Wednesday 28 February 2007

Spring in the Air...

I think I've caught a mild case of spring fever (that pun is for Mr.S, who knows I'm terrible at puns and before whose punniness I bow down...that was a pun, right?) from the lovely Sarah, who is behind cloth.paper.string, and who was kind enough to leave me my first comment (about which I had to call the aforementioned Mr.S at work because I was soooo excited - maybe a bit blog-geeky, eh?) I find her blog soothing, somehow, and I plan to visit it often. She mentions that something-spring-on-the-periphery-feeling in her latest entry, and here, well here it's sunny and warm (above zero, anyway) and the birds are chirping.

You see that? That is the snow retreating...

All this means that today, of course, I am compelled to clean. Thoroughly. Nothing like warm air and a fresh breeze to make me stay inside chasing dust bunnies and scum dragons out the windows or into the bowels of my vacuum.

While I was vacuuming upstairs, this is what Safiya was up to:

Can I just say again how much I love her? I think I'll leave them there for a little bit...
I think today is for mentioning people who are loved, and so I'll say hello to my littlest brother (who, like most little brothers, now towers over me at 6 feet) and because I know he'll be reading this today, I say to him to check out Kerri's 100 ideas (see post below) and see where #33 and #56 take you! Have fun!

Tuesday 27 February 2007

Snow and Quilts

After-tobogganing mess in the kitchen. Maybe crunch an apple or two. And then...

Blankets are what home is. There should always be enough blankets to go around. They should be soft, worn, clean, smell nice. They should be the right size to go over toes, around shoulders, to make tents to hide in. They should be quiet, not rustley, and the right thickness to layer as needed. They can be many colours, one colour, and are best if they do not match the decor of the house. If they are some odd colour from the past, even better. Blankets are not necessarily for matching (that's just an added nice quality if they do), they are for...well,..comforting.

Although I call them blankets, the two above are really quilts. One inherited and one (the pink one) made for me by my Grandma when I was a little girl. The one one our bed right now was a wedding present from my Great-Aunt. All are handmade. The style is not pieced - it is beautifully hand-stitched. And there is ritual to quilts. When picking out fabrics for someone to quilt for you, you pick out a cotton flannel and a cotton pattern (it was nearly heresy when I asked for two small patterns on our wedding quilt). I remember my Grandma's quilting frame in her basement, and her talking about quilting with the rest on the women in her church. Being of a Mennonite background, quilting is very much part of my heritage. Even though I'm no longer involved in the church, the culture is still part of who I am, and I keep tabs of what's going on, like the annual relief sales where they auction off gorgeous quilts.

Even though I cherish my quilts and my family tradition, it was, of course, Denyse Schmidt who got me excited about quilting again. I remember an article about her in Martha Stewart way back (sorry I forget which issue, although I probably have it around here somewhere) and I thought "WOW! you can do that with quilts?" It was all new to me. That led to a trip to the library, where I took out (and subsequently purchased because it's that good) "Make Your Own Contemporary Quilts". Then I started sketching (note to self: add "try to make your first quilt" to list of WIFP (Works in Future Progress)). It's all been part of my unravelling/ravelling creative journey...and then I stumbled upon craft blogland and Dioramarama, she of the quilt and fabric brilliance.

The two above however, are in a sorry state. The binding is coming apart, the batting is falling out, and I'd like to fix them. It's a good place to start, no? Unfortunately, I think if I try to fix them reverently, they'll just end up looking mangled, so I'm going to try to be a little bit more creative than that.

To the sewing machine!

On Not Being Someone Else

I have to say something about Amanda at SouleMama.

It's her two year blog anniversary. This is someone who I do not know (which is not just an oddity of the blogasphere - think of all the writers on paper who you don't know), but who has generously shared though her blog. Shared her love of craft, her family, and a genuine appreciation for the world around her. There is something about the ease of her writing, a rhythm to what she says that very often resonates with me for the rest of the day. Amanda manages to inspire in such a way that my reaction isn't "oh, I wish I could be her", it's "I wonder what will happen to me if I make my own path..." She is who she is, and so lets you be.

At our house, we enjoy a little book of poetry by Arnold Adoff called "Black is brown is tan", and my favourite lines are:

"this is the way it is for us
this is the way we are"

Unapologetic, just living.

Thanks Amanda.

