Post #1999: Partying like it’s…..

So my birthday was yesterday, and contrary to the title of this post, I did not party like it was 1999. Instead, Brian and I rode bikes to Granville Island (16 km round trip), ate healthy and awesome lunches at Edible Canada, and then had a nice seafood dinner to cap off the day. Some spinning, weaving and crocheting took place – because it was that kind of day (a really great one!)

I’ve taken the whole week off work – because I really felt like I needed a break on my own, to make things and organize myself around that for a few days. Work has been a real drag lately and I had a lot of banked vacation time – so I figured I would treat myself and take it. Yay!

One of my main goals this week is to the get that loom pictured above from Coquitlam to my home in East Vancouver. That’s my other big news from the weekend — I bought myself a floor loom!

This is an unbranded loom, built in Nova Scotia in 1973 (year of my birth!) by a draft dodger and his wife who were back-to-the-landing and trying to make a go of things in general. The woman I am buying from has had the loom since she was a young woman, and is now downsizing after a lifetime of weaving and some fibre business she ran on the side. In addition to the loom she threw in three garbage bags of merino roving and worsted weight yarns. I’m trying to get rid of the roving (it’s way more than Brian could ever spin in a lifetime) but the yarn I’ll use for practice weaving once I get the loom. I’ve bagged everything in ziplocs for the time being so as not to risk moth infestation… and tucked it all away in the hopes that some fibre artists will take the roving off my hands shortly (I’m giving it away, so that helps I suppose).

I have to admit that I am a bit afraid of this loom – it’s so big and solid! I can’t really imagine getting it set up and weaving on it. On the other hand, I’m ridiculously excited to get going. I’ll probably just set up a very simple sampler first thing (I’ve got *so* much practice yarn) to get accustomed to all the moving parts and the challenge of dressing it – but then I want to make all the things!

I’ll post more pictures once it’s actually in my home and set up – but for now I’ve got some other making to focus on…. and my sewing room is calling.


Post 1998: This is my coast

This rainy day photograph taken near the ferry in Brentwood Bay, BC – an old-school boat building set-up on the water. I grew up not far from here, and I feel torn about moving back one day. I miss this part of the island of my birth. At the same time I’m afraid it will feel too insular after spending years in the city. It’s not a decision that I have to make right now, but it’s out there as part of my future thinking. At least I have many family and friends there who I travel to see regularly – in this way I am always in touch with the Island.


Post #1997: Starting a garden again

It feels like a million years since I last posted about gardening. That’s partly because it’s wintertime, but also – I haven’t had strong feelings about my garden for the past couple of years. When we moved into our house seven years ago, we immediately tore up the backyard and installed garden boxes, and have added trees, perennials, and ornaments to our garden space each year since. But while it’s got many fabulous qualities (sitting out on warm summer evenings surrounded by our lush veggie boxes is one of my great pleasures), there are some things about our original plan which just didn’t work as much as I wanted them to.

For one thing, we have a North-facing yard which gets some decent light towards the back (away from the house) but around the house itself is in shade most of the time. I had tried to compensate for this by planting greens in the boxes closest to the house, but the difference between the boxes which get good light, and those which don’t points to a lot of wasted effort in planting and maintaining things which will not grow well no matter what I do. On the other hand, our BBQ sits over on the brick patio near our studio, which gets so hot in the summer that cooking is miserable in that space.

So we’re going to switch things up this year with the goal of bringing more functionality to our yard space, in addition to replacing our garden boxes which have started to fall apart (not bad for a bunch of cedar fencing that I bought cheap on Craigslist – we got six years out of it!). We are so far planning to:

  • tear down the current garden boxes
  • build a new set of boxes
  • build a deck on the cool side of the yard with room for the bbq
  • refill all boxes with new soil
  • remulch
  • build some garden furniture for the deck and sitting area

This is a lot of work, obviously, and there’s a part of me that knows that we can’t do everything this year. But that won’t stop me from trying. I’d also like to configure a new, small water feature since it’s so good for the backyard birds and insects to have flowing water around and my current water bowl is cracked and doesn’t hold liquid anymore.

