Friday, December 31, 2010

Avalon (poem) by Leanne Dyck

A golden ray kisses
The cheek of an angel

An angel whispers to a mourning dove
"Awake my child and sing"

A morning dove's song
Awakens a fair maiden

A fair maiden employes
Her skein and needles to knit

A day begins on Avalon

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bloody Words by Lou Allin

Bloody Words is Canada's oldest and largest mystery conference. This year for the first time it will be held in British Columbia's capital city of Victoria on June 3-5 though the Arthur Ellis Awards for Canada's best crime writing will be presented on the 2nd at the same venue. Guests of honour include BC's own William Deverell, Michael Slade, and international bestseller Tess Gerritsen. 
The Hotel Grand Pacific, on the scenic Inner Harbour, has been named Canada's finest hotel by Conde Nast. Agents will be on hand for interviews, there will be a short story contest, and applicants may submit thirty pages of their work for critiques. In addition to a reception and award presentation to Deverell, Michael Slade will present his celebrated Shock Theatre, followed by a ghost walk in search of old Victoria's specters such as the elusive Amor de Cosmos. Panel discussions (literary, publishing, and forensic) will cap the programs, and a banquet Saturday night is included in the cost of the registration at $190. 

June is the City of Gardens' most spectacular time of year. With its colonial, low-rise downtown, many fine Victoria reminiscent of many European cities. Visit North America's oldest China Town, have tea on the veranda at the Empress Hotel overlooking the harbor where high tea has been served for over 100 years, see the fabulous First Nations exhibits at the Royal BC Museum, or stroll through the gardens and beaches of Beacon Hill Park, all within easy walking distance of our hotel. Or take a day trip to nearby, world-famous Butchart Gardens, Glendale Gardens, or Abkhazi Garden. Downtown is a shopping mecca, but Johnson St. is where you'll find Victoria's homegrown boutique industry and of course, there are restaurants too numerous to mention serving local fare from our coastal waters. Saving the best for last, whales abound in the waters around the capital and you have a good chance of seeing greys or even orcas on the trips that leave many times daily from the inner harbour. Only in Victoria do new whale calves make the front page.

Come and see for yourself.

A pictorical tour of Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, BC

If you're like me and love museums, you'll enjoy today's post. I've had the good fortunate to visit Castle Loma in Toronto and Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario. I was young and impressionable when I tour those castles and the visit seeded in me a passion for the past. So, you can understand, my delight in discovering Craigdarroch Castle.
I invite you to explore it with me.
As we enter the main floor hall, we see this stunning mantle piece--dressed for the season.

In the library, we read by candlelight.

We climb the stairs to the second level.

Climbing the stairs to the next level, we look up and see...

The upper level houses the ballroom.

My husband admires the instruments.

The bathroom with side-by-side tub and toilet.
Servant quarters.
A model of the castle.
Besides being a castle and a museum, it has also been a school of music and a hospital.
I hope I get to visit this magnificent again very soon.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Spark (short story) by Leanne Dyck

My mom was my knitting guru--up until her last stitch. 

A Spark

It was Mom who lit the fire. She kindled the flames. She kept it lit.

When I was seven--or maybe eight or...--I spent hours knotting string. I produced knotted rope after knotted rope. 

That Christmas I found a knitting kit under the tree. The kit contained a large round neon green plastic knitting loom, bright acrylic yarn and a short wooden needle. I learned quickly how to coil the yarn around a peg and use the needle to make a stitch.

I began knitting on Christmas day and didn't stop until a peg broke maybe a week or two later. In that brief period of time, I knit several tube scarves.  My favourite was green with green and white pom-poms on each end. 

When the peg broke, I thought my knitting fun was over but Mom knew it had just begun. 

"I think you're ready to learn how to knit with straight needles," she told me and, because of our sometimes-abrasive relationship, she added, "I know Grandma will enjoy teaching you."

