Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day at the Beach

Featuring, for the second time only in the history of True Stitches, a guest post by Gracie McGoober.

Today Mom and I went to the beach! It was the best! We can walk there, down the hill and through the trees. When I figured out where we were going, I ran very fast and jumped over logs that were in my way. Mom stood still and pointed the little box at something I don't care about. Come on Mom, it's time to swim!
Swimming is my favourite! Almost as much as chasing balls. (Sometimes Mom calls them B-A-double hockey sticks but I know she just means balls). I swim and shake and swim and shake some more. It's the best.
But Mom wasn't paying attention like she should. She kept picking up things from the beach and putting them in her pocket. I had to bark at her to remind her that she had to throw the stick.
Mom said it was better than shopping. I hate shopping! I have to sit in the car and wait and bark at other dogs in other cars. It's no fun. Dogs love fun! There's nothing like fun for a good time!
Come on Mom! Throw the stick. THROW THE STICK!!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Swimming Like Mad

Marine Mammals of the Codex Canadensis, work in progress 2016.
Two sea creatures are finished - the shark and the walrus. (Update: Jean-Pierre makes a good point in the comments. It is unlikely that Louis Nicolas would have seen a walrus in the St. Lawrence, but he probably heard about them from the Algonquin, who may have heard about them from the Inuit.)

It's suddenly the busiest time of the year. In addition to my regular allotment at the community gardens, I volunteered to to take on an unused plot next to me. I'm just going to plant it in potatoes and beans, and donate the harvest to the Commons. I'm really not being that altruistic - my primary motivation is to prevent the weeds on the unused plot from blowing all over mine.

And then today I found out that I have been hired for two jobs, one with the census and the other a part-time retail gig. It feels rather gratifying that I am still hire-able after all this time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April in Paradise

My groundskeeper. And yes, that's my house behind him. No kidding, I live in a geodesic dome.
It's been another early spring. Things are blooming all over the island.
See the spider?
The universe is unfolding as it should.

I have been working on the shark. It's great to be stitching again, but the pull of the garden is hard to resist. Luckily the days are longer so I can do both.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Backstory

Well, the previous post had a predictably tepid response. That's okay - it was probably more important for me to say it that for anyone to hear it. I've been biting my tongue for too long.

Here's a little backstory. I started reading the Yarn Harlot when she first started out. As Stephanie freely admits, her timing was perfect. Blogging was taking off, knitting was having a huge revival, she was a sassy, charming writer and quickly found a hugely appreciative audience. Her fame grew, she got a book deal, she started being invited to knitting events, and most notably she has raised millions of dollars for very worthy causes through her blog. I admire her greatly.

But as the years went by somehow the balance shifted. More and more posts were written while she was on the road. I understand that knitting became her livelihood. She was (and continues to be) a superstar amongst knitters. Her personal fame became the draw for knitting retreats, conferences, book sales and other manifestations of the industry. To her credit she hasn't had her name slapped on a line of yarn or knitting gadgets, and she is very supportive of small businesses. And I doubt very much she has become personally wealthy despite her success.

Still, Stephanie travels. A lot. Way more than most of us. She writes frequently about waiting in airports, losing luggage, getting sick after being in a plane full of coughers and sneezers. But airplanes do a lot of damage to our planet's atmosphere. Those who want to fly in good conscience have the option of buying carbon offsets that supposedly fund good things like planting trees.

For quite a while now, reading Stephanie's posts about her travel experiences have been irking me. Sure, I could simply not read her blog. I have taken breaks, but, like so many people, I feel that I have a somewhat of a relationship with her. She is a good writer. And every now and then she hits it right out of the park.

The thing is that I feel she has been co-opted by the knitting industry, admittedly a small cog in the juggernaut of capitalism, to keep the money-making wheels turning.  All the good things she has shared about knitting - the peace that comes from the meditative stitches, the warm fuzzy feeling of making things for someone you love, the pleasure of mastering a skill, have nothing to do with money. I suspect Stephanie is enough of a lefty to see the irony in the situation.

Which is why I tried to gently suggest a rethink. I believe she has power in her position - she has already effected all kinds of positive change in the last ten years. Why shouldn't a knitter take the lead?

I'm not trying to criticise people who fly once or twice a year to see family or go on a special holiday. And I know many people have jobs that require a lot of travel. In my small and happy dreamworld, teleportation or some other carbon-free transport would be the norm, but we aren't there yet. But how does change happen? By realizing there is a problem, and resolving to find a solution.

I have lived in a lot of different places: cities, villages, islands. I have been an environmentalist all my life. In fifty years of personally re-using and recycling, riding a bike and taking public transit, growing my own food, and reducing my consumption of manufactured goods, I have seen some change, but it is two steps back for each one forward. I fear greatly that we are killing the planet.

And, on that bleak note, I will return to doing what I can.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Sometimes I am Such a Bitch...

