Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Hat Came Back

This is my favourite hat. (I apologize for the rather dull picture, but my camera is packed so this is a blackberry image.) I bought it about 15 years ago at One of a Kind from a wonderful woman who calls her business Gwendolyne Hats. And yes, her name is Gwendolyne. 

I remember talking myself into it, as it was a lot more than I had planned on spending on a hat. But it was, in fact, a work of art. All the wonderful trims and textures in it - so incredible in its chameleon-like character that it seemed to go with every coat. I knew it was an investment piece even then.

For whatever reason, a few years ago it didn't feel good on my head. It was tight and gave me the worst hat head ever, which it hadn't done before. Does your head grow after you turn 50?. So I would look at it longingly on the shelf, but not be able to wear it.

Fast forward a couple of years. Our office moved downtown to Duncan and Richmond Street and I was a 5-minute walk from Gwendolyne's shop, which is as colourful as the artist herself. I told her about my dilemma. She insisted that I bring the hat in, so she could see what could be done. When I did come back with my precious hat, she immediately had a solution. 

For her it was a trip back in time. She got to work on a hat she made at the beginning of her journey. She could see how her art has evolved over the years. And she was happy that I brought her the challenge. 

This past week I had a call from her saying it was ready for pick up, so Friday I trekked down there (since the office is no longer in that neighbourhood). And much to my delight, her solution for making it larger worked perfectly. Yippee, I can wear my wonderful hat again when the weather gets cold at my new home. (Winters are long there, so a good hat will be invaluable.)

Thank you Gwendolyne. This entire experience was delightful. It shows that when something speaks to you in an artistic way - even a hat - you feel differently about it than you would a mass-produced thing. And when you connect with it, you also connect with its creator.

Her time and artistry are in every stitch of every hat she makes - just as our rug hooking and knitting projects hold us in every stitch and loop. We feel special making them. And we hope that the people who choose them feel the same way.

If you go to One of a Kind, look for Gwendolyne. She is like her art - very interesting, and a true original. If you are in Toronto, look for her shop at 401 Richmond Street West. And if you can't do either of those, then visit her at her website 

No matter which way you find her, you will enjoy meeting her.

Be sure to tell her I sent you. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Little Less than Two Weeks.

It's been a pack-happy weekend with very long days spent doing more of the things that need doing. I think I started Friday morning at 9 and stopped at 5. And yesterday was pretty much the same. Even the attic has been emptied, as of today - the last "scary" place.

So much sorting, but a real sense of accomplishment after getting things done. Nearly everything that can be packed - is. What isn't still needs to be used in the coming days. And what remains unpacked can quickly be put into boxes at the last.

And nearly everything that needs to find a new home has been allocated. There is real satisfaction in knowing that someone will be using the things that we no longer need. That doesn't mean that there isn't a dumpster full of stuff that needs to be taken away on Thursday, but I bet the equivalent has been shared with someone else. A front porch-full will be picked up tomorrow.

With each day, the reality sets in a little more and I am starting to feel incredibly emotional about leaving this house.  It's been such a special, happy place for 26 years. Today all the Christmas boxes from the attic got consolidated into moving boxes. A definite reminder that the next Christmas will be in another "home". As will all the other special occasions. All of the traditions will be reinvented with new ones we have yet to create.

After so many years of moving towards this decision, the closer it gets, the scarier it becomes. But I'm determined to not second guess this. It's a big adventure, after all. It's a place we already love. And it's not as if it got any further away. After making the trip there and back nearly every single weekend for as long as I can remember, there's nothing to make me believe that the road doesn't work just as well the other way.

So I'm going to put a little faith into each and every one of these boxes. That we will love our new life. And that we will find ways to see our friends and family - the only thing about the city we will truly miss - as much as we do now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Scrap Happy

One of my purge and pack tasks this week has been cutting all the little bits and pieces from hooking projects into strips. Over the years, I've accumulated a red plastic basket full of odds and ends from projects. Little 2 and 3-inch pieces that weren't really large enough to do much with, so I just kept tossing them in. It's grown into quite a quantity and I decided that rather than move the basket of bits, I'd cut everything into a size 8 strip and bag them for use later.

Simultaneously, my friend Jen has developed a new concept of rugs that she is calling the Amazing Matrix series. If you cruise on over to her blog, you'll see for yourself how amazing they really are.

Here's a picture of how many bags of strips I've already gotten from my basket. And I'm not done yet!

I'm thinking of hooking four rectangular pillows for the leather sofa and love seat that are moving into the great room up north. And I think these strips will be just the ticket to do them without buying any wool or cutting into anything in my stash!