My grandma was a skilled artisan, having won many fair ribbons for her crafts. She was an experienced instructor, having successfully taught all four of her daughters to knit. She'd even taught Aunty Lil--who is left handed.

My respect for my grandma meant that I would have to control myself. No matter how frustrating knitting became I couldn't toss the needles. I knew my grandma wanted me to persevere, how could I disappoint her?

Once I had a grasp of the basics, Mom guided me into a knitting class. The class was given through the local 4-H. My 4-H leader introduced me to my favourite stitch pattern--seed stitch.

During first day of 4-H, I was proud to show my leader all I knew about knitting. She couldn't stop watching my needles. I thought she was impressed, but then she said, "I've never seen anyone knit like that."

Embarrassed, I said, "My grandma taught me, but I can learn your way."

"Your grandma...?" We lived in a small community, maybe she knew my grandma. She definitely knew of her successes at the fair. "No, I think you should continue knitting like that. It's part of your family's culture. We'll address any problems when we come to them."

I'm grateful for her flexible attitude and I know my grandma was as well.

When I grew too old for 4-H, my mom was still there to lend a hand. Fortunately, our tension was so similar that we could easily work on the same project.

"Who's knitting that anyway?" My brothers teased.

"Leanne is," Mom was quick to say, "I'm just helping her with a tricky bite."

No knitting challenge was too difficult, no pattern too tricky, no yarn 'unknittable'. She was my knitting guru.

Years passed and I moved away. Alone, my knitting was not nearly as smooth. My needles wavered. Yarn twisted, tangled, and was tossed. My eyes burned as I peered at patterns.

Life as knitting became difficult when word came that Mom was losing her battle with cancer. I hurried from British Columbia to Manitoba to be by her side.

I have never experienced anything more difficult than watching cancer eat away at Mom. Piece by piece it devoured her. There in her palliative care room, I turned to an old friend for comfort--I turned to knitting. I selected a skein of yarn and began to make a yarn ball.

"You still enjoy knitting?" Mom asked and we exchanged a smile.

Our bond of love and yarn was and would continue to be unbreakable. Even after... 

She struggled to push herself into a sitting position and I helped her. She reached for the yarn and I gave it to her. One wrap, two wraps and...  

"You'll have to go it on your own, honey." She passed the yarn to me.

I revised this short story on January 15, 2020 (10:52 AM)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Reporting from the Yule Log

Thank you for dropping by my blogging this rainy Christmas eve.
Please have a sit in a comfy chair by the fire while I make my yearly report from the Yule Log.
Each Christmas arrives with a message.
That message this year was...
I'm surrounded by abundance. My mission to share it--whether that be a smile, a helping hand, or from a donation of time.
Tonight is a special time on Mayne Island. We gather around the communal Christmas tree with others to spread good cheer. The apple cider is free and the carols flow. So don't be shy belt out Jingle Bells--no one minds. In fact, we encourage it.

Next Post: A Spark (creative non-fiction)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Fiancee's Sweater (short story) by Leanne Dyck

My fiancee knew I only knit scarves. And yet, when I asked, "What do you want for Christmas?" 

He replied, "A curling sweater hand-knit by you."

I'll show him I thought. I'll knit that sweater--with Mom's help. 

As Christmas quickly approached, the sweater reached completion. Then we discovered our shortage of yarn. 

No problem, I thought. I'll buy more. I bought more yarn and brought it home. 

"Did you match the dye lot?" Mom asked. 

"Match the what?" 

"The dye lot. It's a number listed on the yarn band. You match the numbers to ensure no unwanted colour stripes. Here bring me the bands and I'll show you the number." 

"I don't have them."

"What do you mean? Where are they?" 

"I threw them out." 

"Oh, Leanne." She said disappointedly, then quickly added. "No trouble. I think these skeins match closely enough." 

Sadly, Mom was wrong. 

