Category Archives: feminism

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!


I promised a while ago to post pictures of the baby sweater and booties I’ve knit in the past few weeks.

That’s Elizabeth Zimmerman’s February baby sweater on two needles and Saartje’s booties in Mission Falls 136 in Raspberry.   I did yarn overs instead of increases in the yoke of the sweater so I could pull some satin pink ribbon through, and used matching buttons on the booties and sweater.  I also knit the booties on 4mm needles.  I didn’t do an increasing row on the booties, and reduced my decreases accordingly.  You can look at my ravelry page for more details.  I also knit buttonholes instead of sewing buttonholes into the flaps after the fact by adding an extra knit row, and binding off in the second knit row.  I used a knit cast on instead of a long tail cast on, and cast on an extra three stitches for extra space.  I then embroidered around the buttonholes on the booties.

There are white birds embossed into these baby pink buttons.  They kind of look like cave drawings.  They’re hard to photograph, but they look really cool.

I really like how my partner and I chose the supplies for this project.  Yes, this is a gift for a little baby girl whose name means “womanly”, but I wanted to make a sweater that wasn’t just pretty and pink.  I think it’s super cool when modern mothers dress their kids in bright, lively colours and let the child’s personality develop through providing a variety of activities or styles from which the child can choose.  What resulted by our choosing a dynamic main colour and more ‘girly’ accents is, I hope, a happy medium.  A feminine garment that emphasizes this new person’s middle name, which means “noble strength” or “storm”.

The ribbons are pretty, but they also make the sweater more adjustable.  I hope that it’s usable more quickly that way; after all, the baby was only born a few weeks ago.  She’s tiny as of yet!  And I hope the buttons will keep it on for longer.

I’m going to include extra buttons and ribbon in the box, with the hope that this new baby runs and plays a heck of a lot.  I hope this sweater gets dirty, muddy, and stretched out, and that once this person grows into an adult, she can look at herself in pictures roughhousing wearing this sweater and feel good.

Mad Skills

I’m taking yet another sick day, but heck, it’s only because it feels like my sinuses are dripping liquid fire down my throat.  It could be worse.

I’m finding it hard to sit upright, so I’ve made very little progress on Greg’s mitten.  I also had to frog it a couple of times to get a size that I think it more reasonable.  My partner has helped me by trying it on.

I’m hoping the striping pattern is masculine enough.  I guess we’ll have to see.

The sky is dismal and grey today, and I feel like it’s almost making an apology for my illness.  “It’s okay to not do anything today;  look at how gross it is outside.”  I washed the dishes and cleaned the cat box in the meagre hope that my old-fashioned industrious guilt would be subsided, but it was all for nothing.  I’m awash in phlegm and shame.

Even the cats are looking at me with condemnation.  My partner (aka Knight in Shining Armor) brought me an enormous jug of orange juice yesterday (ain’t he a peach?) and the cats are just shocked and horrified at how I’ve been guzzling it down.  It’s a terrible catch-22:  I’m too weak to cook, and I’m also not hungry whatsoever, so what’s the incentive to eat?  Orange juice with pulp counts as food, right?

Although, the cats could be staring because I’ve lost the ability to keep from listing to one side or the other when I walk.  Patrick is beautiful in this light regardless.

In a completely unrelated note, I read an absolutely epic article from Esquire yesterday entitled The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master.  An aside:  all I could smell when I typed the title was Old Spice and Bud Light.  You try it and tell me what you smell.

I went through the 75 skills to find out how manly I am – you know, just in case this information proves valuable in the future.  I got a whopping 55 out of 75, which is mighty impressive for a petite vegetarian feminist who doesn’t have a drinking problem or a car.

I think my favourite aspect of the article is the portrait it paints of the uninitiated men.  You know, the men that can’t sew a button (number 20), remove a stain (number 48), or iron (number 71).  Or the men that can’t master the culinary art of eggs sunny side up (number 50) or bacon (number 61).  I have this image of Ordinary Joe, sporting velcro shoes, stained sweatpants, and a t-shirt endlessly smashing eggs and bacon into the sidewalk in an effort to have breakfast.  Tragic!

But where is this advice coming from?  What about giving succinct advice (number 1), taking a photo (number 3), delivering a eulogy (number 63), holding a baby (number 62), tying a knot (number 69) or understanding basic wilderness survival (numbers 51, 55, and 68) is masculine?  What about knowing car maintenance (number 35) or how to play a sport (numbers 4, 11, 33, 65, 66, and 67) is manly?  Brand loyalty (number 60) doesn’t seem very manly to me, nor does referring to someone as a son of an expletive (number 64) no matter how warranted the insult seems.  Neither is the heteronormativity inherent in numbers 19, 22, 46, and 73, although the Freudian slip in number 22 is pretty funny.

Basic survival skills aren’t manly, unless the author of the article is trying to imply that graciousness and humility are manly, and is working under the assumption that the majority of Esquire readers have someone else to make their beds (number 31) and tie their bow ties (number 16).  Nothing on the list is exclusively masculine, and it irritates me that things that I consider mandatory are “skills” according to the author.  Can you imagine a resume with this list on it?

Regardless, I’ll be telling jokes (number 38) and speaking respectfully to whomever I meet (numbers 12, 40, 41, and 42).

Pass the chamomile, please.

That was weird

Yesterday was super strange.

I went to an appointment, and decided to walk home.  I love walking, and Sherbrooke looks really cool this time of year.

As I was walking, a man sort of swerved in front of me, and rather deliberately kept step with me.  He was wearing sweatpants and an old wind breaker, and his hands were purple with cold.  Looking at hands like that just makes me sad;  it wasn’t that cold out, but he obviously had no house to go into to warm up.

Anyway, he sort of jerked in his step and swiveled around really quickly.  I had to stop to not bump into him, and swore because he startled me.  He looked so angry, and demanded to know why I was upset.  I said, “Well, you scared me!” and in retrospect, that was a poor word choice.  I wasn’t really scared, but I was startled.  He started just screaming, “I scared you?” over and over again, and stood there with his fists balled up while I walked away.  I didn’t look back because I didn’t want him to follow me.

I know that when I walk alone, I tend to get a certain look on my face.  If your face is open and you’re walking down the street, you tend to get strange people asking for your phone number or for coffee dates, or more direct requests that I need not mention.  I’ve been told that I look scary or angry when I’m walking alone, and I’ll be first to say that it’s a defense mechanism.  Some people call being whistled at a compliment, but I think it’s sexual harassment and I treat it that way.  I think that I have the right to walk down the street without being accosted, thank you very much, and that other people should keep themselves in check.

And as a side note, I don’t think I’m so devastatingly beautiful as to deserve the attention I get by merely walking down the street, but even if I were, I’d still have the right to a little privacy and respect.  If you speak to most women about this kind of thing happening, they’ll have a few horror stories to recount.  And because this seems to be a fairly universal occurrence, it’s fairly easy to infer that sexual harassment has nothing to do with the person minding their own business and everything to do with the person doing the accosting.  That, in my mind, is even more insulting;  if annoying people is how you get your kicks, then don’t involve people who aren’t getting anything out of it.  Go to an annoying seminar or something, and ask tedious questions.  Subscribe to annoying magazines and then talk to your friends about the articles.  Troll annoying forums on the internet.  Keep me out of it.

So, as this man was screaming “I scared you?” over and over, I felt heartened.  I don’t scare easy, and he certainly didn’t scare me.