Sunday, January 30, 2011

by-the-wind sailors...

by-the-wind sailors

i have sailing on the brain a bit, but i think most ocean-related activities are never far from it. however, currently i am reading farther than any man: the rise and fall of captain james cook so i've been spending a lot of time with the royal navy. for those who don't know, i have a considerable and constantly growing collection of books relating to the history and ecology of the british columbia coast. this one's actually a library book, although i'm enjoying it so much i'm thinking of buying it anyway - martin dugard spins a good tale. i also spent some time as a cultural interpreter when i was fresh out of my anthropology degree, regaling (or boring) tourists and locals alike on boat tours through the inside passage. local history is a bit of a passion, and as things go around here, much of that history relates to the sea.

by-the-wind sailors

but - i'm getting a little off course (haha, i kill myself with the sailing puns). you're probably wondering what those odd-shaped things are in the photos. they are velella velella, or by-the-wind sailors, or just sail jellyfish. these jellies have a curious shape, with a "sail" that sits atop their flat blue bodies, allowing the wind to blow them where it will. they have no other way to propel themselves, unlike most other jellyfish. this also means that at certain times of year you might also come across many of them washed up on the beach. i have only seen them once out in tofino, hundreds of electric blue animals strewn across the sand. it was a curious sight, and at the time i didn't know what they were. only later did i read an article in tofino time explaining the phenomenon.

i had been thinking about them again recently, little sailors adrift on the high seas, at the mercy of the wind and currents. and so i decided to stitch a few up with some blue linen, and make their "sail" with some shimmery cotton with a wispy thin layer of silk over top. they are heavily stitched with several shades of blue thread, plus a bit of silver, with a bamboo batting inside. i was trying to recreate their translucent appearance, although i'm not sure it worked, really. they were a fun little diversion though.


they came along to the beach yesterday with the other creatures, and they really seemed most at home strewn across the sand. there were other sailors out too, adrift in their sailboat. there wasn't much of a wind, but they seemed to be trying to catch a bit of it, see where it took them.

at home at the beach...

at the beach

when i headed out to the beach yesterday, i thought it might be fun to bring along a few of my pieces. let them play in their natural habitat, as it were. i think they had a good time, or at least they all seemed to blend in quite well. right at home. humour me while i share a few shots.

boro whale at the beach

the boro grey whale liked hanging out on the rocks. he kept eyeing the water though, but i don't think he can swim as well as he thinks he can.

barnacles at the beach

although usually more prone to rocky shorelines, these little barnacles enjoyed this sandy stretch for a nice change of scenery. i suppose they spent time admiring the browns and purple on this empty manila clam shell.

at home

the starfish rocks liked the sand and the rocks - i even found one nestled inside a large driftwood log. the starfish wanted me to leave them until the tide came in and they could have an adventure, but i prefer them firmly attached to their rocks right now.

pod at the beach

three whales in all came to the beach with me; a humpback, a little minke, and the boro whale. perching high on the driftwood gives an excellent vantage point for spotting other whales out in the strait, but unfortunately today the waters were quiet.

it was a calm day by the water, but this little excursion has me inspired to take some creatures along the next time i head for the west coast of the island. they might enjoy the crashing waves as much as i do!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

shop update!

pin cushions!

a few new items up in the shop today. thanks for all the kind words about the little waves pin cushion. i made two more, as you can see above, and all are in the shop. left to right is the coastal rainforest, blue mussel, and little waves. i especially like the stitched grey "snags", or weathered old trees that stick up above the forest canopy in the rainforest one. you can see snags everywhere on the coast, but they seem especially gnarled and twisted, and numerous, out on the exposed west side of the island where the wind and weather is relentless. these little pin cushions are about 4" square, and stuffed with locally sourced wool. someone on flickr mentioned they could be couch cushions, if one didn't know the scale. i have to admit i've been wanting to make pillows for awhile, so that just might be the encouragement i need to start!

humpback whale no.7

there are two new humpbacks in the shop too, no. 7 above and no. 6 below (ETA - no. 6 is now sold). i really enjoy making the humpbacks, with their pintucked pleats along their throat. i finally made one with some marble patterned cotton remnants my mom passed on to me. i love the blue and purple tones in it, and played that up by using purple thread on his underside. i have some more of that fabric and may make some more whales with it, or we'll see what else i can associate with that marbled look.

