Saturday, February 28, 2015

Month End

I last gave you a progress report on the Codex piece on January 31, so I guess I'm due. It may not seem to changed much from last time, but I have added two partial weasels, a wolf, a porcupine, and a "manitou" - the weird little critter with the curly tail in the lower right. Oh, and a whole lotta foliage. The design runs over the edges as if it were an endless field.

I sincerely hope I will be done before the end of March!

Friday, February 27, 2015

It Doesn't Look Like Much Now, But...

Gardeners come in various guises. There are plant collectors, and orderly types who prune and mulch in neat rows. There are rich gardeners who hire landscapers and those who spend all day on their knees with dirt under their fingernails. One thing they all share is that they have a vision, some grander than others.

Me, I'm sort of a work with what you've got kind of gardener. I have been a renter at most of the places I have gardened, so have to be aware that when I leave the next person might not have the same approach that I do. I try to keep things simple and low-maintenance, so that even if the garden gets ignored, it won't look like nobody cares. And I don't plant anything too precious.
For the last month or so, I have been working on creating a garden in our much neglected back yard. Rather than getting a guy with a Bobcat to move the dirt and rock around, which could be done in an afternoon, I have chosen to take a slow, handmade approach. Needing a bit of a physical fitness program, I have been moving fill from a spot in front of the dome around to the back, bucketful by bucketful. I started with three buckets at a time, and added one more each day. Now I have stronger muscles, and a berm, ready to be landscaped with stones and this carefully placed stump. (More on the stump down a few paragraphs.)

Here's a shot of the space last fall:
It is an unusual stone patio, carved out of the rock that is this island. At one time, someone had a vision. There are still the remains of pipes which makes me think there was a pond or a water feature. Over the years, it fell into neglect, and when we moved in, was filled with garbage and ashes from the outdoor fireplace. The first thing I did was buy a Japanese maple and some native coastal plants in pots at an end-of-season sale. They have huddled together over the winter.
In January, I started removing the garbage and accumulation of weeds. I dug up sword ferns from the side of the road, where they do not thrive because the road crews mow them back several times a year, and created pockets to plant them in.
I collected a handful or two of moss from the forest every time I took the dogs for a walk, being careful to take only from areas where it was abundant and would be able to fill in quickly. I placed the mosses to create a green carpet on the deepest, shadiest trough in the stone.
Above is the area of the berm. It doesn't look that big, but is enough! It's probably close to a cubic yard of subsoil and gravel. I then started placing stones around the edges to contain the soil and ease the transition between patio and yard, like I did below, last fall at the top of the driveway. (This was another area that was junky looking and full of debris before I began.)
And I was thrilled to finally score the rotting stump that I had my eye on for the last few months. It had been sitting forlornly in the middle of a closed off road after somehow being moved from its long-time home at the side of the road. I liked its shape, and the moss growing on the side of it, and the fact that it was already somewhat hollow, making it suitable as a planter. But how to get it the 500 yards or so down a steep, eroded, blocked off road?

I figured that if I drove to the closest access point at the bottom of the hill, and took the moving dolly (hand truck), I could use the powers of leverage and gravity to get it close enough to the van that I could womanhandle it in. This kind of worked, although I grossly underestimated the weight of the stump and wasn't able to get the dolly under it. I rolled it, hand over hand down the slope until it decided to take off on its own, coming to rest at the bottom of an embankment. This journey split the stump in two, which wasn't a disaster since it meant I could then use the dolly, which I did in two trips.

Funnily, whilst I was doing this, a truck came along the main road and slowed to a crawl, giving me and my vehicle the hairy eyeball. It crept past and turned around, stopping behind the van. "Busted!" I thought, but it moved on before I reached the road. Probably phoning in my plate number to the authorities. I imagined explaining myself to the RCMP, but realized that there could only be one reason for a grey-haired lady rolling a chunk of rotting wood down a hill: Gardening! She has a vision...

...I positioned the stump three times before getting the right angle. There was a natural opening that looked like a fairy doorway, and there's even a pair of round little windows on the side. This inspired me to use some smaller flat rocks to create some steps up to the door. I will plant the miniature pine tree in a little pocket of soil by the door. The twine that is holding the stump together will have to be replaced with something unobtrusive and natural looking, and I may build a tiny little door sometime in the future but in the meantime I am thoroughly charmed. I will plant a needlepoint ivy in the top hollow for a cascading green roof.

Just wait until summer!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Stitches That Thrill

Now, just to be clear, I really don't obsess over this blog's stats. I keep an eye on them just to know what kind of posts people like best. (For the record, the far and away most popular post is Wendell Castle's 10 Adopted Rules of Thumb. Nothing I wrote!) My usual daily hits are somewhere between 100 and 150 a day, and I don't know if that's good or bad, but it's fine with me. I assume that a percentage of those hits are from real people.

