Post #1983: Potential new spring frocks

I ordered these patterns as a birthday gift to myself and they arrived last night. Apparently the fabric I ordered to go along with them is on its way today (UPS). Guess I better get my current sewing project on the go so I can get these into my wardrobe. Feeling a serious need for some new spring frocks given the turn of weather here over the last few weeks (I know, I shouldn’t fall for the false spring but it’s impossible not to – I so much want to believe that the rains are over.

My plan for the weekend is gardening because the weather looks to be fine for it – mostly I need to clean up the garden I left in disarray last fall – but I also might try and sneak some arugula, corn salad, radish and spinach seeds in there – or at least the first two, leaving the last off until next weekend when we are actually into March. Really, the emphasis is on the clean-up because things are a mess. Anyhow, it may not be spring yet, but I’m getting myself all ready for it just the same.


Post #1982: Cabin building season is coming again!

I have to admit that the coming of spring weather has renewed my cabin obsession; after months of not being able to go up there (since October, because it’s not winterized yet) I find myself thinking about our place outside of Princeton non-stop. Brian and I plan to go in two weeks time for an overnight to take some things up and assess where we are at for clean-up of the site, and then spend the Easter long weekend there doing work, whatever work we can do pre-insulation and pre-framing-inspection. There are still a lot of steps between here and finished and it’s hard for me to discern the order at times. In any case, I’ve spent at least part of the day googling cabin interiors with an emphasis on planks and reclaimed wood. We are not going to get to interior finishing this summer, though I am hopeful that all exterior siding, rails and interior insulating will be done. (We just heard back from our woodstove guy also and he says if the snow melt up there continues he will be able to get our woodstove in by the time we visit in two weeks. I hope that’s so or otherwise it’s going to be a bit cold.)

This spring I am also planning on putting a wash station together for the outhouse, install a rain barrel installed on that structure, plant some shrubbery around the base, and build a small meditation shelter at the top of our property. Now that I write all that out, I’m getting mitre saw angst – mine is such a beastly, ancient thing (vintage 1970s, my dad gave it to me and it’s a workhorse but so damned heavy – yes I know everything was made so much better without plastic but it’s also impossible to move my mitre saw around without developing a hernia – I seem to remember that the same was true for the Husqavarna sewing machine that was passed down by my mother).

Anyhow, I’ve started a cabin design and decorating Pinterest board which I hope will at least channel my little obsession until I get up there and start doing some work again.



Post # 1981: Birthday week

Two weekends ago I turned forty-two and recorded the better part of an album in two days on the Sunshine Coast. I then took all of last week off work. Since then I have finished sewing a blouse, finished crocheting a sweater, cleaned my house, went to Vancouver island for two nights, lead a meditation class, had a long visit with my mom, attended a dharma talk and ritual commemorating the Buddha’s life, and attended a concert at the Chan Centre. After all that, I have to admit that I had a really hard time caring at work today.


Post #1980: This little frog is a bit of garden magic

Someone left a frog on the edge of our front yard pond and for a moment this morning, my partner thought it was a real frog. Hooray! Isn’t that a little bit of fun :) The pond is very small, but it is a fascination to the little kids on walks with their moms – probably it’s the turtle fountain that shoots water – but it could just be that our yard feels cozy and inviting. I want to do a lot more planting in it come this spring – plus add some more little features. The front yard has been a long work in progress – I sometimes wish I had a few thousand dollars to throw at it and just get it done – but instead I pick away at it a bit year by year.  I see that one of the houses on our block is slated to be torn down and I’ve got a mind to knock on the door and ask if I can dig up the plants in the front yard to fill mine with.




Post #1979: Sometimes it is very hard not to buy new yarn

I’m 80% of the way to finishing a cardigan crocheted with the above pictured yarn and I am already thinking about buy new yarn for the next project. Thing is, I have at least two sweater-quantities of yarn in my stash and I am attempting to stay on my stash-busting track to use those before purchasing anything new. As I mentioned yesterday, I have the same goal for fabric – I simply do not need to stockpile anymore. And yet I still find myself perusing and pinning items that I would like to have, that I plan on making something with. I’m lucky this week that the Canadian dollar has taken such a significant tumble

I have to admit, probably the only thing which has held me back from buying new yarn or fabric this week is the collapsing Canadian dollar. which makes online purchasing way less attractive. As the prices on imported goods start to climb (and they will, it’s only a matter of time), all purchasing of non-necessities is going to look pretty unattractive…. (and that is the sound of a contracting Canadian economy, right there).

