hot town, summer in the city

Well, we’re into the dog days of August here and it’s not even August yet!  Sigh.

However, there is one thing that keeps my spirits up when everyone is frazzled, grumbling, pushing and shoving in the downtown streets trying to get as soon as possible into their air conditioned office.

Yup, you guessed it – flowers!

As you can see, here in Toronto they grow them to match the fire hydrants!  Well, sometimes they do, anyway.  Other times, no – but they’re still pretty, eh?

This, I think, is my favourite colour ever.  Hot coral flowers!!

But then I see more of this lovely buttercup yellow…

…but then I see loveliness like this and I start getting very, very confused.

It’s sensory overload, really…

I can’t decide which pink I like better, the one above, or this one:

… and then there is the glorious red of these (poisonous, I think, though) berries!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t show you some of my favourites – the humble sunflowers!

I also loved this little carpet of flowers here…

…which look like this closer up!

Now, you know I love vibrant colours, but even white looks good at this time of year…

And I guess that we have the blasted heat to thank for all of this fabulous bounty.  So, I’ll just have to suck it up and get used to it.

And anyway, at least it still gets cooler in the evenings…

This tree, by the way, was at least six feet away from the lamppost last year.  I find it fascinating how the leaves gravitate toward the light.  In this weather, I must confess that I prefer the dark.  Oh well.  Good thing I live next to a forest and all!

A very happy and colourful Tuesday to you!

stampeding into shamelessness

I’m well and truly off the wagon now, folks. Yup. Yesterday, I made yet another trip to one of the local Houses of Worship – on the pretext that I needed one of these:

For some reason I keep losing these. This is probably my fourth this year. I’m sure that one of these days I’m going to bump accidentally into a secret portal in my apartment and be faced with a whole pile of single socks, good wooden coat hangers (as opposed to crap wire ones from the dry cleaners’) and knitting needle measuring ruler thingies, all pointing and laughing at me.

So, of course I decided today that I was in huge need for one of these $3 thingamabobs. But did I go back to Romni, which is just down the street from my workplace? Hell, no.

Why not? Well, I felt the need to take a 25 minute walk (each way) in 30C/150C with the humidex (don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit, but “damn hot” will about cover it), that’s why.

It certainly wasn’t because Lettuce Knit (quite a hike away from my office, in the Kensington Market) is the only yarn shop in the city that carried Blue Moon Fiber Arts yarn. No sirree Bob. Nope.

OK – so now you know the truth. I am a big fat liar.

But, really, how could I resist!

Oh – and while I was there I had to pick up a lonely little skein of Bobby Blue (as in “No Sirree Bob”, I guess!) Malabrigo laceweight as well:

But I don’t feel so bad about this – because Amy told me: “Malabrigo doesn’t count”. I’m a very gullible person, and I do hope that she has not led me down the garden path toward bankruptcy….

What makes me feel a bit better about all of this is that I’m apparently not the only one who’s getting up to hijinks this week, apparently – and mine are far cheaper than some. You see, this week the Calgary Stampede is taking place. Now, I’ve never been to Calgary but if you have ever lived in Canada and watched any news programme during the month of July, you’ll know all about this WestFest, where all the oil millionaires/billionaires, politicians and other high rollers turn up to watch some rodeo and eat some high-priced beef.

Now, according to CTV News the other evening, that’s not all these guys do. They actually had a segment on the late news discussing how some of these guys also come to gamble and pick up women. They even quoted a pro female saying it was by far the most lucrative week of the year.

I think they did, anyway. You see, I cannot find this story anywhere on their website – I do remember seeing it though, if only because it really really hurts to spit Vex alcopop out your nose when you start laughing with your mouth full. JJ confirms that this was on.

But instead, all I could find on the CTV website was this: Calgary drops suits for Stetsons during Stampede.

More like “drops trou”, no?!

I mean, really – let’s face it, these prime ministers must get up to all sorts of nonsense when they’re on the road – and especially when they get to dress up in cowboy drag. Why else would Pierre Trudeau have been showing his stuff there, for example?

Now, as for Jean Chretien, I’m not so sure:

Now, I must say that I really like his wife’s cowboy boots – in fact, I want them. But what was up with those puddlejumper jeans, Jean?!? Did the Prime Minsterial budget not extend to a pair of jeans that actually fit, or did you spend it all on the 10 gallon hat?!?

