Tuesday, July 7, 2020

One Exhausted Grandma

My two grandsons arrived a week ago Saturday and are here until Friday morning - as in almost two weeks with Grandma, just the three of us, no parents. My youngest son is now twenty-six so those days are long gone and I have nothing but admiration for stay-at-home Moms. It's the hardest job ever. AND... I have tremendous admiration for my younger self who raised three kids, often alone while my husband traveled, and they turned out pretty good if I don't say so myself. I not only love them, I like them.

My boys used to play in the back yard with Tonka trucks. I found these two at the thrift shop on my one and only road trip a few weeks ago. What a bonus to find two, not just one, no arguments.

My youngest grandson took this picture. He was randomly shooting images however, blue sky and sun has been significantly missing so far this summer so it was definitely worth celebrating.

The boys used a pile of bricks to construct a fort in the back yard. I had waited on leveling the yard and putting in grass until after their visit so they could enjoy a HUGE sandbox. They love that and they are enjoying playing with the neighborhood kids since they live in more of a hot spot and have been self-isolated since mid March other than for a trip to their other grandparents. Boys need to play outside. This is good. 

This fort is version one - bricks, dirt, wood, an outdoor cushion, and some plants to decorate. While they were building this I was...

... placing rocks around another back garden bed. It's the first yard work I've done in weeks. Although, it felt good to get something done, I'm nowhere near finished the list of backyard chores I had hoped to accomplish while they were playing. Apparently, I am not that girl anymore. Instead...

... yesterday, while they were building version two of the fort, I knit some more of the throw for my swing... while sitting on my swing... which is the first time since I hung it at the beginning of June that I've been able to actually sit and enjoy it. YES YES. The boys like it too although they don't understand the swinging like a rocking chair style as opposed to the swinging like in the park style. It's good to have them. We're having fun. And I am one exhausted Grandma.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - grandchildren

Friday, June 26, 2020

Life Choices & Refashion Step One: Deconstruct

Look closely at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming. - Alice Walker

One of the silver linings of the current Covid situation has been the time and opportunity to look at the shape of our lives and make adjustments. Who do we want to become? What do we want less of in our lives? What do we want more of in our lives? That opportunity exists for those of us who are already introspective and for those who are asking deeper questions perhaps for the first time. Our life is our greatest work of art and no one else can create it for us. It is up to us to draw the fine lines and broad brushstrokes in a way that develops our best life, holistic health, joy and abundance.

A typical journal question is if you only had a week to live, how would you spend it? It can be hard to relate to a question like that when the sun is shining and everything appears to be fine. It's easier when there is actual danger looming on the horizon. I'm already a minimalist so I haven't been sifting and sorting my house. It's already clean. And I've worked from home for almost thirty years so I haven't been adjusting to being here all the time. I'm already adjusted. What I've missed is...

... a sit down, face-to-face, good conversation with a friend, coffee out, wandering through thrift and consignment stores looking for potential, road trips, workshops, and artist dates. With loosening regulations, I have looked more closely at who do I want to spend time with as I want that time to be positive and engaging, not negative in any way. Which groups have I missed and can't wait to return to and which can I let go of? What did I wish was already present in my life that wasn't and can I put that in place before the second wave? These and others like them are not completely unfamiliar questions yet they've allowed me to tweak the way I live and that's good.

One of the pressures I am stepping away from is the pressure to create some sort of business oriented on-line presence. This is something I pick up and put down annoyingly far too often and it is entirely possibly that this put down will once again be followed by a pick up and yet maybe not this time. Yesterday, I cancelled the plan for my website and will only have this blog. If I want to sell something, there will be a way but I'm not going to allow the possibility that I may sell something to mean spending time, money, and energy maintaining a site when that's not what I really want to do. The same with....

....social media. When the lock down began, I joined several Facebook groups and I've since unsubscribed from most of them. The on-line group environment is always shifting - one minute supportive and encouraging and the next minute someone is up in airs about something and there is negativity and controversy. No thank you. The group I stayed with is associated with the design retreats I've been going to over the past eight years and it's a group of (mostly) women that I want to stay connected with and support in their journey. That is good and enough.