humpback whale no. 6

there was supposed to be a pacific white-sided dolphin too, but he just didn't end up where i wanted. i'm thinking him over a bit, but may just start from scratch with a new plan.

i got out to the beach today too; it was an overcast, blue kind of day, but the light rain let up for awhile and i was happy to get some fresh air - back later today or tomorrow with some pics!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

in the woods...


the light is coming back these days; i think we've gained almost an hour since the solstice. yet with the general gloom of recent days it is hard to remember that. on saturday i walked to the store to return a movie (the social network - i recommend) and took a detour through the woods on the way back. once amongst the trees i realized dark was coming faster than i had thought, and my camera was less than excited about this. i hate having to amp up the iso for low light shots, as i know i'll be frowning later over the "noise" in the photos, but i did it anyway (as i seem to be doing a lot lately) to try and grab some sense of the forest that afternoon.


there are still dirty clumps of snow lingering here and there, both in the woods and along the roadsides. on the trails they are joined by mud that sucks at my bean boots. i love these clusters of lichen (above) that fall to lay on the rotting leaves like bleached pieces of coral, standing out so starkly against the dark ground.


i still haven't determined if these little fungi are a variety of turkey tail mushrooms, but they sure are everywhere right now. they line up in long trails leading down fallen tree trunks. i'm starting to develop a mind to pick some and see if they could come to anything in the dye pot. i haven't started dyeing yet, but i've been spending a lot of time with my new books and am eager to start, once i compile a few more supplies. plant selection seems a little thin this time of year, but i've got some ideas.

have i wandered completely off topic? probably. while i'm at it, i'll remind you there will be a little shop update this weekend, as well as a little giveaway if i can get myself organized. i can't be the only one who thinks it would be handy if there were more hours in the day?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

new ideas...

little waves pin cushion

what started as this yesterday has now evolved in to what you see above: a pin cushion. i've been thinking about little pieces, sort of nature vignettes, if you will. trying to create a feel for the west coast without making a large elaborate piece. and so i made this little square of waves, stitched in layers of blue cotton and linen.

little waves pin cushion

i wanted to give it a little purpose, so that every time you used it you could be reminded of the ocean. the calming effect of the ocean, for me anyway, is infinite. so i stitched a beige linen back on it and stuffed it with wool, and now it is a pin cushion. i've got the idea to make some more of these, probably mostly ocean/beach-inspired but maybe showing some other bits of nature as well. do you like it? i'd love to get some feedback on this, see if it is something people have interest in.


i've stitched F&S on the back for Fog and Swell, but it had crossed my mind to put a little phrase or something back there as well. i will continue to play.

yup, i definitely have the wild coast on my brain these days. the inland waters of the east side of the island just aren't the same. maybe they feel too tranquil these days, and i need a bit more energy from some surging surf. too bad i don't have plans to go out there until april. hmmm, may need to change that...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

in the details...

playing around today, trying to get some macro shots of some pieces i'm working on. not many words today, i've been feeling a bit "meh" lately and can't think of what to say.


running stitches

french knot barnacles

i'm planning a shop update for next weekend, some whales along with a few other things i'm working on. i've been focusing on the ocean this month. dreaming of days on the west coast, i guess. hope you are all having a good weekend!

little waves

Saturday, January 15, 2011

finishing projects...

autumn leaves in winter

i've been cleaning and organizing my little craft corner this week, trying to make some sense of the mess. it's always interesting to see fabrics and other things i've completely forgotten about, or maybe just a little sad that there's so much stuff and it is so badly ordered. but i'm working on that, fresh start and all. this has also inspired me to finish up some projects that have been stagnating for far too long. first up are my yellow socks, started way back in november. it took me two months to do the first sock, but once i got motivated, i knit the second sock in a week.

autumn leaves in winter

this is kelly porpiglia's interlocking leaves pattern (for more info see the rav link above), and i think it was a good fit for the indigo moon yarn. with that yellow colour, i can't help but call them my autumn leaves socks, even when finished in the middle of winter. i think the stitch pattern is really beautiful, although i did find it took me until well into the second sock before i could remember the pattern without regularly checking the chart. i wanted to make these socks nice and long, so i actually weighed the yarn beforehand and split it into two balls, so that i could get the most out of it. i did decide to finish up with still a little bit left over, but they are a good length nonetheless.

