Friday, 24 February 2012

Making a difference? Check!

A week or so ago,  I mentioned my blogging friend Taylor Lynn's desire to make a difference in the world and her project to make a video to help girls and women have a better self-esteem. Well, she's done it and it is amazing! She has invited us to share her video and it is an honor for me to do so!

Without further ado, Taylor Lynn's "You are beautiful".

Please share this with all the women in your life and stop by Taylor's blog to congratulate her - sorry, tell her what you think! The mother in me is very strong! :)

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Constant Knitter

To say I love books would be a gross understatement. Books have been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember. I can spend hours perusing books in a book store and I still harbor that childhood dream of living in an English manor house with a library where the bookshelves go from floor to ceiling and there is a sliding ladder to help you reach the books up high. Just thinking about it makes me smile!

So, that is why I like to share books that have touched me in some way, in the hopes that they might interest you too. Today it is not a book about yarn, but a book about Africa.

John LeCarré was a British spy and throughout most of his career wrote espionage novels. You may not like this genre (I love it! and there really aren't many that I don't like!) but you will be hearing more about his novels thanks to the film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Whether or not you like spy stories, LeCarré is a fabulous writer, and in The Constant Gardener, he delves into a very different subject matter.

You may have seen the movie. It was beautiful. With Ralph Finnes, what's not to like? But the book is one hundred times better and much more complex. The Constant Gardener is my favorite contemporary novel. The first part of the book is written in the third person, different characters describing who Justin Quayle, the main character, is. By the time you get to around page 100, you have formed a pretty good idea of who this person is. Then Justin takes over the narration and everything changes! The character development, from a psychological point of view, is extraordinary!

The film was publicized as a love story and it certainly is, an extraordinary love story. But, it is so much more than that. It is about culture and class,  power and greed, prejudice and hate, violence and suffering,  poverty and despair, but also love and hope. I have read it many times and know that I will be reading it again.

The only advantage that the movie has over the book is that we see the beauty of the land and the people, but we also witness the destruction and the desolation, the horrendous poverty that the people live in. These were not actors. The scenes were filmed on location in Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya is not South Africa (I'm very subtle, aren't I ?) but we can imagine that the shanty towns where the Aids orphans live in South Africa are very similar.

I have mentioned this before, this deep desire to right injustice in the world has been with me since my early teens. This is certainly part of the reason that this book speaks to me in such an important way. And now, that I finally have a way to do something concrete to help, to change, even in a small way, I feel extraordinarily blessed!

And it is thanks to all of you! All of you who have joined the call of Knit-a-Squillion Challenge, who are making squares that will go directly around the shoulders of children in South Africa to wrap them in warmth and hope, you give me faith in humanity and the energy to be a constant knitter for the children of South Africa!

Now to some updates!

Trina from North Carolina, Denielle from Massachusetts and Jayme from Texas, have joined us. Thank you and welcome!!
Tally for Knit-a-Square - squares sent to S.A. - 77, 878
Tally for us - squares I have received - 22!!, plus one hat!
Our first squares - all 22 of them!!

I received the first squares this week! Saying I was thrilled is, again, an understatement. Dayle from British Columbia sent in 5 beautiful squares. I have faith in all of you, but actually having this first package in my hands was a fantastic confirmation that this is real!

Jenifer from Michigan sent me this beautiful square. She was planning on using it for an afghan, but changed her mind. Since it is bigger than 8", she told me that I could unravel it and make something else. Perish the thought!! As you know, I don't crochet yet, but I am going to knit this square into a sweater. It is too beautiful to destroy!
Jenifer's beautiful square. Stay tuned for the sweater!
Trina is a new knitter and sent me a picture of her first two squares and the yarn she is using for the third. Aren't they lovely? !
From Trina and to think she's new to knitting!

I wanted to share a few facts that you might find helpful.

