Friday, February 22, 2013

out of season

inspired by a jar of "bluebarb jam" with cute packaging that I saw on Pinterest, and by the arrival of the first stalks of rhubarb in the grocery stores, I made this blueberry-rhubarb crisp this week. It was delicious!

I always get really excited when the rhubarb finally starts showing up in the grocery stores. My own backyard rhubarb plants are coming up, but the greenhouse stuff is always way ahead of my own young plants.  Sure, the stalks I bought were pale and super thin - it's very early yet - but I can't help it: I see rhubarb and I start to think about fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, sorrel (actually, that *is* ready to be harvested from the garden already), nettles, and all the first wild and bright flavours of spring.

We're getting close! I started sowing spring vegetables last weekend (peas, rapini, and some mesclun greens and cool season spinach) and sowed purple poppies among the lily bulbs in my front flowerbed on Tuesday. I cannot wait for things to begin sprouting in earnest - but for now, I'm perfectly content to weed, prune (our winter's been so mild my roses got an early start), and clear the beds, to make room for the next growing season. It's a time of happy anticipation.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

handmade holidays 2012: some things are worth waiting for

ah, here we are. Yes, I know, it's February. I'm two months late. This project took so much longer than I expected, to be honest. I think I never would have finished it, except that being sick suddenly provided a window - and I rediscovered the satisfaction of stitching for hours, while watching tons of BBC/Masterpiece film adaptations of Jane Austen novels.


 The verse is one of my most favorite lines (with one added repetition) from one of my most favorite poems, T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding. Little Gidding is the last of Eliot's Four Quartets, and its reflection on the nature of time and eternity, the meaning of human life, and the mystical, metaphysical images combining earthly and unearthly matter (body and spirit) are wonderful. It is associated with the season of winter, and the element of fire.

But these lines: "all shall be well/and all manner of/thing shall be well" are borrowed from an earlier writer, Julian of Norwich. Her Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love is believed to be the first book written in the English language (Middle English) by a woman. This only makes it more special, more resonant to me. And though not necessarily a religious person, I admire and appreciate the vision of a divinity who promises that, "all shall be well." In the face of all that life throws at us - love and loss, change and inconstancy - who doesn't want to be promised that, in the end, "all shall be well"?

This also seemed the perfect mantra for my parents; my father finally retired this November - his body could not take any more physical strain of  the kind of labour he was doing. I wanted to promise my parents that I will finish my Ph.D., get a job, and take care of them as they have always taken care of me. All shall be well.

"All Shall Be Well." Cotton floss on cotton canvas. Satin stitch, straight stich, stem stitch, herringbone stitch, chain stitch, french knots. 7.5" square. 2013.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

time out: what happens when I'm confined to bed

So I've been in and out of the hospital for the last week with an inflamed appendix. No fun. An oncologist, who diagnosed me with COLON CANCER (thanks for stressing my husband out, dude) based on an anomaly in my cat scan (which everyone else diagnosed as NOT-colon-cancer - a second cat scan proved the others right; I'm okay, thank goodness) refused to operate on my appendix. The inflammation did eventually go down, though my bloodwork is still showing that there is inflammation, somewhere, in my body. All this to say that after a rather hellish week, I have no answers, no diagnosis, and still have my appendix - no guarantees it won't act up again, either. Of course, if it DOES act up again, they probably will just take it out.
So. When I weaned off the painkillers (morphone really does a number on me; it makes the base of my skull feel all tight and weird and creepy), I spent a lot of time sleeping, moaning in pain, and not really doing much.
Enter the interwebs.
I killed some hours on pinterest, and ran across a few things that I totally want to DIY. So while I wait for the materials I've ordered to come in, here's a preview of two upcoming projects. I want to do full step-by-step DIY instructions for these, because they'd be so simple to recreate for 10% (or far less) of the cost of the originals:
This is the Leather Braided Rodeo Necklace by Heyoka Leather for Free People.   That bad boy costs a whopping $313 dollars! That's crazy! If you click through and look at the photos, you'll see it simply two strands of labradorite and silver beads, hung from braided leather. I've already sourced most of the materials I'll need:
First, I'll need some leather lace - 3mm wide could be fine, but I decided to go for deerskin, as it would be much, much softer. That way, the braid won't be rigid or stiff and should drape nicely. I also went for a wider 5mm lace, because deerskin stretches a bit, and will become narrower if I pull on it while braiding - so this way, I can have some choice over the thickness. I bought three yards (should be plenty, right?) for $8, plus $3 shipping (though I was able to get something for another project - see below - to combine shipping costs). 
Next, I needed some labradorite beads. The necklace is using what are called heishi beads. these are flat cylinders. I found this full 14-inch strand of labradorite heishi for only $4 (plus $2 shipping) on etsy. Great buy! I have to confess: this was the cheapest labradorite heishi on etsy; the other shops were a bit more expensive. You'll need 92 beads to make this necklace; this 14-inch strand will probably contain over 300. I'm really into labradorite lately; it's a kind of grey stone that flashes blue in the light, and as galaxy- and astronomy-themed stuff is really inspiring me lately, I find myself really drawn to labradorite. In short: I'm happy to have the extras around.
The other thing I'll need are the silver spacer beads. I'll need 26 of these. The ones used in the original are what are called "bicone" shape; to me, they look like they are probably African, Mexican, or Tibetan silver, with that patina and slightly organic/uneven shape. My local bead store sells African silver, so I'm going to go there and check out what they've got before I buy anything online.
I'll also need two small pieces of leather, ideally something that matches the deerskin lace. I think I have these. I used to work at a women's clothing boutique. Whenever we had leather skirts or pants come in to sell, they would come with two little pieces of leather that cushioned the item of clothing from the pressure of the clips on the hanger. As a stockworker, I was required to remove these pieces before sending the clothes out to the floor. Instead of throwing them out, I got permission to take them home. And now I have bags full of small rectangles of leather, perfect for this kind of thing. So, hopefully I've got something in the right colour. We'll see; I'll check what I've got when the deerskin gets here.
So, so far I've spent about $18 for the materials to make this $300 bracelet.
Here's the second piece. This is Vega's Single Flame Cuff, available at the ever-so-inspiring indie shop, Cisthene. I seriously love their lookbooks! This bad boy is $195. Let's break it down: that's a brass cuff bracelet blank, with a crystal, and gold metallic leather lacing. I'm thinking a bit of epoxy (superglue) is holding the leather/brass/crystal all together.

 Here's a brass cuff bracelet blank. It's not patinaed like the bracelet in the picture (though if you click through to Cisthene's website, Vega also makes this bracelet with a shiny brass base and silver metallic leather wrapping). This bracelet blank cost me $3 (with $2 shipping).

The most difficult component of the bracelet was finding a large crystal. The Cisthene website says the bracelet is 2.3" wide; but take a look - the crystal is not quite as wide as the cuff itself. So you're looking for a crystal around 2" wide. It took me a long time to find one that wasn't $30+. This one was only $3 (plus $2 shipping). Best deal I could find on etsy! It's got a crack on the end, but really - who cares? I won't be putting any undue stress or torque on the crystal, and I'll actually be wrapping the crystal with leather, which should help hold it together anyway. 

Finally, metallic lace. Oops! I bought gold - I wrote the etsy seller to ask if I could get silver instead; if not, I'll just investigate ways to patina the bracelet blank, and make it darker. A yard of this 3mm lace cost $1.75 (free shipping, since I ordered it with the deerskin).

So - so far, I'm paying $12 for the material to make a $200 bracelet.

Not bad. Now I just have to wait ... and hope that by the time this stuff comes, I still have time to sit around and make stuff!