Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Easy holiday knitting.


In case you are looking for a fast, easy project for the holidays, here is a great pattern from knitty.com. I hope this is the link. It's called Tudora, and you can locate it through the scarves section in the Archive menu.

It's a wonderful alternative to a big scarf and in addition to sitting easily inside the collar of a coat, it is cozy to wear with a tee or a sweater that doesn't already have a turtle neck. Between this and the fingerless mitts, I am not anticipating a single chill this winter (ha ha).

I knit 6 of them for different people and used a lot of great yarn that I didn't have enough of for much else. I had fun picking buttons for each one and I did manage to get all my ends woven in and all of them wrapped and ready for giving.

My son, who chuckled at them until he tried one on, has now decided that he wouldn't mind one - plus a pair of fingerless gloves too - so you just never know.

I'm sure your yarn stash has something wonderful in it. So print yourself out the pattern and watch how quickly it goes. Knitty is a regular destination for me - there's never a lack of patterns for things I covet.

Happy knitting.

Wendie

Happy Holidays


Well, here it is nearly noon December 24th and I am sitting in my office wondering why I am here.

However, carols are playing on CBC, and phones aren't ringing - only 3 of us in today - so it's quite peaceful and a great time to do a seasons greeting post.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, love and laughter. And I hope that 2009 is a healthy, happy year for all of us. On a global scale, things aren't that great at the moment. Let's wish for a speedy recovery that gets us all back on track.

My plans are to spend tonight with my husband, son, daughter (plus her beau and his daughter), my mother and sister in law. We will drink eggnog and listen to more carols. A few friends and neighbours are expected to stop by for a cup of cheer.

Tomorrow will be the traditional brunch of mock souffle (which the kids will not allow me to change), opening gifts, nibbling goodies throughout the afternoon and then the turkey feast.

Boxing Day my siblings get together at my sister's in Oakville. Since the death of our parents so many years ago, Nancy has been the matriarch and keeps us all on track. She has non-family friends for the day as well, so it's a fun, boisterous time with up to 40 folks there. She is much braver than I to do this every year.

Then on the 27th, we will head up to the cottage for a while - not returning until the 1st. Both kids will come for part of the time, so we won't be lonely. A few others will be at their cottages for the holidays, so we will toast the New Year with whomever is there.

With so much snow, we'll cross country ski and snow shoe I'm sure. But I'm bringing "Marley and Me" which I hope to read before going to see the movie. And I'll bring along a hooking project or two. So, my days will be filled with all the things I wish for you.

Thanks for visiting throughout this past year. I've enjoyed getting to know so many of my visitors. And this blog has become a part of my weekly rhythm.

Before we know it, it will be 2009 and a whole new year of hooking and knitting and blogging and sharing.

Hugs to everyone.

See you next year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A special Christmas surprise.


Imagine my shock when I saw a Canada Post truck on a Sunday! And then - it stopped at my driveway!! And left a box on our stoop!!!

A box from Deanne Fitzpatrick that contained
• an amazing little mat that is a likeness of me (in case you couldn’t tell – sorry for the bad pic, but my digital camera chose last night to die and this is a phone pic)
• a handmade soapstone hook that feels unbelievable in my hand
• a Christmas card and lots of other newsy bits.

You may be wondering why I should be so lucky as to receive this amazing gift from this talented lady, so let me tell you the story.

When I attended the symposium in Amherst, Deanne was quite taken with one of my homemade sweaters – so, after mulling it over in my head, and knowing that her knitting prowess is limited to scarves, I offered to knit her one. If she provided the yarn, I would provide the sweater. It was a relatively easy pattern – so I knew it wasn’t a crazy thing to offer. She offered to pay me to do so, but I figured we could come up with a better barter than $$.

Before I finished the knitting and sent the sweater to her, she emailed with an idea. She wanted to hook a little mat of me wearing the sweater. (See, I told you there would be something better than $$ - way better.). I was thrilled.

And that was what was inside the box delivered on a Sunday by Canada Post.

I love the mat. It is bright and cheery and makes me smile. I love my sparkly hair!!! I love that she hooked the little sweater in yarn - so appropriate. There’s something so personal about this – so much better than any other trade I could have imagined. And, as Deanne wrote in her diary a while ago, it was such an easy trade. No effort at all to make it happen. I think it was just meant to be.

I will have to take a better picture when my camera is either repaired or replaced, so you can truly appreciate how wonderful it is. But I just couldn’t wait to share it.

Tonight as I am wrapping all my gifts – many of them hand made – I will feel proud to give them, because I have been reminded (in the absolutely best way) about just how great it is to receive something that was made just for you.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I "heart" my BFF Jennifer


See the heart on my Pandora bracelet?

It came in the mail from Jennifer (Fish Eye Rugs) yesterday and this is a picture of it on my bracelet this morning. I don't know if she wanted me to open it or not, but I did. (Sorry about the fuzziness of the picture - I took it with my phone.)

I sent a charm to her this week too, a snowman for her new bracelet (which in light of her recent posts seems very appropriate). Where mine is nearly full, hers is just beginning, so I will have lots of opps to send her more for whatever reason I choose. I think I only have three spots left on mine. I may have to start another.

In our cards that we sent to one another, we came right out and said how much we loved having one another as a friend. When was the last time you did that? I know that I don't feel compelled to do it often enough, but my relationship with Jenn is based on mutual love of so many things that mutual love of one another's friendship is just part of the deal.

She articulated it much better in her card than I did. But we do both love so many of the same things. We love hookinig. And knitting. And blogging. And Pandora bracelets and the Stephanie Seymour book series and the movie Twilight.

In the short time I have known her, Jenn and I just continue to discover more and more things we have in common. And somehow, from the very first correspondence with her, my instincts told me that this would be the case. Despite our age difference, which I will not elaborate on, we are (I believe) soul mates, which is probably much better than being BFFs - sorry Paris.

I was thinking this morning that a few years ago, my relationship with her would have been restricted to long distance phone calls, occasional cards in the mail and visits a few times a year at hooking-related events.

But thanks to the wonderful world of internet, we talk nearly every day. We send each other pictures. We follow one another's blog posts and we are connected so well that when we get together, we are already up to date on one another's lives.

Lucky for me, she still comes to Toronto to have her hair cut, so if our schedules permit, I know that I will get to see her pretty regularly. And that makes me very happy.

So thanks Jenn. For my heart and for being my friend. You really are the best.

And to the rest of you - if you haven't told someone special that you love having them for a friend - do it. There's nothing that can make someone feel more appreciated than that.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two more signs done.



I know I showed the Fitzgerald sign in progress. It is now finished and being delivered tonite, when we visit for our cup of Christmas cheer. I put a hanging pocket on the back, so they have the option of putting it on a piece of furniture or hanging it.

The Garlands are cottage neighbours who have become great friends over the years. The husband, Richard, is the fellow who is helping me with my rustic footstools. He is very handy and has a workshop full of tools. I'll be visiting there a lot in the spring, I'm sure.

Sylvie, who is the Mrs. in the Garland household, really admires my hooked pieces and noticed the Davis sign that sits on the blue piece in the entry hall. I decided to surprise her with a sign for their cottage this Christmas. Her kitchen has the green that is in the plaid in this sign. And I think there are a number of other places she can use it.

I have one more sign to finish. It is whipped and waiting for pressing and a label. Then the Christmas hooking projects are done. And I can get back to the projects that got set aside for these. Two that need attention over the holidays, since they must be finished in January.

There's always something waiting. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Dude, where's my car.




We went to the cottage this weekend and couldn’t believe the amount of snow!
I think there is as much already as there was at the end of February last year – and it’s not even Christmas yet.

When we arrived on Friday night, it was -21 degrees – BRRR. Definitely one of those nights where having our new furnace is a wonderful thing. I think back to the nights that we went to bed in our down coats and hats after putting on a wood fire – and I don’t miss them!!

Luckily, the weather had warmed considerably by Saturday morning, and then the snow began to fall AGAIN. I went to town to run Santa-type errands and while I was out about another 5” fell. Rick had the task of getting the snow off the front deck. Because it is between the two sides of the cottage, it really drifts there in the wind, so in some spots it was over 2’ deep.

In a normal winter in Parry Sound, when there is this much snow, the lake is frozen and we can don our skis and go for a long, easy trek. Not this time of year - it's way too early. There are lots of huge open spots where the hot springs come up through the cover of snow. But someone said that they had seen a snowmobiler out on a small lake. I really don’t get the death wish that seems to overtake some sledders. We’ll wait till there is a good 8” of ice before we venture out.