So last night before I turned the computer off I thought I would check how things were with the old blog, and was very surprised to see that at one point last week there were over 350 hits. A little further investigation and I think most of those came from Chinese robots. I checked the most popular search words and "stitches thrill" was on top. To me these two words make sense, but I doubt they would occur to most people. So I can only assume the robots were sifting the internet with random combinations of potentially stimulating words, hoping to find the magic pairing that would increase their client's orders for Viagra. (Isn't that what most spam is all about?)

So, I Googled "stitches thrill". The first forty matches were all to do with the lyrics to some Ozzy Osbourne song. The man has a bizarre way with words.

Then, I went to images and was very surprised to see some of my own photos in the line up. This may have been due to some sort of cookie Google has that optimizes my search to find places it thinks will interest me, but I had a browse through anyway. All I can do is repeat my eternal refrain: "The world is a very strange place."

Click to make bigger.
 Here's part of a screen shot. A nice embroidered picture of a fifth wheel, a cute little quilt for teddy bears, some machine embroidery stitches, and ...YUCK! Some kind of mangled body part.

This unusual pairing caught my eye as well. Is is a coincidence that the haircuts of the singing guy in the second row and the kid with blood all over his face at the end of the third row are almost identical? And what strange algorithms put them in amongst the knitting and mending?
Check out the bottom row in particular. A sore-looking foot, a needlepoint book and some gruesome home surgery.

I have been known to venture into the extreme side of stitching now and then, like the time I sewed up a chicken that had been attacked by a mink. And then there was the Human Pincushion episode of last fall. But for the most part I like to keep my stitching thrills and my body parts separate. To each her own, I suppose.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Light Returns

It has been super busy here these last few days - the work continues, but I just have these images to share right now. The sun is finally high enough in the sky that the light is coming in.
 Tatted lace shadows.
 Even fading daffodils are still bright.
 You decide.
 Safety Grater - it rotates!
Linen tea towel.
It's even peeking into the bathroom.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

St. Valentine's Day Finds

I went to both of the island thrift stores today and came home with quite a haul. When I laid it all out to have a look, I realized everything I had bought was red or white -- an unintentional theme, but appropriate for the day. Maybe I was picking up subliminal Valentine's messages! There was a red silk coatdress, a red boiled wool jacket, a red corduroy skirt, a red wool plaid skirt, a white silk handwoven scarf, a roll of white lace trim, and even a never used redwork iron-on pattern with sewing motifs.
On closer inspection, I see that the redwork iron-on designs are an abomination, a travesty! They are INSTANT iron-ons, no stitching required. The designs are printed with a heat-sensitive glue on a flocked paper, so that they will give an appearance of being stitched. Dammit, I will have to iron them on to paper, so I can then trace them out, and embroider them properly. There is no "instant" in my life!
I also picked up this romantic little petitpoint piece, of a man giving a crinoline lady a bouquet of flowers. This picture shows it still wet after being removed from the lovely vintage frame (dated 1942) and washed. You can see the damage caused by the acidic mounting board. I wasn't able to get it out, but hopefully the bath will have neutralized the fabric and I can re-mount it on an acid free board. I'll post another picture once it's back in the frame.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Improv Quilts

It seems like ages ago I participated as a test quilter for Sherri Lynn Wood's improv quilt handbook. Sherri has come up with a whole bunch of approaches to constructing a quilt in an improvisational style. She calls these various approaches "scores" - akin to a jazz musical score, one has a basic framework, but can work freely within it. My score was "Strings".
I made three panels of strips, each with a limited palette and each with a different rhythm of widths.
I used mostly Japanese kasuri cloth in indigo, with some vermilion linen and neutral cotton solids thrown in to the mix.
I had enough fabric to do two small (lap-sized) quilts.
Above is my second attempt. I bordered it with Japanese screen-printed cotton, backed it with a coarse indigo and white plaid, also Japanese, and attached some red tassels to the corners.
The first one was a bit larger, and a little more sedate. I edged it with strips from a Japanese weaver's sample book, which can be seen at the very top and bottom of the above picture.
This one was backed with the indigo and white plaid as well. Both quilts were machine-quilted.

These quilts were loads of fun to make. The spontaneous approach was surprisingly quick and very satisfying, as I was able to produce these in a relatively short time. And I was very happy to use up some of my stash of vintage Japanese cloth.

You can see examples of all the different scores in Sherri Lynn's book, to be published next month, just in time for QuiltCon. Mine were not chosen to be included, but fellow Gulf Islander,  House of Bug's Barb Mortell did get chosen, so British Columbia is well represented.

And, very excitingly, I will be taking a workshop with Sherri Lynn and the Fidalgo Island Quilters at the beginning of March, down in Washington state. I'm really looking forward to being able to meet her.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

And Over in the Hooker's Corner...

