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.


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

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, 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 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.


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.

Boxy Chevrons by the Sea

Happy to report that the colds are gone and we have assumed our positions down on the deck at the Beach Club by the sea. And after having ...