While we slept on Saturday night, another 10” fell. It really does look spectacular there, and as long as you have nowhere to go, you can sit all day and admire it. Since we did need to come back to the big bad city, we were happy that our friend Peter (our Cottage Keeper) came with his trusty snowblower and cleaned out the driveway. There’s only so much shovelling we 50+ folks can do in one weekend.

By the time we left yesterday, it was +6 and raining. What a change in less than 48 hours. And when we got back to Toronto, nearly all the snow was gone. I think I much prefer it up north anyway, so if anyone asks for my vote, I say that all snow goes to Barrie and further north. For those of you reading, who are not familiar with these landmarks, that is about 100 km north of Toronto – the cottage is another 125 km north of that.

Those folks can use the snow for tourism and such. I’m happy to let them have it all, along with all our snow removal equipment, if they can just figure out a way to get Mother Nature to heed that demarcation line.

In the meantime, it did put me in the mood. Sitting at the kitchen table, looking out the window at this view. Christmas carols playing in the background. It was positively serene and I feel ready for the festivities to begin.

And, joy of joys, the car started first try. And got out of the driveway without a single skid.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wicked Little Sweater.


"Wicked" is the actual name of the pattern. It's one I found on Ravelry and paid to download. I like short sleeve sweaters, since they keep your back and front warm, but aren't too hot for indoors. Sort of like sticking your feet out from under the blankets.

This style is great with a t-shirt underneath, like I'm wearing today, but also looks cute without and with the neckline a little further off the shoulders. It has a little kangaroo pocket in front, which is always a good thing.

Since it is my colour scheme with blue, black and grey, it goes with most of my wardrobe. I wasn't too sure about the little fleck of light in it, but I think I like it. It looked much greener before it got knit in - now it just looks offwhite, which I figure is my hair colour LOL.

I must confess to not doing a gauge swatch first, and therefore knitting it twice - didn't that just happen to me a month ago???? I really have to heed that Golden Rule and do a swatch every time (except perhaps for scarves). I always tell everyone else to do one.

All in all, now that it's done, I am very happy. And I will definitely do this pattern again. It was quick to knit - even twice. I have most of a ball left over so may do fingerless gloves to match. I've decided they are perfect for my office when my hands are cold but I need my fingers for keyboarding.....just in case you were wondering what fingerless mitts would be good for.

On to the doggie sweater and the rest of of the Christmas goodies. So far, I'm on track to get everything done.

Will post more pics as I get things finished.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Magical Celebration.


This past weekend, Rick and I were treated to a weekend in Niagara on the Lake. It was a gift from my company to celebrate my 10th anniversary here. Everything was planned from the B&B we stayed in to Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel, and lots in between.

Getting there was the hardest part of the weekend, slogging through Friday afternoon traffic. It’s incredible to do a quick calculation in your head of the number of cars around you. Four lanes, the 68 kilometer trek, and solid cars the whole way. In fact, from Oakville to Burlington, we never went faster than 20 kph. So, we were very happy to exit the highway and make our way through Virgil and into NOTL.

Our B&B was a Georgian style home and we had the deluxe accommodation. The host and hostess, a Scottish couple named Kate and Bobby, made us feel welcome immediately and fed us the two most sumptuous breakfasts I have ever eaten. They are lifelong B&B owners and their expertise showed in their home and their hospitality. Our suite was appointed to a "t", with the perfect mix of seasonal and historic touches - plus all the modern conveniences. The house was conveniently located a block from the main street, so it was easy to come back for a rest between outings.

Friday night there was a Candlelit Stroll scheduled for 6:00. In fact, things didn’t really happen till almost 7, so those of us who are extremely punctual had very cold toes and fingers by the time things were ready to roll. However, watching the crowd and drinking in the twinkling town was a delightful way to pass the time. Eventually the MC for the evening introduced the Minister of Justice, the Lord Mayor and several other dignitaries and the lighting of the candles began.

Starting at the front of the gathering, each person turned to the person behind them and lit their candle while wishing them a Merry Christmas. Eventually, nearly 1,000 candles were lit and people began singing their way down the main street, entertained by a local choir and drum core band in full uniform.

Proceeds from the candle sales are used to support a local teen who is challenged with health issues. This year the funds were going to help retrain the companion dog of a teenager named Beth who has very special needs due to a disease whose name I can't recall and wouldn't be able to spell even if I could.

Those in attendance came from all over - the US side of the river, locals, folks from Burlington, Hamilton, Toronto, and much further afield. There were kids in sleds, lots of dogs in cozy sweaters and people bundled against the cold. We were told that this was about 3x the usual turnout, since previous years have had rain, dangerously high winds and other feats of Mother Nature that really put a damper on attendance. We were happy to be part of this larger throng.

Shops were open for the evening, allowing strollers to warm up. Every store, as every other building in town, was resplendent in Christmas finery and I certainly found myself catching the spirit. It was easy to pick up a few little gifts here and there. Some were things I’m sure I could find at home, but many were unique to the town.

Saturday, we had tickets for the Seasonal House Tour. Several historical houses were open to the public and each one had been decorated for the season by one of the businesses in town. We got to see inside some of the cottages and other historical buildings from the early 1800's. The turnout was incredible and there were line ups at nearly every place on the tour. As we walked along the residential streets, a few blocks from the main street, we realized that without the tour beckoning us, we would never have discovered all the quaint houses that fill the town. So many of them were B&Bs, nearly every one had a plaque with a name and date. And each and every house was decorated for the season.

Inside the houses, I found many delightful floral arrangements and tried to make mental notes of the clever way things were put together, since taking pictures is not permitted. Suffice to say that clove oranges and other fruit featured in many arrangements, as they would have in days of yore. One house even had pineapples (cut vertically with half on each side of the garden gate) on their garlands. I hope I can recreate some of these in years to come.

Lots of walking, shopping and gawking filled the day until it was time for high tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel. What a sumptuous affair. China and silver, crisp linen napkins. Everything that constitutes high tea, including a 3-tier server with sandwiches, scones and sweets. We somehow managed to devour them all. Between the giant breakfasts at the B&B and the tea, traditional meal time was out the window on this weekend. And I was very happy for all the walking.

No visit to NOTL would be complete without a pint at the Angel pub, so after more walking and shopping, we stopped in on our way back to our room. The Angel has long been a favourite, since it is family friendly and we took the kids there when they were much smaller. Low ceilings, friendly staff and Stella on tap made our brief stay very pleasant.

Once back in our room (called the Ernest Hemingway suite), we lit a fire and watched a charming Scottish film before tucking in to our King size 4-poster. And what a sleep after all that walking, shopping and eating. One more big breakfast on Sunday and we headed back to our real lives, inspired to put up our tree and adorn the house for the season.

I loved every minute of the weekend. I think the last time I had such a special time was in Charleston many years ago. It’s wonderful to move out of your normal rhythm and experience something new. When someone organizes a special weekend, you get to do things you might not otherwise choose. And in this instance, it was indeed a magical time.

Thanks Mike and Cyndy for a great celebration.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More than pretty pictures.

Yesterday, a new visitor left a comment on my blog about my work and the recycling that I am doing in my projects. It was a nice little note, and I followed the link back to her blog. I have added her link to my blog list - Hours and Times.

She is a photographer who has beautiful images on her blog and for sale on Etsy, and I liked reading her entries. She recently relocated to Montreal after leaving what she called the "work and sleep, work and sleep" existince she found herself living. She has a crisp writing style and definite opinions on our recent political situation here in Canada.

I think politics is like sex and religion. I usually only talk about those topics to people that I know extremely well, since they are able to put it into the context of who I am as a person - the topic doesn't define me.

I respect people who are verbal about their opinions, but I think it defines or changes the way people think of you, especially if they don't know you. And it puts you in an immediate position of having to defend your "politics". These days, that is not an easy task. Sentiments are running high all around the world as we struggle globally to regain our balance.

The only thing I can be sure of is that the "way things were" is not the "way they will be". No amount of looking back to the good old days can bring them back. It's not the same place anymore and everything is changing so quickly, it's hard to determine the best course of action. I'm grateful that I am not a politician - I can't imagine even wanting the job. No matter who does what - there will always be opposition. So I vote with my conscience and try to believe that the best will be.

