Caught Me Creating

I Accepted His Proposal

Last week I celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary. We didn’t do anything fancy…just went out for the best sushi in our little town with my visiting in-laws.

Wow, 15 years…where did the time go?

In 1999, my now husband asked me to marry him in the hallway of my Mom’s house. At that time, we had been together for two years, and had been “living in sin”, much to my family’s chagrin. A ring was music to my mother’s ears!

After I accepted his proposal, the countdown to the wedding began. Anxiety and excitement set in, and plans began for my party of the century to take place in Fall 2000.

Weddings…the whole concept is so not what I am.

I was not one of those girls who dreamt of their wedding when they were a little girl. No, in fact, I shunned the idea, as I didn’t see myself as ever getting married… but, haw-haw! Here I was, a fool for love, planning a wedding. Looking at my photo albums, the wedding seems so far away, yet like yesterday. At the same time, my memory of the day is as vivid as yesterday.

I committed a whole year to the task of planning my wedding, and like a good student, I was organized, studious and thorough. I still have the binder I used full of all the work I did for the day, and it’s quite something. It brings back a ton of memories, and reminds me of how styles and technology have shifted.

I chose Fall for the time of year…Ever been to a wedding in July? Sweatin’ to the oldies…and you expect me to wear nylons? No thanks! Autumn is such a pretty season, with the leaves changing colour, and the perfect palette to draw from for a wedding. I chose red as a main colour – cheery and different – and orange and yellow also played a role.

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I got married in Sudbury, Ontario – 3.5 hours away from where we were living at the time. The nuptuals took place in the church my grandmother had a hand in creating, and where I spent every Sunday from ages 3 to 18. The reception took place in the same hall the hubs’ parents had their wedding reception. The reason for location was because both our families and many of our guests live in Sudbury.

We had 112 guests come to our wedding. Planning a wedding teaches you compromise, and this number was big enough to be called a large event, but small enough not to be overwhelming.

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I don’t like dresses, nylons and high-heels. I don’t wear much make-up and don’t like to make a fuss about myself. In any case, I found it surprisingly easy choosing a style of wedding dress. Finding the actual dress wasn’t so simple.  In the end, I had my dress handmade because I couldn’t find anything that didn’t make my sensitive skin break out in a rash.

I wore a bodice under my dress since there wasn’t anything inside the dress to “hold the bewbs in.” I never wore anything like that before…Now, I KNOW I’ve become a woman when I step foot into a lingerie shop and pay $85 for a friggin’ corset…and the bastard was so uncomfortable. At one point I was in tears when I had to wear it to a fitting and one of the bonings (heh) poked me in the ribs so bad, I could barely sit in the car.

Never mind, shoe-shopping on any given day is torturous. I’d live in my sandals all year round if I could! It took me 6 months to find white shoes that didn’t pinch my feet. My original idea was to wear white running shoes decorated with lace like Annie Banks wore in Father of the Bride, but my mother disapproved of this in a big way, and she won that battle (and in hindsight was probably right, I say pouting…).

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One of the funnest part of planning my wedding had to have been designing my own wedding invitations. Man, that was great! It precipitated us getting a new computer (an HP Pavillion with Win 98 and a Pentium processor!) and a new flatbed scanner! Having been a Visual Arts grad with some web and Graphic Design experience, I was in my element creating my invitations with PrintShop Pro (the latest Photoshop knock off only Costco could offer!). I saved a lot of money as I used card stock and envelopes available at Staples which kept costs way down. I’m still proud of the workmanship!

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It was the year 2000, and unlike today where people have wedding pics taken digitally, outdoors, I had mine taken in a stuffy studio taken on real film (I’ll spare you the Daguerreotypes…). I don’t even have the negatives to my own wedding pics!

Since music keeps us alive, it of course played an integral part in the wedding day. To start, we had fun creating CDs for our wedding party. Having had about 20 people involved in the day, Kevin and I got creative by making our own mixes for our pals. I then got to work creating the best CD cover ever – mimicking the styling of movie posters.

 

I even controlled the music that would play at the reception. I was so anal about what music was to be played – and what music wasn’t – I had a list I handed off to the DJ. The moratorium list was largely ignored (what are you gonna do when a request from a guest for new country music comes in?), and so I got to hear at least 4 Shania Twain songs that night. Still, we managed to cut a serious rug, and do the white man’s overbite on repeat.

