Monday, December 17, 2007

Check out the progress.


Eight days and counting. And as you can see, the rug still has a few checks missing. So, I am on a different kind of three-squares-a-day. That leaves a couple of evenings for whipping. As usual, I will be cutting it close - but I guess that's part of the fun. Or at least it is for me.

I am very happy with how this rug has evolved. I realize that this simple two-colour checkerboard idea opens up a whole new way of looking at borders, etc. My mind is already racing ahead with endless possibilities like red and black combinations for a more interesting buffalo check border for my next cottage rug.

The little strawberry hat turned out well - I'm sure the little recipient will be happy. It was a very easy knit and is the softest Merino wool, which I'm hoping will be no-itch.

The gingerbread man ornament could probably have used a smaller crochet hook, since you can see a bit of the stuffing which, by the way, is white grocery bags. I got the idea from a knit ornament pattern, which I just might try to squeeze in too.

When I trimmed the tree yesterday, I realized that the last thing I need are more ornaments, so will hold to just one gingerbread man. If I do the knit ornament, it will be a gift.

The latest car socks probably won't both be done in time. I think one will be, so it will be put into the stocking with an IOU for the mate. I am using baby alpaca. It is the softest wool I have ever felt and the yarn is a bit thicker than other sock wool. I will be interested to see how it wears. I hope a lot better than the wool/acrylic mix I used in the first socks I knit. They had the most beautiful tops, so when the feet all wore out, I started knitting replacement feet out of pure wool. They were just too lovely to abandon.

I think I have made fewer gifts this year than I have in a long time. But time just wasn't on my side. As it is, I will be racing to the finish line. What would the season be without a little last-minute frenzy.

I won't even start to worry until there is only one day left.

Cuz the next day, I'll have 17 people for Christmas dinner - YIKES.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Amigurumi here I come.


Every year since my kids were born, I have made them an ornament for the tree. It's fun to decorate with them every year, as it is a trip down memory lane. I can see what crafty thing I was favouring each year. There are needlepoint ornaments, painted wooden shapes that I cut out with my scroll saw, greenware that I painted and then had fired, there are hooked ones from the last couple of years. And one year, I painted a half paper mache ball for each of the kids - my son's had a portrait of Bob Marley on it.

When they leave home and have their own trees to trim they will have a tree full of memories to take with them. In fact, Laura has a tree this year, but is not quite ready to pull her ornaments from the family tree just yet. She has asked for the "overs" instead. They are the ones that we decide not to use if the tree is looking a bit too crowded. They each have a story to tell as well.

I have never understood those people who do a theme tree every year. Those evergreen fashionistas who go with the latest colour scheme and spend too much time and effort reinventing their tree every year. I can't imagine not feeling emotionally vested in every decoration on the tree.

This year, I am going to crochet some little amigurumi gingerbread people. I'm not sure what amigurumi is, but they look pretty cute. I'm not a very experienced crocheter, but the pattern says "easy", so I'll give it a try. (I just finished two very easy hats and they have given me the courage to try these ornaments.) There are snowmen and reindeer patterns as well, so if the gingerbread men go well, I may just get brave and try something a bit more adventurous, You can find all these little patterns on www.lionbrand.com. The patterns are free.

I still have a few other, larger gifts in the making that will eat up most of the remaining days, so something this small should be just the ticket - if I can follow the pattern.

So I'm off to find my brown yarn and a crochet hook. With a little luck, there will be a couple of little cuties to add to the tree before too long. I'll also make a point of finding out what amigurumi means.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Art of Giving


Nothing makes me crazier than seeing Christmas displays and hearing Christmas music the day after Halloween. Somehow we have managed to pretty much warp the festive season by racing around driving ourselves loony trying to find things to buy for people who really don’t need anything. Bah humbug! (not really)

I’ve been pretty much a gift maker for as long as I can remember. My long-suffering family will attest to home-made clothing sewn by a 12-year old who really was in a hurry to get things made – perhaps overlooking a few of the finishing details required to make something last.

Luckily, over the years, I have gotten better. But my family still gets a knit something or a hooked something or a painted something nearly every year. And what I can’t make myself, I try to purchase from someone else who has. That’s why, starting in the middle of November, I am in heaven as the holiday artisan shows begin. There are large shows like One of a Kind, small shows in people’s homes and medium-sized shows in all sorts of venues – schools, churches, galleries.

The one thing these shows have in common - artisans. Artisans who are brimming with talent, originality and passion. Artisans who create works of art that people can choose to give as gifts instead of the mass merchandise that is flogged from November 1st every year. Artisans who put themselves out there, seeking people who will admire their efforts and reinforce their commitment to their art form.

Over the years, I have gotten to know quite a few of these extremely talented people. And this year, at a show at my son’s alma mater – the Sterling Hall School –I got to meet someone with whom I have had an Internet relationship for nearly a year. I’m so pleased to have finally had a chance to meet her face to face. She’s as lovely as her wares. We hugged like old friends as soon as I told her who I was. It’s amazing how well I felt I already knew her. I guess being connected by a love and appreciation of the craftsperson in both of us formed an instant bond.

The beautiful belt buckle featured in the picture with this blog is one of her creations. Karen has a company called Bijoux Belts and she makes incredible belt buckles. Each one is different. She combines beads and bling and silver and treasures to create very special, original accessories for the fanciest outfit or the comfiest jeans. Her buckles fit on snap belts, which fasten around the buckle so that you can interchange your belt to match your outfit or your mood.

Her website is fantastic. You can buy online, since her photography shows the buckles at their best. I will warn you now that the hardest part is choosing. Actually, seeing them on display was even more magical, because you could instantly see how different they all were, even ones with the same colour scheme. You could see how much time and talent went into the placement of every piece in the buckle.

By the time I met Karen at the show, she had been there for nearly 12 hours. She had another show the next day and the next and was then heading off to Ottawa for 10 days for their version of One of a Kind. I’m sure she will do amazingly well there.

Last nite, my husband and I went to One of a Kind, which we do every winter show. The vendors looked whooped – after 9 days of record crowds it’s no wonder. I have done two-day shows in my past and I can tell you that even that was exhausting. I can’t imagine multiplying that by five.

I salute these brave, talented folks who bring their artistic spirit to town at a time when I think we need it most. They remind us how wonderful it is to find a gift that is the perfect, unique item for someone special.

Unfortunately, this year I don’t have a theme for my gifts as I have in past years. Everyone already has a pair of my socks and a hooked ornament for their tree, so I’m choosing well-crafted things that others have made.

Maybe I’ll have an epiphany in the next week or so - that's happened before. But for now, I’ll just thank those artisans who continue to create year in and year out, so that I can come and admire their wares and be inspired to create some small token to put under the tree.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sheer Jeanius




This weekend was my first Jeanius Bag workshop, which was held at Rittermere Hurst Field. It couldn't have been better.

Early Saturday morning, a winter wonderland unfolded as I turned onto Ridge Road. The trees were topped with soft snow, the road was snow covered and not too slippery and there was that special silence created by a blanket of snow. It was magical and I wasn't even there yet.

The studio door was unlocked, and the fireplace in the studio had warmed the entire room, which was all set up for our group. If you haven't been to RHF before, you must. Of all the studios I have visited, it is one of the most intimate. Like every studio, it has rugs on display - rugs of every size, colour, subject matter - it has the requisite shelves brimming with wool - large folded pieces, small specialty pieces - large bolts of backing - tables and shelves brimming with small hooking treasures, books, dyes, etc. But there's something so warm and welcoming about this space that makes it the perfect venue for a workshop.

Coffee was waiting in the kitchen. The smell of fresh baking was confirmed with squares cooling on top of the stove. The group arrived, we chatted over coffee - relishing the adventures of those who had just returned from the Hooked in the Mountains Show in Shelburn, Vermont. Eventually, we made our way back into the studio.

We were a small group, which meant lots of one-on-one time throughout the weekend. Saturday morning was spent finalizing patterns. Some people had theirs on their backing already - others were still deciding what to hook. In the group there was a polar bear (out of polar fleece), a silhouette of a horse jumping, some cats and some paisley curls (inspired by lining fabrics), a primitive heart with appliqued pennies, and a pattern adapted from the design on a much-loved-but-outgrown pair of little girl jeans.

