First embroidery.

It’s done, and it doesn’t look half bad.

Hurrah.

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Stitches of another kind.

Check out my favourite Christmas present…

What really sold me on the newest publication from Jenny Hart’s breakthrough independent embroidery company, Sublime Stitching, was the fan-dancing burlesque lady on the cover.  That pattern is amazing.  Further encouragement came from the ridiculously beautiful stuff from flickr that is being accumulated at Feeling Stitchy (seriously, waste some time here).  The last straw was when I started talking to my grandmother about embroidery (‘ricamo’ in Italian).  She told me all about her sister, and how whenever she visited Italy she would be welcomed with another table cloth covered in satin-stitched flowers.  She would try hard to turn down the gift, as she felt bad being given something which so much time had been spent on.  Her sister would not have any of it.  While her eyesight for reading is getting worse, and knitting’s larger movements hurt these days, my great aunt said she would die if she couldn’t embroider.  While searching for some basic cotton for me to practice stitches on, my mom and I came upon a box full of my late-paternal grandmother’s hand decorated bed sheets and table clothes.  On each piece were her hand-embroidered initials. Continue reading

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Men’s attire.

Some of you might be saying, “Oh shoot, you still do this thing?”  Silly you, thinking I would give up my crafty ways.  Impossible.  I just took some time to increase my breadth vs. depth ratio, and branch out to please the other 50% of the population.

Men like to look nice too.  They even write lengthy articles in college newspapers about it.  But with a seemingly unending list of rules regarding which specific type of jacket you can wear at such-and-such time of day, it seems hard to properly carve out originality for oneself in men’s formal attire.  (At least it seems that way for me… the girl with the dress-buying and jewelery-making addictions.)    I am trying to widen the window for the boys….

BAM. Cuff links. With ladies and cities and patterns on them, and completely one of a kind.  I’d date a guy in these babies.
The glass marbles on top serve to magnify the tiny images behind them.  These developed after many talks with guys, realizing that they are secretly more interested in handmade and unique stuff that I could produce than they may lead on. But I’m on to youuuuu…  I also found a place that finally sells cuff link backings.

With a semi-formal coming up in January, I think I’ll plant some of these on wrists in the crowd and see what sort of feedback ensues.
If you’re interested in a pair, feel free to contact me or comment.  There are only three sets right now,  but I am searching for manly new motifs as I write! (Edit: more pin-ups located!)

My friend Ali called me a den mother this week.  I may or may not be knitting a tie next.

As for the laydeez, I have not forsaken thee.  I just pumped out 2 more yo-yo necklaces that are also up for grabs.

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LSATire

My latest project has been studying to get 165< on my LSAT, which is coming up on the 26th.  I promise not to completely forget to craft.  Yarn is already purchased and should be arriving within the next week to knit some stuff for the months that, in Canada,  it is advisable to have knit things.  Posts on those should arrive shortly.

In the meantime:
Good god, let’s eat! has an awesome post regarding my Dad’s restaurant and lots and lots of pasta.
-Check out the generally awesome art over at The Quiet Revolution.
-not to mention: CLOTHING SHOW CLOTHING SHOW CLOTHING SHOW

Is all,
-m.

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Collage: art form of champions

You know it’s true.  There wasn’t one day in your kindergarten classroom that your teacher said “collage” and everyone didn’t go apeshit.  It is undoubtedly one of the funnest ways to make art (second only, perhaps, to papier mache) and involves little to no talent of one’s own.

A long long long long long time ago at summer camp I took the basic collage form to some extremes and ended up with bunches of wooden beads covered in tiny tiny magazine cut-outs.  The micro-collage form has since stayed in my jewelery for nearly a decade, it’s most recent iteration in pendants.

The advantage to micro-collage is that I will probably never have to deal with copyright issues on these images simply due to their negligible size.  On the other hand, it’s true that this craft was thought up by kid-me, and I’m just not sure about its aesthetic appeal to jewelery seekers over the age of 12… While undoubtedly a casual pendant, the two above that I made a couple of weeks ago are some of my favourites so far, and I am happy to wear them.  I am just wondering if they are worth the hours of snipping and collecting dozens of tiny pictures from magazines.  What are your thoughts on them?…

The more sassy-but-classy extension of the collage pendant are the pin-up necklaces that I have been making since last year.  They have been a hit with friends, but are probably a lawsuit waiting to happen.  I’ll have to buy some stock images before I can take these to the real market.  Nonetheless, here is the latest batch:

Mom: Is that a stripper on your necklace?
Me: Mo-ooom!
-m.

