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.