Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A week of learning.

This past week at work has been a little slow, so I have been filling my days with non-work pursuits - all in a somewhat creative vein, which seems fitting.

The first project was to complete the latest issue of the "Burlap Gazette" which is the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild - Teachers' Branch newsletter.  I have been the editor for a few issues, but I decided that I needed to try a simpler software program than InDesign which I had been using.

So, I dowloaded a 30-day trial of Pages in "iwork", a drag-and-drop Mac program. And, although not a total walk in the park, it was something that I could muddle through on my own and the results were great. I sent the first issue out by email yesterday, asking for feedback, and it's been overwhelmingly positive. That's the front cover you see in the picture.

Next challenge was to use the same software to start developing materials for my up-coming class at the end of October. Already, I can see that this program is going to become my staple, so I guess I'd better go download the full version. The good news is that it's only about $70 versus the $1,500 for a legal copy of InDesign. Easy choice.

I also decided to see if I could update my blog with some of the gadgets. So far, I managed to figure out how to do the blog list, which you can now see on the left side of my page. It's such an easy way to move around in the community of bloggers, and I really wanted to provide that. Second challenge accomplished.

I've also realized this week that any down-time is quickly turned into up-time by the Internet.  There are adventures in clicking that can take you as far and long as you like, if you just let yourself go. Normally, I don't have the luxury of time to do that, but this week I've quite enjoyed the ride - and it's only Wednesday. I had a bit of time to visit The Welcome Mat and catch up on things and make a few new friends.

It's fun to see that you can definitely teach an old dog new tricks, and this old dog is looking forward to the days when she can do this on a much more regular basis.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Another 60th Celebration

This weekend, we helped celebrate our friend Dave Wybrow's 60th birthday. It was a great celebration with 13 of their close friends and a six-course feast prepared by their two daughters.

Dave and Lynn have been friends since our 26-year old daughters were 2. Our visits have been very sporadic over the past 24 years, but we have such a good time when we get together and neither couple feels guilty for not doing so more often.

They have just completed an enormous renovation at their cottage in Bracebridge, and I hooked this sign to commemorate the completion. Since I had no idea of the colour palette, I stayed pretty neutral in my choices, thinking it could easily sit on a table or go on a wall somewhere.

When Lynn unwrapped it, she set it on their granite counter top in the kitchen and every single colour that I used was there in the room. She had red accent walls and the texture in the plaid mimicked the colours in the granite.

Then she moved it around the cottage and in a chameleon-like fashion, it fit absolutely everywhere. So she was thrilled. Better still, she wants to learn to hook (as do both daughters) so next summer, I will do a two-day workshop at the cottage and she and her friends and relatives will fill the room. Yippee! My first workshop for the new studio-to-be.

The celebration was truly merry with lots of libation and a fabulous feast. Those of us who didn't live close enough to walk home slept over and were treated to a sumptuous brunch. Then we meandered home and I had time to put a roast in the slow cooker for dinner. A bonus over our usual rush back from the cottage to get dinner going.

As the 60ths loom ahead - we just received an invite to another on the 24th of October - I am reminded of what a landmark birthday it is for me. It was the last one for both my parents, so I truly believe that it is a milestone worth celebrating.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Poor Max!

Not a single loop has been pulled on my big Maximillian Moose piece in over two weeks! Things keep pushing him aside – ones with tighter deadlines than a giant moose.

The S.T.A.R.T. crewel piece made great progress last week as you can see from this picture. I love the little owl – he adds such personality. And I think it’s fitting to have a clever creature adorn a laptop case. I am not convinced that my assembly plan is going to work, so I may have to come up with a plan B. But I still have a bit more on this side, another whole side and bottom to do before I have to really fret about that.

And, on the weekend, another little project jumped the queue. A sign for someone's 60th next Saturday. It’s for the cottage they are renovating for full-time dwelling. I got a good start on the weekend getting all the lettering and the background behind it done. Then, last night at home, I got one of the outside borders hooked. Only three to go plus whipping -I think I'll make it.

