Friday, 7 March 2014

March of the penguin

So...I've had a small cloud of Dementors in my entourage lately.  

The other day, after being home for awhile, after having a cup of hot tea that was made for me with love, after eating a completely calorically irredeemable dinner that was comfort food to the nth degree, I realized again that I can only be responsible for my own actions.  I can't change...anyone. What they do, or don't do.  Think, or don't.  Say, or don't.  None of it is a reflection on me, how I think or feel, what I do or don't.  The Dementors would have me believe otherwise.  That voice on my shoulder even has a name of her own.  Fleur (yes, have another Harry Potter reference) whispers about my shortcomings, the ways I am lacking in necessary qualities.  The ways I fail, disappoint, let down.
Generally, I say, fuck you Fleur.  But this time, instead of curling up on the couch and succumbing to the pity-party-for-one, I had another cup of tea and finished my knitted slippers.  Turned off my computer about a half hour before bed and did some yoga.  Sleep never comes that easily for me, but it did that night, and thankfully it was dreamless.  I woke up early and instead of listlessly smacking the alarm, worrying, mindlessly devolving into the usual rut, I got up, did some light stretches, and sewed two buttons back on my favourite pants.

So, here's the rule I'm going to try to live by for a month.  Broken into weekly bites (because that's how you eat an elephant!), but generally categorized as follows:  

- Knit on a thing
- Bake a thing 
- Write a thing
- Finish a thing 
- Fix a thing

Feeling good so far, March.  I owe you a baked thing before I go to bed on Sunday night.

Monday, 2 December 2013

A stupid story, in seven parts

I feel silly even saying this, but I had an argument with my boyfriend, and the sheer ridiculousness of it is taking up space in my brain.

Prelude:  We had a fantastic weekend.  Spent some quality time with friends on Friday night, playing Cards Against Humanity, laughing uproariously.  Got home late (like 3am late), slept in Saturday, enjoyed a lazy afternoon,  a light dinner and watched a movie.  Sunday was much the same, except we puttered around the house a little, had a nap in the afternoon.

Background:  A perpetual irritation to knitters, and I think it’s fair to expand it to most crafters, is an inability of people who don’t practice your craft to recognize that comments like, “Hey, you’re good at this, can you make it for me for next weekend?” are generally poorly received, as is their inability to understand that you could, in fact, buy it cheaper at Walmart, but that does not mean it will be made and sold for that price when it’s handcrafted. 

The Antagonist:  Steph draws and paints (often in First Nations style, having lived up north for many years), and he is also a woodworker.  He recently made me some beautiful shawl pins.

A couple of years ago, he made paddles for his nephew and his bride as a wedding gift.


Last year, he carved a tiny paddle for me to include in a swap package being mailed to a fellow knitter.  Her real life job is a canoe guide on the Nahanni River. (My apologies for showing the rest of the swap package.  I can't find the photo I took of the paddle by itself.)

Setting:  Last night, a once-close friend of mine had posted her urgent need of a knitter for a complicated pattern.  More out of curiosity than a desire to actually knit something for someone else, I responded to her post with the words,  “How complicated?”  She emailed me a picture of the huntress vest cowl thing that Katniss Everdeen is wearing in the new Hunger Games movie.  I had a look at the pattern, which is not complicated but it is not a super-quick knit, and which called for at least six hundred yards of bulky yarn.  I had a look online for the suggested yarn, which was a mostly acrylic blend, and saw it would cost about sixty dollars for the yarn alone if you walked into Michaels to purchase it.

The Protagonist:  I emailed her to let her know that if she was commissioning someone to knit this item for her, to not be surprised by the cost, especially if she was looking for it in a short timeline, and told her what I’d found.  She emailed me back and said she was grateful for the information, and said her next door neighbour had said she could probably do it but would get back to her with a quote.  She said she hadn’t understood why it would cost so much that she would need to get a quote, but said that what I'd passed on to her gave her some perspective.  End of story.

The Conflict:  I mentioned this to Steph, in a, hey, yet another person who doesn’t really put a price on how much a handcrafted item really costs, kind of way.  His response surprised me.