By mid morning, everyone was pulling loops. We weren't the only ones enjoying the warmth of the studio - Tigger the cat was curled up in a wool basket, and Moose, the latest addition to the family, graced us with her presence throughout the day. We shared as many stories as there was time for and before you knew it, day 1 was done. Everyone was at different stages of completion and the goal was to have the flaps of the bags hooked and whipped by the morning, in preparation for assembly on Day 2.

Since life has a habit of intervening, not everyone completed the first phase as planned. One flap was hooked and whipped. Another person had stayed up into the wee hours and had finished her hooking. Others had busy Saturday nites, so they picked up where they left off. It didn't matter, since everyone in our intimate group got to see a couple of assembly demonstrations as soon as people were ready to roll.

At the end of day 2, two people left with bags totally finished, which was exactly what I was hoping for. How amazing to be able to begin Saturday morning and be totally finished by Sunday afternoon! Both finished bags are going to be gifts this Christmas, which is a pretty generous thing to do with your very first bag.

The remaining workshoppers have jean legs ready for when their flaps are hooked. And everyone got the see the assembly process a couple of times, so they will be well prepared to finish without me needing to be there. Everyone was already talking about their "next" bag, which confirms my suspicion that these are highly addictive.

Another eureka moment played out at the workshop as well. I realized that using a pocket from the recycled jeans and sewing it to the back of the bags would be a perfect place for cell-phones or ipods. Or you could hide it under the flap for secret treasures! The more you work with these bags, the better they get. I love that.

So, thanks to my students for making this first workshop a huge success for me. With every step, I feel more confident that there are many, many jeaniuses out there and that these bags will soon be the gift that keeps on giving.

And many, many thanks to RHF for providing the cozy, intimate venue for this perfect first workshop. To all of you reading this blog, check regularly on the RHF website (see link in my links) to find out your next opportunity to participate in a workshop here. (I know that Jeanne has one planned for February, so get yourself registered.) You'll find out for yourself what makes it so special.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

K.I.S.S.


For those of you who don't know this anagram, it means Keep it Simple Silly - or you can substitute a stronger word for the last S. It is an expression I use a lot at work in an effort to keep from over-complicating things. It's a very good adage for everyone and I should really follow it more often.

Every once in a while I stumble into a rug hooking project that reinforces how true this is. The picture with this blog is a fine example. My husband asked me if I would hook him a mat for his side of the bed at the cottage. When I asked him what he had in mind, and he told me - a brown and beige checkerboard - I thought it sounded boring. He was very certain - he didn't want a lot of colours. He didn't want a fancy design. I asked if he wanted a border - he said no. I asked if he would like a hit or miss panel on either side. He said no. He just wants a plain checkerboard - 24 x 24. Hmmmph.

So, last week I got out all my brown wools. And all my beige wools. And I cut a bunch of strips and made two big piles of the two colours. Already, I could see that perhaps this wasn't going to be so boring after all. As you can see, something wonderful happened as soon as I started mixing the textures around inside the squares of the checkerboard. There's something akin to a log cabin pattern that is happening in each of the squares. It's simple. But it's beautiful. And here I was trying to make it more complicated than it needs to be.

It's a wonderful respite from busier probjects that I have on the go, and I find I want to keep going to see how the textures in the squares look next to one another. There's something quite hypnotic about the simplicity. I think this rug will go quickly and I will write another post about it when I get it hooked and perhaps another as I finish the whipping.

I like the simplicity of this project. And there's nothing silly or stupid about it at all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Unbraided Bliss.


Take a braided rug. Roll it up and put it on a shelf for 20+ years and ignore it.

Dial forward the 20+ years, when you realize that you probably have one or two perfect spots for it in your renovated cottage. Spots that could truly benefit from the warmth that an area rug with rich red tones would add to the beautiful pine floors.

Vaguely remember that some of the braiding had started to separate and you were constantly mending portions of the rug(probably a contributing factor to rolling it up and hiding it).

Take the rug down from the shelf and, once the dust cloud has cleared, unroll it to find that about 1/3 of the stitching has come undone (convince yourself that you would never have put it away in this condition).

Come to the realization that cotton thread (or whatever was used) has a finite life span of less than the storage period.

Vacuum the rug repeatedly - both sides, being careful not to inhale the separated braids and the many strings of busted thread.

Then sit down for three nites running with upholstery thread, a good thimble and mindless television.

Voila - 12 hours later, your braids are stitched back together - at least sufficiently (you hope) to survive a much-needed cleaning.

Lessons learned:

Even the hardiest rug will suffer the consequences of being ignored for an inordinately long period of time.

Proper storage is a much better idea - as is checking periodically on the condition of a stored rug.

Sewing a rug back together is not nearly as much fun as hooking a new one.

However, lovingly (slight overstatement) repairing this rug and getting it ready for its second life, I am now committed to finding the perfect spot.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Socks with Crocs?


As the cold winter arrives, along with the "dark", the wardrobe shift looms. Luckily, the mainstay of my wardrobe is jeans, which are a-seasonal, so not a lot to do there. But it's time to bring out all my wonderful handmade sweaters. And it's time to start wearing socks.

The two pairs shown here are ones I have knitted in the car and they are just about the nicest ones I have ever made. They are from that fabulous wool that changes colour for you - no switching of yarns required. The yarn comes with its own pattern, which has a table for multiple sizes. I couldn't quite figure out their heel instructions, but my socks do have heels, so I guess my interpretation worked.

The question is, can I wear these with Crocs? I am a big Crocs fan and in the past 4 years (my first pair were actually pre-Crocs and were called "holey soles" and were Canadian made) I have brought many people into the club. I have a couple of pairs, which I alternate so they will last longer. Also, one pair are vaguely silver, so they are my dressy Crocs.

When I chose the yarn to make these socks, the Crocs were definitely in the colour scheme. The brown and beigey striped ones are great with my silver ones. The blue striped ones are awesome with my cornflower blue ones. I'm just not sure that going outside the house with the socks and Crocs combo is such a great idea. However, the new few weeks (or time until the snow flies) will tell. Luckily, my cold season footwear is a few pairs of Blundstones and both pairs of these socks are amazing under them.

If you are tempted to try to knit some socks, go for this wonderful yarn. It may cost a bit more, but once you have knit them, you have an amazing pattern and only two ends to darn in. Yippee!

They wash incredibly well. The feel on your feet is heaven. And if you are patient and a good scout, you can find the sock wool on sale quite often. The basement at Romni wools (on Queen St. W. in Toronto) often has balls of this sock wool for half price.

So bring it on, old man Winter. I am ready for you. Or at least my feet are. I think I will make a few more pairs, since they are so easy to take along to the cottage. And I will try to leave my Crocs out of the future colour choices.

Friday, November 2, 2007

There’s something about Mount Mary.


For those of you who aren’t familiar, Mount Mary is the retreat where, for more than 30 years, the OHCG School has taken place every fall. It is a magical place. From the moment you drive through the front gates, you know you are somewhere very special.

The retreat is housed on hundreds of acres in the beautiful town of Ancaster. Stands of majestic evergreens, punctuated by charming stucco buildings paint a serene picture that is echoed throughout the entire weekend. It’s a quiet place that inspires reflection in even the chronically stressed.

All sorts of wildlife can be seen scampering around the grounds, along with locals who hike through the property with or without their dogs. The lawns are perfectly manicured and the foliage on the deciduous trees on this fall weekend provides a spectacular palette of colours.

This was my first time at the OHCG School, despite having heard nothing but positive things about it. For many reasons, it is the perfect school for me. I need only take one day off work versus a whole week, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from home. I’m not sure why I hadn’t been before. But I am here to sing the praises of this fabulous experience, which I will definitely repeat.

The school itself is wonderful. There is an excellent selection of class topics, which the students get to vote on each year for the next. The classrooms are large, clean and uncluttered with lots of room to hook. My class had just two students at each large table, with lots of space in between.

There is something quietly captivating about the main building. It has a distinct personality all its own. The old wood is in incredible shape, and the building doesn’t have that tired look shared by so many of the same vintage. The floors are the cleanest I have ever seen. I guess the “inside shoes” policy truly makes the difference.

Accommodations are a mix of single and double rooms in the Manor and Villa which are a lovely walk from where the classes are held. They have more than ample shower facilities and my single room even had its own sink and vanity. Linens and towels are provided, along with extra blankets and pillows.

