Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018

Add & Subtract

I spent last Friday at the studio. My main focus was on finishing my Schoolhouse Tunic before the end date of the sew-along (today - March 19th). This also would be the first of my "make nine" goals for 2018.  I had a fortuitous sewing day, despite the fact that I had to start by replacing a broken needle on my serger.

Here I am in my tunic (the ladyfriend took this picture so I could send it to my mother).

Here's what the fabric looks like close-up.
I'm really pleased with the tunic and the fit; I also think I have a number of things to wear with it because, let's be honest, it's a) too short for me to wear on its own and b) the deep opening in the front requires something underneath as well.

As I went to hang it in my closet, however, something clicked. I looked at the rail and thought to myself, "I have too many clothes."

Now before those of you who know me or have followed me for awhile start laughing or chirping in, why don't you let me finish the story?

I have been working on my closet for years; not always actively, but it's frequently on my mind. When I went to hang up the tunic, I suddenly realized that there was too much noise/distraction in my closet. More clothes make it harder to get dressed despite conventional logic, yet I'm not a minimalist and have no interest in a "uniform." This meant a more thoughtful and decisive cull.

I've started on this project. I've already got a stack of clothes that I think I'm done with. I've edited down my "special occasions" wardrobe, and I've managed to let go of two black dresses, but there's still more in the closet. The goal here is to be able to see everything that's going on as well as have more pieces that work together yet don't duplicate functions.

I'll be selling things on eBay, giving clothes to specific people, potentially hosting a cocktail/"shop my closet" gathering, and exploring other avenues (consignment!). What I have to be careful of is overvaluing (either fiscally or sentimentally) the things in my closet. I need to let go. I'm not doing myself any favours otherwise.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Stars Shine!

I get regular horoscope emails from Chani Nicholas, and I often find them quite insightful and in line with the work that I'm trying to do. I found the one I got today to be especially so.

Horoscope for Scorpio and Scorpio Rising
My creativity heals me. Never refuses me. Knows how to move through me.
I honor its process.
Saturday’s new moon reminds me to get out of its way. Reminds me to study its ways. Cultivating a deeper relationships with it reminds me that there is no end to the chances I get to grow. Evolve. Change what isn’t working.
Transforming through each creative action I take is a given, but it is also a great leap of faith. Saturday’s new moon reminds me that trusting my creative energy requires that I trust my ability to face the challenges that come with it. Manifesting it in the world requires that I confront my inner doubts about myself. My talent. My competence. My creativity’s relevance. It’s all part of the process.
During this lunar cycle I encourage my determination to deepen. Come doubt, fear, or insecurity, I will do it anyway.
My daily life is densely packed with important projects, deadlines and decisions that define the shape of things. My job is to find a way to work through, around, and with each obstacle as best I can. I remember to keep some energy for myself, keep some reserves for future use, to keep the things that aren’t urgent at bay when and where I can.
The next month will require me to put my ideas out into the world. Strategically weaving my beliefs into my work. Placing them where they will have the biggest impact. I am willing to communicate what might be challenging, but ultimately energizing and solution-oriented.
Looking forward to the new moon on the 17th; have a good weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Take Your Carbeth to School Day

Sweater: Carbeth, knit by yours truly in Alafoss Lopi
Dress: Shack/J.Morgan Puett
Tights: Wolford
Shoes: Dansko (thrifted)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

My Make Nine Challenge

I think I caught sight of this on Instagram, but it was Cal Patch's post that set the blaze to the spark. The fact that I've already planned on making most of these items this year anyway made it even easier to throw my hat into the ring (it's good that I own a lot of hats!). Also, I'll inevitably participate in the Summer of Basics (should there be one this year), which will account for three of my "make nine." Let me also acknowledge that there are a couple items about which I'm uncertain - not uncertain about whether I want to make them, but uncertain as to whether I can actually complete them within the year. Yeah, those kinds of projects.

But let's start with what's been settled.

1). Sew Liberated Schoolhouse Tunic
This pattern has been on my radar for years, but I kept second-guessing myself. A discount and an encouragement to post images of yours by March 19th (yikes! thought I had more time!) was enough for me to pull the trigger. I already have fabric for it.

2). The Brae Cove Tunic
I'm running the Squam KAL, but this one has its own KAL, in which I'm participating. Thankfully I'm almost done with my Squam knit, and the deadline for completion isn't until May 19th. As you may recall, I've found yarn during my yarnventory for this.