You know, you could get that at Walmart for about ninety-nine cents a ball.

YOU are telling ME what acrylic yarn costs?  You’ve bought yarn at Walmart lately, have you?

He tells me, with more than a little snark, that while he doesn’t doubt I know what good quality yarn costs, he doubts that I can accurately price inexpensive yarn, because I’m not looking to get her the best possible deal.  He tells me I could buy acrylic yarn in bulk, by the bag, and pay for shipping, and still get it for less.

In the meantime, I’m sitting on my couch, saying, what the hell is going on here?  I’m not actually PLANNING to knit this for her.  I gave her what I think is a reasonable estimation of what she might get asked for to cover materials, because she and I used to be good friends, and I don’t want her to feel stupid when she does start talking about price with someone.  Why are you debating me?  Why do you even care?

We spend the rest of the evening a little edgy with each other.  He was clearly teed off with me, and it bugged me that I cared, but I did.

The Anti-Climax:  Fast forward to this morning.  He sent me an email at work, with a breakdown of costs, for the same or similar acrylic yarn we were discussing last night, with the websites I could theoretically get it from, showing the cost for a bag (that has three times as much acrylic yarn as needed for a vest that I will never ever knit) being about a third of what I’d told my friend she could probably expect to be asked for to cover materials.

It really, truly left me shaking my head.

I emailed him back and said, you need to prove you’re right that badly that you would take time out of your workday to come up with that list? 

I would never question what his materials cost.  I’ve known him to use plum, rosewood, oak, cherry, apple, cedar, maple, black walnut,  sumac.  Some are found materials, some are purchased.  I would never question what his tools cost.  My father was a woodworker, and we used to get the Lee Valley catalogues.  Nor would I question what he rates his time as being worth.   When someone asks you to make something for them, and you quote them a price, and you put a value on not only your time, but also your years of experience and your toolbox, both of tools and of techniques.

Why you gotta be that guy?  You're NEVER (at least, in the ordinary sense of practically never) that guy.

It’s ridiculous for me to be this irritated, isn’t it?

Saturday, 30 November 2013


I love me some sparkle.

My maternal grandmother loved costume jewellery.  Whenever I was at her house when I was little, she would let me sift through the necklaces and bracelets and clip on earrings and adorn myself however I chose.  I would pile six necklaces on top of each other and put clip on earrings not only on my ears but in my hair as well, with bracelets laddering up both arms.  I would put on one of her wide brimmed hats and one of her gaudily flowered dresses and prance around in my finery.  But the real star of the show, as far as I was concerned, were the sparkling paste jewels I adored.

My mother is not a fan.  Maybe it skips a generation?  My daughters aren't big on sparkly stuff either.

In no particular order, here are some of my favourite pieces from my own collection of finery.

This necklace was a thrift-store find, and for $25, I could not walk away from it.  There is one more loop on each side of the citrines surrounded by the white aurora boreallis square stones, and then it becomes a single strand of the white stones all the way to the clasp.  It reminds me of a very similar piece my grandma had, except hers was blue instead of amber.

I bought this brooch, with matching earrings, from a school friend whose mother sold Avon when we were in grade school.  I lost one of the earrings, sadly.

A friend bought this for me as a birthday gift, about fifteen years ago.  She found it at at one of the stalls in Kensington Market.

I bought this brooch off ebay, many years ago now.  The stones have a coating of blue aurora borealis, and the layers of stones make it easy for things to get caught on it.  It's less green in real life, but I couldn't quite capture the colour.  I don't wear it as often as some of my other brooches, but I always get compliments on it.  At about four inches wide, it's pretty striking looking!

This is much more modern - the lilac is painted white over the metal, and the leaves are enamelled.  I wear this all spring on a denim blazer with a pashmina.

I bought this peridot brooch off ebay as well - in fact, I think it was one of the very first things I ever bought online.  The green is very fresh, and it sets off the aurora borealis stones so perfectly.

These earrings were a local thrift store find.  They are clip on earrings, and they are very tight, so I don't wear them often, but after I photographed them, I found myself in front of the mirror, putting them in my hair and preening just a little.