I’m looking forward to a bit of a refresh in hopes of creating more usable space for hanging out, while also maintaining some of the food-growing potential that the sunnier part of the yard holds. More on this subject soon as I plan to measure and draw up plans later on this week!


Post #1996: To purchase a loom and other weaving thoughts

I am in the midst of trying to purchase a weaving loom, and like any large (expensive) purchase – it’s been giving me a bit of a headache the last few days. Nothing dramatic, of course, but lots to ponder and learn!

While I am only a month into learning to weave, I am fairly certain that even as I sweat over the warping process and drive myself crazy with colour theory, this is something I am going to continue doing. Not only that, I am already feeling limited by the small table loom I am working on and eager to sit down at a full floor loom with a full range of project capacity before me. The small loom is great for learning on, and I am quite content making samplers to explore colour and texture at the moment, but there will come a time when I want to make more than a scarf!

There are so many considerations when one is buying a first loom such as:

  • what types of items will I want to weave?
  • how much space do I have for a loom in my home?
  • can I put together a loom that comes in pieces/components?
  • how many shafts, treadles, what weaving width is preferable?
  • am I looking for portability?
  • will the loom fit through the doorway where I want to set it up?

Etc. I want to put the loom in our large upstairs bed and sitting room because it is where we have the most space, and the best light – but that means moving something through a 2 foot wide door or bringing it in pieces and setting it up. Also, some looms are really heavy which is great for keeping things still when weaving, but not great for moving it around.

In addition to all of the above, I’ve found that trying to purchase a loom second hand (my preference at the moment due to cost and ecological considerations) is a bit of a hinky affair since 1) there have been many small, independent loom makers over the last century in North America and it’s hard to find out info about some loom makers, and 2) lots of people selling looms on Craigslist or Kijiji are selling them for someone else (often deceased or in a home) and don’t know what they are selling. Manufacturers like Leclerc have many different models that have been on the Canadian market but they simply stamp their looms Nilus or Leclerc and not with the actual model name – so people will advertise that they have a Nilus when in fact it is a Mira and so forth.

This is no one’s fault – it’s just the way things are – and purchasing anything secondhand is always a bit more legwork on the front end to get the deal. I’m game and I don’t mind writing to people and doing the work to figure things out.

Thus far I’ve decided on a 45 inch 4/shaft floor loom for now – after briefly considering a much smaller loom over the weekend – because I don’t like the idea of being limited right off the bat. If I find that I also want to be able to do some weaving at the cabin or take workshops, I will likely invest in an 8-shaft table loom at some point in the future – and I plan to make myself a little frame loom and a pin loom to play with simple weave structures on as well. But right at the moment I’m obsessed with the idea of a floor loom and so I’ve been looking at the boards everyday for a few weeks. I have an appointment this Sunday to look at a loom made by a Nova Scotia craftsperson in the year I was born (1973) which I feel has good juju attached since I’m going to look just the day before my birthday. It’s in my price range and has a nice look about it so I’ll have to sit down and see how it feels (and make sure it has all the essential parts intact).

In the meantime, I’ve warped my rental loom for a second time (mostly by myself) and I’m ready to start my second weaving sampler with a focus on colour combinations and weaving in different material. I’m starting to understand how to read a pattern draft and I’ve got myself a couple of excellent books that I’m sure I will use for a long time into the future. These are:

The first is a real instructional, with lots of pictures and skill-building lessons. The second is a pattern encyclopedia with over 600 weave patterns for the 4-shaft loom. So far I’ve referenced both of them about a hundred times – I kept the first one open beside me throughout the warping process last night, just in case I couldn’t entirely remember what I was doing.

And just to finish off, here’s a little stash of weaving fibre just waiting for me to finish work today!



