<![CDATA[mer brebner - How To Survive The Apocalypse in STYLE]]>Sun, 12 Apr 2020 20:31:53 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[March 22nd, 2020]]>Sun, 22 Mar 2020 22:30:00 GMThttp://merbrebner.com/how-to-survive-the-apocalypse-in-style/march-22nd-2020
The original spark for How To Survive The Apocalypse in Style was based on the fact that I kept falling in love with pieces or outfits in sci-fi/post-apocalypse/adventure stories and wanting to make myself versions of many of the items or outfits in the media I was consuming. (The designers in Firefly, SG1, and Mad Max (to name just a few), I salute you!)

All the knitting patterns I will post use a limited number of knitting needles. (At present, between all the patterns, I’ve kept it six sets of needles.) Each pattern is meant to be as accessible as possible to someone who has recently learnt to knit. They won’t all be appropriate for a first project, but this project may be accessible as a second or third.
PictureThe very loved pair made for me in 2004. Classic moleskine notebook for scale.
​I love wristies! My first pair were given to me by a co-worker over fifteen years ago after I was diagnosed with, and I quote my then-rheumatologist, “the worst case of Raynauds I have ever seen.” Just what every hockey-loving Canadian wants to hear: I’m essentially allergic to the cold. As a result of this, my extremities (fingers, toes, nose and ears) are incredibly susceptible to the cold.

This posed a MAJOR problem as 21-year-old Mer worked at a very drafty rock climbing gym in a warehouse. I struggled a lot for the first few weeks until my lovely manager, Megan (I think?? It was 2004!), made me a pair of muted orange 100% wool tubes to wear on my wrists so I could maintain use of my fingers.

I still have them. I was wearing them TODAY. As you can see in the photograph, they are fraying at the wrist end as they have been washed about 936 times in the past fifteen years, but they are still my favourite pair, possibly because someone who had no obligation to made them for me. Bless you, Megan, wherever you are now!

PictureThe first pair I made. Classic moleskine for scale.
The following pattern is the first pattern I ever bothered to write down. I’m a bit of a wing-it type of person, but I wanted to be able to make myself multiple pairs of these because they are SO EASY, and they are an excellent accessory to any apocalypse wardrobe. They are a simplified version of what Megan made for me, slightly shorter with slightly heavier yarn and no embellishment (you’re free to add some of you are so inclined). If you want them longer, you can easily add about 4 inches of length, depending on how buff your arms are, before you will run into sizing issues.

​Materials:
- set of 4 double point needles 3.25 mm (US 3 / UK 10)
- set of 4 double point needles 4 mm (US 6 / UK 8)
- yarn/darning needle
- ~180 yards/165 metres of worsted weight yarn

Gauge:
- 5 stitches/inch
- row gauge isn’t crucial but should be ~6 rows to the inch.

Pattern:
  1. Cast on 30 stitches (for 6” wrist circumference, 36 st for 7”, 40 st for 8”) to 3.25mm double point needles. Join.
  2. Knit(K)2, Purl(P)2 in the round for 12 rounds, or for 2 inches.
  3. Switch to 4mm needles and stockingette stitch (all knit) and knit in the round for 42 rows or ~6 inches.
  4. K2, P2 on 3.25mm needles in the round for 4 rounds.
  5. Bind off using the tubular bind off method (allows for stretch). YouTube may be the easiest place to go to learn how to do this, however, I am fond of this book
  6. Make 2.

There are a million ways to alter and embellish this pattern and, if you are so inclined, please do so! My bottom line was that the patterns I post be accessible to newer knitters, and I hope to have provided that.

Stay warm and safe!
​~ mer

*Note: I am new to pattern-writing (for anyone except myself) and, honestly, I find a lot of fibre arts things REALLY intuitive, so if this pattern is TOO VAGUE, or REALLY CONFUSING, or flat-out WRONG, please, please, please tell me so I can correct or improve it!

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<![CDATA[Digging In]]>Fri, 20 Mar 2020 18:59:09 GMThttp://merbrebner.com/how-to-survive-the-apocalypse-in-style/digging-inMy brain likes when I dig in dirt. There are likely many scientific studies that explain this phenomenon - what hormones are released or what interactions between our human biology and micro-organisms in the dirt make me so calm and happy - but honestly I don't NEED to know. I just know that it works. And I'm not the only one for whom it works.
I spent the first nine years of my life living in an apartment.  Our 'yard' was a paved extra parking space. I remember four plants from those years: the lilac tree in the yard, cracking the pavement; the morning glories that grew by my bedroom window; the chive plant that somehow never died; and the tulips my mother planted every fall and took so much joy in every spring.

When I was nine, my parents bought a house. One of my mother's greatest joys was being able to have a Real Garden. It was lovely. She grew a lot of flowers. My sister insisted on growing a lot of tomatoes. 

I've always equated home-ownership with having a garden. A big enough yard to have a massive garden was one of our Must Haves when my sweetie and I were house-hunting. We ended up buying a place with a  50' x 60' backyard, which by city standards for a house our size -not huge- is pretty nice. We converted ~480 square feet into our main garden and discovered a 8' x 12' garden when the snow melted. (We bought our house in March. In Quebec.)
HOWEVER. You do not need a giant back yard to have a garden. You don't even need a house to have a garden: I had a few small kitchen gardens in quaint wooden crates on my balcony in Vancouver, where I lived for the bulk of my twenties.

There are a lot of things you can grow very successfully with limited space, even limited sunshine, and there are many more fun products that make this easier than it has ever been. At the end of the day, all you need is a patch of earth, sunshine, water, and a few seeds.

