Friday, December 28, 2007

On Commitment

Until one is committed there is always hesitancy,

the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness,

there is one elementary truth,

the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,

Raising to one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings

And material assistance which no man could have dreamed

Would come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

-W.H. Murray, often misattributed to Goethe

I came upon this today and felt it very relevant, particularly for the New Year. The lovely photos are by my friend Jean-Pierre Antonio.

Best wishes to you all for 2008.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Year in Review

2007 has been a particularly eventful year for me. I realize I have a fairly eventful life in general (some would call it a soap opera) but this past year has been a standout.

Probably the most exciting thing has been Swap-O-Rama-Rama. I produced two of my own here in Vancouver, and as well travelled to Maker Faire in both San Mateo and Austin to help produce Swaps there. But the events themselves are but one aspect of the most radically creative and generous community you could ever hope to find. I have met amazing people through Swap-O-Rama-Rama, made some good friends, and also found a life teacher in Wendy Tremayne, the visionary creator of SORR.

I got married in June, to the wonderful Ian Gregson. We had a beautiful small wedding on Bowen Island, at the foot of a 1000 year old Douglas Fir. The day was the second full moon in the month, making it a "Blue Moon", as I like to say I only get married once in a blue moon.

Our honeymoon was to be at Burning Man, but two days before we were going to leave I had a terrible bicycle accident that left me with fractured C-1 and T6-7-8 vertebra. I spent the next three months in a back and neck brace, taking it very easy. This time was particularly frustrating for me because I couldn't do any work, no sewing or knitting or even reading, due to the immobility of my neck and my general fogginess and pain. I would love to say I came to some great insight during this time, but I really didn't, other than life is short and precarious. But then I think I already knew that!

(I look kind of grumpy in this picture. It was taken right after I got out of the hospital - guess I was still in pain!)
There were many lovely kind people who sent cards, made phone calls, and passed on good wishes throughout my healing process. Big thanks and much love to you all! There were also some people who shared their care whose names I don't even know - the young man who comforted me right after the accident as I was lying on the pavement waiting for the ambulance to come, the people who would offer their seat on the bus, the artists in my studio building who took up a collection for me. Knowing such goodness exists in the world does help give hope in times of helplessness and despair.

And speaking of goodness - some lovely blogging friends I have made this year! It is heart-warming to feel that I have connections all over the world. No longer do I feel like a solitary fibre obsessive. It is motivating to make something and know I have someone to share it with - other than my always supportive family! Thank you to all who visited the blog and especially those who made comments. I really believe this is the power of the Internet - to create community that transcends geographical boundaries.

This was also the year that my beloved Casey died. I do miss her gentle, patient presence and hope she is bounding happily through fields of daisies in that place that good dogs go. And there were some frightening moments when my dear friend Helene became very ill. She has shown exemplary grace through a long struggle, and I am very hopeful that she will be healthy and well in the new year.

I have lots more up my sleeve for 2008 - trips to New Mexico and Japan, possibly buying a business from a friend, more Swap-O-Rama-Ramas, maybe a book, and lots and lots of art! I'm sure there will be a few surprises thrown in along the way too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thriftin', thriftin', thriftin'...

Last week I was in New Westminister for my last appointment with the neurosurgeon. He was running late, so I took advantage of a rare sunny West Coast day and went for a walk. I came across the Royal Columbian Hospital Thrift Shop - it felt like a discovery - a real thrift store in the increasingly expensive world of second hand retail. How big did I score?

This big! For $20 I brought home all kinds of yardage, including a metre of teal ultrasuede and 4 metres of silk, cotton knits, zippers, naturally dyed cotton yarn, bright red knitting needles and a crochet hook, a linen sweater (worn in the picture below), and 2 boxes of vintage Christmas tree ornaments!

Today, I tried out my new serger on the stack of assorted colour cotton knit ribbing (25 cents a piece, $1.50 total) seen to the left of the top picture. In two hours I had three scarves. I think I'm pleased! The new toy might just pay for itself one day!

And in another of the ongoing thrifty moments that highlight my life, I unravelled the lovely blue sweater that I made for the SD. (It was found in a heap at the back of her closet with smears of icing hardened onto the front. I made an executive decision that it was foolish to knit for ungrateful 12 year olds, and as penance, I would frog it and make something for myself.)

Skeins washed and relaxing on a towel. I tried to capture the unusual combination of aqua and dusky blue.

And here's a swatch. I am making Anna Bell's asymetrical sweater from Knit Knit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Have I Gone Over to the Dark Side?

In the midst of all the very interesting discussion on Sharon B's blog about slow cloth, I went and bought a serger. Other than the fact I have wanted one for years, what on earth prompted me to do such a thing?

Well, in a suspiciously convenient rationalization, I think if I can go faster for some things maybe I'll have more time for other, more fun things, like hand embroidery. I do a fair bit of garment making, where the overlock stitches could come in very handy, but I also do a lot of quilting. A serger is darn near useless for quilting, although if I'm wrong, I hope some clever reader can enlighten me.