Sunday 25 February 2007

Done on Time

The following little project was a birthday gift that got to its owner today:

It's made from pieces from two felted sweaters (it's reversible!): the black was merino that felted beautifully - so soft, and a lovely cable-knit:

Someone's little hand (she liked the feel of it too - she kept trying to hide with it :-)

Finally, I got up the courage to use my new machine. It's been sitting, waiting. Sometimes the way I procrastinate is to think that things will be so much better under the perfect circumstances, as in, "I'll break out the new machine when the basement gets finished, then I'll really get going". Silly, I know. But I'm learning that creativity doesn't have to come after utility, and for this present I really wanted to make something, so I...just...did it. The new machine is a Janome JS 1004 and it wasn't expensive, but it's new and it's sturdy and the sewing foot can be lifted up extra-high (something I need when working with felt). And it was great, like a sharp knife on butter, whereas my old machine? trying to smear the butter on the bread with your forehead. Sheesh.

The photo yesterday? Just a reminder when I'm slogging through things like cleaning out the fridge of why it's worth the extra time and effort making our own meals. It's o.k., I'm just a little weird.

Saturday 24 February 2007

Listening to Jefferson Airplane and Cleaning the Fridge

Way back when my husband, Mr. S, brought home a Jefferson Airplane CD, I said "Jefferson Airplane?...."

Oh, yes, Jefferson Airplane. And cleaning out the fridge. And dreaming about my new sewing machine, which I tried out today...and maybe a little bit of Sufjan Stevens later on. It's a good day.

Friday 23 February 2007

In Which Everyone Gets a Colour of Their Own

Last night, during that inbetween time after dinner and before bed, while Safiya and her Babo (that's Dad in her other language) were playing "going to the tea-store" and "going to the hot chocolate store",

I made this little guy:

A little while back, Safiya noted that her baby microbe (who is actually a pimple: propionibacterium acnes) was in need of a Babo. In her world, there is heavy emphasis on completion of the family these days, and while she is aware that there is a wonderful variety of families out there, to her two-year mind, if there's a baby, there'd better darn well be a Mama close by and yes, a Babo too would be nice. Her Mama microbe (ear ache: s. pneumoniae) was a gift, and one day we saw another of its kind in a store which she promptly declared was the baby. The baby is a beloved stuffed...animal?...and they both hail from this line of toys (genius idea). And, trying to stay in the crafty (and frugal) spirit, I thought..."how hard can it be?" Well, now we have the whole family (though the Babo's looking a little rough around the edges):

Why does the Mama have a blue elastic around its neck? Simple. She's a Mama and so she's blue. Everyone in Safiya Land is assigned a colour. She (and any other baby) is pink (obviously), I'm blue, Babo is green, her Granny is yellow (my Mom has blonde hair), and so on...the interesting thing is that now she remembers a lot more people than colours, so there has been some sharing of colours, some learning of new color names (maybe Auntie Mel can be fuchsia?), and some demotion (if you go from a primary or secondary to a tertiary colour you've been demoted).

Stuffed animals don't usually get me all warm and cuddly - I've always been more of a book and blanket kind of person (of course, that changes when you have a child and you consider building an addition so that the stuffed animals and dolls can live in the comfort that they deserve), but Hillary at Wee Wonderfuls makes probably the most charming stuffed dolls and animals (her picture, not mine):

and she is a generous crafter: there is a toy make-a-long, and free patterns - I highly recommend going and having a look. I also like Florence's Flying Star Toys, and if you're looking for a fair trade doll, check out Nova Natural for Waldorf style dolls (Martha has her own version).

The Babo microbe was immediately accepted with delight, and the first thing Safiya said was "But Mama, he has a pink mouth. He doesn't need a pink mouth, he needs a green mouth!"


Thursday 22 February 2007

Yesterday's Post

Yesterday's post is in photo format. I took the first of Kerri's 100 ideas, and instead of actually picking up things on my walk, I took photos of my walk from our house to the grocery store (gorgeous day!). Just a mundane, everyday kind of thing, but I was wondering what it might look like through a lens. I tried to take pictures without thinking about it too much, just focus on what I was drawn to and click. Probably every amateur photographer/artist has done this kind of thing, but I don't care...I've never done it before. Maybe next time I'll be more adventurous and take pictures of every person I meet on the way, but I'm not that bold...yet.
It took a while to figure out how to put it all together, and in the end I opted for a collage template from my HP editor-thingy, as it was all taking a great deal of time! I don't have any great insights into this mini-project, however. The beginning process I enjoyed, but editing photos is something at which I am not adept, and for which I do not have the proper programs, I suspect. So there was a certain element of frustration which I didn't anticipate. Maybe frustration and creative process is something worth exploring. Is it useful? Is it something that you can train out of yourself? I suppose it arises out of impatience and feeling pressed for time....ah there's that time thing again.

