Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall Gardening

"After"          Photo: James Emler
It hasn't even been four weeks since I took over the plot at the Community Garden, but lots of progress has been made. Most of the weeds have been pulled, except for the small patch in front of me. I put in some raised beds, and added a whole bunch of mulch. Garlic has been planted, and radishes are coming up. There is some winter kale in the middle bed. There are a few mizuna and arugula volunteers, and I have seeded some winter lettuce and corn salad. 
Here's the "Before" picture in case you didn't see the earlier posting.
I haven't usually done much of a winter garden, but since I didn't have a garden to muck around in all summer, I have a lot more energy to get something started this month. Our climate is so mild here that many people are able to have brassicas, leeks, and root crops going through the winter. 

I'm hoping to get that last patch of weeds cleared and some fava beans seeded before the rainy season really sets in.

Miscellaneous Monday

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. I picked up The Care and Preservation of Textiles when I was in the used book mecca of Sidney, BC a couple of weeks ago. It is very comprehensive, and a good general guide to caring for historic and art textiles. I really like the authors' take on the value of old cloth - they are obviously both passionate about textiles and reading the book felt like I was in the company of fellow textile enthusiasts. I thought that I was fairly well informed about how to prepare, mount and care for my own work, so that it might last for a good long time, but I learned a whole lot more from this book.  Published in 1991, it is still in print, I think, at least it can be found both new and used.
I borrowed the above books from the library and was super-impressed with the Colette Sewing Handbook. It is organised as a sewing course, and I can see it as a terrific resource for the beginning sewer. I really like author Sarai Mitnick's philosophy on how sewing one's own clothes not only empowers the maker to step out of the consumer rat race, but also allows for the expression of individuality. Her emphasis is on perfectly fitted, comfortable designs that have a retro sweetness to them, but she also has lots of ideas on how to embellish and adapt the patterns to suit one's personal style. It would make a perfect gift for a new sewer, and would sit very comfortably even on the advanced sewer's bookshelf, as it includes multi-sized tissue patterns for the illustrated designs, and is so delightfully fresh and inspiring.

Marcy Tilton's Easy Guide to Sewing Tops and T-Shirts came out before she was picked up by Vogue Patterns. I was impressed by how packed it is with professional tips and information, especially on sewing with knits. I learned several new tricks. It would be another great resource for the intermediate sewer. I see that Marci Tilton has another, more recent book out that cover tops, skirts and pants, so if it is as densely packed with information as the earlier book, it would be well worth picking up.

Eva Wilson's Ornament: 8000 Years is a fascinating cross-cultural look at basic design motifs through history. The simple line drawing that illustrate the text are very clear and more useful than photographs would be, I think. Her text is succinct and scholarly, although perhaps a bit dry. She worked with actual objects from the British Museum, and seems to have had extraordinary access to the collection. (She does discretely mention that she is married to the director of the Museum.) This is a great book for a design nerd such as myself, and would certainly add to the design vocabulary of anyone who appreciates art and material culture.
Remember the sewing project that I have taken on? I finished another duvet cover, this one again made of fabric chosen to reflect the personality and tastes of  the young woman, Letisha, who will use it. She has a lively, outgoing temperment and likes to paint, so her guardian chose bright pinks, purples, and greens, as well as a splashy marbled print that incorporates all the colours. Not the easiest to work with, but I thought of how the Amish use brights and darks in their quilts, and took my inspiration from that.

I took a somewhat improvisational approach, and ending up using almost all the marble print on the front panel. The back is simpler and more graphic. This will give Letisha the opportunity to choose which side she wants depending on her mood.
(And I apologize for the poor photos, my bed is the biggest surface in the house, but it's in a small space so it's hard to get a nice shot.) I bought some wonderful shiny pink plastic buttons for the closure, but I found out when I got home that somehow they didn't all make it into the bag. I couldn't find anything in my stash that might mix and match, so I made covered buttons instead. They are fun too.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Surf's Up

Yesterday was very windy and crystal clear. The doggies and I went to Orlebar Point, just down the hill from where we live.
The water was foaming and billowing around the sandstone, as it has done for millenia, shaping the rock into amazing forms.
A video would have given the sense of movement and flow much better, but I tried to capture it in a single frame. Not successfully, but it was fun trying!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

To Boldly Go...