I love collecting sparkly things.  Seeing them, touching them, and especially wearing them, bring me a little closer to my beloved grandma, who died when I was fourteen after a double mastectomy.

No danger of the sincerest form of flattery

Today was mostly a pyjamas and lazy day.  I was out really late last night with friends, slept in this morning, and felt supremely unmotivated to do much of anything.  Hello, internet!

I was reading a thread on Ravelry where the person in question had asked a question about beading a particular shawl.  I’ve only beaded one knitted item, so I clicked the picture to find the project and read the description of beading. 

One of the great things about Ravelry (and I was tempted to leave my typo as Revelry) is that you can click names and get taken to that person’s profile.  I scrolled through her projects to find the shawl, and was glad to see that she had a few pictures of the shawl from different angles on a dress-form, styling it by draping or tying it in several ways.  She had written up a complete list of her modifications, including bead weight and placement, and a short how-to of the beading method she’d used.

I favourited the project and then jumped back to her project page.  It took a couple of minutes to load, as she had over a hundred projects listed, and as I scrolled through, admiring her photography and  the styling of the various items, which were mostly accessories, I found myself wondering about her wardrobe.  The wardrobe not shown, the one the accessories had been made to augment.

Almost everything had been made in a solid or semi-solid colour.   I compared her projects to mine, which are RARELY one colour.  I gravitate towards the variegated skeins, affectionately known in my group of knitterly friends as clown-barf.   I do own some semi-solids, but mostly not. 

Not only were they solid or semi-solid, they were almost universally neutral.  There were a couple of pops of orange and chartreuse, but overwhelmingly gray and navy and cream and camel.   I closed my eyes and let my brain free-associate.  

Classic.  Minimalist.  Zen.   Restful.

I even found myself imagining the knitter, because she does not appear in her project pictures.  In my mind’s eye, she was well-dressed.  Expensively dressed.  The close-ups of her knitting showed even, well-defined stitches, lace that had been blocked hard to show the beauty of the pattern, an appreciation of something well-made, of high quality materials and workmanship.  I went to her flickr account to see more of her knitting photos, and her photography is the same.  The background is not competing with the item.  Cream walls, blonde wood surface.  The items that are photographed with jewellery or other items are also chosen for the simplicity of the accent.  Pearls.  A single leaf.  Such precision.

I couldn’t help comparing my own photos to hers.  In the summer, most of mine tend to be outside.  Yarn nested in a container garden, which almost certainly has at least one bright flower.  Draped over chairs, or with a smiling kid modelling.  There’s a chaos about them.  A lot going on, visually.  And again, multicoloured yarns make multicoloured items.

I found myself, momentarily, feeling inadequate in comparison.

Fortunately, that feeling only lasted a minute or two.  I remembered that both knitting and photography make me happy.  Colour makes me happy.  So does movement, and the unexpectedness of things. 

I love to look at the beauty of a Japanese garden, but I would rather spend time in the overgrown English cottage garden in my own backyard. 

I could learn from this person, but I’ll never be her.  And I’m okay with that.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Plain, ordinary Friday

Another end of the week.  Lately I've had an extra reason to rejoice in Fridays.  One of my colleagues works a short week.  Friday is the day she isn't there.

When I first started working at the firm, I was taken around to meet people.  When I was introduced to her, I gave her a big smile and said, I understand you are the office guru in PC Law, so I hope it's okay while I'm learning the program if I can ask a couple of questions.  I like learning from the best!  She glared at me and said, are you making fun of me?  She told me later that since no-one in the office liked her, she was convinced I was mocking her.  I said, no, I was told you were very good in a program I had to learn.  I just wanted to, you know, say hi and make you feel good, maybe get our first meeting off to a good start?  Oh, she said.  I guess we'll see.

