Category Archives: Nature

Ebbs and Flows of Felt

It has been a very eventful week, full of memories, perspectives and lessons. For some time I have been emotionally preparing for good things, and bad things. A very dear friend of mine, Sue, had been in the hospital fighting the return of breast cancer after a stroke, and the onset of lung cancer and pneumonia. It has been a couple months of reflecting on life and taking in how much I am learning in my thirties. Mostly I am learning to love, and to listen. I do a lot in my life, and often I feel like the world can be hungry to know everything about me, but I have reached a time where I kind of want to be quiet, do what I do, and not worry about the repercussions of being less available. So much time is spent on things that promote our lives, that we often lose a lot of time to live them. I don’t want to do that anymore. I am still trying to shape what that means for me, as a person, an artist and a small business owner.
Life events seem to happen in waves, and I was fortunate enough to get to spend some time at a felting workshop with Marjolein Dallinga of http://www.bloomfelt.com this week. I have taken a felting working with her before, a couple of years ago, and I found her to be a breath of fresh air, with a lot of great advice, methodology and inspiration. She shares her work, herself, and her space with you and brings a wash of relaxation and makes you want to think differently. As you massage wool into sculptural forms, you reflect and think about a lot of things. I have been doing just that this week …unplugging as such. I was thinking about my friend Sue, her family…my dear friends, and how their lives will change. She passed away on Wednesday surrounded by her family. I thought about our time together, and how I last saw her only a couple weeks ago. She was in pain but lit up so much when I visited. She was able to talk some, and understand me. She was able to express frustration with the speech recovery being so slow, and the pain she felt. I held her hand and felt very connected and tried to show her how much I love her. I have great memories of laughs, and sweet things we have said to one another. I will always treasure what she gave me in life. She was a funny, bright, chipper woman, with a lot of love and pride in those around her. She was a gift.
As I thought of this, I felted….carefully massaging layers of fine merino wool, tossing it around, rolling it in my hands, forming it. I listened to the different questions other felters asked Marjolein, and how she answered with rules, grace and patience. She has a way of guiding people to do the right thing for themselves, if they are open to it. She teaches you not to be obsessed with the product, but instead to celebrate the process. I love the process, but running a business can often lead you to worry too much about the product. Marjolein assigned us to use colours we didn’t like, that we would not normally choose. She pleaded that we not take pictures during the workshop, which I love, because it keeps the space and time very sacred to those in the room. She asked everyone to be quiet, focus on the work, and she battled the distractions around us. It was the time I needed to get through these things I have been feeling – worrying about a difficult client at my work, worrying about Sue and her family, worrying about my family, and my show schedule. One of the women attending the workshop had been talking about her blog, and asked Marjolein if she was on Facebook. Marjolein responded that she wasn’t and that she was ‘old fashioned’ and didn’t really spend much time on the internet. She told us about another artist she worked with who said that she spent 20% of her time on her art, and 80% of her time online, promoting her art – Facebook, Twitter, website updates, shop maintenance, newsletters, photography, image editing, uploading, networking……as it was discussed, it make me feel kind of nauseous…thinking about how much time I spend doing this stuff, and how it is far from enough for me to be in the top yarn spinners or ‘random artist description’ group. I have been at this for almost 12 years now, and I do well at it….but it is changing, as I am.
I know I may be quoting Marjolein way too much in this post, but she said a lot of things I needed to listen to, things I have been thinking about, seemingly at the time I really need to hear them. As she showed us a slideshow of her work, she talked about getting accepted into a prestigious show one year, but then the next year, not getting in. She then gave a really good analogy of how art careers, or pursuits sort of move in a figure 8, or an S-curve. When you go up, you have to go down a bit, only to go up ahead, or perhaps down, but then back up. This is about popularity, notoriety, success but can have so many factors – trends, judges, luck, etc. It’s something to think about. You are allowed to take a break, then come back strong, then take a break – have a child, change careers, go to school, work on your health, breathe.
I may not be a frequent blogger, but know that I love my work, and that I will always continue it – there may be times I am really active, but then other times where I really need to travel, smell the ocean, get lost in the woods or knit something for myself. There are days all I want to do is roll around on the floor with my dogs and have a crush on my husband.
If you ever have the opportunity, I definitely recommend a workshop with Marjolein – she’s a wee bit of amazing wrapped in soul food – http://www.bloomfelt.com/
I will end with something I have been reading more since this workshop – the knowledge of Mongolian felt making, a blessing – http://feltnomadic.com/a-traditional-mongol-felt-blessing/

 

Apparently…I am crazy when stagnant!

