Friday, February 27, 2015

Year Of Making : Wiksten Tank

          As 2015 marches on so too does my year of making- this is shaping up to be the best year of making ever as items are completed and put into immediate rotation. My latest project involves the reworking of a top I made in the fall- which I posted about here. Initially I sewed a lose tunic style top out of soft Cotton and Steel fabric- it was just too big and I was never really happy with it so this week I decided to revamp it into a simple Wiksten tank.

         I have sewed a few other Wiksten tanks- while the pattern is a quick and easy sew- perfect for a beginner- I have made a few modifications to the original pattern to make it a tad more flattering to my shape. The great thing about these little tanks is that from here on through to next Fall they will be an integral part of my wardrobe- perfect for layering now- wearing singly in the heat of Summer. These days my home sewing is becoming more and more calculated- I am trying to really curate my handmade wardrobe more than I have in the past- instead of becoming swept aways by print and pattern in the fabric shop I am considering what I will actually wear in my daily life.

       So too is that extending to my choice in accessories- for my birthday I treated myself to a gorgeous statement necklace- handmade by  local Vancouver ceramic artist Gailan Ngan- available through the Jealous Curator's online gallery- Gallery One. These days I am feeling the need for simple- strong shapes in my clothing choices and I think this necklace echoes and compliments the textiles. I love fashion- I really love knowing where my clothes-  where the fabrics of my life come from. By shopping locally as in the case of my new necklace and by having a hand in the creation of my wardrobe I am taking a pro-active role in the clothing supply chain.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Daily Practice

         For me habits are difficult to catch on- equally difficult to break once finally formed- according to Dr. Phil it takes 21 days for form any habit- positive or negative if you do it for 21 days it is neurologically a habit. It might come as a surprise to many that for me to create a daily habit of art making was tricky. How can taking the time out of your day to do something that you love be difficult? Especially when it seems that all I am is creative and "crafty"- constantly making things!

         In my studio- AKA the kitchen- conditions must be perfect- my environment needs to be set up a certain way for me to feel relaxed enough to create a giant mess and be creative- ironically spontaneity and creativity don't go hand in hand for me. So when Opus Art Supplies put out the call for a month long daily practice I decided to accept the challenge and give it a go. The guide lines are pretty flexible- practice daily-  I decided to approach my art work as I would my yoga- as a work in progress- be mindful but not too precious- just do it.

         As the month has progressed I- along with many others- have documented our daily practice on Instagram and other social media sites- tied together with the #opusdailypractice tag. Witnessing what other folks are putting out there has been such a gift- seeing what my co-workers from across the province are creating has been enlightening and inspiring. For myself I have felt my work loosening up and becoming not so contrived- I am having fun experimenting with different mediums- I'm enjoying taking those paintings and drawings and cutting them up- seeing them from a different point of view.

        I think while this month of daily practice may almost be up I plan on continuing on- my goal is to actually fill a sketchbook for once! For me this daily practice has really enforced the idea that art can happen anywhere- being creative doesn't need specific conditions or the perfect room- the dishes can wait. I find there are so many excuses I give- which puts my art on the back burner- while taking care of my family is obviously important so is taking care of myself. Allowing myself that creative outlet daily has indeed become a habit- Dr. Phil was- possibly- right.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Brighter Days

           These past few days our fair city has been experiencing Spring- unseasonably warm weather combined with clear skies has people sporting sandals and sun dresses- yes it's just that warm- fingers crossed this weather sticks around. The cherry blossoms are popping out like nobody's business- a tree at the school is bursting- it looks like it's covered in snow- days like yesterday make the high cost of living so worth while! My cheeks are tight with the first blush of a sun burn- my hair still smells like the ocean and my soul is full to the brim with sunshine- enough to carry me through the rainy season which is surely just around the corner.

           Our family has some really big changes happening this month- I am switching from part time work to a more full time position- still with the same company- but for now weekdays. While having our weekends free will be nice our mornings will sure to be a struggle with dear old Dad at the helm- I fully anticipate library books will be forgotten and pony tails might be askew but we will make it through. In any case exciting things are happening- I can barely wait to get started!

