November 12, 2012

Hooked Rugs and Diamond Logs

I started hooking a rug in July of 2009 - more than 3 years ago!  I love hooked rugs and after seeing a retrospective of Emily Carr's work at the AGO (2007), I fell in love with this:

Oh Emily, such inspiration!  And all from old blankets! Emily didn't have a lot of money and she supplemented her meagre income by hooking rugs.

If it was good enough for Emily, it's good enough for me!  I thought that I too would take up rug hooking.  I loved the idea of using old clothes and upcycling them.   I enrolled in a rug hooking workshop in Paris, Ontario and this is what I made.  Let me back up a minute.  We were supposed to make a heart. I couldn't bear it.  It was a big, flat heart and I knew that I would go insane working on something so dull.  The instructor had a Charles Rennie Mackintosh book and I flipped through that, looking for inspiration.  I found this:

It is Ochre, Black and White - a watercolour by CRM (c.1922 -23) that was eventually used as inspiration for a textile. I liked the undulating waves and thought that it looked very modern. 

This is what I produced, using the above print as inspiration.  Here it is, framed "gallery style".  The thick black wooden frame was made by my husband and the piece measures 12" by 12" (not including the frame).

No offence Mr. Mackintosh, but I like my version better.  Hooking this was a nightmare. I was using a tiny cut (the cut is the width of the strip of wool that you're using).  I think this was a three.  It took me forever and I vowed that I would NEVER use a thin cut again.

Here is the rug that I started three years ago:

It is made of new and vintage wool, blankets, scarves, skirts, sweaters and suits. I hand dyed a lot of the wool using food colouring, Easter egg dyes and koolaid.  I cut most of the wool strips by hand because I like the rough-hewn look.  The strips of wool are quite a bit thicker which means that it hooks up a bit faster.

Well guess what? I still love hooked rugs, but I HATE rug hooking.  It is BORING beyond belief.  The rug below has taken up permanent residence on its frame in my living room.

It is not finished, but I kind of like how it looks on the frame on top of my antique treadle sewing machine base.  I may never finish it!

I guess you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with quilting.  Well, check this out:

I have been working on these blocks for a few days and I am happy with how they're turning out.  I realized that the diamonds remind me of my rug.  This is one project that I might actually finish!

My plan is to turn the blocks lengthwise, like this:

Fifteen more to go!

Update.  September 2013.  The diamond quilt did not turn out as I planned.  It's hideous.  It has become the dog's blanket.  

November 08, 2012

The Rules of My Nature

Yes, I know the title of this post is obnoxious but I am rootin'-tootin' proud!

Canada Writes has partnered up with Canada Council for the Arts and The Massey Lectures to present the writing series Close Encounters with Science.  The series is inspired by The 2012 Massey Lectures.

Here's a description from the Canada Writes website: "This year's lecturer is physicist Neil Turok.  We're fascinated by his insights on how science and technology affect everything around us, from the environment to our innermost thoughts".

Science and I are not friends.  We're like neighbours at war (some of you might find this analogy funny).  There is a tall fence between us that shall never be riven.

I decided to try to write something about science, even if it killed me.  After all, good writing makes all the difference.  If something is well-written, the topic is irrelevant.

Here is my entry:

The Rules of My Nature

In the eighth grade, I discovered that subjects and predicates moved me and that grammar was my forte. I was an idiot savant.

My father prided himself on his mathematical prowess. That I was clueless beyond simple calculations was proof that I took after my mother. I believed his words; they became part of me. Implicit in his censure was that mathematics and its evil twin – science - were for men and not for teenaged girls.

Mr. Tronko, my ninth grade chemistry teacher, was more interested in belittling students than in teaching them. On the day I wore a handsewn blouse with a rhinestone bracelet and capris, he paused and considered my appearance. He waited for silence and delivered his judgment:

“Who do you think you are? Elizabeth Taylor?”

My cheeks were beetroots. I wanted to smash in his face with a bunsen burner.

Things didn't improve. Mr. Haq, my biology teacher, was a screamer. He told me that I wouldn't go far. That I was a stupid girl and that I shouldn't return. I was relieved.

When I entered university and realized that I needed a science credit, I pored over the course offerings: Geology (Rocks for Jocks), Astronomy (Moons for Goons), Chemistry and Physics. It was like selecting my preferred method of execution.

I consulted friends. We concluded that Geology was dull, Astronomy was math-heavy and I may as well splash myself in the face with acid if I were to take Chemistry. The Physics instructor was rumoured to be funny. I signed up.

The word “physics” filled me with shame. In Grade Thirteen, I was leery of the teacher, an ancient crone who couldn't smile. It was focal length that did me in. There was one equation that I was sure of: length implied numbers, numbers meant mathematics, mathematics equalled failure. I withdrew.

On the first day of Conceptual Physics for Non-Scientists, the Professor pulled a banana out of his pocket. Bananas make me gag but in my worldview, they are benign. He plunged the banana into liquid nitrogen and it froze rapidly. He smashed it on the counter and it splintered into shards. I was intrigued. He lured me in with the promise of more experiments and no math beyond simple multiplication.

His name was Whippey and he was quick and snappy in body and mind. I was reminded of Beaker from the Muppets. Demonstrations with balls, coins, feathers, balloons and other simple objects ensued. Was this Physics or Magic 101? Confident in my newfound knowledge, I waxed on about force, friction and inertia. I knew that I was hooked when I explained to my then-boyfriend that Bernoulli's Principle was behind the pesky shower curtain glued to his leg during a hot shower. Who did I think I was – Copernicus?

Physics is about understanding the rules of nature. My nature tells me that I will never be a mathematician, but conceptually, I will always be a Physicist.

Click on my Physics textbook to access the Canada Writes website.

Read my Story! 

November 04, 2012

Son of a Stitch

My nine year old son is currently sitting at my sewing machine...

wait for it...


Here's the proof:

Did he really just ask me whether he can make his own "five block" quilt?  Am I raising a pionerd?
Should I start a sweat shop on Bruce Street?  These are the questions I have.

My children were actually just fighting over the machine - for once it's not the computer or the telly.  I am so happy that they are interested in sewing that I don't even care that they're fighting.

My husband just asked the kids if they wanted to watch a movie.  Actual response from Nathaniel:  "No, you guys watch Legend, I'll just sew".  I cracked up.

I think I know why he's interested.  Today, I finished up my "Elvis is Everything" quilt for my son's kindergarten teacher, the vivacious and sparkly Mme. Dona.  Don't tell her that we used to call her Mme. Donut (she looks nothing like a donut, she is just fun! I am fondly remembering my grade ten math teacher right now, aka Clayface).  Mme Dona is an Elvis junky.  She had an Elvis impersonator at her retirement party and she was also "lei-ed" (her words - don't get the wrong idea!) by an Elvis impersonator on an Elvis cruise to Hawaii.

Nathaniel saw the finished quilt and was inspired.  Well, I think he was inspired.

I think this quilt is a bit on the crazy side - just like Elvophiles.  No disrespect intended.

So the boy was into the quilt and now he wants to create his own masterpiece.

Sew on, lad, sew on!