It's a beautifully knit sweater--love in every stitch. My husband still wears it. (Well, actually, I've stolen the sweater. I wear it on cold days when I need a hug from Mom and my husband.) However, he has been given clear instructions. NOT OUTSIDE THE HOUSE. 

Lesson learned: match the dye lot number

Twenty years later, a rare photo of my husband and the sweater. Poor guy, early this morning, I sprung on him saying, "Here, put this on. I want to take a picture." Then I blinded him with the flash. He's definitely on Santa's nice list.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Knitting for Charities by Leanne Dyck

When selecting knitting charities, don't forget to look in your own backyard. Ask yourself (and others), what groups or individuals would benefit from my stitches?

Others to ask:
your friends, coworkers, family members
public health nurses
your local governmental officials
Ask those working at:
local hospitals, doctor offices
local nursing homes, daycare centres
police stations, victim assistance programs
places of worship, food distribution centres

It has been my experience that once word spreads that you are knitting for charities inexpensive or free yarn becomes easily accessible.
If you are having trouble locating yarn, recruit your local yarn shop, thrift shop or post an advertisement in your local paper.

When selecting yarn for charity knitting, it is important to bear in mind durability and ease of care.

This year I was able to find two groups who were looking for knitted items. I gave toques and wristers to a group that was distributing knitting to the homeless. I gave baby hats, sweaters, baby blankets, finger puppets as well as a large bag of yarn to a group who was knitting for a children's hospital. Next year I hope to continue this tradition. It's fun and it makes me feel so good.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mother, May I (poem) by Leanne Dyck

A short poem celebrating the continuity and power of girls and women.

Mother, May I

Mother Mary
Mother Goddess
Mother Gaia
Mother, may you

Create me, hold me, transform me
From child to virgin to crone

Blessed Mother
Mother Creator
Mother Nutrition
Mother, may I

Create, hold, transform
From child to virgin to crone

The divine love
The power of three

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Click, click, click (short story) by Leanne Dyck

The Agricultural Society Hall on Mayne Island is full--with art on the walls and people in chairs and, at the back of the hall, on benches. It's a night of entertainment--music and author readings.

Knitters in handknitted garments sit in the front row. Carrying a small wooden box, I walk to the front of the hall. The knitters pull out their knitting needles and balls of yarn. I face the audience and pluck the box on the floor. Needles click. I pull a piece of paper out of a pocket, step onto the box and begin to read... 


Time was we were safe. Sure there was an underground movement, but they were unorganized and weak. The movement attracted only the socially undesirable. We could sleep at night knowing that our loved ones were safe.
Click, click, click
Those days are gone.
Click, click, click
Listen do you hear it? They are becoming stronger.
Click, click, click
They are becoming organized
Click, click, click
Young-old, male-female, no one is safe.
Click, click, click
How can we stop this madness?
Click, click, click
We must boycott certain stores
Click, click, click
We must protest certain meetings
Click, click, click
We must burn certain publications
Click, click, click
We must ban certain websites
Click, click, click
We must ostracize those associated with the movement. It is the only way.
Click, click, click
Guard your loved ones
Click, click, click
Keep them safe
Click, click, click
We must be aware
Click, click, click
We must be alert
Click, click, click
Don't let the knitters win!

The knitters stand collectively and charge toward me. I retreated as they sing.

The weather outside is delightful
But, my dear, you're rather frightful
As long as we love it so
Let us knit, let us knit, let us knit

The operetta was short, but oh so sweet. It's one of my favourite knitting group memories.

Rewritten on February 26, 2021

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How A Lifetime Is Measured (poem) by Leanne Dyck

This poem celebrates knitting and elderly knitters.

