Sunday, August 31, 2008

How I spent my summer vacation.

First of all: THANK YOU!!!

I am totally and completely overwhelmed. Gobsmacked.

The response to the Hibiscus for Hope pattern and the Knitters for Knockers 2008 campaign to raise funds for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer has been outstanding, beyond anything I could have predicted. Close to 400 people have donated so far this year, bringing the total funds raised to well over $7800.

(Happy dance! Do it with me!)

Together we are proving the Yarn Harlot’s observation about knitters and charity: knitters (maybe all hand-crafters) are superdonors, giving a lot or a little, but giving often, perhaps because we are uniquely aware of the power of doing one small thing over and over and over again. The total funds raised from Hibiscus for the WEBC continues to grow steadily, mostly through the cumulative effect of small contributions, reinforcing that kernel of knitter’s wisdom.

I'll repeat it here, because despite our society and mass-media's political and marketing-driven attempts to convince of our powerlessness WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Each and every one of us. Never let them make you feel impotent. Never doubt that doing even one small simple thing over and over again is a very powerful engine for change in the world as it is in a knitted project.

I am deeply moved and profoundly empowered by this whole endeavour. And what better way to celebrate than by immediately whipping up another sexy new sock pattern for some more worthwhile goodhearted fundraising!

Okay, then! I am raring to go, got my metaphorical sleeves rolled up and my creative thinking-cap on again, fiddling with the yarn and the sticks, making with the knitting and ------ Eeeek!
Insert sound of screeching car tires and scary music, followed by sudden silence here.

still silent

more silence

silence becoming uncomfortable

pause for station identification

silence beginning to wear thin now

why am I still reading this?

is she ever going to get to the point?

A funny thing happened on the way to this next new pattern I was whipping up for you. I gradually became aware that no matter how hard I tried to devote myself to this wonderful new invention, there were other rather pressing matters that kept intruding on my thoughts. I got sideswiped by a handful of converging necessary activities that required my focus and attention and, well, it made for a not-very-conducive-to-new-design mindspace.

You see, I am getting married. Today, as matter of fact! Yes, I know – you thought I was already married and technically I suppose it’s arguable.

I have been living with my best friend, dearest love, companion, confidant, and champion for 25 years now (please – don’t do the math – I was a toddler… okay, a child… adolescent… well, I was finished high school. Just.) We wanted to do something special to mark our 25th (wow - I really don't feel old enough to be having a 25th anniversary!) and we decided to “make it official”. We then decided to throw a combination anniversary-party and wedding and chose this weekend, August 31st, as the date is special for us.

It is going to be a very casual event (as fits our lifestyle) with a brief Jewish ceremony (to satisfy the yearnings of my Hebrew-school education and upbringing. I’m not very observant, but oh, baby – I just love a man in a yarmulka!).

I was actually thinking of doing a pot-luck wedding in the park, but that was getting complicated (check the municipal regulations: you can’t have a wedding in the park. WTF?) . Anyway, since the weather is crazy and unpredictable this summer, we decided to make it a small low-key party at our fave local Thai restaurant.

We are having some 45 loved ones gather to share the joy with us at our favourite little restaurant, where my beloved and I will stand under a Chuppah (borrowed from good friends and held by our families) to say the appropriate blessings in both Hebrew and in English (to fulfill the requirements of traditional Kiddushin and Nissuin and so that everyone present can follow), after which all of us will enjoy a Thai lunch buffet (in keeping with the long tradition of Jewish celebrations with Asian cuisines. Really. It's true. There are folks with a standing reservation at China House every year that goes back three generations for possibly the most important meal in Jewish culture: breaking the fast after Yom Kippur ).

Despite the casual nature of our little shindig, it took some serious planning and arranging and running around to get things (from AWOL divorce certificates - his - to clothes, flowers, cake and wine, and ceremonial props), not to mention devising a scheme for the ceremony that works for all concerned.

And then there was the juggling of families and friends. Not just the guest list, but individuals who felt this would be a really good time to vent their frustrations over their own unmet familial fantasies and their judgemental agendas regarding everything about how we choose to live our lives.