This is helpful to me at the moment, it really is, because one of my big focal points at the moment is to pay down the line of credit that we’ve racked up over the last two years with our land purchase and cabin building project. Going back to work full time has definitely been helping with that, but also since November I’ve been strictly budgeting myself (not counting the new violin purchase) each month using a program called You Need a Budget which my friend Emily introduced me to. Using this system, I set all spending allotments on the home computer, and then track incoming and outgoing money using a simple phone app which helps me notice what (junk) I am spending my money on as well as how much I have left in each of my budget line items. While I think the budgeting system has some flaws, it’s the best one I’ve found to date and I’ve found that I’m able to use it consistently which is the point.

I know I said that I wasn’t going to go on a tracking kick this year, but this is one of my concessions. Since using the app I have managed to pay off my credit card entirely and make a few decent payments onto the line of credit – which I wasn’t doing before, even at the same income level. YNAB is at least partially responsible for this shift – though I have to say that another aspect is that outside of fabric and yarn for making things, I have experienced a serious decline in my interest in stuff over the past few years. Not that I have ever been much for shopping, but I’ve become increasingly stressed by just owning things even if they come into my life for free.

This sounds hypocritical, coming from someone building a second dwelling structure (shared, but still, not a necessity by a long shot), but it’s not! (Or maybe it is, but hear me out). One thing that budgeting and thinking about consumption patterns has really helped me to think about (and I know my partner has similar feelings about this which is why we do so well together) is how and when I do like to spend money. While I absolutely *hate* purchasing clothing, I love doing a big, bulk grocery shop that ensures my family and friends will be able to eat well even if there is an emergency. I can’t stand household knick-knacks, but it’s imperative that I have enough dishes to feet thirty people at one sitting. That cabin is somewhat similar in that I will forgo a whole lot of mindless going out, driving around, purchasing new household items, etc – in order to create a space for people to gather outside of the city. It’s pretty much all I envision doing outside of making things – insuring that the space is there for friends to gather, rest, recharge and face the world again. And of course one can do that without owning property – but my dreams always include a place to which people add on as the years go by – their footsteps and photographs, the cracks and the scrapes which come along the way. That we come to know a place by all the people who dwell there and pass through over time.

I have been missing our land and our cabin all winter, since we are not built to a state where the cabin is usable and the winter has been somewhat cold and snowy (not to mention the fact our woodstove never did get installed in the spring). I’m hoping we will get up there as soon as March, even though work won’t begin again until we are firmly in the spring. This gives me at least three more months of payments before we start spending off the line of credit again…..



Post 1978: After a bit of an absence

I’ve been here all along, but things have been busy what with my boss quitting the day after I last posted January and me taking on his job temporarily while they search out a replacement. Not to mention the fact that this week I wrote my last significant piece of writing for my graduate program and now simply must attend two more months of classes in order to finish this spring. And I’m reading Proust, leading weekly meditation, attempting to go to the Zendo regularly , and spending more intentional time with my partner – all of which has short-circuited my ability to just sit down here and say hello, how is it going out there?

What is true, however, is that my boss’s absence has given me a reprieve from a certain kind of stress that was crushing me in December, and in fact I’ve come to know that I actually have been doing his job in all its facets for the past six months, which gives rise to a certain satisfaction but also a certain anger. I feel most outraged at the fact that while he was doing no work (and collecting a large salary), literally closing his door and pretending to be in meetings or on the phone when he wasn’t, he would routinely call me into the office to critique the members of my team who were performing their job duties – for not being “ambitious” enough, for thinking too much about their life outside of work and not being focused on advancement, and so on. And then he would tell me how hard he had worked to get to where he was, which wasn’t at all true, as evidenced by the fact that when he left our office a few weeks ago there wasn’t a single file handed over in transition. It’s more than a little shocking – despite all the jokes about public servants not working, I don’t find that to be at all true – though obviously this manager believed it should be.

