Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Amulet: The Great Family Riddle

From left to right: Ulrica, Sophie, Thomas, Dennis, Eleanor (my grandmother), Margaret, Allan and Leona. Taken in Chicago 1917
The story is this:
My great-grandmother, Sophie Ayres married my great-grandfather Dennis Kelly on December 27th, 1899 - the cusp of a new century - and they proceeded to have six children. The children's names, in the order of their birth, were as follows:


Now, what do you notice about the names, other than Ulrica is a rather unusual choice? Yes, that's right, the first letters spell the word "AMULET". If that was a coincidence, what would the odds be of the letters spelling out anything, let alone a word of some mystery and magic? On the other hand, if it was intended, how could anyone at that time be sure of having exactly six children who all survived past childhood? And given that my mother remembers her Granny as a rather sharp-tongued, stern woman, it is hard to imagine Sophie as young and in love and planning her future family so poetically. (Apparently Dennis left her with the six kids - if anything, he was the romantic ne'er-do-well type.)

In any case, this little story has always been a source of some wonder in our family. I think we felt in some way blessed, even a generation or so removed. And it points to the power of naming, which brings us to the source of real magic: intention. When we focus our attention and our heart and our energy on something, we are shaping the future with our intention. I believe this how we make art*.

So my upcoming workshop on making amulets is actually a slightly subversive way of introducing the idea of working with intention, and from the heart. It is unlikely that any of my students will be shaman or priests or wiccans, but I don't think we need to come out of any of those belief systems to be able to make amulets. Amulets are objects invested with protective powers, and what greater protective power can we give than our attention, and our love? The objects we make may reference traditional amulets, and symbols and materials that have been believed to carry special powers in various cultures, but it is the intangible energy that we transfer from ourselves to the object that makes it meaningful and potent.

As stitchers we know this. With each prick of the needle, with each measuring of the thread, we give life to our cloth, we give life to the world. We connect, we hold, we honour, we protect.

Love to you all in 2015.

*(Pretty flakey, I know, especially for someone who went to art school at the height of Marxist-Feminist Post-Structuralism. What can I say? I guess there's room for more.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's About Time!

Yikes, it's been forever since I last posted. Many of you have probably been in the same boat, busy with all the to do's of the holidays. And I had the most low-key Christmas possible, so being busy hardly qualifies as an excuse. I did have all sorts of ideas for blog posts that emerged from dusty corners of my brain, though, that maybe will develop into something one day. Here's the list:

1. Environmental Footprint of the Textile Artist/Craftsperson
Something like a post I did ages ago about the environmental footprint of a tee shirt, but looking at all aspects of how our creative activity has an impact on the world around us. I did a crazy huge mind map that could almost be a book, but my conclusion ultimately came to a simple "Make art, it's the right thing to do."

2. Rant about the Proliferation of Lazily Edited How-To Craft Books
Yeah, I know publishing is a tough game, but so much of what is out there is a waste of resources. I am also deeply suspicious of the ploy in which a popular blogger gets all her friends to help create the content of the book, for which no one is paid. This one could be tagged "Pet Peeve".
This amulet contains the prayer of loving-kindness.
3. Developing my Amulet Workshop
I will be leading a mixed media workshop on creating amulets for the upcoming Isle of the Arts Festival here on Gabriola. We will be making small objects that offer protection against negative forces using natural materials such as shell and bone as well as cloth, thread, shisha mirrors and beads, drawing upon traditional practices, mythology and symbolism. Underlying the process will be a focus on developing a practise of working with intention, and responding to the inherent meaning of the materials we use. This will be a fun one!
The latest piece, in progress. The frame is about 30" across so that gives some idea of scale.
4. Ongoing Projects
The latest piece, and the most intricate so far, in the Codex work is coming along. So is my "Home Sweet Dome" welcome mat that I am hooking, at a somewhat glacial pace.

5. Children's Book Based on the Story of Louis Nicolas
For some time I have had an idea cooking for a storybook about Louis Nicolas. My plan is to write it myself and have Vicky Bowes do the illustrations and her husband Mike Swallow to do the maps. The logistics of it all are daunting, but I believe it is such a great Canadian story that it deserves to become part of our national lore and legend.