Tuesday 20 February 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Today wasn't a crafting day. It was a phone people, figure out why the dryer isn't working, pick chocolate muffin off the floor, laugh with Safiya, explain that some animals eat other animals (don't ask), smell the fresh air (it was +6 degrees today!) kind of day. Throughout the day I was itching to get to my knitting, but that's the nice thing about knitting - it's patient.

Underneath it all was that bubbling, thinking, twitchy finger feeling. And then the wonderfulness of Kerri Smith came across my screen. I'm not a paper crafts kind of person (although I love wrapping presents), and painting downright frightens me (what if I get it wrong? isn't that a strange thought?), but one of the points of this experiment is to push me beyond comfort into that other place. The universe has been prodding me toward collage as well, which again, is foreign to me. However, one of my favourite words is palimpsest and so, and idea:

And, as a before bedtime present, here is Kerri's 100 ideas - sweet dreams!

Monday 19 February 2007


What was that I said about achievement? Here's an update on the knitting:

That's a pattern in there, that is. I can even do it while keeping an eye on the little one. I am so proud of myself. I wonder what would happen if I felted it?

Sunday 18 February 2007

What is Time to Us?

My husband's "art"

The shower is my thinking spot. If it weren't so very environmentally evil, I could stand in the shower all day, just thinking. I have this image of emerging, my head all swollen with thoughts and the rest of me shrunk like a prune. This morning, while contemplating the "Things I'd Like to Get Done Today" list, I remembered a recent visit to my parents, where I had use of a car. We are carless here, and I like it that way, but goodness, I got a lot of stuff done in those couple of days.

Oh, all the things I could get done....Then I thought - would I stop? Would I use the extra time to do nothing, to relax, to craft? Of course not. I'd just keep doing stuff, crossing things off my list. The thing is, there is no end to The List, so I think I'll just stick to long walks to the the corner grocery store, a subway ride to the bookstore, and bus rides to the park. I'm not made for zipping...

Reflecting on the above, it sounds too easy, too glib. The time thing has always been a struggle for me, a struggle to slow down, to not get caught up with the flow. The "slow life movement" vibe is something to which I aspire, not something that I've achieved. And part of it, I think, is valuing the process rather than the achievement. The idea of Achievement is getting much less glossy as time goes on, less desirable, even though it's something that concerned me very much when I was younger. Maybe by letting it go I'm able to actually do things and enjoy them now...

Saturday 17 February 2007

That Felt Thing

I have a thing about felt. Real wool, soft, juicy felt. When it was revealed to me that if you shrink wool sweaters on purpose you get this amazing non-ravelling glorious material of substance, I fell in fabric love hook, line, and sinker. Not that it hasn't been rocky sometimes. There have been wrinkles that...just...won't...come...out! 100% merino that turns out a verrry strange texture (why did it do that? why?) And stripes in patterned pieces that end up all bunchy. But it's worth it, every mistake, every odd result, just for the thrill (yes, I said thrill - I need to get out more) of the transformative power of my washing machine, of wondering what I'm going to end up with. That being said, I remember someone mentioning just felting a piece of the sweater first, just to see how it turns out. Now, I've never done this before - I'm more of a all-my-eggs-in-one-basket-turn-it-into-an-omelette-if-it-doesn't-work kind of gal. Here's what happened with those sweaters from Friday:

I did do a test run. Which was instructional, but not nearly as fun. The bottom of each colour pair is the unfelted arm (sorry, the light was crappy today, and yes, those are my chapped fingers in the picture) and the top of each is the felted one, which was two rounds in the washer (HOT water, normal cycle, laundry detergent, plus three tennis balls for friction) and then hung to dry. I have put sweaters in the dryer before as well, which helps get a denser felt, but then you have to be careful about creasing.

The green is 100% lambswool and the blue is 50% lambswool, 40% angora, and 10% nylon. Warnings ring far and wide about dismal results if you try to felt anything with nylon in it, and I am loathe to include synthetic fibres in my stuff, but the colour was sooo pretty. So I tried it, and the nylon didn't seem to affect the process at all (that still doesn't mean I like you, nylon).

There are many good tutorials for felting sweaters out there, and there are many ways to obtain felt; you can needlefelt from carded wool (which I've never tried) or just buy it (also never tried). For inspiration, there are these true felt mistresses: Fieltromania and Betz White.

