Sunday, 28 May 2017

Talented Artists

Well, my concept of what a quilt is has altered. There were some traditional, beautifully pieced quilts at the Quilt Show, and I'm in awe of someone who could imagine such beauty and then actually pull it off. But there were also fibre arts there that I had never seen before and couldn't have imagined. Three-dimensional portraits. Needle-felted landscapes. "Starry Starry Night" recreated in dyed dryer lint (not kidding). Thread painting. Needlework like I've never seen before. And one woman created the most amazing, detailed pictures that looked like photographs -- forests and waterfalls and rivers -- out of thousands of tiny, intricately-cut pieces of fabric, layer upon layer.

I walked through all the venues and displays with my mouth hanging open and knew myself to be among masters. I marvelled that someone could put together a quilt (that would have taken me three lifetimes to create) and then donated it to the auction to raise money for Mennonite relief. And there were dozens of them donated. I especially enjoyed the display in the Mennonite church, where they had spread the quilts out over the pews, and it felt like a giant slumber party.

Two quilts were special favourites of mine -- one was a zany, cheerful montage of brightly-coloured houses representing Newfoundland, and one was done mostly in whites, with a snowy owl and the quilted outline of a Native-art bird in the moon overhead. Almost haunting in its beauty.

The friend I went with is an amazing quilter herself, and she went home with lots of ideas for new projects and the contact info of two women she wants to take classes from. While I was viewing everything as if it were in a museum, she was viewing it all as inspiration she could take home and act upon.

We also checked out a pottery display, weaving display, and an antique shop or two, and stopped for lunch in a little place where we sat in a garden while the Hungarian owner fired up our meals on an outdoor grill (hamburger for her, sausage on a bun with sauerkraut for me). We toured a little "pioneer" type museum and admired their herb garden. (I love the smell of old wood and dust and stone you get in old houses.) We stopped for cookies and tea in the basement of a church, where they served the tiny cookies on little serving trays cleverly made from saucers glued on top of upside-down tea cups. And my friend bought four slabs of pine she's going to take home and turn into some sort of Christmas project.

I look at cloth and fibre differently now that the world of weaving is opening up to me. I understand and have new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into the kinds of projects we saw this week. I enjoy talking with the artists, and find kindred spirits all around me, eager to talk about their passions. We met such interesting, talented, and accomplished women! And I include my friend in that group.

A delightful day out.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Back on line! And off to the St. Jacobs Quilt Show

Hi again! I'm back from a lovely few days of gardening, soaking in the sun, reading, writing, eating too much, and more gardening. The vegetable patch is in, the lawn in mowed, the rain is falling, and I'm off to spend today at the quilt show with a friend.

Sometimes I go to these shows and come away with all sorts of ideas for things I want to make. Sometimes I feel as if I'm in a museum and these pretty things I'm seeing are meant to simply be enjoyed and not meant to be replicated at home. I'm hoping today will be the latter -- I've already got three projects on the go at home!

I remain fascinated by the ability to take two-dimensional cloth or yarn and turn it into something three dimensional and functional as well as beautiful. I admire people who can understand and manipulate colour (I find I have a hard time telling if things match or complement each other). But I have a passion for colour myself even if I'm not good at it.

Something about quilts connects you to your ancestors, to the strong and capable women who came before you (though nowadays many men also quilt). Those pioneer skills weren't honed just to make blankets to keep families warm. They demonstrate the creativity and imagination of their creators. Quilts can tell histories.

And now that I'm weaving, I have a new appreciation for the fabric itself. I love the idea that I can create cloth without electricity, from sheep to blanket. I can create cloth that will wrap infants, hug the shoulders of a bride, get trampled underfoot as a rug, and beautify homes. It's an awesome thing and a responsibility, when you stop to think of it.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Off Grid for the Week

I am off work for the next week and will be away from Internet access, so you won't be hearing from me for a while. Thought I'd better let you know so you don't worry I've fallen off the face of the planet. Just rejuvenating.  Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, 14 May 2017


And dandelions. Lots of dandelions. Can't forget to mention those.

I actually like them. I don't know why people don't. Great swaths of cheerful yellow, like buttercups. Followed by swaths of fuzzy white.

Well, and then bare spikes that just bend over instead of cut when I mow over them. Not so pretty then.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Explosions of Colour

Overnight, the earth has woken up and put on its finery. All at once there are lilacs, crabapple trees, trillium, wild columbine, tulips, flowering almond, and grape hyacinth, all vying for attention. To go from the blah grays and browns of winter to the shrieking pink of blossom time is almost staggering. I keep having to stop dead in the middle of the sidewalk to just look and look. I can't drink it in deeply enough.