3). The Erica Dress
This is a pattern from Seamwork magazine, to which I subscribe. I like the idea of an easy and sophisticated wrap dress, and I found some matte midnight blue jersey from Mood fabrics. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to make any of the modifications. No deadline for this baby.

4). The Liv Cardigan
I started this cardigan last year with wool reclaimed from another project; however, I discovered I didn't have enough yarn so it was tabled. I've ordered yarn for this (no judgements!), and this will be one of my Summer of Basics makes. Believe it or not, I'm knitting it in black. I think this will fill the black cardigan gap nicely.

5). The Afghani Nomad Dress
I was inspired (years ago already) by Alicia Paulson's version and have collected a variety of Liberty of London fabrics to make my own version.

6). Pants: here's one where I haven't settled on which ones I'm going to commit to, and they range from challenging to pretty easy. I think what will tip the scales is which pair will fill the greatest gap.

The contenders are -


 I'll make all of these at some point, but after I do a little homework (Seamwork's Design Your Wardrobe course), I hope to have a clearer picture of what I need. These will also be part of the Summer of Basics.

7). Azami
I've had this pattern and the yarn (the actual yarn it called for even) for awhile, and I feel like it's time to get 'er done. Mine will not be pink but a nice spring green.

Okay this is where things get vague -

I have the yarn and the pattern for Charley, but it's a lot of work. Like a lot, and I'm afraid I won't be able to finish it within the year.

I also have started on the Maggie dress from Alabama Chanin, but again, lots of work because of all the hand-stitching.
This is the tunic version; I'm making the dress version

And finally, I have two Merchant & Mills dresses in mind. The Trapeze, which I've made in two versions already, and The Rugby, which I haven't.
My Trapeze:

The Rugby:

There's the possibility of shifting commitments, but regardless of the list, there will be other makes as well. There always are. These, however, feel like they could be pivotal players in my wardrobe, and as such are deserving of special attention.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Keeping It Under My Brim

Hat: Halston
Turtleneck: Akris
Dress: Lauren (Ralph Lauren)
Tights: Hue
Boots: La Canadienne

Monday, March 5, 2018

Showing Up

That's the theme from my Get to Work Book for March. It bears keeping in mind.

Today I continued some kitchen work - canning trotter gear and chicken stock, prepping pork fat for lardo, rendering the last of the lard and making some "cracklings" aka pork rinds or fried pork fat. Not a low calorie day, but a little goes a long way. This is all part of what I'm calling the "freezer reclamation" project. I don't know about you, but our freezers (we have a small chest freezer in the basement) are almost always full, and often we have no idea what's in there. It's good to get things out of the freezer and onto the shelves.

Things are starting to get back to routine after our week away. It's amazing how seven or eight days away can almost entirely erase the rhythms you had before, but I feel like mine are pretty well established now, which is quite satisfying. Even this blog post - Monday is my usual day to post. It just makes it easier.

Also, I'm pleased to announce that one of my stories was a finalist for the Breakwater Review Fiction Prize. You can read it here.

Showing up, and moving forward! Have a great week.

Friday, March 2, 2018

February Goals Into March Goals and Then Some

Okay, I know February only has 28 days (unless it's a leap year, of course), but this year February felt like it blew by.  I guess being away for 8 days made it feel even shorter. The nice thing is that the dates fall on the same day of the week (when February is 28 days long) so March feels like an extended dance-remix version, and I'm using it as such because I didn't quite manage to get everything I'd wanted to accomplished in February.

I did make kombucha and kimchi, but I didn't have the time to make beer.

I didn't finish my Kate Davies cardigan, but I did "bang out a Carbeth."

I did not deal with the dress shirt.

So March's 3 goals will look a little familiar:

1. Project to Finish (WIP): Yep, still Kate Davies's Bláithín cardigan. I may have to lower my grosgrain tape desires; I've found it hard to find some cute tape to back the button bands.

2. Fix/Remake/or Let Go: I'm going to deal with that dress shirt.
3. Get Started On:  I'm going to make some beer. Yes, I will. I'm also going to start sewing the Schoolhouse Tunic, a pattern I've long coveted but could never quite pull the trigger on until yesterday.
Photo from Sew Liberated
I have no issue acknowledging that the combination of a discount and a sew-along over the month of March encouraged me.

It's been a good year so far. I've had one story accepted for publication (although I have no idea when that publication will come out), and another story was a finalist for a fiction prize. I'll post links when they're published.

So, last night, as I gleefully joined yet another KAL (this time for the Brae Cove tunic, for which I plan to dye some yarn from my stash), I suddenly wondered if I were getting ahead of myself. Was I taking on too much? I'm leading another KAL (for Squam), for which I also have the yarn but have a generous deadline of June, and I have some writing and other creative projects simmering.

