Category Archives: activism

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So, this Sunday before past, I came down with the lung infection that everyone in Montreal is coming down with.  I have never hacked so much in my life – and what’s more, my partner got sick at exactly the same time.

I’m one of those people that turns into an enormous baby when sick, but I did manage to take some pictures of my armbands which I sent off to Boston last Wednesday.  Unfortunately, my sneezing and coughing buddy managed to delete them by accident, so the post I was banking on sharing with you isn’t entirely feasible.  I feel kind of silly; I even got a ravelry message from mmeadow reminding me to post them on my ravelry projects page, and I can’t.

I did get an awesome email from the 146+ crew today telling me that they not only received but really liked my armbands, so hopefully I’ll be able to link to some of the pics on their reBlog once it’s updated.

I’m very nearly done all the knitting on my knitted neckerchief, and my friend Maddy is letting me borrow Melissa Morgan-Oakes’ book, 2-at-a-time Socks which is awesome!  I’m pretty excited about the cables in that book.  I’m really excited to get the neckerchief off of my superlong 2.5 mm needle so I can try this out.

And, because it’s kind of lame to have a post without pictures…


A Thorough Update

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger lately, and I haven’t been thorough whatsoever in detailing my knitting projects.

Project the First:

The buttons weren’t sewn on when those pictures were taken, but they sure are now.  I’ll take another picture tomorrow, so you can see how awesome these are in person.

I knit the armbands with the handspun and hand dyed yarn that I got from a friend of a friend of an old woman who used to live in my borough.  Look at the tag;  that yellow yarn was dyed with turmeric and alum.

The yarn was over spun and dyed in an odd way.  I love how you can see her learning process.  As she learned, her yarn became more delicate and more consistent.  The dyes took better and you really got to see what she was going for.  That yellow yarn was all in pieces when I got to it.

I really like the symbolism of using her work as well.  The idea of a person becoming fascinated with creation (as opposed to participating in consumerism) at a late age at least twenty years ago simply points to how separated most of us have become from the creation of tangible and useful textile art.  I love that both she and I have had the same yearning to make cloth.

Project the Second

I’ve knit quite a lot of the ribbing, but I won’t know if I’m ready to bind off the ribbing until I try it on.  I’ve been crazy busy as of late, so I haven’t plunked myself down to slip all those stitches onto waste yarn to try it on yet again.  I think I’ll aspire to do that tomorrow.

Project the Third

The neckerchief is 7 inches long, and I think I’m going to knit for at least another inch.  I went to a bluegrass night at the Barfly in Montreal, and I dropped a bunch of stitches.  I ended up having to rip back about 3 rows to figure out exactly where I was supposed to be.  It’s looking lovely, though.

Project the Fourth

I don’t have any pictures of this project (my awesome flaming tea cozy) because I haven’t made any progress on it.  Alas!  I am dreaming of needle felting all over that thing.  Yeehaw!

Project the Fifth

I’ve recorded the first song I’ve ever written on my music project blog, ClairelyNow.  Please listen and let me know what you think!


International Women’s Day

Happy 100th International Women’s Day!

The first International Women’s Day was organized 100 years ago.  Less than a week later, (on March 25th) the Triangle Waist Factory fire happened in New York City.  146 women died in the manufacture of cheap textiles.

This December past, at least 30 people died in textile factory fire in Bangladesh – most of them women.

microRevolt is calling out for commemorative armbands so they can acknowledge those who were lost in these tragedies – and acknowledge the lack of progress we’ve made in the past century.  As microRevolt says on their website,

One hundred years after the Triangle fire, we find an insecure economy, a high unemployment rate and most of garment manufacturing outsourced to the developing world. Workers making products for American consumers are still victim to unfair labor policies and factory fires. We continue to struggle at home and abroad for the rights that galvanized the labor movement a century ago.

from microRevolt

Those of us that labour to make our own textiles I think can understand how much work goes into producing cloth.  It’s incredible how even my blog has gotten some responses about readers moving on to make their own armbands!  That’s amazing.  And Ariadne even donated the buttons for my armbands!  I’m sorry about the lack of pictures today;  I’ll sew the buttons on tonight and take some snazzy pictures tomorrow.

The struggle continues.  But we still have to celebrate and make art, right?

Ms.Tania Sultana

Last night, I finished my armband for Tania.

I cast on 20 stitches and knit for 8 3/4 inches.  Then I used the colour charts provided on the microRevolt website to make the 149 with intarsia.  I then knit for 5 rows and divided for the button holes as follows:

  • k 6, turn work, and knit the same 6 stitches in stockinette for 8 rows.
  • Break yarn, and then knit 8 stitches on left hand needle for 8 rows.
  • Break yarn, and then knit remaining 6 stitches for 8 rows.
  • Purl across all 20 stitches to join.
  • Knit across picking up the loose cross-yarn over the two buttonholes and knitting it together with the next stitch.

