31 March 2008

a lecture, er ... message from Corporate Canada

Well, I lay awake all night thinking about my latest work-in-progress:

In fact, stewing about it. Why?

Because I don't know if the lovely Fleece Artist Italian silk is organic or not.

I think I've really taken to heart all of the advertising recently in which large multinational corporations are telling us that we should care about the environment and global warming.

These ads (and please tell me they exist outside of Canada - surely we can't be the only caring country out there!) usually feature cute video footage of little kids playing (and, depending upon the ad, a dog or two) in a large field with the type of green grass that only comes after huge daily watering sessions.

Overshadowing the giggles of the kiddies, however, is a sombre voiceover telling us just what bad shape the environment is in, and what we can do to change all of that. You typically don't even know what the ad is for until the last moment when a logo flashes up onto the screen.

I got so curious after seeing such an ad that the Hudson Bay Company has been running for the 512th time this week that I had to find out what it is they're selling (all that the ad refers to is a mysterious programme called "New Renaissance").

Once at the website I had to search long and hard to find out what I was looking for. A link from the home page called "New Renaissance" looked promising, but clicking it simply led to their online shopping catalogue. All roads lead to shopping, I guess.

(I'm reminded of a conversation I had some 15 years ago when the term "organic" was still in its infancy as a marker for luxury products. We were in a Greek restaurant on the Danforth where, ahead of their time, almost every meat was advertised as "organic". My father didn't know what the word meant. After I went on for a few minutes explaining about free range chickens and all that, he paused for thought, and then said "Oh, eet means expensive."

I finally found out what I was looking for under the (get this!) "Social Responsibility" tab on their website. "New Renaissance" is the Bay's codeword for a whole new line of products made from organic cotton and bamboo - mostly luxury linens and towels.

Finding the prices was yet another challenge. Finally I was successful, though - and most of the prices were in the three figures. This is what the website told me about that:

That's why we can pay our organic cotton farmers a 30% premium above conventional cotton prices. We also commit to buying the cotton before the crop is grown, so farmers have security of income too. Our cotton is produced by a group called Agrocel in Gujarat, India, which works with 20,000 small-scale farmers, using Fair Trade principles to support them in the conversion to organic farming. We think that makes organic cotton all the more worth the extra money.
Well, that's nice, isn't it? The farmers get 30 per cent more, the Bay at least 100 per cent more. Does that sound like "Fair Trade" to you?

Now, don't get me wrong. Protecting the environment is an admirable goal, trust me - as is taking steps to pay farmers better. However, it seems that priorities are still skewed on some level. The Bay, after all, seems to feel that its customers are willing to pay luxury prices for such everyday household items as...

...the humble vacuum cleaner!

(Everyday, that is, unless you live in my apartment. Maybe we just need one of these to solve all of our housework issues!)

Now, just when did they start making vacuum cleaners that look like racecars? And - $500.00?? For that price I'm not buying one unless they throw something like this in to operate it for me as well:

Oh, and on this very same website where they lecture on (and on, and on, if you care to visit enough links - there seem to be more links on the Bay website about how much they care for the environment than there are telling you the prices of what it is they're actually selling), they carry useful environmental educational toys for the kiddies such as these:

(Would that be the fuel efficient Hummer, do you think?)

Oh, and check this out:
This is a toy intended for children 18 months through five years of age. I like the subtle messaging about learning to keep that car filled up all the time. And, with the price of gas these day it could wind up being a really good educational toy on how to add (although I don't know that your average 18 month old could actually count that high).

But my favourite part?

Comes with a hose, pretend nozzle, credit card swipe and special cut-out credit card [emphasis added].
I wonder if the cut-out card is a Bay store card? Three guesses, and the first two don't count.

Anyway, am I the only one out here who sees a bit of a mixed message? However, it is instructive to remember that, notwithstanding all the preaching by the corporations (and the Bay is by no means the only one, just the one I'm picking on today because I find their ad the most obnoxious), they exist for one reason and one reason only. That is, to sell things to dupes like you and me by making us think that we need those things to be better people.

Which brings me back to my original topic, as pretty much the only thing I buy that makes me feel like a better person is... well, you know:

...lovely yarn. Oh, and shiny beads.

(This is my April Showers shawl in progress. Can anyone tell what pattern I modified to make this, pray tell? I know a couple of you out there have knitted the original pattern.)

The Fleece Artist website has no "Social Responsibility" tab, unfortunately. But then again, it is only a small cottage industry.

