Saturday, 23 February 2008

Positively Giddy

I went to bed at midnight last night. Why? Because Becky came over for a visit, and so she is indirectly the reason of the insane-late-nightness. I say indirectly for as much as I could have probably kept talking until midnight (oh, so sweet adult conversation), Safiya was delirious at having a new person to gambol around, and would not even consider going to sleep until Becky was safely on her way. At which point Safiya promptly fell asleep, mid-late-night-bowl-of-oatmeal-snack mouthful. sigh.

So, indirectly, then. Becky brought with her goodies in the form of a garbage-bag full of scraps, part of a stash that she had recently come by. Read again. A garbage-bag full. I traded her for some of my wonky yarn and a little fabric, but I still think I got the better end of the deal. So it was sitting down there in my craft I go down? If I do, I won't come back up again for a I, don't I?

Of course I did.

Alexander Henry, Moda, Kaufmann...fabrics a thrift-store-second-hand gal like me can only dream of (and I do :-) Mr. S. found me down there again this morning:

"What is all that?"

me: holding it up in my hands like treasure: "fabric!"

"Yeah, but it's just scraps, what can you do with scraps?"

me: eyebrows raised at this insult to the fabric gods, at which Mr. S. beats a hasty retreat....

What can I do with scraps? HA! And to top it all off, I'm attending Becky's hyperbolic crochet class at The Knit Cafe tomorrow, and immediately after there is a fabric swap at The Workroom....

What a glorious weekend...

p.s. Becky's great to have over....she finds her own sugar for tea, stirs oatmeal upon request, and spins a good yarn...good stuff.

It's All Her Fault, or, Happy Birthday Mom...

In trying to find pictures for this post, I realised that most of the pictures of my mother are now composed like this:

Which really doesn't do her justice, as she is a beautiful woman, and I'll have to start taking pictures of her just for her sake and not as person-most-attached-to-Safiya. But I can show you a bit of her handiwork (there's a little more here), and that reveals a lot about her.

The overalls on the right are a pair that she made for Safiya (notice the gingham lining), and on the left are the pair she made for me when I was a kid and that have since survived a round with Safiya as well. I remember the sound of her sewing machine for as long as I can remember. Apparently she started with dolls' clothes when she was five, made her first suit when she was in grade eight, and when she got married, made my Dad's suits, her coats, and all of our clothes. She watched "Sewing with Nancy" and another show with an older European lady whose name eludes me, but I always thought that she could have had her own show.

They didn't have a lot of money, my parents. When a child, I must have asked for a Care Bear, because she sewed me one for my birthday. We went looking for ski jackets for a school trip and envied this spectacular jacket; the shell had a pieced sunburst pattern all across the front and back and along one of the arms (c'mon, it was the eighties :-). I remember her fingering it, looking at the lining and stating, "I can make this." And she did. And it was better than the store one. I didn't get my first store-bought dress until my high-school graduation. Although when I was a teenager, there were disadvantages to this; somehow the necklines were never as low as what we had agreed to during the fitting...

She was and is a meticulous seamstress out of love for it, but was a frugal sewer out of necessity. Sales at Fabricland were cause for celebration and always had an air of festivity to them. I remember getting lost in the bolts, in that new-fabric smell. The sparkle in her eyes when the new season of fabrics came in. And her hands, weighing notions, considering them, like fine jewels at a bazaar.

I remember the sound of her scissors on the dining room table as she cut out patterns, and I understand her concentration now. She rocked us to sleep with the sound of her sewing machine. We used to get mad when it interfered with the t.v. "Just one more seam!" we would hear from the other room....

My Mom is still very young, but she's had early-onset macular degeneration for a while now, which means that the centre of her vision is blurry. She still sews, but not as furiously as she once did. There's a lot that she's passed on to me that came in the disguise of sewing; that quality is important because it lasts and so brings more pleasure, that time put in equals the quality of the product at the end, that good materials make good, that clever shortcuts are worth their weight in gold but the most valuable ones are the ones you figure out for yourself, practice really does make perfect, and that someone will look at how your seams are finished....

I can't do her justice, and there's so much more, but I'll leave it at:

Happy Birthday, Mom....I love you.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The Little Things

Many times at the end of a day, there is a story or an idea or a project to share that's been percolating in my brain all day, and it comes out, practically fully-formed. It would be a good habit, I think, in the quiet of the night to go back over the day, kind of like when you came home from school and a parent would say "so, what did you learn today?"

