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You may have heard reports of dramatic goings on downtown yesterday. First, a broken water main at the corner of Argyle and Prince Streets flooded the basements of neighbouring businesses and paved adjascent streets with ice and debris. Then, a fire broke out in a historic building on South Street.  Dozens of  firefighters worked for much of the day to contain and extiguish the blaze.

On my way to The Loop today, I dropped in on Sydney Hansen at The Jade W.  This lovely bookshop was at the epicentre of yesterday’s flood: the sheared-off hydrant that started it all was  at the store’s doorstep. Happily–miraculously, even!–flooding at the Jade W was minimal, and limited to the basement.  Sydney was happy to inform me that the situation at the Jade’s sister store, John W.  Doull, down the hill on Barrington, was similarly good.

City crews did a remarkable job of restoring the intersection to working order, and both The Jade and John Doull are open for business.

Meanwhile, on South Street, there were no casualties reported, but a number of residents have lost their homes. The three affected restaurants–The Taj Mahal, Cafe Chianti, and Tomasino’s, will remain closed until further notice, while they assess damage and undertake repairs .  Kudos to the staff of the Westin Nova Scotian for the support they offered to evacuees and emergency responders throughout the crisis.


hbc cowichanThis week saw the launch of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s line of Olympic-themed sportswear in honour of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. But one garment in the collection–a Cowichan-style sweater (pictured above)–has attracted criticism. Coast Salish elders have called into question HBC’s decision to contract the manufacture of the sweaters to a non-Cowichan company. Cowichan Tribes chief Lydia Hwitsum claims that the traditional Cowichan design (like the one pictured below) is the intellectual property of her people.

Traditional Cowichan sweater

The discussion brings up interesting questions about who “owns” traditional designs, and how handmade things are used as cultural symbols.

You can read more about the Cowichan sweater tradition here, and here. There is also an NFB documentary on the subject, called “The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters”. Interested in questions of intellectual property and clothing, check out intellectual property lawyer Susan Scafidi’s excellent blog, Counterfeit Chic.

spider silk shawl

Not long ago, I read about the seemingly lost art of spinning gossamer–yarn plied from spider silk–in Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s wonderful book, “The Intentional Spinner”. Then, the other day, Brady Muller, chef at our neighbour Ciboulette Café, sent me a link to an article in the New York Times about an astonishing textile currently on display at New York’s Museum of Natural History: an 11-foot cloth woven from the silk of the golden orb spider of Madagascar. This is a contemporary textile, the brainchild of a British textile historian and an American fashion designer. It is breathtakingly beautiful, strong and priceless. What an inspiration to spinners–or should I say, aspiring spiders!

flax fibres

A Harvard-led team of archeologists and paleobiologists examining microscopic soil samples from a cave site in the Republic of Georgia believe they have found the oldest textile fibres recorded. The tiny twisted flax fibres are thought to date back more than 34,000 years. Now that’s old yarn stash! Read more about the find here. Those prehistoric yarnies were onto something–linen (Louet’s Euroflax lace and sport) is a favourite of ours, too.

louet sport champagne

jazz window moon

Every year, organizers of the Atlantic Jazz Festival invite local retailers to decorate their windows in celebration of the event. The request came to us around the time of our WorldWide Knit in Public scavenger challenge, so I immediately thought it would be fun to make our display both a tribute to jazz and a skill-testing game!

Morgan and I have created a felt and fibre vignette that depicts the titles of classic jazz songs. There are ten titles so far (there are elements of four in the detail photo above!), but we’ll be adding a few more over the coming days.

Drop by and see how many you can find! Don’t know much about classic jazz? Here’s a great resource that may help you: .

This year’s NSCAD Wearable Art Show is scheduled to take place next Wednesday evening on Granville Square.  The square will be transformed into a canopied gallery and performance venue. The show promises to be a fabulous and fascinating evening of avant-garde fashion and art. Tickets are $15 in advance (available at Venus Envy or on the NSCAD art supply store). Proceeds from the event will go to the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia and to the Wearable Art Scholarship Fund. See you there!

This morning’s Chronicle Herald comes the announcement that the Maritime Fall Fair will no longer include livestock events and homemaking competitions.  Citing a lack of public interest in the agricultural and artisanal competitions (including the knitting category won by Richard Stilwell last year), the organizers want to develop the retail craft component of the fair instead.

Aren’t agricultural fairs meant in part to provide an opportunity for farmers and artisans to promote their skills and educate the public? If these events are not attracting the public, then maybe the organizers aren’t doing enough them! Am I right in thinking that it is completely backwards to be cancelling these components of the fair at a time when interest in local agricultural poducts and self-sufficiency is on the rise?

We would happily host a homemaking salon des refuses here at The Loop!

If your home has  a backyard or even a balcony, you may already offer feeders or baths to your avian neighbours, but have you ever thought of offering them yarn or fibre? Birds can use short scraps of yarn and small tufts of fluff in building their nests.  Cut yarn into 10 to 20 cm lengths and put them into suet cages. It’s like a homebuilding centre for birds! Find out what other materials make good nests in  the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s excellent guide to attracting birds.

It may yet be chilly, but the days are a little longer, the sun a little stronger, and most of winter’s ice and snow have melted away.

Spring is a great season for knitting: a new hat or fine-gauge mittens or gloves to go with your new spring coat; lacy scarves and wraps to give your mood a lift; new socks to celebrate the end of boot season; bright colours to tide you over until the blooms arrive. I’ve found a few patterns in this spirit:

  • Classic Elite’s adorable Daisy Chapeau [links to PDF], knit in supersoft Minnow Merino–a perfect union of easter bonnet and tuque.
  • Also from Classic Elite, either the simple Interlude Lace Stole and more challenging Floral Fantasy Shawl would be beautiful made in Silky Alpaca Lace. Just use a smaller needle (3.5mm, perhaps), and add a couple of repeats.
  • Berroco’s very easy Fascinate scarf, worked in a dropped-stitch pattern, would make a beautiful spring accessory scarf  in shimmery Seduce.
  • Morgan’s chic and springy be-bobbled Lady Parker beret–a new addition to our free patterns page–is quick to chrochet in worsted weight yarn.

I often listen to the American radio network NPR online. Last week, during an interview on the news quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me with a woman who knits sweaters for featherless chickens, comedian Mo Rocca took a swipe at homemade sweaters, calling them “itchy”.

American knitters swiped right back, and this week, Rocca apologized for his use of “the i-word”. You can hear both the original clip and Rocca’s retraction on the WWDTM site.

While the slight did net him an offer of a soft handmade sweater from some Ravelry members, Rocca’s troubles are unlikely to end there. His apology makes some pretty uneducated references to alpaca!

Cathy is merriment
Mimi is starlings
Morgan is pomoboho
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