Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Cosmetic Cases Are In Plastic; It's Fantastic

Over a year ago my sister asked me to sew her a vanity case and a makeup brush storage case, using tutorials that she flipped me links for via Pinterest's messaging system. My sister isn't really a crafter, having never gotten beyond the beginner levels of sewing, knitting, etc., and doesn't often make things herself. But then I suppose why would she when she can just put in an order with me or our mother and have whatever she wants custom made for a birthday or Christmas present? It's a system that works quite well for her if she doesn't mind a relatively long lead time.

But I was game to make her the cosmetics set, and I asked her what kind of colour scheme she wanted. She told me "black outside, and a colourful fabric inside". Okay then. I went to Fabricland, found their vinyl laminate, and batting for inside the brush case, then found some black fabric and double fold black bias tape. When I then looked for a bright print that would look good with the black, I found the above hot pink print on the clearance table, with its cute print of beads and little silhouetted heads. I wasn't sure how my sister would feel about the hot pink but hey, it was colourful, she didn't specify colour, and she had told me in the past that the only colour she really didn't like was lime green.

But once I got the fabric home and began working with it, the unfortunate truth began to dawn on me.

The fabric was Barbie fabric. I had bought Barbie fabric to make a makeup brush case and vanity case for my 42-year-old sister, and she was probably going to be less than thrilled about it. I wanted to kick myself for not having clued in faster, but at the same time... it was hilarious.

By the time I realized the true nature of the fabric it was too late to turn back; I'd made the vanity case, and it was a bit of pain I wasn't willing to go through again soon. The vanity case instructions don't call for covering the lining with vinyl laminate, but I did anyway. I know from experience that vanity cases get stained on the inside with makeup, and that it looks bad. The laminate made the project slightly more difficult to turn inside out, and I left the turning gap on the bottom seam of the *outer* fabric rather than on the bottom seam of the *lining fabric* as the instructions say, so that I wouldn't have to handsew laminated fabric. I was able to slip stitch the bottom seam closed very unobtrusively.

The next step was making the makeup brush case. The instructions only called for laminating the bottom layer of fabric, but I laminated the pocket too, as it would be likely to get some makeup on it as well. The project went pretty smoothly, as the Sew4Home tutorial is well-written. I did have difficulty sewing on the bias tape, and never was able to get the machine to stitch around the corners properly. After several attempts I just said screw it, ripped out the corners a final time and then stitched them in place by hand, working one side of each corner at a time -- a time-consuming job, but I got the results I wanted.

The finished set. At least the cases look the way they're supposed to look from the outside. My plan for Christmas morning present time is to see whether my sister notices the Barbie heads or not. If she doesn't, that will allow her to decide whether she likes the set without prejudice. If she does start to figure out that something's amiss, I suppose that'll be my cue to bolt for safety. Either way I'll probably have to promise her a new, non-Barbie set a few years down the road to smooth things over. My sister is not a Barbie girl in a Barbie world.

ETA: I gave my sister this pair of cosmetic cases for Christmas, and she neither figured out that it was Barbie fabric on her own nor seem to care when I told her it was. She seemed reasonably pleased with this set -- not as pleased as she was with the Sherlock fangirl kit I gave her two years before, but pleased enough.

The Birthday Necklace That Showed Up at Christmas and Went Out for New Year's Eve

This year for my sister's birthday I decided I'd like to make her a necklace and earrings set. I'd never made a pair of earrings before, but what the hay, it was time I learned. She likes black, so I wanted to make a necklace that was primarily but not wholly black, as too much black gets heavy and funeral-looking very quickly. I find the bead section at Michaels, or any bead store, rather overwhelming, so I did what I usually do: I found a pendant or a string of beads that I love or that at least especially caught my eye, and then built the design around it.

Here's the finished necklace and earrings. I found the pendant first. It's some kind of polished stone. Then I found the glittery beads that I thought echoed the rhinestones around the pendant, and then some plain-ish black beads. The silver bale on the pendant led me to decide on silver spacer beads. And then I learned how to use head pins and clasps to make earrings, and came up with a configuration of beads that pleased me for them. It's not like that's rocket science. I'm pretty pleased with the set -- it even strikes me as rather glam -- and I'm going to give it to my sister for Christmas instead of her (January) birthday so that I'll get to see her open them. Besides, she might want to wear this set out for New Year's Eve.

