Monday, April 28, 2008

What a little sunlight can do.



It's amazing what happens when the sun comes out. All of a sudden, people are smiling. Everything is starting to bloom. Spring is not only in the air, but in everyone's step as well.

If you live in Ontario you know we have abruptly gone from 20 below to 25 above and people are delirious with the change. In one weekend, I watched the ice go out of the lake at my cottage. And it seemed like 10 minutes later, our two loons landed. They must have been circling waiting for the last bit to go. It was magical.

Up and down my street in the city, the colours of spring are everywhere. The yellow of forsythia. The pink, white and fuscia of magnolias - always the first to bloom and then drop their petals on newly-green lawns. Everyone's urns are filled with tulips and hydrangea in gorgeous vibrant hues. Palettes are changing. Textures too. It's like coming out from underneath all the heavy winter fabric and snow and grey skies. Spring gives us all permission to go a little bit brighter - celebrate and be a bit more daring.

For me, the same shift in colour and texture happens in my hooking each spring too. All winter I have used comfort colours and patterns that are cozy and plaid and warm and wonderful. Spring demands a colour change.

The purse front in this picture is the perfect example of that change. These colours are fantastic for spring and summer. They remind me of sherbet and ice cream, beach towels and umbrellas. They feel different when you work with them. And in this case, they feel very different because I switched from wool to panty hose.

If you haven't worked with pantyhose, give it a try. The results are amazing. You can ask friends to donate old ones and overdye them. You use all parts - the legs and the control top (which gives that little sparkle you can see - from the lycra, I guess). The other bonus is that it is cooler to work with than wool, especially if you use a rug warp backing. Even the hottest summer day doesn't keep me from picking up my hook.

I know that the weather is supposed to get cold again in the middle of the week. Someone even said that there may be flurries tomorrow. This is Ontario after all. And it's still April.

But in the meantime, I've enjoyed the sunshine, the smiles, the flowers and the switch in my hooking. Spring and summer don't last nearly long enough, so I'll enjoy every loop of it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Speaking of Jewellery


I reconnected this week, via email, with a friend who has an amazing line of jewellery. Please visit her site at www.lisaridoutjewllery.ca (I’ve added her to my favourites).

Our lives have criss-crossed over the last 30 years, and through a few re-inventions. We originally worked for the same advertising agency. About the time I left to stay home with my kids, Lisa headed off to George Brown College to study jewellery design. As her bio will attest, she had an epiphany when studying chain mail and this became the inspiration for her creations.

We ran into one another several years later at the Toronto Outdoor Art Show at City Hall. She was growing her jewellery business at many different craft show venues. I was there, selling hand made button covers with a friend. Debbie and I were doing this to make a little pocket money. Lisa was well past pocket money already.

Over the years, her designs have continually evolved. What started as mostly links and amazing intricacies in silver has expanded to include amazing crystals and semi-precious stones. Her relatively new line of watches causes intense drooling.

I have followed her around the area since then, and am the proud owner of many beautiful pairs of earrings and a couple of amazing bracelets. My husband knows that if there is an occasion, anything that Lisa designs is sure to please.

Lisa’s big news is that she now has a studio that is not in the basement of her home. She has a huge space that’s all her own and, like every other artist I know, can’t figure out why she waited so long to make the big leap. She loves it. She’ll be having an open house in the next little while to show it off. I can hardly wait to see it.

She is incorporating other forms of art into her studio space, which will make it even more of a destination. She is thinking that she needs a bit of textile art to grace the space. I would be honoured to have a creation of mine reside in her studio space. Hmmm. The wheels are turning with design ideas already…..

Monday, April 14, 2008

More bragging rights.


It's so wonderful to find an email waiting for me from a student who has finished a project they started with me. And I think every teacher, pattern designer and supplier feels the same way. Seeing the finished work of art keeps the people who love this craft connected. So, when I arrived home from the cottage last nite to find Pam Watkin's email attaching her runner, I was thrilled to see it done.

This is an original design, which Pam said incorporates all her favourite colours. My only input was helping a bit with the placement in the clamshells. Other than that, she was off to the races. It was easy to see by the end of the weekend that this primitive design was going to "sing". The blue that she chose is like an extra twinkle in the antique colour palette. And it looks amazing finished.

This rug will be going to the OHCG Annual in Midland, and I feel quite certain it will have its picture taken a number of times. I hope everyone reading this entry, who is within a reasonable driving distance, can make it to the show. For more information, please visit the OHCG website (see in my links) click on the Annual link.

Congratulations Pam. This is a timeless beauty.

A Jewel of a Tool



In my last entry, I mentioned a hook with interchangeable heads. I want to share the story of the fabulous one I own, pictured here.