It's probably an obvious choice that many are making yet what I am feeling called to is deeper cocooning,  making a warm, cozy home, and enjoying the gift of this space. Instead of going to Starbucks each morning to journal, I am curling up in the chair in my studio and it's wonderful. In the rest of the house, I've eliminated some things and added others to both freshen the environment and reflect my style. The yard has been a five year project so far and there is a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing it come together. My studio work is growing in new directions with metal and wire and I am thoroughly enjoying further developing new skills of which...

... refashioning is one. It wasn't something I was aware of until I went to the first design retreat and at the beginning I was hesitant and then I realized that if this garment wasn't working in its current state, there was a lot to gain and nothing to lose by taking it forward. The journey alone would be stretching and growing.

The first step in any refashion is to deconstruct the present garment to a degree that works for the next step which may be the only step you know. With this dress, I unpicked the hemline and took out the center back zipper. Most of the time I don't know what I'm making, and that's true in this case, except that I do know I want a center front opening because the garment is very fitted and the bust line clearly defined. I also want to add sleeves so I removed the neckline and armhole bindings and put them aside carefully. Don't throw anything out until you're completely done. You never know what you need and what those parts could become.

Right now, I am thinking about the center back. Without the zipper to suck it in, it has fallen into this triangle shape that is an opportunity to add some interesting details and a flared back. The dress has princess seams and those would be mimicked by adding a wedge. I'm also debating if I want to do any surface design. I see this as a spring/fall coat or a sweater-ish garment that could be playful and fun. Since I'm quite busy for the next two weeks, and after that will be a wet noodle for some time, I'm not sure how fast it's going to progress but so far - it's very fun.

I bought fabric. No surprise here. It's not unheard of but it is somewhat rare for me to go into a fabric store and come out empty handed. Every year, Fabricland has a huge buy 1 meter, get _ meters free sale before inventory. The fabrics above left are linen. The crinkled one was buy 1, get 1 free and the linen knit was buy 1, get 2 free. I've wanted to try sewing and wearing linen knit so YES YES! The fabrics at right are a rayon blend knit that I've sewn with before and knew I loved. They were buy 1, get 2 free and I bought a meter and a half of each since there weren't any other colours I wanted. The pink and the turquoise are both colours I love and were fun to add to my mostly black stash.

At Value Village, I found these two trucks made of metal like my boys used to play with. One is slightly bigger for my oldest grandson and the other slightly smaller for the youngest - so they can tell them apart. I was so thrilled to find two. The three bucket containers were from Home Sense and it wasn't until I took this picture that I noticed they aren't identical. Apparently, I was so caught up in how fabulous they'd be for my metalworking tools that I didn't look that closely. LOL - oh well. It works.

In the yard, I finally finished mixing cement and setting the posts for the stairs yesterday. At first, I was waiting for the risers to arrive to make sure the positioning was correct and then I was waiting for a free and rain-less day to allow the cement to dry. I have front yard projects and back yard projects to work on while my grandsons are playing so I can keep an eye on them without going crazy. I'm not very good at sitting around and they are here for two weeks, just me and them, no parents. I'll be exhausted but what fun!

I was a bit worried about whether the stairs would ruin the view from my curl-up chair. There will be wooden treads but even so, it's going to be okay. I'm glad. I spend a lot of time with this view.

SO... today is house cleaning, an appointment, and grocery shopping. Late tomorrow afternoon, my daughter and her family will arrive. Her and her husband will leave on Wednesday morning to go back to work and the boys will stay. I can't wait to see and hug them. It's been way too long and I wouldn't be surprised if this is our only visit this year depending on the second - and now they are talking about third - wave.

I hesitate to ask what you have learned from Covid knowing it has been beyond devastating for many people. If you feel comfortable sharing, I'd love to hear. Thanks.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - home and health

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Oops, Go Somewhere, Buy Something

When I looked at the weather report yesterday, it was supposed to be sunny all day. This morning, when I looked at it again, it was supposed to be sunny until the afternoon. An hour later, it's still grey, no sun, and now the report is for showers. Obviously, one cannot plan around the weather report.