There is a large common room in the Villa where people gather for coffee in the morning and then again after class to share their day. Very comfortable chairs are in abundance for those who just can’t stop hooking. And the evenings' social activities take place in this welcoming space as well.

The food is lovingly prepared by the nuns and other staff - and more than meets my criteria for the ideal meal - one that is made for you, served to you and cleaned up after by someone other than you. There are three hot meals a day, including a variety of breakfast options and a homemade dessert with each lunch and dinner. And cookies and/or muffins at coffee break. Yum.

There are multiple vendors on site, who seemed to be doing a brisk business every time I took a student down there. Everything you could wish for in a “hooking store” is there for the choosing.

One of the finest knitting shops ever, The Needle Emporium is right across the street from the front gates of the retreat. Since many of us are chronic knitters as well as hookers, there is lots of inspiration to be found in that other passion. You can spend your money on the way in, or wait until Friday or Saturday after class.

So, with all this going for it, I was a little surprised by the attendance. This year there were only 63 students. Some branches of the OHCG were extremely well represented - Georgetown had 18 people there. Ottawa had a good number as well as Kingston. There were many first-timers there, but there were also a number of people who have been coming since the beginning.

I think that maybe amid all the others, this “little school that can” is getting lost among the bigger ones. And that is very unfortunate indeed. It’s the perfect 3-day school for each and every OHCG member, and the word “retreat” keeps coming back as the most apt descriptor. It’s so easy to get to - so easy to enjoy - and doesn’t need as big a commitment as some of the others.

I will personally go back to my branch and talk it up for next year. I will become an evangelist for the OHCG School and for Mount Mary. There’s definitely something about both that shouldn’t be missed.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Pretty Amazing Weekend


I have just finished unpacking from my teaching weekend at the OHCG School in Ancaster. My class was called "Wide and Wondeful" and although it wasn't my original choice of class name, it has turned out to be the perfect one.

From Thursday evening until 1:00 today - Sunday - I got to spend my time with 14 wonderful women. I'm not sure who learned more, who had more fun, or who walked away happier. But I guess that's what makes the whole thing so truly special.

I must confess to having been a bit nervous about the weekend. I was facing 14 different "wide cut" projects - no two of which were the least bit similar. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the diversity of subject matter was a teacher's wish fulfilled. Every time a specific issue presented itself with respect to one rug, there was a teaching opportunity for everyone present. We had faces, and primitives, and proddy and pictorials and just about anything you can think of. We had things that I had never experienced myself before, so there was a good amount of learning for me as well.

I had a detailed itinerary of mini lessons and the accompanying hand out materials, but I think the impromptu learning was better. Instead of being "theoretical", these were real life, right there examples of things that they could learn from. Pretty amazing all around.

I'm not sure how often an entire class "gels", but this one did. There was certainly a diversity of ages and personalities, but almost on sight, these 14 women formed a bond. And it held strong and fast all weekend. Not only did they spend their class time together, they tended to eat together and talk after class. No cliques in my class! It was all about the sharing - of knowledge - of stories - of lives - all through the common denominator of rugs.

The only teensy fly in the ointment of the weekend was a wicked case of laryngitis, or "teacher's voice" or just a bug that literally took my voice away. However, my students were supportive and caring and even came forward to help me in a pantomime presentation on Saturday night. It was funny, unusual and I believe quite memorable. I doubt that will ever be repeated again either.

As I told them, and anyone else who would listen, this was a magical weekend that I will remember forever. It was my first solo teaching weekend. I know that there will be many to follow, but none will compare to this "virgin" experience. Every workshop I give will be compared to this one. Every group of students will remind me of my very first group.

And I will never forget the women in my Wide and Wonderful Weekend.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why hookers are great bloggers.


I started my blog a few months ago and it has become part of my routine. I like having a place to write about whatever I want. It’s like a diary, only better, because it’s a journal I am happy to share.

My blog was inspired by Jennifer Manuells’ blog. I visited hers every week to see what she was writing about – what story she was telling – what creation she was featuring. It was the sharing I was going for. I felt like I was in the same room with her as she shared pictures of her latest project – finished, or in progress.

In my job, I receive lots of information about “new media”. Technology is really changing how we talk to people - both from a marketing standpoint and a personal one. Now it’s all about blogging and podcasting - what they call “social media”. We are now using electronic devices to create a social experience. The irony of this is not lost on me.

The pundits are speculating long and often about all of it. How impactful are blogs? What is the effect if a podcast? How is mobile advertising being received by the new “cell phone” generation? No matter what insights come across my desk, I put them in context of not only my clients, but myself. My work. My life. My kids’ lives - since they are the new target market.

I marvel at how the hooking community has adapted to the “social media”. Let’s face it, when it comes down to it, “social networking” is what hooking is all about. Once you get past the physical aspects of pulling loops and creating something wonderful with wool, the truth is that hooking is all about getting together to share the rug and the story in the rug.

The best part of any hook in (although some might swear by the penny auction) is the “show and tell”. We never get tired of looking at rugs created by our peers and hearing what inspired them – what spark ignited that creative moment when the rug was born. We scour websites to look at rug galleries. And we visit news sections or diaries on sites to see what stories are being shared.

I think it’s always been this way for hookers. And quilters. And women in general. They knew that “social networking” was taking time to find out what was happening in each other’s lives – in their hearts – in their souls.

That’s what blogs are. Blogs are ‘hook ins’ in a world where we all seem to have more electronics and less time. And they are a great way to share the stories, across great distances. Across the world even.

So blog on fellow hookers - whether that means starting your own - or posting comments on the ones you visit. Become part of the “bee”.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Am I already internet dating?


I know a few people who are dating online, and I must say that I always thought it was not for me. But this morning in the bath, my usual "brilliant" time, I realized that in many ways that's what every internet experience is.

For example, if you are reading my blog, we are having an internet date. If you don't know me, you are getting to. If you already do, you are finding out what's in my head today.

Since I have been able to use the internet, I have made some incredible friends through email, blogs, etc. And I have already really liked them before I met them in the real world. That's what internet dating allows you to do. Get to know someone, form your relationship with them and decide whether or not you want to meet the physical them.

In most instances, my opinions have been spot on. My very good friend Jennifer (see her blog link below) is a perfect example. I think we are soul mates, and probably were from the very first connection. But in the time I have known her, our internet based relationship formed and sustains the bond between us.
Don't get me wrong - we are thrilled when we get a chance to see one another, but the internet allows us to do that daily.

This week, Jennifer is in Nova Scotia, attending Deanne Fitzpatrick's Creativity Seminar. Her blog has allowed me to spend every day with her - or at least find out what she did every day. It's so easy, so visual, so personal and so amazing. Even long distance phone calls can't give you the same "date" as this does. (Check out her last few entries - and have a date with Nova Scotia.)

But let's take a step back even further. Every time you visit a web site and check out a new hooking supplier, or a designer, or a blogger, you are doing exactly that - "checking them out". You are going to make a decision whether or not you want to spend any more time with them. It is always a little like a first date.

The internet also lets you have dates with people you never get to see anymore. So much faster than letter writing, it lets you share pictures, stories, news, everything - but instantly and far more frequently.
Those friends that you miss are somehow closer and you get to have "dates" with them as well.

A very dear friend Barb visited my blog recently and said as a result she lost the entire afternoon. And she said it was marvelous. She drifted from my blog to my links - to Jennifer's site - to Jennifer's links
- and spent the entire afternoon speed dating a whole bunch of websites. I guess it's no different than making a date with a good book, but it somehow feels more personal.

I don't belong to any social networks like face book or my space, but my kids do and I often check out their pages to see what's new. I can imagine others doing the same - some people who know them, and some who want to.

I love being able to get to know people through email or their blogs or their websites. I think the internet allows the voice of the person to come through, regardless of how comfortable or uncomfortable they might be in a social situation in the real world.

I know it's not truly internet "dating", but I think it is pretty darn close. And it's really not such a bad thing, is it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

By George-town, I think you’ve got it.



Last night, I attended the regular, monthly meeting of the Georgetown chapter of the OHCG (Ontario Hooking Craft Guild). I was the guest presenter, there to showcase my jean purses, which will featured in a workshop next March. I have always heard that Georgetown was a very dynamic chapter, and I saw for myself that is not an overstatement.