           Looking back at this time last year we have come so far- our little family is growing in leaps and bounds- this feels like the right time to take the leap for myself. For the first time in a very long time I am thinking mostly of myself- what I want to do- not what I have to do. My kids are becoming more independent - they are definitely not the babies they were a year ago. I feel I can move forward through my days with a calm mind- knowing they are content- now is the time. I feel with the return of the sun so to returns a slice of my own independence- as a family we grow- together but separately- side by side.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Intention- Also Known As A Post About More Knitting

             Whenever I knit something for someone else I always find the process in fact turns out to be more of a meditation on the relationship- I fill each hand knit piece full of intention and blessings before sending it out into the world. I have not knit many things for other people- mostly hats for my own kiddos- a few baby hats for cousins here and there- knitting for little ones is so fast and easy- it is never very difficult to fill those wee garments full of love and sunshine.

            Knitting for adults is another story- these pieces are larger and take longer- giving me more time to meditate over them as I rip out stitches or pick them pack up- figure out new  processes- and think about my relationship with the end recipient. Enter into the picture the slouchy hat I have been working on for friend Erin- this was a really fun knit- I actually learned a lot for this project- for example how to shape a crown properly on a hat!

           It is only natural that this hat is filled with pieces of our friendship- not just a hat to keep one's head warm- but a hat pre filled with wonderful memories. So to share a bit of that here with you- this hat is filled with many trips to the beach- muddy forest walks-green Hunter boots on city sidewalks- ice cream affogatos and Spring- the promise of Spring and warmer days. Not shown are more lattes than you can shake a stick at-  they definitely played an important role in the making of this hat!

P.S. Sadly after almost 5 years my green Hunter boots have been permanently retired- I am still struggling to decide between black and navy!

P.S.S- because I know my mom will ask- an affogato is ice cream and espresso- because we needed another reason to drink more coffee and eat more ice cream!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Year Of Making

            There is a lot of activity happening around our coffee table these days- from projects made by little hands to Momma getting a few minutes to knit and draw during the day. I have so many works in progress right now- my sweater is about a quarter of the way finished- it's in a few pieces- it's very slow going- tiny needles- I might be wearing this sweater next fall at this rate. So every once in a while a break is needed- this week in the form of a soft hat for a friend. Cast on in lush yarn from Tanis Fiber in pretty Dove colourway- its coming together fairy quickly- mindless knitting in the round is just what I need right now!

          Of course I have a few sewing projects on the go- all in various states of progress- none at all nearing completion- of course I'm already looking around for my next pattern I want to start! There are just so many things I want to make! Meanwhile I am also busily filling my sketchbook- this morning a sweet snowshoe hare happened- drawn directly from the pages of one of my birthday gifts- this wonderful vintage book on Canadian Mammals.

          The sunshine is streaming through our windows this morning- I'm starting to think about clothes for warm weather - light and fresh pieces for my kiddos. This has been an unseasonably mild winter for Vancouver- I'm hoping it isn't a false Spring- I'm hoping that we just gently move on into March with this ridiculous weather! So today Im going to set up my sewing machine in the sunshine- finish a wee little dress for my girl- something inspired by all the daffodils and cherry blossoms that are sweeping the city.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Birthday Post

       I just want to preface this post by saying that it was my birthday yesterday- my parents insisted that they write a bog post to me on my day. Normally I am not interested in this sort of attention- but this was important to them so I agreed to post their letter. Also- because I know they will read this- they had better write a similar letter to my sister who also just had her birthday!!!

       Peachland, BC

February 11, 2015

          Our daughter Sharilyn has written birthday blogs for each of her children on their birthdays. She said in her recent birthday blog to her son, our grandson, that she can’t believe that she has a son, not so little who just recently had his seventh birthday. Sharilyn your parents are often surprised when they sit back and realize that both their daughters have seen their thirtieth birthdays in the review mirror for some time now and have growing families of their own.

         Here we are, the proud parents of a daughter who has always made us proud and often surprises us with the things that she can and does accomplish.  Looking through all of the pictures of Sharilyn at different times in her life of adventures various personal glimpses come to mind. Her first ice cream cone, at less than a year old in Ocean Falls. Remembering her in the canoe while Dad is fishing and also her racing through the neighborhood on Pineridge Road with a bunch of kids following her. We left her alone to babysit the house for two weeks with a friend while we were on a trip to Ontario. Imagine her surprise when we came through the door a day early. 