And then there’s always my favourite, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, our current fearless leader who allows Geo. Bush to address him as though they’re hanging out on a street corner somewhere (I mean, really. “Yo, Harper“??? WTF???? When he pulled this stunt a few years back with Tony Blair, the British were reportedly offended. And, to my view, the British were right.) and simply giggles and blushes smiles. I’m not so sure, however, that it’s wild women he’s after…

I mean, first he poses for this cheesecake photo back in 2005:

Is that lipstick he’s wearing?!? I mean, really. Doesn’t he look as though he just stepped off the cover of a Village People LP?

So, then he hid I was not able to find any photos of Harper at the Stampede in 2006 – but this is what he turned up in in 2007:

So, what’s up with the pink shirt?? Well, apparently he said it was to show support for fundraising efforts for breast cancer. Well, that’s heartwarming and all, Steve – but if you really cared about people who suffer from breast cancer (or cancer of any kind, for that matter), you wouldn’t be doing your bit to destroy universal health care as we know it. But I’m ranting digressing now.

Suffice it to say that, sported by an arch-convervative like Harper, the colour pink speaks volumes. But this year, his image consultants have he’s decided to go butch:

Now, I haven’t been in a women’s bar for a while now – but the last time I went to one, this was pretty much the uniform.

So, Steve, I’ll be waiting with baited breath to see what cute little outfit you come up with for next year’s Stampede! How about something like this, for example?

Fetching, isn’t it?

Happy Wednesday!

reward for PayDay forbearance!!!

No, no – I did not rush out and buy something else. Instead, I got a lovely surprise in the mail today – the latest package from my Year of Lace 2008 subscription! And lovely it is indeed!

However, since some people have still not gotten their kits in the mail, I feel obligated to put up a spoiler warning…

… and also to engage in a wee digression (that’s today’s excuse, anyway). So, bear with me for a minute or so.

I know it will be very, very difficult to believe this – but on occasion I do get accused of having a rather narrow outlook on certain things. I can be prone to rather myopic behaviour sometimes, as it were (not to mention “obsessive”, but that’s a topic for another digression). It is a trait that serves me well in my vaunted profession of top notch hard working lawyer …

JJ: Ah, go oan, sell me a bridge, would ye, lassie?!?!?! D’ye actually think your blog readers will believe ye tae be hard-workin’?!?

KB: Um… er… (searching for witty response, then muttering) Ah, shurrup, wuid ye?

JJ: Ah telt ye, stop makin’ fun of the way ah talk.

And so on, and so forth.

Man, a digression within a digression. I’m really firing on all cylinders today!

… but it can tend to be a rather unlikeable quality, or so I’m told.

However, I intend to demonstrate to you that tunnel vision can sometimes be a beautiful thing indeed. The other day I took these photos of a field…

Isn’t that pretty? Let’s zoom in just a wee bit more, shall we?

But in fact, I just lied to you above (and yes, yes, I know – lying is another unlikeable quality in a person. However, I’m Greek. It’s genetic. I can’t help it. Really.) when I told you that these were pictures of a field. It is actually a photo of the garbage depository area of my building.

See? Far better, in this example, to take the narrow view, don’t you think?

Well, enough of that… time to show off my latest yarn acquisition!

First, a wonderful pattern by Joan Schrouder!

Blueberries!!!

And – my first ever skein of Lorna’s Laces laceweight (half silk, half wool):

I suspect it won’t be my last, though… look how soft it is!

And the yarn even comes with its own free shawl pattern…!

But now I’m torn!! Should I make the fan shawl, or Joan’s creation with the Lorna’s?

Help!

Oh – I forgot – I still have this radiant Claudia’s Handpaints in the stash…

I think the fan pattern would look very flash in this colour – perhaps I could call it “Daedalus“?

Yes!  Yes!

Oh – but another dilemma.  What to do with my other fabulous blueberry coloured yarn?!

And no, none of you can have it.  Sorry.

Hmm – I guess tunnel vision is not my only unattractive quality.  Apparently I need to work on generosity as well.

Sigh.