My kids are inheriting this mess we have created and I certainly want better than this for them. I want them to find jobs that are fulfilling. I want them to own a home if they want one. I want them to be free to express themselves politically.

I have a feeling that as we move forward, everyone's political opinions, inlcuding theirs and mine, will become a bigger part of our identities.

And that's as political a post as you will read on this blog.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cottage vs City Hooking


We went to the cottage this weekend and this is what I worked on. It's a commissioned sign for a family who visited us there this summer. I always feel this is the perfect visual for cottage hooking - Hudson Bay blanket et al - in fact it was my Rugged Moose sign which prompted the order.

I hooked for a couple of hours on Saturday and then again early Sunday morning. As I sat there hooking on Sunday morning, I realized how different my hooking experience is there than it is at home. As a "cottage hooker", since my studio is not finished and won't be for a while, I hook in the living room. I hook in the quiet, watching the view out the window over the deck (a view which is never unattractive). I sip my coffee and ponder, which is very different from at home.

As a "city hooker", I generally hook in the evenings - after dinner and clean up are done. I tend to hook in the basement family room, with a load of laundry going. And I hook with the TV on. Usually something that is relatively mindless, so I can hook and look at the same time.

I think if I had one to choose just one way to hook, the "cottage hooker" would win. The quieter hooking inspires different thoughts than TV-on hooking. I guess not having the distraction allows me to focus more on the project. So I think about the wool, the project, the recipient. It is definitely much more "mindful" hooking.

For example, as I was working on the border of this sign, I started to remember where the white wool came from - "as is" from King Textiles near my office. And I thought about all the other projects it has been used in. It's been sky in a couple of projects - and it's been background in many. I don't remember how much of this wool I originally purchased, but there is still a chunk of it left in my stash. So, it will grace a few more pieces before it is gone.

The lettering in this sign is made up of two old sports jackets that I got at Goodwill. And it has been lettering in many pieces - including the Rugged Moose sign. I'm sure I could trace it to many more projects, and the browns keep changing, but they all go together. Same with the black backgrounds - always a mix from whatever is on hand, with one plaid moving forward into the next piece.

The green is from an old blanket mixed with some green from a jacket. The red is an old skirt. And the yellow is a combination of some wool that I dyed and a woman's jacket that felt like cashmere. I really love the way this border frames the lettering.

The sign will be delivered on December 10th when we will get together with the Fitzgeralds for our annual Festive Cocktails. They really fell in love with all the hooked pieces at the cottage when they visited this summer and were originally going to order 5 signs for all their family gifts. Thank goodness the order was scaled back to just this one, since I have many other Christmas projects left to do before the big day.

So the "city hooker" will be busy on the frame with the TV on until Christmas - making little gifts for lots of folk. Then, from December 27 to New Year's DAy, the "cottage hooker" will get to ponder again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy American Thanksgiving


It's the start of American Thanksgiving. I seem to forget until the actual weekend, despite the fact that I know it is a much bigger deal for them than it is here in Canada. There's certainly lots of coverage about it, ads, etc. The biggest shopping day of the year, and all that. So I'm not sure why I don't remember.

But today, I have heard from a few people who are all cleaning up things and getting ready for their family get-togethers on this biggie weekend. A few of the people I talked to are Canadians who are taking advantage of this big weekend to go for a visit and to shop. It's a pretty tough time to be thankful, but I hope everyone can find the time and resources to celebrate.

One of the people I visited (in the virtual sense) was my friend Alice who has an amazing blog "A Day in the Life". She had left a comment and linked my blog to hers, so I have done the same. Her blog is chatty, warm and wonderful. Make sure to stop by.

So to all who are partaking of this wonderful celebration, all the best to you and yours. Enjoy the turkey, the company and the shopping.

Cheers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mark Your Calendars.


On February 7, 2009, the Upper Toronto Branch of the OHCG is hosting our 3rd Annual Hook in. (The two previous days have been total successes and in my humble opinion, they get better each year.) I know this seems a long way away, but you'll be amazed how quickly we get there.

It will be held in Toronto at Jubilee United Church, 40 Underhill drive, 2 blocks North of Lawrence Ave., East of the Don Valley Pkwy, from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. It’s the perfect ray of sunshine in a gloomy February. There will be lots of vendors, chatter, activities and home baked goodies. If you can make it, bring your lunch and a mug and enjoy.

We started planning for this upcoming event last spring, before our Branch disbanded for the summer. We knew, based on the success of the Cat’s Meow project last year, that we wanted another project that would galvanize our members. But we wanted something completely different. And that turned out to be the biggest challenge.

A number of topics were tossed about and, eventually, we all agreed on the same one. Houses - more specifically two styles of classic Toronto houses (which in fact turn out to be classic Ontario houses) was the favoured topic. Our challenge is to hook our own, individual version of one or both of the two styles. Some of the super keeners already had something started, or finished, by the time we got back together again in September.

I like this concept of everyone hooking the same thing, and we certainly are not the first to feature this idea at a gathering. In fact, I have attended two R.U.G hook-in’s in Barrie that did the same thing. The first time, it was multiple versions of “mini Ramona” a pattern featured in Rug Hooking Magazine. At this past meeting, Deanne Fitzpatrick was the featured topic and the "show and tell" was different patterns of hers, interpreted by the various members of the Orillia branch. Both were fantastic.

The reason these exercises are so fabulous is that focusing on a single topic - much as you would suspect the opposite - allows all the individuality of each hooker to come through.

A different colour palette, fine cut versus wide cut, a change in house size, a repeated design versus a single house: these are all things that create very different works of art. So will it be with our houses, we hope.

The only common denominator of our exercise is the size: 12 x 16, a size which we decided was not too large an undertaking. I shouldn’t say "only common denominator", since there is another one. We each have to stand up and talk about what we did and why.

For me, there is such learning in these exercises. After everyone has had their “show and tell”, you get to see all the pieces laid out in a group. This is where you really see the differences. Side by side. Style by style. It is fascinating. The variety is a heady reminder that we all carry a voice inside that is, like our signature or our fingerprint, distinctly unique.

There will be, hopefully, lots more publicity about this event in the months to come, but I promised to highlight it on my blog. And there's no time like the present.

For those of you who are within driving distance (always a bit of a challenge in February) we’d love to see you there. If you need more information, send me an email at wsdavis@rogers.com.

For those who are too far afield, check back and see some of the masterpieces after the day. I was going to post my work in progress, but decided that would be spoiling the surprise, so will contain myself until at least February 8th.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So it begins.


This is the picture that I took with my phone camera on Sunday at the cottage. (Sorry it's a tad small - still getting used to the new phone and all the gadgets.)

Yes, it does look beautiful. And yes, the drive out the cottage road was like being inside a Christmas card. The snow was clinging to every branch of every tree, like so much shaving foam.

And since the ground wasn’t frozen yet, we didn’t get stuck getting out the driveway. Amazing how that can still happen despite having 4-wheel drive on all vehicles. Guess ice is ice.

But, it’s still November, Mother Nature, so back off! I’m fine with December, when snow is expected. But after the big summer rip off this year, snow this early is definitely adding insult to injury. (We had another winter where, in my diary I had two entries: November 1 “It’s showing!”, and May 1 “Oh my God, it’s snowing.”) Hopefully this is not repeat performance.

Luckily, I had gone into town on Saturday and found everything I needed to dress up my hanging baskets. Since it was teaming with rain, I worked in the screened in porch and created my little masterpieces. They looked incredible, and hopefully still do, though I couldn’t see them under all that snow when we left.

This year, because the weather wasn’t cooperating in my usual gathering of the greens, I had to come up with Plan B. A little ingenuity and a trip to Home Depot and Dollarama and my baskets are as festive as anything. I found plastic (hopefully that means non-breakable) metallic balls which I secured into the soil in the baskets with chopsticks. They were the perfect diameter to go in the opening of the ball once I took the hanging thingy (the technical term) off. Hopefully, they will stay put for the winter. And hopefully, I can add some fresh greenery when the weather cooperates.

Once the hanging planters were done, I was happy to sit and relax with my hooking. There is something wonderful about sitting and hooking in my log place, fireplace going, cozy slippers on, husband happily watching football on the couch. I had a couple of hours to devote to Totem 40 before getting on with dinner.

When we headed to bed later, a few light flakes had begun to fall. Little did we know what was in store for the morning…..