Valentine's Day is coming, and Elizabeth May, leader of Canada's Green Party will be speaking on Gabriola the evening before. I'm a big fan of Elizabeth and made this little mug rug to give her as a Valentine - hence the green heart. It is made of recycled materials, of course, and as Elizabeth is a Cape Bretoner, I figured she would appreciate a hooked mat. It took no time at all to hook up and finish - in fact I did most of it while attending a talk presented by our local Ecumenical Society on the wonderful community of L'Arche.
The colours are a bit better here, I think
I have been slogging away on a full sized mat for a while, usually only working on it for a couple of hours each Sunday when the hooking group gets together. It's finally starting to look like something. Intended as a welcome mat (we live in a geodesic dome), it might actually feel too special to wipe my feet on by the time I'm done. But it will work as a wall hanging too.
Although it looks like Mischa has put a claim on it. "It's just my size!" she says in her squeaky little dog voice. ( I confess, I am one of those people who puts words in their pet's mouths. It's amazing the conversations that we can carry on.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Stirring Up Trouble

Judging from the plummeting stats after the previous post, my suspicions that photos of very slow stitching projects are about as popular as watching ice melt have been confirmed. Or maybe that big snowstorm back east has knocked out half the continent's electricity. Oh well, it's a good thing I don't rely on blog hits for my self-esteem, and the lovely comments I do get are pure gold.

So, given that the stitching is still proceeding at a glacial pace, I will offer you a post that I wrote back in December, but didn't publish because I thought it might be a bit caustic. Looking back at it, I still think what I said is valid. But you be the judge of that! (And for those who make it all the way through, there's a little book review at the end.) Here goes:

Nobody has ever accused me of winning any personality contests. If anything, I'm more of a Nasty Girl, pointing out things that might be better ignored if I wanted to win friends and influence people.

What's the bee in my bonnet this time? Well, I recently received an email from an artist I know peripherally through the blogosphere, someone I think is an inspiring and genuine innovator, someone who works from the heart. A good person, in other words. This person has a book coming out, a book that I am excited about, one that I think deserves to have every success.

So what's the problem? The email I received was basically a set of instructions of how to support the release of this new book. How to tweet and link and like and use my blog as a platform to spread the word. All things I would be happy to do, and might have even done without prompting. But the questions that leap into my mind are:
"Where the hell is the publisher in all this?" "Since when did book promotion become the job of the author?" "Why are the author's friends expected to be willing (and unpaid) helpers (pawns) in a promotional campaign?" "Is the world of publishing so desperate and competitive that they think nothing of basically stealing MY time to do something that a) is their job, and b) is taking advantage of my good nature, even if it is to help out a friend?" "And what about the poor author being pressured to take on the task of marketing their book - wasn't writing it enough?'

I'm increasingly resentful that social media has been designed and manipulated by mercenary corporate interests to such a level that is is assumed that everyone will just mindlessly hop on the bandwagon. Worse, even good, decent people with something positive to share with the world have to hop on to that bandwagon too in the hopes that their voice might be heard.

I have another friend who came out with a book a couple of years ago. She had a marketing background, so doing all the promotional stuff just came naturally to her, I guess, and the book was quite successful. She has said to me a couple of times, "So when are you going to do your book?" I must confess that I have kicked a few ideas around, to the point where I actually got a copy of a guide to publishers. The advice therein was sobering. Apparently it's not enough just to have a terrific, original, wonderfully articulated idea for a book, and proven ability to write such a thing, but one must also have a presence on social media, a following that can be relied upon not just to buy the book, but to create such an online furor that everyone else will want to buy it too. Talent isn't enough, you have to have personality and influence too.

Yes, I have a blog, so I'm part of the system, I suppose, but I don't do Facebook or Twitter or any other annoying forum for superficial human interaction. It's a cacophony out there, and I value my peace and quiet. I'm not going to add to all that noise.


I got this little gem, The Best Of Making Things, from the library the other day. The funny thing is, I'm sure I also got it from the library over forty years ago, when it was first published. In fact, I remember making quite a few things from this humble little book. Illustrated with simple, clear line drawings, it is far more inspiring than any of today's beautifully photographed craft/coffee table books. It covers all kinds of art activities from jewelry making to book-binding to weaving, sculpting and music making. Best of all are the words of encouragement and support sprinkled liberally throughout. Author Ann Sayre Wiseman was an educator, and I envision her as the queen of beloved primary school teachers. It's not surprising the book is still in print, the methods and projects are timeless.
And I attest to the truth of her opening words:
Remember, you know more than you think you know. And what you learn now in your early years will last longer and be firmer in your memory bank than anything else you will learn later.
 I have no doubt that Ann Sayre Wiseman was an early influence on me, even if I forgot her name, and indeed, even the book, until coming across it again so recently. I was fortunate to have good teachers, to be educated in the halcyon (ie. well-funded) days of the 1960's and early 70's, and to have a love of libraries instilled in me by my parents. I first learned many of the crafts I do to this day from books. Will future generations be able to say that of the craft books being published today? I wonder.