So I will have to continue losing sleep over the provenance of the silk, I guess. At least the beads are safe... or are they?

Wishing you a wonderful (oxymoron?) Monday.

30 March 2008

Earth Hour and beyond

What did you do yesterday during Earth Hour?

No, these aren't fireworks. This is my attempt at taking a photo of all the big houses on Millionaire's Row across the ravine from me... who did NOT turn their lights off. Indeed, in four or five houses every single light in the house appeared to be on - and these are some big houses, let me tell you. Sheesh.

Well, JJ and I did turn off our lights, and we were in good company apparently...this is downtown Toronto:

Weird to see the CN tower in complete darkness, but pretty cool nonetheless. And this is the Peace Tower in Ottawa (our capital city):

... and, for my American friends, Detroit as viewed from Windsor, Ontario:

Anyway, I rather liked this Earth Hour thing. I think they should actually do it once a week... but also make shutting off all the cell phones, blackberries, computers and televisions mandatory. And yes, we can live without these things for an hour. Really.

After Earth Hour was over, JJ and I hopped into a cab and headed downtown to see the Axes of Evil play!

The Axes of Evil is a local band made up of a bunch of leftie lawyers and other leftie folk. I'm one of their groupies...

...and we were all out in force last night bustin' our moves on the dance floor, cheered on by our admiring audience:

Fun was had by all ... and I got lots of great comments about my springtime purse:

Don't know if I've posted a photo of this one before - I made it some time back. It's a bag made out of a repurposed sweater from Goodwill. I felted it, cut it up and then crocheted this part together with spare yarn from the stash. My favourite part is this little flower:

Anyway, the bag cheers me up and lets me think that spring is actually on the way.

So, on the agenda today? No huge plans. I hope to continue hacking away at my latest piece, April Showers:

Looking a bit odd right now, but I have high hopes... and I really love this colourway. It actually glows in person. Ah, Italian Silk!

Time to get back to it ... wishing you a very happy Sunday!

29 March 2008

PayDay! and Earth Hour

I know I mused aloud somewhere about not observing PayDay as usual yesterday given that I am awaiting yarn in the mail...


Instead, I decided to check out a new (to me) shop called Americo on the basis that I had been in there once before, and left with nothing.


Not this time. Ahem. This lovely stuff is laceweight llama!! The colourway is called kyanite. I've never had llama before, but it is wonderful soft stuff. Approximately 1400 metres of it is now mine.

Laceweight cotton, which I've never seen in such quantity.

The white nearly blinded me - turning it almost into a real colour. I had to snap some up.

I thought that one of these might be perfect to make a stab at the Laminaria in the near future...

What say you?

This is a stunning pattern, in my humble opinion. It looks quite difficult, but hey!

So, that and some drinks at Fynn's then ribs and wings at a new joint near work was all the excitement I could handle last evening... I then sat and fondled the llama all evening.

And tonight - blackout night! What are you all planning to do for Earth Hour anyway?

I have no idea. We're meant to go to a dance tonight which was rather poorly planned, I suppose. The original start time was 8:00 p.m. - which is the Earth Hour shutdown time in this next of the woods.

I suppose I could try to knit by candlelight - but given that I already have bifocals at the age of 37, that mightn't be the wisest plan.

Anyway, however you decide to observe Earth Hour... have a good one!

28 March 2008

Cumulus - a design by Brouhaha

I vant to be alone!!!

Er... not really (wish I could pull off a Greta Garbo imitation of that, but no chance with my short peasant heritage). But what I do vant is for you to admire my latest project, hot off the needles: the Cumulus scarf!

I'm quite pleased with this one, especially because I designed it myself (sort of). I took the main stitch pattern out of the Barbara Walker Second Treasury and had to do a bunch of math to make it fit into a triangle.

Then I knitted a picot edging...

... with some mauve beads!

I couldn't think of a proper name for this at first. I had gone with "April Showers" but (a) it's not April yet (and I'm nothing if not a stickler for accuracy); and (b) the name didn't quite fit.

I then looked up "cloud" on Wikipedia. A "cumulus cloud", apparently, usually has a puffy cotton-like appearance, with noticeable vertical development and clearly defined edges.