Wishing you a wonderful, wonderful weekend – and a happy 4th of July to my American friends.  The Tenant Advocates and I will be raising several glasses to you this evening…

castles, Toronto and Spring – oh my!

After all my moaning about Snow Madness this past winter, I am happy to report that spring seems finally to have arrived in Toronto!

Of course, the weeds were the first greenery to make themselves known, even pushing through concrete:

And until very recently, the cold finger of Winter was still more evident in the forest than the lovely leaves of Spring…

…but finally the spring greenery is emerging more clearly!

Now, because this is a part of Canada in which spring takes a while to appear, some flowers are slower to emerge than others.
But these budding tulips make me happy – they make me think of dancing arabesque ladies of the mystical East.
And funnily enough, just down the street there are fully-fledged tulips!
In fact, the road to the Castle is strewn with flowers.
There are also lots of other lovely spring colours there:
… as well as another sign that Winter is ever so slowly giving way to Spring:
The colours are overwhelming at this time of year after all that grey bleakness.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! (for once in my life, anyway).

I don’t even care that it is grey and damp outside when I see lovely blooms all around!


And even lovely cherry trees!

So, today I’m very happy. To top it off, it is that all-hallowed of holidays, PayDay. So, doubtless there will be more photos of Nature’s lovely colours as depicted through yarn on display here tomorrow.

Happy Wednesday!

**************

KB pix pics! (coming soon…)

Well, you may have noticed that I have an odd predilection with photos from the Globe and Mail, the PMO, and other fine publications. I’m going to try this page as a repository for some of them which don’t fit neatly anywhere else, with funny captions as appropriate. Examples:

“Now, now, Mr. Carnival… I told you I don’t do that on the first date. And not on the second, either…”

“$#&*$&*##($$##%#)(*)! There goes the whole part I had to frog last night… AGAIN!!!”

Stay tuned…

How to Make Your Very Own Straightjacket!

(or: Brouhaha’s Tips for Faking it When You Don’t Know How to Sew)

Have you gazed with envy, nay, hatred, upon those friends or acquaintances who whip up haute couture garments effortlessly and cheaply on their sewing machine, then tell you “oh, it’s easy”? Are you a knitter who is used to needles at least 3 mm thick and deathly afraid of those baby pointed things that can do real damage?

If so, fear not. You, too, can make beautiful couture garments with no sewing experience – and on the (super duper) cheap!

And you probably won’t break skin by stabbing yourself with a sewing needle… if you take it gently. Just read on.

“Tried and Not True” Tips will be inset for your convenience. (I initially thought of calling this “What Not To Do”. But of course, you’re free to do what you want. And maybe what didn’t work for me will work very well for you!)

EXPERIENCED SEAMSTERS PLEASE READ THIS: This blog post is in no way intended to minimise your great expertise and highly polished finished results. On the contrary. Please view it as an attempt by a sewing-challenged individual to attempt to reach step two on the ladder to your vaunted heights without shelling out for lessons or instructional materials.

My sewing example for today is my project entitled Fit to Be Tied.


1. Pick a theme for your piece

I’m not going to insult anyone here with the term “optional” (usually in parentheses). I have thrown far too many recipe books off the balcony because of this one seemingly inoffensive little word. Of course (for example) cayenne pepper in a chicken dish is “optional”. So is the chicken, and everything else down from there. When I grow up I’m going to write a million-selling cookbook called “If You Can Hold Your Finger In It For As Long As It Takes You To Count To 14 Without Your Finger Burning, It’s Time To Move On To The Next Step” (a time-honoured Greek cooking tip in the recipe for yogourt, guaranteed to ensure that no one else can actually replicate your award-winning recipe. (Um… guess I’d better work on that title).

However, if you just want something to wear and don’t feel like importing deep symbolism into it, use your best judgment. I’m certain it will be better than mine. End of side rant.

I came across the base materials for this at the Goodwill:

My base theme became immediately apparent to me: anti-corporate law!!! (see my Lawsuitproject if you want more background on this theme).

The secondary theme (which quickly became the main theme) – straitjackets – came some time later. About halfway through the project I wondered if I hadn’t internalised The Tudors a bit too much. Then I thought that I was dwelling too much on work a bit too much. Finally it came to me: the piece was meant to represent:

(a) the tyranny of the corporate workplace;
(b) the fact that men wearing colourful ties tend to run the world, which constrains the rest of us.

