Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's Not Everyday That a Charkha Comes in the Mail...

When I decided that I would go to Burning Man this year, I began casting around for things I might do to stay grounded in the swirl of heat and noise and crowds of naked dancing people. Spinning has always been a good meditative activity, but I didn't want to take my big wheel. A little charkha wheel, developed by Gandhi and used as part of the Indian independence movement would be perfect.

About a month ago I ordered a book charkha from eTrade in India. Yesterday, Canada Post was just pulling up to my door with the package as I arrived home early from the studio. Good timing!

The packaging was so wonderful - the cloth outer wrapping was actually sewn shut by hand!

The booklet that comes with the charkha describes this in glowing terms as a "protective corrugated storage sleeve". Ummm, in North America we would just call this a box and throw it directly into recycling.

I love the little metal name plate.

The charkha is the size of a hardcover book. It smells like fresh varnish.

Opened out with all the goodies inside. There are three spindles, the wheel itself, and a skein winder ingeniously included.

It was actually quite easy to set up.

Close up on the spindle. Note to anyone who has spun on a charkha - I know I have the bearing in the wrong place. The good folks at the Yahoo Charkha group set me straight. (I love a world that has a Yahoo Charkha group!)
Look forward to a posting featuring yarn actually spun on my new wheel - I have some tussah silk and organic cotton sliver that been waiting for its moment of glory!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Love Apple/Rising Sun

This is my entry for the Whiplash minature quilt contest. It measures about 21"x24", and is made entirely of scraps of vintage Japanese cloth. It is based on an antique Canadian quilt with a pattern called "Love Apples" which is an old term for tomatoes. As I embroidered the edges of the red circles, they reminded me of the rising sun on the Japanese flag, hence the name of this piece.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Finding Bliss at Enso Gardens

The lovely folks at O'Reilly Media, producers of Maker Faire, held a gathering for the makers at a beautiful waterfront yoga/retreat centre called Enso Gardens. Coming on the eve of Swap-o-rama-rama, it was an unexpectedly blissful occasion that was probably the highlight of that whole wonderful weekend.

The Gardens are located in Half Moon Bay, reached by a twisty-turny road bordered by strawberry farms and lush vegetation. Since it was evening when we arrived, the low sun washes out the ocean in these pictures, but it's there.

A weathered fence surrounds the Gardens. Wendy and Gretchen indulged my frenzy of picture taking.

Inside, there was a main courtyard adjacent to the yoga room, kitchen and deck. Every element seemed handmade, timeless, and beautifully weathered. This is the window in the bathroom.

Lichen, rust and the salt air combine to create a rich patina.

Here I am in the courtyard in front of an outdoor shrine.

Lilies in the golden light of the setting sun.

The main building was surrounded by small unique cabins, each with their own courtyard. It was like being in the Shire.

There was a band who played amplified handmade instruments.

And when the cool of the evening got a bit much, we decided to retreat to a greenhouse. Instead of the expected plants, we entered to find the floor strewn with persian carpets and pillows, and low tables offering chocolates and fresh strawberries. True bliss!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Swap-o-rama-rama at Maker Faire: Part 2

This post should be subtitled "Our Staff Rocks Big Time". Here's some pictures of our wonderful volunteers, who gave so generously of their time and talent.
The silkscreen crew had lineups across the room. I loved the way they got the participants involved in making a print - print making can be a kind of tech heavy activity, but Charity, Trinity, Ezra, Ben, Slim and Txutxo made it seem straightforward.

Txutxo - I soooo regret not getting one of his "No person is illegal" prints - I really wanted one, but was buzzing around in ADHD mode, and the day was over too soon.

Ben Black Label in action.

Charity Romero, of Remade in America.

Across the room, Domini, one of the sewer/designers was having a lot of fun.

Emiko and Shana of Rewarestyle had a super popular station, making jewelery from discarded toy parts.

Gretchen Elsner showed people how to wire their clothing for sound, light and motion! (And Gretchen travelled by train and bicycle all the way from Vancouver to San Mateo to be at the event.)

Anastazia of Bad Unkl Sista sews up a storm.

Back at the silkscreen station, Trinity Cross of Patchwerk Press and Field Day Fashions helps one of the participants through the process.

Ashley Foster, the Fiber Queen, transforms scraps into a cool bag.

I had to jump in and make a print.

I loved so many things about the Swap, but the best part was having the opportunity to meet and work with these amazing people. Big hugs to you all! (And I'm kicking myself for not getting everyone's picture. Sorry if I missed you - but there's still pictures coming in, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.)

And last but not least, for schwacks of terrific pictures of all that went on at Maker Faire, check out Laughing Squid's Flickr site, and for more wonderful shots of the fashion show, see Luiza Leite's page.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Swap-o-rama-rama at Maker Faire: Part 1

I'm still decompressing! It was an exhilarating, thrilling, over-the-top event all round. Here's the beginning of my pictures:

I finally got to meet Wendy Tremayne in person. I felt like I already knew her after a kajillion phone calls and emails, and I can confirm she is truly beautiful, funny, smart, generous and glows with an inner light. She can also wear a feather turban with grace and equanimity.