The plan was to cement some posts and begin working on the stairs between the back levels. This will not be happening. Pouring cement in a rainstorm is not recommended so I took my work clothes off, changed my plans, and I'll be in the studio today.

This past week has been really hard. All of the events planned for this year have been cancelled and there's absolutely no idea when they may happen again. The one on-line class I was really looking forward to was a huge disappointment and the one I really want to take next is not being offered until the fall. The news is all  about the inevitable second Covid wave and it's discouraging to realize that as wonderful as my home and studio are, I may be "stuck" here for the whole year. Obviously, that calls for an attitude adjustment and...

... since I have a strong urge to go somewhere, buy something, and it's supposed to storm (maybe) tomorrow, I'm planning a road trip forty-five minutes away to visit Fabricland and Value Village... with a list... for fall projects and for outside toys for my grandsons who, along with my daughter and son-in-law, are coming to visit this weekend. I am looking forward to seeing them and the hugs and snuggles especially as I have a feeling this may be our only visit this year. What strange times.

With the remnants from my last project, I wanted to make another Burda 6501 sleeveless top. I was concerned about fitting the pattern pieces on the fabric with the blotching strategically placed and delighted when it was super easy. Until I realized that I'd cut it out on the straight of grain and it's supposed to be cut on the bias. This was only one of a long list of oops lately. A lot of rookie mistakes. And I'm not sure why.

The first time I sewed this pattern, it felt a little snug in the shoulders. And it was. It seems that I had adjusted the shoulder width to the wrong measurement thinking mine were 14" in front and 14 1/2" in back when they are really 14 1/2" in front and 15" in back. I'm not sure how I suddenly starting using different measurements but I used them on the last project as well so that delightful blouse with the fun collar is tight in the shoulders. It may go in my old lady clothing box as well with the too tight, wrong size pattern, pants from before that.

Although it wasn't cut on the bias, the blouse was still going to fit so I went ahead and finished it, put it on the mannequin, looked at it, and wondered why it was so short. Duh. I hadn't cut out or sewn on the peplum. I can't say where my brain was. I still don't know but it's welcome to come back home. Luckily, there was enough fabric left to finish the blouse properly - remove the first hem, add the peplum, and hem it again.

Last week, while my friend was visiting, I started working on a bra. This is NOT it. This is simply proof that at one time I did know how to sew bras and well. Although it had been a while, I thought I still remembered how to put the parts together. I didn't. It was a comedy of errors ending up with the sides sewn together in the middle and a very tiny distance between bust points. For the first time in a long time, that project ended up in a ball in the garbage. I will try again. Sometime soon. When my ego is less fragile.

Wire weaving seemed like a safe option but no... I've made some oops there as well. Sometimes, I think it's fabulous that I just pick up the wires and start and see where it leads and learn as I go along by problem solving the technique and the design. Other times, when it's not flowing well, I wonder why I don't just follow some step-by-step pattern only it's not me. I like that journey of the unknown which is why...

... my next project is to refashion this blue linen dress, originally sewn about eight years ago, already shortened once, with a pile of scraps to play with. I'm not wearing it, it's "ugly", and there's no where to go but up. YES YES!

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - attitudes can be adjusted, the power of thought

Friday, June 19, 2020

Don't Leave Me

After my friend went home on Wednesday morning, I spent the next two days a wet noodle on the couch. She lives with her husband and two sons and is used to having people around while I have been living with limited socialization since March. I am glad she came for a variety of reasons including that I am now - somewhat - acclimatized and ready for my grandsons who will be staying for almost two weeks, without their parents, which is typically tiring for Grandma under any circumstances never mind in a pandemic.

We spent three and a half days in the studio. One of the projects I worked on is a Burda 6323 blouse. I liked the flared hemline of view A but not the sleeves or the collar so I substituted three quarter sleeves and created a stand-up collar from selvedge scraps.

The curved yoke in the back is hard to see with this print. The fabric is a very soft cotton with lovely drape, a paisley design which is my favourite, and some "splotching" to add variation. I'm interested to see how long it will take for someone to ask me what happened to my blouse - LOL - since it's happened before with splotched fabric. The front also has curved yoke seams. I changed the more complicated button band to a simple one.