My poor little pup, Toasty, developed some kind of illness in the middle of last week and through the weekend so I stayed home with him…all….weekend. I have really come to the point in my life where I can’t ever stay inside the house for an entire day. I don’t know why…but it makes me insane…and makes me think about how I could be doing a million different things but I just sit there…and watch TV.  It’s bizarre but I think a testament to the human body and mind needing nature, activity and stimulation.

So, I looked at my to do list from last post…let’s see how I did:

1. Update Art Yarn page in the shop with all new art yarns.
2. Finish reading driving manual and look into booking test.
3. Review required updates to pottery guild website
4. Think about trip to US and PR stuff with husband, start a plan.
5. Determine packaging for wooden buttons and start packaging.
6. Dye sock yarn.
7. Photograph and update Ravelry with rebranding on new yarns.
8. Work on cowl pattern.
9. Walk every day.
10. Work on documentation database for work.

Ok, not too bad…I finished 4 of 10 things but also managed to finish a few things not on the list…like teaching the husband to weave the rope rug I have been working on so he can help me and as a result I finished 2 more circles and he finished a couple. Here are mine:

 

And, I made really good food, including lovely beef short ribs. Here’s a photo mosaic of the process:

On Sunday I finally broke down and had to take a walk. Toasty was starting to feel a lot better but still just wanted constant sleep so we packed him up in his own little, cuddly crate and walked the beach. It was a nice, inspiring walk and was very nice in that I felt like part of a busy, artsy city. It was quiet and had freshly snowed.

The swans that I visited throughout the summer were there. I photographed these babies in various stages of their growing up process. Now they just look like baby swans but in an adult size.

There were guys filming a music video, singing and playing guitar. They had a cool, little rolling track that the camera could move farther and closer on.

There was even a lady letting her wee bunny take a run around on the beach. He was wearing a cute, little purple sweater and I even got to give him a little cuddle but I only managed to photograph his butt.

Then I collected a lot of amazing drift wood, some charred and a bit piece that looks like a bird head from Beetlejuice or something. I love it!

 

And there was much knitting hexipuffs for my ever-loving Beekeeper’s quilt.

And, in the shop there is a big new art yarn update! Check out the shop here: http://www.studioloo.com/handspunartyarn.htm

Take a peek at these handspinnies!

Also, I am in the middle of re-branding, dyeing, and photographing a ton of new sock yarn and other yarns. But, my best friend, Mat of Manspun fame has also written a lovely sock pattern for use with my yarn.  It’s called Man-Tastic Socks! and works for men or women. It’s a fun knit and great with variegates, solids or semi-solids!

Pick up your copy here! http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/man-tastic-socks

 

Camping Break

Labour Day weekend proved to be lots of fun, camping with the family – having awesome BBQs, smores over a fireplace, hiking around lovely woods, catching frogs and snakes (and letting them go of course), kayaking with dogs, and just relaxing. This is totally the break I need before a big knitting show. We stayed in a lovely area of South Eastern Ontario where there is a tiny population out in the middle of 120 acres owned by a friend. I was able to sit outside most of Saturday evening and Sunday morning and spin yarn outside while the dogs ran around, off leash, having a great time.

 

The dogs normally don’t get much chance to run off leash as I find a lot of the dog parks in the city are overrun with big dogs and lax owners who don’t really pay a lot of attention to their dogs. But the land we stayed at was basically a mowed field in the middle of the woods so the dogs were pretty good about not venturing away. Toasty, the pup, was the most adventurous so we had to keep our eyes on him a little more. But, he’s cute, so it’s allowed.