Since I had no idea how long it would take me to get there, I based my timing on bad traffic. I even left the office early, hoping to get a jump on everyone else. Incredibly, there was no traffic. Sure, there were other cars on the road, but they were all MOVING instead of sitting on the 401 or 427. So, not only was I ridiculously early, I also had time to window shop and eat before heading to Norval.

The meetings are held in an old Church there, which is as welcoming as the chapter members. As I stood waiting in the parking lot with the early attendees, all sorts of people I knew started arriving. They came from near and far - Aurora, London, Toronto, Mississauga. We all talked about the “no traffic” phenomenon. I marvelled at how far they travelled to be there - not one of them thought it was too far to come at all.

My presentation followed the business portion of the meeting - and the coffee break (complete with Rice Crispie squares). The business meeting was well-organized, thoughtful and was a combination of jovial and serious, with proper business procedures followed to a T. The agenda was jammed with reports on workshops, rug displays and the upcoming Christmas party and exchange. This vibrant group is totally engaged in their activities. Participation in everything is never in question.

My presentation was enthusiastically received as well. Lots of questions, comments and positive feedback. I believe many of the members will sign up for the workshop, provided we can find a satisfactory date.

Following a wonderful “Show and Tell” session, I drove home - again with virtually no traffic - totally understanding why time and distance are not an issue for members of this Georgetown group. And I am seriously contemplating how to fit becoming a member and driving to their meetings into my crazy life.

Here’s to you Georgetown Chapter, for making me feel so welcome. You definitely have it going on.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Thanksgiving - The Wonder of Leftovers


Well another Thanksgiving has come and gone and I am nursing a turkey hangover, like I do every year. What's that wonderful chemical they say is in turkey that makes you sleepy after you eat? I forget. Oh well, as soon as the last of the pumpkin pie and turkey are gone, I can start saving myself for Christmas.

This is a picture of Trinity (just like the sign says). She and her Dad joined us for Thanksgiving dinner this year. It was wonderful having both of them - they added a lot of joy and energy to our usual family crowd. Trinity is my favourite 6-year old, not that I know very many any more. She is a big fan of rug hooking, especially mine, so I made her this for her bedroom. She loves the colours, which I felt quite sure would cover all her “favourites” as she grows up.

This sign is the hooking equivalent of turkey leftovers. Nearly everything in this project was left over from earlier projects. Just like there are never enough turkey leftovers to send home with everyone, there often aren’t enough strips left over from a project to make an entire rug. That's why I like to use them in smaller projects - hooking “snacks”. Thankfully, these leftovers don't have a "best before" date and can be incorporated into something whenever the mood or colour scheme strikes. And unlike turkey leftovers, they can hang around for a very long time.

Trinity loved it when I suggested that her great-great-grand daughter might ask her one day where her name sign came from. That's why there is a label that says the month and the year and that it is "to: her" "from: me". I told her it will connect me to her and to her kids and her kids' kids. That idea just made her giggle. But I know it's true.

The tradition of Thanksgiving is one that is celebrated the same way year in and year out at my house. The menu stays the same. The decorations are pretty much the same. The guest list changes, like it did this year to include Trinity and Chris. But I like the fact that it is a tradition and I hope it stays the same for my kids' kids, leftovers and all.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Changing Perspectives


There are periods in your life where change is all around you. In fact, when you stop and think about it, there are probably very few times when nothing is changing. But this weekend made me realize that in addition to things changing, your perspective must change to accept it all. For the most part, I am liking my new perspectives.

Some of the changes in perspective are very big - like the cottage, which continues to evolve into the full-time home it will be one day. The ongoing changes that are turning it from a rustic cottage we grew used to over 16 years to a more comfortable house are definitely changing my perspective about it - and to the good.

The picture of our front door is a good symbol for the new perspective, since we didn't have one before - a front door that is. We didn't have a peak over the door, we didn't have stone steps or a retaining wall and we didn't have a garage. Instead, we had a not-so-gentle slope from where we parked the car to the side porch door. We also didn't have a foundation under the cottage, so the rain and melting snow ran down our not-so-gentle slope and under our cottage. Not a good thing for a home - hence the retaining wall, steps, etc. Hopefully, we can convince Mother Nature to change her perspective too.

On a smaller scale was my trip to the R.U.G. hook-in in Barrie on Saturday. Rather than stay in the city on Friday nite and drive up to Barrie on Saturday, I drove south to Barrie from the cottage on Saturday morning. It was a stupendous trip! There was very little traffic, and what traffic there was moved at the speed limit. As I wound past those incredible masses of Georgian Shield that mark the north, I would go past lakes that were covered in morning mist, looking like so many ghosts emerging from the water. All the low lands shared this cool morning phenomenon. And I had a front row seat. I arrived at my destination feeling elated, not tense from a terrible drive north. (Many of those who made the trek north were stuck for 25 minutes - and the highway was closed - because of another accident.)

Changing perspective was, in fact, a topic at the hook-in. One of the hosting branches made their presentation on how their group interpreted the same pattern. We must have seen 25 examples of different colour pallettes, hooking styles, floral treatments, sizes of piece, types of finishing. Everyone's perspective on the same pattern was a wonderful presentation for those presenting and those watching.

On an even smaller scale, I realized that my current project is also changing my perspective. I have started a name sign for friends' third child, Lindsay, born last week. I decided to try to use the old wool blankets that I bought at the Teachers' weekend, since they were perfect colours for this project. I was a bit skeptical, since they seem so big and thick in blanket form, but once cut into strips, they hook beautifully. And they give an antique look and feel to this baby gift, which I am determined to finish this week.

Perhaps I am being a bit too introspective about connecting all these things, but I did realize that if you stop changing perspectives, things could become pretty boring pretty quickly. I know that it will take time to adjust to the big-scale changes in perspective. Turning our cottage into a home that feels like ours will be a work in progress for some time. Once we are there full time, that new perpective of leaving from there to go wherever will only feel strange for a while. And I think I will enjoy getting used to it.

As far as the small changes like hooking in old blankets, I think the litttle changes are the easiest to try, embrace and enjoy.
Here's to changing perspectives - and the freshness that they bring.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Power of the Thank You note.


In the past few weeks, I have been the lucky recipient of several thank you notes.

It's strange to have received so many in such a short time, as they are usually few and far between, but they really made me stop and think about the effect they had.

Each and every one of them made me feel good about myself, not just because of the words, but because of the gesture made by the sender. And they made me realize, once again, how powerful a simple note can be.

Don't get me wrong - I am a firm believer in any expression of gratitude. A telephone call. An email. A hostess gift. A hug. They all work for me. And I use any and all these methods on a regular basis.

But when a person takes the time to choose a card, think of and write a personal note in their own handwriting, dedicate a stamp and trek to a mailbox, it's a pretty big deal these days.

The funny thing about thank you notes is this: often what I am being thanked for was just as enjoyable for me. Whether it was a dinner party, a weekend at the cottage, help with a special project, or an unbelievable hooking workshop (for which I have received a multitude of amazing thank you's), I know that I could just as easily be the "sender" as the "receiver".

For me, these event-based notes are even more special than the "gift" kind. With gifts they are expected (though sadly, I feel they aren't always sent). So I save these cards and keep them in a special box. I sometimes find myself re-reading them if I come across the box they are in. And they make me feel special all over again - which is a pretty powerful thing. They also remind me to keep sending special cards with special messages more often.

Some people think that I send notes for everything. I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. But thanks very much for reading my blog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Teaching the Teachers - The Afterglow


For the past 18 months, I have been part of a committee of 7 rug hooking teachers who came together to lead the annual continuing education workshop (START) for the teachers’ branch of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild.

Our preparation began 18 months ago when the committee came together and we loosely defined our objectives and what we wanted to achieve with this program. We wanted to do something that was outside the box of conventional rug hooking - something that would challenge us as individuals, teachers and artists.

It turned out to be a journey that taught me far more than I ever could have hoped for; about myself, about my fellow committee members and about the teachers who became the students. Throughout the 18 months, we worked incessantly. We were in constant touch via email. We worked on individual projects and group challenges as well. We got together for numerous all-day sessions to share our challenges, review our work in progress, massage our workshop content and agenda and marvel at the learning we were enjoying.