Once I'd finished making these pieces, I spent some time reorganizing my box of beads, findings, and tools, and thinking about my approach to beading. I don't think I'll ever get very into beading. If there were a way to make decent money selling my jewelry I'd consider it, but beading supplies are too expensive to make competitive pricing possible. It's reasonably cost-efficient to make jewelry for yourself or a gift, but selling handmade jewelry is a different matter because one needs to charge enough to be compensated for the value of the work (and the shopping) involved, and then the resulting price will be too high to attract anyone who might buy it. I plan to keep making jewelry because I do enjoy it, but only when I can justify the cost of a new piece for myself, or need a gift for someone. I've resolved that my beading supplies must continue to fit within the confines of the box I keep them in -- there will be no more impulse buying of beads to use "someday" as I have done sometimes in the past. But I'd like to develop my skills, and I feel I can certainly do so within the parameters I've set for myself. My next jewelry piece will probably be quite an elaborate affair -- for me, that is. All I've made so far is simple one-strand necklaces and this one pair of earrings.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Alchemical Scarf

This post contains an account of my first foray into a craft I haven't previously tried: dyeing.

In August 2017, I received the gold scarf you see photographed above for my birthday. I was dubious about that greenish dull gold shade from the moment I saw it, and a look through my closet and in the mirror confirmed what I'd feared: that it didn't go with anything I had, and that the colour looked awful on me. However, the scarf was pure silk, which made it both possible and worthwhile to dye it a different, more flattering and wearable colour.

I have almost no experience dyeing textiles, so I posted to AskMetafilter that day asking for advice on how to proceed. Some months later I bought a tin of Dylon dye in Tangerine (39). But that was as far as the project got for about a year. The tin of dye sat in my kitchen junk drawer. I tend to put things off when I'm afraid I won't be able to do them right, and as a crafter I know how beginner projects are all too prone to turn out, especially when the beginner crafter doesn't do sufficient prep to be reasonably sure of what the process entails. That tin of dye hadn't even come with instructions, and there was no way for even an experienced dyer to know what kind of colour might result from using it in combination with the existing gold.

In mid-October 2018, I visited G&S Dye and Accessories Ltd., on Dundas Street West in Toronto, for some knowledgeable and in-person advice. I showed the sales associate the scarf, explained that I didn't like the colour and that it didn't suit me, and asked for help in selecting a dye. The store associate, who made a distressed face at the sight of the scarf against my face, was very helpful. She suggested different colours, gave me a copy of a sheet of instructions for various dyeing methods, and pointed out that it couldn't hurt to try dyeing the scarf given that I couldn't possibly make the scarf's colour worse than it already was. I decided I'd use the tin of dye I had on hand first and see how that went.

A few days ago, armed with my instruction sheet and the tin of Dylon dye, I applied the dye using the stove top method that's supposed to be the best method. I dumped in the tin's contents (there was approximately one tablespoon of powdered dye in it) and then, when I saw how dark the water and the scarf looked, spent the entire dyeing time kicking myself for having used what I thought was too much dye. Of course I reminded myself that I wouldn't know what the actual colour was until the scarf was rinsed and dried, but that didn't help all that much. The scarf appeared to be a dark rust while simmering in the dye pot.

Here's the final result. The silk took the dye beautifully, the former dull, greenish gold turned a beautiful, rich copper colour that's extremely becoming to me, and I could hardly be more pleased with such an alchemical coup. One of my fears was that I'd wind up with a mess in my kitchen, but I didn't spill a drop of dye and never even got any on my hands. When I hung the rinsed, washed, and squeezed scarf to dry over the shower curtain bar in the bathroom, I carefully shifted the shower curtain and bathmat out of dripping range, but if that scarf dripped at all it was only clear water. The process couldn't have gone more smoothly and the results were awesome. I was left with the urge to dye everything in the house.

Here's the now copper silk scarf styled with one of my dresses, and with a skirt and top outfit. This scarf goes with two of my dresses, two of my skirts, and one pair of my trousers, besides some plain basic pieces. I'm sure I'll have plenty of chances to wear it. And now I'm looking into making and dyeing/painting a silk scarf in the coming year, since I want one in a very specific colourway and can't seem to find one that's commercially made.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Many Shades of Brown Sweater

Late this summer I began to think that I could really use a simple dark brown sweater that I could wear with a number of my skirts and trousers. I do have this sweater, but it needs to be worn with a scarf, and the brown yarn it's made from isn't quite dark enough that it goes with the items I wanted to wear with a brown sweater.