She's very confrontational.  VERY.  Over four years, I've watched her alienate almost everyone she's ever come into contact with.  The guy behind the counter of the corner store where she goes to buy smokes - one day she doesn't have money, asks if he can stand her purchase to the following day, he says no, she flips out, I'm never patronizing your store again,what good is it to be a regular if you don't get anything for it.  The guy at the post office.  The guy at the bar and grill across the street.  The guy at the sports bar a block away. The process server.  The dental hygienist.  The hairdresser.  

After four years, I may have finally crossed over into the group she actively dislikes, instead of just distrusts (which would be everyone that she doesn't actively dislike).  

The building our firm is located in has been up for sale for about six months.  This has made her edgy, from feeling like she has to be nice to the real estate agents bringing people through, to the outrage she feels about the managing partner selling the building he purchased from the older, retired partner and therefore in her eyes not respecting the history of the firm, which has been at this location for more than fifty years.  

The building sale went firm, and she and the lawyer she clerks for went to view a new set of offices.  When they came back, I asked her whether she'd liked them, which was apparently the wrong question.  She flipped her lid, and what I got out of it, beyond the swearing and the suggestion that I was information-gathering to take it back to the managing partner to use against her, instead of, you know, asking whether she liked the new office.  She put forth her speculations about the move and related matters down as fact, and chastised me for being too stupid to know the truth when it was right there in front of me.  

I really don't do well with confrontation, but I had surprisingly little difficulty responding politely and calmly, and then telling her I was turning my back on any further gesticulations or loud remarks.  And then doing it.  Which sent her over the edge anger-wise.  She has not spoken to me, unless there is absolutely no way around it, for at least two weeks. 

Most of the source of her panic, I think, comes from the sudden realization that her area of the firm and mine will be under different roofs.  I will be at the main office, quarterbacking, as the managing partner calls it, while she will be at a satellite office, and she will be in the position of having to assume some administrative duties which would normally fall under my umbrella.  The managing partner, however, has decided that she is capable of handling it, that it makes more sense for her to handle it, and so I will have almost no contact with her at all.  As much as you might think that would suit her down to the ground, it has had the exact opposite effect.

With the exception of her husband, I get the impression that I am virtually the only other person in her life who generally suffers her outbreaks of hostility and disagreeableness with a degree of tolerance.  Moving to a different office, she will have to cultivate a new punching bag.

Today, in a solo day at the office, I have had classical music and productivity and absolute quiet. Not a confrontation or unpleasant word in sight.

I have to admit, I really looking forward to this being the norm for the week, instead of just Fridays.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

My very first blog post ever

I was a very unassuming blogger when I first got the urge to write for an audience.  My sister-in-law (the one who defriended me, if you’re a reader of past posts, based on our differing opinions of parenting) was very internet-savvy, as the company she worked for was internet-based, while I was a stay-at-home mom, and my familiarity with the internet had more to do with stuff you did online.  The extent of what I was doing online was banking, ebay and the odd magazine website.  She was, indirectly, the reason I started what I thought of at the time as blogging.

She used to post pictures of herself, her husband, house and garden on her MySpace account, but as you may have gathered, was overly protective of her son, so she would email those to us.  The tipping point for her was a poorly-worded comment on one of her photos – her hubby rode a Harley, and they actually got married in Sturgis during the Rally one year, and she had uploaded some photos of the two of them.  As someone who fancied herself an almost-professional photographer, with a good eye for composition and a knack for candids, she was taken aback when someone posted the comment “SHOW US YOUR T*TS!” on one of her Harley rally photos.

Now, I’ve never been to Sturgis, and I’ve only ever ridden on the back of my dad’s Harley, but even I knew that the sentiment expressed is pretty typical for Harley riders, and not intended to target any particular female.  She, however, did not look at it that way, and immediately panicked.  MySpace did not have suitable privacy capabilities.  OMG, wherever can I ever feel safe posting pictures on the internets? *back of hand to forehead*

All of us subsequently received invitations to sign up for Facebook.  I did a bit of reading about it, and I kind of liked the idea.  A private place to share photos and exchange news – sounds great!