Well, that seemed to fit. Also, "cumulus" in Latin means "heap or pile", and that certainly fit when I first finished knitting this:

I was actually quite despairing last night at the state of this. I couldn't see how it would turn into anything remotely decent looking, and had resigned myself into making into a fancy oversized pincushion or something along those lines. However, luckily for me, it blocked quite well!


by me, adapted from the Porcupine stitch pattern (Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Stitch Patterns)

Finished size: 43" x 12"

Yarn: Rowan Kidsilk Night - 1 skein - 227 yards. This took virtually the whole skein. The "Night" range has little tiny sparkles throughout - you should be able to see them if you click on this picture:

Beads: mauve seed beads from Arton shop here in Toronto - 22 in total (one on each picot point)

Needles: 3.75mm Addi lace

Start Date: 22 March 2008

Finish Date: 25 March 2008

- I think possibly I used needles one size too large and the stitch pattern is not as defined as I would like. I would go with 3.25mm or 3.5mm next time. I used the larger needles as I only had the one skein of the Night and wanted to make sure this was a decent size.

- I've made this as a wedding present for a co-worker of mine... and I'm not even invited to the wedding!!! How cool am I?! Too cool for school, obviously.

- The shape of the triangle turned out a bit odd for me as well - the stitch pattern was a nine row repetition over 12 stitches, and I think the math to actually make this all work out was a bit too complicated for my dummy brain. But I think overall it looks quite nice, mostly due to the fluffiness of the yarn.

- I enjoyed working with the mohair a lot more than I would have thought. Which is probably a good thing, given that approximately 1600 metres of it is winging its way to me from Vancouver, courtesy of a yarn auction held by Sivia Harding last week:

Discontinued Handmaiden Angel Hair in the Bronze and Burgundy colourways. You knew I couldn't resist rare Handmaiden, eh? Sigh.

All in all, a success - especially because it only took three days to knit - maybe about 15 hours.

Now I must fly away...

I've got parties to attend this weekend as the Leftie Lawyer convention is coming to town. Skipping the convention, but not the parties. This makes me feel very grown-up and ...


Not to mention the latest Italian silk loveliness progressing apace...

A lovely Friday to you all.

27 March 2008

Zombies, politicians and salty snax

Yesterday started off rather sour for me. First thing in the morning, I saw this photo and started fuming right away:

Little makes me more enervated than seeing photos of politicians making nice with one another for the cameras, in the name of charity. I mean, yes, charity is a wonderful thing but to my view it's not meant to be used by self-aggrandising w@nkers who just want to look good to the public.

And what's with the buddy-buddy thing?! These, after all, are the dudes who spend most days hurling abuse trading insults using unparliamentary language with one another and generally carrying on like naughty schoolboys.

(Most of the 100 or so days per year that the Parliament actually bothers to sit. I haven't yet figured out what they do the rest of the time

Telling bedtime stories to puir wee kitties, apparently. Way to go, Steve-o.)

Anyway, Steve-o Harper, Gilles Duceppe and Jumpin' Jack Layton flipping burgers? Donnez-moi un break.

I got so agitated by this that I had to engage in some serious midmorning meditation:

And some scheming:

And then the postman arrived... with a care package from Kalamazoo, Michigan!!!

Holly, as usual, outdid herself. Not only did I get the T-shirt I had ordered from her:
I'm now officially a member of the Zombie Prom Date Knitters club!!

Check out the spiky knitting!!! Good zombie fighting tools, no?

Yay!! No more zombies. Is that a promise?!

Not only that, but I'm an actual cardcarrying member... and President of the Toronto chapter!
That Holly sure knows the way to a boygirl's heart. Check this stuff out:

Salty snacks! (I could have shown you the Funyons as well except that... ahem... I ate them after lunch yesterday).

And the yarn? A sample she sent me of a merino yarn called Dream in Colors (American spelling intentional) "Classy" Superwash Merino. (Ed.: American spelling intentional). Now, apparently people have been raving about this yarn being super soft, etc. And it costs $22 a skein (4oz or 113g). Well, it's nice enough... but I really didn't see the big difference between this and other merino yarns. And $22?!

A tad excessive, but then again so are many necessities these days:


Anyway, I could have shown you the Funyons onion snax as well, but they were gone by 3:00 p.m. yesterday.

My good mood continued into the evening, when I finished my blob shawlette...

(It looks rather rough in the photo but the blocking is shaping up. Proper pictures tomorrow!)

...and started a new project:

So, what's this, then? A semi-design project with Fleece Artist Italian Silk. Now, there's some ultra soft yarn!!! I think this is going to be a really good one... at least, I hope so. Stay tuned.

Happy Thursday... and don't let the zombies get you down!