To digress here for a moment, brown can be a challenging foundation colour. Black is black unless it's faded, and always goes together with a snap, but there are no end of shades of brown out there, and they don't all work together, which can make it difficult to assemble outfits out of separate brown items. However, I look terrible in black, so brown it is and must continue to be. I've recently made it a rule to buy brown clothing, shoes, and accessories in either a dark chocolate brown or a butterscotch/cognac brown – if I the item that I want to get in brown isn't available in either of those two shades, I don't buy it at all. If I abide by this rule, I can at least be reasonably assured of having just two uniform shades of brown to work with, which will help a lot when I'm mixing and matching. Dark chocolate brown is my first preference, and I have a number of basic clothing pieces in it as well as bags and shoes and belts, while the butterscotch/cognac brown is mostly just for shoes and bags, and even then is generally intended/reserved for summer wear, because it looks better in all that hot summer sunlight and with my lighter, brighter summer clothes than the chocolate brown.

Having identified the basic type and colour of sweater I wanted, my next step was to search Ravelry's pattern database for a solid colour pullover design in a fingering weight. I further narrowed the search by selecting the neckline styles that best suit me: v-neck, scoop, cowl, possibly ballet. After some wavering between two finalists, I selected the Obsidian pattern, designed by Lisa Mutch, that you see pictured above. It's more minimalist and contemporary than the kind of style I usually go for, but it would go really well with all the pieces I wanted it for, it has an undeniably sleek, modern appeal, and I loved that the funnel neck could be styled as a cape, a cowl, off one shoulder, or as a hood. That's a serious amount of style potential for one simple little sweater.

The next step was to buy the yarn, and there I ran into the "many shades of brown" problem again. It proved so difficult to find a machine washable fingering weight yarn in a dark chocolate brown at Romni Wools that even the store associate who was helping me gave up the task as a lost cause after twenty minutes or so, but I kept searching and hoping, refusing to settle for the too light or purplish(!) brown or handwash only yarns I came across, until I found a yarn in the right shade. In the end, I bought 400 grams of BC Garn Soft Silk, which is 100% slightly raw silk and proved quite lovely to work with.

And here's the finished item. The pattern was pretty well written and I encountered no serious problems in knitting this project, though I did have to experiment with different cast ons in order to find the stretchiest possible one for the neck so that it would fit over my shoulders. I made just one modification, which was to make the sleeves full length rather than elbow length, as that's an unflattering length on me. I did wish the designer had included instructions for different sleeve lengths, but it wasn't like it was hard to figure out how to lengthen them. This sweater looks very small when lying flat, but that's how it needs to be as garter stitch has a lot of give. Making this sweater in the size that would ordinarily fit me would have saddled me (literally) with a sad, baggy sweater instead of the svelte, figure-hugging piece it's supposed to be.

And now I have the basic but stylish brown sweater that I wanted, and that goes with so many of my skirts and trousers that I can use it to make any number of outfits.

This sweater was made with newly purchased yarn and I had 50 grams left when I finished it, which leaves me with a 50 gram stash increase.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Baby Shower Insurance Jacket

This year I've been looking at my four remaining boxes of stash yarn and trying to come up with a plan to use it up more quickly than I've been doing. It's mostly just odds and ends of yarn, not matched lots that would be suitable for making whole items. I was looking especially at my box of worsted yarns and wondering what I could do with it, since I don't work with worsted much anymore. The colours I have in that box play together quite well, and for quite some time I toyed with the idea of using it to make an afghan. But I'd have to buy quite a lot of yarn to use as a base colour to tie the other colours together, and I didn't even particularly want an afghan, at least not of that style, or know anyone I could gift it to. Then I hit upon a plan: I would use my stash yarn to make baby clothes and toys, which all those half skeins would be perfect for, and put them away to give as shower gifts. If there's one thing I can count on, it's that there are always bound to be more babies appearing on the scene, and it would be so nice not to have to scramble to get something made in time to give it to the new parents.

This year I shall have time to make just one stash yarn baby gift, but going forward I'll wait until the end of the year when all the rest of the items on my list are finished, and then whip up as many baby things as I have time for.