- I have received updated information from KasCare. There are now an estimated 2.4 million orphans in South Africa.
- It takes 35 squares to make a blanket.
(These two facts are meant to ENcourage you and not discourage!)
- If you live in the northern hemisphere, remember that our summer is their winter in South Africa.
- The average winter temperature is 39 degrees F or 4 degrees C. I have had several people ask me why they need blankets in Africa. . .
- Rhonda, who is the incredible person responsible "on the ground" in South Africa tries to give a hat to each child with the blanket. If you would like to contribute hats, please try to make them big and stretchy so the children can grow into them. For most of the children, this will be the only hat they ever have.
-As mentioned, sweaters are also needed particularly for the young children, aged 2 to 8. They also need to be long to cover distended tummies.

So, I can't say it enough, THANK YOU all so very much!!

Please go "Like" the Knit-a-Square Facebook page if you haven't already. We are only 7 likes away from 4000!!

Monday, 20 February 2012

A new twist on jeans and a t-shirt

Shopping bag knit from plastic bags!

If you are like me, when you think of knitting, you think of yarn, the yarn being a kind of string. What I have discovered recently is that you really knit with any fiber. It doesn't have to be round. You can knit with ribbon, pieces of cloth, even pieces of plastic bags! It's fun and it's not that different from knitting with yarn. See a tutorial from Cocoknits for this bag knit from plastic bags!

As you know, I prone the use of natural fibers as opposed to acrylic. Natural fibers are warmer and more durable than acrylic fibers. The production of natural yarns causes much less pollution than acrylic. Buying natural yarns supports small farmers and spinners and people in developing countries.  Finally, natural yarns can be recycled. We know that a wool sweater can be passed on to someone else. The stitches can be ripped out and the yarn knit into something else. It can be felted and turned into another garment.

What we are seeing today is taking recyling to a whole new level. Environmentally conscious companies are offering us new yarns made from recycled material. It's fascinating and fantastic!

DK weight Riveting in new marled colors

The first yarn I want to show you is Riveting from the Kollage Yarns company. Kollage is a family owned company from Alabama. They produce beautiful and unique yarns from different plant fibers (more about that another day!). Their Riveting yarn is made from recylced blue jeans! You know what jeans are made from...cotton. So this yarn is 95% cotton from recycled blue jeans. Isn't that amazing? The yarn is 80% post consumer. Again, if you are like me, you know that that must be a good thing, but I wasn't quite sure what it meant. Off as usual to Wikipedia:

Post-consumer waste is a waste type produced by the end consumer of a material stream; that is, where the waste-producing use did not involve the production of another product.

That means then that 80% of the process of turning the jeans into yarn did not require making anything new, and, we can assume, produced very little pollution. There is also the main benefit that these jeans did not end up in landfills!

This yarn is easy to knit with. It is a bit stiff in texture, like a new pair of jeans and will soften like a new pair of jeans, with washing. It comes in DK and worsted weights and the colors have been kept to the jean theme, several shades of blue, beige, red and green and they now offer marled colors. Kollage offers wonderful pattern support. These are just a few of the things you could knit with Riveting.

 And now for the t-shirt! The Be Sweet Company produces all kinds of gorgeous and fun yarns in South Africa. Their mission is to bring socially and environmentally friendly products to fashionable consumers that evoke an individual style and help support community development around the world. It will come as no surprize to you that this company gave me the direction and the motivation for opening my own yarn shop. Oh, and I absolutely love their yarns!

So, here it is,  T-Shirt yarn. This yarn is made from pieces of old t-shirts that are then dyed.

As you can see, it is not round at all, but flat and rectangular. It is very soft and easy to knit with. The knit fabric becomes very thick and strong.

The pattern for this little pouch comes on the label. It's very easy and took me about an hour to knit. 


Be Sweet also offers fabulous pattern support. All their patterns are available on Ravelry
This yarn is fabulous for things like pot holders or rugs, but also makes beautiful bags.

 It's just wonderful to see how companies are innovating to produce products that are not only envrionmentally friendly but that are fibers that provide us with unlimited creative possibilites! These are just two of the wonderful new yarns that I will be sharing with you.

What do you think of them? What might you make with recycled jeans and t-shirts?

P.S.: These yarns are available at Hands with Hearts
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