The journey culminated in an amazing workshop weekend where we got to share what we had learned with 18 eager students, many of whom just happen to be the ”best of the best” in our art form.

Our committee was comprised of very talented women who ranged in age from mid-fifties to 80. Our experiences levels, both in rug hooking and in teaching, were as diverse as our age range. Everyone’s creativity was celebrated, each voice was heard, and we walked into our course on Friday evening with clearly defined roles and responsibilities - not necessarily an easy thing to achieve when you put 7 strong women together on a project.

The reactions of our teacher students could not have been more enthusiastic. They were as excited about the challenge as we were and they rose to meet and exceed our expectations. Each student was asked to hook an expressionist face - not a portrait - during the weekend.

The 18 faces that began with a set of lips on Friday were proudly displayed, in various stages of completion, at “show and tell” on Sunday. There were 18 pieces of incredible work - each one truly unique. Some teachers' faces had turned into people from their past. Others had become masks to give strength. Some had become celebrations of survival - both physical and emotional. And every face challenged the creativity of its creator. Best of all, each and every student experienced the same exhilaration that the committee had - something that we were so fervently hoping would happen.

As one of our members said in her closing comments to the class:
“We had 18 months to make this journey. You have had two days and one evening. We pushed you to the edge of a cliff and pushed you - and you jumped willingly, bravely without a single scream.”

I can’t imagine how the weekend could have been any more successful than it was - for either the teachers or the students. Every hour I spent on this during the last 18 months has come back to me ten-fold.

I feel very proud not only of my own personal growth, but also of the contribution we have made as a team to the teachers who came to our workshop. At the end of the weekend, I am in a state of bliss.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Kitchen to Dye For


Here is a picture of my favourite dye pot on my brand new gas stove in my newly renovated kitchen at our still-being-renovated cottage. The kitchen isn’t quite finished yet (in fact, it recently took a giant step backwards as my upper cabinets had to be taken down for window trim) but I was able to do my first dyeing, which was a major milestone for me.

Unlike several of my hooking pals, dyeing is still not a passion for me - yet. But I am becoming more confident and certainly this venue should inspire me to experiment more in the dye pot. I hope someday, in this kitchen, it will give me the same thrill as it does to my much-admired mentors.

The wool in the pot is being dyed a light Taupe for a workshop next weekend, and I’m sure there are a number of variables in the formula that may not be duplicated elsewhere.
First is the lake water. Although I think I did some dyeing before the renovation started, I can’t remember whether or not I had to recreate the formula in city water, or how much difference the lake water makes. (It certainly does when you shampoo your hair.)

The second variable is the wonderful new gas stove. I’m convinced it is faster and hotter than my city stove. (It is certainly faster and hotter than my hot plate.)

The third variable, which probably doesn’t factor much is drying the wool outside, without the aid of a dryer. Sure, it takes a little longer, but I’m sure it smells much better, like everything that dries outside.

My studio downstairs in the very unfinished basement is still a long way off in the next year or so. I’m sure there will be many rugs hooked and much wool dyed before it is a reality. But my first dive into my dye pot did give me a glimpse of what it will be like to dye here when we live here full time.

It reminded me yet again how amazing it will be when my two biggest passions come together. It will surely be to die for.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Sentiments of August becoming September.


No matter how old you are, this time of year affects nearly everyone the same way. Whether we are getting offspring ready to go back to their institutions of higher learning, or thinking about what lies ahead for us this fall, the end of summer makes everyone feel like going out and buying a new pencil case and new shoes.

That little bit of sadness sets in as we bid adieu to not only our kids, but the warm sunny days that didn't last nearly long enough. Sure, there's still that last gasp of summer that happens after Labour Day. (I have a very vivd memory of putting on that new wool skirt for the first day of school, despite the fact that it is 30 degrees out there. No matter - you have to wear your new stuff.)

I find September, as many folks do, to be more the beginning of a new year than January. I guess I still live my life by the school calendar - and I was never even a teacher! But this fall, I will be exactly that.

I have two hooking weekends in which I will be teaching. The first one is just a couple of weekends away and I will be, in fact, teaching teachers. I am one of a committee of seven amazing women who are pushing the envelope with an expressionist portraiture course that we are giving to 18 of our peers. I am very excited.

We have been preparing for this weekend for nearly 18 months, and I have learned more in getting ready than you can imagine. We started out on a journey of exploration and we have all arrived at our destination with a new sense of our abilities and our creativity. I hope our students will be equally inspired.

My second teaching stint is a solo adventure. I will be teaching a wide cut class at the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild school in October. (see link on page). I have 13 students who will all be working on different projects and I will be there to guide them. I am very excited, since from my experience, the teacher not only teaches, but learns a great deal from the students as well.

Truth be told, this is my largest teaching gig so far in my hooking career. I've taught groups this large in other art disciplines, but not hooking. I'm already getting things organized and plan to be extremely prepared for my class. I love wide cut, so this is the perfect class to start with. And it is fitting that this new teaching coincides with the start of a new school year.

So welcome September! I look forward to buying a new pencil case and sharpening my pencils, and my teaching skills, in this new school year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No loops pulled for 10 days!


Since I started hooking nearly 5 years ago, it has pretty much been part of my daily routine. I may miss a day here or there, but certainly I have enough projects on the go that I always have something waiting for me when I sit down at night.

Going for 10 days without any hooking was a real anomoly. Truth be told, when we left for our week at the cottage (notice I did not use the word vacation), I didn't even bother to pack any of my many projects. I knew that there was absolutely no point in bringing anything along. The knitting I did bring never made it out of the bag and my book only got opened once.

So, it was wonderful to sit down on Monday nite and get back into it. Even though I only had an hour to spend, it was like coming home. Getting everything together, lining up my hook and scissors - already I felt better. I'm sure my psyche was purring as I pulled those first few loops after so long.

When we go back for our second week at the cottage after Labour Day, I feel quite optimistic that I will be able to bring along, and do, some hooking. I am counting on less dirt, more light and even heat.

And I'm counting on not having to miss that many days again.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The "Dont's" appear to be winning.


We have just spent our first week’s vacation (and I use the term very loosely) at the cottage, which is about 70% through the renovation. It was a week spent doing penance to the “don’ts” – all the bad decisions we made at the beginning. Many seemed like good ideas at the time, but turned out to be really stupid in hindsight.

Don’t #1: Don’t ever count on the “best case scenario”. It will not happen that way. There are too many variables like “weather” that really determine what will happen and when. Face the fact that you are totally not in control. It will be slower than you expected and it will cost more (just like everyone told you it would). There is no small type that reads “except for Rick and Wendie Davis”.

Don’t #2: Don’t think about not storing your furniture off site. Although the original plan (here it comes – best case scenario) was to build the addition, leaving the existing cottage in tact until the break through was done and then moving everything into the addition. That plan was off the rails before the first month was over. And by the time we tried to find a storage facility, all the units were taken.

Not only was everything totally in the way of the crew, it collected every bit of construction debris, no matter how tightly wrapped it was. When the contractor finally lost patience with us after have to move it all too many times to mention, on threat of revolt it was moved into the basement, where it collected mould and mildew to go with the sawdust and drywall dirt.

So, after spending our first five 14-hour days with a spray bottle filled with a potion of hydrogen peroxide and colour-fast bleach (found on the internet as a result of googling “getting mould off upholstery”), we have rescued nearly everything from the dank and smelly depths. Once we organized everything in the basement and cleaned it out, the mould is gone from there too.

Don’t #2: “Don’t do the kitchen first”, which I did fearing that we would run out of money before the renovation was done. (I was correct in my monetary assumption, by the way.) Miraculously, there is no damage to the new kitchen, but it was definitely another handicap and irritant for the crew, and has affected a floor decision which will not be easy to change, since all the cabinetry is in position. I am happy to live with the floors I have as my penance for this "don't".

Don’t #3: “Don’t assume that the contractor understands what you are saying.” When we told him that we were coming up to the cottage at a certain date for a week, he assumed we didn’t want him to work while we were there. WRONG. Under no circumstances did we want him to go anywhere else, when there is still so much to do. Luckily, we figured each other out and by mid-week we got the crew back. They got lots done without being in our way – though I’m sure we were in theirs.