Spring blossom time and autumn harvest time are the times I feel the most blessed. What abundance! What generosity! What a wonderful earth we live on!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Silent Retreat

I have had laryngitis since Saturday. Not a squeak. My husband says it's a dream come true.

But it's difficult to rest my voice, as instructed, when I have to work in an office full of people. So yesterday I finally put a sign on my cubicle and pinned one to my shirt that says "In silence. Namaste" and pretending I was on silent retreat.

A couple of interesting results came from this. First was the realization that I can, in fact, just drop out of spoken interaction and do a silent "retreat" any time I want to. Why not? It counts as a religious thing, and people in Toronto are hyper-sensitive around religious things. You don't have to explain it or apologize for it; you just declare it. No one questions it. People actually go out of their way to help you do it. Secondly, it's amazing how much you hear when you stop talking. I had no idea I talk so much. It's an embarrassing realization. And thirdly, all day long, if I really had to whisper something to someone, they would whisper back to me. It worked at home with my son, too. I got a kick out of reminding them that I'm the one who has to whisper; they don't! But a soft answer does indeed turn away wrath---or at least, turn down the volume of all concerned. It's an interesting phenomenon.

I also find it interesting that, as I searched for Hindi silence signs on the Internet, I found the phrase "In silence." Not "Being silent" or "On silent retreat," but "In silence." As if it's a room you enter, or a pond you swim in. And it does end up feeling a bit like that, after you've tried to be silent an entire day. A sort of cocooning bubble forms around you, a hushed sphere that others sense (maybe that's why they whisper too). It's a peaceful, empowering place. And I look forward to entering it again today.


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Too Old to Pretend

At 5:30 this morning, on my way to the bus station, I saw two racoons. One stayed in the trees, but the other dashed across an open area and took cover – impossibly – in a dead-end surrounded by chain link fence. I stopped to try to see where it had gone, because the only hiding place I could see was the ventilation system of the Community Centre swimming pool. (Someone’s not going to be happy.)

As I stood there, I caught the scent of chlorine from the pool, and immediately I was transported back to childhood and the wonderful summers spent at the three pools on the local university campus. The indoor pool where you had to wear their issued swimsuits made of some black stretchy material that sagged when it got wet. The outdoor pool at Helaman Halls where you could always smell a barbecue going somewhere. And the one at Deseret Towers, where they played the radio. I’ll always remember swimming to “I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you…” (which, when you consider that double negative, isn’t actually a very complimentary song!).

My cousin Janice and I would commandeer a set of the pool concrete steps and pretend it was a reef and we were mermaids (back before mer-ism was fashionable). Somehow, without really even discussing it, we formed a make-believe world in high detail, and each assumed (correctly) that the other saw what we imagined.

When I was probably 6 or 7, I once sat before the open doors of a living room cabinet, where my parents kept LPs, and pretended that it was a kitchen. I spent hours “cooking” and entertaining guests, lost in play. But when I went back to it days later, I couldn’t seem to recapture the magic. No matter how I tried to recreate it, the cabinet remained boringly a cabinet. Even at that age, I feared I was “growing up” and losing the ability to imagine. I knew someday I’d be too old to pretend. I realized that imagination wasn’t real.

I was wrong, of course. As a writer, I’ve learned that you never get too old to pretend. That’s all fiction writers do. We enter imagined worlds and take dictation from what happens around us. I don’t know how it is for other writers, but sometimes that imagined world is more real to me than my real life. My characters become my friends or alter-egos. I look at the street and see it as it was in 1880, and I'm startled by the passing of motorcycles. Bits of imagination trickle over into my real world, and I find myself using words from past centuries, like “forsooth” and “alas” and “hence.” I carry on conversations with people who aren’t there (and yes, I know they aren’t there, but that’s irrelevant).

I suspect all writers are a little bit mad.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Foraging on the Way Home

As I was walking home from the bus today, I saw an elderly man out in the brush, collecting dandelion greens. When he noticed me observing him, he straightened and looked a bit embarrassed. If I hadn't had laryngitis, I would have gone over and told him that there were other edibles at his feet that he was missing -- burdock root, plantain, lamb's quarters, garlic mustard, violet, purslane...

If there was a sudden famine, I think I could support us at least for a while on weeds. I just hope we're never hungry enough to put my skills to the test.

Traffic to my Blog

Wow, yesterday there was a spike in visitors to this blog. 215 in one day, primarily from Russia and China. I'm curious why and who. I'd love to hear from new readers, if you want to leave a comment or send a message! I know 215 isn't high for some bloggers, but it is for me. I'm left wondering "What did I say?" - Kristen

Monday, 8 May 2017

The verdict is in

The local restorer of antique spinning wheels told me it would take $350-400 to get the spinning wheel back into original condition, so I am thinking it will become an interesting piece of folk art on the wall. Or go for parts. It's a sad end for a lovely -- I guess you'd call it a machine, or maybe an instrument -- and I am sorry to see someone's heritage be abandoned. But realistically, it isn't my heritage or me abandoning it... So I guess I can live with that.

