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.