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Our first song was Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” (we were on a James Bond kick). The last song was Etta James’ “At Last”, which today is totally ubiquitous with weddings, but back then was largely ignored…I guess I started a trend!

Reminiscing about the day, perusing my wedding planner, looking over the old photo albums, brings back memories. I was nervous and felt awkward the whole time I was at my wedding, which is me on any normal day. But at the same time, I was so elated to be marrying Kevin, I didn’t even feel my awful corset poking me in the ribs.

Overall, it was a wonderful wedding, and the universe willing, I will never have to do that again! Here’s to another 15 years!

Absence Makes the Blogging Heart Grow Fonder

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything for this blog…August 5th to be exact.

I am sure some of you have noticed my absence from reading and writing blog posts. I have a really good excuse, I promise! It’s called summer, and what often happens in the summer is the race to get things done while you are away from work, because, well, you are at home. Traveling, appointments, visitors, things that need doing around the house…time slipped away from me and there has been no time for reading or writing.

How to memorialize my summer for this blog? Instead of writing individual posts for everything I did, here is a list of everything I did, in potential blogposts titles:

1.Damn you impacted ear!
A painful two-week journey spent with a plugged up ear, which included sick time, some type of stinky oil that reeked of jet fuel and a doctor’s syringe. 

2. I finished Mass Effect 2!
Review forthcoming…

3. The Hubs and I started Borderlands the Pre-sequel!
Fun fun fun!

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4. Company’s Coming! ~ times three weekends in a row!
August was one busy-ass month. It included getting the house ready for 2 kidlets under 3, and shopping for a new mattress and futon. Then it was Good Times with the family and friends! I love ’em, but whew! I am exhausted!

5. I bought eye glasses at Wal-Mart (with some regret)
Take it from me…buying cheap Wally World glasses does not always pay off as we have already returned our glasses for repair. A month has gone by and the hubs hasn’t even gotten to wear his yet! 

6. My spotty red shadow spans long
It has been one itchy and scary summer as my plaque psoriasis decided to flare up to such an extent it spread to over 60% of my body. I was looking like a red leopard for a while there… I am doing better now, and have been referred to a Dermatologist.

7. I am out of the running as an America’s Next Top Model watcher
I have been a faithful watcher of this show since 2003. I watched the first episode of this season, and it is my last. They changed everything a couple of seasons ago, and it never recovered. I am done. Bye bye Tyra Banks!

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8. I hope the “Go Jays Go!” bandwagon has room for one more!
I wasn’t a fan, but now I am. Every night I’m watching the Toronto Blue Jays fight to win, and I’ve been enjoying it! (And BTW, I went to the August 30th Jays game against the Detroit Tigers. It was so awesome, I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun I had!)

9. I am the knitting queen
With friends and family having babies this year, I got to work on some knitting. I managed to knit two baby blankets, with a third in the works! No bad…

10. Dairy Queen Blizzards, iced coffee and BBQ. Enough said.
Because (cover your ears, 1537) ice cream and grilled meats.

There you have it – my summer in a series of blogpost titles.

How has your summer been?

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[Caught Me Creating] The Swoncho Saga Takes a Stroll Down Caribou Trails

It was almost two years in the making…and the minute I finished knitting my swoncho (that’s a half sweater, half poncho), I hated it. (previously on this swoncho) It made me feel frumpy. It was a shapeless thing that hung too short to really be a poncho. It was indeed too swoncho relaxo for my taste, and I wanted it gone. NOW!

Some of you suggested in the comments of my swoncho blogpost that sometimes it’s best to kill the effer with fire.

I had a better idea in mind – repurpose the wool.  Seriously! The wool was still good. I had knit large enough pieces in the swoncho that it would be easy to reuse. “Let’s go for it!” was my first thought, followed by: “…as soon as possible!”

Situations like the swoncho snafu always challenge my ego. Here was a project I was unsuccessful at. My friends, I have dealt with failure before – Jesus, have I ever! Sarca Seeecret: if I look back into my knitting history, about 68%* of my projects have run into one snafu or another. TRUTH! I just try to learn from the fuck-ups, suck it up and move on to the next project, yo!

This next chapter in the Swoncho Saga is no different.

To start, I had used Fiesta Chunky wool in a smokey grey for the swoncho, so I needed to find a pattern that could accommodate chunky wool. I took to Ravelry – the “pr0n for knitters” website that is the go-to meeting place for designers and users alike to share patterns and their knitting experiences. I was lucky to find a pattern for a raglan style sweater called “Caribou Trails” designed by Kelly Daniels. It is a relatively simple sweater with a lovely cable stitch at the sides and a turtle neck. It looked cosy and warm – just what I needed to switch out the swoncho.