new pillow

the string quilt front of this pillow was made so long ago. actually i just checked through my flickr and it was at the same time as these ones, so that was all the way back in september 2009! anyway, i had a spare pillow form sitting around, so i finally decided to attach an overlapping canvas back, and now it has found a new home on my red chair. funny how things can sit around for so long, and then take only a half hour to finish.

new pillow - detail

i apologize for the poor lighting in these photos. dark is coming fast this afternoon, and it's raining heavily. i might venture outside to go rent a movie for the evening, so we can curl up on the couch when A gets home from work. or i might just turn to itunes. but now to get back to the big pile of fabric that needs sorting through...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

colours of winter...

yesterday was a snow day. we got nearly a foot of snow overnight; heavy, west coast snow. while i have 4-wheel-drive, the deep snow that remained on the rural roads leading up to work meant i was just as happy to have the opportunity to stay home. i did have to get A in to his work though, as he was the one who was opening, and his car wasn't ready for the deep stuff. thankfully he works right downtown, so once we'd navigated our unplowed street it was clear sailing.

sunshine and fallen tree

they were doing snow removal downtown though, not just plowing, which is unusual to see. we don't often get big dumps at sea level, so i guess they didn't know where to put it. so they were loading up dump trucks and taking it down to the river - instant icebergs! i unfortunately didn't get a shot of these.

sunshine and fallen tree

but, you're probably wondering why you're looking at close ups of moss and lichen instead of snow. i went down near the river in the afternoon, thinking i would enjoy a little sunshine and catch some of the sparkly white stuff. it had all melted off the trees by then though, and instead i found myself distracted by this alder that had crashed down across the path. in the sun against the snow, the colours of the vegetation were stunning, and i couldn't resist some macro shots of the trunk.

sunshine and fallen tree

Monday, January 10, 2011

sunday sunshine

gorgeous january day

yesterday was a gorgeous day, but cold. i met up with a friend for a long walk through the woods and along the beach in the bright sunshine, soaking up the vitamin d. just a few shots from the day. we spotted a pair of sea lions just offshore moving north at a fast pace. too quick to get a decent photo. the coast mountains posed nicely though.

mount denman & barges

hope you enjoyed a little sun this weekend, even if you had to make your own!

a few shells

Saturday, January 08, 2011

boro whales

"[grey whales are] believed to carry more parasites, such as barnacles and whale lice, than any other whale" (from mammals of british columbia, by eder & pattie). the first grey whale had lots of barnacles and scars to represent this. but what if I took that a step further?

boro grey whale

i think i've mentioned before an increasing interest in raw edges and patchwork. i've been spending a lot of time looking at japanese boro textiles online, and i'm fascinated by the patchwork of blues that are made. i know these textiles are a symbol of the extreme poverty of some peasants in japan, but the fabrics that they have made are pieces of art. sri threads is a brooklyn gallery with a blog detailing some of the amazing garments and other textiles they have acquired.

boro grey whale

so if grey whales are typically scarred, why not step that up a little bit, and add some actual boro style patching? this is what i came up, and i think he has a real good feel to him. he is made of denim, linen and cotton in varying shades of blue. i know they aren't traditional indigo dyed (i've got plans for that though!), but i hope it captures a bit of the character of boro in a contemporary way. i can see this is going to be a common theme for a little while. i'm sure it will mainly be on hanging pieces, but i'm eager to try it further on these soft sculptures. i think it is a natural extension of my desire to re-use and recycle fabrics as much as possible rather than buying new.

boro grey whale

boro patchwork is usually held in place with sashiko-style stitching, which is basically a running stitch that heavily covers the patch and holds it in place. i am certainly no expert, and know there is lots of more decorative sashiko to be seen. however, i like the way this stitching makes the patch feel more a part of the underlying fabric, or at least that is how i see it, especially when the two fabrics are similar in colour.

grey whale & minke whale

this grey whale is now in the shop along with his little friend, the minke whale. this minke also has some sashiko-style stitching on the white patches on his flippers.

minke whale - underside

i'm also really happy with the way the stitching on the minke's underside turned out on this one, for the pleats along his neck and as definition on the undersides of his flippers.

i'll leave you with a spot of yellow to hopefully brighten your day. we are nowhere near spring around here, but i can never resist the $1.99 bunches of daffodils that appear in the grocery store at this time of year. i may need this touch of spring - you can see the green grass in the photos above, but a snowfall warning has just been added to tonight's forecast, with varied snowfall for the next week! that would #5 snowfall for this winter so far - yikes.