 

It was nice walking around in the marsh – although it was a bit dry because of the summer heat, but the frogs knew where the water was and there were literally hundreds of them all jumping around. This area seems to be populated mostly by leopard frogs although I did see a couple of bull frogs.

I even got to see a super cute hummingbird at the feeder near the camp site. Sorry for the blurry photo – they are always so tough to photograph or get very close to and I only had a point-and-shoot.

We took a drive to the Black River which is really beautiful black slate. The river was really calm and there were a lot of small speckled fish swimming around.

Then we got to check out O’Hara Mill – it is a nice conservation area, perfect for hiking and picnics, with several pioneer buildings – log cabin, blacksmith, schoolhouse and such. It was a nice day to wander around there.

Schoolhouse

Great poster

Mike, being Herculian

And, a cool rock

And, I got to meet my Aunt’s dog, Peanut, who is totally adorable..

Since arriving home, I have been working away trying to get everything all done for Kitchener/Waterloo Knitter’s Fair and I think I am finally finished. I dyed up a custom order lastnight and put the final touches on a few things and organized all the stock for the show. Come out and see me at The Black Lamb’s booth – we will have lots of great stuff. Other than being a great friend and partner working together at shows, Laurie is awesome because she gave me all these veggies from her garden! Yay for having friends that are basically like a CSA!

Noodles and Doodles and Such

It’s hard to believe that Rhinebeck and Maryland vacations have come and gone and once again I am up to my ears in show preparation and loads to do but I am doing it with as much love and passion as I can and trying to just breathe when it comes to real world work stuff and stress. I have come to a bunch of big decisions as it relates to my future, further education and career moves – it’s too early to talk about now but I am already feeling warmer inside thinking about big changes.

Rhinebeck was fantastic – I got some great fleece, lovely yarns and some sweet gnomes from http://www.goinggnome.com/ who are probably my very favourite gnome felters. I myself have been working on loads of wet felting and I am planning on expanding my own wet felting knowledge and figuring out more techniques so that I can invent my own and add to my educational repertoire a bit. I also got to spend a bit of time in Catskill, NY and did some great antiquing – my biggest find were some amazing old doll mods.

Maryland was quite relaxing and filled with loads of fun. I got to see some a great Shonen Knife performance at The Ottobar. Also, The Degenerettes and The Quarantines were awesome.

I was totally stoked at just how energized the performances were. Shonen Knife are such a fun group – they really love what they do and it shows so much, and they just put on a really fun, high energy and happy show.

I got to have a nice day of relaxing going hiking at Susquehanna state park, one of my favourite places, and that was really great. It was a lovely fall day and it was gorgeous. I came across a lot of really lovely mushrooms, some big spiders and even a little red salamander.

Then we went to an amazing haunted house at Eastern State Penitentiary and it was freaky, but fun. It was cool because we got to see the cell corridors, which were creepy and learned a bit about just how terrible prison life was back then when things were really a lot more about punishment and penitence and not at all about trying to make people heal and become better. There was Al Capone’s cell and the a weird story about Pep the dog who did a life sentence for killing the governor’s wife’s cat.

We also did some antiquing in Ellicot city and in different parts of Philadelphia, went to PA dutch country and kitchen kettle village. We ate too much good food and hung out with friends. It was overall a great time.  I have learned that shopping at Wegman’s dangerous. I can never leave there without spending a fortune. Also this time I found awesome baby cake making machines and picked up one for making mini donuts and one for making whoopie pies. The website of the people that make these, and have fun recipes is http://thebabycakesshop.com/ but I have been winging it and just making up my own.

The one in front is a carrot cake with raisins, with a cream cheese icing, rolled in crushed chocolate covered almonds. The one in back is a devil’s food cake with a fudge icing rolled in ground candy cane Hershey kisses and ground candy canes. They were awesome.

And, the boy brought me flowers. This has been a nice weekend.