This pattern was a departure from what I expect when I knit a sweater. To start, my Caribou Trails sweater was knit from the neck down; I am used to knitting sweaters from the waist up! Also, it was knit without seams using circular needles “in the round”; essentially knitting one whole piece without having to sew up anything. I was nervous tackling this pattern, but I must say, it was easy to follow. I am definitely a top down knitting convert!

Three weeks later, and I had completed my sweater. As usual, I ran into minor snafus, but nothing too serious. All things considered, this was an enjoyable sweater to knit, and in my opinion, my best work yet! The results speak for themselves!  I am very pleased, and hope to add another sweater like it to my wardrobe very soon. Good riddance, swoncho!

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*68%…What’s that figure? Well, it’s not 65%, and not quite 70%. haha

[Caught Me Creating] When a Swoncho Goes South of the Border

Ever work hard on something only to hate the end result? Sometimes, nothing prepares you for it even when you follow all the rules.

The other night, after I cast off my last stitch on my half sweater/half poncho (that’s “swoncho“) and tried it on for size, I realized I hated it.

The swoncho looked frumpy…and although I hadn’t tied in all the ends, and officially finished it off by bathing and blocking it, the swoncho just didn’t look right. Too short. Weird seaming. Even though not expressed in the pattern, the back should have been made longer than the front to compensate for that bass. Yeah, no. Not good.

When I talk about knitting projects gone awry, sometimes I can fix what is broken. I can pull out seams and add more length, or shorten sleeves. But this pattern doesn’t allow for it because it is knit from cuff to cuff (horizontally) instead of the conventional waist to neck (vertically). The length of the swoncho was set once you cast on to your needles. No fixing that. Game over.

Knitting really teaches you patience and endurance. Sometimes both of these factors wear thin on me and after I’ve completed an especially challenging project, I will take an extended hiatus on knitting for a few months.

The instructions to the swoncho were simple enough to follow. The frustration factor was next to zero. I actually enjoyed this knitting experience for what it was. If the swoncho looked great when finished, it would have been the most boring knitting story ever. But, not all is well for the swoncho. And, lucky for it, aside from the time I spent knitting this, I am ready to move on to using this swoncho wool for something else. What else? To be determined.

Not only are patience and endurance important knitting attributes, so is stubbornness…

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CODA: This Swoncho’s wool has been re-purposed into a fantastic raglan sweater! Read more here!

[Caught Me Creating] Afghan, you really got a “hole”d on me…

This is the story of my most cherished vintage afghan… where memories of my grandmother, its creator, are weaved tightly within it, and that I will always and forever save from a holey death.

Growing up, I was fascinated by my grandmother’s ability to weave a ball of yarn into something wonderful with two sticks. I couldn’t understand the language that was printed in her pattern books, but I could understand that in order to accomplish making the gorgeous sweaters that were in the patterns’ pictures, my Granny had to make magic with knitting needles.

For a few years in the early 80s, my grandmother went on a tear with knitting. Her passion seemed to be for knitted afghans as I never once knew her to knit any sweaters. For a time when my sister and I went over to visit with her every weekend, she would put on the TV for us and I remember watching Dallas with the gentle sound of her clicking needles in the background. She was always knitting something afghan, and eventually we would see the fruits of her labour. One Christmas, she made my mom, my aunt, my sister and me each an afghan. She also managed to make afghans for our elementary school’s fundraising projects and for special charities she was involved with. The lady was talented…and BUSY!

My grandmother stuck with two styles of afghan that were popular at the time – the chevron, (also known as the zig zag or flying V), and the fan and feather (the wave). Of course, the colour scheme of these blankets represented the colours popular at the time – golds, yellows, oranges, rusts and browns. Colours may come and go, but I had told myself no matter what, I would never give away my grandmother’s afghan.

Years later, I still have one of these afghans – my sister’s – a constant reminder of my grandmother. This chevron-patterned blanket has been on several moves, seen many a washing machine and a lot of snuggle time. Believe it or not, after everything this blanket has been through, it still smells like my grandmother’s place.