How A Lifetime Is Measured

Her pace is slow
She shuffles across the floor
Hand-knit slippers dust the boards with every slide
Snug in her armchair she savours yesteryear 
as she would homemade cherry pie

Sit a spell
witness her transformation
Her aged hands reach for her wands
Two metal sticks to conjure
Yarn dances merrily
 it is under her spell
Shapeshifting to your amazement

She knits away the years
Memories loop together 

She recalls, herself, a soon-to-be mother
 knitting a layette in sunshine yellow
Dreams of her baby dancing merrily 
keeping time with the clicks of the needles

And still further back 
Her betrothed, Johnnie--straight and tall 
marched off to war
as she knit in khaki green 
a prayer for his safety in each stitch
 lover letters tucked into the parcels she sent

And she recalls 
as if it were yesterday
sitting at her grandmother's knee
taking the offered needles
knitting her first stitch

Needles, skeins, stitches--her life is measured in these

Revised:  June 3, 2021, I've been working on this poem for ten years. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Favourite Sweater short story by Kathleen Ann Gallagher

Kathleen Ann Gallagher writes: I have always loved sweaters. I don't particularly like winter, but I do like the warmth and comfort a sweater brings. I needed to find a Christmas gift for my mother in-law Mary, who was always cold, and sat daily in her recliner crocheting slipper socks. She handed them out to the entire neighborhood and anyone else she met. She kept a box of multi colored hand made socks by her door. When visitors left she would advice them to take a new pair. She never took no for an answer, so I have a set in every color.

I decided to try a specialty shop in town that carries vintage items along with antiques, candle, Christmas ornaments, and hand-crafted assorted gifts. You can spend an afternoon sifting through the eclectic mix of goodies. I spotted a gorgeous pink sweater that had tiny specks of white weaved into a lovely detailed pattern. It had a pretty pin with purple stones in front to hold it closed. It felt soft and cuddly and I thought it would suit her perfectly.

On Christmas Eve she opened the box and held the sweater up to her face. I don't want this story to sound sad in any way, but I knew this might be her last Christmas. She was in her late eighties and in failing health. She continued to crochet the slipper socks wearing the pink sweater through the winter. My mother in-law peacefully passed away in April.

The day came to clean out her house, which is never easy. We spent an entire day filled with memories some sad, most joyous. I found the sweater lying across the back of her chair. I smiled when I saw it. I took the sweater home with me and I feel a warm embrace whenever I wear it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How-to form a knitting (writing) group by Leanne Dyck

My friends and fellow critique group members
Amber Harvey and Susan Snider 
in the Agricultural Society Hall on Mayne Island
during the Christmas Craft Fair

I am the co-rejuvenating partner of the Mayne Island writers' group. Starting that group was so easy.

I was at a house party and made a casual comment to a friend. I said, "I'd like to start a writers' group." Well, one thing led to another a few short weeks later the Mayne Island writers' group was formed.

I'm the founding member of the Knit Witts of Mayne Island. Starting that group was more challenging.


Well, I was new to the island and the knitting group was the first group I formed.

Taking the initiative to establish the group was a good experience for me, I learned a lot and would like to share some tips with you.

Group Dynamics

While planning the first meeting, consider what type of members you like to attract. If you wish to attract retirees schedule your meetings for the daytime. If you want the 9-5ers, schedule your meeting in the evening.


-The venue should reflect the tone of the group. If you want to party all night long, why not meet in a bar. If you're a little tamer, meet in a cafe, library, or yarn shop.
-Ensure that your location is easily accessible by public transportation.
-Consult with the owner of the venue before choosing it. Make sure that they are happy to have your group meet in their facility.
-At least initially, I would advise meeting in a public location.


I posted a note in my local newspaper. You may also wish to make posters and distribute handbills.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Within a Curse by Terrill Welch

Terrill Welch and I are members of the Mayne Island writer's group. She was one of the first people to read The Sweater Curse. Her skilled eye and thoughtful words helped me shape my thriller. I am grateful for her constant support.

Note: The photo and photography featured in this post were created by Terrill Welch.

Terrill writes: Leanne Dyck's soon-to-be-published thriller The Sweater Curse twists and turns as it knits a fine yarn for an artist's creativity. Her new work has me asking a few questions. What is an artist's community? How do we know if we are part of one? What is a curse? What might be a blessing within a curse? Where do we find our choice, our point of action be it a curse or a blessing?