Then I realized what was going on. I'm in the second half of the term, which is generally less work for me as they're working on larger projects, and I'd just finished grading a major mid-term project for one class. So there's a sense of having some time. But what's really at play here is that I don't have any overwhelming art deadlines right now, and that's of our own making. 2018 was dubbed Project: Life, where we weren't going to try to make new art (working on showing what we've made) and instead would focus on taking care of the other projects in our lives. Holy cow! It was a revelation!

It's not as though my life was always like 2017, but last year really took us to the mat and kind of made us forget how we lived before. In the future, I'm striving for a more sane balance among the many projects I undertake. Right now, however, I feel like I'm on fire, and I'm going with it! Why not?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Why Yes, Those are Trousers I'm Wearing

Jacket: Comme des Garcons
T-Shirt (not visible): Three Dots
Pants: Velocity
Socks: Calvin Klein
Shoes: Robert Clergerie

Monday, February 12, 2018

Projects Update & Defending the Stash

I ended up with a snow day last Wednesday, so there was no What I'm Wearing to Teach Today post. I actually did get dressed to go to work, but upon the advice of the administrative assistant for the department, I stayed home.

In the meantime, I've been working on a couple of KALs - the Bang Out a Carbeth and #fringeandfriendslogalong. I had to order a couple of skeins of Alafoss Lopi yarn from The Art of Yarn because I wasn't interested in playing yarn chicken with the Carbeth. While the dye lot will undoubtedly be different (the ladyfriend brought me my original skeins from Iceland), I have a plan - the sleeves will be done with the new yarn. So right now, I'm up to the armpits and waiting to for my package to get here. Unfortunately, Canada Poste says it's scheduled for delivery on February 19th - blech.

In the meantime, I'm still knitting "logs" for what I hope will end up as a nice little lap blanket. I've let go of trying to plan it all out. I've got some basic measurements, a limited amount of yarn, and a few ideas, but that's about it.
The log pile
And I can't forget about the ladyfriend's special sweater; it, too, is moving along although I have no picture at the moment. After discovering that I'd somehow knit the back using two different sized needles, we decided to continue that for the front. If she's happy, I'm happy.

I've been trying to finish A Stash of One's Own since it's currently overdue at the library. The essays are fun and interesting and touching, and they've inspired me to see my stash more fully. It's also possessed me to do a yarnventory or stashventory, if you will. This is what it looked like before I opened all the bins, and actually, not all the bins are pictured here.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the amount of yarn I have, I'm actually happy that I haven't reached SABLE - Stash Acquisition Beyond Lifetime Expectancy. In fact, I'm finding the stash to be a treasure trove of awesome yarn...and some yarn I'll be getting rid of.

But back to the stash and feelings about it. It's easy for a nonknitter (and some knitters, but I take that differently) to laugh at or mock a knitter's stash. This actually happened the other day at the studio (where the stashventory is taking place). I was working with the door open (I was actually untangling a massive rat's nest of yarn that had decided to get together), and a friend who has a studio near us stopped by. He saw the yarn everywhere and started laughing. Now, this friend is also an artist, but I know he's a bit linear when it comes to ideas about making, and frankly, I think he's suspect of craft (this is just my sense).

I let him finish laughing.

He said, "This is like that Star Trek episode."

I replied, "The Trouble with Tribles?"

"Yes," he replied.

"No. It isn't," I responded.

At this point he clarified that it was the visual aspect that was the connection, but I wasn't going to be shamed by my stash. And no one should. Even now, it annoys me that a fellow artist would seemingly mock my supplies.

And so I say to you - revel in your stashes (whatever they may consist of). It's taken time, money, and thought (sometimes more, sometimes less) to acquire, and for me, many of the yarns trigger memories, which is invaluable.

Monday, February 5, 2018

February's Three Goals

January's goals were accomplished. The only glitch was that the lamp wasn't an imperative, so I switched in getting the old dishwasher off our front porch (it'd been there since mid-December when the company that delivered our new dishwasher didn't feel like taking the old one). The whole dishwasher thing felt like a triumph to me since I had to disconnect the old one myself. Yes, a can-do femme am I!

Here are February's three goals:

1. Project to Finish (WIP): I have just a couple of steps (one of which is steeking, which is cutting your knitting to create an opening) before my Kate Davies's Bláithín cardigan is finished.

2. Fix/Remake/or Let Go: Years ago (yes, years) I took a dress shirt class at the workroom in Toronto. I don't think anyone actually finished their shirt. I still have all the pieces as well as the directions at the studio. It's time for it to be finished or recycled.