As Summer Winds Down…

I have been having a really nice summer full of good friends, fun events, good food, much love and learning some new things. This past weekend I was at the Textile Marketplace at Lang Pioneer Village. They were having the ribbon cutting and opening of their new weaving room and it was such a fun event. This is a wonderful place to take kids, or just hang out at. There are so many charming people and really interesting exhibits. I have dyed a ton of new Bootsie sock yarn and Wink Wink Worsted weight and unveiled it at this show. I am really trying to gear up for the Kitchener Waterloo Knitter’s Fair on September 10, 2011. That will be one of the largest shows I have done, and this time I am doing it without The Black Lamb and my good friend Laurie as she is off on a lovely UK knitting tour. Anyhow, here are some highlights from the weekend at Lang.

This is the new weaving room – it has a huge Jacquard loom inside.

I was not only in attendance as a vendor, but also as a spinning demonstrator. There were all sorts of demos going on all around the park. This lady was weaving rag rugs.

Women in period costume were doing some wonderful natural dyeing over the fire pit and they were even selling the Lang natural dyeing booklet. I picked one up – it seems a nice introduction to the basics of natural dyeing without getting too overwhelming – really well defined and organized recipes and instructions.

And, much to my delight there were all sorts of sweet beasties to play with including a really adorable chicken and duck that lived together in sweet harmony. They were the nicest pair of birds I have ever met. They were so cute and would come up and ‘gossip’ with you. Of course by this time my camera had long run out of battery life. Anyhow, here are some of the other sweeties.


And a couple shots of my booth..

My birthday also passed on by on August 1st and I was totally spoiled and had a wonderful weekend in Prince Edward County. My husband made me this amazing ‘PCOOKIE PCAKE’ which is…loosely understood as a custard pie with a giant chocolate chip cookie on top and then a 2-layer chocolate fudge cake on top of that. It was insane decadence.

I have also become a woman obsessed with knitting Tiny Owl Knits’ Beekeeper’s Quilt . It is so fun. Even Hippo agrees!

The other day when I was sitting outside knitting thinking to myself all morning ‘Dear Cicada up high in the tree, please go visit another neighbourhood not so close to me’ when all of a sudden BLOOP, right in my lap he came tumbling on down. I affectionately called him John Cicada before hanging out with him a bit and then hiding him in the crotch of my lilac tree where the birdies couldn’t see him.

He agreed with me that knitting is a great social event.

River with the Puppies and a Nice Dinner

It has been a decent Saturday. I dyed up some merino for the steampunk gauntlets I will be making for a secret friend, along with some other wool that was hanging about asking to be dyed. So, the drying racks are a bit full. I have cut the pattern for the gauntlets and need to get some more foam wrap to make templates for more felting ideas I have in my brain. I actually finished another of the pod sculptures a couple of days ago. Here’s a process photo and the final piece.

I feel like I got quite a bit done today. I got up really early and went grocery shopping, gave myself plenty of time to putter around and organize a few things, and then headed out to the river with the puppies. They had a fun time. Lulu seems to be more ambitious about doing a little swimming these days.

There are some little signs around this park that we hike at warning about this invasive plant species called giant hogweed. I had no idea that this stuff can cause allergic reactions and that it is even evasive. I remember picking the white umbrella like flowers from this plant when I was a kid. Anyhow, I saw some wee little snails parasailing on one of the flowers and it was neato.

Some of the snails are really tiny and cute. Check this one out next to Mat’s hand (wearing the awesome Kinekt gear ring I got him) for size comparison.

Then after a nice hike we all came home and bathed the puppies and I made a nice, light and modern antipasto and focaccia for dinner.

A Car Chase to Great Thrifting and Fun Hunting!

This was a completely good and awesome weekend. I got lots done and it was relaxing and full of good things. Friday night I went out for dinner and knitting with some friends to a great local raw food place, Raw Aura. They serve amazing raw food – lactose, sugar, gluten free – yum! I had a really amazing falafel wrapped inside a big green leaf of…oops I forget! And…taboulleh. Dessert was an awesome chocolate ganache – with hemp ricotta and I had an awesome creamsicle smoothie of hemp milk, bananas and vanilla – it was all divine.