The two best pointers I've received are: if you're going to felt multiple sweaters in a batch, put each one in a separate pillowcase (I do that even if I'm only running one sweater because if you don't, at the end of the cycle it looks as if a cat had met its untimely demise in your washer....) and never try to felt "washable" wool (this one I ignored and served me right - it didn't felt, just turned this awful fuzzy, worn too much, left under a large animal somewhere texture)

The knitting? Let's just say I'm using it to show my toddler that when something doesn't work the first time, we try again. "Remember when Mama couldn't figure out the knitting and she started over again? Seven times? That's what we do when we don't get it...we just try again. grrrrr."

Friday 16 February 2007

My Inner Granny

(The sky today)

Whip-up (oh how I love whip-up!) has a great entry today about respecting our inner Granny, something I wholeheartedly agree with. I am fortunate enough to still have both my Grandmothers around. My Grammy, who is 73, plays games and cleans (her floor has always been clean enough to eat on, I'm in awe of this, really). From her I learned to be tolerant and the value of unconditional hugs. My Grandma, who is 91 (and still lives in her own apartment!) knits and reads. From her I learned that life isn't about the quick and short-term, it's about the things that last. I also fairly recently learned that she has a wicked sense of humour.

They are both religious women whose lives have always revolved around family and church. This means that I grew up surrounded my baking, canning, cleaning, cooking, gardening, being frugal, and doing most everything by hand. (Sewing is my Mom's love and domain, so I'll save that for later.) In the past, I have made of point of stopping by (not as often as I should, as any Grandmother will say about their grandchildren....sigh) and watching, learning what they do. Part of it is laziness - I can read instructions, but it's just sooooo much easier watching a master, especially if they're also good at teaching. But really there are nuances and tricks that don't translate easily onto paper. I learned a lot about knitting tension from just the one session with my Grandma, and since I'm not really a knitter, but I do love the of my works in progress:

A work in progress that is actually a Christmas present to my Mom (from two Christmases ago!). She brought back some wool from a trip to New Zealand and said "I want you to knit something for me". It was a good tactic. I'll felt the sweaters and add an edging from this book (one of only two knitting books I have - that I have to change). I say "add an edging" as if I merrily knit away the evenings in front of the t.v. I've never done many of the instructions for this particular pattern, so there will be swearing involved (sorry Grammy and Grandma!) It's something that I'd like to finish before it gets too warm around here, and so I'm going to go work on it right now, before Safiya wakes up from her nap, and so this post ends :-)

Thursday 15 February 2007

Connecting the Dots (in which there are italics)

"That's what you should blog about" said my husband last night after eating some homemade cornbread. So, how do you take an appealing picture of cornbread when artificial light is all that's available? You don't. Here's the empty pan.....

(The recipe I found by googling for vegan cornbread recipes - it was very scrumptious)

What's this blog really going to be about? (Besides the occasional side-dish about food because, well, I looove food.) I'm really good at ideas, it's the doing that sometimes catches me up. There's a stash of fabric and thrifted wool in my basement (patiently waiting a finished space to call its own, but that's another story), a new sewing machine as-yet-untried, an assortment of projects half-underway in various spots around our little lovely house, and a list of things promised and not finished. This space is my space (mine - all mine! mwah ha ha) for exploring creativity in-between taking care of a toddler, running a household (I say with authority - ha! ask my other about that one), and maybe, just maybe, starting a little enterprise of my own...we'll see...

A sample of little things of which I'm proud:

Birthday Beanbags

Tea Cozy
(felted wool lining)

Recycled Wool Sweater Blanket
(machine pieced, cotton twill backing, hand knotted for extra strength)
(with my daughter jumping on it - doubly proud of her)

I see others around me in this craft blog world (I think it all started for me with an innocent google-walk that ended with Amy at Angry Chicken and it's just spiralled from there) and they're so inspiring, so various in their voices, and just a lot of fun to read - they've made it look like fun, so I thought I'd try it out. (A good friend said "just do it as an experiment - that way there is absolutely no failure".) I like the sound of that.

Note to self: Add projects to be done, add list of lovely blogs....

If you're reading this, please be patient, I'm new to this, so the site will metamorphose in an erratic way, I'm sure - enjoy!

Wednesday 14 February 2007

Post Number One

There are many things that I daughter and husband being a big love, and then there are the smaller loves. The anticipation of chocolate, small kindnesses from friends that cheer a day, the full-blown sad-movie cry that you can't stop no matter how ridiculous your brain says it is, the sound of cicadas in the trees on those skirt-stuck-to-the-back-of-your-legs days in the middle of August (remember those?) Wrapping my fingers around a warm mug of something...anything!...on a day as cold as it is today. Making things. And the smell of roses, always the smell of roses.

That's my Valentine for today.