Monday, April 25, 2011


First date. He made a picnic lunch and brought it in this beautiful basket.

To say the food was sensational doesn't begin to do it justice. I was reduced to wriggling in my seat and making helpless yummy sounds. Herb stuffed roasted chicken, local artisan cheeses.

Salad with roasted corn and little white beans and baby kale. Marinated olives. Medjool dates. The most beautifully delicate smoked trout and succulent prawns that completely transcend description.

There was bubbly, and chocolate, and a little rhubarb goat cheese tart. I think this could quite possibly be the most romantic meal I have ever eaten.

After the picnic we walked along an easy trail to see the falls. So green, so lush,absolutely primordial. Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, if you are in the neighbourhood.

Okay, Drucilla would like more details. I did ask if he minded me taking pictures of the food, and he was okay with it. He is a professional chef, and was (successfully) trying to wow me. And I think there will probably be a second date!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rock Me Baby

I hugged a rock today,
Seeking to know stoicism and permanence.
Then my dog licked my face,
And as I burst into laughter,
I knew humans aren't meant to be like stone.

I wrote these lines a couple of months ago, after it seemed that I had developed somewhat of a relationship with a certain large rock that I passed on my walk every day. I know that seems pretty darn weird and quite possibly clinically significant. So I didn't share my geological yearnings with you.

But just the other day I was reading David Brazier's Zen Therapy, and came across these words:
Pick up a stone. Turn it over in your hand. Become familiar with it. Notice its colour, its contours, its crevices. As you do the stone becomes real for you. It becomes something. Continue to explore the stone. Feel its weight in your hand. Feel its temperature and texture. The stone is beginning to become a friend.

You may notice other mental factors coming into play: possessiveness, memories, gentle or aggressive feelings, aesthetic judgements pass through one's mind. Try to keep your attention here with this stone. It is possible for your imagination to come into play. The stone fleetingly becomes an implement or something decorative. The surface of the stone becomes a landscape, a miniature world. To the innocent mind, the stone may be anything at all.

And yet, not quite anything, since it does have particular qualities which present themselves and make a real impression upon us. The stone is always other, wonderful and mysterious. As such it can be a friend and not simply an extension of ourselves.

Thus, tenderness grows. We start to care about the stone. Just like a child, we invest caring in the object. From a materialistic viewpoint this is absurd. The rock has no monetary value and minimal utility But is this not precisely the nature of caring? We do not care in order to get something back. We do not have tender feelings for something in order to be able to sell or use it. We simply appreciate the thing itself.

Maybe I'm not so nutty after all!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Way of Tea

Thank you, Gwen, for reminding me of the green of macha. For some years now, my dream has been to build a tea house. A proper Japanese tea house, a space both physical and metaphorical, that exists outside of the time and space of this bustling world.

I have collected a few utensils, but so far the tea house only exists in my mind.

The calligraphy on the little painting translates "To deal with each person I meet as if it were an unique occasion." That, I believe, is the heart of the tea ceremony, in both its theory and practise.

It can take a lifetime to master the art of serving a cup of tea.

In The Book of Tea, Kakuso Okakura says the tea ceremony is:
...a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Elvis brought a couple of his ladies over from the orchard to visit the main house. I love his swagger. Just like his namesake, this guy knows how to take care of business.

This week the grass has shot up. Yesterday we mowed for the first time this spring - it smelled so wonderful.

I scored this kettle from the Free Store on my way home from yoga today. It is in almost perfect shape, is made in Canada and still whistles. What more could a girl ask for?

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's Not About Me

What do they say? "Pride goeth before a fall"? My recent self-congratulatory postings cannot be taken seriously. I just checked my all-time stats, and my five most popular posts, the ones with far and away the most page-views, have nothing at all to do with me or stitching:
1. Wendell Castle's 10 Adopted Rules of Thumb is a list of the late furniture maker's tongue-in-cheek (but nevertheless, true) guidelines for art and life.
2. The Most Beautiful Bathrooms in the World describes my visit to the John Michael Kohler Art Centre's gorgeous, artist created bathrooms.
3. Seven More Sleeps 'Til Buy Nothing Day is a discussion of how to get along with less, with several shining examples of people who do just that.
4. Men and Their Pants comes the closest to actually describing anything stitching related. But I think it's the provocative nature of the title that gets the hits. I tried Googling the title and my link came up on the third screen. Oddly enough, there were quite a few pages about men who PEE their pants that were much more popular than mine.
5. Book Review/Rave: Madeleine Vionnet features my excited gushing about a truly beautiful book.