Yesterday I spent from early morning to early afternoon at the pottery studio and had great success throwing some nice big bowls, smaller bowls, and some mugs. They are drying up and I will likely begin trimming them Thursday to work on their embellishment next weekend.

Today was a trip to Port Hope to check out Primitive Designs after a friend recommended it and I totally fell in love with a 1-string guitar she had at her apartment, and I found myself wanting to pick one up.  This shop is the warehouse of an importer and there are amazing things there. I kinda spent more money than intended, but nothing too dangerous. I did however get some amazing things…

A Pinocchio marionette!

This teak chest! It was my biggest purchase but I could not resist and it was a steal at the price I paid. This is because I bought directly from an importer and not from some antique store trying to pedal imports as antiques..which is altogether too common.  It has 18 deep drawers which I will soon fill with my button collection – organized by colour. I cannot wait. I have totally haunted the presence of every multi-drawered chest I have ever seen. I plan to get larger ones when I am a super rich superstar later in life but for now, this makes me happy.

This piece of bark …darnit I forget the name of the tree it came from – but it’s rainforest reclaim and basically can be used as a non-water vase – so for dried flowers or interesting branches. I love the pattern.

And, the musical instruments – that 1-string guitar, an interesting thing…with tongs that make sounds – again..loss of real name for the instrument strikes me ..sorry, and a SLIDE WHISTLE!! Oh yes, I am going to be the most annoying person around with that slide whistle, lemme tell ya! I picture myself using it when people are doing things like sitting down, standing up, picking things up, etc. etc. etc. – endless possibilities right?

I also have to mention how truly in awe I am at the amazing finds I have had recently while thrift shopping. I swear for a few months now it has been nothing with a capital NO! But, lately has been great! I found these today..check it out!

This awesome wooden bowl:

This vintage mushroom casserole:

This awesome book on Textile Science!

But, today was not all shopping. On the long drive back from Port Hope, we decided to take the long scenic route home and we saw these old cars…

They were cool but when the followed us for a really long time, through a couple of small towns and cities, I started to giggle and Mat started to say things like ‘You’ll neva catch me alive coppa!’ and ‘We’ll Loose them at the Pass, ya See!!’ and other crazy phrases as only likely muttered by the most animated of fifties’ era gangster. It was a laugh. I kept my eye on them while Mat sped…well, around 40km/h anyhow..

The complete normalcy of our Toyota eventually saved our lives..allowing us to blend in with traffic and for the gangsters to move on..

Then, after avoiding certain death, we arrived at a sheepy farm with a donka-donk! Look…they are so cute..then suddenly either the donkey or a weird black faced sheep make a weird honking sound and they all ran away. I laughed at their bums!

Also, after hearing about the awesome, button-organizing teak chest that I got, Laurie from The Black Lamb gave me an awesome assortment of vintage buttons, because she is sweetness personified!

And, I haven’t devoted my time entirely to lollygagging – I managed to spin a couple of yarns!

Well, as I write this I feel my eyes getting heavy so I should go brush my pearly whites and get to bed..it’s going to be a bit of a long week. So, night night.

PS..Hippo says hi!

Catching up to Myself

It has been a little while since I blogged. Life happens..I am really glad I am such an avid photographer though because otherwise I would forget half of what I do in life. So, here goes…the photo memories of the last couple of weeks.  I have erected a bird feeder in my backyard that has become a constant source of entertainment, and well, dismal panic. It all started about a month ago, where for two weeks the sole purpose of the feeder was to fatten up squirrels.

Being the lover all of things fuzzy and feathered, I am not one of those people who obsesses with keeping squirrels out of my bird feeder. For about two weeks though, no birds. But I think my complete lack of caring about what the squirrels did caused much gossip in the wildlife community and the birds finally overheard there was a shangri-la in my backyard. So, now I am overcome with mourning doves, sparrows, starlings and from time to time cardinals, crows, and yellow finches. How can this cause dismal panic you ask? Well, the other day I came out to check out the bird feeder and possibly refill it when I found…..a dead bird….a little house sparrow, in the bird bath. My face dropped and I was immediately consumed by the wonder of how this happened, and more like me, how did I cause this? Arg….Everyone around me has assured me that birds just die sometimes and it was nothing to do with the construct of my bird feeder, however, I have decided to remove the birdbath portion. No water equals no possibility of drowning.  So I am slowly mentally recuperating from that.  Not nice.