Then I could sleep. 😉

2. Make Sure You Have All Your Materials:

The materials I used are the following:

– sewing needle (make sure it’s fairly sharp and small enough to let beads pass over, if you’re using them)
– 6/0 beads or seed beads – I used about 500 in this project
– buttons (vintage or otherwise)

You will also need:

– thread (I know, I know… but I started trying to do this project without thread!!!). I picked a fairly resilient type, in black. Any colour that doesn’t clash with the main colours of your piece will do.
– sharp scissors (fabric ones preferable – I know the sewing gods will frown upon me, but I just got a Singer pair at Loblaws for $8 that seems to do the trick).
– straight pins with the cute little colours at the end (available at most quality dollar stores or a fabric store)

You may also like to have handy:

– a seam ripper
– a thimble
– a dressform

(I did my work mostly on Aphrodite, my trusty dressform. It would help if you had one of those… if only to lay out your design. If not, I think you could improvise with a dress hanger and a shower rail).

2a. Find some appropriate music or television viewing to craft by.

While I made this piece, I listened to the following albums ad nauseam:

(Yes – ABBA. Don’t rag me about listening to ABBA. I am a big fan – and this album is my favourite. Bet you didn’t know that ABBA has dark music, either. If you don’t believe me, click this link. Bjorn and Benny must have been on the outs when this one was penned! I suspect these lyrics largely affected the more paranoid content of the vest, not to mention the straitjacket theme, actually.

And while we’re on the topic of musical preferences, let it be known that I was listening to so-called “lounge music” well before those who are too cool for school started to remix it and turn it into 21st century nightclub fodder. OK?!

Television viewing for crafting in the JB household tends toward:
– Dr. House reruns
– Law and Order reruns
– The Food Network
– British police procedurals and legal dramas (my current fave is Judge John Deed. Gotta love those wigs!!
– nature programmes (but only if JJ insists)
– science programmes (ditto re. JJ)

3. Decide how you want to put together your base materials.

I started designing the piece from the front and left the back for later (and in the process, completely changed my mind… more later).

Drape the neckties around your form (or hanger) until you see what you want to do. A criss-cross pattern worked for me:

If it’s not evident from the photo, I used six neckties on the front (for a small). They were arranged in an alternating pattern of [fat end, skinny end]. If you can figure out how to make a top with all of the fat ends in the front, please do advise.

Do not worry if all or your neckties are not of identical width. It will all come out in the wash.

4. Pin the ties as you’d like to sew them, then sew them one by one.

Tried and Not True:I decided that it would be a really good idea to use my new favourite toy, the gluegun, to assemble this piece in full with no sewing. Mistake. It did seem like a good idea at least to adhere the neckties to the top with the gluegun and skip the pinning out. Until glue blobs like this started to happen:


Not only is it virtually impossible to sew through these (when the glue fails to adhere and your neckties start falling off), but you might end up with impossible to remove blobs that show!

(What does the government do when you call them in a panic complaining about errant glue blobs?
They initiate a top level cover up! Quelle surprise!)

So – use the glue gun at your peril, and don’t say you weren’t warned!!

I used running stitch for the outside edges, and cross-stitch (from my vague recollection of needlepoint) to attach two ties together in the centre. This took a very long time… mostly because I only realised at the very last minute that I was doing the cross-stitch incorrectly. Any google search done with that word will probably yield you simple and accurate instructions for both).

This is an example of my rather lame running stitch:
5. Apply beads if you’d like

I’m going to confess that the only reason I thought about using beads was that my stitching looks so atrocious that I figured no one would notice with sparkly beads. Did it work?
I should note that I only put beads where I had used the running stitch. The cross stitch also looked rather ridiculous, but I figured it had a Frankensteinish sort of appeal (you will note that I don’t offer a close-up view, however).

I did also put beads around the bottom of the top (that’s confusing, isn’t it? you know what I mean) and anouth the points of some of the neckties).

If you’re trying this at home, sew the front neckties up to the shoulder seam of the top you’re using, unless you have a better idea that involves less sewing (and please do advise me if so!).