Today. A good day. Safiya-chatter at breakfast, a trip to Value Village where we did not overspend time, valiantly trying to get her new bicycle home in the bundle-buggy on the ice after said trip, she feeding her dragons snippets of felt as I worked, the rhythm of the shears and the resistance of the felt, the smell of Vicks in steaming water as Mr. S. tries to dispel a head-cold in its vapours, discovering that I like to bake bread in the evening instead of the morning, and discovering that eating dark chocolate with homemade gingerale that is warm because the ginger tea hasn't cooled down enough is the best combination ever.

Little moments that catch you laughing, because it's always when you least expect it:

Well, it's not math or geography, but it'll do...

Friday, 15 February 2008

Seven Things

Eek! I've been tagged by the cool cat Becky of Sweetie Pie Press. And in honour of her bravery at posting a picture from childhood at the top of her seven things, I've dug out the above (not quite sure that's proper grammar...). So here are seven things, random but perhaps not so weird...and speaking of childhood:

1. never saw shapes in clouds or had an imaginary friend or believed in fairies (yes, i know they're dropping dead all over the place now - quick! ring some bells or something - clap your hands!...)

2. was enamoured of Christopher Plummer when I was a girl, due entirely to The Sound of Music...

3. can recite, at length (and, if you ask Mr. S. ad nauseum), my favourite childhood movie: The Princess Bride

4. i still have paper from a titration experiment in highschool, which i kept because i liked the colours. which tells you about my attitude towards chemistry... and colours :-)

5. have Gordon Korman's autograph

6. double-jointed, i think these days they can it hyperflexion, but whatever, it let me win that bend-back-eachothers-fingers-until-someone-says-uncle game...

7. i still have my wisdom teeth - um, not in my a box...

And now I tag:, if you've been kind enough to leave a comment here in the past couple of months and you are new-ish :-) to me, and I haven't tagged you before, you are:








1. link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

p.s. of course i believe in fairies now...
p.p.s. my Mom made that dress. it has smocking! i have so very far to go....

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Just a Note to Say...

thank you.

It's been a year :: three hundred and sixty-five days :: just over twelve lunar cycles :: one hundred and seventy-five posts since the beginning. Thank you for stepping into this stream every once in a while. If you've been here since I started, thanks for keeping up. If we've just met, thanks for taking that little bit out of your day to wave hi from the other side. All of the thoughtful encouragements and comments over this year have been invaluable to me and greatly appreciated. If we haven't met yet...I can't wait! ;-)

So here starts another year. The things I love haven't changed much since I took a look around last February, and for most things the feeling has rooted deeper, more secure. Hopefully those roots are going to bring up some strong sweet water...I'm excited to see what leafs out over the next year....



Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Snow and Light

Outside and in...

Slow afternoons playing by the tub, melting giant icicles with drops of water...

Anatomy of a Sweater

Remember these piles that showed up a couple of weeks ago? Well...

Can I talk some more about felted sweaters? It is almost Valentine's Day, and I do love them so... :-) From this wonderful stuff you can make blankets, legwarmers, armwarmers, scarves, mittens, oven mitts (particularly good as wool is not very flammable), the lining for tea cozies, clothes for children, stuffed animals, pillows, and the list goes on!

As a textile, it comes with it's own peculiarities when you're using it, since of course it has had a previous life. Since I'm into recycling and closing the loop, I was trying to find ideas on how to use an entire sweater with nothing leftover! So, already accounting for using the arms and body as fabric, here goes....

Take one felted sweater. Let's pretend is has a hood, pockets, a front zipper, and buttons, just to make life complicated.

buttons: (easy...I mean, c'mon, they're buttons...)

the label: mine get cut up for the snippets bin, but if I were more ambitious and oh - way more talented, I could try something like the incredible quilt by by Terese Agnew called "Portrait of a Textile Worker".

zippers: very cool jewelry by Kate Cusak

pockets: cut out to make a pocket purse, keep for cool surprise pockets in blankets, add to other clothing (I'm thinking of adding them to a spring coat for Safiya), use for legwarmers...

hood: why mess with it? :-)

And then we come to the seams. The peculiarity with felted sweaters is the seams. Usually I cut out the seams, as they are too bulky to use for most projects. And so, for over at least a year, I've been accumulating this mountain of seams, waiting....and waiting.....Until one day the light went on, I sewed the ends of all of them together and ta-da!

It makes an awesome kind of yarn. I've started crocheting a rug:

However, I think I need a bigger hook! I worked in the round so that the differences in thickness wouldn't matter so much. This stuff works up fast, and is soooo thick and cozy - it's going to feel fantastic under the toes. Even better, it will be a wool rug that's also washable, since it's already shrunk! What's cool is that while I was working on this, Betz White had another great idea of what to do with the seams...