I then knit another 5 rows and bound off.  I used chain stitch to outline the button holes and the edge of the armband.

I used handspun and hand dyed yarn – a gift from the old woman who used to live in my borough.  I thought it was fitting.

I’ll post better pictures tomorrow, along with #148: Md. Maruf Hossain.

Flame On!

Okay, so without further ado, feast your eyes on the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen.

Isn’t that amazing?  I’m so pumped!

Now I’m going to go cast on for the armband for 146+!

Tea Cozy

Does anyone remember me talking about the wonderful housewarming gift we got when we moved into this apartment?  Long story short, an elderly woman who used to live in this neighborhood decided to take up spinning and dyeing yarn years ago.  The mother of the woman who used to rent here knew her, and when the old woman passed away, her estate gave her the old woman’s hand dyed, spun, and plied yarn.  The woman who received the yarn never knew what to do with it, so it sat in a bankers box for years.  She saw some stuff I knit when she was helping her daughter move out of this apartment, so I was given the yarn.

There were two marled skeins in the box.  One was  a pure black/white mix, and the other, chocolate/cream.  These skeins weren’t fully washed of lanolin, so they smell really strongly of sheep and they’re almost greasy.  I don’t think I want to make clothes out of them for that reason – the greasiness is useful for other things, and it’s unpleasant to wear rough, greasy cloth, waterproof though it may be.

But, in other news, we have recently acquired a tea pot chez nous, so I’m going to make a tea cozy.  But not just any tea cozy!  Nay, I will make a tea pot of epic proportions using a favourite website of mine.  Knit Pro 2.0 is just about the coolest website ever.

knitPro is a free web application that translates digital images into knit, crochet, needlepoint and cross-stitch patterns. Simply upload jpeg, gif or png images and knitPro will generate a graph sizable for any fiber project. knitPro digitally mimics the tradition of pre-industrial craft circles who freely shared patterns and passed them down from generation to generation.


Isn’t that amazing?  Also, microRevolt is a really cool group.

microRevolt projects investigate the dawn of sweatshops in early industrial capitalism to inform the current crisis of global expansion and the feminization of labor.

microRevolt since 2003.


I think they’re awesome, and have used their website on a number of occasions.  I have also signed up to participate in their 146+ campaign;  I’ll be knitting the 149th armband, in honor of Ms. Tania Sultana.  She died in a factory fire in Bangladesh making clothes for Wal-Mart, H&M, and JC Penny.  I encourage others to knit armbands.

I made an image from a Julia Child quote by typing the words into Paintbrush (a program similar to Microsoft Paint) and saving the file as a .jpeg.  I then uploaded it onto the knit pro 2.0 website, and whammo! A chart! But the problem with trusting a computer program to make a knitting chart is that computers aren’t as crafty as most knitters out there (see what I did there?) so I spent some time last night going over the chart with a black pen.

The best part about being a person and not a machine is that I can make mistakes and then fix them.  See that second ‘o’ in ‘blowtorch’?  I made a note that it needed to be moved over one stitch.  But there it is; one half of my colour chart.  I’m getting a pretty big gauge with 5 mm needles so I’m going to have to try with 4.5 mm and see how everything fits – not that you want a particularly small tea cozy or anything.

An overview on how I’m making this tea cozy.

  • Step 1: Acquire a tea pot.  Tea as well, if possible.  Measure a loose circumference around said pot.
  • Step 2: Choose a charming image; perhaps a quote, perhaps a graphic.  Make sure it’s in .jpg, .png, or .gif format.  Upload it onto microRevolt’s knit pro app 2.0.  Have realistic expectations about how many colours you want and the definition of the image – after all, you’re smarter than any computer.  Then, print off the resulting .pdf!

  • Step 3: Knit a gauge swatch.  Make sure that the number of stitches provided makes sense for your project.  As you can imagine, having a 154 stitch round tea cozy with a gauge of 3.75 sts/inch is pretty silly, so I’m going to end up doing some math tonight.
  • Step 4: Highlight the chart you’ve printed off using a bright pen.  I used black to clear up my quote because the font was teal.
  • Step 5: Knit cozy, making sure to decrease at some point.  Is there any purpose for a tea pot sized cowl?
  • Step 6: Put kettle on.
  • Step 7: Drink tea.
  • Step 8: Knit an armband in commemoration of a fellow textile worker who has passed away because of the western world’s desire  for cheap clothes.

