Why We Weave June 30 2017 2 Comments
I beweave I have a problem.
If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been weaving up a wavy storm here in Lunenburg.
Would you like to know why and how I started weaving?
I’ve been knitting for over a dozen years. What does that have to do with the price of tea in China or weaving for that matter? Be patient, there is a point here. I first picked up my knitting needles when I was working at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia shop and a co-worker was knitting scarves. I had grown up watching my own mother knit and when I became pregnant with our first daughter, Sophie, my love for knitting grew and grew as my belly grew and grew. And if you saw how big my belly grew during that pregnancy, you will understand that if my love for knitting grew at the same rate, I was addicted to knitting by the time that generous baby came out!
What is one of the biggest side effects of a knitting addiction? Yarn Stashing!!!! Knitting is essentially the gateway drug to weaving. Hence, the knitting slash weaving connection in this story.
When I started following Australian based tapestry weaver, Mary Anne Moodie, several years ago, I discovered that weaving would be a great way to use up those woolly leftovers from knitting projects. But, I was intimidated by the thought of a new craft. Weaving was foreign to me. But not my mom. In addition to selling her own handknits, felted hats and mittens, she had also picked up weaving. I asked her to weave a tapestry for me, however she did what any good craft pusher would do – she bought me an Ashford weaving frame and told me to do it myself! Parenting at its finest. She has taught me a lot, in her nurturing do-it-yourself educational approach to parenting self-sufficient children.
I made my first tapestry about 3 years ago. I used some of my finest yarn bits and dove into it with guns (or, darning needles) blazing. It was shaped like an hourglass and Travis told me that it looked like a dress! I was not pleased with myself ... or him, and like any control freak would do, I said, “I can’t do it so I won’t!”
A couple of years later, I dusted off the frame loom. I signed up for online tutorials and workshops to figure the heck out of this weaving tension business and wove like my life depended on it. And here we are.
Weaving has become intertwined in my own wellness practice. Others like to meditate or practice yoga for peace and clarity. I weave. I also throw a yoga pose in there once in a while, however, I find the satisfaction that I get when I create a handmade piece to be wonderfully fulfilling. Weaving helps to ground me when parenting three willful girls has me spinning in circles over a pot of spaghetti. The over and under flow of the weaving motion, the warmth of the textiles, the earth infused wool and natural fibres helps to ease anxiety and tension at the end of a challenging day. The freedom to escape structure and rule, the whimsy, the disconnection from machine and technology (except for the Instagram feed full of weavings, of course) that comes from using one’s hands to create something unique, natural and one of a kind is such a beautiful practice. And one that I intend to keep up.
That is the why and how I started weaving. You can find my handwoven wall hangings at Here Nor There Shop in Mahone Bay and Jenny Jib in Lunenburg, as well as on this site and our etsy shop. Or, if you are interested in learning how to weave, contact us for workshop information.
Beweave in yourself.
Building the House of Woolly Thyme June 26 2017
Hello Blog followers! It’s been a while. Quite a while. But, hey. Let’s be friends again. Or not. Let’s be acquaintances that run into each other once in a blue moon. Deal? I could never be committed to blogging because sitting at my computer for more than 5 minutes at a time is difficult for me. However, Instagram is where I like to hang out, where punctuation and full sentences are optional. So, be sure to follow us there.
There have been a few changes on this site since my last post, which was an inexcusably long time ago. While Woolly Thyme Press is still a big part of our site and business, we have opened this space up to showcase some of the other aspects of our creative life. Yes, we wrote, illustrated and published a children’s book, but we have always loved to dabble (which translates to become completely obsessed and stay up all night doing) in other crafts and artistic areas.
Travis and I are makers. He builds, designs, and renovates homes each and every day. But, in addition to creating unique and beautiful living spaces, he also makes toys for our children and teaches them how to draw and tie knots and build forts. My background is scientific and technical, but I’ve always loved creative writing, knitting, sewing, handwork and making a fierce effort to DIY cute, fun and sometimes completely needless items for my kids. We felt that this love of general makery that we share with one another and our children should also be shared in this space.
So, House of Woolly Thyme was born.
HOWT encompasses all of our current creative loves and obsessions (our Instagram feed is saturated with the handwoven wall hangings at the moment!) and we hope that you enjoy following our journey to live a fulfilling and creative life with our three daughters in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Check out the Woolly Thyme Shop for new handmade items for your family and home as well as our children’s book, or contact us for information on weaving workshops, weaving and knitting commissions, and author readings.
See you soon. Maybe?!
Over six years ago, Travis and I moved into a little house with our two little girls. It was a sweet home with good bones and a warm vibe in a gorgeous Unesco heritage town where two harbours anchor a hilly grid of colourful blocks like a box of fresh crayolas. Lunenburg is dotted all over with charming homes and inns, galleries, museums, unique boutiques, coffee shops and hourly postcard worthy vignettes. Lunenburgers (new arrivals and settler’s descendants alike) all seem to possess a craft or creative talent, whether it provides them with a means of living or simply a productive passing of time. If you can’t find your creative mojo here in Lunenburg, you should consider calling off the search because living here is beyond inspirational.