Here is a side view of the collar. This change was definitely inspired by Diane Ericson and the Design Outside The Lines retreats. I have learned so much from attending them that makes sewing creative fashions an even greater joy.

Things I learned from both Marcy (who taught at the first two retreats I went to) and Diane were to adapt the pattern to work for me and to not feel like I had to sew it exactly as printed as well as to mix up fabrics and to create my own details. For this collar, I cut and interfaced a strip of fabric equal to the collar opening and then randomly pleated strips of the selvedge edge equal to that length.

One layer was a bit too thin so I created two layers with the outer one slightly wider than the inner one and sewed them to the garment with the wrong sides together. The softness of both the pleats and of the sevedge edge creates a lovely finish to the neckline that IMHO is much nicer than the harsh roundness of the original with that stiffly buttoned-up look.

Last week when I was at the fabric store, this cotton print would not leave me alone. I tried to walk away a few times and it kept calling don't leave me. It's partly the colours but also something about the bold softness of the design. Apparently, it had called out to a few other people as well since there was only 1.20 meters left - enough for something - so it's now sitting in stash gestating.

Before I sewed the blouse, I worked with the remnants from the Burda 7400 pants and used up all the leftover little bits and pieces. The ones without interfacing were sewn into two rectangles - one 26 1/2" x 15" and the other 23 1/4" x 18" - that will most likely be used to create bags and the...

... ones with interfacing were shaped into textile cabachons that I'll experiment with for jewelry. There is some of this fabric left only it's in yardage lengths rather than remnants and is back in stash waiting to become another garment.

After watching me spend almost two days piecing these bits together, my friend commented that no wonder I didn't get a lot of clothing sewn since chasing remnants was quite a rabbit hole. So true. I have a pile of them left from the blouse that would be delightful in jewelry especially with silver instead of copper accents. What can I do with these remnants is a rabbit hole I'm happy to go down. I'm still so thrilled to find uses for things I would have quickly thrown away at one time and I love exploring the journey of the unknown and seeing where it takes me. It's become common in my studio. I can take that journey with fabric remnants as well as wire and metal ones any time I want to because I have plenty of potential in my studio and I'm rather addicted to it - LOL.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a fun visit with a friend

Friday, June 12, 2020

Coat In The Wild

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul is a fabulous book. I'm reading it for the second time and am on the chapter about moving from over-scheduled to organized. At this point in life, I have both already done a lot of work in this area and am in a less busy stage and even so this quote - ... my schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become. - is worth paying attention to.

Living in a community where the average age is older than me, I commonly hear women 5, 10, even 20 years older still talking about finding time to get to the things they really want to do. If not now, when?

It's important for me to curb my workaholic and spend some time resting. Maybe on my porch, in my wicker chairs, that I did paint a different colour, if only it would stop raining. This is an especially wet June which is a bit depressing on one hand and a relief on another with hopefully less fires. It's supposed to rain for the next four or five days so yesterday, I painted the first coat on the storage closet, under cover in the carport, did the second coat this morning, and tomorrow, I have a friend coming to visit for a few days. Yes, I know, even with Covid. We have both been taking precautions and we feel the low risk is worth the high benefit of some creative, girl time, together.

If the sun does shine, we can sit out on the porch and enjoy the decorating that is starting to come together. The flowers are fake and the hurricane lamp is battery operated with an LED light on a dimmer. It's fun. Our thrift store opened last week and I didn't even have to go inside to find this side table - $5.00 - that I painted turquoise and coated with varnish so it'll be good outside.


I had an email from another friend a few weeks ago titled Coat In The Wild and attached was this picture of her granddaughter going for a stroll in the coat I'd made. There is something quite lovely about seeing your pieces actually being worn.

The coat was a what if and how can I project and not made specifically for this little girl. In fact, it was made to see what I could do with the scraps left over from a pair of pants and the quilts I'd made for my guest room beds. The pants were the floral; the quilts the stripe. The grey stripes are serger strips of denim sewn in place with pink thread.

