Prayer Shawl Knitting with Trafalgar Presbyterian

I like pretty much everything about knitting – except unpicking, which is what I had to do this past weekend, when I realized I’d make a mistake. A big mistake. It pains me to think that after 14 years of knitting on Stitched Glass, I’d lose a week’s work. That’s just moving in the wrong direction. Oh well. I suppose knitting teaches me to accept what is – and I do like that, too. But I’d prefer to accept ‘what is’ some other, much less painful way, thank you very much.


But back to my point here – I like pretty much everything of knitting. I like the solitude of it – I can get all caught up on my podcasts – and I like the social aspect of it too, when I can hang out with others and catch up on whatever we want.


A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend the knitters’ circle of Trafalgar Presbyterian Church in Oakville, Ontario. Pat McNicol, a member of Trafalgar, was kind enough to invite me, because I was interested in what they knit: prayer shawls.


Just look at them all.

These are shawls that are knitted with a particular prayer in mind, and meant to bring a sense of peace and comfort to the receiver. What a lovely project.


I found a free pattern for a shawl on Ravelry. And there are many different shapes, sizes and styles on Pinterest.


I had a great time with this knitting circle. Apparently, five years ago, Pat was the only one who knew how to knit. Now they meet weekly and knit up a storm. See? Knitting is the best.

The Trafalgar Knitting Circle is also knitting twiddle muffs. Meant for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers, twiddle muffs can be knitted with ends from your yarn stash, and on the inside, and outside, too, they have all sorts of things to fiddle with – bells, buttons, big wooden beads, materials of different feel and weight like satin and velvet, zippers and ribbons, etc.


Like prayer shawls, they are meant to bring calm and soothing to the recipient. You can personalize them with a name tag and a Velcro strap so that it can be attached to a wheelchair or walker. You can also make the twiddle accessories detachable so the muff can be washed. 


Here is Pat McNicol and her daughter, Kerry Furneaux, showing a couple of colourful twiddle muffs in progress.

Both of these projects appeal to me because they are knitting with purpose, something I have been thinking about as Stitched Glass approaches being exhibited, when it will hopefully ignite valuable conversation amongst faiths and people about empathy and collective experience.


Here is a twiddle muff pattern I found online at Ravelry.


I also spoke to the Trafalgar knitters’ circle about Stitched Glass – another tiny ‘knitting with purpose’ project…

But mostly I am dreaming of when I’ll have time to knit a twiddle muff and prayer shawl.


Thanks to Pat and her Trafalgar Presbyterian knitters’ circle for their time and fellowship and knitting, which is doing such a great job helping others.


Local Knitting: Me and Topsy Farms


I’ve been working on and off on a pillow design for Topsy Farms. I’ve written about Topsy Farms before – run by Sally Bowen and Ian Murray, Topsy is located on Amherst Island, about two and a half hours east of Toronto – in other words, one ferry east of Prince Edward County. I was born near Amherst Island, in Amherstview, and it was my father’s first charge after graduating from theological school at Knox College, University of Toronto. My parents moved back to Amherst Island decades later, and my father was again the minister at St. Paul’s, so I have roots there. Our kids loved their time traipsing through A.I. farmers’ fields, watching cows get milked in barns, and feeding Topsy Farms lambs with baby bottles.


I’ve used a lot of Topsy Farms yarn in my Stitched Glass project (still am, of course) – and the last time I visited with Ian and Sally, I promised to design them a pillow pattern. Because I believe in local knitting – that is, supporting the local yarn producers who are putting time and effort into producing beautiful, natural yarns that I love to work with.


This pattern is my tribute to the wonderful people and yarn producers at Topsy Farms. In honour of their name, I designed a Topsy Turvy Sheep pattern, using only Topsy Farms yarns. When I’m finished the pillow, I’ll post it here… the hope is to offer kits through Topsy Farms’ website, and wonderful store on Amherst Island (I encourage you to pay them a visit – and spend the rest of the day on the island, too, exploring all that it has to offer).

Topsy Turvy Sheep at 2nd cup, 20170312.jpg

Happy International Women's Day

Happy International Women’s Day.


In honour of International Women’s Day, here is my latest Pussy Hat. It’s for the women (and all humans), who are taking care of our planet.

Here’s my daughter Findley, who’s on the case.

I’m posting the pattern, too.  Knock it out of the park.

The Pussy Hat Project Did its Job – and how. Will we?