March 29th will be the 2-year anniversary of us taking possession of our house. There's a lot that a house needs in the first couple years, so it took us a bit to get to one of the things I have had legitimate fantasies about since I was in my early twenties: yesterday and today I celebrated the spring equinox by building my own plant nursery!
As much as buying plugs is nice (a few things are finicky and I'd rather buy them already as teenage plants), there is a strange satisfaction to starting plants from seed. It's also less expensive. (IN THE LONG RUN. The upfront costs of setting this up are a 40$ we already had, 350$ of grow lights, the 25$ plug set we already had, a 75$ heat lamp, and two scrounged up blankets. I save containers for transplanting plugs into as they grow, but if you don't have all of this to begin with... it can easily cost you 600$ or more to set up. It can cost you WAY MORE as well, if you want fancy things. We are cheap. Most of my peppers are moving into old pint containers of Haagen Dazs, my tomatoes, into large McDonalds tea cups. Waste nothing, friends.)

Above, the whole blue tray is strawberries, the bottom shelf starter tray (25$ at Vesey's, I LOVE IT) is full of four types of tomatoes and tomatillos, and the other plugs (recycled from previous garden-centre-purchased plugs) are full of peppers. I'll start all my melons and cucumbers in a few weeks, but even if you live in a warmed zone than I do - hai, Zone 4! - it's not too late to plant seeds. Most people will be able to plant seeds or seedlings in the ground already, but for us in the colder zones, we generally have to wait until mid-May. (You can direct-seed the following things in the ground even earlier, so long as you can work the soil: onions, most leafy greens, beets, turnips, peas, parsnips, and poppies, if you are so inclined.)

If you've never gardened before or have an apartment/limited space, the only thing I'd advise you AGAINST growing that many lifestyle companies seem to think is a lovely plan is tomatoes and peppers. Both are nightshades and nightshades will NOT thrive in a small pot. Each individual plant needs about 4 square feet (2' x 2').

Instead, I would suggest herbs like mint, chamomile, or basil, ​all of which can be harvested and made into tea or pesto! Strawberries are also fun, don't take much room, and the lifestyle sections of some major book retailers even have lovely little kits! (The kits for herbs are also often very good, just please avoid the tomatoes!)
I would love to give this particular Ecocube to someone out there. Legally, I cannot do a giveaway (Quebec, for those of you who aren't in the know, is weird about so many small things), but if you would like it, please leave a comment and fill out the contact form on my Home page with the word "STRAWBERRIES" in the comments field! 

I have some extra seeds and, if anyone has the capacity but not the means to leave their home, I would be THRILLED to share some of my seed stash! I have a lot of vegetables and about 100 packs of wildflowers. I will mail them to you so long as I have stamps! If you are interested, please fill out the contact for with the word "SEEDS" in the comments and what you'd most like to grown and I'll let you know if I can help make that happen.

Take care and get your hands the *right* kind of dirty! (Please wash them very thoroughly afterwards!)
​~ mer​
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<![CDATA[It's The End Of The World As We Know It...]]>Fri, 20 Mar 2020 03:50:00 GMThttp://merbrebner.com/how-to-survive-the-apocalypse-in-style/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-itLet’s get a few things straight right off the bat!

First, I don’t actually believe this is the End Times, biblical or otherwise. This is not the apocalypse. But it is scary as hell to be living in a world ravaged by an invisible threat, one that moves as easily as we breathe.
Second, even before the crisis caused by COVID-19, concern has been growing for, well, fifty years that we are living in a way that is unsustainable to the planet on the whole.
We are living in a pivotal point in history, one that will likely define humanity beyond our own lifetimes. The way the world looks in a hundred years hinges on the decisions we make today.
Third, I am going to endeavour to be as empowering as humanly possible. Knowing how to do things is the single fastest way to grow confidence and, for people like me, to decrease anxiety about living in such an uncertain world.

I’m doing this as much for myself as for anyone else.

The odd part is that I’ve had the idea for over over five years to write a non-fiction book of practical things people don’t often know how to do themselves that make them more self-sufficient or independent of powered technologies.
It began as an idea for a book of knitting patterns that could all be done on a limited number of sets of needles, but it took on a life of its own as I realized how many lost or mostly-forgotten skills would come in handy, how people who had ‘niche’ practical skills, tradespeople, and members of groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism would be some of the most useful people on the planet in the case of complete social breakdown (and a lack of grid-electricity).

Some skills are common (like gardening), some a little more niche (like making your own cheese), and some are skills I’m sure a lot more of us WISH we had than actually do (bicycle maintenance is looking mighty useful…) but they are all amazingly fun or useful skills to have.
I kept putting off working on this because it requires a lot of research to do something that research-heavy for someone as perfectionistic as me. I also kept putting it off until I felt better. Until after I wrote *that other particular* book. Until next year when I could give it the time and space it deserved. Because, as much as it was always a bit of a joke of a title, it has always been a idea I truly believe in.
And, although everyone and their cat is probably starting a blog this week, it felt like the right thing for me to do, mostly to keep my own anxiety in check while distracting myself by trying to be helpful.

Stay tuned as I delve into things that are fun to know how to do! Some, you may already know how to do. Some may be entirely new to you. Some will be dead simple for a lot of people. Some will… not. But hopefully, they will all be empowering in a time when so many of us feel powerless.
I spent today ringing in the Vernal Equinox by setting up my BRAND NEW garden nursery, planting bulbs that did not get planted last fall (whoops!), and starting all my nightshade seeds (praying that I can plant them on the May long weekend), which I’ll talk about more tomorrow!

If there is anyone out there who has a REQUEST for something I could cover, or who would like to contribute/guest-blog, etc, I would LOVELOVELOVE to collaborate or see what I can do to cover certain topics!

If we have to face an apocalypse, we might as well do it in style!
~ mer]]>