         Sharilyn has always had an enthusiasm for doing and making things. From the time she could walk she always had to carry a bag with, in the early days some kind of a toy and in later years a book or craft or both. Sharilyn tagged along with Dad on his Saturday errands and learned to color, sew and many other things with her Mom. Girl Guides was a big deal for her. When she got to Art College dad was often tasked with helping on projects like stretchers for frames, and a huge display box for one of her installations. This required a Saturday at the college with woodworking tools, glue, drills and such. 

         We saw Sharilyn grow and develop from a happy sunny little girl into the wonderful person that  she is today. She enjoys everything she does especially when being creative. Parents often wonder what children will become as they grow older. We have had many laughs and fewer tears during this process and admire and appreciate the person she has become. Our daughter as a parent is trying to give her children the enjoyment of the things she likes to do as well as an appreciation of the outdoors. 

         The one main constant in our daughter’s life has always been her family, including the one she came from and her own that she and Mark have built together. She used to write her grandparents telling them her experiences. One time she spent six months taking quite a few pictures around Vancouver and then sent a collection of them along with an explanation to her grandfather in Ontario. The result was that when he was downsizing he gave all of his camera equipment to her. Being the person she is has given her rewards she never expected. 

         Sharilyn without getting too gushy Happy Birthday. It has been a wonderful experience watching you develop into the person you are even if we can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. We love you and think of you all the time.

Love Mom and Dad

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Keep It Simple Silly- Valentines

  Keep-It- Simple-Silly! Having children in school has taught me a number of things- first and for most that parents love to show their affection and dedication to classroom life through providing treats and prizes at key holidays- Valentine's Day being one. As much as I love the massive influx of holiday themed pencils, crayons and smelly erasers I don't feel we need to add to the flotsam of classroom treats- trust me when I say that we will never need to buy another pencil again. It was with this in mind that my Littles and I gear up for tomorrow's festivities- we wanted something SIMPLE- heart felt and easily recyclable.

         I have long wanted to try the Suminagashi Marbling kit- we purchased ours at Opus Art Supplies but it's readily available here. This kit does not call for much- a butcher's tray or shallow dish with which to hold about and inch and a half of water - a stir stick or like we used a plastic fork- and of course a sturdy paper- we used Opus Watermedia paper but any watercolour paper will do. This little project comes with easy to follow directions and once we got everything set up it didn't take long before the kids were pulling marbled paper on their own- which of course meant a few minutes of P&Q for Momma!

           Once our papers were completely  dried I took the time to quickly cut out enough hearts for everyone in both classes- yes the kids could have done the cutting but they had quite frankly moved on at that point- the excitement of marbling was enough- they were busy playing Lego. Once all the hearts were cut out my prodigies were back for the stamping bit- any time there is an ink pad and stamps to be used they are game.

           Because our cards were based on nice sturdy watercolour paper these little hearts can take any additional media quite nicely- we stamped a simple "Be My Valentine" onto each card and the Littles laboriously wrote out their To- Froms. This was such a great way to unwind on a rainy day after school- a craft with a purpose- sending our love out to all our friends.
            Realistically I know these Valentine wishes will end up in the recycling- or scrunched up in a backpack and then maybe under a bed. Children do not need much- this I know to be true- I think as parents we sometimes over complicate the matter when all that is called for is a simple- easy heart- a kind word. All that they really care about is how many cards are in their Valentine "mailboxes" at the end of the day- so save the cupcakes- save the pencils- just Keep It Simple Silly!

**just a note- the marbling ink does stain so do not use a tray or regular fork that you will be sad to get damaged- we used my butcher's tray which is my pallet and a plastic fork**

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Simple Needle Felting- Valentine's Cardi

           I love Valentine's Day- what I don't really love is being told what colour to wear or indulge in on that certain day- and so when faced with another day of pink and red I decided it would be fun to change things up a bit! I love hearts and turquoise and I especially love my Littlest one wearing her heart on her sleeve - this Valentine's Day in addition to the red and pink we will have some little blue hearts. This adorable felted heart project was inspired by a post over on Design Sponge- hop on over to check out all the V-day fun!