In any case, I am in three roles at the same time, but it is actually very quiet at the moment and so my team is in a state of calming recovery after the boss’s departure. I just hope that our next director will be a stronger leader with a better work ethic. You never really do know what’s coming next in these situations.

amy_butler_violette_home_dec_sateen_idyll_sateen_in_roseThe photo up above is the shawl that I finished earlier this month, and I am currently working on a sweater that I hope to pair with a new dress (fabric still to be chosen). The dress that I posted about last time has become my favourite meditating and lounging staple – being too shapeless for much of an out and about dress – I love it so much I am going to make another in solid black for a more formal meditation garment. As noted in my year-end post I started off 2015 with a vow that this would be the year of no lists, no tracking, no sweating over what I am and am not doing – and so I am choosing projects as I feel the need for them rather than making big lists of what I am going to do. These lists just cause pressure in my life and I have seen how often they do not facilitate getting more done or in a more organized fashion. I am also trying to use up fabric and yarn in my stash so as to clear out the old and be more intentional about what comes in. I did just buy some of the Amy Butler print pictured at right – out of which I will make a new spring coat. I fear it might be too garish for me – but I do love the colours. We’ll have to see how that turns out.

It feels like spring here today, which it most decidedly is not! We often get a false spring just before the second phase of winter kicks in…. but I will be using this reprieve from the rain to get a bit of tidy-up done in the garden on the weekend. I was occupied with other things in the fall and I didn’t get as tidied up as I would have liked. It will be good to get my hands in the dirt again.




Post #1977: In which a vaccine reaction gives me an excuse to stay home and sew.


On Monday night I got myself vaccinated against the flu, something I have been meaning to do since October, but has now become a necessity since I will be travelling to Ottawa on Sunday. Nothing like an airplane to breed illness after all.

But because I have a super-good immune system, vaccinations pretty much always knock me out. That is, the immune system goes into overdrive making the antibodies and then I get tired (and) in the case of the flu vaccine – achy. Not terribly so of course, nothing like having the actual flu – but enough that on Tuesday I stayed home, took a lot of ibuprofen, and lounged around the house.

For the first time early December I had a quiet house to myself all day – and it was glorious! I spent at least half of my day listening to an audiobook and sewing – I’ve had an itch to make some new clothes lately.

Between Tuesday and two evenings I finished the Capuccino Dress pictured here… even handpicking the hem so it would be invisible. This is a muslin project really, to test the pattern and the fit, and as such it cost me approximately $15 in materials. Although it turns out that the fit is just fine, I don’t love the cut on me – too shapeless for my figure (unfortunately because what a cute dress)! Also, I should know better than to wear anything with gathers at the neckline with my bust!

Even so, I wore it to work today with a cardigan – because all dresses look better with a cardigan in my opinion.

I’m just feeling glad that for the first time in ages I got a chance to make something, even if it didn’t turn out to be something that I love. Each thing I make is one more set of learning tools for the next thing – and without a doubt, clothing is the most challenging of all. This project taught me invisible hemming and properly turned cuffs – and those are both pretty versatile skills.

Pretty soon I will be turning a work corner which should mean – more time for other things – and as I am itching for new clothes, sewing must definitely be on that agenda.


Post #1976: Taking a whole lunch hour

I took a lunch break today and worked on the shawl pictured with this post – an afghany thing made of flower motifs that I’ve been working on through the holidays. It felt good to take my scheduled hour off, even in the midst of a long to-do list, because I’ve realized that if I truly am going to make space in my life so that I don’t go crazy, it means taking my entitled breaks. This is not quite a first during my job life – I used to go to the gym on my lunch hours – but once I stopped doing that, it seemed wrong to take time off mid-day at all.

I’m going to try to make this a habit for the next little while, see if it helps me with this focus on time and space for other things (like crochet, and walks, and meditation classes).



Post #1975: Five (six) favourite makes from 2014

dalahorsedetailThis might very well be my favourite make of 2014 – a Dala horse, hand sewn for my 3-year-old (horse-crazy) niece Grace. While she is much too young to appreciate such an endeavour – I will point out to you that the saddle is English-paper-pieced hand-piecing and took me about 8 hours to do… but that’s not my favourite part. What I fell in love with is the embellished “straps” crafted from felt, ribbon, buttons and red embroidery thread. Something about that piece makes this little treat all the more lovable to me.

The pattern for this came from Love Patchwork and Quilting out of the UK – same folks who publish Mollie Makes and a host of other great magazines for makers.