Don’t #4: “Don’t under estimate the power of beer on Friday.” Since we haven’t been able to be there to establish this ritual at the end of the week (something our friends did every Friday through their reno), we found out just how powerful this small gesture can be. It gave us a chance to spend some time with the wonderful human beings who do the work – and gave them a chance to get to know those human beings who have been committing all the don’ts. I wish we were in a position to do this every Friday going forward, but we aren’t. Our second week of vacation is coming after the Labour Day weekend, so we will get to do it one more time. And there will be some sort of celebration when we are done, I'm sure.

Don’t #5: “Don’t lose sight of the finish line.” I think we are suffering from renovation fatigue, which plagues everyone at some point. Unfortunately, renovation fatigue is right next door to renovation remorse, with which my husband appears to be flirting. Not me – I can definitely see how magnificent it is going to be.

After we were finished de-moulding, we put a number of our favourite pieces in place including a painting on the new mantel of our incredible new fireplace. Amazingly, without paint on the new walls or trim on the new windows, these personal touches really made it feel like the home it will soon be. I am truly excited and know that it won’t be much longer before it’s perfect.

We refused to put all the furniture we so lovingly cleaned back into the basement. We put it all together in the centre of the living room and covered it with a big sheet. This time we told the contractor what we were doing. He didn’t have too much to say about it, which could mean he is o.k., or it’s our next stupid decision.

I sure hope it’s not the next “don’t”.

Monday, August 6, 2007

My First Trip on The Polarfleece Express


About a year ago, I started this project - a bath mat hooked in polar fleece. I wanted something for the bathroom that could be stepped on with wet feet. And I wanted to see what it was like to hook with polarfleece.

I had a stash of old polarfleece scarves and tops, to which I added some remnants from the fabric department at the WalMart near the cottage. I suspected that no matter how horrible the prints were on the bolt, once they were cut into strips and hooked in, they would add texture. Would you ever guess that my textured sky was in fact a swordfish pattern, or that the trees and highlights in the doors were originally John Deere tractors on black? I swear, I am telling the truth. Let's face it, a lot of the prints you see in polar fleece, whether on a bolt or in a blanket are downright hideous, until they are hooked. And for the less adventurous, there are lots of solids that can be used instead.

There are pros and cons of working with polar fleece, as there are with any fabric choice. One definite pro is that not only can you find it in any fabric store, but the Goodwill and Value Village have racks of polar fleece garments that are no longer being worn. The apple green that I used in the grass was a vest. The darker trees were once a plaid housecoat. You get a lot of fleece in a housecoat - multiple mats for sure. It hooks very quickly, especially if you cut it wide. And the ends hide well, just as wool ends do. Another pro is that it does feel amazing underfoot. Very soft and cushy. And I used up some old acrylic yarn in the whipping - something that shouldn't be done on a wool project.

The cons are really minor. The cutting needs to be done either by hand or with a rotary cutter, since you can't use your wool cutter. The synthetic fibers would ruin the blades in no time. I think someone told me that you could use a shredder, but I haven't tried that. The other thing is that you pretty much have to work with fabric "as is". Although I haven't tried, I don't think that dyeing is an option. The only other thing is that the mat is quite heavy when finished, so I'm not sure what the drying time will be like once I have washed it - gentle cycle for sure. Probably drying flat will be the best way to go. I don't think the sun will bleach the colour.

I did say that I began this mat about a year ago. It was one of the projects that got cast aside while others took over. But, now that it is basically finished (a little whipping left to go), I am glad that I picked it up and finished it. I realize that this plentiful, inexpensive alternate to wool is a great suggestion to hookers who don't have access or budget for its more costly cousin.

It joins the ranks of pantyhose as being a fun, somewhat unexpected fiber with which to hook. I highly recommend that you give it a try.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Therapeutic Hooking



There are lots of different ways that people centre themselves. For some, it is running; for others, yoga. For me, it is hooking that restores my soul. Pulling a few loops at the end of the day seems to dissipate the stresses I have collected in the big bad world. I’m able to focus on something small that I can control.

Some nights, I may not get to pick up a hook until 10:00, but an hour of hooking is almost always enough to settle me. If I don’t take the time before I go to bed, the worries of the day start to spin inside my head the minute it hits the pillow and I lie awake trying to sort them all out.

Some people find reading before bed helps them fall asleep. My problem with books is that my eyes usually tire before my brain, and I close my eyes to find my brain still humming. I guess this means I am more tactile than visual in my settling requirements. I need to connect with the wool - go through the motions.

Therapeutic hooking isn’t always pretty. In fact, sometimes the next day, I end up pulling it all out. That’s o.k., because sometimes the pulling of the loops is needed more than the actual results. Runners don’t always have a destination, do they? It’s just the running they need.

Then there’s that rare day in which I find a couple of hours all to myself. When I decide to spend those hours hooking, it’s like a present to me. I’d choose it over a manicure or a facial anytime. And I’d scramble to get everything on my “to do” list done, just to reward myself with that hooking time. It rejuvenates the soul and lets me completely lose track of time.

And, at the end of a few sessions, there’s a rug or wall hanging or purse that you get to enjoy for years to come. That's what I call great therapy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One Step at a Time.


One of the things on my hooking "to try" list was a set of stair risers. I always thought they were an amazing way to add whimsy, colour and interest to a simple staircase. Stair risers are not something you see much these days. I imagine their heyday was before broadloom and stair runners were very much the fashion. Some primitive websites have them, and I remember a story about Canadian hookers doing them for a restoration in the US.

But, I have a set of stairs (technically I don't just yet, but will soon) that leads to my soon-to-be studio. What better place to display my risers than where students and guests can see them as they go up to the main part of the house.

Various theme ideas danced around my head until, as usual, necessity became the mother of my invention. Actually, necessity is too strong a word. It was more like a theme opportunity that presented itself. To complement a display at an up-coming workshop with a laundry theme, I decided to hook this riser. It pretty much sums up how I feel about laundry. And I have come up with several other companion phrases, certainly enough for a set of stairs. I will call this set the Domestic Goddess Collection.

The perks of risers? They are quick to do. And they can be textural, since no one is walking on them - hence the name "risers". (The part that sits on the actual step is called a "tred" for those who needed to know.) So, there may be some embellishment before these get installed, oh yes, and 9 more to be hooked.
I'm sure that as I proceed through them, they will inspire others. So I think stair risers will be something I will include in my workshops and my website (which is also still to be built).

Monday, July 16, 2007

The positives of negative spaces.


In the past year, I have hooked a lot of faces. It all started with a portrait of 2Pac that I hooked for my son's birthday last year, and there's been a face on the go pretty much since then. I've also done some feature studies. One was a mouth - a voluptuous pair of lips created by hooking the space around them - the "negative space". It was fascinating to see the shapes emerge as I hooked.

So, I decided to try an entire face to see if it worked as well. As in all the other faces and feature studies, the secret is to concentrate on the shapes created in the negative space. It's a little like those optical illusions that fascinated me so much when I was younger. You know the ones where you see one thing first, and then you see something else. I loved those!

From "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" to just about any other art book, artists and art teachers all agree that the space around the shapes is as important as the shapes themselves. Would one exist without the other?

At any rate, this the face that I created with negative space. I enjoyed the exercise of hooking it. And I like how it turned out. Your eye definitely moves back and forth between the dark shapes and the light spaces created between.

And the biggest positive of this negative space study was, of course, the learning.

Monday, July 9, 2007

How many stitches to Parry Sound?



I am a car knitter. I knit in the car while my husband drives...what were you thinking? (I've seen those people putting on their makeup while they drive and it scares the bejeezus out of me.)

I would love to hook in the car, but hooking equipment takes up too much space. I'd probably have to sit in the back to do that, though I must confess I have never tried. My good friend Elaine has hooked on a plane, so I guess it can be done. But probably not on my gripper frame.

I have never been able to just sit. I always have to be doing something in addition to sitting. I knit or hook in front of the television. So car knitting is just an evolution. And it's a very productive way to use time that would otherwise be spent just sitting.

Some people are car readers. I can't do that, without getting an upset tummy. I guess it's that type jumping all around that does it. Knitting is as much tactile as visual. I can feel my way along without looking, and that doesn't upset my tummy at all.