3. Get Started On: With the fermentation station set up in the basement, I'm anxious to get some beer, kimchi, and kombucha started.

In the meantime, I'm participating in a couple of KALs (knit-alongs). February may be a short month, but don't underestimate what you can get done in 28 days.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Hanging In There

Dress: Woolen Moss
Vest: Ekeby pattern (Noro), knit by yours truly
Tights: Wolford
Boots: Aquaitalia

Monday, January 29, 2018

Busy Weekend

I had one of those optimum weekends where I got to putter around my own stuff. The ladyfriend was at a hockey tournament for quite a bit of the weekend, and I really wanted to try some of the things I'd learned in my natural dyeing class at OCADU. I got the phase 1 kit to go with The Modern Natural Dyer last year (2016!) for Christmas. I decided this would be the best time to do the work-along. This is the result of my first at-home dyeing experiment.
For those of you into this, I used an aluminum potassium sulfate mordant and used madder for the colour. As soon as it is dry, I'll wind it into a cake and start the Northwoods hat, which is the associated project.

I ripped out a couple of failed FOs (finished objects) as well and reclaimed some nice yarn. Note, the shower curtain rail makes a great place to hang yarn to dry.

And since there were organic lemons in the "bloodied but unbowed" produce section (aka discounted produce), I went ahead and started the limoncello I'd planned to make with some Dillon's White Rye that was pawned off on me. I've made it before, with grain alcohol, and it's pretty damn yummy.
In about a month I'll remove the lemon zest and add a little sugar to sweeten the deal.

Last weekend, I built the fermentation station in the basement, per this month's three goals. I haven't been able to take a good picture of it because of the low light in the basement, but I plan to get some things a-bubbling on the shelves soon.

My other goal for this month, the teak lamp, is going to have to be traded out for something else. The original impetus for getting the lamp done this month was to put it where our artificial "holiday" tree is, but we're leaving it up until Easter. Yep, the tree will stay; the decorations will (hopefully) change, so there's no room for the lamp right now. I'm open to amending the goals if they just don't seem to work. I have a couple of days to figure out what I might do instead. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Lean On In

Coat: Comme des Garcons
Pants: J. Morgan Puett
Socks: Little River Mill
Shoes: Brunello Cucinelli

Monday, January 22, 2018

The End of Cable

The ladyfriend and I got rid of cable recently. Our DVR was acting up (making a weird clicking sound, it had dumped everything we'd saved, and it wouldn't record anything new), so we called our provider who told us that the box we have is no longer in use or being serviced and that we'd have to switch our internet service to them if we wanted to continue having cable.

Now, we've talked about getting rid of cable for awhile. We have a number of subscription services (Netflicks, Crave, Amazon Prime, and NHL Centre Ice) and like many, found that we frequently tried to find something on cable to watch only to have something random playing in the background.  The need to switch internet providers sealed the deal (not that our provider is so great but still).

Here's what we've discovered.

We have more frequent and more in-depth conversations. We take the time to talk to each other, and without the white noise of the TV in the background, there's no sense that we need to finish up quickly so we can get back to the TV.

We have to actually think about what we want to watch. Cable makes it easy for you to scroll through the channels and find something, even if it's not what you were looking for. It was easy just to turn on the TV for accompaniment. In order to avoid the "what are we going to watch tonight" time suck (ever scroll through Netflicks looking for nothing in particular?), we've actually scheduled shows to watch on given days. Yes, it's kind of like old school TV. It's Monday night? We're watching Big Little Lies. Tuesday? It's a wildcard day, which is for shows we're interested in but haven't committed to. I'd really like to make a spinning wheel for this. It'd be fun.

There are shows I thought I'd miss, like Top Chef, but when it's not an option, it doesn't really come to mind. Plus there's content that we access through YouTube and online.

It's good to be without cable although I will say that we've bought an antennae to get the broadcast channels. Nonetheless, I don't think we'll be going back to random switching on of the TV. It's a good change.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Is There A Hat That Goes With That?

Hat: Christine Bec
Dress: Marc Jacobs
Shirt: Rivamonti
Cardigan: Dorce for LeRoy Knitwear (vintage; gift from friend)
Tights: Wolford
Boots: Aquaitalia

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Task Attacked

I had a great Sunday. I spent a great part of the day finishing off some knitting WIPs including my Project to Finish for the month.
The top is Hudson, the Project to Finish for the month. After it finishes blocking, I'll take out the yarn along the waist and the bottom of the sleeves, and I'll model it because right now it looks like it's for Gumby.