Of course, a 30-year-old handmade afghan is bound to need some repairs sooner or later. One day a few years ago, I noticed a hole in the afghan, right in the centre of one of the panels. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fix it – one of those “when I get around to it” scenarios. Recently, I got the nerve to look at the hole, and assess how complicated it would be to fix it. Being a knitter for 20 years, initially taught by my grandmother, and with many projects under my belt, I knew I could do it. But, not having any familiarity with the chevron pattern itself, I thought it best to seek out the pattern in case I had to unravel the panel and then could easily knit it back up again. I looked through my stash of patterns my grandmother had given me years ago, to no avail. Okay, time to pray to Google I could locate a free pattern somewhere! The original pattern came from a Patons Beehive afghan pattern book from 1977 (no. 106, to be precise) and I could have sworn my grandmother had given me her copy when she moved into the home. Nope, I couldn’t find it anywhere. (As an aside, I was shocked to discover people are charging upwards of $10+ on eBay and etsy for this five-page leaflet! Wow!) After some extensive searches, I found a free pattern online. This pattern was close enough to the exact afghan I was trying to fix. Hooray for the internet!

And the fun begins…

After much study, I ended up unsewing the affected panel, and unravelling it a third of the way down past the hole. I read where you could try and use a crochet hook to pick up the dropped stitches, but couldn’t figure out how with the complexity of the pattern, and the fact that the wool was cut (hence the hole). Instead, I figured it would be less work to unravel and knit it back up.

That ended up to be a very wise decision…but not without a huge snag: I had run out of yarn, and short about two inches from completion! D’oh!

I am not sure why this happened – perhaps my knitting tension was looser than my grandmother’s which caused me to use up more yarn. Maybe I used the wrong sized needles; I don’t know. At any rate, it was the end of the line, and now I needed to somehow find a matching yarn in a burnt orange colour. Luckily, harvest colours seem to be coming back en vogue as I found a close shade in Vanna White’s line of wool from Tiger Brand (yes, THAT Vanna White…). The colour I used is a shade lighter, and has more yellow than the original, but for what it’s worth, it looks fine. I sewed up the panels, and voila! My grandmother’s afghan is all fixed, ready for more snugglers.

This project has since given me a glimmer of confidence to tackle other projects I had been putting off knitting and fixing, including a wedding afghan that I made for friends years ago that fell apart in Year One (embarrassing!). I have definitely learned from this experience, and it has made me a stronger knitter because of it; exactly what my grandmother, my Knitting Guru, would have wanted.

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I have since managed to get my hands on two copies of the Patons Beehive Afghan pattern book…

My mother-in-law happened to have a copy in her stash of wool donated to her via the hubs’ paternal grandmother. That was a nice Christmas surprise.

Months after I repaired my grandmother’s afghan, the hubs and I were in North Bay, Ontario at a junk shop where I found a copy of the Patons Beehive pattern book I had been looking for. I already had a copy, but couldn’t ignore my luck. When I asked the lady at the cash how much she was charging, she said, “Make me an offer.” I said, “Fifty cents”. SOLD! Quite a discrepancy from $10, isn’t it? The original price was 65 cents, and that was 1977 prices! I got this for a steal! 🙂

[Caught Me Creating] Is Making Anything By Hand a Worthwhile Pursuit?

One aspect of myself that I haven’t really delved into since I started this blog is the fact that, outside of playing video games and reviewing other media, I have been known to dabble into other creative pursuits, including knitting, cross-stitching and art. I currently have some projects on the go that I hope to reveal in due course. This other part of me is partially responsible for taking some of my precious free time away from gaming…not that I complain about that so much because, of course, I have chosen to spend my time doing them, and I enjoy doing them.

This week, as I was working on one of my projects, I thought about the act of creation, the monetary cost of creating that item and the time that is spent to complete it. Why do we create? What do we hope to get out of it? Is it a worthwhile pursuit? Some things we make are a no-brainer. Drawing or painting to me is a worthwhile pursuit. It’s something I’ve made. It’s unique to me. But, what about making your own clothes? Knitting a sweater? Sewing up a skirt? I realize this concept might be far-reaching for some…I mean, isn’t that what a mall is for? We go to a store and buy a pair of pants; there is no need to pull out the sewing machine. Yet, there is still a strong sewing hobby industry. Knitting and crocheting is one of the fastest growing hobbies out there now. If you break it down, nothing hits this point home better than creating something you plan to wear when you’re done.