In the meantime I was also trying to unclutter my life and house, do all the prep for 4 years of overdue tax returns, and one more little thing... Let me see... What was that?... oh, yeah: training for the 60-km walk that’s coming up next weekend.

But I digress. Why am I awake and blogging in the middle of the night the day before my wedding? Well, I'll get to that soon. Please bear with me.

So..., back to the socks. I have lots of great conceptual ideas for the new socks, and combining some lovely motif-work with new construction ideas again (because I just like to learn new ways of doing things and when something is fun I like to share it). But it’s all in the trying this and trying that, with the charting, and the crunching of numbers, and the trying again another way stage. So far I have a sweet new toe inspiration which I am fairly certain will stick around. It's a lovely toe, but let's move along because there's nothing else to see yet.

In the meantime, I have repurposed the pattern for the 2007 Campanula for the Cure sock (last year’s WEBC fundraising pattern) to aid this new cause I am championing, because:

(a) I notice that a lot of folks who didn’t see it last year seem to be interested in the Campanula pattern (that’s really flattering, and it makes me want to do more and more designing for you). Though there are only some 28 (lovely) instances of Campanula socks listed on Ravelry, last year more than 175 knitters found the pattern through word of mouth and eagerly donated to get it, and many folks have faved &/or queued the Campanula socks recently as a side-effect of the Hibiscus for Hope phenomenon.

And (b) there’s a cause that I feel very strongly about and I think we can help.

The beneficiary of all proceeds from the repurposed Campanula pattern (and from the forthcoming pattern) will be the brave and beautiful Tish.

Tish is at the end of an amazing (140+ lbs!) weight-loss journey that began last summer with gastric bypass surgery.

Now she requires extensive and expensive reconstructive surgeries to tighten and trim some of the leftover bits. It's a so-called "cosmetic" cleanup of all the hanging skin and residual leftovers that are a side effect of extreme weight loss and (in my not-so-humble opinion) it is not cosmetic at all. It is totally necessary to her quality of life, but unfortunately it’s not covered by Ontario’s much vaunted health care system.

Okay, that's not strictly true. Though our provincial medical plan would pay for a crude tug-slice-&-sew version of the procedure that leaves some very unsightly scars (I’ve seen the results on other folks), they will not contribute that equivalent or any portion of the costs to getting it done properly. Nope. That would be too much like right.

(Can you tell I am just a little bit angry about this?)

Tish needs to raise an astounding $31,000 for reconstructive surgery.

(That number makes me break out in a cold sweat.)

Frankly after all her hard work, determination, self-discovery and hardship, Tish really deserves to have these procedures done well and to feel good about herself afterwards! So several friends and knitters are banding together to initiate our own fundraising venture to help defray some of the costs. We’ll be offering some Tish-inspired patterns as incentive for donations to her surgery fund.

Of course you don’t have to wait until the patterns are up. Please go over to visit Tish and read about her phenomenal journey over the last year or so. She is one of the most authentic and honest people I have ever met and she has been blogging about her remarkable experiences since last summer. Really. Go. Read. Scroll down and go back in time and read all she has posted about this entire chapter in her life. Then click and donate whatever you can to help.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From my Facebook status, updated early this week:
Ramona is trying to plan a wedding, train for a 60-km walk, unclutter her life, and do 4 years of tax returns, all in the next two weeks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Local Air Temperature: 29C = 84F
Humidex (feels like): 36C = 97F
Too. Hot. To. Knit.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

For Hibiscus Hopefuls

There seems to be a little confusion about how to get the pattern. To get your very own copy of the Hibiscus for Hope sock pattern, all you have to do is sponsor me for the 2008 Weekend to End Breast Cancer, supporting the Princess Margaret Hospital, Canada's leading centre for cancer treatment and a world leader in cancer research.

Here’s the link to my personal page at the WEBC - you should be able to sponsor me directly there. You can also go to the main site for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer, then click on Toronto, then click on Sponsor a Participant, and enter my name: Ramona Carmelly.