Bit by bit, we have been changing this little home. With creativity and resourcefulness (some may call that a tiny budget!), we have been tearing down and building up and changing, adding and subtracting and colouring. I say “bit by bit” because we have been doing this as our little girls grew and we added two more square feet (another baby girl) to the dusting of dolls and drywall plaster. Our convenient average family of four became a logistically trickier family of five and along with that came more beds, more bicycles, more snowsuits, bigger shoes and greater needs in a still little house. We have shifted the home to suit our needs, or rather, our childrens’ needs. Walls have come down and closets have been built up, play spaces created and workshops converted and each one of these little additions or take aways becomes my new favourite space, even if it isn’t technically my space.
My newest favourite space in our home is this cozy cubby, nestled perfectly between customized his and hers closets in our master bedroom. It is a place just for me, a peaceful space to sit, think, write, plan, color, read, or simply drink coffee completely untethered. Sometimes I use it as my own timeout space, which is fitting since its creation started with a tantrum.
It was one those days. My girls couldn’t stop bickering, the laundry was mounting, the dishes were piled, cooking supper was a nightmare, and I had not even gone to the bathroom once without interruption. I felt like Miss Hannigan from one of my favourite movies Annie. I was dripping in little girls. Out of nowhere I threw a mommy tantrum. It was a minor meltdown, but obviously a successful one.
I cried, "I just want a little space, somewhere that's mine, only mine. I want a place where nobody can throw their Lego or their dirty laundry. I want somewhere to write."
And that night after bedtime, Travis cobbled a beautiful, perfectly pointed writing table from bits and bobs in his workshop. The next day he picked up a quart of paint for the wall, and the day after that I made some curtains. I gathered some of my favourite little things laying around the house and BOOM! My Write Space was born.
I love this little nook. It is a retreat and it is filled with things made by our own hands, given to us by family and friends, or treasures scooped up from local yard sales.
Admittedly, my literary masterpiece has not come pouring out yet, but it will. And for now, this little space is free from clutter, free from Lego, free from tutus and tapshoes, free from laundry and any other remnants of my mom life. It's my space, my write space, my creative workshop. It's all mine.
At some point, we will move on from our little lovely house. My space will become another’s space, and that person will make it just right too. I envision it as a meditation space, or a reading nook with a big comfy chair and a side table filled with Giller prize winning novels, or perhaps it will return to its original glory with an armless rocker for breastfeeding a newborn just like it did when we first moved here. If these walls could talk, they'd tell many stories. Maybe I will create them myself, right here.
Books We Heart, Part 1 January 30 2015 2 Comments
I have been working on a couple of children’s stories lately and have reached a frustrating point, a state of gridlock that any crafter or artist or maker of any kind encounters ... or so I assume and hope. At this point I ask myself: Why do I think that I know what I’m doing? Who wants to hear what I have to say anyway?
While I have never claimed to really know what I am doing in the realm of children’s book publishing, I do feel that we have tales to create and share partly because we (like many other parents) have read thousands of children’s books over our short journey as parents. Mind you, some of those thousands have been read hundreds of times each ad nauseam; some of them are just frivolous, mind boggling, make sense or not books that I could recite on demand like an annoyingly overplayed song, or books whose words we replace with toilet vocabulary just for the sake of making it new and silly again. Sometimes our children adore books that Travis and I prefer to skip over, but we let them choose their books. Some of these stories are well loved all over the world, while other books we feel a deep connection to but some families may just not get.
Over the past 8 years, I would estimate that I have read Bill Martin and Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear 291 times; Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon 820 times; Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo a mere 465 times (this figure would be higher, but someone ate the book); and the complete Curious George Collection 130 times. Sometimes it feels like I’m in the middle of my own Groundhog Day nightmare. But, we keep on reading. No matter how tired, no matter how many times we have read the book, no matter how dog-eared and toddler nibbled the book may be ... we keep on reading.
With each of our daughters we have observed wildly different responses to books and reading. Sophie, being the first born and an only child for two and a half years, had the pleasure of having both Travis and I put her to bed each night – a beautifully unsustainable routine that included waltzing to jazz music, measuring her height every single night on a growth chart, laying on the rug beside her crib while pretending to be asleep, and a whole lot of reading. Having the two of us to her lone self meant that she could hijack us one at a time to read a baker’s dozen books before tucking her into bed. Each time we would close a book, she would look up at us with her big try to say no to me eyes, stick her pointer finger up next to her right eye (I bet you thought that I was going to say stick her pointer finger up her nose, didn’t you?) and announce that we were going to read just “one mower”. She did not ask, she told us. And of course, each time we’d oblige. Sophie would sleep with her books and to this day, at 8 years old, you can find a library in the crowded nest that she calls a bed with her miner’s lamp strapped to her forehead as she reads.
Norah’s growing love of books has been a wonder to watch. She has always been at her happiest in someone’s lap reading a story. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t run up the stairs upon returning from school to read to herself in her room; her way to decompress at the day's end. She carefully turns each page and plays the narrator along with every character as though she knows what each and every word is. Oftentimes she retells the story in the way that she wants or inserts some of her day’s occurrences into the plot. At 5, she is beginning to read well, sparkling with pride and joy as she reads each sentence out loud, always out loud, to herself or whoever will listen.