2014 was a pretty good year for making things all around – despite the fact that work and other things (like cabin-building) have kept me very busy. I haven’t always been good about posting the handmade things here, unfortunately, as it wasn’t a really great year for blogging and I often just threw photos up on Facebook instead of logging in here. (Part of that was related to a firewall issue at work that made it difficult to post photos to my wordpress posts – this seems to have been resolved recently).

A few of my other favourite makes from the year are posted below – these are the items that I fell in love with – but not an exhaustive list of them. As I winnow away at my disappointment at not being “perfect” in my hand work (because I am not, will never be, don’t need to be) I find a great deal of enjoyment in most of the articles I complete. Probably the area where I feel the least satisfied in the last year is on the clothing front. I just didn’t give myself enough space to make clothing which requires nitpicking with sizing and patterns – and thus aside from one sweater and a tank top, most of the garments were pretty forgettable.

So what were my top five makes from 2014 aside from the Dala horse?


This isn’t a fabric make – but something that came to me at the end of the year in a flurry of Christmas inspiration – why not make my own tonic syrup? And so I did, and it is lovely. One bottle got polished off the first day I mixed it up and I’ve got another couple awaiting me for new year’s eve! Cinchona bark is the active/main ingredient here, which I had to order a pound of from the wholesale supply. What that means is that I now have enough raw material for a hundred litres of syrup!


Every time I look at these curtains on either end of our large and bright bedroom, I am so pleased with them – the lightness, the fit with our space and the landscape outside, and the atypical nature of half-curtains in a bedroom (we can’t block the light from outside due to skylights anyway). These replaced some falling apart blinds and sheers on the other window and were exactly the right choice.


Of course the new quilt and pillow shams made early in the year have to go on my favourites list – we have slept with these items ever since they first went on the bed!


This quilt was a gift for our friends Sam and Caelie who got married in the summer. I love having friends who inspire me to make a quilt for them. It doesn’t happen very often – only very special people can encourage such an urge.


These owl totes have been in continuous use ever since I stitched them up in the summer. Denim and canvas – they are sturdy and large (plus I made the handles large enough to sling across my body). I carry one of these to work everyday, two on shopping day.


There are, of course, many things that took much time and did not make it up here today (like the lace table runner I spent four months crocheting) – and it’s not because they are lesser projects. Just that some things catch me with a particular appreciation – and they do tend to be the things I use everyday – the marriage of utility and aesthetics striking a deeper chord in me. I feel very lucky that I fell into this form of hobby almost ten years ago (spring of 2005 to be exact) – something I never could have envisioned that has brought me a more comforting home and a more aesthetic life.

Happy New Year to all of you! I encourage you to find beauty and new projects in 2015 – light in a sometimes dark world. xo


Post #1974: In 2015, let there be air.

I came to work this morning and I cried. I want to say that I don’t know why that happened, but I do — it’s because I’m working two jobs at the same time and I’ve got a crazy to-do list full of things I don’t feel like doing. Also, I always feel crappy post-Christmas – too much sugar and not enough good sleeps. I am hoping that despite hosting a big NYE party this week, I will rediscover my equilibrium shortly and enter 2015 with good feelings instead of the dread that comes with being overbooked and overworked.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I want to stop doing things! I am one of those people who likes to do things, see people, get involved in my community – and so on. But I’ve felt recently like I’m doing too much of the wrong things – things which burn me out and leave me frustrated (like work) – instead of enjoying time with myself and others.

For 2015 I want my focus to be on finding space – in my words, my actions, and my life. Not space so that I can do more, track more, be more – but space, for the sake of space. I plan to attend a meditation retreat in May, take more long weekends this summer to work on the cabin, and allow myself time to go to the zendo for formal meditation practice. I have recently realized that being outside frequently is not a “luxury” but a necessity, and in 2015 I intend to take my activities out of doors when they allow for it. And I also intend the space for making – music, clothing, quilts and art – not forced into the corners of my existence as though unimportant or frivolous. Once I finish my Master’s degree in April – I’m sure I’ll also find some brain space for thinking about new things.

What I will not do in 2015 is track myself.  I will not write down my exercise days, the foods that I eat, the number of minutes that I meditate each day or how often I go for walks. I have a tendency to track as though it makes me a better person, but really I think it becomes one more thing that I am doing (or not doing) and is neurosis inducing.

In fact, I think it would be grand if I set no trackable goals for 2015 at all – they seem really the antithesis of my focus on space after all – and instead a prayer: Let 2015 be a simple year of being and accepting instead of doing and wanting.