I must also confess to being slightly terrified of the thing. It goes so fast, has sharp blades, and an alarming number of unfamiliar parts. (Sounds like my first husband!) However, I did have a lesson with the lovely and patient Evelyn at the Pfaff store and I feel somewhat more confident - at least I know how to thread the machine, which sounds like half the battle.

But strangely enough, now that I have this powerful new toy, I just want to do a little handstitching. The above image is a detail from a piece I made a few years ago, called Falling Leaf. I embroidered maple leaves on an old, worn wrapping cloth. I remember the process as being very warm and fuzzy: sitting by the wood stove, watching movies on TV, with no deadline as to when I needed to be finished. So satisfying making all those hundreds of little stitches, watching the leaves take shape, each with their own unique character.

I can't imagine my new serger fitting in to such a cozy scenario. I hope I will discover its special talents and capabilities and learn to love it for itself. And if it gets me home from the studio an hour or so earlier each day, I won't complain a bit!

And as an effective antidote to the seductions of the serger, I need look no farther than Spirit Cloth, Jude Hill's beautiful and inspiring blog. If you don't know her work already, do pay her a visit - her words as well as her stitching are unfailingly wise, thoughtful and from the heart.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A New Look

I was just as surprised as you were when I looked at my blog today and saw the new look. David Montie has been redesigning my website and I now have a complete visual identity! The blog was the last thing to change. Let me know what you think, it's always a bit of a shock to see an old friend in a new haircut!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bits and Pieces

A medley of odds and ends today - probably each one is worthy of a post, but I'm in a flurry of excitement and can't focus too well!

Why am I in a tizzy? Cause I just booked tickets for a trip to Japan!!!

I came into a bit of money and figured this might be my one chance to visit my dream destination. I have wanted to go for years. I'll be going in late February - the austerity plan starts NOW so that I will have a good wad of yen. Luckily the Canadian dollar is in a favourable position these days. Oh, I booked my ticket online, and Air Canada helpfully provided a link that allowed me to purchase carbon offsets so I don't feel like a horrible person flying.

And then I saw that the new Knitty is up! Haven't actually been able to look at it just yet, since it seems massive numbers of eager knitters have crashed the site. But I did catch a glimpse of the cover shot - an absolutely perfect photo of a mohair? qiviut? beaded lace hood. Have a look - you'll see! But wait until the stampede is over.
*Later the same day.* The photo is from RomiDesignz Flickr group. I still can't load this page from Knitty - there must be a zillion others trying to see it at the same time.

And one more thing - today's No Impact Man posting led me to this terrific little video: The Story of Stuff. Check it out - it's a very accessible, funny and positive look at the problem our planet faces and how we can make things better.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Pornography for the Hand Sewer

Back when I was in the remodelling phase of home ownership, I used to watch shows like Bob Vila and This Old House. (We didn't have cable, thank god. If I had be able to watch HGTV I would never have gotten off the couch.) I called these programs "Pornography for Home Owners" in respect to the fantasy world depicted therein. I knew that in real life, my husband and I didn't change into our fresh new LL Bean khakis and re-plaster the ceiling without getting a speck of dust on us or maintaining cordial, expletive-free conversation.

Now, I live in a co-op and don't have to worry about the resale value of my home. I am blissfully reno-free. But I still live in a fantasy world! I have a nasty little habit of living vicariously through Japanese craft magazines.

Check out this soft focus image of a woman peacefully sewing in an immaculately clean and elegantly decorated room!

Or this one - she's got a Juki! Sigh...

I could probably make a perfectly pieced quilt too if my sewing room was this well organized. Did they oil up those machines or are they just naturally glowing?

Look at these rolls of cloth! Hey, wait a minute - have they been airbrushed?

How stacked can you get ...Oh, okay, I'll stop with the bad jokes.

Seriously, this just makes me weak in the knees.

My friend Jean Pierre, who got me hooked on the sordid world of Japanese craft magazines, tells me this alternate universe really exists. He said in a recent email,
"Craft is generally a very female world out here. There are lots of cooking/craft programs on NHK (national station) and it's always women, except for a famous male sweater knitter. Men in Japan go to the office and women live in their own worlds. It seems quite segregated but it satisfies the women I think. The coffee shops and restaurants and stores during the daytime are full of women plotting the education of their children and how to spend the retirement bonus once the men are finished working."

Hmmmn, doesn't sound very 21st C. Ah well, to each his (or her) own. My fantasy world remains captured between the pages of magazines I don't even know the name of - since they're all in Japanese kanji. If anyone is interested in checking out this world, try googling Japanese Craft Books - there are lots of links. And if your credit card can stand it, try Amazon Japan - there is a button you can click for English translation.

I haven't even mentioned that if you get past the typically gorgeous photography of these books, the project instructions are excellent. In graphic form, they are clear, detailed and quite possible to follow even if you don't read Japanese. I tend to go for the more traditional books on embroidery and quilting, but there are oodles on arumigami, soft toys, bookbinding, flower arranging, knitting, you name it.