I have decided that my hooking projects reflect life in general. There’s always going to be something that is more urgent than what you are working on. Life is just a series of interruptions anyway, and once you accept that, you will be much more lenient about your timelines.

I know that Max will be back on track again soon – albeit there will be Christmas gifts that need hooking too. The good thing is that he sits patiently on the frame that is set up at the cottage, constantly reminding me to come back to him.

I promise I will Max, as soon as I can.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It was Crewelicious!

That's was the theme of our S.T.A.R.T. (teacher training) this past weekend. And it delivered in spades. The committee did an amazing job on everything, from the selection of the venue to all the invaluable content in the lectures and the hands-on training.

The first picture above shows the project that I designed and started - a laptop case for my little ibook. I opted for the "wide cut" Crewel, which meant larger, simpler motifs than some of the people who chose to do "fine cut". The front and back will be mirror images of the same design, with a hooked bottom and hopefully, a simple assembly....
The second picture shows the group. This picture was taken by one of the hubbies in attendance. It's not often we get as many as we did this time, but I think the venue, the prospect of golf and some boating nearby was quite attractive to them. They turned out to be extremely helpful, not only to their significant others, but to the rest of the group as well.

All the dyeing that I did for the class got incorporated, other than my 6-value swatches (which I will use elsewhere, I'm sure) and I only had to buy a piece of red and some goldy-brown for my little owl, so I got away lightly in the purchasing department.

We arrived on Friday afternoon, after stopping in Picton for a wonderful lunch and a trip to their fabulous yarn shop Rose Haven. Elaine bought some amazing sky blue silk and wool roving and I managed to resist the urge to buy anything (I guess I realized that the 4 big projects on the needles already are enough for a while).

A hop, skip and a jump and we were in Gananoque. We found the resort without overshooting it - a first for us in many trips. The resort was lovely. An older one, with lots of charm, overlooking several of the thousand islands. A good number of us were all accommodated in a one-story, motel-like section of the resort, which made the cocktail hour lots of fun.

Beginning Friday night, we assembled in the classroom and started the course with a brief history of Crewel embroidery (way back to 1066) and its application in rug hooking. Each of us had received an envelope full of traditional Crewel motifs which we could use to create our original designs. There was a table full of reference books, so there was no shortage of inspiration for our projects.
The teaching and learning continued throughout the weekend. Design theory. Colour theory. Colour planning for light and dark backgrounds. Helpful hints for decorative stitches and hooking with dip dyed wool.

A long day Saturday had most people with their designs on their backings and many of us hooking. And the eager beavers all returned to the classroom after dinner Saturday night. A more adventurous group headed to the Casino for an hour and when we pondered who the big winner would be, we all speculated it would be the Casino. And we were right!

Sunday morning, after an amazing breakfast of custom omelettes or crepes/waffles, we were back in the classroom for a dip dye demo and a bit more Crewel content. As previously mentioned, the committee did an excellent job. Our takeaway notes and binders will more than prepare us to teach a class in Crewel. Having served on a committee before, I know the amount of work there is - it does take a full year to get ready. And this particular group had some serious geography issues as well - with committee members from Coburg to London among them. Makes getting together a bit of a challenge.

But congrats to all of them. It was a blast. And like every rug hooking weekend, you can yak non-stop about this without anyone rolling their eyes or leaving the room.

It was definitely Crewelicious! And I can't wait for next year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Long-Lost Lunch

My friend Tony and his wife Linda are visiting in Toronto from the Yukon. They have been enjoying their recent retirement with lots of travelling around the globe – this time including Toronto in their Montreal-Ottawa-Picton-St. Catharine’s tour. Today, they were going to the AGO, which is just a few blocks from my office, and they asked me to meet them there for lunch.

Although I have known Tony for nearly 40 years, we never actually lived in the same place (except for maybe one winter here in Toronto). I met him on a trip home to Fredericton after moving here, where he was studying at UNB. After that, he would pass through Toronto on his way to somewhere else. So we have remained in touch, off and on, all this time.