I purchased this hook a couple of years ago at the OHCG Annual. One of the vendors had a few for sale, each one a different wood, a different stone. Like a display of hand-crafted pens, these hooks were waiting for their future owners to find them. And I chose mine easily amid the bunch. From the moment I held it in my hand, I knew it was the ONE. The bonus was that it came with two heads which could easily be interchanged depending on the project needs. They simply screwed in and out.

This hook is the work of art of a gifted artisan - a couple actually. The handle is hand-turned. The beautiful bead on the top is hand blown. And the hooks are crafted by hand as well. The woman who turns the handles and blows the beads for these beauties is Molly Colegrove. Her husband creates the hooks and metal receptacles. What an evolution from the pioneers’ horse shoe nail in a piece of broom handle.

When I mentioned at a workshop at Rittermere that I wasn’t using my hook because I found the shank (I hope that’s the right term) a bit too short to pick up the wool, both Bea and Andrea told me to get in touch with Molly. They said that she would want to know about my dilemma. And that she would do whatever it took to help me. They were right.

She offered to exchange the tips for whatever length I would like. All I had to do was send the originals back, figure out what length I wanted instead, and she would send me new ones. So, I settled on a length and put my originals in a padded envelope and sent them on their merry way.

Molly and I exchanged several emails, since I wasn’t sure that with all the postage scrutiny they would arrive safely. I told her when I was sending them from my end. She told me when they arrived. She sent a note when the replacements were in the mail and they made their way back - passing through two postal systems again.

There was just one hurdle to overcome in this whole exchange. I had to figure out how to give Molly $1 for return postage. I couldn’t send a loonie. She wouldn’t want that. She couldn’t use Canadian stamps and I couldn’t buy US stamps. A money order for a dollar seemed a rather silly notion. So, I did exactly what you aren’t supposed to do and folded a US dollar bill into the envelope. It survived the journey as well.

So I now have a fabulous hook where function has met form. This beauty now “hooks as good as it looks”. (Excuse the bad grammar, I couldn’t resist.)

And I have a new e-pal in Molly. I hope we get to meet each other someday. If not, I’ll continue to sing her praises and show off my hook whenever possible.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Right Tools for the Right Job


In hooking, as in everything else in life, the job at hand is always easier with the right tools.

In the beginning, the right tools for hookers were a bent nail stuck into a wooden handle, a grain sack, and scraps from whatever worn out clothes were at your disposal.

Over time, we have evolved into an industry that has gadgets and gizmos for just about everything. The more people I meet and places I go, the more I discover things that make the life of a hooker much easier.

When it comes to hooks, they’ve sure come a long way. There are palm hooks and pencil hooks, bent-hook hooks, ergonomic hooks for easier gripping. There are even beautiful hand-turned hooks with beads on the end that have inter-changeable heads. (I have one and it is a thing of beauty.)

To cut your fabric, there are $40+ scissors and $700 + cutters with interchangeable multi-head cartridges. There are red cutters and electric blue cutters and there is a special adapter that can be added to your Bliss cutter to make it motorized.

There are frames that you can sit on your lap, that you can sit on, that can sit on the floor - that come with gripper strips, padded covers and some that collapse to fit into their own cases.

And I have just purchased a mini-gripper frame that is the perfect size for small projects. Someone brought one to one of my workshops and I could see right away that for travelling, and for small projects, this would be wonderful. And it is. The picture above shows it with a purse front on it - which is just 7" x 9". As you can see, it's a perfect fit.

Now I need to come up with some sort of cover to protect my wrist from the gripper strips - like the one on my larger gripper frame. I think I will try a steering wheel cover....

I’m sure that every evolution of the tools, like in the evolution of other tools, comes with input from the users. Some of the best tools are ones that you can see were definitely the brain child of a hooker versus a manufacturer.

There are simple things like handmade woollen pockets with magnets that attach to your frame. They not only hold your clippings but also keep track of your scissors. There are nifty small wooden handles that allow you to tighten your hoop without taking the skin off your fingers. I think these were probably fashioned by husbands who were tired of being asked to tighten the frame. There are dollar store metal combs for cleaning the gripper strips on your frame.

I truly believe that the right tools not only make the work go faster, but keep the logic side of the brain as busy as the creative side. It's wonderful to find - or even better to invent - the right tool for the job.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Proud as a ..........


Isn’t he magnificent!?

This is the rug created by Liz Brock, another student in my Wide & Wonderful class at OHCG last fall. He is adapted from a greeting card - yes, with the artist’s blessing - and from the moment we saw the colours she had chosen for him, we knew he would be a majestic fellow.

Liz had a good start on him by the end of the weekend and gave me a couple of updates on his progress since then.

She has forwarded a picture of him, completed, to the artist who so graciously said “yes” to the adaptation.

The colours are true to the original piece, but the little smirk on his face emerged during that very first weekend and we all thought he was a bird with attitude.

Thanks so much for sharing him with us, Liz. I feel as proud as he looks.

He is a bird worth crowing about. (Sorry, I just can’t help myself.)