6. Decide whether you can live with assymetry.

Why are neckties all different lengths, anyway? I must confess that my type-A side was not happy with the uneven edge left by the neckties at the front (and back). However, I was too lazy to figure out what to do about it. So, we’ll just call this a “design feature” . I gather assymmetrical hemlines are in these days, anyway. Good time for me to take up sewing!

7. Decide what you want to do with the back of your piece.

Initially, I had thought I would want to go with a criss-cross like at the front of the piece. But by the time I had finished that (try stabbing through layers of glue and neckties with a small needle if you think I’m impatient. I warped three of them!), I decided that wasn’t going to happen.

My first option was this peacock-like arrangement:

Then JJ (who was patiently sitting by, as always – I’m very lucky that way) said “Why don’t you try this?”
Good idea!!

I should note that JJs idea, however, also involved sewing all the ends down after they had been weaved together at the top. As you will imagine, I wasn’t into it. I slept on it (barely) and thought that the braiding would work well with what had by this point become the straitjacket theme:


Originally I thought it would be OK to leave the weaved/braided portion loose (and if this were only to be an art piece, I would have left it like that). However, I realised that this was probably not practical for wearing, especially when negotiating the ever-crowded and obnoxious transit system. So, I decided to affix the weaved portion together with little beads and side stitching with more beads:

There is one bead in the centre of each “weaved” portion.

I then braided the remaining pieces partway. The braids are affixed with buttons which I sewed on:

Part of the logic for this was that they would be easy enough to take off (provided they don’t fall off by themselves, given my execrable sewing skills) if I wanted to go the “peacock” route in future.

For this reason (as well as through general laziness), I decided not to affix the braids. They are hanging loose. I’ll let you know if this proves irritating when I wear the piece to work on Tuesday.

8. Give your sleeves some fancy cuffs!

I had decided partway through that I would use my two extra neckties to try to make some cuffs for the sleeves.

This allowed me the fascinating perpective of a dissected necktie (and from what I remember from grade 8, far preferable to frog dissection, and no formaldehyde! I get enough of that in my cigarette ration anyway…)

Far more flimsy than I had thought! I guess I believed, given what I see on the news every night, that neckties are the 20th/21st century version of armour. Then again, maybe they are, given that everything these days is made out of plastic where it used to be made from metal….

But I digress. Here are the instructions:

(a) Cut a piece off the bottom of your necktie, about 3-4″ higher than the top of the point (see above).

(b) Sew the cut edges together with running stitch leaving about 1/2″ border, then trim rough edges.

Tried but Not True Tip: by this point I fancied myself to be quite the sewing genius. I also knew from all of my vast sewing experience that it is often advisable to turn things inside out. Hence:Check me out!! So brilliant… I stitched merrily away, and revealed my new creation, only to find this:

Oops. This is what I told myself:
I then did the correct thing, which was to stuff the sewed necktie cuff into the sleeve rightways up, pin it and sew it (of course I didn’t take a photo because I was so peeved with myself and just trying not to pitch the entire project off the balcony.) But here was the final result:
Nice, eh? I added a vintage button as a mock cufflink as well.

9. Add whichever finishing details you desire (or whichever you need to cover up flaws, more frankly).

For example, I added these two buttons to cover up a fray in one of the ties:

(It didn’t quite seem to work, but hey).

This, in my view, necessitated adding another button on the other side for balance:(I have no idea where the other button for this Zodiac pair is. It does display my sign, however (upside down in the photo – as JJ would say, nothing changes!) and so I was content.

I also decided to add beads along the seams (in the hope that it would even out some of the unevenness in sewing the ties to the front, as it happens – or at least, distract from it):

… and, every elegant piece deserves a lable:

(tiefed from one of the neckties – and part of the anti-corporate message):

I also put a lovely inside label which quite fits my interest in crafting:

And – that’s about it! (isn’t that enough!). All this to say that – even if you don’t sew, you too can have a lovely bespoke item in just nine steps (and with virtually no bloodshed):

Happy crafting! The tutorial is free – all I ask, if you actually use it, is that you drop me a line with a photo of the results (and whether I can publish them here or not – either is cool, of course).

Cheers,

Kristina