If memory serves me well (which it does very sporadically these days) I think I met Linda once when our kids were very small. If I recall correctly, a herd of kids, some dads and myself all trekked off to the Toronto Zoo. After that, contact with Tony was usually when he was in Toronto for a conference and the Fredericton contingent would get together for a mini reunion.

I re-met their daughter Julia today, and her hubby (whom she obviously didn’t have on the zoo trip). Wow, kids are the real gauge of exactly how much time has gone by. She is a lovely blend of both her parents and it was a treat to see her all grown up and married. In a world where it is too easy to lose people, it’s so special to re-connect, even if it’s only for a quick lunch. And even if it’s only every however-many years.

I had my “face in the crowd” bag with me (it’s the one I carry the most) which invited lots of conversation and curiosity about the rug hooking, the workshops, the teaching and the blog, which they vowed to visit soon. So I thought I would do this special post to welcome them.

So, welcome to my blog. Have fun reading about this passion of mine. The picture with this post is of the bags I was telling you about. The ones with the hooked flap and the recycled jean legs. I call them my "jeanius" bags and they are the ones that have become my workshop favourite around the province.

Who knows, some day they might just bring me to that workshop in the Yukon. You just never know! In the meantime, I hope you visit the blog. And when you do, please leave a comment!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saving The Best for Last

That's certainly what Mother Nature did this year!!

What an amazing weekend it was - and after virtually no summer, it was a wonderful way to end it. Some cottage neighbours took last week off and I think they had the very best week of the year. Warm, sunny days. Cool nights, perfect for sleeping. And absolutely NO BUGS! You can't do much better than that.

We anticipated a horrible drive each way, but were pleasantly surprised with 2 and 1/2 hours each way. I think some people took the Friday to make an extra-long weekend. Others maybe didn't come, if they were getting offspring ready for back to school. Our lake was surprisingly quiet.

So, what did I do with this wonderful bonus weekend? Lots! Canoe ride and paddle boat rides and a cocktail cruise. No swimming (the water is just a bit too cold for me), but Rick managed to go in a few times, as did our neighbours. I guess I'm just a wimp! For me on the water is better than in the water once it's below 20 degrees.

No weekend guests meant more time for hooking - or dyeing. Sunday was going to be "green day" for me. And here are the fruits of my labours.

These are two of the formulae we were given for the START weekend. The first one (the more teal green) went relatively well, although this picture may not show the range of values in the dip. I actually thought the first green was rather blue, so was happy I was going "mossy" for the second one.

My success in dip dyeing was short lived! I'm not sure how many things I did wrong, but a few. The formula called for moss green plus Bottle green. I think I used Brilliant green instead, but, when I started dipping, there seemed to be no green at all - rather a dusty pink/taupe colour - YIKES.

Since I figured I had nothing to lose, I just added a little more moss green and the should-have-been bottle green and kept dipping. In the end, I guess this really is kind of a mossy green and I will use it in the piece so that the story can live on. (And yes, Barb, I kept good notes - not that I even want to repeat this!)

The next picture shows you the reward of perseverance. Later in the afternoon, I carried my Cheticamp frame up the stairs from the basement and hooked outside! I sat behind the Muskoka chairs, overlooking the lake. The temperature was perfect and I enjoyed a couple of hours of blissful hooking.

So today it was the end of this perfect weekend. We had a nice long walk, did a good clean and packed up right after lunch. I think we were anticipating a much longer trek, but were home by 3:30. Which gave me time to sit, relax, get organized and sit here at my little desk and write this post.

Not sure why the best weekend is the last official one of the summer. But I hope there are a few fall weekends worth celebrating. That little bit of Indian summer is always pretty special.

Knitting in Paradise

Every year when we come to Barbados, I pack a knitting project or two. Usually socks to knit on the plane and something to take to the ...