Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Beach with Gracie

A gorgeous day and my doggie. What could be better?

The passing kayakers called to Gracie but she didn't swim out to them.

She was more interested in the smells that only a dog's nose could appreciate.

She did humour me by fetching a stick or two.

I love how she does the full body shake.

Mending Monday

I have scored the mending coup of the decade.

Morgan Runnings has brought me his circa early 80's punk rock jacket to fix. It is a bona fide artifact. I am so, so honoured. I saw his band Chainsaw Running play at a real dive of a speakeasy known as Luxury Bob's back in 1985.

This will be a project and a half. Morgan hopes to have the collar replaced by leather, so first I have to come up with a jacket that I can take apart. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dreams can come true, it can happen to you.

Last spring, I had this dream. The Carnival Band came to Lasqueti and played, and I was on the dance floor surrounded by my friends and neighbours. Last night, it happened.

William Kittredge defines community as "any group with which we can openly share joy and grief." I can't think of a better description of the community in which I am so blessed to live. I have been carried through the ups and downs of the last couple of years by the good people of Lasqueti, and what better way to thank them than to throw a party.

I'll add more pictures later. Right now I have to go have a nap.
Meanwhile, here's a snippet of last night's opening act, local heroes, the Bolting Brassicas.

Dress code for the evening was "Carnivalesque". I managed to dig this lovely ensemble out of the tickle trunk.

Sophia brought her face paints. Here are Jessica and Anna.

Look at this cutie.

Backtracking to earlier in the day, Ross Barrett, the band's founder, shows the accordionist (sorry I didn't get her name)the score.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Air Canada, You Temptress

Just when I thought the serene beauty of Lasqueti had tamed my jones for Japan, the evil folks at Air Canada sent me their latest sale. We know you like Tokyo, they said, We'll give it to you for only $408.

I am hardwired for such suggestions. My first thought was "Who can I get to take care of the chickens?"

Wicked, wicked Air Canada.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Local Fibre

We're not ready to create the 100 Mile Wardrobe just yet, but a group of dedicated spinners and weavers will be demonstrating the process of creating cloth in a Sheep to Shawl event at the Lasqueti Fall Fair.

Since I was the one who innocently suggested such a wacky idea (do we really need to create more work for ourselves?) I get to make up the rules. It won't really be a traditional S2S competition, since there is just one team, but we will have to card, spin and weave a length of cloth in three hours or less, in front of crowds of cheering onlookers. At least we hope they will be cheering - they could be shaking their heads in dismay at such lunacy. At the end of the day the finished shawl will be auctioned off, a rare treasure: 100% Lasquetian Made.

The fleece comes from a genuine Lasqueti sheep from Lisa Johnson's farm. We were lucky to get a beautiful, soft, CLEAN, gray fleece that is a pleasure to work with. That's Gwen above, preparing locks for carding.

As Empress of the S2S, I decreed that it was okay to prepare some of the fleece in advance. (In some jurisdictions the sheep has to be sheared as part of the competition.) Gwen graciously offered the use of her outdoor bathtub to wash the wool. She has a wire rack that supports the fleece and allows it to lifted out of the tub without messing up the locks, letting the dirt drain away. Brilliant!

The clean fleece get to sedately dry in the shade of the garden swing. How civilized!

The washed and carded wool was divvied up amongst five spinners to create the warp yarn. We aren't spinning to any standard other than a sportweight 2-ply, as I am hoping each person's individual style will be evident, resulting in a lively textured cloth. The loom will be pre-threaded, leaving us plenty of time (hah!) on the day to leisurely tease, card, spin, wind into bobbins, weave, and finish the rest of the shawl.

Not crazy at all!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blackberry Wood

Thorns piercing flesh
Guarding the dark treasure
of warm sweet juice.

Water, Water...

Living on an island, as I do, means that there is a fair bit of recreational boat traffic, especially in the summer. I have not previously had much to do with boaters or sailors, much like I haven't had many dealings with skiers. Different worlds.

But recently I have met more of these water people. My young friend Carson has a sailboat which he runs as a non-fossil-fuel powered ferry and transportation service. There are several guys living on boats just down the road at Scottie Bay, which seems idyllic in the summer and bordering on the heroic in winter. And I recently met someone who lives on his boat with no fixed address or home port, sort of a gypsy I suppose. The romance of the sea aside, it is a classier alternative to living in one's car.