In a move that may make me the pariah of the blog-iverse, I commented on the Yarn Harlot's most recent post with the following:
Dear Stephanie,
I know I will get trashed for saying this, but I am getting really tired of airport stories. I bet you are too. You have been one of my inspirations and you have done so much good in this world for things beyond knitting, so this is hard for me to say. But you do know that airplanes are major contributors to greenhouse gases and global warming? Now that you are so famous and beloved around the world, use that power for real change. Don’t fly. Tell the knitters who are sad you are not coming to see them why you are not flying. I know you still have to do your job and all, but why not become the knitter in residence on Via Rail or Amtrak? How about offering luxury one-on-one knitter tutoring for those who ride their bikes to Toronto? I may sound crazy, but I liked you better when you were crazy too. You took crazy chances and made positive change in the world. I’d like to see that happen again.
Love, Heather

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Plunging In

On Tuesday, I went to my favourite store, The Stitcher's Muse, and spent a hundred dollars on a great big piece of Belgian linen to work the next piece in the Codex Canadensis series. (I live on beans and rice so that I can afford such beautiful cloth.)

On Wednesday, I tea dyed the linen, as the Antique White was just a bit too white for me. Typically, I didn't sample. I used three Tetley's tea bags for 30 square feet of cloth, and got a beautiful warm beige. (Thank goodness I didn't follow the online source that recommended 40 tea bags for a table cloth.) After rinsing and hanging on the line outside I decided it was a little too colourful, so ran it through the washer a second time. Perfect!
That afternoon, I began tracing the design onto the freshly pressed cloth. I would show you the cartoon but, believe me, it is a very rough cut and paste job that probably makes sense only to me and I would be embarrassed for anyone to see it. I have got to the point now where I just need a basic outline for placement and I fill in all the details as I stitch. Which might sound like I know what I am doing....

The first parts I traced were the most rudimentary background elements, based on the nautical maps of Samuel de Champlain. Since the creatures this time around are the marine mammals - whales, porpoises, walrus, and seals - I wanted to add a water-y element. But rather than wavy lines, I decided on the compass points and meridians that navigators of the late 1600's would have used. I think they will provide a fitting contrast to the sinuous curves of the swimming sea creatures, and add a clean contemporary aspect to the piece that feels like something new for me. I am very excited about these lines.

But, wouldn't you know it, I screwed it up. The cloth shifted under the transfer paper and the lines didn't meet up properly. I was so keen to start stitching I thought, "I'll stitch the correct outline first, then wash it to get rid of the graphite lines that are out of place." I merrily began stitching, using a different thread from my usual perle cotton, a dark brown organic cotton weaving thread from Louet. Halfway round the circle I began planning my strategy for removing the wayward lines. Spot cleaning would be the best bet, and hopefully quicker than putting the whole piece through the washing machine. But I was stopped in my tracks by the thought, "What if the thread shrinks? Or the dye runs?" I hadn't done a test.

I continued on anyway, tried the spot cleaning, which didn't remove the marks to my satisfaction, and finally admitted to myself that I had rushed in willy-nilly and the only solution was to pick out the stitching and properly wash the whole cloth in the machine. It was 9 p.m. by this point - but fortunately a clear night and the cloth was on the line before I went to bed.

Today, I did what I should have done in the first place and just traced the creatures and the outside round of the compass. I can do all the straight lines with a yardstick after everything else is in place. The cotton thread tested successfully - no shrinkage and no bleeding. And I am grateful for the beautiful cloth. One of the many good things about fine quality linen is that it just gets better the more one handles it. It generously accommodates the foolish mistakes of an overly excited and eager stitcher.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Gadzooks! I Oughtta Have a Show By Now!

An anniversary has passed and I didn't realize it. I am now in my fifth year of work on the Codex Canadensis series. I took my first stitch on March 2, 2012.   Thanks to everyone who has been so encouraging and supportive along the way! And Louis Nicolas, I hope I haven't disappointed you.

Cliff Walk

It was an especially nice spring day today, so Gracie and I went on a celebratory walk. The cliffs of Gabriola are spectacular, and slightly scary.
A short scramble down a steep path,
and we are looking across to Nanaimo.
The rock is mostly sandstone. An early industry on the island was quarrying millstone - apparently our rock is perfect for grinding flour. I think the quarry closed in the 1950's but some of the huge cylindrical stones can still be seen. They are awesome too - I'll take pictures another day.
Looking up the face to arbutus, Douglas fir and Garry oak trees.
A native sedum has found a niche,
on a gnarly arbutus (madrona) trunk.
Gracie was exploring so enthusiastically I was worried, but she had the sense to stay away from the edge.
I think I am in love with mosses.

Gracie was in her element. Pure doggie joy in the moment.
A few wildflowers were found. Here is our native stonecrop, which looks like it's in bloom, but the flowers are actually naked broomrape, which is parasitic on the stone crop. I had never seen this before - my naturalist friend Gretchen says it is quite rare.
Indian paintbrush - seems too early for her, but there she is.
And I don't know found out what this dainty little flower is. Big-leaved sandwort! It was growing in an area that also had Blue-eyed Mary, the photo of which was sadly out of focus.
And then it was time to go home. Don't worry Gracie, we'll come back again soon!