The only thing leftover that I can't figure out what to do with are the used sewing machine needles from all the sewing! I think they look pretty in a small glass jar by the sewing machine, but I'll bet someone has thought of what to do with them.....the craft universe, after all, is a very creative place!

got any ideas?

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Mon Petit Chou....

There are basic ways to make food: soup, fry, bake, salad, wrap-it-up....and cabbage is good at all of it. It keeps forever, it can be sweet and hearty or fresh and crisp. So when there's a dearth of fresh greens in the middle of February, we turn to a little slaw to brighten a meal up!

Seedy Slaw (adapted from one of those Company's Coming books...)

4 tsp sugar
6 tsp water

6 tsp oil

6 tsp vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

pinch ground mustard

celery seed to taste (we use about 3/4 tsp)

Mix up, pour over grated cabbage - done! This is particularly good with some walnut oil and plain vinegar or canola oil and rice vinegar.

In passing I mentioned something to Mr. S. about making our own sauerkraut - ha! The look on his face was not encouraging....apparently Nana used to make that at her house when he was a child and the smell.....

A girl can dream though, right? :-)

Friday, 8 February 2008

Ten Minute Mittens!

Welcome! If you have wandered over here via whip up, I'm glad you dropped by! The good folks over there have been so kind as to post a tutorial I wrote for some super-quickie mittens dreamed up in a hurry one day last fall.

And as you can see, we still need mittens over here in Toronto!


Marnie's Marvellous 10-Minute Mittens

(Note: This was posted on Whip-up and so I'm just releasing the original version now, as per their submission guidelines.)

It's still pretty cold out here. I had this idea in the fall, and it has served us well over the winter so far. Being fundamentally a lazy person whose knitting is marginal but loves felt and likes to keep her hands toasty, this is the best and fastest way for me to whip up a pair of mittens.
  • Find a felted sweater (or create one). The ones that are the best for mittens probably started their lives as big mens' sweaters. What you're looking for is a wrist cuff that fits comfortably and snug around your wrist after it has been felted. Put your hand in the wrong way in to see that it fits and that there's enough wiggle room for your fingers. I'm using a felted alpaca sweater (sooooo soft!). Also very important: find a helper to complete important tasks such as measuring the fabric and other random objects in the house.
  • Place your hand on the sweater and trace around just the top with some tailor's chalk. This way the sides of the mittens will already be done because you are using the existing seam and side.

  • Cut out, about 1/2" from your trace line.
  • Using a straight stitch and loose tension (and a walking foot if you've got one), make a seam, following just on the outside of your trace line.

  • Turn the mitten inside out and test for comfort. You can see that I made an adjustment for around my thumb. Also, I've used white thread here for clarity, but you'll probably want to match the thread.

  • Trim. No need to finish the edge! Make sure to round out the thumb to avoid pointy-thumb :-)

  • Turn inside out and ta-da!

  • Embellish, if you wish. If you don't, the whole project will probably take you all of ten minutes!

It's also useful to make one pair that is really soft for a liner and make a slightly larger pair out of more dense wool felt for the outside. Then they're extra warm even on a windy day and they dry faster after outside fun.

They're also perfect for drinking hot chocolate whilst contemplating the still very much dormant garden :-)

Thursday, 7 February 2008

A Little Late Night Awesomeness...

because I love the subway...courtesy of vintage Sesame Street:

The lyrics rock! This would never make it on a kids' show today:

"You could lose your purse
Or you might lose something worse
On the subway.....SUBWAY!"


Things That Make Me Happy on My Birthday...

the feeling of satisfaction:

having finished some items for the shop just in time for Valentine's....


overnight snow that renders the washing line a frozen artery across the yard:

bringing with it the anticipation of some good exercise...


at this moment wearing the birthday necklace that Safiya made for me, in whispers last night in the living room with Mr. S. while I worked in the basement:


calls from my dear friend Tim and my grandparents, singing me their versions of "Happy Birthday" (one in French, the other in two-part harmony).....

bodes well for a birthday day, don't you think? :-)

Monday, 4 February 2008

Warm Hearts, Warm Heads

As a parent, part of your brain (o.k. all of it most of the time) is on "child alert", and you will be in dire straits if you do not pay attention! If any of us spent as much time with any other human being as with our children, we would get to know them pretty well, yes? And yet sometimes we miss the cues.