Penelope is almost two and is at a point where she cannot sit still. A pile of stacked books in front of her is a ladder. Not in the symbolic ladder to knowledge sense, but a literal ladder. It’s a climbable structure that will allow her to reach greater heights ... before she leaps into the air without fear of pain or consequence. Reading books with Penelope can be a struggle at times as she flips pages and even switches books before we’ve finished reading them. When we ask her what book she would like to read, it is always one of our Curious George books, or shall I say the most informative how-to guide for creating a mischievous life. Some day she will sit.
With a house full of books for children, it would seem fitting that we would share some of our family’s favourite children’s titles on this blog. These books make us strive to create our own stories; they inspire us in their own beauty, but also inspire us as we watch our children’s response to them. This post will focus on some of our favorite Canadian titles. It is just a short list of the many that we love and we love them for many reasons – a beautiful rhyme, a calm rhythm, sweet illustrations, a meaningful message.
The first children’s title is one that makes my heart skip a beat each time we read it and was given to us by a dear friend when Sophie was born. Newfoundland poet Al Pittman’s Down by Jim Long’s Stage (http://www.breakwaterbooks.com/books/down-by-jim-longs-stage/) is a beautiful collection of rhymes about fish, for children and young fish (as read on the cover). Each fish has a name and embodies characteristics that will come to mind whenever you see a fish for the rest of your life, anywhere – in an aquarium, at a museum, in a grocery store, washed up on a beach, or even on a plate. Too much?! There are sing song rhymes such as:
Ella Eel so long and slinky met a squid whose name was Inky.“Oh my!” said Ella slinking by when Inky inked her in the eye.
This book is a Newfoundland classic and was re-released in 2001 with the addition of whimsical illustrations by Pam Hall that beautifully complement Pittman’s poetry. Down By Jim Long’s Stage feels like home to me, with phrases and references known well to Newfoundlanders. I can hear my accent breaking through as I read it and can only imagine the beauty of a raspy recitation by someone like Gordon Pinsent.
Something from Nothing is the retelling of the Jewish folktale “Joseph’s overcoat” by Phoebe Gilman (http://www.amazon.ca/Something-Nothing-Phoebe-Gilman/dp/1443119466). Gilman’s other books, especially her Jillian Jiggs tales, are always a hit at our house. But this retelling is wonderfully illustrated with another story parallel to the main story, similar to many of Jan Brett’s books. In Something from Nothing, we see as Joseph’s blanket made by his grandfather gets worn, torn and reborn into first a jacket, then a vest, a tie, a handkerchief, and a button, while the mice living beneath the floorboards (in the other story) make a home from the scraps. The kids love the repetition as the grandfather mends the tattered wears, “ ... his scissors went snip, snip, snip and his needle flew in and out and in and out ...” We love the message it sends to kids about turning nothing into something and giving old objects a new life, a concept that is often forgotten when everything in our world is so disposable. Our kids live in a house where many of their toys and clothes are handmade by friends and family. When something gets worn, torn and broken you will often hear them say “Daddy can fix it!” or “Mommy can fix it!”, much like Joseph himself. That is, as long as it doesn’t have batteries!
A review of favorite Canadian children’s titles wouldn’t be possible without a Munsch book, now would it. The Paper Bag Princess (http://www.amazon.ca/The-Paper-Princess-Robert-Munsch/dp/0920236162) is a hilarious book with an unlikely superhero and a twisted fairytale ending. One of Norah’s first sentences as a toddler was “you are a bum” after reading this book several dozen times. She couldn’t wait until she heard the words “you look like a prince” before she would quickly pipe in with her favorite line. The heroine, Princess Elizabeth, saves petty Prince Ronald in a crafty duel with a dragon only to be snubbed by him for her dowdy appearance. This book has a great message for all children, but the dragon’s fire burns a little hotter for us with three daughters who we want to be confident, strong, and capable of outsmarting any dragon (or Ronald) that they meet. In the end, Elizabeth trots happily into the sunset without her handsome, ungrateful and superficial prince.
This post could go on and on and on (wait, it already has) and I am leaving a great many books out. I thought, what about Bradley McGogg The Very Fine Frog, any number of Sheree Fitch’s books, or the Jack series by Andy Jones. So I have decided to make this post the first in a monthly series called Books We Heart. If you have books that you love and would like to share or your kids have quirky reading habits, leave a comment. In the meantime, keep reading and reading and reading and ...
Planting Woolly Thyme October 15 2014
Welcome to Woolly Times.
This blog is not being launched, we are planting it. We hope that you will watch as we grow from a small seedling between two stones into a pathway that leads families on adventures as they read. Woolly Thyme is often described as tenacious and sturdy; growing easily, almost effortlessly; softening and covering ground. We hope to do the same with books that encourage thought, imagination, and connections to our past and present.
This blog will be a place for us to share the creative side of Woolly Thyme Press and the adventures that we lead as we create our story. Follow us and feel inspired to create your own tales.