Friday, January 07, 2011

cold 'shrooms of winter (or friday fungi)


a little fungi to finish off the week. walking through the woods near my house last week, i was surprised to discover mushrooms sprouting up on fallen logs and stumps. after a rich, wet fall filled with all types of fungi, i'd kind of stopped looking as the frost, ice and snow started taking over. the collections big and small from autumn's lush months had swelled and rotted, disappearing back into the carpet of fallen leaves settling into the ground, and i assumed they'd closed up shop for winter. how wrong i was.

sneaking a little sunshine

turns out they were just making room from some new mushrooms. i spotted this brown ones above first, and once i'd spotted a handful, i saw them everywhere, clustered amongst all the debris. the white ones in the top photo were abundant too, although i'd never seen them before and am still looking through my reference books to find them. the sun is starting to sneak back into the woods a bit, staying ever-so-slightly later in the afternoon.

little 'uns

these tiny little ones look a lot like turkey tails in one of my books, but they are much smaller than the suggested size. but we all have to start somewhere, i suppose, especially when the air is so cold. a beetle or other boring insect has made topographic lines on this fallen tree trunk, only revealed now that the bark has come off.

ice and moss

this icy photo from the creek goes along with the one posted on wednesday. although the water moved quickly through the forest, where branches dipped down into the creek icy blobs formed on the ends, reflecting light.

frosted leaves on railing

i could take photos of the frosted surfaces all day, and i stopped at the railing where i took this shot two months ago to snap another one. the leaves definitely have a "sugared" appearance, as margie commented on flickr. not sure if that has something to do with the way the frost forms in our humid (read: waterlogged) environment?

i wanted to also say a special thank-you to everyeskimo for featuring me in a post. so sweet, especially as i have been admiring her own creatures for a little while now. if you aren't familiar with her stuff, check out some of the goodness over at her shop.

i will be back on the weekend with new craftyness to share.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

wordless wednesday

{think i'm going to join in with many other bloggers and do a wordless wednesday post each week. if you do too, please leave a link in the comments so i, and other readers, can see. thanks}

ice in the creek

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

winter light...

the first few days of 2011 have been quite cold and frosty, although this has also meant bright sunshine, which helps brighten the spirits. this morning though is overcast again, and there is a snowfall warning for today. no flakes yet, but that would be the fourth snowfall of this winter already. most of you might think that is just the usual, but some winters we get no snow at all, so i think la nina is definitely doing her part. i was up at the ski hill yesterday in the gorgeous sun, where they have about 5 metres of snow, so much in fact that they have been trucking it off the mountain to clear parking spaces, etc. they claim to have the deepest base in the world right now; whether or not that's true, i can vouch that there's a lot.

late afternoon light

while i wish i'd brought my camera up to the mountain with me, as the views were stunning, i'll have to appease you instead with some shots i took on sunday down at the estuary. the light was so beautiful, and i took shot after shot.

gartley bay at sunset

i love that light of late afternoon. the blues of the ocean and sky and mountains, contrasting with the yellow and brown grasses and trees, is entrancing.

trumpeter swans

i originally drove down near the estuary to try and get some shots of the dozens (sometimes hundreds) of trumpeter swans and assorted geese that have been settling into the wintering fields over the last few weeks. unfortunately today when i stopped, they were not very close to the road, so my shots were not as impressive as i hoped. when i went over down by the water, i was thrilled when some swans flew overhead on their way out into the bay.

mt arrowsmith behind gartley bay

mount arrowsmith is a bit of a drive south of us, but it's snowy peaks were clear above the waters of gartley bay. the cold, clear days have been good for mountain viewing - up on the ski hill we had great views of some of the high peaks of strathcona provincial park in the interior of the island, including the golden hinde, which is the highest peak on the island. driving back home, we also saw mount baker (way down in washington state) highlighted in the setting sun.

in the estuary

through the trees here you can see mount washington, the local ski resort. the ducks definitely fill up the waters of the estuary at this time of year.

sunset at the river mouth

hope you're having a good week so far, and staying warm wherever you are!