It will ask for your name and credit card number and other details. Please put HIBISCUS in the comments (though in the last few days I’m assuming every sponsor has come looking for the sock pattern via the grace of the Yarn Harlot and I’m sending it anyway).

The WEBC site will send me a notification that I’ve received a new donation and I follow it back to get the name and email of the donor.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Are you sitting down? Good.
Because I have a shocking confession to make:
It's my pattern, but it's not originally my design.


I was fiddling with ideas for the pattern off and on since mid-winter, but to no satisfaction. Though I unwittingly managed to reinvent any number of lovely sock patterns that are out and about these days (aaargh!), I just wasn't able to make any of my original inspirations comply with my requirements for a new pattern that would: keep the basic construction of the sock fairly simple so that sock-neophytes won’t be scared off, but hopefully introduce some new structural ideas to a few people in a simple and fun way, while letting an intriguing but still easy to accomplish lace do most of the talking so that sock-experts will want to play too.

I did give it several valiant tries, but frankly in recent months all my creative juices were flowing in musical directions, all my brain cells were otherwise occupied and in overdrive (preparing for the then-upcoming opera performances) so that all I could do competently with sticks and string was knit rounds and rounds of mindless stockinette. Even the simplest short-row toe was truly a challenge because my brain was just too full.

Meanwhile, way back in Januray I came across That Logan Chick's gorgeous Agatha shawl on Etsy, and I fell hard. I was completely enthralled. I immediately ordered the pattern (as well as a couple of her beautiful beaded shawl pins). Though unable to commit to a shawl project at the time, I was nevertheless besotted, completely under the spell of that pattern, unable to stop dreaming about it, scribbling its name lovingly in the margins of my opera scores, sketching its motif in my diary...

In late spring, as I wrestled with the umpteenth idea for my 2008 Knitters for Knockers sock, I started tinkering with ideas for using the Agatha shawl motif in a sock and couldn’t think in any other direction. After much frustration (and the near demolition of a perfectly lovely skein of Fleece Artist sock yarn from frequent ripping and reknitting and ripping and reknitting...) it occurred to me that really I was (oh, fer heaven's sake, again?!) trying to reinvent and codify something that had already been created beautifully by someone else - and I love her version of it so much that I could never be content with any poor imitation I would make.

I wisely decided to put it aside and sleep on it.

I woke up the next day and realized I'd been operating under a false assumption. I mistakenly believed that because it’s my fundraising program, I have to be the sole designer (pardon the pun) for this endeavour. Of course my ego was egging me on, whispering insidiously that I had to come up with something brilliant and beautiful like last year's pattern Campanula for the Cure and I had to do it all by myself.

Well, I'd been reading a lot of Eckhart Tolle lately. Somehow, his words of wisdom afforded me just enough detachment to see through the egoic trap of my non-existent dilemna. Aknowledging the simple yet profound error in my thinking was quite liberating! (Though I am still sheepishly succumbing to an ego-driven desire to state that I bought the book last year, before the big Oprah-induced phenomenon, but I had a few other books on the night-table ahead of it and I only got around to reading it this spring).

I promptly sat down at my computer and sent an email to Rebecca, the brilliant creator of that shawl I love so much, asking her to be my guest designer for the Knitters for Knockers 2008 campaign and I'm thrilled to report she was happy to oblige! Rebecca not only generously allowed me to borrow the motif, she pointed me to her own prototype Hibiscus sock AND graciously sent me her notes (for a size 11 sock - gulp!) and all her charts.

I must admit the road from there to a clear instructive pattern for public consumption that would allow most sock knitters to make their own was still a long and occasionally arduous one as the conceptual steps were easy to imagine but a lot harder to articulate. But now that it’s done, tested and vetted by my faithful team of experts, and revised and edited to within an inch of its life and mine, I am SO proud to reveal it to you in all its glory.

I know I am biased, but it's a beautiful sock pattern and I hope you'll love it as much as I do. If you're intrigued, please sponsor me now for the 2008 Toronto Weekend to End Breast Cancer. I'll send you the pattern as soon as I get notice of your donation. Or, better yet, go check out Knitters for Knockers, and join us for for this profoundly empowering life-altering experience.