For my car knitting, I pick easy patterns that don't need a lot of attention. And in a few trips, voila - a new garment. I even knit in the city on the trips to and from work, especially when traffic is bad. The benefit of an easy pattern is that you don't have to watch the knitting. You can sight-see and knit at the same time. That's productive multi-tasking if ever there was.

I have met several other car knitters. We all seem to choose socks, scarves or drop-dead easy sweaters. Afghans would be good too, but on a hot day, that bulk in your lap wouldn't be so great. But a great winter idea!

I like seeing the reactions of people in the next lane. They often do a double take. I remember one time, the driver next to me smiled and pointed to his wife, who saluted me with her needles. We are definitely out there in droves (no pun intended).

This weekend, I finished a Sally Melville pattern. I have knit it once before - the first time not in the car. This sweater is a white cotton tunic that knit up very differently than the original. I have a feeling this won't fit at all like the first one either. It's a much heftier yarn and I hope it doesn't look like it was fashioned by Omar the tent maker, since there are a number of hours and kilometers in this sweater. And I did do a tension check, I swear.

So, here's to car knitting. And a sweater in approximately 2,500 km. Not bad!
Picture to follow, unless Omar was the designer. If so, I'll just ravel it back and car knit another masterpiece.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

O Canada Day Weekend


For the past 16 years, July 1st weekends have been the traditional cottage kind - filled with swimming, kayaking, eating, drinking, hanging out with friends and family.

Not this year! Without a place to sleep at the cottage yet, the weekend was fractured, the rhythm was off and I was left wanting. Friday was a work holiday, which I spent doing chores around the house. If I stopped to think about what I was missing, it felt like a wasted day. But the weather wasn't great, so it was the perfect opportunity to get to a few odds and ends tasks. And I did end up with better organized spaces, some fresh touches of paint and a feeling of having accomplished something I've been putting off for ages.

On the bright side, not heading up on Thursday night or Friday meant we missed the incredible traffic - which, try as I might to convince myself, is not a high point of long weekends for me. Even at 6:45 Saturday morning, there was a pretty steady flow northbound on the 400. But, as a car knitter, I get lots done on these 2+ hour trips. A full sleeve this trip.

We arrived to find kitchen windows, garage doors and windows, one upstairs bedroom window and two basement windows. The kitchen was the prize of the weekend. Not only was it light and bright with the new windows, but there was running water in the sink and a clear counter which I was able to clean and use to make lunch. Yahoo!!!

During the day on Saturday, we met with the contractor, a few of the cottage neighbours came to peek and we did get several chores done before heading to friends' cottage for dinner and a sleepover. We brought dinner in return for lodging and spent a great evening with them, sharing their first long weekend bonfire.

Next morning, coffee and bagels and then back to the cottage for a couple more chores and then back in the car to head home - again, on the bright side, missing the worst of the traffic. The bonus was finding an amazing piece of furniture for our new entry way, so the day was rescued in that respect. But all in all, it was a big disappointment to have to vary our Canada Day tradition.

I keep reminding myself that this is just one Canada Day in the scheme of things and next year we will be back on track with all the usual activities.

It will be Canada Day again before we know it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Visiting is not the same as being there.


Last Thursday, I visited my alma mater. Nope, not my University. Better than that -Trent School of Rug Hooking.

I was there to showcase a possible class for the 2008 year, which I really hope I get to teach. I chose Thursday to do the showcase, since that is Open House day at the School. This was the first time in 4 years that I hadn't been there for the week, so this was the next best thing.

My friend Elaine and I went to Peterborough the night before to stay with my mother in law, since my showcase was at 8:30 a.m. Jo (ma-in-law) treated us to a wonderful Prime Rib dinner at Chemong Lodge on Wednesday night. Amazing food at a ridiculous price (low) in a gorgeous setting - highly recommended.

The following morning, we arrived at the college in lots of time to set up - much better than driving for two hours at the crack of dawn. No sooner had we emerged from the car then I found out I was sharing the spotlight with another showcase. Jon, the best wildlife hooker this side of anywhere, was presenting his course outline as well. As he set up his projector, and I knew they would be images of his amazing creations, I was feeling a tad anxious. I definitely wanted to go before him - to be the appetizer before his entree.

And, lest I forget, I also ended up following a very funny skit about Emily Carr, her prolific monkey Woo and Woo's clean-up crew. I felt caught between the ridiciulous and the sublime and it was more than a little like being on Saturday Night Live.

But the presentation went well, and there appeared to be great interest in this little project after all. I guess there are a lot of hookers like me. They already have many long-term projects on the go. They're looking for something they can design, plan, hook and finish in time to take home.

Everyone gets to vote on the showcases they have seen during the week, to help choose the classes for the following year. I have my fingers crossed that they choose me.

The rest of the day was spent catching up with lots of folks. The rug school at Trent has a very loyal student body. Many return year after year, some since the very beginning. And who can blame them! Where else can you hook all day long - and all night long too if you like, laugh out loud, carry on like kids, have all your meals prepared for you and celebrate the delight of being in the company of like-minded women for a week. It's summer camp for hookers! And it doesn't get much better than that.

The rug display this year had some incredible works. It was fun to see rugs from previous years that people had finished since school last year. There was certainly a variety of topics and techniques and it is a testament to how good the school is to see such great work.

We also saw the Friendship rug and it was as amazing as I knew it would be. Taking on that task is quite an endeavour. Having helped create last year's rug, I fully appreciate the effort that goes into creating it. Sally, Gretchen and Jane have definitely raised the bar for the next rug. It's amazing when you think that one lucky person gets to take it home.

Lunch in the cafeteria included the fries and homemade desserts that I swore I wouldn't have. Then off to the classrooms to visit anyone we hadn't seen yet. Visitng the classes is one of my favourite things to do, since it is often tough deciding what class to take. When you get inside the rooms and see the work, you vow to take that class "next year" if it is offered.

This year, the classroom visits were open to the public only. They opted for an "on the lawn" display of the work to the classes on Friday instead. I'm sure it cuts down on the disruption and loss of class time, but I'm glad I picked this year to be a "public".

I remember Thursday as being a bit of a sad day - only one full day of class left before getting ready to head home on Saturday. The week flies by like any week with that much fun in it. I remember my first year hearing one of the women say, as she packed up on Saturday, "only 51 weeks till I get to come back".

I really hope I get to come back in 51 weeks! This time as a teacher instead of a student. I hope I get to lead a class in my nice little project that they can start and finish while we are all having fun.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What a difference a door makes!


It's amazing what things give you the biggest thrill in a renovation. They aren't necessarily the biggest things. But they are the ones that trigger an emotional reaction. That is certainly the case with our front door.

For many reasons, our windows and doors were ordered later than planned, so we have been waiting with baited breath for them to arrive. A lot of things cannot be completed until the windows are installed, so we know that once they are all in, we will feel that things are really progressing.

Everyone knows what a difference light in a room makes, but the impact was greater than expected. Our new entry way was previously our downstairs bedroom. There wasn't even a window where the door is now. Because the room was always so dark, it was great for sleeping. You never knew what time it was, and if you wanted, you could just go on sleeping. Now, thanks to our new door, it is bright and cheery foyer that opens into the great room, the hub of the cottage.

Previously, the only entrance to the cottage was through the screened-in porch to the kitchen. At a cottage, this was not a problem. But for a full-time home, we wanted a proper front door entrance. You know that expression "back door friends are best". Well, that was all we had - until now!

Our city home has a front door that is barely used. Everyone we know comes to the side door. Only people who don't know us go to the front - too often people trying to sell us things, or ask us to donate to things. When we have a dinner party and at Christmas when family and friends assemble, they use the front door. It makes these times feel a bit more special. I know that the front door at the cottage will do the same.

We still have many things to deal with regarding the exterior of our new front door. There's a capped roof to go over the platform. The hydro meter needs to be hidden somehow. And there's an old oak tree that cuts across the door as you pull in the driveway, whose fate is to be decided. But once we have the sconces on the wall, the cap over the door and the landscaping done to lead to the front door, this will be a warm welcome to all who visit.