The collar is loops. I made really long strips and then sewed them to the upper collar using a ruler to create the same length of loop each time, stitching close to it on either side. I made this coat about five years ago so you may have seen it before in my previous blog. At the time, I was making quite a few versions of this little girl's coat as a way of using remnants, refashioning. and experimenting. Children's sized clothing is a fabulous want to text ideas and play. It doesn't have to fit me or anyone else I know so there's a low emotional impact and high creative one.

The denim was left over from another project. It was channel stitched with the same pink thread and used to make the sleeves.

The quilted fabric was heavier so I knew the coat was most likely to be worn in spring or fall and created a lining with remnants of this floral light-weight upholstery fabric from a coat I'd made for myself.

One of the goals I've been working on over the past few years is ever increasing holistic health, joy and abundance, and growing creativity. I've been journal writing, every day, for over twenty-five years and I've always sewn in bits and pieces. I can remember when I sewed before work, on my lunch hour, and after work. It's how I breath. I can't remember when I started what I call The Morning Hour - one hour, every morning, after my first cup of coffee, where I work in the studio- but relating the hour back to the quote mentioned earlier, scheduling this creative time for myself, actually taking it almost every day, and working on what tickles has allowed me to become the more creative person I wanted to be... with room for continued growth. That hour make sure that I get a daily dose of creativity that in turn nurtures me and makes the day doable rather than trying to fit it in later when I'm an exhausted wet noodle and it's not likely to happen. The morning hour is a good thing. Any time of day actually. If you don't have an hour, start with ten minutes. Nurture what nurtures you.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - picture of the coat in the wild

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Eighteen Years Later

When my oldest son... who is about to turn thirty-one... was in grade eight woodworking, he made me a birdhouse. He did a great job only I had no idea how to finish it with imagination and kept putting it aside over and again. I've learned a lot in the mean time and this week, it finally had its turn. Eighteen years later, it's done and decorated.

I called him last weekend to say we'd been spending a lot of time "together" and he was surprised that I still had the birdhouse. I'm not a sentimental person and I don't keep everything BUT... of course... he made it for me and I am all about supporting and encouraging the creativity of others. He'll be over for dinner tonight and I hope he likes how it turned out.

The form is simple with a chimney on one side of the roof and a perch at the front. I began by priming the roof and then, because I don't want real birds to live here, filled in the front opening with copper mesh.

The roof is tiled with buttons that are hot glued into place. I do not like glue, glitter, and sequence crafts or anything sticky that sticks to me however, glue is sometimes a necessary evil that can't always be avoided. I do prefer a glue gun over liquid glue.

After the buttons were in place, I coated the whole surface with white paint and then layered various colours until I reached the look I was going for.

The layers are white, brushed metal bronze, metallic lime, coffee bean, and teal with two coats of gloss varnish over top. The top of the chimney has some ball chain and a decorative tack.

The exterior walls were papered with pattern tissue, antiqued with brown paint, decorated with images from magazines, and then covered with more layers of varnish.

The bird is from the dollar store and clips onto the perch and the twigs are from my back yard. I bundled them together with string, coated the bundle with varnish, and hot glued it in place. The post it's sitting on in these pictures was for photos only. I'm not quite sure where I'll put it yet. I'm contemplating adding button stilts to the bottom so it can sit on a table top but I want to be sure that's what I actually want before gluing pieces on that I can't remove later.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - gifts of love

Friday, June 5, 2020

Almost Perfect

This week, I've taken a break from the yard and have been moving slow and working in the studio. I'm a huge believer in celebration and especially in celebrating our birth day. Mine was on the 3rd and I'm happy to have turned a year older - 58 - since the opposite of older is dead and no, I'm nowhere ready for that. There's so much left to explore.

I started taking my birth day off work when I was 18 and worked for a company where part of our union contract was to have our birthday off. In my thirties, I met an artist who every year on her birthday made a doll to commemorate the previous year. The habit intrigued me and while I didn't want to make a doll, I did start doing something special either taking a workshop, going on a trip, or planning an event - something to mark the day.

Since this is an unusual year and I couldn't go away, I retreated at home and it's been different and still good. I talked to family and friends on the phone, sewed, ate lemon shortcake, and went out for dinner with a friend at one of the few restaurants in town with an open dining room. We both really enjoyed it. The day was almost perfect except...