For the one baby item I made this year, I took from my box of worsted weight yarns 150 grams of Phentex Merit acrylic worsted in "Aqua" (left over from this turquoise cardigan, which I made for me back in 2013). Then I searched Ravelry for a suitable baby clothing pattern and found the Leaf Love Baby Sweater, by Taiga Hilliard Designs. I had enough turquoise yarn to make it in the 6-12 months size.

Here's the finished item. It was quite an easy, quick knit, and finishing was a snap since there were no seams to sew. I was also fortunate enough to find buttons that went really well with the yarn -- turquoise can be a difficult colour to coordinate.

This project used 120 grams of stash yarn.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Art Nouveau and Jeans

For my first sweater for me of 2018, I decided I wanted something with an Art Nouveau flavour to it.

Accordingly, I searched Ravelry for a woman's pullover pattern in a fingering weight that had some Art Nouveau-esque detailing. I found exactly what I was looking for in the design pictured above, which is May it Be, designed by Annamária Ötvös. I loved the yoke and the ballet neckline and the slightly textured but otherwise plain body of the sweater that set off the yoke. Design that combine Art Nouveau-style detailing with the practicality and wearability of contemporary clothing is very much my vibe.

When it came time to buy the yarn for this project, my plan was to go to Romni Wools, pick out a variegated yarn that I loved, and then buy a monotone yarn that complemented it. My first choice in variegated yarn was a vivid orange variegated, and then I found a solid teal that worked really well with it. But then upon looking for a second option for the main colour that would be less expensive, I came across Berroco's Remix Light in 6984 Ocean, which was a tweedy teal with slubs of white and turquoise. It was quite a bit less expensive than the solid teal, and I liked it just as much. But it didn't go quite so well with that bright orange variegated I had picked out. After some hemming and hawing and and trying unsuccessfully to convince myself either to pay more for the solid teal or live with the combination of the tweedy teal and the bright orange variegated, it occurred to me that I should instead replace the original orange variegated with a different, less saturated orange yarn. I promptly found a skein of Malabrigo Sock in 802 Terracota, which is a sort of burnt orange variegated. It worked beautifully with the tweedy teal, and when I consulted the store's mirror it was immediately clear that the combination of the tweedy teal and the burnt orange was more becoming to me than the more vivid orange and solid teal.

Here's the finished sweater. My only modification was the addition of waist shaping. I found this design quite slow going but otherwise a straightforward knit. I did astonishingly little ripping out -- I seldom made mistakes, and then caught them almost immediately so that I never had to rip out more than a dozen stitches at a time.

I don't believe this sweater will go with anything in my wardrobe but jeans. Teal is a difficult shade to match, and even the teal suiting fabric I have on hand and that is intended to become a teal jacket and skirt in the near future doesn't quite go with this sweater. But I don't mind. This is a sweater with such visual interest that it will turn even a jeans and sweater pairing into something special, and these days jeans go nearly everywhere.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Skirting the Unsatisfactory Dress Issue

Earlier this year I took a unusable dress out of my wardrobe and turned it into a skirt, and I began thinking about how it was the fourth time I had done such a thing, and that perhaps I should write a blog post about the process. And here we are.

The fabric above belongs to a dress I used to have that I must have made circa 2005 or so. I loved the fabric on sight and still love it.

Here's a shot of the dress as it was. Not only did I love this dress, but it had history. In its day, this dress went to an Elvis wedding in Las Vegas in 2006, and to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2008, and to the office, and to parties, and probably a number of other places I'm not thinking of now. But... by 2016 the style had become dated and too young for me and I no longer cared to wear it as was. Yet I couldn't bear to give it to a thrift shop. So I came up with the idea of cutting it down into a skirt in order to get some more wear out of it.

Here's the skirt, which passes for current, and which I will likely be able to wear until it's worn out. Turning a jersey dress into a jersey skirt takes very little time or skill. Figure out where you want the waistband of the skirt to be, mark the spot, cut the bodice off 1" or so above that, make a casing out of that extra 1", insert a piece of 0.5" wide elastic into the casing, and you're done.

Here's another former jersey dress now living a new life as a skirt. In this case, the dress was nice (I don't seem to have a picture of it anywhere), but the wrong cut for me. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out that I do NOT look good in an empire-waisted dress. I remember cutting both of these dresses down into skirts on the same day. I think it took half of an afternoon.