I went to a weaving and spinning conference on Saturday and wandered through the juried show and the vendors' hall. Bought some more supplies to weave some more towels. One vendor had big bowls of various types of wool, cotton and silk set out, and people were encouraged to run their hands through them to feel the differences in the fibres. I have to say, alpaca and yak are my absolute favourites. So soft! I wanted to curl up in the bowl like a kitten. I am a tactile sort of person, always wanting to touch the golden patina of old wood, fabrics, yarns, even the vegetables at the market. Not only was it allowed to touch these fibres, it was encouraged. I love that.

But I have to say, gone are the days when every household had a carder and spinning wheel. You have to be very serious about the hobby if you want to get into it these days. A drum carder alone was over $700. I stood there open-mouthed, flashing back to my teens and carding wool with two wire dog brushes. Sheesh!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Restoring an antique spinning wheel

A friend (the wife of the fellow who gave me the loom) has given me an antique spinning wheel that apparently came with great-grandma on the boat from Sweden. It's in rough shape and is missing a couple of small parts, and I think even if I manage to restore it, it will only ever be for display and not usable. The name stamp is N. AES HJULBACK (umlaut over the last A) but I can't find anything about that name on the Internet. It likely dates from the mid-19th century.

I've sent an email to a local man who might be able to help (he restores these things), but I'm torn---do I really want to spend money to fix it? Do I really want to take up another hobby? Could I convince my little sister to raise an alpaca on her farm and mail me the wool? How can I not fix it up? Someone loved it once.

Or then again, maybe someone hated the thing and wished she could have left it behind in Sweden. We'll never know. Am I going to have a grand-daughter one day who will get starry-eyed over my old Brother sewing machine and imagine Grandma lovingly sewing with it? When in reality I detest sewing and only touch it when I have to?

Did Grandma haul this thing to the new world because she couldn't bear to part with it or because she had no choice if she wanted to wear clothes?

Friday, 5 May 2017


Stayed home sick again today. Spent the day lying on the couch reading about climate change and sustainability. Which might not be the thing to read right now, with the week of constant rain we're having... The garden soil is slowly turning to pudding. I'm sure the beets, onions, peas, lettuce, kale, and spinach I've already planted are rotting instead of germinating. My son came home and went directly into the shower to hang all his clothes up to dry, he was so drenched. Brio paces from window to door to couch, wanting to go out, but when I let him out into the backyard, he dashes back inside again within twenty seconds.

The news on TV is all about the flooding going on in various places in Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. And the book I'm reading talks about human migration caused by climate change. I'm starting to feel glad we never bought lake-front property. All the food storage in the world doesn't help you if it's five feet under water. I must remember that if we ever go to buy land. At the same time, there is likelihood of future water scarcity, so the land would have to have some sort of dependable river or lake on it... But maybe the house should be on stilts. The way it's looking outside, stilts are definitely a good idea.

Perfect weather, however, for curling up and watching the DVD of Les Mis.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

My Immune System has Other Ideas

Well, after that burst of energy, I'm flat on the couch. Spent the night with fever and chills and the suspicion I'm catching a humdinger of a cold. I took today off and will sip hot lemon water and onion soup and try to get on my feet again in time for a big meeting at work tomorrow. And I have a weaving event on Saturday I don't want to miss. And I'm supposed to sing in front of 200 people in church on Sunday as part of a quartet. And...well, I just don't have time to be sick.

In dealing with Fibromyalgia, which is an auto-immune thing, I've always been focused on the pain and haven't given much thought to the fact that my immune system is compromised. But I keep catching every bug out there (likely doesn't help riding the crowded subway every day) and I've had Pink Eye four times or so this year. I feel the need to curl up in a cocoon and stay away from all exposure to people for a month or two to let my system settle. I need one of those bubbles out in the wilderness. I've been trying to eat healthier and get better sleep. How else does one build up the immune system?

Please don't tell me the answer is exercise. It's always the answer. Bleh.

Monday, 1 May 2017

A Typical Morning

I got up this morning feeling rested after a productive and happy weekend. Got ready for work, let the dogs out, had breakfast, packed my lunch, did a load of laundry, did a batch of dishes, checked my emails and Facebook, took out the garbage, meditated for 15 minutes, and did some light yoga stretches. And was out the door by 5:15 a.m.

It felt great. But there’s something so wrong about it!