... my grandsons didn't call. They are visiting their other grandparents and won't be home until Saturday and will call me then. Sigh. Sharing is such hard work when it comes to warm, snugly beings. I adore them. They all - my daughter, son-in-law, and the boys - sent me this beautiful bouquet of flowers through an online order that happened to go to a florist shop owned by a friend. The instructions were to make something colourful and fun and she went above and beyond with her embellishments. As my daughter said, that's beautiful and it's not what I ordered. There are six large roses, twelve small ones, four kinds of greenery, purple and pink flowers that I don't recognize, and a vase that looks like wood. That trunk is four feet wide to give you an idea of the size. I believe that...

... what goes around, comes around and there have been times when I'd wonder what kind of a bag had I been that all this negative, difficult, horrible, terrible, frustrating stuff was coming my way. And then I realized that kindness goes out in one form and comes back in another and not necessarily kind for kind. This bouquet says a lot about how my friend feels about how I make her feel. It's a good legacy.

When I make my yearly collage, I don't always know what each picture means or I think I know and then as time goes on, the true meaning becomes clearer. During my journal time on Wednesday morning, I realized this image is NOT about teaching. It is about sharing. There's a subtle difference that is calmer and more peaceful, more about letting things unfold rather than making them come about. Flow rather than strive. It's good.

Wednesday was my birthday so not only was I reflecting on the year ahead, I spent the day having fun my way. I sewed my favourite pant pattern, Burda 7400, view B. I first sewed this pattern in 2013 and have no idea how many times I've sewn it since. It fits me beautifully and flatters my figure. The only thing I changed was the waistband substituting an elastic casing for the original ribbing.

Of course, I changed some of the sewing steps including stitching in the ditch to attach the facing of the cuff to the bottom of the pant leg. Buttons, zippers, and stitching in the ditch are three techniques I avoided for a long time, even hiring them out at one point, until I realized the only way to have more creative freedom was to learn the thing I feared. After all, it's just fabric and not world peace. And - as usual - the more I did what I wanted to do the better I got at doing it. We learn to do by doing.

I finished the pants on Wednesday and they were almost perfect. Sewing went smoothly, the seams pressed crisply, the fabric behaved, and the parts came together with ease right up until the moment I tried them on... and they were skin tight. I'd noted on the smaller size that I made a clean copy in December 2019... which I did... but of the wrong size because that's not the one I sewed then and thought I was sewing again. I tucked the smaller pair in my Alternate Sizes box for some day in the future when I'm smaller and frailer and don't want my kids to buy my clothes and then on Thursday, I sewed another pair in the correct size and they are FABULOUS.

The fabric is cotton quilt batting that I bought at a Fabricland in Calgary while shopping with a friend last year. It's super wide and was significantly reduced in price, below five dollars a meter, so I bought three meters and had more than enough for the second pair of pants and still some left over plus all the scraps.

The pants fit into what I describe as my uniform - a funky bottom garment, a plain and usually black upper garment, and a statement necklace. The t-shirt was sewn earlier this year and the necklace is a wire woven pendant with a pink jasper stone that I made several years ago for the outfit I wore to my brother's wedding.

Last Friday, I had the air conditioner moved from the back of the house to the side of the house which turned out to be both a better position aesthetically and mechanically. Apparently, an air conditioner is supposed to sit higher than the furnace and this one wasn't. I'm not sure why the previous owner did that but it's moved now and in the process there was all this extra copper. The workmen were totally thrilled when they saw my metalworking bench and realized I truly did want it. They started saving ever little bit including the ground wires. YES YES. That's months of work and only a small part of my metal stash. Isn't a stash a wonderful thing? I've worked off mine for the past months of quarantine and have barely touched it fabric or jewelry wise. I have lots of potential.

The weather this week has been mixed and windy. When it wasn't raining water, it was raining pollen so I haven't finished decorating my deck but I did hang the porch swing and put out the cushions and throw. The single flower is a Gerber, one of my favourites. After I finish the edge of the wall behind the swing, I will fill that garden with Hosta. There are several ready to be split and moved. Aren't perennials amazing? Free plants. So fun.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - for so many friends and family celebrating my birthday with me.