I was blessed and cursed with a large amount of creative energy. This has influenced my life in all its aspects but particularly as an artist and photographer. Both these creative endeavours are often solitary. Yet, inspiration comes from community and from discussion with peers. This is what I call my artists community. Sometimes it has been a physical community. These days it is most often an online virtual community of facebook, twitter and blogging colleagues. These are the neighborhoods where my work is first introduced to the public. These are places where my work is supported, gently critiqued and lovely admired.

I know I am part of an artists community because other creative beings come by, visit and engage in meaningful conversations about creativity. I know I am part of an artists community when I am shown the work of other artists and asked for my thoughts. These are rich places for me. Places I grow and thrive.

To be cursed with an artists vision is to know that much remain unresolved, unfinished and in need of expression. The desire to express, to create is a must. The blessings come when we can create in a manner that fulfills that desire. A painting where I can capture the inner spirit of the scene or a photographer where I find something new in the ordinary. These are blessings because for a short while I am at peace. At least unitl the next moment presents itself for expression.

Too often a blessing or a curse feels like something we have no control over, something that happens to us rather than because of us. The Sweater Curse takes this situation to the very edge, where we lose our sense of personal power and ability to decide our behaviour. I won't tell you anymore. A thriller is too easy to spoil in the telling. As an artist I must create and express my feelings, ideas and thoughts--to not would be to be only half living. The action and choice on how I create is my point of personal power and insight. May you create with the abundance of your full creative power and be blessed with an artist community of your own.

Leanne, thank you for inviting me into your creative community. I am honoured. May your readers be inspired to buy your soon-to-be published thriller The Sweater Curse.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Art or craft by Leanne Dyck

The Salt Spring Arts Council produces an informative newsletter. Flipping through an old issue, I found this article penned by Gary Cherneff.

Craft is about skill and technology and as such we judge it rather objectively because standards are often codified and do not contain those tricky artsy terms such as meaning or symbolism etc. which is why it is easier to understand. Art is about knowing what you want to say and being successful at saying it. We judge it subjectively. It is harder to understand because we have to think for ourselves about meaning etc. and have to spend time learning the language of art. Both art and craft take an extraordinary commitment to do well.

-Gary Cherneff

In 2006 I wrote

If you create or find your own fibre, pattern, needles and, or use them in an unconventional way you are clearly an artist. Another way to determine if something is art or craft is to ask the question why? Why are you knitting this item? Is it to serve a purpose? If you knit a sweater because you are cold. You are a crafter. On the other hand, if you are making a profound statement by knitting the item then clearly you are an artist. 

A search engine yielded this website:
Interesting, if only for the pictures.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How do you differentiate between art and craft? by Leanne Dyck

-How do you define art?
-How do you define craft?
-In your eyes, does one have more value than the other?
-How does society view art?
-How does society view craft?
-Is there art in craft, craft in art? If not, why not? Please explain.

Craft: I grew up in rural Manitoba. There, crafters surrounded me. In my grandma's home braided rugs lay at the front door and a crocheted afghan covered the sofa. My aunts sewed their children's clothes. My mom knit mittens, scarves and sweaters. When I was old enough I joined 4-H and was schooled in handicrafts.

Art: As a child, I never saw adults painting pictures or modeling with clay. These were activities for children in kindergarten.
In 1999 I moved to an island off Canada's west coast. Here, visual artists, musicians and wordsmiths fill my life. In the beginning I revered them. Now I'm among the artists' rank. I eat, I breathe, I write. Still, I continue to wrestle with art, with craft.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Knitting Groups (guilds, circles) by Leanne Dyck

Knitting groups are important not only because they ensure the survival of our craft and give much to our communities, but also because of what they give to individual members. Groups help members through life crisis, celebrate life rewards, and help to develop hidden talents.