Friday, November 14, 2008

Six Weeks till Christmas


Hard to believe it is that close. But I know it’s true - the Santa Claus parade is this weekend. Too bad about the rain in the forecast.

The picture with this post is from etsy.com, where there are lots of gift ideas, like the little hooked trees from this seller, Primitivesforsale. Just type "rug hooking" into the search window and you'll find her.

I have spent the last couple of weeks on a mission to finish a bunch of projects that have real deadlines between now and the end of the year - to clear the decks for the holiday gift making.

So, it’s time to get out the lists and figure out what to make for everyone. I really try to do homemade gifts every year, though I’m not positive everyone on the list always appreciates them. But nearly everyone I know has just about everything they need, so for me it’s about giving them something personal.

As I get older, I think getting ready for Christmas is my favourite thing about Christmas. I enjoy decorating the window boxes at the house and cottage. I like sitting and making my lists and figuring out what people would like. I don’t much like the buying scramble at the end, but it seems to be inevitable. And I have a real thing about crowds. Planning what I am going to make is my calm before the storm.

I have a few close friends who collect ornaments, so one gets a Santa every year one gets a snowman and another just gets something I think she would enjoy. She loves the home-made ones. Last year, they each got a felted ornament (which I must, confess I purchased at a craft show). The year before that, they each got a hooked ornament. They’ve received wooden ones, painted rock ones and just about every other medium you could imagine. So I’m not sure what I will do this year.

I am thinking about small hooked signs with Ho Ho Ho, or Noel or something else seasonal on them. They can be signs, or furniture decorations, door hangers - or they can be well, just ornaments.

I have also been scouring my knitting books looking for inspiration. I must say that I am quite partial to the felted bowls in the “One Skein” book. So I may whip up a couple of those and adorn them with something to make them more festive. I found a pattern for some of the fingerless mitts, which I would really like to have for myself. That’s usually how I get my inspiration - I find something that I would enjoy receiving and make a few of those.

There’s also a cable neck warmer from knitty.com that I really like, so I’m going to make one of those and see how that turns out. It’s a great way to use up those single balls of wool that you can’t figure out what to do with.

I’m heading to the cottage this weekend, with sketchbook and notepad. Hopefully, I will get a few prototypes started, or at least down on paper, so I can start checking things off the list.

I’ll keep posting about progress.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A tribute to Barb.



I spend a lot of time and space in this blog writing about people in the virtual world – sending you to their websites and blogs. I realized after going to a Teachers’ Branch meeting yesterday that I have been remiss in not featuring the people in the real world who mean so much to me. This is the first entry to rectify that.

Meet Barb D’Arcy. She is my mentor, my friend and probably the single biggest influence in my life in hooking thus far. An incredibly lively octogenarian, she has more vim and vigor than many half her age and I continually tell people that Barb is who I want to be “when I grow up”. I know that she is reading this post, as she does every Monday, with her cup of coffee.

Barb was the featured speaker at our meeting yesterday and was, as usual, simply captivating. Her talk was about “Rug Stories” and she presented about 20 of her pieces along with their stories about where and when they happened, what influenced her in creating them, and the lessons she learned from each one of them. The rug in this picture is one of my favourites. But it certainly is not the only style she hooks. The variety in her rugs is the perfect chronicle of her journey through different styles and times of her hooking life. She says that many of the pieces seem too simplistic today, when mats are becoming more of a form of personal expression than they used to be. However, I feel that every one of her featured rugs is very personal, and they are a record of the time in her life when she created them

Although this was the second time I have had the privilege of seeing this presentation, I heard and saw different things this time around. I guess that’s the joy in a good book, a good movie and a great presentation.

I first met Barb just over 5 years ago when I started hooking and a neighbour gave me her contact information when I asked if she knew a teacher I should try to hook up with. Lucky for me, she had space in her Monday night class and I started my incredible journey with her.

Barb teaches in a bright and beautiful studio in her home three nights a week. Each class has a distinctly different DNA and each group creates an incredible, emotional bond with Barb and with one another. Once a year, the three night classes get together for a potluck dinner and spend the evening comparing stories and gushing over our favourite mentor.

Barb’s class structure is always an “open” format, where everyone works on their own projects, providing learning opportunities from each mat as people hang up their work to show progress and discuss areas where they are stuck, or where they need guidance. Barb has always encouraged the opinions of everyone in the class, thereby nurturing the “inner teacher” in all of us. She has the ability to convince everyone they can be a designer, that they can journey outside their comfort zone and pushes us all to grow and evolve. She takes great pride in each and every one of us as she watches us come into our own.

For some of us, her encouragement included a gentle shove to consider becoming a certified OHCG teacher. Especially here in Toronto, there is a need for more teachers. Barb has guided many of us through the necessary preparation and the voyage to get there. Yesterday, Jeanne Field commented that the students she recommends and mentors become some of the finest teachers in the Guild and all reflect Barb’s dedication, enthusiasm and love of the craft.

Everyone should have a “Barb” in their life, though I am sure that many will not have that pleasure. I am so lucky to know her, to admire her, and to be influenced by her.

Cheers Barb. Enjoy your coffee and this little salute. In my world of hookers, both online and off, you are definitely the best of the best.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Two New Blogs to Mention

As promised, I have added a couple more blogs into my favourites list.

Red Door is a wonderful, vibrant blog (with a real-world store in Ontario) that has music to entertain you during your visit - the first with a playlist that I have encountered. Their blog features incredible primitive furniture which they restore. I think that most of us love this kind of furniture, because it showcases our rugs and other treasures so well. You will definitely be spending a bit of time there, I guarantee.

The Things I Love is exactly what the name implies. A bounty of treasures - bits of this and that - musings of a very interesting person to visit. There are rugs to see, lots of folk art treasures, dyeing disasters - something for everyone.

The writers of these blogs all really do start to feel like friends, which I know I've written before. And having them out there means there never needs to be a day without a virtual adventure in it.

Make sure you leave a comment when you visit. We love hearing from you.

Happy visits.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blog list at Fish Eye Rugs

Took a quick visit to Fish Eye Rugs this morning (which I do several times a week) and see that Jennifer has created a blog list of everyone who has visited her blog. If you are looking for a comprehensive list of places to visit, go there first.

There are so many wonderful ones out there, I swear I could spend all my time travelling about and leaving comments on them.

I will try to post a few this week too, if I find there are any that she hasn't already covered.

Enjoy.

A background check.


After so many posts dedicated to the Symposium and the comments and blog activity that followed, I am back to posting about projects in progress.

Totem 40, my family portrait from my 40th birthday has been consistently pre-empted with projects that had more pressing deadlines. I think two sweaters, a sign mat, a house mat and who knows what else have jumped the queue in front of this "big" project.

However, in between the interruptions, I did manage to eke out enough time to get a really good run at the background. I think my uncertainty of how to proceed with it kept me from barrelling ahead. But, since it was in view out of the corner of my eye, I think it was constantly percolating in the back of my crowded brain.

I am happy with the progress on the background. I decided to straight line hook all the elements, indicating shapes rahther than actually hooking them. I had originally started with directional hooking and wasn't happy with the results. I have left one big rock on the right hand side which may stay as is, but may be changed too.

I think that the simple colour changes have indicated everything that needs to be there. I definitely see flowers in the grassy parts, wet and dry stones on the beach and whitecaps in the water - all without defining them through shape.

I am also pleased with how anchored it makes the people, who were floating out there before. And I think, once I get one final sweater project out of the way, I will be able to finish this pretty quickly, now that the direction is set.

The only remaining decision is what kind of border will I add. I am considering a very simple brown frame, hooked vertically on the sides and horizontally on the top and bottom, with mitred corners to look like a wood frame. But it will be only a few rows, since there is already so much going on.

I will continue to post progress on this, since it is fun to see it evolve. I took this picture a while ago and hadn't looked at my background for a bit. It may end up being my hubby's Christmas present. He really likes it!

And I must confess that I like it too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The rewards of blogging.

Now that I am feeling like a veteran blogger (LOL), and especially after my recent flurry of blogs about the Symposium, I have come to realize that it is a gratifying exercise in many more ways than I ever expected.

Sure, the writing is great - especially for someone who has been writing for a living for so long. In this space, I get to write what I want, not what a client is paying for, and my writer's voice gets stronger and more familiar with each post.