I don't blog just to get hits, of course. I love the little textile-nerd world that you and I have created, dear readers, and a comments from you means far more to me than 10,000 hits from anonymous cyberspace.

One interesting thing is that 10% of my all-time hits occurred in the last month. I have no idea why that would be so.

Happy Monday, all.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oh No! Not Another Beach Walk!?!

Yes, my friends, the beach is constantly changing. I see new things every time. Please come with me, I'll show you.

The tide is ebbing, revealing the oyster bed that lies between Maple Point and Marine Island. Sure, we can gather some and have them for dinner.

See how hard the sun is trying to break through the clouds.

This heron is often here, sitting on a deadhead. Why he opens his wings like that, I don't know - maybe for balance?

What an amazing rock. (Okay, I'll admit it. I have a thing for rocks.)

In summertime, I sometimes eat the bladderwrack after it has dried in the sun. (It's sort of like popcorn.) But this year they are telling us on the West Coast not to eat seaweed because of the nuclear disaster in Japan contaminating our waters.

Looking out across the Sabine Channel, we see a tug pulling a huge container ship, loaded with cheap consumer goods from China. (I assume.) The tiny black specks in the water are the heads of a group of about a dozen seals. They are curious, and will keep an eye on us as we walk around the point.

Here's a closer look at one of the little guys.

The rocks on this side of the island are covered in bright green algae at this time of year.

The sandstone is carved out by the action of waves. Today it is calm, but we wouldn't want to be standing here when it is windy.

Even Gracie seems impressed.

See the hole in the upper layer of rock?

Little patches of sod have managed to build up, allowing other green things to take root.

Gracie rousted an otter! Too bad I was too slow with the camera.

The moon is full tonight. That's why the tides were so low on our walk. It was pretty cool, wasn't it? Glad you came along.

Daffy Dilly

I have about 26 different varieties of daffodils and narcissus in my yard. They were planted by the previous owner, a fellow of Dutch heritage. There are some real stunners, like the frilly, peachy one above.

There's only one of this variety, and it had fallen over, so please excuse my pink hand.

And this one is my favourite, I think. It's just positioned so sweetly, right next to the pond.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Be Still My Beating Heart

The Maiwa Symposium list is out!! There is no describing how excited this makes me. I have been fortunate to attend quite a few of the workshops and lectures, and, truly, every one has been nirvana for a fiber-slut like me.

I have posted before on the Ralli Embellishment with Patricia Stoddard, and the Expressive Stitch with Dorothy Caldwell. (Images from Day 2 and Day 3.)

Other memorable workshops have been African Mudprinting, Katazome, and Shibori. One of the things I really appreciate are the other participants. In most situations I am the one who is the most knowledgeable (or crazy-obsessive, depending on your interest in fibre), but at the Symposium MANY people know as much or more than me. There is as much opportunity to learn from your peers as the instructor. Bliss.

As happens every year, I want to take every workshop. Sadly, finances and time mean I have to choose just one, or maybe if I am very fortunate, two. Rughooking and Katazome with Natural Dyes are looking very tempting right now, but oh, dyeing with Michel Garcia or quilting with the artists from Gee's Bend!!! Can't wait 'til registration day.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Mellow Yellow

I've returned to the wheel after several months away. Just my habitual thread - I will either do a two ply for weaving or maybe Navajo ply it for knitting. No project in mind, just peaceful, easy spinning.

The fibre is a 70% merino and 30% seacell superwash, that I dyed very haphazardly with acid dyes. I wanted quite a bit of yellow in it - seems to be the time of year when my eyes crave yellow. This one tends towards the ochre/peach side of things, once it's spun up, which suits me just fine.


Here's a bouquet (and some tomato seedlings) on the occasion of my 400th blog posting. Who would have guessed that I could keep writing for so long? I really have to credit my dear readers, because without the feedback and support I would probably have shut up long ago! Thanks for still dropping by, even when I have nothing much to say.