I am a very earthbound sort of person - a Virgo and an Earth Dog in various horoscope systems. In Wu Xing, the Chinese Five Element cycle, water is full of movement, of both calm and chaos, of fear and risk. It is considered healthy to have all elements in balance within oneself, although of course things constantly shift. Perhaps I need more water in my life.

I am reminded of a line of poetry I read this morning:
"Thirsty, we dream of an oasis, while sleeping next to a stream."
This speaks of water in a spiritual context, a metaphor for the divine.

Traveling across the Salish Sea to visit this week are some special folks, bearers of watery energy and inspiration. East Vancouver's Carnival Band, a 30-piece brass band explosion is coming to play their mix of funk, calypso, samba and world beat at our Community Hall (and staying at my place!) And Shannon Gerard illustrator of graphic novels and crocheter of coral reefs (amongst other things) is going to be here as well.

I expect it will be an interesting week, full of fun and chaos, excitement and adventure. And lots of dancing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Belated Mending Monday

I thought I might do something a little more regular on the subject of mending. Just for the sake of alliteration, Monday will be the day. However, typically, I didn't get to it yesterday. Be prepared for Mending Monday on any day of the week, but know that my intention is to post on the actual day!

My neighbour Flora gave me this little book. Full as it is of detailed mending techniques, times do change and 1925's darning is today's intricate embroidery. I will try to give a few more practical tips and techniques to help make your mends easy and durable.

One very common repair challenge is a tear at a seam. Most likely, the tear has happened because of stress at that point. It will just tear again if a patch is applied that is too flimsy or poorly sewn.

What I do first is inspect the tear to assess the damage and figure out why it happened. Then, for a mend that won't be too noticeable, I choose a firm, fairly lightweight woven fabric, often a cotton broadcloth, that is in the colour range of the garment. I cut a piece larger than the hole, and pin it it place to the underside. I might have to open up the seam a bit for the fabric to fit smoothly. Sometimes I will handstitch the patch in place, but more often a zigzag or darning stitch on the machine does the trick. (Remember to lower the feed dogs if you can.

The idea is to keep the fabric flexible as possible so don't overstitch. (This is also why I don't recommend iron on patches.) It's easier to add more stitches than pick out too many. Once I have stabilized the tear, I can restitch the seam if necessary. Sometimes I will add a strip of very light seam tape to further reinforce the seam - occasionally this is the only fix that is needed, if you catch it in time.

For a more decorative mend you can apply the patch on the topside of the garment. You will still have to sew the darning stitches as above, because the stress on that point is still happening and the tear can grow from underneath the patch. Embellish with embroidery if you desire!

Click here for Sheri Lyn Wood's jeans patch.

(I will try for similar inspiring and/or instructional photos next time.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Accordion Cometh

I can't tell you how excited I am.

About a month ago, I was at a wedding. On Lasqueti, most people play an instrument, so conversation came round to music, and I was asked what I played. I sheepishly admitted to years of piano lessons, but having been told I had no sense of rhythm, I stopped playing. Someone asked, "Well, who said that?" and I realized in a blinding flash that I had been living my life believing something that a person with absolutely no authority had said.

Then my dinner companion asked, "What instrument would you play if you had one?". And the answer was out of my mouth before I knew it. "The button accordion, of course!"

Later that evening I did a search on Craigslist, and a shiny red button box with my name on it (Really! Erica is latin for Heather) called to me. Today it arrived in the mail. Bless you Canada Post!

And, as luck would have it, a fantastic accordion teacher lives around the corner. A bonus is that the instrument sounds naturally beautiful, so my practicing won't be too painful - although Gracie did start howling as I tested the keys. Maybe doggie earplugs are in order.

Here I come!


I have started a new piece. I hesitated a bit about showing it at this stage, because it's only just begun. But I am working very intuitively on this one, and following the process may be interesting.

It started with the little piece of arashi shibori that was left over from the Mariner's Compass. I was drawn to the mirrored image, which immediately evoked for me the reflection of mountains and sky on water. I plan to work into the shapes to bring this image out.

It is layered on a very old piece of Japanese silk and cotton cloth, and appliqued with a beautiful horse from another vintage scrap of Japanese cloth.

The text is a slight misquote from Rumi (just before he says "There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.") I tried using the Faber Castell brush pen to draw the lettering before embroidering, which seemed to work well. As usual, I will embroider the words in random order to hopefully avoid an obvious improvement (or deterioration) in my stitching as I go.