Instant Gratification - it doesn't take me long to write a post. For me, it's like a conversation to a friend and if I have a topic, the words just flow. I get to write it, edit it, preview it, post it and view it in as little as 10 minutes. (Not all posts, mind you, but many are this fast for me.) It's not really prose - not something that is going to be published in the real sense, so I don't agonize over every word.

Connections - amazing people visit and leave comments and I get to see where they live in the blog world and leave them notes. Some people I met at the Symposium have left comments on my commentary posts, along with people who only shared the experience on my blog. It's amazing how quickly my links list has grown and I love sharing these new places with everyone who visits here. I am going to have to try to find a regular timeframe for updating new blogs, so that I don't overwhelm my visitors with too many places to go.

A Quick Visit - in my spare time, I return to the blogs linked on mine and see what folks have been up to. Even though I am in touch with Jennifer on a regular basis, her blog is what lets me actually see what she's been up to. Leaving a comment on someone's blog is a fast and easy way to keep in touch.

A Virtual Diary - time passes so quickly these days and my blog helps me remember what I have been up to - what events happened - what projects was I working on. They're all here for me to go back through and reminisce. And if anyone asks me what I have been up to, I can tell them to go and see.

Online Portfolio - this has quickly become the place that I send people to see my work. Since I don't have a website - yet, my blog is the viewing place for all my projects, both in progress and finished. Some folks from Fredericton came to my niece's wedding and were anxious to see some of my rugs. I sent them here, since the physical rugs are up north at the cottage.

Show and Tell - that's the ultimate benefit of any blog, I think. It lets people see what you are working on and the progress that you are making. I have had lots of people follow along on a given project, and at RUG recently, someone asked me to hurry up and post more progress pictures on Totem 40, my family portrait rug. (In fact, that will be my next post.)

For something that started off as a bit of a challenge once Jennifer started her FishEyeRugs blog, this one has become a very important sharing vehicle for me. I enjoy doing it. I enjoy seeing who is visiting.

Thanks for coming along.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another wonderful blog.

As any blogger will tell you, one of the most gratifying parts to blogging is getting comments from visitors. It's fun to see where they are coming from, how they found you and whether or not they have a blog you can visit and share.

A recent visitor here is a hooker, knitter and mom of small boys. Her blog is warm and wonderful and in fact our lives have been criss-crossing for some time - at least our virtual ones.

Her blog is http://seasidefarms.blogspot.com/ Her blogging name is thewoolfairy and I definitely remember seeing her goodies on Etsy - earlier post. Turns out she also is one of the yarn suppliers for Deanne and although I thought I may have seen her handiwork in the lustpile of wool there, it is just on its way to the studio now.

Her life is where mine was when my kids were kids - many moons ago. She is eking out time to hook - or time to herself in general - when she can. But you can see from the pictures on her blog that her boys are adorable, active and filling her days with many adventures.

So many of us ended up finding more time to pursue our passions in the fibre world once the chasing days were over. I know that any dedicated time in my earlier endeavours was stolen while they were sleeping. I remember how great it was when they started sleeping in on Saturday mornings and I could get 2 or 3 hours in if I got up early enough.

Now I still do that, but the person sleeping in is my better half. I treasure those hours of peace and quiet to gather my thoughts and plan or putter.

Jennifer's post yesterday - see link to Fish Eye Rugs - is about exactly that kind time, but for her it was that Sunday we all love to have from time to time. Actually, if you read all her posts about her east coast adventure, they are filled with amazing stories and photos that will make you want to hop on the train and go. (Jen - you need to teach me how to do a text link - haven't figured that out yet.)

Anyway, go and discover Seaside Farms and thewoolfairy. Then swing by Jen's and catch up there. It's the perfect day - rainy and grey - to go on a little excursion.

Enjoy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My takeaway.

"Stay inspired. Inspire others. Play with Ideas. Dream. Make people happy whenever you can. Let your hook dance across the mat. Keep good notes. Draw pictures. Seek out happy people. Take deep breaths. See beauty. Throw your head back in laughter. Be kind to others. Gather lots of wool and use your hook to show the world who you are." DF

This is a quote that appears on the back of Deanne’s new hoodies that she had in the studio. I hope she doesn’t mind my using it to write this summation.

Not only does it summarize her philosophy about hooking, it captures the essence of the entire experience at the symposium.

I am inspired. I will continue to try to inspire others. Certainly the experience encouraged a sense of play. And we saw the saw the results of the dreams of so many talented presenters, we know the power of dreams.

Make people happy whenever you can. It really isn’t that hard to do, but maybe we all need a reminder once in a while. Having it on a sweatshirt isn’t such a bad idea – then you can share it with the world.

Let your hook dance across the mat. How eloquently said. Next time you are sitting with a group of hookers, just watch the grace in the hook. Each person moves it a little differently – some waltz while others do the two-step, but we all dance.

I think these entries on my blog are my good notes. I will always be able to look back at them and remember this special time.

I am a picture drawer anyway, but now I will do it even more often. Writing notes about good ideas and putting the down on paper in a sketch will help you remember – like a visual journal.

The happy people I spent time with in Amherst are exactly the kind she is talking about. I find hookers to be mostly happy people anyway – which is why I love being among them.

Laughter – so much of it there. I am smiling just thinking about them all. And it takes me back to my first week at hooking school, when I was overcome with the sound of laughter ringing through the air. It is inspiring on its own.

Use your hook to show the world who you are. That was the biggest lesson of all. Sometimes who we are gets lost in trying to be someone else. But seeing all these amazing people – hearing their stories about creativity and realizing how personal each story was is the real pearl in the symposium. We all gather different wool – we all come with a colour palette inside – we all have a different hooking style and a different story to tell. The secret is in finding our own story and telling it to the world.

My rugs have always been a personal story about a person, a time or a place in my life. I will remember to make sure that they continue to reflect me and show the world who I am.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

10 Venues in 5 Days


This picture is from Heidi Wulfraat's studio, London-Wul, which is already in my links. (That's Heidi in the apron in the centre.) It was the first stop on our journey from the Moncton Airport to Amherst. And the first fibre art show - with beautiful knitted, hooked and punch needle pieces on display. Her studio is glorious - a clean and simple wood interior is the perfect backdrop for her sumptuous wools. There's something reminiscent about an old barn - all the warmth and charm, but none of the barn smells, since it is new. Heidi has an amazing studio in the back and you can hear bird sounds from the moment you open the door - her finches (at least I think that's what she said they were). I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of her wools that I couldn't choose. Fortunately, many of my fellow hookers didn't share my problem and Mary Manuell was working on one of her lap throws throughout the symposium, which was made spectacular by the variety of fibres in the kit.

The next stop was at Fog Forest Gallery in Sackville. The gallery is small and intimate and the artists' work was beautifully, and simply, displayed. Just the right amount of pieces and grouped so that you were drawn from one piece to the next. The website for Fog Forest is www.fogforestgallery.ca and you can take a little trip there to see the gallery for yourself. I posted a couple of days ago about Janet Crawford, the gallery owner, sharing her wisdom about partnering with a gallery.

The Fibre Arts Festival Welcome Reception on Wednesday night was held at the Tantramar Theatre, an incredible building on Victoria Street. It is a venue for many events in Amherst, and they host "...live theatre, dinner theatres and brown bag lunches, we cater to individuals and businesses as a convention centre as well. As a venue for weddings, meetings and seminars, any event or celebration can be held in our elegant atmosphere." On Saturday at the hook in, the manager of the theatre gave us a very warm welcome and invited us to come back to experience some theatre in the building - oh, if only that were an option....

Halina Bienkowski is a rug hooker who also happens to be a GP in Amherst and runs a clinic with her husband, behind the Pharma Save in town. The reputation of her rugs preceded my seeing them and I can totally understand why. The display in her clinic is absolutely breathtaking. Her pieces are all very large - I think the smallest was probably 4' x 6' and the larger ones were closer to 8' x 8'. They were all themed pieces featuring faces. Each piece had a title and she describes her pieces as being a combination of "satire and whimsy". You can see for yourself at http://www.hookedonrugs.net/ which is her website. Many of the pieces shown on the site are different from the ones in her clinic. After seeing her display, I felt that it was worth the trip all be itself.

The display of rugs at the Symposium itself was also venue. The display was as varied as the attendees. Some pieces were perched on a plate rail along the walls of the hall. Other pieces were held up throughout the two days, so we got to see an incredible amount of variety. I, for one, never tire of Show & Tell.