Any questions?

You’re more than welcome to use the chart I made as is, by the way.  Best of luck!


this morning

This is a picture of my cats this morning.

Our old fridge has sat in our living room since last Sunday.  The cats have slept on it, played on it, and were generally adorable rolling around on top of it.

There is a program in Montreal called Recyc-Frigo where (if you have a fridge that is at least 10 years old, that works, and that consumes too much electricity) they’ll come and pick up your fridge and recycle it.  They came today and took away the cats’ new favourite toy!  I’m so pleased to have my living room back, but the cats look heart-broken.  I think we’ll have to get them a new climbing device soon.

Thursday night was knit night at Ariadne Knits, and it was super fun.  I’m always blown away at how a skill like knitting can bring together so many diverse people, and how we can all get along so nicely.  After all, there are a myriad of reasons why someone might pick up the needles and knit, and it’s no requisite that all knitters be nice and respectful.  But (at Ariadne at least) everyone really makes sure that they’re not stepping on toes even when the conversation breaches topics that are a bit uncomfortable.  I really like that, and I don’t think it’s odd that knit night makes me like knitting all the more.

I was running rather severely short of yarn on my cabled hat, so jumped out of the river denial (see what I did there?) and bought a new skein of yarn from Ariadne.  This skein has more than twice the yardage of the previous skein, although it is a 50/50 combination of wool and superfine alpaca as opposed to 100% superfine alpaca.

super alpaca on the left; ultra wool on the right

I think it’s an upgrade, really.  Both yarns are from Estelle.  The first was their Super Alpaca, and the new one is their Ultra Wool.  The wool adds a delicious springiness to the yarn that I adore.  I showed the yarn to my partner, a new knitter, last night, and he described the difference perfectly.  He said that it was warm and soft, and less fluffy (but that’s not a bad thing at all) and weightless.

And what a deal!  The price was $20 for 280 meters for a pretty chunky yarn.  I have this problem where I’m a bit spendthrift and have trouble spending any kind of money on anything, but when I wound the skein into a ball, the ball winder actually got stuck because it was too big.

I went with a blue/purple shade and I just love it.  I don’t often wear anything, well, that isn’t grey or green, but it’s gorgeous.  I was wary of looking like a grey-green super heroine, you see.  I’m much more of a Jennifer Susan Walters than a Savage She-Hulk; never mind my behaviour when I can’t find my sewing needles.

But enough of that;  now I’m reading an article about Bangladeshi garment workers.

As someone who actually can’t remember not knowing how to ply at least some kind of needle to cloth, I have a hard time relating to the idea that all garments should be ready-made.  To me, ready-made clothes are for when you don’t have time to make something, or don’t have the equipment at the ready.  Other than that, there’s no reason to wander around colossal malls that aren’t interested in providing clothes with a good fit or with longevity.  Making clothes doesn’t feel so much of a privilege as common domestic labour.  I sweep the floor, I patch my pants, I wash the dishes, I knit my own mittens: it’s all the same to me.  And yes, it is luxurious to have pants that will last more than six months, but if you put the work in it’s not so much of a luxury as something to take pride in.  And I think that we should all take pride in taking care of the basics.

Reading this makes me so upset:

The calorific intake of ready made garment […] workers is deficient, causing stunted physical development. With income reduced by static wages and rising costs of basic foods, malnutrition has become so widespread that in 2008 some workers were reported to be hallucinating in a delirious state during long shifts.

It’s not right.  It’s not fair.  And it seems as though there’s no escape, because workers like these are the people who spin our thread and weave our textiles.  Why should they starve for our fourth pair of pants?  They’re so malnourished, their growth rates are stunted and they’re hallucinating.  I can’t fathom being that hungry.

Living sustainably seems so far away, and yet, I think it’s inevitable.  This recession has affected so many aspects of daily life that I think most people have started to scale back, but not enough.  I know that I still do things like shop at discount stores, even though I know the labourers that manufacture my socks and clothes hangers weren’t paid enough.  I hope that we can figure this out;  until then, I’m going to try to live as reasonably as possible and not buy ready made garments unless my current clothes are falling to shreds.

Excerpted from the article:

As a female garment worker explained;

‘You see, as women, one of our wings is broken. We don’t have the nerve that a man has, because we know we have a broken wing. A man can sleep anywhere, he can just lie down on the street and go to sleep. A woman cannot do that. She has to think about her body, about her security. So the garment factory owner prefers to hire women because men are smarter about their opportunities, you train them and they move on. Even when he compares a small boy and an older girl, he will think, “She’s only a girl, she can’t wander too far away.”‘

Naila Kabeer – The Power to Choose, taken from article.