Anastazia from Bad Unkl Sista in the fashion show. Why not wear a costume every day?

Stefanie Gesiorski, AKA Stefbot, one of sewer/designers, modelling the halter dress she created from one of last year's t-shirts.

Dave Montie (the Treehouse guy) created this "Frankenstein" shirt, using a serger for the first time! He had people running to the Make store to try and buy one just like it - but this is a one-of-a -kind!

My brother Rob on the right and his buddy Justin - Rob is an electrical engineer who used a sewing machine for the first time this weekend to create a sarong!

Fibre Queen Ashley Foster shows Rob how to use the machine.

F'kir models one of Bad Unkl Sista's designs in the fashion show.

I made it out of the swap briefly to go meet Greg Der Ananian from Bazaar Bizarre. He was just as charming and witty as I imagined he would be. What a sweetie!

Look at this young wizard on the Janome machine!

And here's a mom and daughter creating a doll at Homeygrown's "Toys from Trash" station.

I'll have more pictures tomorrow - there's a lot to go through. But here's the best piece of advice I can possibly give - put Maker Faire on your vacation itinerary for next year. If you don't believe me, go check out the blog at - it boggles the mind!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Proof of Divine Order to the Universe (or at least a Lattice of Coincidence)

As those who know me can attest, I am a fairly sceptical sort of person. But I am also a devoted fan of Repo Man, and therefore open to the possibility of meaning behind the randomness of life. Here's my testimony:

This is the shed of my neighbour in the co-op. I rarely see my neighbour, as she is elderly and quite ill. But I found out yesterday that this shed, and indeed the whole upstairs of her house, is filled with yarn! Now how likely is it that an unrepentent wool addict such as myself should find herself living next to the biggest stash in the Lower Mainland, if not all of Western Canada?
Turns out that my neighbour's caregiver has been surrepticiously de-stashing, distributing huge bags of yarn to various churches, charities and other knitters. In my snobbery, I thought it would mostly be acrylic, but no! I heard mention of angora, mohair, even silk!

And Now For A Not Irrelevant Knitting Story From My Past:

When I first began knitting about 25 years ago, my brother, who was just entering acting school, asked me to make him a sweater. He wanted a sweater with "presence", one that would imbue him with the charisma of a De Niro or Brando. I chose a thick, curly coal black yarn, and created a garment that commanded attention (even if, now that I think about it, may have made him more reminiscent of a large Bouvier than Olivier, but never mind). He wore it to one class, forgot it outside the door, and someone stole it. So it goes...

But Here's the Coincidence...

Yesterday my neighbour gave me about 30 balls of this 100% wool treasure. The funny thing? It is exactly the yarn I used to make my brother's famous sweater, just a different colour. I think I may dye it black and knit him another one. I could always spice up the story even more and tell him I found it in a thrift store and that the sweater had now come full circle! That the hand of the knitting goddess moves in mysterious ways.. .And this time keep an eye on it, buddy!! (Hey, Dave, if you're reading, I may have to measure you again!)

And I will end with my latest project: a dorodango. Jason Arnold writes about this Japanese craft of creating perfect, glossy spheres of mud in the latest issue of Craft. He describes the strange attachment that comes over you as you take a hanful of dirt from the garden and, using only your hands, create a ball of unusual significance. I had to try. I wasn't able to get the ball as shiny as the ones pictured in the article, but it was oddly satisfying to discover that I could create a perfect sphere just with my hands.

The dorodango has a very solid, smooth feel, and is very pleasant to hold. I think I will make another, and guess what! I can sit at the foot of the master himself, as Jason Arnold is presenting this strange craft at Maker Faire this weekend!! Hah, thought I'd make it out of here without a plug for this incredibly fabulous event, no way, man!! I'm off to San Francisco - lots of pictures next week!!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Using What You've Got

I have had a couple of tattered old quilts from Saskatchewan in my "to do" pile for about 10 years. Why, in the midst of many more pressing needs, did I choose to fix this one up now?

It was probably made in the early 60's, by the aunt of an ex-partner. It is obviously sewn from real scraps, not planned and made from new materials. The fabrics range from rayon to cotton pique to what looks like old sheets. It was hastily made, the blocks pieced "crazy" style, and was never actually quilted, but was used as a duvet cover. Some of the fabrics had frayed quite badly, and others were very fragile, but I always liked the spontaneous quality of the design.

I guess since I am working towards this big Swap-o-rama-rama at Maker Faire, and am feeling kind of overwhelmed with details, restoring this quilt is a tangible reminder that working with what you've got is as good as any place to begin. One piece at a time and all that.

I added scraps of my own to the frayed edges, re-sewed the borders, removed the crumbling back and added a new one, along with my favourite organic cotton batting. I did an absolutely hack job of the quilting, but didn't really fuss about it because it matched the freeform piecing of the original. I then added a binding and washed it, to let the inevitable shrinking work its magic.

I was very pleased with the result. There's still a few more years of keeping us cozy left in the old quilt!

Not quite Gee's Bend - but I would never have attempted this without the inspiration of those gorgeous quilts, made of neccessity and love.