6. Christmas Card
We don't give gifts in our family - rather, we draws names of one relative for whom we create a really special handmade card. I got my brother Dave's name, and I made this sweet mobile of bells, sparkly green rick rack, tiny Yule logs and three rows of red felt triangles embellished with cloth letters spelling out B-E-L-O-V-E-D, which is what "David" means in Hebrew, and a glass star. It was more elegant than it sounds, and I forgot to take a picture of it. Drat!

And there's probably more oddments kicking around in my head but daylight is fading and I need to actually do some work! If I don't post again before Thursday, I wish you all the very best in 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Mystery in Lace

Dear Sarah Fincham of Small Offerings sent me a beautiful drawing in a trade for linen pajamas. As a surprise, she included this piece of silk lace that she had found in a flea market. She said that perhaps it was meant to be a doily or jar cover, but I suspected she knew better, and had sent me this little beauty as a test of my textile detective skills. (She knows I love mysteries.)

After marveling at its fragility and identifying the dry, somewhat crunchy texture as a sign of real silk, I gave it a long look. Something was off. See the outer edge, alternating points and rounds? But check out the far right. There are two points together, with a rather crude seam in between. Aha! The piece of lace had been re-purposed from its original use. Due to the small circumference of the centre round my first guess that it was a cuff.
Very, very carefully I removed the silk thread that attached the lace to the centre bit of chiffon, and unpicked the seam. Freed from the chiffon, the lace relaxed, and I could see it was in fact a collar, maybe for a child or a lady with a very slender neck.
Since the lace had several dark spots on it, I thought I should give it a bath. A soak in a bit of cool water and a drop of  dish soap, then a rinse and another short soak in diluted lemon juice. Several rinses later, I rolled it in a towel to remove excess water, then carefully laid it flat to dry, coaxing the picot edge into position with my fingertips.
While it dried, I Googled, and quickly identified the lace as Maltese bobbin lace, probably from the 19th C. Here's another example:
It is interesting that traditional Maltese lace had almost died out until an Englishwoman, Lady Hamilton Chichester, was responsible for reviving the craft, and Maltese lacework became quite popular in England after being exhibited in the Great Exhibition of 1851. Which explains how it eventually turned up in an English flea market. Why someone decided to re-model it in the interim remains a secret - even if no longer a fashionable collar, as a doily it wouldn't lay flat, and as a jar cover it would be too precious for raspberry jam. I think I will frame it, and hang it alongside Sarah's drawing.

Oh, yes, that drawing! I bet you want to see it. Here it is, as yet unframed. Wonderful, huh? For more of Sarah's work, check out her Etsy shop.
And an update on our Vicky - she is still in hospital and hasn't yet been given an idea of when she may be released. The possibility of infection is still a big concern, but she has been making steady progress and has even been taking a few steps unassisted. The outpouring of love and support for her has made a huge difference, she says - so thank you!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Brits Do It Best

I have gone hopelessly Anglophile these last couple of weeks. First, my rug-hooking friend Mary Anne was swooning so much over the British series Call the Midwife that I finally gave it a look. And promptly succumbed to its many charms.
This review of Call the Midwife sums up most of why I like the show. The main reason I never clicked when Netflix suggested it to me over and over was that I thought it would be all about babies. Now, I am probably one of the few women in this world who aren't smitten at the sight of a newborn, but Call the Midwife shows them in all their gucky glory and even I have to admit they are somewhat miraculous.

But what really captures me is the strong writing, note-perfect art direction, fabulous performances and unflinching camera work. As James, who is also enamoured with the show, says, "This is what TV can be!"
And then my request for the Merchant & Mills Sewing Book finally came through at the library. It is, of course, British. Finally, a sewing guide that I can recommend! (I look through all the new ones that come in to the library, and most of them are absolute junk. I was beginning to despair for the future of home sewing - how could anyone learn, or even be inspired to, by the trendy, superficial, dumbed-down books that are out there?)

But Merchant & Mills reads like it was being narrated by one of the nuns from Call the Midwife - brisk, practical, uncompromising, faithful and loving. It begins: "We love sewing and believe in it. It provides the invisible thread that literally holds together the world we know. It is everywhere, from the clothes we wear to the sails that enabled the discovery of America. It is in our shoes, the seats on the bus and lurks quietly all around the home. It is best friend to the upholsterer, the seamstress and tailor, the diva and the surgeon and is as ancient as time itself."