I signed up for a Facebook account over Christmas break, 2006.   As the family photographer for my branch of the family tree, I didn’t have a current photo of myself, so I made a mostly accurate picture of myself (or one that would have been accurate if I was a fifteen year old stick bug - similar glasses and hairstyle to mine, and wearing clothes I would wear if I was, as I said, a stick bug) using my daughters’ favourite website, Doll Maker, and started exploring the world according to Mark Zuckerberg.

It didn’t take me long to find the “Notes” feature.  I didn’t know how other people used it, but to me, it seemed like the perfect vehicle to post my scribbles to a captive audience of “friends”.  At that time, and into at least March of 2007, my friends list was about six people max, five of them being family much younger than me.  My very first blog post was written on January 5, 2007 entitled “Looking back on 2006...” with a companion piece later that day, “...and looking forward to 2007”.

Rereading the two, I have to roll my eyes at the second one and say, yeah, I’d probably still do that in exactly the same way.  I commented, among other things, about new slang that was reputedly about to become popular.  Hindsight matched my prediction – none of it did.  In the first one, I make some remarks on a few life events, including my love of the way I was changing my body via Turbo Jam, my regret for neglecting the garden I loved due to two dragged-out family deaths that summer, and the raw feeling I still had about the death of one of them, my paternal grandmother (who died on my son's fourth birthday), which I would also expect as the kind of retrospective I could still see myself writing.

I’ve reread this post a few times over the past ten or fifteen minutes, and there is something driving me more than a little nuts.  Here’s what I wrote, as a retrospective regret:

*Having to admit to myself that I don't try nearly as hard as I think I do to understand people & stay connected to them. For example, last year I lost someone I love, maybe forever, because I was only listening to what I thought she was saying, not what she meant, and reacted accordingly. Hopefully I will have a chance to right that wrong soon.

I have been racking (wracking? spent ten minutes trying to decide if by that word it’s better to allude to stretching/draining or torturing/punishing) my brain to remember who it is that I’m referring to within the context of this regret. 

I’ve scanned my digital photos from that year.  Almost a thousand.

I searched 2006 in my gmail inbox saved emails. A dozen or so over two hundred.

I’ve spent the last half hour trying to recapture the sense and flavour of things I would have done, either with my family or without, in that year.

I CANNOT remember who it is that I felt I’d loved, and lost.  I haven't got a clue who I'm referring to.

Since then, I’ve written 162 notes on Facebook.  A few have been cross posted here, although most have not, since “here” has only existed for a year.  My friends list has grown from six to over five hundred, and I feel genuinely indulged when I get comments or likes.  In some ways it’s easier, in some, harder.

Regardless, I’m still writing.  To those I’ve forgotten, to those I remember, and to those I’ve yet to meet.  

You inspire me.  Always have.  Always will.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The makings of a duster

A few days, maybe a week ago, I posted about a dress I picked up intending to make a duster, and the other dress I found later that was maybe perhaps the exact thing I was looking for to complete it.

Because of internet connection problems, I missed a couple of posts (because I declared my intention of one post per day for NaNoBloMo), and I thought I might catch one up by posting the photos of the actual dresses.

Here's the skirt of the dress that screamed DUSTER to me.  I can't get the whole dress into the frame against a plain background, so I decided to photograph the skirt, which is most of the reason the dress appealed to me in the first place.

You can't tell from the picture, but the points are actually uneven (different lengths and widths), and I love the lettuce edging.  It adds to the ethereal, floaty quality of the floral pattern, and the fabric.

This is the second dress.  I LOVE this crinkled satiny fabric, and the contrast edging.

A close-up of the hemline, which gives a better sense of the texture of the fabric, and also the colour.

And the two dresses together.  I took this one from the top, so less focus on the skirts.  I wanted to highlight the contrast edging of the second dress, and the way the colours are SO! PERFECT! together.

I have to admit, I'm a little apprehensive about cutting into either one of them.  Almost all of the sewing I've ever done has been from fabric off a bolt of fabric (where, if I make a mistake, I can, you know, buy more), or making something small out of something larger.

I know it's just fabric, and if I plan and measure and am careful, there's no reason that the very persistent image that's in my head of this beautiful long faery duster can't come to life.

It's just that first cut, you know?