Post #1995: A recap of month one

My key words for 2016 (as recorded in my Year Compass) are “Movement. Motion. Mobilizing,” which is what I wrote in response to the request for a single word to describe what I wanted. It seemed like this was one word, but broken out into different aspects of the same forward-momentum that I am hoping to manifest in regards to my career, my physical activity, and my creative life. I feel like last year was more of a “sit still and listen” kind of time for me, which lead to a deepening of my meditation practice and decision to enter into more serious zen study. While I don’t want to let go of that, I also feel a bit of a push to explore in different ways and so far, I feel like I’m on that track:

  • I keep reviewing the job boards, and applied for something at another agency earlier this month. More interesting though, are the conversations that I am having inside my organization about the need for certain kinds of roles and my suitability for those roles. My goal is to get to the end of this year with something firmed up on the career/role front since my assignment ends early in 2017 and I don’t want to go back to my old position.
  • IMG_20160124_091121124We’ve been snowshoeing at the cabin! Something I have been aching to do since December.
  • I started cycling to work last week – did three days, and three days this week. I expect next week I’ll be able to do four (Thursdays are not possible at the moment due to my weaving class).
  • I’m doing a bit of community mobilizing around refugee support and neighbourhood building.
  • I’ve finally finished my first knitted sweater, started sewing on the baby quilt, started a crochet blanket, and am working on my second knitted legwarmer… but most excitingly:
  • I’m learning how to weave! And this has turned out to be a greater pleasure than I had imagined it would be. Learning a new art form is always interesting, but there is something deeply compelling about the way that two layers of yarn/string/thread meet to form patterns and I have fallen down the rabbit hole of learning. So much so that I am in the market for a floor loom and learning all about that. I plan to write a bit more about this process shortly – but suffice to say that this is fast becoming a significant interest even as I realize I probably don’t have time to make all the things!

I have also instituted a couple of daily habits so far that are really working for me and I hope to keep them up through the year:

  • Reading five pages of a book per day: I know this seems like a small daily reading goal, but for the last few years I have not been reading as much as I would like and I realized that whatever page number I set had to fit in with the actual reality of my life. I can always find time for five pages – and the act of picking up a book instead of going to my computer, means that I’m much more likely to read beyond that first five pages. Between this habit, and purchasing a wrist watch in 2015, I find myself turning to the devices a lot less (the wrist watch means that I don’t use my phone as a time piece and therefore am not looking at it nearly as often).
  • Recording the basics of each day in a daytimer: Each night I am writing down the major activities of my day – including cuddling, crafting, making dinner, cycling – as a way of looking at the balance of what I am prioritizing in my life. It allows me to adjust or notice patterns if, for example, time with my partner is being crowded out by other things (which it currently is, though some time off coming up will help shift that).

The idea really is to keep my activity level at a pace that is enjoyable to me without letting things slide into being overwhelming. I find this to be a tricky tension to maintain, but am bringing my attention to exactly that as I move forward towards month two (and my birthday) of 2016.


Post #1994: The crows I know

The crows outside our home in the giant beech trees were numerous and truly magnificent yesterday. Just the few photos and bit of video I shot feels like it could provide art fodder for months – and while I don’t have a lot of extra brain-space for artmaking at the moment, I am collecting bits and pieces and imagining constructions of paper, textile, text, stitch and yarn.

Something sticking with me these days is the following exchange that took place at the end of meditation retreat in November:

Student:”I have too many things going on in my life, what should I give up?”
Teacher: “You should give up the feeling that you have too many things going on in your life.

I’m riding with that. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the “too many things” I am recognizing that my attention is focused where I want it to be right now – we give priority to what currently matters, and that the idea that we “should” be doing something different with our time (or not doing as much) is just another problematic construct. And while that is true, it is also important to sit quietly as often as possible to let the priorities filter through. And so I am busy, but I am sitting every morning. I have full days, but there are always special moments with Brian – every day – for cuddling and love affirmation. My schedule is wall to wall, but it is full of social events, learning activity, community building, and as much making-work as I can fit in (even if it’s on the margins sometimes).

So right now I am not making art, but I am making life every day – showing up in the spirit of living as much as I can.

I had a meditation teacher who likened our internal critical voice to crows. Pick, pick, pick – he said – that’s what we’re like when we judge ourselves and others. I’m taking that to heart as much as I can. Keeping the crows outside where they belong. In the trees above our house.




Post #1993: Days like these…..