The book is packed full of information - even I, often accused of being a know-it-all, learned some interesting things about the history and use of sewing tools. The chapter on pressing echoes the words of my Bauhaus-trained high school sewing teacher, Elly Pucher: "You must press it beautifully!"
The design and writing style of the book are consciously nostalgic, but perfectly underscore author Carolyn Denham's approach to the art of sewing. The words on the inside front cover (above) sum it all up. I am impressed by her emphasis on quality and durability and that the word "cute" never once makes an appearance. The projects are both classic and utilitarian, with the possible exception of the Inside Out bag. This would be a fabulous book for a new sewer, and I have to admit that I have dropped some heavy hints about this one to Santa myself.

I would be remiss not to mention that Merchant & Mills has a lovely website.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


The thrift store yielded up an incredible stash of treasure. Embroidered cloth and ribbons...
...mother-of-pearl buttons...
...Czechoslovakian glass buttons...
...James played with the buttons on the scanner.


A walk at the beach with the dogs, after a torrential storm. Dazed and blinking in the light, we checked to make sure everything was still holding on.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Road to Recovery

Photo by Mike Swallow
This photo of Vicky was taken yesterday. What a girl! Her smile shows her optimism and spirit. We can't see the bandages that cover her lower body but she is on the mend. She was able to sit in a wheelchair for ten minutes before becoming dizzy, which is great news because it means (sorry sweetie, personal detail) she will be able to use the toilet. That seems to be one of the milestones hospitals look for before sending a patient home. There is still no word of when that will be, but there is hope that no further surgeries will be required at this point. The shrapnel that remains in her legs will continue to work its way out for years to come though, just as if she was an old soldier.

And the really good news is that a friend of Mike and Vicky's who works for the Red Cross has set up a fundraising page that makes it super easy to donate. You don't have to worry about all those wire transfer codes I gave you in the previous post, just one click and you can help. Here's the link:
Our goal is to raise $2500 by the end of the weekend - we're already at $900 after just half a day! People are so generous and kind - thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sunday Update! The fund just passed $3,650  - brings tears to my eyes. That, combined with $2500 in the trust account and over $1000 in sales of Mike and Vicky's artwork at the craft fair yesterday is so awesome, a stunning and heartwarming response.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

It Could Happen to Anyone

***UPDATE added at the end of the post.***
My plans for uninterrupted stitching came to a roaring halt on Sunday when I heard that Vicky, my lovely assistant, had been in an accident. Frantic phoning around ensued, and awful news of what had happened. Vicky, kind and generous soul that she is, had been caretaking for a neighbour. She lit the wood stove as usual - but she did not know that there was a water jacket on the stove, and that the pipes had frozen overnight. The safety mechanism, a release valve had also frozen. The ice in the pipes rapidly turned into steam and became the equivalent of dynamite. The stove exploded. Vicky was thrown three meters across the room.

Oh so fortunately, her brother-in-law Dave was just outside the house. He rushed in and pulled an unconscious Vicky out from under some burning debris. She was bleeding seriously from her leg so he used his sweater for a tourniquet. He yelled for a neighbour to call 911 and ran back in to the house to grab all the coats hanging by the door and tucked them around Vicky. The first responders arrived in 20 minutes -remember, this is a rural island.

We are lucky to have a emergency centre at the small clinic here on Gabriola. The doctor on-call made a quick decision and soon Vicky was being helicoptered to Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. She underwent an 8 hour surgery to remove shrapnel (pieces of steel and cast iron from the stove) from her legs. Her husband Mike, brother-in-law Dave and Australian shepherd Tazi drove down to Victoria in the car - a two hour trip.

James, I, and the girls made that same trip the next morning to visit the hospital. Vicky was in bandages from the waist down, and her hands were also heavily bandaged. Miraculously, her face, neck and upper body were okay. No bones were broken except a couple of fingers. Her spine was okay. She was conscious and amazingly herself. "I got blown up", she said and laughed her gentle little laugh. Dave and Mike were pale and visibly shaken, rare for a couple of cool British lads. (The kids - I think of them as kids, even though they are in their early thirties) - are recent immigrants from England.)