It seemed that every store and restaurant in town had something on display to promote the Festival. Bella's Cafe featured the work of artist, Lisa Martin, who was doing the needle felting workshop on Saturday. She had a set of tea cozies that were set on the bar the evening of our dinner. They were amazing, and made me regret that I hadn't signed up for the class.

The local Department store, Dayle's, had a quilt square competition. The local drugstore had an amazing display in their window. And even Duncan's Pub had one of Deanne's rug on display (though it might be there all the time). A mother-daughter rug and quilt display at the local Home Furniture made me realize how many opportunities there are out there to show work in a venue that might not be the first thought. I think there is a symbiosis between furniture and fibre art that should be taken advantage of more often.

And then there's Deanne's studio which was the venue of all venues. It exceeded expectation and was an amazing space. Soaring ceilings. Lots of wonderful colours. Old wood floors and counters. Incredible, helpful staff, chairs here and there to sit in and ponder or gaze at the pieces on the wall. And a basement that welcomed us for a cup of tea and a homemade cookie, plus a chance to flip through inspiring coffee table books.

It's easy to see how much these displays contributed to the sense of awe that filled the entire experience. I must confess that I did miss a couple of them. But I certainly felt satisfied by the ones I didn't miss.

Next post - my takeaway from the wonder of it all...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eating my way around Amherst.


These are the chicken pot pies that were served for our Thursday lunch. And the picture of them all lined up was just too perfect to resist. So were the pies!

I was expecting a quick sprint to Tim’s for a sandwich for lunch during the symposium. So you can imagine my delight at being served the above-noted pot pies on Thursday and incredibly delicious quiche on Wednesday. And the hand-made Sushi appetizers on Thursday were just another of the culinary surprises.

The infamous Sanford Oat Cakes (recipe for which is on Deanne’s website - scroll down the recipes page) lived up to the legend and became part of my morning ritual. I have never tasted anything that buttery, crispy and wonderful before.

Home baking abounded, from the Welcome Reception on Wednesday night to the Hook In on Saturday. I know that ‘hookers are bakers too’, but the amount of delicious cookies, squares, muffins and loaves was mind-boggling. And there was always coffee, tea, hot cranberry cider or some other aroma wafting through the air. That combination of chocolate and coffee smells is bound to add to the thighs just by inhaling.

Every morsel of food that went into my mouth while I was there was lovingly prepared by someone. What a change that is from my normal, rushed weekday fare. Delicious, unpretentious food was the order of the trip (once I was off the plane, that is).

My first and last meals were at Duncan’s Pub. The atmosphere there was cozier than most pubs, and the fare was wonderful. I treated myself to the fish and chips on Wednesday night and chowder on Saturday afternoon. Both dishes brought back childhood memories.

When I booked the dinner at Bella’s Café in Toronto and saw the $20 price, I wondered what you could possibly feed a crowd for that amount. Well, they didn’t just feed, they stuffed. We were treated to delicious appetizers when we first arrived. The main course was absolutely delicious, coated chicken - huge portions - that none of us could finish. Cobbler ended the meal and we practically rolled out of the restaurant clutching our bellies.

Friday night’s supper was pizza at Joey’s in Sackville. I think it was the best pizza I’ve had in a very long time. And definitely worth the drive.

Which means I actually ate my way around Amherst and more….

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Amazing People.


People knitting, people hooking, people talking, people cooking.

People from near. People from far. Val from California was the person I met from farthest “away” (a term I heard a lot while there).

From the welcoming reception for the Fibre Arts Festival to the dinners, the exhibits, the hook in and the days at the symposium, everything was geared to meeting people.

People presenting. Although they all felt more like “sharers” than presenters. They made us laugh. They made us cry. They made us play. They challenged us to find the creativity in each and every one of us.

Ginny Stimmell - she is one of the most approachable publishers I have ever met (not that I know a lot of publishers) She left us knowing that it is up to each and every one of us to keep ensuring that Rug Hooking magazine is a format by hookers for hookers about hookers
Janet Crawford - her knowledge and advice as a small gallery owner about finding a gallery and exhibiting your work was invaluable, and gave us perspective from both sides - the artist and the gallery owner
Danielle Ouellet - her first homemade doll at 4 launched a lifelong journey into naïve art that is filled with beauty and emotion which sometimes makes you laugh and sometimes makes you cry.
Robert Lyon - his story was inspiring, having moved from Toronto seeking work-life balance and creating a wonderful life for his family with illustration, children’s’ book writing and self-publishing, t-shirt design and production - he was a wonderful reflection of how the art community there welcomes artists
Beth Powning - her success as a powerful writer and her dedication to journals impressed upon us the importance of a place to write to yourself about yourself. They have been her idea keepers to which she often returns in the writing of her novels
Valerie Hearder - her geographic and emotional journeys were shared in an inspirational slide presentation that showed us all that “Home is wherever you are.” Valerie also presented us with an opportunity to connect with fibre artists from South Africa by purchasing their needlework and donating part of the proceeds to support Aids survivors in her native land
Joy Laking - a lifelong, second generation artist whose sense of play inspired all of us to be open to trying something out of our comfort zone and seeing one another’s playfulness
Deanne - what is there to say - she embodies all things wonderful in our craft and the creativity in each and every one of us. She ended up being just the person I wanted her to be. Kind, caring, connected, and as emotional and excited as any of the flock in attendance.

Deanne’s special friends and relatives - our wonderful masseuse who roamed around for 2 days fixing tired hands and granite shoulders - our Sushi artist who came to share her delicious creativity - Deanne’s sisters and niece who are just as warm and welcoming as she is.

And the people to whom I personally owe a big thank you. Gwen who started our excursion on email and journeyed with me all the way from York Mills Station. Anne and Helen who picked us up in Moncton and shared their experiences at Heidi’s London Wool Farm and the Fog Forest Gallery display in Sackville. Jennifer and Mary who toted me along with them nearly everywhere they went.

Lynne who not only helped me find my way back to the Moncton Airport with Sharon, but who vowed to drive me there herself if necessary. Ruth who sat next to me during the symposium, and left me her phone number in Moncton in case anything went awry with my travel plans. She vowed to come and get me and take me home with her.

To a person, everyone we met made me feel welcome during my stay. I always knew that hookers are special people. Maritime hookers and their friends may have taken this to an entirely new level.

Food tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More than one post required.


I had extremely high expecations of my trip to Deanne Fitzpatrick's Creativity Symposium. I am thrilled to say that it exceeded every one of them. It is wonderful when you can say that, since often the dream can surpass the reality.

Rather than trying to cram everything into one long rambling post, I have decided to post several times this week, by topic. Today's post is a bit about the joy of the overall experience. But so many areas need their own space. The people. The places. The activities. Even the food has to have its own post. I think it's the only way to do justice to the impact of it all.

Every minute of the day was filled with new experiences, new situations, new relationships and a new and expanded appreciation of how wonderful creativity can be. No matter where people came from, no matter what their point of reference, we all shared a journey that was, in fact, as spiritual as it was creative.

Underlying it all was a feeling of familiarity and comfort that I can't explain easily. I'm sure it was partly the warmth of the hooking and fibre arts community. And I think it was a bit about returning to my Maritime roots. But it was bigger than the sum of the parts.

It truly was inspirational.

The picture in my post today is Deanne's rug that hung in the church basement where the symposium took place. It was always in view from where I was sitting. And it was amazing how many times it was a point of reference during the two days.

Tomorrow, I will talk more about the individual people who made this so special, but for today I need to say that everyone from the Toronto people who included me in their travel plans to the near-stranger who drove me back from Amherst to the Moncton airport, made my experience so much richer.

More to come.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Used-to-be-Sweater Bag


My Thanksgiving weekend was a busy one. Besides preparing the turkey feast for the immediate family and a couple of guests, I managed to get lots of craft time in. This bag is one of the projects that I finished. A few others got started and will be featured later.

This bag was once a cardigan that I bought in a kit from Koigu a million years ago. I remember the name was Tutti Fruitti and I loved the colourful pattern. The Fair Isle type design wasn't too difficult to knit, since at no time were you carrying more than two colours. The front and back were knit in one piece - the button bands were to be added once it was all assembled - and it wasn't until I sewed the shoulder seams that I realized it was not going to fit. Despite me saying it wasn't difficult, it was very time consuming, so it was put away in that far corner where projects that disappoint go. But I always believed I would get back to it one day and it would live on. (I have since used a lot of the remaining wool for whipping and a trim for a few other projects, so it was already being put to good use.)