I think this is a wind horse. As I seem to be having a bout of 3 a.m. insomnia, this cloth will be at hand to work on until I become drowsy again. Maybe that way dreams will enter it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

and in Other Mending News...

My wacky Mending at the Market scheme has been quite a success. I have fixed shoes, repaired pockets, restored a cashmere sweater, altered a suit and am looking forward to mending Morgan's vintage punk rock jacket.

Better yet, my insidious scheme of increasing people's awareness of the possibility of fixing something instead of throwing it out seems to be working. People stop to chat and invariably tell me about something they have, that they love and want to fix. They tell me stories about the old sewing machines they remember, or confide that they always hated sewing. Little kids stare at the machine with fascinated eyes. Even a person who had a pretty major disagreement with me says he will bring his favourite old jeans next weeks for me to see if they can be salvaged.

Mending! Who'd a thunk it?

Extreme Mending (or, Ode to WD-40)

I picked up a Singer Featherweight with original manual and all the attachments at the Free Store the other day. Major score, right?

It does need a little work. On first inspection the machine was completely frozen and it appeared it was the victim of a major solvent spill.

I have been working on it for the last two days. It has become an obsession. The Featherweight, as you probably know, is a justifiably famous little sewing machine. Even in this sorry state, this machine is a marvel of fine craftsmanship. As I spray with WD-40 and gently ease the parts off for cleaning, I am amazed at the strength and beautiful machining of the parts. This machine was designed to be repaired, and it is no wonder that 80 years later so many 221s are still performing like they were fresh out of the box.

The frozen gears have started to loosen and the works are starting to move. I can't wait to see it going. I am going to repaint the base and, amazingly, parts and decals are still available. Look forward to pictures of the complete restoration!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Ironic is Putting It Mildly

I was walking Gracie along the shore and saw a shopping bag floating in the water. I fished it out - it's a pretty clean beach and always a bit of a shock to see the junk that washes up.

I noticed the syllabic lettering and gave the bag a closer look. It was from Iqaluit in the Far North, and proudly proclaimed "Friends of the Environment".

Iqaluit is over 4000 miles away. If it did indeed float all the way here, this is one sturdy bag. More likely it made part of its journey by land or air, but still it's a remarkably disturbing thing to find.

I will use this bag to collect seaweed for the garden. And I will do my best to re-use it, and re-use it, and re-use it until it is nothing but dust, and then I will bury the dust.

Monday, August 02, 2010

A Compass Rose

My surrogate favorite nephew, Carson, has a birthday tomorrow. He is a sailor, so I had been wanting to make him a Mariner's Compass for a while. It is a wee quilt, and I hope it will fit in the cabin of his boat.

I used a paper patchwork method, and, I swear, never will again. My brain just doesn't do upside down and backwards. Every blessed section had to be sewn at least twice.

The pre-loved fabrics are an international lot, variously from South Africa, Indonesia, Japan, and North America. I hand dyed the solid indigo fabrics, and an experiment in arashi shibori forms the background triangles.

I used a Faber-Castell brush marker to draw the fleur-de-lis and other directional symbols. Waterproof, lightfast, Indian ink in an easy to use pen - I love all the colours it comes in. These pens are also good for covering up stitches that show too much.

And Angus, of course, decided that no other comfy resting surface in the house would do for his afternoon grooming session.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Roughing It in the Bush

My friend Jay lives well off the beaten track. I rode my bike there, following her hand drawn map, becoming a little worried as the dirt road became narrower and narrower until the stinging nettles were dangerously close to my legs. Finally I arrived at a small clearing, marked by a sign which read, "Please call before dropping in." Clearly Miss Jay values her privacy.

She lives in a very small house.

Her chickens, on the other hand, enjoy palatial quarters.

Colourful bandanas on the nesting boxes give the hens a sense of seclusion.

Miss Jay has to haul her water, and has no refrigerator. (Like quite a few people on the island, she also has no electric lights or indoor plumbing.) She fills empty bottles with water and uses clay wine coolers to keep it fresh. The tiny tree frog also appreciates the cool, moist environment.

Here's one of her beautiful banty hens, the famous Duck Mom.

It's a very rustic place, one that might not suit many people. But I found it peaceful and beautiful, filled with charm and much evidence of ingenuity.