The March on Washington, Jan 21, 2017. What an overwhelming success, with over three million people marching across the United States, making it the biggest demonstration in United States history. 260,000 marched elsewhere around the world, too – here, in my hometown of Toronto, 60,000 people marched.

Tracey Erin Smith, Artistic Director of Soulo Theatre, Savoy Howe, and the whole Soulomobile thankfully made it across the border, marched on Washington, and made it back to Toronto. A whirlwind, important trip.

The participants were incredible, motivated, and peaceful. The signs were moving and funny and poignant. And the Pussy Hats… the Pussy Hats were everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

Here I am with my good friend Arlene Hazzan Green of BUFCO, with her awesome pussy-themed climate change sign.

Here we are organizing before the march – that’s Claire (wearing my first beaver pussy hat design), Jennifer Cowan (a knitter from way back), amazing actor Deb Drakeford (wearing another beaver pussy hat), equally amazing playwright Bev Cooper (wearing a pussy hat that her friend in Vancouver knitted and sent her by mail in time for the march), and me.

I marched and knitted one more Pussy Hat the whole way from Queen’s Park…

… to City Hall.

There were thousands of pussy hats in the crowd.

Toronto’s book and bicycle maven Janet Joy Wilson takes the prize for unique pussy hat of the day: hers covered her bike helmet, and since she goes nowhere without her bike, this seemed wholly appropriate.

Meanwhile, the Soulomobile took my four other hats to Washington. Here are Tracey Erin Smith and Savoy Howe (wearing the Symmetricats pussy hat) waiting for their bus at Toronto’s Union Station.

Here is the incredible actor and ukulele game changer Jodi Pape, with Tracey Erin Smith. Both are wearing pussy hats knitted by Toronto artist Kerry Furneaux, who sent 3 pussy hats with the Soulomobile down to Washington:

Kerry also did a gorgeous rendition of the beaver pussy hat design:

Here are the Soulomobile travellers, getting ready for their journey, and look at the wonderful pussy hats:

And here are Tracey and her Soulomobile peeps representing Canada in Washington:

Check out this Global TV news clip featuring Tracey reporting on her trip to Washington:

Fab knitter Gill Johnston got in on the pussy hat knitting action, and her hats made their debut in Washington on the heads of friends Morgan and Tory:

Even Eleanor Roosevelt got in on the knitting protest at 72nd and Riverside Drive (photo by Katherine Weber).

Tracey and Savoy got back to Toronto and headed over to Crow's Theatre to share their stories March on Washington at The Spoke storytelling event.

How did such a small thing – a simple, knitted hat – become such a symbol of resistance? I look at all these photos and remember that my small part – 4 hats in Washington, 4 in Toronto – were just 8 amongst millions. But that’s the point, isn’t it? We can all start with a tiny protest. A drop in the bucket. And then… the bucket overflows.

This Jan 23, 2017 article in the Globe and Mail by U.S. correspondent Joanna Slater said that “the organizers of the Women’s March in Washington rolled out their first initiative aimed at maintaining the momentum of the protests. They called on participants to commit to taking 10 actions in the next 100 days, traditionally a period of intense activity for a new president.”

So I am contemplating my next move. And can I do it with knitting? Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman did with the Pussy Hat Project. And what a wildly great job they did.

Stay tuned.

Make way for pussyhats

Today is the March on Washington.  My pussyhat efforts are all but done.  Four of my pussyhats have gone to Washington with Tracey Erin Smith,  and Savoy Howe,  and Soulo Theatre (awesome artist Kerry Furneaux knit up another three for the Soulomobile as well).  My remaining three pussyhats will be marching locally here in Toronto.

Meanwhile, Mrs Mallard and her conga line of ducklings in Boston Public Garden have gotten in on the act and were seen to be sporting their very own pussyhats.

Stay tuned for pussy hat-themed photos of today’s events in Toronto and Washington. And to all you protest knitters out there, may your march be peaceful and meaningful.

Knitting A Pink Storm: The Beaver Pussy Hat Two Ways.

As we near the March on Washington on Jan 21, 2017, and the Toronto edition of the March on the same day, all the Pussy Hat knitters I know have revved their engines and are knitting up a pink storm.


I just completed my first beaver-themed Pussy Hat at the request of Tracey Erin Smith, Artistic Director of Soulo Theatre, who, along with Savoy Howe, is bringing an entire bus of women down to Washington.