I received a book for my birthday on making purses, and a bag made from a sweater inspired me to try to "felt" this sweater and see if I could cut it up to make a bag. The felting went well and after two rounds, it had a nice denseness that I knew I could cut into without worry of ravelling. So I made a paper pattern, following the biggest areas of the back and fronts and figured out how to make a rectangular bag that would be a good size. The finished dimensions are about 15 wide by 9 high, which is plenty large.

The pieces are blanket stitched together and the top edge of the front and back are rolled under to give a bit of a "lip" to the edge. I had some leftover batik cotton that had all the same colours, from which I made a duplicate bag for a lining, so it looks as cheery on the inside as it does on the outside.

Two more of the beautiful Graydon leather handles were put to extremely good use and I have a bag that will travel with me to Amherst, since it will hold all my necessities plus a book and perhaps my sock knitting on the plane (once I figure out whether or not bamboo needles are allowed in carry on).

I am happy that I have been able to salvage this sweater, since it cost a fair penny way back when. I will continue to look for a better button for the closing tab, but otherwise, I think this bag will be a good addition to my recycled projects collection.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Another great blog.

Today when I checked my blog, I had a couple of comments from new visitors.

Every time someone leaves a comment on a post, I click on their names and make another connection to a person who shares my passion for this wonderful craft. The first person was from here in Ontario, and in fact comes from my husband's home town of Peterborough.

The second comment led me to "A Day in the Life", a wonderfully chatty blog written by a woman named Alice who has a great love for hooking and folk art. I think I will become a regular visitor to her blog.

Like many of us, she is still working, so doesn't get to hook as much as she would like, either. But take a quick trip to her blog (see new link in favourites) and you will meet an adorable cat named Mr. Kitty, see lots of projects in progress plus stories about her latest Day in the Life adventures. Some hooking. Some "other".

Visiting there today reminded me of what I was thinking last night as I read my Green Mountain Guild newsletter. I have an uncanny sense of familiarity about many of these woman I have never met. Certainly because the Green Mountain gals are always present in Rug Hooking Magazine and since their boundless energy is a constant source of inspiration, I am drawn to them, but I feel like I truly know them all. It's a little strange, I'm sure. I think Alice is another one with whom, if our paths ever cross, I would happily share a coffee or glass of wine and stories - as if we had known each other all our lives.

Is it possible that there are this many kindred spirits in the rug hooking world? I think it is. Indeed I do. I guess this is, in fact, what these communities are all about.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Heavens to Etsy.com


When you have a good chunk of time to spend, pour yourself a coffee or a glass of wine and go to www.etsy.com It is an e-commerce web portal for handmade treasures. And there are so many, I can't begin to tell you about them all. It's kind of like e-bay for people who loved handmade delights.

Since rug hooking is not one of the main categories, I missed it when I was there. But if you enter "rug hooking" into the search window, you will find many results that include patterns, wool, finished items, hooks, etc. On Saturday, one of the vendors at RUG reminded me about the site, since her daughter sells her rug designs there.

Coincidentally, last week I was doing research for a client when I came across an article titled "Cool, Determined, Under 30" which was a feature on the brains behind America's smartest new companies. For the most part, their successes are in the technology and online world.

One of the people featured in the article was Rob Kalin, the young fellow who started Etsy - when we was 17! Like many of his peers, he dropped out of high school. But, at 15, he got fake ID and started auditing classes at MIT. Apparently, a couple of he professors noticed him and helped him get into NYU, when he learned about web design. Etsy was his first venture. He raised $27 Million in capital and is now thinking about an IPO.

Cudos to him for creating a world where crafters and artisans can share their wares with those who love them. It's quite a community on this site, with lots of interactivity and ways to connect with your favourite artisans.

Once you have visited, I'm sure you will bookmark the site for many returns.
Just don't curse me if you start spending way too much time there.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Timely Inspiration.


On Saturday, I went to RUG, a semi-annual hook-in in Barrie, Ontario. It is always a great event, well attended by folks from all over the province. The main programme is always provided one of the local branches, there are always lots of home-made goodies to eat, and a bevvy of vendors who are more than happy to help you empty your wallet.

This year's programme was presented by the Orillia Sunshine Hookers, who are a dynamic, creative group who meet every Tuesday morning in Orillia. They are always working at something interesting and their presentation Saturday was all about Inspiration and Creativity. And it was based on the influence of Deanne Fitzpatrick, whose Creativity Symposium I am attending in Amherst, Nova Scotia next Thursday and Friday - October 16th and 17th.

Many branch members have already had the pleasure of attending Deanne's workshops on Primitive Faces and Creativity, so they all had insights to share on how Deanne's approach had influenced them. And the proof was in their rugs. Even the most stalwart 3-cut, fine-shading hookers had been challenged to go outside their comfort zone by exploring their inner artist. Although they will never hook with the freedom that is evident in Deanne's work, they now look at their approach in a whole new light.

I know that the two-day symposium that lies ahead of me will be filled with inspiring stories and insights and I am counting down the days - practically the hours - until I am on the plane bound for Moncton.

There is quite a contingent from Ontario making the pilgrimage, and I am lucky enough to be joining a group right from the airport in Moncton on Wednesday. I think I am the only "Deanne virgin" among us. Everyone else has already trekked to her studio, and already know where to go and what to do. So I will join them on their itinerary. First stop is a wool farm on the way to Amherst, followed by a gallery prowl. Luckily for all of us, the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival is taking place while we are there, so there will be lots to do with our free time. The hard part will be choosing what events to attend.

As you can probably tell, I am already a near-zealot for this art form, so I can't wait to see what inspiration I will acquire on this journey of discovery. I promise to share when I get home again.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Going Gray - More Hooking Sisters


If you have not already visited this website, www.goinggray.com, please take time to do so. It will definitely make you smile. Since the very first time I visited, I was taken with their sense of whimsy. Their patterns are wonderful. Their site is quite entertaining. If I weren't into designing my own patterns, there are several that I would choose.

Yet another set of sisters who have been bitten by the hooking bug - big time. One of the sisters is the pattern designer (and I believe the website as well). And the other calls herself the Boss and Rug Hooker. A husband is involved in the "wood business", which features frames and grippers and hangers. Even their mother was the inspiration for their new segmentation of patterns. Trust me, there's a category for everyone.

As I anticipate the design of my own site, theirs is quite inspirational. However, I am not at the point where I am organized enough to get all my patterns together. And I am not quite proficient enough on software to build my site, though Rapid Weaver promises to make it easy.

Anyway, click on over to their site - see link in Favourites - and enjoy your visit.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Another "Jeanius" Weekend.


This past weekend I had the pleasure of doing a Jeanius Bag workshop with JJ Ruggers at Apps Mill near Brantford. The weekend was absolutely perfect from arrival to departure. The drive to and from, the weather, the food, the laughter, the camaraderie - all the elements for the best kind of hooking retreat were there in spades.

JJ Ruggers has been holding a retreat on the same weekend in September for the past 16 years and there is closeness among the group that is wonderful to see. Each year they have a teacher or two who come to lead them through a workshop, and this year it was my privilege to be there teaching the bags.

This group’s creativity and enthusiasm were contagious and they hooked and bantered gaily throughout the entire time. Not all the attendees did the bag workshop, some were doing FIFI projects. They sat on sofas around the fireplace while we worked in a tabled area, but everyone wandered back and forth to check progress and we all came together at mealtimes and free hooking time.

The first bag was finished early Saturday night (I think even before dinner), followed by two more before midnight. (Lori was determined to have hers done before she went to bed - and she did.) Lots of cameras were busy capturing lots of shots, so I promise to post pictures once we have finished exchanging them. I am missing one bag, so don’t want to post two without the other.

By leaving time, all the other bags were very close to finished and everyone had a chance to see the three put together, so I have no doubt that they will all be finished in the next little while. Everyone agreed that this was just their "first bag" and that there will be many more to come. (Ann Smith was well on the way to finishing her second flap by noon on Sunday.) I hope that each finished bag finds its way to me for posting. So check back often to see.

Thank you JJ Ruggers for allowing me into your circle. It was warm and welcoming there and I hope to be able to come back again and again - as a teacher and as a student.

Each and every one of you is a true "Jeanius".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Check this out.