Here's another dress that was unsatisfactory as was. I made it years ago before I clued in that I need to lengthen the bodice of my dresses to provide vertical room for my chest. I loved this dress and the lovely crisp fabric it was made from, but the waistline sat well above my actual waistline and looked terrible, and consequently the dress was basically unwearable for me. In short, it was another candidate for skirt surgery.

The dress above reincarnated into a skirt. This is a woven fabric rather than a jersey, which made the conversion process slightly more complex. First I ripped the bodice off the dress. When I came to the zipper at the back, I first made sure the zipper tab was at the bottom of the zipper and then simply cut through the zipper. Then I searched through my pattern collection to find a particular favourite skirt pattern that I know fits me well, and borrowed the waist facing pattern pieces from it. I compared the facing pattern pieces to the top of the skirt, and found it was a little wide, so I ripped open the side seams, cut them slightly to taper them in so that they would accord with the pattern pieces, and then stitched the seams back together.

Then I cut the facing pieces out of the bodice. I had to cut them lengthwise, against the grain, but that didn't matter in any practical sense -- they're only facings after all. I interfaced the facing pieces and otherwise prepared them just as I would if I were making a skirt from that pattern, and stitched them into the waist of the skirt. The shortened zipper ends of the former dress-length zipper were stitched into the "waist and facing" seam at the top so I had a skirt-length zipper without having the work or the expense of putting in a new one. And then I had a skirt that looked exactly as though it had been intended to be a skirt all along.

And here's a fourth skirt that was originally intended to be an empire-waisted dress. In this case, it was a dress I never even finished as I realized that it wasn't going to fit or look right. It had been a fairly expensive dress by my standards and once I faced up to the reality that there was no possible way for me to make my original plan for a georgette dress work, I decided it was better to have a pricey skirt than expensive garbage. Just as in the case of the dress above, I made some waist facings out of the bodice (in this case I think I made my own waist facing pattern pieces out of paper by tracing around the top of the skirt pieces), and sewed them in. I think I had to piece the facing pieces on the inside because I just couldn't get both facing pieces out of the bodice pieces, but then no one but me will ever see that.

If you've got a dress that's unwearable for some reason but the skirt part of it fits and is in good shape, I'd suggest cutting it down into a skirt. As you can see from this post, it can be done without more expense than that involved in buying some elastic or interfacing and thread, and in such a way that no one will ever know that the skirt was ever a dress.

Unless you decide to write a blog post about it and effectively tell the whole world, of course.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

All That Glitters is Not Gold

For a number of years I've had these brooches sitting in my jewelry box, unworn. I had bought them myself over the internet, and they didn't look as pleasing in reality as they had in their vendors advertisement photos. Eventually I decided that I would like them better if they didn't have that cheesy-looking bright faux gold finish, and wondered if it would be possible for me to paint them. I googled the matter, and what I found reassured me that it was indeed possible.

The first step was to take the cameo brooch and the faux stone brooch apart. That proved surprisingly easy; a little careful pressure and they popped right out.

Then I painted the brooch, using a small, fine paint brush and dollar store silver craft paint for the swan brooch and bronze craft paint for the other two brooches. I think I did two coats on each brooch. Then, once it had dried, I glued the cameo and faux stone back in place. The result was more or less satisfying. I wasn't able to quite kill the gold look of the cameo or faux stone brooch, but I did tone it down considerably. They look less obviously cheap.

I rather liked the silver paint on the swan brooch. The original tone shows through a little, with a highlight effect.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Woodpecker Woodworks

Today I'm going to post about some items that, while they are handmade in accordance with the scope of this blog, are not my work. This is an album of my father's woodworking pieces. I'm so proud of his talent that I can't resist showing off his work in a way he's never been able to do as he's never used the internet in his life. He's always loved making things, although it was only in his late fifties that he began to really develop the skills to produce the kind of work you'll see in this post. Now 80, he's been entering his work in competitions and shows for the last sixteen years or so and nearly always places. He designs all his work except for specific custom-order pieces, and tends toward a mid-century modern aesthetic.