We hugged and chatted and listened, and then Mike and Dave went to take Tazi for a walk. James did some reiki for Vicky, and I washed her face and cleaned the soot from her ears and hairline - she said she had been told she looked like a coal miner just come up from the deeps when the ambulance arrived. The nurses in emergency had wiped most of it off but a more thorough job needed to be done. It felt good for me to be able to offer a little care for this sweet girl.

The nurses at Royal Jubilee seemed to be the best - and as James, the eternal flirt, said to one, "Do they only hire beautiful nurses here?" Vicky had a private room, with sunshine pouring through the window. Thank the heavens for universal health care and that Vicky was covered.

She is possibly facing another surgery to remove more of the shrapnel and repair tissue damage. Follow up care and rehab, transportation and accommodation costs will add up, as well as lost time from work for Vicky and Mike. Our fabulous community has already started filling their freezer with home cooked meals and baked goodies. We have set up a trust account so people can donate money. Help is being offered to dogsit and walk Tazi, and to manage Mike and Vicky's table at this Saturday's craft fair. In less than a year, this kind, generous, talented young couple has made many friends on Gabriola - they may be far from their families home in England, but us islanders are doing our best to surround them with love and care.

You can find out more about Mike and Vicky at their websites:  Little Blue Dog Designs, Vicky Bowes Illustration, and their organization Ocean Roots.

James has seen Vicky again at the hospital and she is steadily improving. No estimate yet on when she will be home.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wild Beasts

 The stitching continues. I have finished the ferocious wild boar...
...and the ravenous lynx.
Here is the version of the lynx from the first codex piece I did. They are both the same size, but stitched with different yarn. There actually isn't much difference between them, although the latest one is a little more detailed.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Stitching For Social Change

Sima Elizabeth Shefrin is my guest artist for the Round the World Blog Hop. We're bending the rules a little bit as, even though Elizabeth has a had a couple of websites for several years now, she has only just started a blog, and we are having some technical difficulties. So I am happy to introduce Elizabeth to you here, and hope that you will visit her websites to see more of her socially conscious work.

Elizabeth says: 
 I’m a fabric artist, a community artist and a children’s book illustrator, and have been for many years. My main website is called Stitching For Social Change and my other web site is called Middle East Peace Quilt. The titles alone should give you an idea of the kind of projects I enjoy.

  Right now I’m working on two major projects. The Embroidered Cancer Comic Book will consist of fabric wall panels and accompanying comic books, depicting my husband’s and my journey following his prostate cancer diagnosis in 2011. My plan is to create 16 to 20 fabric comic strips each consisting of four 20 inch square embroidered line drawings. These will be sewn together in panels of four.

 The second project is called Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies, and is inspired by a face book page with the same name.  On this page, members of the Face Book community post pictures of themselves holding signs, with the name of the site handwritten on them. The people in the photos pose, Jews with Arabs, Israelis with Palestinians, sometimes in couples, sometimes family groups, or groups of friends, individuals who are stereotypically in conflict with each other.
I am creating fabric applique and embroidered portraits from the self-portraits people have sent to the site. If you live in Vancouver check out the 2015 cover of the program guide for the Roundhouse Community Centre as soon as it’s available.

I love working in fabric and I love working with my hands. I get antsy if I don’t have a project on the go. One of the great things about fabric art is that as a traditional women’s art form, it is largely outside of the male-dominated western European art forms.
I am storyteller and an activist, and the work I create tells my stories. I particularly like it when an art form can build bridges between peoples, or help create a better world. 

 I have almost no formal training as an artist, and I tend to make things up my process as I go along. For the Embroidered Cancer Comic images I work from small sketches which I enlarge on the photocopier and trace onto fabric. For the Jews and Arabs pieces I trace the photos people have posted on the Face Book page and enlarge the tracings to make pattern pieces. The most fun part is embroidering the faces which I do by looking at them very carefully.  Truth to tell, I’m less interested in them looking like the photo and more interested in them having an integrity of their own.

 I am trying to get my blog page going but I’m having some technical difficulties, so thank you to Heather Cameron for letting me post on hers. In the meantime please write to me through either one of my websites. I’d love to hear from you. 
Find me here:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Some Things Are Worth Putting the Stitching Down For

That's Jean McLaren on the left, holding our banner.

