Monthly Archives: June 2012

Rearview Fridays: Grade 4 Toy Glory

When I was in grade 4 I was ambitious craft-wise. Herm. I should modify that statement. I have always been very ambitious crafty-wisey. So when I was however old one is in 4th grade, 10-ish I guess, I made some toys. And surprisingly they have lived to tell the tale and play another day!

I stitched this little felt ball, about the size of a generous hacky-sac. Soft and well balanced for throwing at the head of a little brother without dire repercussions! Check out the well-spaced blanket stitching. Pretty good for little pioneer-aspiring hands.

I was in Waldorf and I seem to remember making all of these toys at school. So there’s a good chance the one above involved a lesson on fractions! In fact I remembered these toys when I found a felt ball from the same era made of a bunch of pentagons (like a soccer ball) with little flowers stitched onto each piece. Now I can’t find that ball, go figure. But it reminded me to dig these out of the toy box for a way-retro Rearview Friday post.

This one I crocheted back when I knew how to crochet. Yes, my 10-year-old Waldorf-self had a wider palette of crafty skills than I do now. I think it was referred to as the Brain Ball for obvious reasons.

Then there were the animals. Next up is mister floppy-ear bunny. The detail makes me shake my head, I was fussy. The stitching is tiny, he has a proper pom-pom tail. The rabbit is even weighted with seeds or rice for heaven’s sake. And of course the fibres are all-natural, it was Waldorf after all! I do still loooove me some natural fibres …

I have 3 significantly younger siblings and all the toys in this post made it through their play years and are now being enjoyed by my own boys over 20 years later. It just amazes me to think that I made toys that would be in the hands of my own wee people when I was still a girl.

I had to save the best for last. Check out this donkey! His legs even have shaped joints. His embroidery floss mane has seen better days but what do you expect after almost 25 years?! I was a goody-two-shoes in grade 4, actually for a lot of grade school til I got over myself circa high school, but I think I partly made a donkey so I could say “ass” legitimately but titter behind my serious-face. Ass.

I love that the act of making something leaves a memory in your muscles. I hold these toys and truly remember making them. Cheers to crafting at any age. Cheers to crafts that last.

Have a very happy weekend and raise a glass to Canada on July 1st.

Quilting Challenge: June [and musings on "home"]

I have been thinking about home a lot lately, perhaps because I am on the cusp of a big driving trip across the country to Alberta where I grew up. So I feel certain that June’s 2012 Quilting Challenge square should be a house! I love that Mr. Owl looks like he’s perched on the roof top.

I have many places I call home. Alberta of big sky and my first 20 years is home. City: Edmonton, neighbourhood: Parkallen. Friends and family, school and lessons, choir and dancing, adventures on foot, bike, bus and car, flights of imagination in the backyard. It’s more the memories that are home because by now a lot of the people have moved and the landscape has changed a fair bit. It’s the capital “H” home of my mind and heart.

Toronto is my adult home, In fact I’ve been here for 14 years as of this week — maybe that’s why home is on my mind! I came for dance school and fell in love with the city. And with a boy, who I married. I discovered how strong and able and independent and brave I am in this big city. And to my continued surprise, I rarely manage a streetcar ride without seeing someone I know. it’s become the lowercase “h” home, but no less important in my list of homes.

Now Toronto’s Cabbagetown is home-home. A house-of-dreams (yes, you are correct, that’s an obscure Anne of Green Gables reference) and its century-home maintenance realities is the literal roof-over-the-head-home. Now I am maker and keeper of the first home my boys will remember, with their own set of smells and colours and sounds and favourite corners. Their own intangible roots are stretching from this very house and city into the world.

And Adam, that boy I fell in love with, he and our 2 boys are HOME. All caps. Full stop. They are my chosen home, my heart and my landing place, my still point.

My friend Shannon Litzenberger, a prairie girl from the prairiest of all provinces (Saskatchewan of course!) and a  powerhouse artist, arts advocate and policy junkie, is currently developing a dance project called HOMEbody. It’s a multi-faceted artistic musing on what home is, literally and figuratively.  Definitely worth checking out!

Rearview Fridays: Folk Art Eggs, Pysanka-styles!

I made this pair of folk-arty pysanky for my mom about 17 years ago. And she still has them! They dried, they didn’t rot, amazing. I was super-duper into folky-hippie-arty suns and moons at the time as you can see! I couldn’t believe it when I saw them at her house a couple of months  ago. But I should back up and tell you how I learned this Ukrainian art form in the first place …

When I was almost too old to for summer camp I went to a day camp that blew my mind. We got to be pioneers for 5 whole days at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village! I did it for 2 or 3 years I think, and then I worked as a volunteer ’cause I was too old to be a camper but I really wanted to be a pioneer at least once per summer still. And then I worked as a leader of the program, because I could not get enough of being a pioneer! I still love a good historic site, but the UCHV has never been topped for me. If you’re ever in the Edmonton area, you must go, it’s an unforgettable experience. You will be forever moved by the tenacity of the settlers of Western Canada and the richness of the culture that the Ukrainians carried with them over the brutal miles of untamed Canada.

Here I am at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village on the old ferry, circa 1996. Can you think of a more beautiful place to work and be? The town site is in the background.

Honestly, those were some of the best days of my life. Both campers and program leaders (along with the interperters there) dressed in historically accurate clothing. For the ladies that meant brown cotton stockings held up with penny garters, cotton bloomers and slips and drop-waisted cotton print dresses. And to top it off, hustkas, the colourful, flowered woollen headscarves.

We became members of the families in the farm and town sites, we ground grain, “shopped” at the old store, fed animals, made meals from scratch, fetched water, rode in wagons and old cars, smithed tiny horseshoes, weighed grain at the elevator, dipped candles, packed ice in the ice chest, pumped gas at the hand pump, sent out Morse code messages at the train station, went to school and church (there are 3 varieties on the historic site there!) Can you think of a better way to spend a summer? I cannot. It was the best summer job ever.

And each week we made Pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Witness Susan in heaven. Beeswax melting, pots of dye waiting, delicate eggs ready for art. We worked from traditional Ukrainian patterns, though none of mine have survived. I did get my own kystka (if you scroll down in the link you’ll see beautiful eggs and then some lovely hands working with a kystka), the tool for drawing with heated beeswax on the eggs.

Each pysanka is made with a process exactly like batik. A layer of beeswax is drawn on the egg to seal in the white of the original surface, then the egg is dyed the lightest colour you want (traditionally yellow).  Next a layer of wax designs over the yellow seal it in, then it’s dyed orange, draw, dye red, draw and so on through to black (or whatever your darkest colour will be). Then all the wax is heated and wiped away and a colourful egg appears, its magic, alchemy really! For these eggs I evidently drew the entire piece on the white egg and then layered the dye colours.

And lastly, you really should check out the Giant Pysanka in Vegreville, Alberta. Happy weekend!