Happy Earth Day

US politician Gaylord Nelson, who is said to be the father of the modern environmental movement, organized the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Conceived to make Earth’s human inhabitants more aware of how they treat their global home, Nelson’s vision has grown into a yearly grassroots ritual for millions of people around the globe. Every April, on the spring equinox, we come together to plant trees, pitch-in to clean up rivers and streams, and gather at awareness-raising events.

While it’s true that the eco-health of our world is still very much in peril and climate change is an issue that is on everybody’s minds, I, ever the optimist, like to think that in the 4 decades of observing Earth Day we have gotten a little better in our roles as the caretakers of this planet. Sure, we have a long way to go, but in honour of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day I would like to celebrate the small strides that we have made in the time since its inception.

Going Green starts at home and it seems that we are rising to the challenge by lowering our energy consumption. According to government studies in Canada, residential energy consumption has actually dropped since 2004. From better insulation and windows, to more-efficient appliances, there are literally dozens of ways that you can cut your energy usage around the house. The easiest, though, is as simple as flicking a switch and turning off the lights when you leave a room. To make switching-off more fun, swap-out your boring light switch plates with something a little more exciting; like this one (above) by the sassy Miss Andee. Visit the Dandee shop for a dizzying number of designs, or to order your custom plate.

You don’t have to go any further than the supermarket checkout to see the impact that the green movement has had. In an effort to cut down on excessive plastic-bag usage, many retailers have begun to charge for plastic bags; while some have stopped offering them entirely. Consumers, it seems, have risen to the challenge. In a recent online survey by furniture giant IKEA, 96% of respondents claim to own at least one reusable bag. (Hey, remaining 4% – get with the program!) Of course, as you and I both know, one can never have too many reusable shopping bags. Add to your collection with a beautiful bag like these; made from unbleached organic cotton and printed with eco-friendly inks (above) by Earth to Gert. Using it (or others like it) will help cut down on the estimated 5 billion plastic bags that will be discarded by next year’s Earth Day.

In 1997, an international treaty calling for the significant reduction of the release of ozone-depleting chemicals into the atmosphere was signed. Ratified by 194 countries, the Montreal Protocol is thought of as one of the most successful environmental agreements to date. In 2007, twenty years after the signing of the treaty, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environment Canada both noted some early indications that the ozone layer was beginning to recover. And, there’s even more good news; according to the experts, clear signs of recovery should be expected in the next 7 – 10 years. The lovely “Ozone” earrings, pictured above, are available in the Lolley’s shop. They are Leslie’s tribute to the atmosphere and a fitting one at that, with copper-coloured Swarovski “O”s hanging from hand-hammered, oxidized silver ear-wires.

So, whether you’ll be taking part in the community clean-up in Norway House, Manitoba, or creating driftwood sculptures on California’s Stinson Beach, I hope that you have a fun and fulfilling Earth Day. I hope, too, that you will take a moment to re-commit yourself to doing your part for the planet. We have a long way to go, but look how far we’ve already come! If the task seems too daunting, just remember –

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
– Gerhard Zeiler

To find an Earth Day event in your neighbourhood, visit earthday.org (USA) or earthday.ca (Canada). Or, if you know of any great local events, we would love to hear them, too! Please leave a comment and fill us in on all of the details.

  • Handknit Hugs
  • Rainbow Crochet Toasties
  • Spring Organization: Workspaces
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  • A pincushion for every day
  • Crescent Maille
  • Win a lovely felt necklace
  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders

The apocalypse and the end of times

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Baggelboy: Artist and illustrator. At the moment I live in Cambridge a small medieval city on the edge of the world. Originally from London I came here to study illustration and found the medieval life suited me.

The linocut pictures I make come from a mixture of the fun side of our darker life and the fairy tales that Grandma used to tell us. They are firmly rooted in the tradition of Medieval woodcuts and early book printing but with a little twist in the tail. Some of these pictures will become book illustrations and others are workings for larger prints and posters.

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  • Handknit Hugs
  • Rainbow Crochet Toasties
  • Spring Organization: Workspaces
  • Twirly Fabulous Upcycled Sweater Skirts
  • A pincushion for every day
  • Crescent Maille
  • Win a lovely felt necklace
  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders

DC's Local Yarn Store

Stitch DC's front room

Washington DC is the nation’s capitol, the center of government, and headquarters for dozens of international organizations, but it many ways it is really just a small town. So small, in fact, that it only has one yarn store. That haven for local urban knitters is Stitch DC, owned and operated by Marie Connolly on Capitol Hill.

I remember my first visit to Stitch DC, not long after it had opened. I was strolling along 8th Street SE, what the guide books like to call “Barracks Row” (because the Marine Barracks are at the corner of 8th and I streets), while a friend of mine was browsing the bike shop down the street.

chunky hand dyed yarn

Back then, I wasn’t any more of a knitter or crocheter than I am now, but I was nevertheless enthralled with the store. Upon walking in, I was greeted by cheerful and enthusiastic staff and customers, and was immediately surrounded by beautiful fiber in bright colors and enticing textures. When I visited the store just last week, I was happy to find that none of that had changed. If anything, there were even more pretty things to look at. In addition to the lovely variety of yarns for knitting and crocheting, Stitch DC now also carries a small collection of colorful quilting cottons!

quilting cotton

As I consider myself a much better sewer than knitter, this was excellent news for me. However, just because I’m not good at knitting doesn’t mean I don’t love to look at beautiful yarn, and pine after all the samples of pretty knitted things. Stitch DC offers a wide range of knitting and crocheting classes for all skill levels, and there are samples from the class projects all over the store. Samples that are so pretty you want to buy them right off the shelf! Since Marie started offering fabric in December in 2009, she’s started to offer sewing classes as well.