Yesterday I joined a group of grey-haired ladies and trekked over the Salish Sea to help protest Kinder Morgan's drilling in a conservation area on Burnaby Mountain. They want to run a pipeline through the mountain that will contain dirty oil from the Alberta Tar Sands. No, I'm not writing from prison, as my mother asked when I called her this morning. One of our group - Jean McLaren, an 87-year-old grandmother and veteran activist - did cross the police line and was detained for an hour and then escorted down the mountain with a burly officer on either side of her.

It was not an angry protest, but a passionate and determined one. There were about 200 people there, lots of singing, and a good cross-section of the community -  a broad range of ages, gender and ethnicities. I was struck by the good will of the crowd, many thank you's being said, lots of generousity of time and dollars being donated to the people who are camping at the top of the mountain.

It felt like a bizarre ritual being enacted. Twenty RCMP officers in body armour and full gear defending the rights of a huge American corporation against a peaceful group of Canadians in toques. (Fibre note: I did see lots of hand knit hats and scarves.)
Gathering at the bottom of the hill.

Jean in the middle, being introduced and acknowledged for her leadership in the Clayoquat Sound protests that helped change the way forestry is done in B.C.

Jean and others after they crossed the line.

The muscle, defending an American corporation, funded by Canadian taxpayers.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Round the World Blog Hop

 Thanks to Arlee Barr for inviting me on this journey.

Q.    What am I working on?
A.     I'm finally back to the Codex Canadensis series, after a few months of dabbling with other stuff.
This is exactly where I left off last night. I am experimenting with stitching the foliage in dark green perle cotton.

 Here is what I wrote as I was just beginning this project, over three years ago now.
The Codex Canadensis is a 17th C. document most likely created by Louis Nicolas, a French Jesuit missionary who also is believed to have written the Histoire Naturelle des Indes Occidentales (The Natural History of the New World.) The Codex comprises seventy-nine hand drawn plates detailing the flora, fauna and aboriginal people that Pere Nicolas encountered during his years in the land he called the “North Indies” , which is now Canada. The Codex is a significant document as it is a rare example of early Canadian art. The drawings are also delightful in their fanciful and untrained style, and reveal how Nicholas saw the world through the lens of the similar and analogous, rather than the phenomenological or scientific. Francois-Marc Gagnon’s essay that accompanies the 2011 facsimile edition of the Codex Canadensis (McGill-Queens University Press) clarifies the differences between the way Louis Nicholas viewed his world and the way his more rational minded colleagues saw it, and sparks the question of what these colliding world views mean to us today.

Contemporary with the production of the Codex was a European style of needlework known as crewel. It was a popular method of decorating household upholstery, window and bedcoverings, and featured coloured wool threads worked on heavy linen cloth, depicting large scale repeating patterns of botanical and zoological motifs. (The earliest dated bedhanging (1696) is in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum.) Primarily the work of women, the patterns reflected the changing knowledge of the world gained through exploration and colonization and placed it in a domestic context.
What I do is render, or translate, Louis Nicolas's drawings into embroidery, re-contextualizing them by adding elements of my own such as text or design. These pieces are large scale and I mount them on stretchers as I would a canvas for painting. Here's the last one I completed:
Wheel of Life (2014) Hand embroidery, wool, silk and cotton on canvas, 36"x36"
And here is the page of the Codex that I began with:
I look closely at the pen and ink images and try to duplicate them as accurately as I can in stitch.

Q.    How does my work differ from others in its genre?
A.    Good grief, what is my genre? I usually describe myself as an artist who works with textiles, which is pretty wide open. My art training was steeped in late post-modernism and feminism, which means I bring an intellectual, political and philosophical slant to a medium that is/was often seen as lacking such rigour. But this is a hard question for me to answer. I see other textile artists as compatriots, so I guess I look more for similarities than differences.

 Q.   Why do I write / create what I do?
A.    I would go crazy if I didn't. For me, making art is manifesting what I see in my mind's eye. An idea will occur to me, or a problem will present itself or a truth will need to be revealed. When those things appear, they will ricochet around in my head until I get them out into the work. The Codex Canadensis stuff is a bit different. When I first saw the cover of the book, it was like the hand of God was on my shoulder, saying "Here, this is for you." There was an instantaneous desire to work with Louis Nicolas's images, which has developed into feeling like he and I are co-creators. (I'm sure if he would be shocked and appalled to think that over 300 years in the future some woman would be thinking so much about him.)