            To make your own felted heart patches you will need one wool sweater- we thrifted this one- a small square of dense foam from any upholsterer- single barbed felting needles which we picked up local at Maiwa and some fun colours of wool roving- also from Maiwa- nothing like a visit to Granville Island for supplies!

            Decide where the hearts should be placed on the sweater- we chose the elbows- to mimic elbow patches- but this is a great little project to mend holes in sweaters and blankets. Once you have decided on placement slide the foam block inside the sweater- which allows the needle to go through the fibre and beyond without damaging the needle or the surface below. Working in small sections I started near the top half circle area of the heart and started the felting process by shaping and placing the wool roving on top of the sweater- the best approach to needle felting is a straight up and down with the needle. Start at one end of your shape and work your way around the shape- working your needle up and down integrating the fibres until you have one solid shape.

         Once you have achieved a solid felted piece remove the foam block from the sweater- separating the felted sweater and fibres from the foam. Again this technique is fantastic for fixing holes in wool blankets or worn areas on sweaters- like elbows. Weather for Valentines Day or every day this is a great way to perk up any tiered sweater from the thrift shop! Meanwhile if you need me I will be wiping up a pie with heart shaped crust!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Family Day Hike

             Yesterday was Family Day here in British Columbia- it was with great excitement that the Littles realized Daddy had the day off work.  After a crazy birthday weekend with lots of friends and family we decided to head to the forest with some friends to stretch our legs and breath in some fresh air. With the fog hugging the shoreline and a light drizzle falling we hit the trails on the North Shore at Lighthouse Park- our not so Littles taking off on long confident legs- stretching to find their own way.

          Slogging through mud- so much mud and so many puddles we encountered several other folks who were out doing the same thing as us- when on the Wet Coast you just have to get outside whenever you can- no waiting on fairer weather for it may never come! What I love about hiking on the coast is how friendly people are when an encounter happens on the trail- everyone saying hello- many people commenting on our little hikers. Looking back on this time last year the kids are much more confident hikers than they were- unafraid but still cautious.

          The group fell into many different pairings along the way- sometimes all the kids were together- other times one kid to a parent- I love the moments with my boy- the quiet moments on the trail where we talk- he tells me things when we are walking side by side. Little trailside confidences- I hope this never changes.

          Hiking with kids has many ups and downs figurative as well as literally on the trail- of course there are moments of whining and complaining- someone steps in a puddle- two or three times in a row and has wet feet- someone is hungry- someone is poking someone else with a stick. At the end of the day though a day spent in the forest with friends is never a bad thing- especially when it ends in adult beverages and french fries for the kiddos! Shaking the city off for an adventure on the trail- full of fungus and eagles- wearing hoodies in the middle of winter- we are a bunch of lucky people- West Coast is the best coast!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Seven Years Old!

        This morning we are waking up the parents of a seven year old- our boy is seven- seven! When the heck did that happen? It really feels just like yesterday that we were setting out on this journey- bringing him home from the hospital- scrambling to buy things like diapers because he arrived two weeks early. I remember the first morning on our own- waking up- tucking him into his brand new- clean and tidy stroller- waddling down the street and feeling so proud- and still sore- but mostly proud that we had this wee man to call our own. No the days are going by far too quickly.

       This past year he has grown so much- in leaps and bounds- learning so many things- stumbling time and again but always getting back up- cause we are a stubborn bunch like that! This year marked the first year of independent swimming- a pretty big deal for all of us.  Reluctant reader- numbers wiz. It has been established that he is an avid hockey fan- but only for the Canucks. Football is OK. Minecraft is the best. New friendships have been made- with loyalties and subsequent hurts running deep- learning what it means to be a good friend- beyond sharing and not hitting.

       He is my oldest- my heart- I never knew a love like this until I became his mother. As he takes his tentative solo steps along this path- we are close behind but trying our best to give him a tiny bit of space- some freedom to grow. Seven is the age of friendship- boys being boys- dirty- wormy boys- and while the urge is still so strong in me to remind him to wash his hands after making mud or straighten his shirt I won't- I will just let him be. When we get home at night and everyone is freshly washed from bath time- I will snuggle him a little longer- tuck him under my wing a little closer for these days I know are numbered.