Here is the first of two beaver designs:

I am now knitting the second beaver-themed pussy hat. Here is its design on Stitchpainter:

If anybody is interested in trying this, I would recommend adding a few plain rows of background colour between the lower beaver and the upper beaver;  just so that when the hat folds over as per the pattern, the icons will both stay below the fold on their respective sides (if you look closely at the photo below, you can see that's what I've done).

Here is how the second beaver version is looking so far (with me in the first beaver-themed pussy hat):

After the Jan 21 march, I will upload photos of the hats in action, both here and in Washington, sending a bold, knit one purl one pink message of solidarity with women all over the world.

As Requested, the Beaver Pussy Hat Design.

As requested by the great Tracey Erin Smith, Artistic Director of Soulo Theatre, who, along with Savoy Howe, is bringing an entire bus of women down to the March on Washington on Jan 21, 2017 I have designed a beaver edition of the Pussy Hat. It will be a fine companion to the Canadian flag version. By the way, that hat is finished. I sewed up the Canadian ends at Tim Horton’s (what could be more Canadian than that)…

Then I sewed up the sides while my son was doing a fitness session at the gym.

Canadian Hat final.jpg

Of course I got right to knitting the ribbing for the Beaver Pussy Hat, my 6th hat. Here is the design for the middle section, done on Stitchpainter software.

The original pussy hat pattern is available on the Pussyhat Project website. Here’s a how-to video. To make my Beaver Edition, do a knit 2, pearl 2 ribbing for 4.25 inches, then work this Beaver pattern and finish off with pearl 2, knit 2, ribbing for another 4.25 inches.

Tracey and Savoy will be sending us photos of them in their hats at the March on Washington – and hopefully photos of lots more pussy hats in the crowd. Meanwhile, I’ll see my Toronto friends at this fair city’s edition of the March on Jan 21. The meeting point is at Queen’s Park at 12 noon.

It’s Official. It’s a Pussy Hat Project Knitting Frenzy.

I am madly knitting my fifth Pussy Hat – test-driving my Canadian flag version. Loving that. I’ll post it on this blog when it’s done.

Friends are knitting their hats feverishly, too.

My good friend Gill customized her first Pussy Hat Project with flowers. Lovely.

She is knitting four in total to send with friends who will be participating in the March on Washington, Jan 21, 2017. Here is her second, with a new riff on the flower motif. Knit on, Gill!

Gill and her 2nd pussyhat.jpg

Another good friend, Janet Joy Wilson, shared this fantastic photo of herself with her first pussy hat project.

Needless to say, it turned out a little too big… she bought the ONLY two balls of fuchsia yarn left at a craft store on her way home from work – which means to me that pussy hats are being knitted up all over Toronto (bravo T.O. knitters!) – and the yarn was a bigger gauge than the pattern called for. Also, Janet knits loose, and the only needles she could find in the house were 6mm – her son was using the others! (The official pattern for the pussy hat project is here, by the way.)

Since Janet is known for riding her bike everywhere in the city, during all seasons, this hat may fit over her bike helmet… who knows. She’s busy knitting her second hat now, and has made the corrections required. Meanwhile, both hats will be featured in the Toronto edition of the March on Washington, Jan 21, 2017.

Still, I just love this photo of Janet. It is as joyful as she is, and reflects the joy we knitters are all feeling at having a simple, creative way to protest Donald Trump’s comments.   Knit on!


Yarns Untangled A Toronto Drop-Off Point in Pussy Hat Land until Jan 18, 2017

A friend asked me on Facebook where she could drop off her completed The Pussy Hat Project so it could make it to the Jan 21, 2017 protest March on Washington. I’d heard that Yarns Untangled, a yarn store in Toronto’s Kensington Market, had offered to be a drop-off point, so I reached out to them.  

Amelia at Yarns Untangled told us that their waiting list of people who want hats to wear to the Jan 21, 2017 protest March on Washington is, at this point, still longer than the hats they have available, so they'd love to receive any additional ones people are knitting up.


In order to get your hat to the store in time for Washington, please make sure it’s dropped off to the store by Jan 18, 2017, before 2pm. Yarns Untangled is located at 86 Nassau Street, and is open 7 days a week, from 11-6pm. Fyi, they're also offering a 10% discount for any pink yarn purchased to make your pussy hat.


Here’s the Pussy Hat I completed yesterday, customized in a fun, pink harlequin pattern.