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Done, and done.

They’re finished.  And they’re even!

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West coastin’ – Part II

As promised: fish and sweaters! But not fish in sweaters….

Chinook salmon could be classified as pretty intimidating fish, I guess.  They have hooked jaws, can swim up stream, and after they breed, they die (pretty badass).  It once took my boyfriend’s grandfather three hours to fight a salmon into his boat after it was hooked.  While I have done my share of fishing in Ontario lakes, I was told by all my hosts that I could never really know how it felt to have a salmon strike my lure until it actually happened….  and then it did… thrice.

Playing and catching a 26lb game fish is satisfying, even if your adrenaline keeps pumping 10 minutes after the thing’s in the boat.  I’ve even felt the agony of defeat, when after a bite-less morning I finally had a fish on, only for it to swim away with most of my reel, get tangled in a trolling boat, and snap my line.

Possibly more fulfilling than the catch, though, is what you get to do after.  No… after the gutting….  EATING!  I thought I knew what smoked salmon was about until my boyfriend brought over cans that were home caught and home-smoked.  If I lived close enough to an ocean, it would be a sin not to own a smoker or know how to use one.

Now my very own catch has gone from this:

to dozens of these stuffed into every crevice of my suitcase:

Canning and preserving might seem soooo 18th century, but the idea of saving and collecting the freshness of spring and summer into jars sure does appeal to me.  While Italian families like mine might nowadays can tomato sauce or artichokes and eat them a month or two later, imagine what opening a fresh can in the dead of winter would feel like when there wasn’t a vegetable or fishing hole around in sight.  I guess that’s what globalization gets you, but I think canning is a habit and craft that has the ability to make us appreciate what we have and when we have it a lot more than we do these days.  I should probably take it up some time…

I also promised you sweaters.  Cowichan sweaters to be exact.

Badly ripped off by TNA, the REAL Cowichan sweater originates from the Cowichan Valley in southern Van Isle.  The yarn itself it pretty amazing: a rough, bulky yarn knit real tight making these sweaters really heavy.  They are made by Native artists, sans pattern, on many short double pointed needles, in the round. This is what amazed me the most.  No circulars for these ladies.

While the sizes can be a little wonky due to the free form, these sweaters are in high demand.  Figuring this would be a great time to get one of my own, we headed to my boyfriend’s aunt’s Native craft shop/gallery to find one.  I was regretfully informed that there was already a waiting list for sweaters, and that if I added my name and sizes I might get mine in three months.  They have only two knitters supplying them these days, a worrisome sign that the craft is waning in the community.  The artist who knit the sweater above has since passed away.  Out of  her three daughters only one can knit sweaters.  I’ll add my name to that list sooner than later.  I’m thinking I would like whales…
-m.

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West coastin’ – Part I

Welcome to a special segment of wollstoneCRAFT, dedicated to my experiences on Canada’s Vancouver Island, a trip to see exactly where my boyfriend comes from.

While here I am using the term “craft” quite loosely, the ocean-side activities that I had the opportunity to try out on my vacation all involve some hard work, a bit of experience, and would probably be easier if left to the commercial industries that monopolize them now; it just wouldn’t be as satisfying.  I’d say this stuff most definitely falls under the category of DIY.

Pickin’, shuckin’ and slurpin’
Oyster picking was tough at first for my Eastern, untrained eye.  They pretty much all looked like rocks to me. But then you start noticing that, in fact, that white, barnacle-covered bump you just stepped on is a delicacy, and if it is just smaller than the size of your fist you are probably going to want to eat it at dinner tonight.  They are a stubborn mollusk, and the best way to separate them from their low-tide perches is to make like an otter and smash them off with another rock.  You’re done pickin’ oysters when your sack  is too heavy for comfort, and then it’s back to the beached boat.

Shucking, the act of actually getting the gourmet part out of its calcified fortress of a shell, is difficult at first but amazingly satisfying once you get going.  Shucking instruments are more like files than knives, used to dig into crevices of the shell’s join.  You know you’ve made it when you start getting oyster-juice all over your gloves.  Twist your shucker and the mollusk’s home pops open quite easily.  Once you pop, you can’t stop.

I took the plunge and tried slurping a raw oyster straight from its shell.  It tasted like shellfish and ocean and salt, but nothing so impressive as what I’d heard.  Adding lemon juice, Tabasco or vodka made them much more delicious… as did frying them, and poaching them, and all the other methods of enjoying that we had for dinner. YUM.

Other oceanic endeavors…
The surprise of seeing how many prawns have landed in your traps was a staple at the end of each fishing trip.  Two meals over the course of two days involving prawns seemed to me like a pretty good haul.