sample projects

The birth of Stitch DC is a story about serendipity. Back in 2004, Marie was inspired to pick up knitting again in order to make her three-year-old daughter a sweater. Although Marie had learned to knit as a little girl, being pregnant and taking care of a newborn didn’t leave much time or energy for crafting. The hiatus ended when Marie saw some knitted baby sweaters at the mall that were cute, but not nearly cute enough for her daughter. Marie knew she could make one that was even better.

mohair

At the time, Marie and her husband were real estate brokers, but Marie was ready to try something different. One day, while she was was contemplating the renewal of her love affair with knitting, Marie received a panicky call from the owner of a property on Capitol Hill. Did Marie, by chance, know of anyone in search of retail space? Just in case she needed another sign from the universe to start a yarn store, it also turns out that 2004 was Marie’s seventh wedding anniversary. When a friend pointed out that the traditional gift for a seventh anniversary is wool, well, the deal was sealed.

purple and green roving

Stitch DC has been operating on Capitol Hill since June of 2004, offering a wide assortment of yarns in natural fibers, as well as tools, books, patterns, and classes. Marie has a number of free patterns posted on the Stitch DC blog, and is also the author of her own book of knitting patterns for growing families, called The Expectant Knitter. She also writes patterns for various knitting publications, including Interweave Knits, and is working on two more pattern books.

customer seating

Customers are always welcome to hang out and knit or crochet with the staff. Stitch DC is open seven days a week, and extra late on Wednesdays (731 8th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003).

  • Handknit Hugs
  • Rainbow Crochet Toasties
  • Spring Organization: Workspaces
  • Twirly Fabulous Upcycled Sweater Skirts
  • A pincushion for every day
  • Crescent Maille
  • Win a lovely felt necklace
  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders

A Moveable Feast

“Summer Picnic” fine art print by Photo Atelier.

It never fails – as soon as we hit the open highway, I’m hungry. It could have something (or everything) to do with the countless convenience stores, drive-ins, and diners at every exit; not to mention the billboards that line the roadside, enticing people to take the next exit for a meal or a quick snack. These little fast-food diversions don’t come without a cost, however. They are both expensive AND usually rather environmentally un-friendly. A little pre-planning is all that it takes to stay green and healthy away from home.

Bulk up! – stop at your favourite bulk foods store for dried fruits, nuts, and organic snacks, and then repackage them at home in reusable containers and bags, like the lined ones pictured above, by Bells and Unicorns. (Tip: set out several bowls of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, candy and pretzels and let everyone create their own trail mix. Colour-code or label bags for easy identification on the road.)

It’s a wrap! – we are all sandwich artists at heart. Wraps, sandwiches, and subs can be made at home for a fraction of what you’ll pay on the road. Get creative with fillings and condiments, and be sure to pack high-moisture ingredients (like cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce) in separate containers to keep them from sogging up your bread. When choosing reusable sandwich bags, be sure to pick ones that are generously sized, like these (above) by http://www.etsy.com/shop/bellsandunicorns, to allow for healthy, hearty breads and fillings.

Keep your cool! – perishables, drinks, and fruit can be kept fresh in a cooler even on the hottest of days. Make your own ice packs by freezing recyclable tetra-packs of juice or by filling zipper-bags with crushed ice, which you can refill with fresh ice at stops along the way. And don’t let me catch you buying bottled water! Steel bottles, like the ones above by Pretty n Preppy, can be refilled over and over and keep your water fresh and cool. Eco-savvy coffee drinkers never leave home without their trusty travel mugs. Not only do they cut down on litter, they’ll usually save you a few cents per refill, too. Caffeine-heads and fabric-holics alike will love these colourful travel mugs (above), also by Pretty n Preppy.

…and if you do have to stop for snacks, instead of loading up on sketchy pre-wrapped sandwiches, chips and candy at the gas station, seek out roadside fruit/vegetable stands, local grocery stores, bakeries, and farmer’s markets (if you are lucky to be traveling on market days). Some of the best meals I have had on the road have consisted of fresh-off-the-vine fruit, local artisan cheeses, and freshly baked breads purchased right from the people who picked/made them. Be prepared by making sure you have cutlery included with your picnic essentials*. The handy Urban Picnic Roll-up, pictured above, by Nstar Studio includes two three-piece utensil sets & two napkins. The utensils are made from durable, sustainable bamboo and can be simply hand washed and air dried after use.

Lastly, take the time to stop and enjoy your meals and snacks. Pre-plan your stops or keep an eye out for picnic spots and parks along the way. Not only is it a chance to stretch your legs and let the kids run off some energy, it’s often the little stops along the way that make for the best memories. Pack an oversized vintage quilt for the whole family, or give everyone their own place to cop a squat. These organic travel blankets by Crzy Bag Lady can function as mini-picnic pads, change mats, stroller blankets and sleep-mats. Compact in size, but super-comfy, they’re ideal travel companions for the green family-on-the-go.

*Packable picnic essentials: blanket and/or tablecloth, reusable plates/bowls/cups, reusable cutlery, salt & pepper, bottle opener, can opener, cloth napkins, sharp knife, cutting board, bags for collecting garbage/recyclables (when containers are not available on-site), small container of dish-soap for clean-ups.

I would love to hear about your summer road trip adventures. Comment below and share your stories and advice!

  • Handknit Hugs
  • Rainbow Crochet Toasties
  • Spring Organization: Workspaces
  • Twirly Fabulous Upcycled Sweater Skirts
  • A pincushion for every day
  • Crescent Maille
  • Win a lovely felt necklace
  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders