Friday, May 15, 2015

This You Have to See

An absolutely amazing project by Cornelia Parker, congruent in concept and form, stunning in its execution, opens today at the British Library. How I wish I could see this in person.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Because Craft is Important

I just received this message from Betsy Greer, author of Knitting for Good and Craftivism, and felt I should take her up on her offer to share the conversation. If you just have time to click on one link, go for Betsy's rebuttal - it covers all the points. And Betsy's writing is just getting better and better - smart, honest, generous and funny.

Hey there!

Recently, there was a piece in the New York Times about how craft can’t save the world. Given that this piece was written by someone who is pretty darn negative in everything she writes, the actual piece was not surprising. 

I wrote a rebuttal yesterday, which you can read here

And I’m writing to you today to ask that if you agree with me and believe in the power of craft, to consider sharing it with others who may have been disheartened to find such a piece in the New York Times. In the past week and a half since it was posted, I’ve had several conversations with people frustrated about it and the way that craft is presented. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that more frustrated people out there saw it. :)  

If you choose not to share it, that’s totally fine. If you choose to, thank you wholeheartedly. 

Because when I found craft, it saved me. Meeting people like you, with your energy, drive, and passion saved me. So, this email is actually two-fold. It’s not just an ask, it’s a thank you. Thank you for being you and for sharing your work with the world. You sharing your best work with the world has emboldened me to work towards sharing my own best, instead of being timid about hitting post or submit or whatever. 

Your bravery has pushed me forward. I know sometimes it’s hard to know what mark your work is truly hitting, so here’s one person out there that thinks you’re amazing, both in who you are and what you do.  

So thank you for showing up, giving greatly, and being you. Just as much as the world needs craft, it also needs people that shine brightly and share with the world, as it gives others the courage to do the same.


Monday, May 11, 2015

A Little Cloth Mystery

This little cloth drawstring bag came to me in a batch of stuff from Great-Aunt Margie sometime back in the mid 90's. My guess is that my ever-practical Aunt may have picked it up at her beloved Superfluity Shop in White Rock. There was a ball of fine crochet yarn and a hook in it. (I have a faint memory of her teaching me how to crochet when I was about 9 or 10.) Anyways, for twenty years it sat in the trunk where I kept my yarn, and I never paid any attention to it. Then the trunk got water-damaged and I had to rescue everything inside before it went mildew-y.
I washed the little bag (measures 10" x 12 1/2") and for the first time noticed it had a name tag on it.
"Tony Roubenheimer". No idea who that might have been.
But aha! There is a label sewn into the side seam.
GIFT FROM RED CROSS SERVICES. I'm guessing this bag may have been sent to a member of the armed forces in a war. But which war? Or maybe it was sent as part of a relief effort. But them how would the Red Cross know the name of the recipient ahead of time? Or maybe the labels were sewn on blank and filled in as they were given out?
The seams are nicely sewn and finished with a straight machine stitch.
But the underside of the straight stitch is a chain stitch. Was it sewn on an early version of a serger? Does anyone recognize this kind of machine stitch and know what kind of a machine it would have been sewn on? And the opening for the drawstring is finished with a hand buttonhole stitch, which seems odd because even early Singers had buttonholer attachments.
And what gives with the weird orange spots? Looking at the hem on the inner casing, I can see the faint brown outlines of flowers. So the fabric was a floral print, and everything has faded except the orange between the petals.I wonder if it might have been one of those orange and brown prints common in Victorian times.

Does anyone have an idea of the vintage of this little item? The fabric could be a lot older than the bag. Maybe you have something similar from your family's past? I'd love to know more - please post or comment with your own cloth mysteries!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Consumer vs Creator

One thing I notice about my own computer habits is that increasingly I sit there waiting for the internet to spontaneously spit out some gem of information or inspiration. Of course, it doesn't work that way. Even though the internet is ever increasingly controlled by corporate interests, we still can contribute content. That is a big reason blogging, especially by creative types, is important.

Remember back in the early days, ten years ago or so? There was a great groundswell of internet content generated by individuals. For a moment there, we might have changed the world, or at least it didn't seem too crazy to try. Too soon, the internet became just another venue for marketing, a tool for rendering people into passive consumers.  It's a powerful thing, and I notice myself succumbing.

Then I remember: "You are a creator, not a consumer. Make Good Art, Dammit!"
So, lately I find myself obsessed with salal, the ubiquitous understory plant of the Pacific Northwest, and beloved by florists everywhere. I had this idea I would hook a mat with an image of salal growing out of a nurse stump, a very common sight around here. But then when I went to draw the salal, it confounded me. A single spray doesn't tell the story. A whole mass of it is impossible. Even Emily Carr didn't address it.
Well. Maybe she did. In her way.

