – PEI Healing Walk for Justice to raise awareness of the systemic racism, injustices and brutality experienced by the Indigenous people of Canada.
In May, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr spoke of the 3 major evils facing the world: racism, poverty and war. Over 50 years later, we are still fighting these same evils. He said, “For those who are telling me to keep my mouth shut, I can’t do that. I’m against segregation at lunch counters, and I’m not going to segregate my moral concerns. And we must know on some positions, cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there’re times when you must take a stand that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but you must do it because it is right.”
Racism, prejudice based on religion, skin colour, gender, physical appearance and abilities, etc. are all behaviours learned from our parents and people of influence in our lives - other family members, teachers, our peers. We need to do a better job raising our children if we ever hope for the world to be a better place. My hope, my prayer is that it won’t take another 50 years to do what is right.
A SNEAK PEEK INTO HOW WE MAKE OUR VIDEO TUTORIALS
In the April edition of our Knit Pickers PEI Newsletter, I mentioned wearing many hats. I knit, weave tartans, design patterns. I am also the website manager, video content creator, producer, and editor. I am the social media guru, office accountant, writer of the blog and newsletter. I am the order fulfillment centre. This is the reality of owning and operating a small business in rural PEI. But – I do have 3 production assistants: George, Carnie and Hobbes.
George loves to participate in the video shoots.
Carnie is learning how to weave tartans. She particularly likes to help out with the flow of wool when I wind a warp.
And Hobbes gets all wrapped up in knitting projects.
I’m also very lucky to have a sister who is my spare brain – when mine is short circuiting due to system overload. She is the Guru of Google and the creator of all of the goofy sheep pics that we use on our Ewe Love labels and in social media promo.
She also gave me my first piece of video equipment for Christmas – a tripod for my cell phone!
I film in a small corner of my “loom room”. It houses my floor loom, table top loom, tri-loom, warping board and two tall cube cabinets full of wool along with a couple of bookcases and a sewing machine. The first photo with George shows my early set-up – my cell attached to the tripod, sitting on the table that usually holds my table-top loom. The window faces west which results in a very bright afternoon light – so bright that I have to draw the drapes for filming. Morning light is non-existent. The overhead lighting is pitiful, to say the least. I clip spotlights to bookcases when I am weaving! I tried this for filming but it was creating all sorts of shadows and bright spots. Then I made the best $20.00 investment ever! I found a ring light that could attach to my tripod and an adjustable arm that holds my cell phone that attaches to the ring light. The ring light has 3 lighting modes – daylight, incandescent and fluorescent – and each has 3 levels of brightness. No more spotlights attached to bookcases and extension cords strung every which way!
The tripod, ring light and adjustable arm are all from UBeesize. No – this blog is not sponsored. I am just so happy to have found affordable equipment that I can use to create videos. They have all sorts of fun and inexpensive gadgets if you want to play around with your own videos!
Of course, I still need to edit the video clips when filming is all done. My delightful production assistants have a tendency to either bump the tripod, walk in front of the camera or play with the wool. They’re cute – but not terribly helpful. Mind you, when the work day is done, they are awfully loving and cuddly!
So – when you watch a tutorial on the Knit Pickers PEI YouTube channel, just imagine that you’ve been backstage and caught a peek at all the behind-the-scenes fun that goes into making these videos! If you subscribe to our channel, you can click on the little “bell” to receive notifications when a new tutorial is uploaded!
Live life luxuriously! Classic simplicity is what I enjoy the most - in clothing design, home decor and in life!