The daffodils are blooming their bright hearts out and I can't keep up with all the eggs the chicken are laying. I am beginning to see over the top of the huge pile of mending that has been brought to me over the winter. It appears to be spring!

Share in making this fantastically delicious and nourishing Spring Tonic soup. An island favourite, it is made with stinging nettle tops. Gather nettles from a spot away from the road, take just the top 6 inches or so, and WEAR GLOVES! As soon as the green are cooked they will no longer sting, and they taste quite like spinach or chard.

3 T. butter or oil
1 large onion, diced
2 c. packed young stinging nettle tops
2 large potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 t. sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
4 c. milk, stock or a combination (Soup will be a bright green with just stock, more pastel with milk)

Saute onion and garlic in oil in a large pot. Add nettles, potatoes, carrot, salt and pepper. Add 2 c. liquid and simmer 'til veggies are soft. Pour into a blender and blend 'til smooth. Return to pot, add remaining liquid and reheat. Serve in bowl with a bit of heavy cream drizzled decoratively if you want to be fancy.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Elusive Perfect Sweater

Well, the new Knitty is up, and once again, there's nothing for me to wear! At least, that's my initial reaction, although I did linger over the Daedelus wrap. Of course there are socks there, but they are too fussy for me, and although shawls are beautiful, have you ever seen anyone actually wearing one?

You'd think, with the tremendous interest in knitting these days, and the awesome skill level that's out there, that there would be attractive, flattering patterns that might actually be wearable (for me) on a day to day basis. Maybe it's my peculiar need for a sweater that can go from feeding the chickens to a meeting at the arts centre without looking too scruffy. Or maybe it's my complete lack of fashion sense.

My body type does present a bit of a challenge - big boobs and sloping shoulders mean that anything loose fitting makes me look like a bag lady with ten layers of clothing on. On the other hand, anything too fitted makes me self-conscious.

Maybe I'm not the only one. Granted, I live on an island of just 350 people, but I do get into a city every now and then, and I rarely see anyone wearing a hand knit garment. I know that scads of people are knitting, and the yarn companies keep coming up with more and more gorgeous yarns, but where are the sweaters?

I have in mind my dream sweater, based on the one worn by the little girl Fiona in The Secret of Roan Inish. It is a yellow Fair Isle cardigan, a bit on the smallish side, with a v-neck and set in sleeves. But can I find a pattern for something like that? Ravelry has let me down, so has Knitty, as has the Vancouver Island Public Library.

Still, Fiona's sweater calls to me - its close but modest fit, its subtle colouring, its vintage style. There's nothing to do but design one for myself. I'm not a flat-chested little girl, but as long as I don't put the Fair Isle patterning in the wrong place, I think it could be lovely.

Oddly enough, as I searched for an image of the cardigan I came up with Hollywood Fashion Vault, where a wardrobe has been put together based on Fiona's outfits in Roan Inish. Maybe my dream sweater isn't so far out there after all.

Either that, or what suited living on a small, misty island in a northern latitude in the 1950's is still suitable today.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

To Blog, or Not to Blog...

The lovely and gracious Blandina of La Griccia has bestowed on me an award. I get to display my badge of honour and nominate five others.

I'm supposed to answer five questions about my blogging career, such as it is. Here goes...

- When did you start your blog?
On May 17, 2006, according to my archive. Seems like ten lifetimes ago!

- What do you write about?
It started off with the intent to write about stitching and textiles (to make, to mend, to decorate). But those topics lend themselves to metaphors that can be stretched to cover just about anything.

- What makes this special?
I have no idea how my blog might stand out from the crowd (and I don't expect that it does.) But I try to write about things with a sense of humour and/or intelligence. As my blog does also function as a diary of sorts, I try to be honest, which sometimes leads to me spouting off about my personal life or opinions that readers might find boring or irrelevant. But then, that's the beauty of the blogosphere, one click and you're somewhere else!

- What made you start writing?
I had an art exhibit that I needed to write an artist statement for, and a co-worker had a blog about something dull like politics, but it seemed to be a good outlet for his thoughts. My first post was the artist statement. Since I have worked much of my life in fields like advertising and publishing, and I like to put words and images together, creating a blog seemed like a format that would suit me. And it does, I guess!