Dad is very emotionally invested in his work. Back in the mid to late sixties, he made a coffee table for his and my mother's living room that did duty for the next twenty years or so. The table was a simple thing: a rectangle of wood which he overlaid on the top and sides with some sort of cut-to-fit laminate, and with commercially made wooden legs. It would have been quite in style in the sixties when furniture was spare and simple, but though styles changed in the seventies and eighties it never looked out of style -- as unique handmade things tend not to -- and it was very strong and durable.

Then one day circa 1976 or 1977, when I was three or four, I tripped over my own feet while running into the living room and fell headlong, gashing my forehead on one corner of that coffee table. The cut was an inch-long vertical line just above and slightly extending into my left eyebrow, and required stitches. The resulting scar was so faint that no one has ever noticed it, and while I think I lost some eyebrow hair follicles, it's nothing that an eyebrow pencil can't camouflage. And of course I was extremely lucky not to have lost an eye or died from a fractured skull as I would have if my head had struck the table at slightly different angle.

Alas, while I recovered from the incident, Dad has not. He blamed himself for ever making that table, saying he should have known better than to make something with such sharp edges, especially when there were so many children in the house. There was no money to replace things unnecessarily when I was growing up, so we continued to use the coffee table my father had made for another six or seven years, even though Dad could barely stand the sight of it. Fortunately for his peace of mind, it was eventually replaced circa 1983 with a nice-looking wooden table one of my brothers made in high school shop class. But to this day my father cannot bear to have that old table mentioned. It is The Table that Must Not be Named. At my parents' 50th anniversary celebration in 2012, he and I were standing side by side watching the family photo slide show my sister-in-law had created when a photo of our early eighties-era living room appeared, and he snarled, "There's that table."

My father is normally an easygoing, modest man, but when it comes to his woodworking he's a bit of a prima donna. He affects a show of false modesty and says he's not really a woodworker; he's a woodpecker -- but if his work is slighted in any way, he sulks for days. Some years ago I bought him a woodpecker doorknocker to mount to outside the door of his workshop, and I have named this post after my father's self-assumed title. This isn't a really representative selection of his work, as he has made so many things, but these were all the pictures I could collect at this time by taking pictures of things my father has given me and by finding some pictures on the net. I hope to add more as time goes on.

The cedar chest that my father made for me back in 2001, when I bought my first home. He has since been working on making one for every daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, granddaughter-in-law, and assorted other family members and friends. Mine is actually rather plain and utilitarian in comparison with the chests he's making now.

Wine corks.

My father has made many of these platters. He likes to make them for anniversaries and put a specific number of hearts in them to represent the couple and any children they've had. This one belongs to me and was made plain at my request. One could fit many a party snack on this platter.

This rolling pin belongs to me. I selected it from several that my father offered to me, and it's probably my favourite item of all those he has made me. My father considers this piece of his "very ugly" and told me he was glad I liked it, because when he finished it he had wondered whether he could possibly find someone who would want it. Uh, whatever Dad. But anyone who makes things knows what that's like: sometimes you make something that's objectively fine, that many other people might love, but that you can't staaaaaaaand the sight of.

These rolling pins, made by my father, appeared in the 2008 American Association of Woodturners' instant gallery at their symposium in Richmond, Virginia. Another rolling pin of his was accepted for their juried show that year.

Another of my father's rolling pins, made with the flag of Norway on one side and the Canadian flag on the other side (see next photo). We Swans aren't Norwegian, but I believe this rolling pin was inspired by a Norwegian woodworking cruise he and my mother went on one year. This rolling pin belongs to my niece Peaches Swan, who was a very skilled and talented baker and cake decorator by the time she was 15.

The Canadian side of the rolling pin above.

Another rolling pin. Rolling pins are one of my father's favourite things to make.

A vase with a Celtic-style device on it that's visible inside and out.

One of a set of four grandfather clocks my father made for a friend of his who ordered them: one for each of his three daughters and a fourth for himself.

Close up of the chimes.

Close up of the clock. I so wish I had a home of the size and scale to provide an appropriate setting for one of these grandfather clocks, because holy crap do I ever lust after them. My father says that's nonsense and Swan's End could easily accommodate one, but I can't agree, much as I would like to.

A southwestern-style bowl, inside and out.

When my dad offered me the choice of a checkerboard from a number he had made, he told me to pick out one for a close friend of mine at the same time, "if I thought she wouldn't mind taking one, because he didn't want to saddle her with something she didn't want". When I showed up at her place and offered it to her, telling her dryly that my father had said I was to be sure she really wanted it, she said, "I think I can live with it," adding, "-- and I'm trying to refrain from lunging at you and snatching it out of your hands."