Q.    How does my writing / creating process work?
A.    I usually begin with an image or line of text that niggles at me, that wants to be recognised or honoured or explored. Most often, there is something puzzling or ambiguous about the core material, something that is not as it seems. It buzzes around in my brain, sometimes for days, weeks, months, until suddenly I see it, whole. I rarely change things too much from that "Aha!" moment - what follows is production, making manifest.

Sometimes the materials I start with prove to be too uncooperative, but most of the time I take on the challenge of mastering a difficult fabric or thread. That's where the surprises can happen. I used to be more of a control freak, but I have consciously tried to loosen my grasp and to listen more to the design, the materials, the inner voice of the object. I ask, "What does it need?" That comes from my art therapy training, letting the work speak, and listening to what it says.

And then, towards the end of the process, there is the important stage of "gazing upon the work". This is where I look upon the piece from a bit of a distance and wonder at the unique entity that is in front of me. I open myself up to the work and ask again, "What does it need?" There is an element of critical discernment here, it's not like I just let the piece blather on. I also ask myself, "Does this answer my initial question?" "How can I make it clearer? Stronger?" This aspect of distancing myself from the work is kind of a summing up, a final tweak. The piece is in the world now. I have been madly in love with it, and now I'm letting it go off and seek its fortune.


Well, blah, blah blah, enough about me! I have invited two other wonderful artists to join us on this trip, and they will be posting next week with their answers to these questions. From a remote south-eastern corner of England comes Sarah Fincham who says about herself:
A sociologist by training, Sarah found her way back to a childhood love of needle and thread via chronic illness, drawing and painting. She is highly tactile by nature and all her work, regardless of media, begins with touching the materials, feeling her way to an idea.
Her website is Small Offerings, where you can see her drawings and paintings, as well as her beautiful stitching.

And joining us will be Sima Elizabeth Shefrin from Gabriola Island in the Salish Sea, Canada. Elizabeth is another multi-talented artist who has illustrated children's books and organised an international peace quilt project. Her website is Stitching for Social Change. (I am helping her get her blog going. Hopefully it will be up by next Friday, but if not, she will be guest posting here.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ephemeral Objects

Yesterday I went to see the exhibit Black Diamond Dust at the Nanaimo Art Gallery. Curator Jesse Birch has taken a very engaging approach to this look at coal-mining, once the driving force of Nanaimo's settlement and history. It was fascinating to learn that the ground underneath the city, and in fact some of the surrounding seabed, is riddled with the tunnels and mine shafts of this now-abandoned industry.
What really blew me away though, was Vancouver artist Stephanie Aitken's 8'x10' rug based on her painted studies of decomposing plant matter. (Which, given enough time and pressure, turns into coal.)
Photo: Canadian Art

Aitken had the rug made in a fair trade factory in Nepal. It is of wool and silk, and these photos do not do justice to the colours and textures. But, believe me, it is a stunner.  There was nothing on Aitken's website or in any artist statement I could find about her intention of turning her paintings into a textile work - it would appear from the placement in the gallery and in a couple of pictures on her Pinterest page that they are intended to be used as floor coverings. She describes herself as a painter, and her paintings are interesting, but feel rather slight in juxtaposition to the power and energy of the floor piece.
Black Wood Rug by Stephanie Aitken
Anyway, here's a photo of a little composition of found objects I made on my last visit to the beach. Once the picture is made, it all eventually washes back out to sea. Gracie kept the orange-y red ball/float thing though - it makes an amusing toy. I have come up with a new salutation for her: "Hail Gracie, Full of Beans".

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

And So It Begins...

You'll have to click on this to enlarge, and squint a bit, but the traced design is in the hoop. The piece measures 54" wide and 32" high, so it's a biggie.
The wolf volunteered to go first. Hard to say no to a critter with such sharp teeth!
I took the first few stitches last night. I think I may have said this before, but beginning a new piece always reminds of the days when I used to run - no matter if the distance is short or long, it always begins with just one step. And I'm also reminded of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, which is always worth dipping into, even if you have read it before.