- What would you change in your blog?
I would like to add a gallery of images and a bio so that the blog can function a bit more like a website portfolio. And certainly I would like to be more consistent in the quality of the content, but then it's me, and I'm pretty variable, so I guess the blog is just a reflection of my life.

One thing I would add is that I just spent a bit of time looking through past posts. My earlier ones were (I say modestly) really well written, compared to more recent ones. I must be getting blase about the process, or maybe just feel more comfortable not being polished and perfect. But I would like to sharpen up a bit - quality, not quantity.

Now, Deepa, Paddy's Daughter, Drucilla Pettibone, Bicycle Buddha and Lis, you're it! Anyone else who wants to play, jump in.

BTW, the picture at the top is of the Mirabella plum tree in my yard. I wish I could post the lovely sweet scent as well.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Sewing Machine Dreams

I have been reading Ruth Brandon's A Capitalist Romance, about Isaac Singer and the sewing machine. Who knew that there was such a fascinating story behind the man who created the modern sewing machine? I didn't!

But wait, you say, didn't Elias Howe invent the sewing machine? Yes, he did, and so did a few other people. Howe remains the sole creator of the needle with a tip at the point, a crucial and indisputably unique feature of the modern machine. But Isaac Singer was the bombastic and charismatic figure who truly popularized the sewing machine.

Brandon's book ends with the wonderful, apocryphal story of the machine's invention told by dancer Isadora Duncan (who was involved with Paris Singer, Isaac's son):
The old man had a dream in which a rider on a horse was rushing at him with a spear in his hand. The spear had a hole at its point, threaded with a yellow ribbon, which waved in the wind. The problem was solved: the hole for the thread had to be changed to the point-end of the needle.

Seems that Isadora had got it wrong, albeit with her characteristic flair for the dramatic. Elias Howe is credited with a similar dream:
Where Red Indians were firing arrows through cloth wigwams snagging threads with the tips of the arrows. Elias woke in the middle of the dream, rushed to his workshop and put his dream into practise.
From Alex Askaroff's biography of Howe.

Who knows? Maybe Howe really did have such a (culturally questionable) dream. Both Singer and Howe sought to free the legions of hand sewers and tailors from oppressively long hours of labour and often terrible working conditions. Both would have wholeheartedly endorsed capitalism as the means to making the world a better place. (Which is a whole other debate that I will sidestep here.) I wonder what they would think of the third world sweatshops which exist today as the end result of their invention and ideology?

Maybe that is a simple-minded question on my part, but I can't help but think that great, inventive minds are needed to address not only the technology of a machine, but the social, cultural and ethical implications that come with each new device. This is a vast topic that my wee blog can't hope to explore fully - good grief, I'm still in the 19th century with sewing machines. Don't let me near an Itouch.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Embroidery and Illustration Meet

And in complete contrast to the previous post, here's Jillian Tamaki's embroidered illustration. She was commissioned to create new book covers for Penguin Classics. Visit her website for Monster Quilt and Penguin Threads. (Above photo belongs to Jillian Tamaki.)

This World Never Fails to Amaze

Still swamped, but came across this fantastic guy who makes quilts from women's panties.

Thanks to Betsy of Craftivism for bringing "Shovelhead" to my attention.

Louis “Shovelhead” Garrett rents out the basement of his mother’s house in Louisiana, Mo. That’s where he crafts his one-of-a-kind quilts. He’s kind of picky with his panties. He’ll accept silk, acetate, nylon, even rayon. But polyester panties need not apply.

“I don’t want them cheap, dollar store, not-sexy-farm-girl panties. I want classy.”

And no granny-panties. Quilting may sound like a grandma kind of hobby, but Shovelhead’s standards require a more Victoria’s Secret appeal.

So where do 58 pair of classy panties converted into a quilt come from? Mostly from the women in Shovelhead’s life. He does landscaping and odd jobs around town, and asks his clients if they’d like to contribute undergarments to the cause.

“Most all of them donated. There was a few of them that raised their eyebrows and said, ‘You ain’t getting’ my panties,’” he laughs.