       So to my not so little guy- Happy Birthday- welcome to SEVEN!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Year Of Making

          My year of making is well under way- so much knitting to do- I am at this point fully and completely addicted! This little bit of knitting just came off the needles- it is to be a gift for a special little friend who is about to turn two. My girly- who agreed to pose for me- has decided she needs a matching knitted tie- good thing this was such an easy knit.

         Years ago I had spotted a lovely little knit tie gracing the pages of the beloved but now defunct magazine Organic Life. The memory of that adorable small piece of knitting has lingered over the years and so when faced with knitting a small birthday gift it immediately popped to mind. A quick search of the old Internets yielded a simple pattern from Martha Stewart- a day and a half later I finally had the perfect knitted neck tie.

         As I move forward with my knitting and making I have become even more mindful of where and how things are made- no longer does the sales rack interest me as I know those cheap deals come at a steep human and environmental cost. These days I look for classic- well made pieces- it is difficult to find pieces of textiles that are ethically made- that will stand the test of time. Even small acts of hand making- like this small knitting project- will add up over the course of the year- like drops into an ocean- into big change!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Plant Babies

          This time of year always has me itching to grow something- to be out on our deck- digging in the dirt. While it's still to early to really do much of anything but sip a cuppa tea out there right now- inside on our window sill is a different story! So to begin with I have a couple of new plant babies that came home with me the other day- some beautiful baby succulents and a tiny- wee air plant.

           A little bit of fresh green is exactly what was needed to brighten up our space-some colour to offset all the grey happening outdoors! Not a lot of money needs to be spent to update or refresh a home- sometimes something as simple as a plant or fresh flowers is all that is needed until the larger picture can be addressed. We have some big plans for this Spring- for this space- I'm ever so excited thinking about paint colours and new bedding for all.

          We have lived in this apartment for just about four years now- moving here was like coming home- this is the space that our babies turned into kids- we have become part of a wonderful community. While we have always dreamed of moving to the country- to a home with space to roam - something transformative has happened over the past year or so. Our urge to stay put-  and put down roots here- have grown stronger- largely in part to our fantastic group of friends. And so a space that was supposed to be temporary is now looking more permanent- somewhere among the way this place has become our home!

       All this deep- introspection to say that until we have time to paint and fluff up this apartment my new plant babies will do the trick! A simple little splurge that came in at under ten dollars has brought me a modicum of joy- my new plant babies happily nestled into their new pots bring the promise of change into this temporary space- turning a bit more permanent!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mid Winter

           We are approaching the half way mark of the school year- yesterday marked Imbolic- or St Brigid's Day- harbinger of Spring- light and new beginnings. In Vancouver the mist hung heavily- occasionally turning to rain- a softer- less harsh rain that even a few weeks ago. I feel a sigh of relief these mornings when I open the window to a warmer breeze- my heart keeps as I spot the early cherry blossoms and crocuses- Spring is surely on it's way.

      For our family it is the beginning of Birthday month- so many February babies- a family of Aquarians- full of creativity and chaos! There are secrets lingering in every corner of our apartment- drawings and cards are being made- surprises and gifts are being squirrelled away. Birthday month- coming so quickly on the heals of Christmas- is a much more frivolous- a celebration of each individual- handmade- thoughtful and- although increasingly more difficult- we try to keep things simple.

          For me Mid Winter is a time of planning- a time to lie quiet and connect with friends and myself- which is just what I did yesterday. Plans were laid with dear friends to meet at one of our favourite cafes- Le Marche St. George- children were dropped off at school- walking shoes laced up. I have been drinking mostly tea for the past month and so I celebrated with a large latte- I think my relationship with coffee has found a goodly balance. Sitting down with that big bowl of frothy milk and espresso was practically a religious experience for me- I enjoyed every second- second only to my almond croissant!

         Once all the coffee and rests were long gone- the conversation still tumbling about we buttoned up and headed out to brave the elements- a wander down Main Street is a must- stopping at all of our favourite shops. Yarn was purchased for small gifts- dried herbs and florals were acquired for a bath preparation- small succulents were selected and tucked into our shopping totes. There really is nothing quite like a completely ordinary day made extraordinary by the company of good company- and a huge latte! February started out pretty spectacularly- heres hoping the rest of Birthday Month follows suit!

* Also thank you to friend Erin Fowler for the first picture at the start of the post- Le Marche in all it's misty glory!