The important lesson I learned about clam-digging, over my trip, was that the time is probably nigh and the tide will not wait for you to eat lunch.  We dug up six healthy clams from the rocky beach, just waiting to make it into a chowder.   As the waves started hitting our ankles, and the hole we were digging filled up more and more with water, we figured we’d let those guys get a chance at life.  The chowder will have to wait till the next trip.

I also tried to dry this starfish for my cousin. I left it in the sun for a few days but it just got brittle and smelly. I chucked it back into the sea.

Less oceanic, but possibly the most delicious, were the blackberry bushes that grew like weeds all over this part of the Island.  If you brave their thorns, the berries were perfectly ripe at this time of year and we picked and ate plenty.  I also enjoyed blackberry pie and tarts throughout my trip thanks to some very talented bakers.

Next post will be dedicated to the noble salmon and some pretty awesome sweaters.  Tune in for part 2!
-m.

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Capital Investment

No, this isn’t ECO105…

…it’s an effin’ sewing machine.

My Nonna had five seperate sewing machines sitting in her basement.  You’d think it was like a Singer graveyard or something, but these machines don’t die.  Here is where you can find a vintage 1940s automatic Singer, amazingly decorated (not unlike this one) in great working condition. It was in constant use until grandma needed a zig-zag stitch that it just couldn’t offer sometime around the 60s.  My father’s mother’s machine was also in there, having migrated all the way from Northern Italy for whoknowswhy.  This baby still had a foot pedal.  I opted for the Euro-Pro Denim Machine.   Long discarded by my aunt; more stitch options than a Greek family has cousins.

The discovery of an inherited sewing machine would not always have made me as excited as it does today.  While it is the one craft my mother has kept up with (when it’s either necessary or Halloween)  sewing is not hereditary.  I don’t think I have ever trusted myself enough with the investments that seamstressing involves, nor do I trust my luck with all its margins for error.  I am notoriously bad at measuring. This fact alone should probably exclude me from this craft.

What could have made me turn?  My recent. fabric. obsession. I know… you’re obsessed now too.  Indeed, my pliers and beads have taken a backseat to cottons and silks!   Not unrelated is my particular penchant for dresses.  I would love to be able to wear something that I have complete control over.  No worries about “we only have that in a 2”.  An escape from the bandage dress plague!

Nevertheless, learning to sew is HARD.  Where do I start?  Do I just buy a pattern and learn as I go?  Do they have patterns that will help teach me?  Should I start big or small?  How will I afford the fabric?  How can I afford 30 dollar classes?  I have to cut that pretty fabric?

I should probably come to terms with the fact that whatever I sew first will be ugly and won’t fit me.  I’m sure I’ll feel a sense of accomplishment nonetheless, so what’s the harm in that?

I JUST MADE A BUTTONHOLE AND I FEEL AWESOME.
-m.

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Pattern-saver

Just a teensy post this morning before a day of romance and softball…

I posit that the only thing keeping most people from knitting is that they down’t know the language.  Ssk, p2tog and dpn, to anyone else but a knitter, probably just sound dirty.  Honestly, taking two minutes to youtube a new stitch you come across can mean the difference between garter stitch scarves and a new pair of lace socks.

But I digress. Cos what really scares people (and even me!) is PATTERN CHARTS.  See the combination of dots and dashes above that looks more like morse code?  It can tell me how to knit too!  While small charts can make our lives easier sometimes, big ones, like the one pictured above for a laptop case, can be dizzying.

I’ve seen pattern markers in knitting shops before, at steep prices and questionable colour choices, so I figured I’d make one for myself.  This one keeps track of where the HELL I am on a chart, and is sturdy enough to mark my place until the next time I pick up that project.

Materials are simple:
-A length of fabric-based ribbon just more than double the size of the paper your pattern is on (I’d go for a matte ribbon, as adhesive may not stick to more satin-y types)
-strips of adhesive magnets
-scissors-
-Optional: glue gun/silicone sealer/Goop if the magnets need a bit more stick.

Simply cut your ribbon to a length that will fold once around your pattern, measure out two strips of magnet just shorter than half of the ribbon you just cut, then stick em on the inside of your ribbon with enough room between then to allow for a “fold”.  When closed around your pattern the magnets will stick to each other through the paper, embracing your pattern in a hug in can NEVER ESCAPE FROM.  You will never lose your place again!  If you want a more liberal hug that might slide more easily up and down a page, look for thinner strips or sheets of magnet.

Happy crafting!
-m.

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