My days lately have been full from start to finish. Get up early, meditate, get to work, do something after work (weaving class, group meditation, date with family, refugee sponsorship meeting), bedtime story, sleep. And again, and again, and again. It’s tiring me out, but I have the desire to do all the things and so right now, that’s what’s happening. All the things, that is.

For example, on the weekend we went to the cabin with our friend Jon for snowshoeing, hanging out, and cooking on the woodstove. The photo above is of the coziness that is our unfinished cabin – which gets mighty warm with the woodstove these days, even when we’re surrounded by two feet of snow. The snowshoeing was superb, by the way, about as good as it gets with fresh snow, solidly frozen lakes to snowshoe across, and almost no other people out at the lake.

Secret Lake in the snow (B&W)

While we were up there, I started a new blanket project – something simple that I could do without thinking about it too much and that would use up a schwack of yarn that I bought for an (failed) afghan project last year. Turned out that I don’t like Tunisian crochet very much, and I’m not good enough at it to get all my squares uniform, so that was going nowhere fast. Instead I’ve taken up the Rugged Ripple pattern in standard crochet and I’ve got three inches of blanket done already (I’ve got more done since taking this progress shot on Saturday):

Rugged Ripples is a free pattern on Ravelry by Stephanie Gage. I’m working it in Cascade 220 Superwash (Worsted).

In addition to that, I’ve been working on my weaving a bit this week also. While this photo is a bit blurry, you can see here three different weave  patterns as I’m working on a sample (a somewhat chaotic sampler because I’m just trying things out):


First weaving project. Yarn by Briggs and Little – Heritage.

And in non-project news, I’ve been learning to ride a bike again. I’ll write more about that soon – but I’ve got this super-long to-do list at work and no more time for posting – because my days are full from top to bottom right now, with very little time in between.




Post 1991: Sitting with discomfort.

If meditation has taught me one thing (or started to anyhow), it’s that sitting with discomfort is possible. And more than that, it’s often desirable. When we sit with discomfort without immediately trying to rectify it, we learn more about the cause, and we stop ourselves from doing more damage in the process of trying to fix it. I think about this a lot, both when I am successful at not responding to a trigger, and when I am not. Especially when I am not.

After two (plus) years of meditating through illness, exhaustion, and occasional distress, I’ve noticed bit by bit, that it’s become easier to be uncomfortable psychically and physically in my everyday life. I don’t mind being caught out in the rain quite as much, I don’t have to scratch every itch, I don’t have to respond to every hurting thing. It makes it easier for me to imagine riding my bike to work in the winter, I don’t care so much about letting go of friendships that have gone sour. Which isn’t to say that none of these things affect me – I am no master of detachment after all! But I am a little less impacted, and when any feeling (good or bad) arises, I am able to mind the state I’m in with greater attention. Not to mention with wider perspective. Which in itself is a kind of relief – this ability to get outside of my own state a little bit and just witness it.

And speaking of meditation – is there anything more zen than a heron? I think not.


Photos taken at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Ladner, BC this past weekend.

Post 1990: First finished of the new year (sweater!)

IMG_20160111_213516It still needs a soak and a blocking, but I’m proud to announce the finishing of my first-even knitted sweater! I’ve crocheted a few (three successful, one not so much), but I really wanted to get a knit sweater under my belt since learning how to knit in June (I started the sweater in August). This has some issues – I’m not sure what exactly possessed me to start with a fingering weight pattern on size three needles as my first project – and you can see a map of my stitching improving as I go. But it’s *so* soft (Cascade Heritage) and it fits me in a nice, relaxed way. The sleeves are longer than the pattern called for (I believe it should have had 3/4 sleeves) so I really should have done another couple decrease rounds on the sleeves towards the wrist – but I do like that they are loose and easily rolled up.

All in all, this sweater makes me happy, and though it won’t win any knitting awards, it has an immediate spot in my wardrobe. Now that this is finished, I get to start on my next sweater project which I am lucky enough to be knitting in Brooklyn Tweed (for my husband’s birthday in May). Between that and working on the second Aspen legwarmer, I’ve got my needles pretty full for awhile.