In the world of knitting, I finished a lacy cabled cape I had been working on and I am now on the fourth section of the Citron Shawl. I am planning on trying to make some progress on it tonight at Stitch n Pitch.

I think I have developed a distaste for working on really large straight needles. It is just not easy to manipulate and kind of makes my small hands confused and clumsy.

A couple of weekends ago, it was the summer spin-in day at The Black Lamb and we had a lot of fun. It was lovely sitting in the garden and spinning with great friends. We had a potluck and it was really yummy.I am always happy to marvel at the beautiful garden that Laurie and Steven have.

I feel like I have my spinning mojo back. It was gone for a while, perhaps just because I have a really big list of things to do, work is really stressful and the weather has been quite scorching for the last while. But, I have been spinning like a fiend since returning from spin day. I think it’s so therapeutic to be around people in a group doing something they enjoy. It’s hard not to be inspired.  This is my completed haul of yarns for Tour de Fleece. There are times where I think I really could have gotten so much more done, but I am happy to have finished what I have.

I am also really into corespinning wire right now. It’s a really nice and fun, functional technique. The fibers are spun around a wire and yarn core in a round horizontal motion. The finished yarn is moldable, sculptural, can be bent into shapes and used for art pieces, or for making baskets, jewellery, decor, or really what your creative spirit desires. Here is one that I just finished. I call it ‘Blue Moon Festival’ as inspired recently by an event in a book I just finished reading titled ‘Spinning Forward’ by Teri Dulong. I agreed with the reviews on the book which stated it was really predictable. This is true, but it is also the kind of heartwarming happy ending story you need to read sometimes to rekindle your sense of humanity. The only complaint I had was that the main character was a whiny, spoiled brat – but that is no reflection on the writer. Dulong’s writing has a lot of flow; makes you want to keep the book in your hands, and has a lot of charm, with the perfect amount of descriptive elements.

If you are interested in learning more about corespun wire, I started the August spin-along in the Novelty and Art Yarns group on Ravelry with a focus on this style of yarn. So, jump right in!

I have also been doing a bit of baking. I made banana bread and a dark chocolate bundt cake, which tasted much like a whoopee pie, last week. The cake is now a distant memory but there are a couple slices of banana bread still left, assuming it wasn’t snatched up for today’s office brown bagged lunch.

I have also been able to do a bit of hiking and taking some walks in nature now that the heat wave seems to be over for a bit. I learned something really interesting about young male mallards. I saw this duck and initially thought he was some kind of hermaphrodite or something because he looked very female but had the coloration, sort of, of a male.

As it turns out, and as most people know, when ducks are born, they all pretty much look the same. But, it takes quite some time, a few months, for a male duck to reach the level of maturity that his iridescent head feathers grow in. So, this duck is likely only a few months old and he is still undergoing his path to maturity. I thought that was really neat.  It was also kind of funny to watch this herd of different birds swimming along the promenade, following a little girl with a bag of bread crumbs she was tossing out to them.

I am also growing poppies. I have no flowers yet but I do have some adorable leaves popping up. I have never grown potted poppies before so I am not sure what to expect.

I went to Michael’s yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to find out they are now carrying the Stitch Nation (Debbie Stoller) line of yarns. They were originally only at Joann’s in the US. But, alas we now have them. I picked up a couple of skeins of Alpaca Love in the colourway Cobblestone to make something lacy.  It’s nice to see some more natural fibers at a big box store which don’t feel like a yak’s guard hair against your skin.

Alas, it is time to get to work…but I will leave this post with a couple of lovely things…I spun this yarn called ‘Secret of the Walnut’ with some beautiful walnut halves I picked up on one of my walks.

And, I received this lovely package from the Odd Ducks Swaps on Ravelry – the Element theme. Just look at the amazing cowl!