I found this book the other day in an used bookstore. Reading it is like visiting an alternate universe. Imagine a world where ladies put on make up and high heels before they sit down to sew. A strange new world where the surrounding area is immaculate. And what really boggles the mind is that the inhabitants of this realm sew lace on their machines! No, not lace like we Earthlings might create with soluble stabilizer and crazy random stitching, ending up with something that looks like the cat coughed it up.
But proper lace like nuns used to make during spare moments in the cloister. Whitework! Florentine Cutwork! Belgian Bobbin Lace! Cluny Lace! Teneriffe! The list goes on....
Now, in this alternate reality of Planet Threadlandia, all kinds of lace and embroidery are made with ease on a foot-operated treadle sewing machine, with no special attachments, not even a presser foot, just a hoop (and unearthly powers of hand-eye coordination.) Intricately shaded embroidery can be accomplished just as easily as lace - no need for a calming glass of wine (or three) to settle the nerves afterward!
Once all the simple lessons are mastered, the clever Threadlandian can move on to create her own designs, such as this tea cozy! This example is a dead giveaway that Singer Instructions for Art Embroidery and Lace Work arrived on Earth from another galaxy: the cozy is a single layer, and lace! How the heck is that going to keep your tea hot? Not in this dimension!
Needless to say, I bought the book. Couldn't resist the opening sentence:
The needle has been the instrument through which women have, aside from keeping things together, created beauty, and expressed themselves since the time some helpful male made the first bone needle.
Now, please excuse me. My starship awaits!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Is It a Car? Is it a Plane? It's an Aero RC!

Photo by James Emler
I am the last person on earth who would get excited about an automobile. On a recent trip down to Victoria I found the traffic overwhelming and soul-destroying, and it was not even rush hour. I re-affirmed my belief that cars are the bane of humanity. Yet, this strange conveyance, parked in Brentwood Bay, captured my eye. (The photos have been put into B&W, as the polished aluminum surface reflected the clear blue sky so well it could have been a mirror.)
Photo by James Emler
A handmade car! Not only that, a steam-punk handmade car! (James had pointed out a Bentley on the way down, and said it was completely hand built. Not that anyone could tell just from looking at it - it was as seamless and sleek as a Lexus.) The front grill looks like a Rolls Royce, with a few extra lights.
Photo by James Emler
The vehicle was a magnet for attention. Everyone who passed by had to stop, gawk, and take a picture with their phone. Look at the riveted leather spare tire cover! (And those are racing tires, BTW.)
Photo by James Emler
The incredible dashboard is actually from an airplane. It can measure altitude as well as miles-per-hour. And check out the waxed linen knotwork covering the steering wheel. (There! Can't get away from textiles after all!)
Photo by James Emler
There are several handcrafted, buckled leather toolkits attached to the outside of the vehicle. There are even leather straps latching the hood.
Photo by James Emler
Now, I am sure a Bentley parked in the same spot wouldn't have attracted so much wonderment and fascination from passersby. Not just sparking our basic human curiosity, I believe this car excited the imagination and spoke to a deeper need for the unique and original mark of the artist in the world around us. This vehicle is obviously created by a person, not a machine. It rolled out of passion, not off an assembly line. My guess is that the owner is an aficionado of early automobiles and airplanes, a lover of the age when we imagined the shape of things to come. This car is a work of art, a glorious manifestation of one person's dreams. To encounter such a rarity, on the street, far from any formal institution, is a magical thing.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Out Standing in My Field

I am so happy! After being gardenless throughout the past summer, I now am a proud member of the community garden and have a 20'x20' plot of my very own to muck about in. It was a very overgrown bit of land, and so I have been contentedly indulging in one of my favourite pastimes - weeding! I've unearthed strawberries, raspberries, chives, parsley, garlic, irises, lupins and sorrel. I know there are hollyhocks and poppies lurking around the perimeter. It's like a treasure hunt.
James came to pick me up yesterday and said he knew where to find me by the sight of my rear end sticking up in the air. Hmm, saucy lad. Watch out, mister, I've got a trowel and I know how to use it!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

All In a Row

Deuteronomy I-IV, (2013)Imaginary installation view.
Ye Olde Photoshoppe had me totally bamboozled, so James very kindly put all the birdies together for me. I hope one day to see them up on a wall together for real.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Change of Pace

Please excuse the badly keystoned image. It is really rectangular.
Just in case you are getting bored with all the photos of brown thread, here's a zap of colour. I have been asked to make the bedding for a couple of rooms in a new house that has been custom built for two young women who have severe health and mobility issues. Every element of the structure has been designed to meet their needs, both physical and social. For example, in addition to the wide doorways and tiled floors that accommodate wheelchairs, there is a beautiful outdoor cob oven, so that neighbours may come and bake bread while visiting the girls. It is an incredible, visionary project and I feel so honoured to contribute to it. In these circumstances I don't even mind using fabric from JoAnn's.

The duvet cover pictured above will go into Amber's room. The colours have been carefully chosen to reflect her preferences and personality, and there will be curtains and pillowcases to match. Amber is almost blind, so it is particularly heartening to see that just as much care has been taken in designing her room as would be for someone with normal eyesight.

On a technical note, the duvet cover is pieced, with a centre panel surrounded by a strip pieced border. I was given the fabric, yardage and a bunch of fat quarters, and told to be creative. Well, I probably could have been a lot more inventive. Given that the cover will be washed frequently, I had to finish all the seams, so I went for straight lines. And yes, I used a lot of thread!

Here's more colour! Everything in this pot of ratatouille was grown on Gabriola - not by me, sadly, but by the fabulous farmers of Good Earth. I went on a mad vegetable shopping spree at their farm stand yesterday, and made a giant pot of stew, most of which is now tucked away in the freezer to brighten up a rainy day in February.