Knitting guilds
To become a guild member you must complete a registration form and pay a registration fee. Once membership is acquired dues become payable annually. In the guild, formal meetings are held regularly and presided over by a president.

Guilds usually have an educational component. During this education your knitting skills are judged and you must perform to a set level of competency. Upon successful completion of this education you gain the status of Master Knitter. Participation in these educational programs is voluntary.

Guilds exist mainly in urban areas. Rural knitters may become affiliate members. Active participation in a guild for most rural knitters is sadly impossible.

A brief history
In the seventeenth century, knitting guilds were the mainly male domain of professional knitters. To join, you had to embark in seven years of study the collimation of which was a demonstrated prowess in the craft. Work was subject to strict regulations as a form of quality control. As a member of the guild, you belonged to a family who would care for you when you were in need and discipline you when you stepped out of line.

Knitting circles
Knitting circle is a term coined to describe any knitting group that is not a guild. Membership is free or not necessary. Socializing, not educating, is the focus. The environment in which participants meet is created and maintained by the facilitator. Any knitter anywhere can form a knitting circle. Simply find a place to meet and ask your knitting friends to join you there.

What are the origins of the meeting circle?
King Arthur and his knights of the round table are legendary. The round table was chosen to ensure that all knights were equal--all voices heard.

Historians speculate that the round table was adopted from the biblical last supper. During the last supper Jesus and his apostles feasted from a round table. Yet, the meeting circle is even older than this biblical reference. It dates back to the nature spiritualists.

Nature spiritualists revered females as the giver of life. Mother Goddess was the creator of all. They didn't dominate but sought to live in harmony with Mother Goddess' creations. From the harvesting of plants, they learned of the never-ending circle of life. They formed a sacred circle to celebrate Mother Goddess and to pass on knowledge of her.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Free knitting pattern: hood designed by Leanne Dyck

A toque can give you hat head, but Guna won't. 

This knitting pattern uses the 3-needle bind-off technique.

Yarn: one skein of worsted weight yarn
Needles: one set 4.50 mm (US 7, UK 7)
two double-point needles
Stitch pattern
seed stitch (over an even number of stitches)
Row 1: knit one, purl one--to end of row.
Row 2: purl one, knit one--to end of row.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern.

Stockinette stitch
Row 1: knit
Row 2: purl
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern.

Cast on 90 stitches

Establish pattern as follows: work in Stockinette stitch for 10 stitches, seed stitch for 70 stitches, Stockinette stitch for 10 stitches for a total of 90 stitches.
Work in established pattern for 10.5 inches (26.5 cm)
Fold in half, width-wise
Cast off using the three-needle bind off technique, weave in ends.

Make two I-cords
Using two double-pointed, cast on 8 stitches and work for 10 inches (25.5 cm) or desired length. Use a darning needle to collect stitches and secure. Attach I-cord to hood.

Every attempt has been made to ensure that the instructions are clear and correct. Please notify me of any errors so I may correct the pattern immediately. ldyck(c)2/8/2008

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Whacked out Knitting (short story)

"I found this in the charity box. Don't you want it?" A middle-aged woman asked her teenage son. She held a sweater.

That thing she wants to know if I want that thing? Andy wondered. She needs to get her eyes checked. Why would anyone want that weird thing? The sleeves are too long, the body's too short, the turtleneck's too wide and the colour...I'll go blind. "That, ah, no, I don't want that."

"Do you remember who knit it for you?"

"Great Aunt Margaret," they said together.

Great Aunt Margaret had appeared on the scene mere weeks after dear old Dad flew the coop, Andy recalled. Appeared like a tornado appears on the prairies--you can see it coming, but there's nothing you can do about it. "She was a strange old bird."


"Come on you can't deny she was a little off. That sweater is proof. And you--"


"You made me wear it."

"It made her happy."

"Yeah, too happy."

"What do you mean?"

"I think she knit them on purpose. I think it was all of her master plan," he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

They burst out laughing.