And there's still the decision of bell or doorknocker. I think I'll vote for doorknocker. But we now have a wonderful front door! And what a difference a door makes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Some calm amidst chaos


Meet Morris. He is the official guard moose at our cottage. He was a Christmas gift from my husband many years ago. He has been keeping watch over the bay 24/7, 365 days a year and is well loved by all who spot him. Visitors on the lake often circle back to get a closer look, sure they saw something peering at them from our property.
His initiation into cottage life was a story unto itself. Morris was transported in our pick-up truck up the 400 highway, securely bungeed in position, wearing ski goggles and a scarf. The honking of horns and laughter of surrounding motorists was sheer delight. I think we have a picture somewhere of just how silly he looked.
Over the years, Morris has become dwarfed by many of the evergreen trees we have transplanted from around the lake and will be relocated as soon as we have 4 strong people to move him. We have a perfect, more visible spot for him where we lost a tree to a storm last year. A good vantage point for him to keep watch and for passersby to spot him. Morris has become an important part of the landscape, and like all the other elements, needs things need to be moved because of too much shade.
Although I was never a gardener by choice, I have become quite a good gardener by accident. Very much the trial and error approach versus the horticultural scholar. The past two Saturdays have been weeding days, which I love. I think weeding is the one activity that I do without thinking - about anything. It's rather hypnotic, like staring into a fire - you just get lost in it and hours fly by. It's extremely therapeutic. And when you are done, everything looks better. Plants look happier and order is restored. Yes, even to a cottage garden.
These renovation days, it is even more therapeutic, because everything inside the cottage is so out of control. Progress is being made, albeit more slowly than we hoped, in so many areas that everything is in disarray.
So we drive up from the city and spend the day tending to the exterior. After we check progress on the inside and ooh and aah over what's been done, we get to work outside. These days our real sense of accomplishment is in the whacking and the weeding and the tending to the grounds.
We know we will have order restored on the inside eventually. And our inside tasks will become the rhythm of our weekends. But in the meanwhile, we create our calm on the outside to counterbalance the chaos within.
And Morris keeps watch over our progress.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What's in a name?




While we are working away at our addition to our cottage, there's been an even better one at the cottage next door to us. A brand new, perfect baby girl - first child for one of the daughters and first grandchild for the parents. Her name is Rayla Belle - quite a handle for such a tiny person.

Her mom told me that "Rayla" had been in her head for a very long time. And Belle is a salute to her maiden name Belluz. For me, the name brings up images of a southern belle sipping mint julips on the porch. But I'm sure once Rayla grows into it, that initial image will fade. It will be replaced by a toddler eating sand on the beach in front of the cottage, learning to swim and going for boat rides with her grandpa.

When I first saw her pictures of "the most beautiful baby in the world", I had to agree with her new daddy that she was. She has a pink complexion, perfect rosebud mouth and button nose, and a halo of hair that promises to have a touch of red like her mom.

My normal new baby gift (pre-hooking) was always a home-made sweater. I realized that they outgrew those in about 20 minutes, so I have switched to a new, home-made gift that offers greater longevity. Rayla Belle has the distinct honour of being the recipient of the first one.

Influenced by my recent penny rug workshop, I incorporated a little touch into the ends of this piece. I wasn't certain about how to attach the lambs tongues and certainly learned a bit as I proceeded. I will revise the construction on the next one, but basically I am happy with the end result.

I hope Rayla Belle is happy as well. Her parents have given her a name that will make her truly unique. I don't believe she will run into too many other girls in her class with the same handle.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sustainability - one loop at a time.



For the last little while, both at work and at home, I have been exposed to a never-ending stream of information on sustainability, global warming, reducing my footprint and doing something personally to improve the condition of the planet. The research through work has led me to scads of websites with various measurement tools and suggestions of how to reduce my footprint. Some suggestions are easy to adapt. Some are not so easy.

When measuring my own footprint (which is based on consumption of water, energy, land, trees, etc.), I was stunned to learn how un-friendly my lifestyle is, even though I don’t drive a Hummer or fly to exotic locations every month. Simple things like laundry, appliances and newspaper subscriptions all add up to a not-so-great score. I am dedicated to doing what I can to improve that. But rather than beat myself up totally, I decided I would also pat myself on the back for things that I am doing that are good - like rug hooking.

Since my very first project, I realized that recycling old clothes and creating something beautiful and useful with them was very much to my liking. Maybe it’s that East Coast heritage, but I definitely relate to the first mat makers. Everything they used in the rug, and in creating it, was recycled from something else. Mind you, that’s what they had to do, and I’m sure their footprints were tiny.

I love the ceremony of deconstructing a garment. I love putting the buttons and zippers into a box for possible future use, undoing all the seams, letting down the hems, gently washing the wool and shocking it into a wonderful texture. I relish adding the new wool pieces to my stash. I would guess that more than 85% of the wool I have is from recycled garments. They may not give me all the colours I need for every project in my future, but I love creating designs and colour plans that incorporate what I have, rather than dyeing all new wool.

I love that friends are saving wool garments and allowing me the opportunity to give them second lives. Same with panty hose and polar fleece. I love it when I get to show them a rug that has their old winter coat or pants. They seem to love that too.

I also like the fact that each rug has fabric that has had a past life - often one that I will never know anything about. But when I hook with it, I get to send it to a future like with a new story, hopefully for generations to come. It will bear my initials and the year it was hooked, so a little of me will go forward too.

So here’s to all those folks who are teaching us how to save the planet. And to those of us who are doing our part to comply. Even if it is one mat at a time, it’s helping in a way that makes me feel really good.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I can't believe I miss blackflies!



Well, this was the first May 24th weekend (albeit not on May 24th) in 16 years that I have not spent at our cottage.
We did spend part of it there - pushing sawdust around and rearranging the huge pile of stuff in the screened in porch.
Yes, we are in renovation hell, which is preventing us from not only sleeping there, but spending time outside donating flesh to the blackfly population. My husband did don a bug shirt and whack some weeds, so he made a minor deposit to the blackfly bank, but, aside from finding the bug shirts in the pile of possessions in the basement, I donated only what could be taken between car and porch door.
It's amazing how not being able to go there each weekend (since last September) has changed the rhythm of our lives - and not for the better. The fall and winter have always been a special time there, since we are mostly the only ones who go. But the summer is fun too, because we've shared our lake with the same neighbours since we bought so very long ago.
We keep hoping we have reached the point in the construction where things will go more quickly, but at this point we are still without windows and although there is a brand new kitchen under the many boxes of lights and bathroom fixtures, we don't have appliances in or working at this point.
Hopefully, that will be remedied shortly and we can clean out a small spot amid the debris, throw down a mattress and sleeping bags and wake up to our usual pattern of coffee on the lower deck followed by a tin boat ride.
And we can stop missing the things that used to be the negatives about our weekly sojurns - the packing and unpacking of supplies, the long commute on Friday nite, the bug seasons have blur blackfly and mosquito together, the sad Sunday clean up before heading back to the city. And the blackflies!!!
We can't wait to have them all back.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One Happy Mother!


Another year - another Mothers' Day. And this one was one of the best on record.
Since my daughter had to work on Sunday, she spent the day with me on Saturday, which included picking up my mother-in-law in Peterborough, having a gals lunch and a little retail therapy - at a store with Canadian designers only - awesome.

Sunday had the traditional breakfast (not in bed) - Egg McMuffin from the Golden Arches. A little gardening, a little rug hooking and a family meal made the day easygoing and fun.

My son gave me two CDs - Amy Winehouse and Feist - I highly recommend both. And a homemade card - which is always my favourite thing from him. My daughter gave me a gift certificate for summerizing fingers and toes (plus the Saturday lunch). And my husband (even though I know I am not his mother) gave me a Pandora bracelet with a little girl charm, a little boy charm and a birthstone spacer. Very nice.

My kids aren't so little anymore - they're 24 and nearly 21, but Mothers' Day is no less important - in fact in some ways, I think it is moreso. As your kids grow and leave home, you lose many of the traditions you have come to love. The fact that we can hold onto some of the Mother ones once a year always makes me feel loved and appreciated.

My mom has been gone for more than 30 years. I was my daughter's age when she died. I'm lucky enough to have a fabulous mother-in-law, who has now been in the role for longer than my mom. She has done an amazing job of being there for me.

Here's to all mothers everywhere. Mothering's a great job that we all do to the best of our abilities. Being acknowledged for it by the folks you love most, on a dedicated day, is always a wonderful thing.