I just received this from my very good friend Jennifer Manuel - Fish Eye Rugs (see link). It's an "I love your blog" blue ribbon award. She received it from someone else, and has now Paid It Forward in blogger fashion. Here's what one does when one is blue ribboned:

1) Post the award on your blog. (which I have just done)
2) Add a link to the person who gave you the award. (which is already there)
3) Nominate at least 4 other bloggers and add their links. (I think Jennifer took them all, but I will find some other treasures.)
4) Leave a comment at the recipients' blogs so they can pass it on. (What a great idea!)

So, I will pass along this honour and try to share.

Thanks Jen. I will definitely pass this on.

It's that time again.


What is it with that overwhelming urge to buy a new pencil case that hits us all every September? Is it because it follows a summer that was maybe not so structured and we crave that? Is it because our brains are ready to learn new things and face new challenges?

I don’t have the answer to any of these questions, but have spoken to so many people who feel that pull no matter how long ago they last attended an institution of higher learning.

In the world of rug hooking, it’s pretty much the same. At least for me. Groups get back together. Guild meeting dates get marked on the calendar. Classes start again after a summer apart. And workshops and schools are back.

This weekend, I am teaching my first Jeanius bag workshop of the season. Our Chapter of the OHCG has picked our group project for next February's hook in. And I am booked for several “gigs” in 2009 already.

Three of these sessions are at my friend Karen Kaiser’s new endeavour, which she fondly calls “A little piece of heaven.” If you visit her website (see link in favourites) you will understand where the name comes from. Amazing location, outstanding itinerary and a pretty wonderful line-up of classes and teachers. Definitely something for everyone. And, in typical Karen fashion, everything is incredibly well organized. The girl has thought of everything and then some.

It’s pretty wonderful to think that hooking school choices keep expanding for all of us. Whether it’s a weekend retreat or a week-long school, you can find just about any topic of interest near where you are. The hardest part is choosing.

For those of us who are still working full time, it’s not easy to keep taking vacation time (especially without your significant other) to attend schools. But I spend lots of time fantasizing about all the ones I'd love to go to. Every year I vow to get to Shelburne and the Red Barn Show - next year for sure. This year my special treat is Deanne Fitzpatrick’s Creativity Symposium, which is just a month away (yippee).

If you don’t know where to find schools and groups in your “hood”, check in the back of Rug Hooking Magazine. Or visit the website of your local hooking guild - in Ontario, visit the OHCG website for a calendar of schools.

And as per my wonderful mentor Barb D’Arcy’s advice, “never stop taking classes”. Trust me when I say there is always learning to be had, whether it’s a weekly class where everyone works on their own project, or a dedicated workshop on a particular topic. Students learn from teachers and teachers learn from students. In any group dynamic, we all learn from one another.

So get yourself a new pencil case if you really feel like it. If nothing else, it’ll be perfect for holding your hook and scissors. And it will scratch that ‘back to school’ itch.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ta Da! CARdigan done.


As promised, here it is.

Finished in time for the first day a sweater was actually needed. And I was right. It’s the perfect thing for a day when a full-sleeved, full-bodied sweater would have been just too warm. Bigger than a shrug - smaller than a real cardy.

Think I like this enough to do it again. This time in black.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A link to something wonderful.


On May 5th, in my post about the Rug Hooking Annual in Midland, I wrote a bit about a group of rug hookers who have come together to raise funds for Women of the Congo, a cause about which they are passionate. They have called their group Women Matters, which is a proud, bold name. Karen Kaiser, another force to be reckoned with in our community, has designed and hooked a logo for them.

Women Matters have now created their own blog, which shares the history and progress of the rug they are working on. It shows the momentum that has been created by their undertaking and is truly inspirational in its content. I have added a link to my list to make it easy for you to go there.

Please visit them. Please contact them to let them know how wonderful they are. They represent the very best in our community and deserve to be told so again and again.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My newest CARdigan.


It’s Septemer 4th and I’ve just spent a great part of the past few days in the car, getting my son back to university. Each year, you would think it would get easier, but it doesn’t seem to. This year required three return trips to Guelph, which is about an hour away. The only good thing about all the to-ing and fro-ing is the amount of car knitting I got done.

I have been working on this Berrco cardigan for about a month, and I finally feel like I am heading into the home stretch. This has definitely been a 1-step-forward; 2-steps back project. I think I have knit the equivalent of two sweaters because of all the raveling and re-knitting I have done.

The yarn I am using is a camelly-brown colour and it has been one and a half sweaters before this one. It started as a sweater for my husband, the fit of which he wasn't crazy about. Since I had spent a lot on the Merino wool, it was definitely worth raveling back to figure out something else to make instead. (I have since knit him a replacement sweater that will be sewn together right after this one.) I then started a tunic type vest, but I decided that pattern needed yarn with a bit more "oomph". So, I found this cute cardigan (Napoli in Berocco book #259) and decided it would be perfect.

The pattern does have quite a bit of shaping, as you can see from the picture, but it was the decreasing plus increasing on the fronts that gave me the trouble. The first front turned out to be about 4” longer than the corresponding side of the back, until I re-read the decrease instructions. The second one turned out to be a lot wider, probably looser tension as I was relaxing into it.

Now I am putting the ribbing around the entire bottom – 350 stitches – that’s how many needed to be picked up from the two fronts and the back. Try as I might, I couldn’t get more than 156 stitches from the back section (the pattern calls for 176), despite trying twice. I decided to “cheat” a little and add some as I went across the back and figured if I don’t like the result, I can always start over. I think I still netted out 10 stitches short.Yikes.

Anyway, I really like the style of this little sweater and figure it’s the perfect transition item for fall days where you really don’t need a big heavy sweater. And I think the lines are fun. So, I will persevere and figure out all these challenges and then hopefully love this sweater for testing my time, talent and patience.

In the meantime, it stays in the car waiting for the next trip, which is to a meeting in Port Hope this afternoon. At 2 hours each way, that should be enough time to finish the front ribbing and button holes.

And there's another project bagged and waiting for tomorrow night's 2 hour trek to the cottage.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Inching along.


Have you noticed how some weeks have much more hooking time in them than others?

The last two have been ones that didn’t have nearly enough for me. I’m not even sure what kept getting in the way, but I think it was a variety of things. I think it started two weekends ago at the cottage, when I had everything ready to do some dyeing for my sky, till I realized I didn’t have any vinegar. (Unlike the city, nipping out for a quart of vinegar is not an instantaneous decision, and I opted to not make another trek to town.)

Work repeatedly got in the way with longer days which led to later dinners which led to no reasonable time left to hook. Layer in a birthday (which now lasts for weeks, not days) and I just really didn’t get as much done on this as I had hoped for.

However, I am testing different combinations of “as is” wool for the clothing, rocks, water and sky. I do like to use what I have on hand rather than dyeing new wool, so I always begin there. And I think that I probably have everything I need, other than the aforementioned sky, which I will try to get to again now that I have vinegar on hand.

Hopefully, this week will have more time for hooking and dyeing and all things related to this wonderful project. But, at this back-to-school, end-of-vacation time, life does have a habit of putting the “need to do” list ahead of the “want to do” one.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The light fantastic.



My two favourite times of day at the cottage are the morning and early evening. I think it's because of the light. The lake is usually calm and the sun creates images with the light that are pretty tough to beat. I shot these two pictures from inside the living room to see if I could capture the light.

In the morning, since we face south east, the sun comes over the tree line on the other side of the lake and creates amazing patterns - first on the water - and then on the deck when it pokes through the trees on our frontage. In the evening, as it sets in the same spot, the island trees are flooded with soft evening light and then the shadows from the trees on our side of the lake creep up from the water and cover the trees like a blanket. The shades of green are delicious.

Whenever I see this light, it makes me want to hook it. The problem is that there are so many things at the cottage that would make a great rug. For example, yesterday morning on our first canoe ride of the summer, I looked down at the bow of the canoe, my hands on the paddle, the water below and saw an awesome rug design.

Does that happen to you? Does everything make you think "What a great rug that would make."?

I will never live long enough to sketch all these things, let alone hook them. But I love how my brain is constantly whirring with the possibilities. Sort of like my computer when I have too many temporary internet files stored on it.

I still have sketch books from my painting days that are filled with all the things I tried to capture then, so I know this is not a new phenomenon. But I will continue to take pictures and make sketches and see which ones make it to the pattern stage.

And I will still marvel at Mother Nature and her lighting. Let's face it, she's pretty tough to beat.