Because of course the wriggle in this is that the person we spend all this time with is only just learning how to effectively express their needs in words. They've got it down pat in other ways; body language, wordless verbal skills, intonation ;-) but unfortunately as adults we sometimes are dismissive of these methods because we think we've outgrown them. So, it's a good thing we spend as much time with our children as we do to give us the opportunity to become attuned to their peculiar ways of communicating, because "Mama, it is late in the morning and I'm feeling a little hungry and while mildly interesting, I will soon lose patience with your insistence on looking at wool when in fact we should be procuring some food for nourishment" with not be forthcoming any time soon.

Usually I don't even get a "Mama, I'm hungry" as a warning :-)

And so in such a situation I found myself a while back in the cozy store Americo on Queen Street West. On an errand, I had detoured to this wonderful place at a time when any other sensible person would have been finding lunch. The wool had beckoned like a siren and my ears became deaf to all else.

The moral of the story is that there are some really wonderful people in the world. As soon as we stepped in, the two ladies (the co-owner Nicole and her son-in-law's sister, I think?) were attentive and warm, especially to Safiya. Lost in wonderland, I failed to (maybe a little willfully) realise that we really should have left already. The lady offered Safiya some lovely felted flowers, at which generosity Safiya became very upset because there were no pink ones!


Chagrined, we left, a three-and-a-half-year-old's cries in the air, me upset at Safiya's reaction, but really more upset at myself for not paying attention! as well as I could have. To make matters worse, I'm embarrassed to admit I started chastising Safiya right in front of the store, until, trying to help, the lady came out and I snapped-to, realised what I was doing, and humbly went in search of lunch. We sat down to our food, calmed down, talked about it, and....went back to the store.

Because of course, in the middle of everything, the generous and brilliant lady (whose name eludes me) had made the suggestion that we come back some time and she could show us how to make the flowers, and we could dye them pink at home. She is someone who was born gracious, and I could've kissed her feet then and there. Tummies full, we sat with the other ladies who were there for knitting in the afternoon, crocheted, chatted a little, and that experience soon filled our hearts, its sunshine obliterating the clouds from earlier in the day.

Yesterday, finishing up a soon-to-be-listed hood for the shop, I came across the flowers and the skein of hand-spun wool that we brought from that place and decided to use them, bringing to what I was making the kindness and warmth of that memory.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Take Me With You

Doesn't our bench look cozy? It is a still day out, the silence only occasionally broken by large sheets of snow sliding off the roof - ker-thump! - to the ground.

Yesterday we went sledding. It was perfect - no wind, not too cold, lots of snow, and no sun to blind us on the way down. Today Safiya and Mr. S went again. On the way out I heard Safiya excitedly say to her favourite toy, who is a red stretchy plastic dragon named "Draggy" who has been dragged with her everywhere but apparently has never been sledding:

"Draggy, do you want to go out and see the world, Draggy?"

Oh, to be taken on that journey....

Friday, 1 February 2008


Sarah left a nice comment about the pillow in our living room a while ago (the one with the red tree embroidery above). Which was lovely, and served as a reminder that there is a dearth of pillows around here (really just an excuse to make something :-). It is surprising to me that for people who like comfort (and who doesn't?) we had exactly two pillows in our living room (and both bought from Ikea ages ago). That is just wrong.

Having made some buckwheat hull pillows for ourselves, I snagged one of the extra pillows from the bedroom, cut it down (kudos to self for doing that outdoors - although it looked like I'd sacrificed a chicken in the front yard - good thing it snowed and covered it all up!) and recovered it in appropriate living room attire.

The back is a recycled sweater, the front a happy amalgamation of a thrifted tablecloth and pillowcase, an old pair of my cords, and one of Mr. S's shirts :-).

The ball was rolling, so I decided to try making my own pillow to cover. Beside the sewing machine is a container into which I throw all my snippets of fabric, thread, etc. (no old needles!). After a couple of months there is quite the stash, so I tried stuffing a pillow:

This is quite possibly the hardest and lumpiest pillow ever. I will have to cover it in something extremely soft to justify its continued existence :-)

And speaking of stuffing, Safiya and I have been cutting up plastic bags to turn into balls of plastic yarn (there's a net shopping bag in Erika Knight's "Simple Crochet" that I'm going to try), using gooseflesh's tutorial. But there are the tops and bottoms of the bags left-over, that don't make the cut (ha!), as it were....What does this have to do with pillows? Well, I inherited the pillow on the chair in the picture below from my Grammy, and given its rustley nature, I'm pretty sure it's stuffed with some sort of plastic detritus, and it makes a perfectly serviceable pillow, so.....why not, right? :-)

Oh - what are the colourful piles of wormy things on the table? Stay tuned!... :-)