About 15 years ago, I got my first sewing machine for Christmas, and yes, it was on my X-Mas wish list. Up until that point, I hadn’t ever used one except for a hand-held portable “Seen on TV” Singer sewing machine which didn’t work too well. I wasn’t really much of a sewer really – buttons, tapering pants and hemming by hand was about as far as the skills went. But, for whatever reason I really wanted to try to design and make my own clothes. I could point out favourite movies that were an influence, where the leading girls made their own clothes and purported a sense of style – Andi from the John Hughes 80s classic Pretty in Pink being one of them. Or, maybe it’s because I come from generations of women who made their own clothes? Whatever the reason, I had one desire: to make and wear something I made with my own hands and think to myself that I could do it.

Once I got the machine, I thought that making my own pj pants would be a great first project. My plan was I’d use my favourite pair of pj pants as a template and give ‘er. I relied heavily on the sewing machine’s instruction manual (still do!), and tried to learn a bit about stitches, threading a bobbin and the like. Then the excitement started! Off to the fabric store; I needed to find some fabric! And this is where I discovered, really having no previous idea, that sewing clothing by hand can get pricey, as fabric can be expensive to buy off the roll.

I settled on a cool milk and cookies motif in flannel. It cost about $30 for the fabric. Thread, elastic and other supplies brought the price up to $40 for a handmade pair of pj pants, which in this age of globalization and being able to get pj sets for $15, the handmade version was twice the cost. This doesn’t include all the sweat I poured into making the pants…and the swearing…I really didn’t know what I was in for.

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My handmade pj pants. Shite photie aside, these pants have seen better days…

I did finish my pj pants, by the way. My sewing inexperience took me at least three weeks’ worth of effort to make the pair, not to mention the mess my husband had to dodge while I made the pants in our tiny one-bedroom apartment. I learned from the experience and I still have those pants today. The construction isn’t perfect – the seams are uneven, the elastic band sticks out from under the seams, and the crotch is starting to come apart…but they resemble pants. It was a lot of effort and expense for something I’d only be wearing to bed.

This was my first, and last article of clothing I have ever sewn – ever. Since then, I’ve made panelled curtains, hemmed pants and shortened drapes. But, that’s it! C’est tout. I always have hope to pick up sewing more regularly, especially after I watch a season of Project Runway, but then I get overwhelmed and move past the emotion. “Some day” always floats in the back of my mind. Seriously though, I think making these pants scarred the sewing buzz for me. The learning curve, the effort and let’s not forget the money spent, all affected my perception of sewing for future projects – no doubt about it.

A year after completing my pj pants, I went out thrift shopping with a friend. I remember her telling me that she believes there isn’t much point in making anything that costs much cheaper in the store to buy. Not knowing that I had sewed my own pair, she pulled a pair of pyjamas off the rack and said, “Take these pjs for example. They are brand new, never worn. They’re really nice and they only cost $10. I’d never make these by hand. Why would I when you can buy them already made so cheaply? The cost of the fabric alone would probably cost more than $10.”

This logic resounded with me, especially since not a year before, I had made my own pj pants. Why would anyone make anything like that when the supplies to make it cost so much?

I often think of the matriarchal side of my family in the 1940s and 50s. My Grandmother, specifically, made a lot of her clothes by hand, including those of my mom and aunt. She smocked dresses using the old-time foot-propelled Singer sewing machine, and later taught my mom and aunt how to darn and mend their stockings by hand…It wasn’t so much that they got pleasure from making their own clothes –  they had to do this because they were poor and didn’t have a Wal-Mart to go to. They couldn’t afford to buy new clothing, so they made what they could by hand and patched what needed fixing until they couldn’t any more. Fabric and supplies were cheaper to buy than buying clothes back then. Things seem to have certainly changed.

I look at all I have created with yarn. Similar to fabric, I knit pieces of clothing that I wear today. I continue to knit items for myself, a little fettered by the cost of wool, but not enough to really stop me from knitting. Why? Not only because I hate everything I find in stores these days, but because as an artist, I have realized the value in having something unique. It’s even better if you can say, “I made this. This is MY creation.”

Consider, if you will, my milk and cookies pj pants. I definitely haven’t seen that fabric in any retail store in any clothing form. That to me says that the likelihood of running into anyone with milk and cookies pj pants around here is next to nil. The same can be said about the sweater patterns I choose to knit. Yes, there might be someone with a similar style out there, but I take pride in creating something different than the norm. I say, uniqueness rocks in whatever form it manifests! For me though, I think I’ll just pursue it minus the sewing machine…