The bottom is Ysolda Teague's pattern Roisin. Yes, it's a Little Red Riding Hood cap with an attached scarf. The yarn (Julie Asselin) is a super divine combo of silk, cashmere, and merino. Modeling will follow. I finished this in December and just never got around to blocking it.

And this is Sheltered. This was my Squam knitalong project for last year, and I'd actually finished knitting it by the time of the retreat, but I didn't have time to sew the sides or block it, and frankly, it looked overwhelming. However, wrangled into shape, it's actually going to be pretty cool. Sure, I like to pretend I'm some kind of woodland nymph when I have it on, but hopefully that'll pass with wear, and yes, there will be modeling.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Feelin' Cheeky in the New Year

Dress: Azzedine Alaia
Tights: Hue
Boots: Timberland (thrifted from Mom)

Monday, January 8, 2018

This Month's Three Goals

As noted in my previous post, each month will have three goals. Here are January's -

1. Project to Finish (WIP): Brooklyn Tweed Hudson sweater - requires minor finishing and blocking

2. Fix/Remake/or Let Go: Vintage teak standing lamp - needs a new lampshade and potentially rewiring

3. Get Started On: Fermentation station in the basement. Step one is to build the shelving unit to house my fermentation projects.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Word About Challenges (or Be Careful What You Wish For)

Believe it or not, this blog post has been rolling around in my head since, oh, say May because that's when it started to become apparent that participating in challenges, as I'm wont to do, can become overwhelming when combined with "success."
The quilt top for our Hand of Craft show in progress
Okay, let me back up and give a quick overview of how this past year has gone for me. This comes without a dissertation on politics and the state of affairs in the world and predominantly focuses on me and what I learned.
Our billboard, Domestic Brew: Craft Beer Garden, on the cover of the Hamilton Spectator
First off, I knew that Shake-n-Make had two major shows in 2017, both of which were labour-intensive (our favourite kind of work). One opened at the end of August and the other at the beginning of November. These shows were not originally scheduled for the same year, but some things you can't control (like the finishing of a courtyard, for example). On top of that, the ladyfriend had a major show that opened in May.
Domestic Brew: 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall at The Hamilton Artists Inc.
So that's three shows in one year. More than once over the course of the past 12 months have I used the expression "victim of our own success."
Managed to ride my bike on a beer run in April
Despite all this (or because I'm a procrastinator), I thought I could participate in a few challenges like the #30daysofbiking in April, #MeMadeMay, and a 30-day yoga challenge at De La Sol (April/May). A lot of this comes from the end of the semester; when the term ends in early April, I suddenly feel like I have loads of time. But this is a micro-view; the macro is often where I get tripped up.
A #MeMadeMay post featuring an Alabama Chanin top I made
Think of it like those transparencies that you find in medical books - you lay one down, and then another on top of it, and then another and another until there's a whole lot going on (not a medical term). So you have our shows, the challenges, and then things like another roof to be done and travel plans made.

Despite all this, I also wanted to participate in Fringe Association's #summerofbasics. I mean, c'mon, couldn't I make three wardrobe staples over the course of three months? I'm sure you can already see where this is headed.

Suffice to say that of the challenges, I was only able to really participate in #MeMadeMay. My biggest challenge for the year was not falling apart constantly.

After all that, all our shows went well (even if I thought they'd kill me), and we're happy with the work. I'm trying to incorporate what I've learned about my ability to juggle multiple projects simultaneously (less is more). There was a frenetic quality to last year that I'm hoping to eliminate from this year.

Nonetheless, I've set up a few goals/guidelines for the coming year:
  1. The ladyfriend and I are not undertaking any new art projects this year (we'll see how that goes). Instead, this year is labeled "Project Life," and we're trying to take care of things in our life that got shunted to the wayside last year. We'll also be working on getting the work we've made shown elsewhere.
  2. Each month will have three goals. Firstly there will be a project to finish (all those WIPs!), something to make or do (e.g. start pickles), and something to fix/remake/let go (e.g. a vintage dress that's not fitting properly). This should help me clear the deck of lingering projects as well as moments of panic about not being prepared/ready (where's the fruitcake?!).
  3. I can only start a new project (knitting or sewing) if I've completed one that was already in progress (see point 2). 
I have some writing projects/goals set as well (one of which is to blog regularly again - just figuring out my schedule now), but integration is what I'm aiming for this year - my interests/inclinations/etc. integrated and peacefully co-existing.

I'll let you know how that goes.