I'm still working on it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hearing Voices

May, 2006 to April, 2015
I was hoping I might have something new and amazing to show you, as this marks my 800th blog post and it would be nice to have some pretty decorations to add to the festivities. But alas, I am in that dull between-projects phase, so will have to make do with a selection from the archives.

But I do have a story to share with you....

Yesterday, as I was walking through the Village parking lot, I heard a young female voice utter the remarkable question, "What happened to my life?" The words just floated into my ears, and I looked around, but no one could be seen. That was it - there was no reply, no other voices to be heard. The question was asked without a tone of frustration, or anger, or sadness. The inflection, if I had to say there was one, might have fallen on the word "life", but overall the voice was soft and gentle, the intent ambiguous.

My first thought was "Good question!", followed by the impulse to emblazon "What happened to my life?" on a giant neon billboard that would loom over the Village, sort of a all-encompassing thought bubble that would represent the inner dialogues of so many island residents. (Gabriola has a distinctly senior demographic.) Not that I think too many people would complain about their lives - retirement on Gabriola is about as close to paradise as most people could ever hope for. It's more of a rueful observation about how quickly our lives flit past.

This blog has been going since May, 2006. I started it because I knew a couple of other people who blogged, and the form had an appeal for me as I could put words and pictures together. At the time I lived in Vancouver and was more involved in community events, and I thought the blog would be a useful way to document what I was doing. Over the years it has brought me many unexpected rewards, particularly in the form of connections with people all over the world, who are interested in many of the same things I am. True Stitches has actually been a pretty comprehensive account of what has happened to my life, at least for the last nine years.

The blog and I have been happy together, for the most part. There have been lots of ups and downs, at least one husband, several boyfriends, five dogs and a cat, way too many houses and several changes of creative direction. Looking back, it hasn't just been one life, but many. No wonder I am starting to hear disembodied voices!


The world has changed in the meantime, as worlds do. There are so many other platforms to share on these days, but I am fine with good ol' Blogger. I do wonder though, how many new blogs are being started up, especially ones that are not intended as promotional tools for commerce. When I think back to the blogs I read back when I started, many of the writers I followed have either disappeared, or gone on to write books and star in Craftsy videos. Where are the interesting newbies, the next generation, as it were?

I'd love it if you shared a favourite new blog or two in the Comments section. Or your thoughts on the continued relevance (or not) of blogging. Maybe there are other forms of communication you prefer? I'd love to hear from you. And thanks, everyone, for checking in on True Stitches, over the years. You make it all worthwhile.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Garden Fairy

Good grief, the levels I will sink to in an effort to amuse myself! Since my right hand isn't good for much- still recovering from the tendonitis - I find myself casting around randomly for things to do. I figured the entrance to the little stump house needed something, and so off I went to the thrift store to see what kind of garden ornament I could find. I was hoping for something a little more organic looking, but the slightly battered, lute-playing lady caught my eye.
She needed some fairy wings though, so I made a pair from some picture hanging wire and a scrap of silk. First, I shaped the wire, then tacked it onto the silk. Then I trimmed the silk to about a quarter of an inch from the wire, and used a thin line of Tacky Glue to hold the silk in place after wrapping it over the wire. It was fairly crude looking after it dried, so I whipped some pink embroidery floss around the edge of the wire to pretty it up. Then I just tied the wings in place.

I'm sure she will be quite decrepit by the end of summer, but for now she looks happy and peaceful in the doorway of her little stump palace.

Let's all hope my hand is better soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Borders and Boundaries

 Last look at the mat, I promise. You might notice I have added a braided border. Overall I am very pleased, both with the result and my perseverance in sticking with a frustrating task.
Notice the wonky join of the strips. I was sailing along, thinking "This isn't so hard", and then I hit the butt join. Somehow I got myself into a Mobius strip situation and I couldn't make it join perfectly, even with the helpful instructions of a book on braided borders. I worked on it last night til 10:30 and decided to pack it in, hoping the clear light of morning would reveal my mistake. Didn't quite happen that way, but I was able to fudge it enough so not too many people would notice.

But going through that process helped me to realize that doing projects like this, where I have to learn a new skill, are very useful in tackling bigger, more serious pieces like the Codex Canadensis. Working in a medium I am unfamiliar with keeps my brain limber, and trains my ability to be patient and persevere. I think it saves me from getting into a rut, and refreshes my creative energy so that when I return to my "real" art I can look at it with new eyes. A few of my friends tell me I shouldn't waste my time on outside projects, but I realize why they are important in the grand scheme of things. The fact that they are fun is just a side benefit!