My father made this out of an olive tree that a former neighbour of his named Olive had. Her late husband had given it to her. Sadly, the tree blew down in a storm, but Olive was able to have some items made from the wood to remember it by. This was one of the items. I keep it on my desk to hold pens.

This hourglass appeared in the Woodstock Wood Show in Woodstock, Ontario, some years ago. It was awarded first prize in whatever category it was in.

Three hourglasses my father made for me. Hourglasses, like rolling pins, are among his favourite things to make.

The three bookcases my father made for my living room and my many books in what must have been the most epic bookshelf building project ever. It took over a year. But you can't rush genius, I suppose.

Shelf and hook rail for my guest room. My father cut them for me to my specifications, and I stained them, added the hooks and brackets, and installed them. My dad's woodworking skills have been invaluable to me as I work on renovating my old house. Besides this hook rail and shelf, and the other items in this post, he has made me a second hook rail for the front entryway, a shelf for my laundry room, custom trim to match the century old trim on various door frames throughout the house, a replacement mirror frame piece for an antique vanity table I refinished, a custom-fitted sliding panel door to cover the plumbing recess in the kitchen, and a entire new set of drawer slides for my bedroom set that I used to replace the original, and broken, plastic ones. And probably some other things that I'm forgetting at the moment.

Apple pen holder. I believe my father made one of these for my niece Clementine Swan, who is a high school history and English teacher. He has also made a special pen with a caduceus on it for my sister-in-law, who is a nurse.

Post-modern bowl.

Canadian pastry, eh?

A slightly gothic mid-century modern canister.


Harlequin-style wooden jars.


Rolling pin.

A wooden pencil box, made to resemble the wooden pencil box my father got when he was six and began grade one. He still has it.

The pencil box, opened. My father tells me triple-decker pencil boxes were a real status item back in the day. His was only a two-decker. He seems to be trying to assuage that childhood wistfulness by making triple-decker pencil cases for every child he knows.

A mod rolling pin.

Salt and pepper shakers.

Salt and pepper shakers one won't mix up.

Wooden dishes.

A southwestern-style jar.

Candy dishes.

A striped bowl.


Another hourglass.

Rolling pin.

Wooden bowl.

Wig stands. My father makes these to donate to a charity he knows of that gives them to cancer patients. My mother had a bout with breast cancer in 2014, but beautiful as these wig stands are, it was a relief to us all that she never had to have chemo and didn't need one of his wig stands.

Wine corks.

My father gave me this pen for Christmas 2019. It resides in the pen slot of my brown leather ARC planner that I take everywhere with me, and is the pen I use the most. I've bought numerous refills for it. 

In August 2021, I asked my father if he could make me a darning egg for Christmas. He said, "What's a darning egg?" He's lived with women who darn all his life -- first his mother, and then my mother -- but my grandmother used a dead lightbulb and my mother uses her hand, and he'd never seen nor heard of a darning egg. We looked at pictures of darning eggs online using my laptop, and I explained what I wanted, but when Christmas arrived there was no darning egg for me under the tree, as he'd forgotten all about it. I asked him if he could make me one for my birthday in August, and he said he would. Come June 2022, when I asked him about the status of the project, he'd forgotten about it again, and he asked me to send him some sketches or pictures, and measurements so he'd know what I wanted. I found some photos of darning eggs on the internet, printed them off, added some handwritten notes as to which style and size I wanted, and mailed them to him (he and my mother don't have a computer or cellphones). Once he had physical documentation to remind him, he didn't forget again, and he made me the above darning egg for my birthday. The handle is apricot wood cut from the apricot tree in my back garden. I've been giving him the wood I prune from the apricot tree in my backyard, and he loves working with it.   

Dad wanted to put a base on the darning egg handle so that it could sit upright and be displayed, and he made two prototypes to show me how it would look. I said I didn't want a base on the handle as that would make it awkward to use, and besides, I wasn't going to display the darning egg, but keep it in my workbasket. He got very pouty because I didn't like his idea, but he cut the base off one of the prototypes and finished it up for me, and it was just what I wanted. And, as I demonstrated to him, the egg *can* be stood up on one end and displayed if I should want to do that.