There's something very therapeutic in all this cutting, especially when the bags keep mounting up. It's like turning nothing into something - like a windfall. And unexpected tranquility in my messy, box-filled house.

So take another look at all your little scraps and hold onto them. There could very well be a free rug hiding in there.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lots and lots of boxes.

If you ever want to know how much you have of something, just pack it.

You'll find out you have way more than you thought you did. I'm not exactly sure why that is, but here is just one case in point. These boxes represent my hooking and art stuff that hasn't already been moved to the cottage. In the big boxes there are shoe boxes full of wool strips, art books, teaching and rug binders and other miscellanous stuff. And this tower is from only one of the rooms where I keep things.

My desk and hooking books are all kept in another room, which has almost the same number of boxes. And most of my wool and backing material is already in rubbermaid bins at the cottage. And I didn't think I had very much!!!

I've learned that the hardest part of moving isn't the packing. It's the getting rid of what you don't want to pack. What do you do with all the things that you have acquired that you don't have room for and your kids don't want? I'm quickly becoming an expert. I've found a home for all my knitting patterns that I won't use again - all 8 magazine holders' worth. They went to the Purple Purl's Donations program.

I've found a home for three large boxes full of vinyl albums, from which I'm pretty sure my kids will only pick a handfull. I've found good destinations for all the work clothes that I won't need anymore. Truth be told, I should have found homes for a lot of them many years ago. Somehow, after paying that much money for a good jackect or dress pants, you feel hard pressed to get rid of them - despite those giant shoulder pads.

Did you ever notice how many cleaning supplies and hair products you can accumulate in so many years? Boy, our house should be the cleanest place on earth - if only it were so. Eventually, it all comes down to the four or five that really work - not the umpteen with promises that exceeded results. Trust me, my daughter has tried every product that promised "thick, full hair" since she was 8. So, a big drive to the toxic dump will be an outing in the final weeks.

But after two full days of packing the basement (the scariest part of our house, for sure), I am feeling confident I can get this all done in the remaining weekends. One weekend for each floor, for sorting and packing and delivering the unwanted's. And then one weekend for those odds and ends.

With many, many, many more boxes to come. The movers estimated 90 - I wonder how accurate they were?

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Challenges in a Challenge

This is a picture of a little mat that I did in response to a challenge on Rug Hooking Daily called S-M-I-L-E - who could resist a challenge with a name like that.

It was started by Sunnie Andress, a member whom I have been corresponding with for a while on both RHD and The Mat, so I thought it would be fun. I must confess to not having paid very close attention to the finish date and really got myself into a bit of a time squeeze, especially in the middle of all the moving stuff. But I had 6 weeks to design and hook the little piece, so figured I could do it. 

We all went in not knowing what the motif was that the challenge would be designed around. When I saw the little elf, the first challenge was what to do with him. He only had to be one element in the design, but he had to be recognizeable. Oh yes, and we had to choose a season, so I picked summer. My first thought was to put him on a seed packet, so I researched vintage packets and thought that could be fun. But then I remembered my time frame - big reality check. 

I kept coming back to the curlicue on his head, thinking it was the key to something. And I played around with having several little elves with their curls touching in the centre of the mat. When I positioned them, I realized that was also able to make the ears touch - which created a Busby Berkley effect. I thought this was really fun and that it suited the little character. 

I originally had them on the four sides and just before putting the pattern on the backing, I put them on the diagonal, rather than on each side, to give a bit more movement. Because I chose summer, I turned him into an elfin "beet" by adding the bottom below the smile. I dyed the blue sky to feel like summer and when the elves were all hooked, I added the little sprouting plants (if only you could really grow "smiles" in your garden!). 

The beaded border was a way to bring the red to the outside and tie it all together. I will whip in green. Plus it needs a good pressing, but that's where I was on the deadline date.

So, what were the challenges:

going in without knowing the challenge element really made you move outside your comfort zone - working with a motif that you wouldn't come up with on your own

designing something using someone else's main motif - interesting where you mind goes with that

creating something that could be realistically finished in the time frame

conveying the season you signed on for and making sure that your design still kept the integrity of the challenge

It was a very interesting experience and one that I would highly recommend to any individual or group. It was also fun to see what all the other participants did with it. If you are interested in seeing them all, here's a link to the page on RHD.

Visit S-M-I-L-E Creative Challenge at:

Cozy Evvie is Complete - well at least the hooking part.

Here she is. She is all hooked. She has the "best saying ever" on her shirt - printed on fabric, since it was way too small to h...