Me Me Me
After 10 years of blogging I’m finally writing an About page. Talk about procrastination! Of course there’s a chance that nobody will want to read it anyway. C’est la vie!
Hello. I’m Louisa. So nice to meet you! I live in what I believe is the most beautiful city in the world, Vancouver, British Columbia. I’m even one of those rare people that was actually born here and I still live in the neighbourhood in which I grew up. It’s central and has everything I want nearby so why on earth would I leave? You can see the North Shore mountains from my window. My little old house is quite adequate and I have my garden. There’s room for all the crafts that I and my husband enjoy.
Speaking of crafts, I’ve been making things since forever. I can vaguely remember the red square I first knitted with my mom’s help when I was 6. Since she didn’t crochet, I taught myself when I was 12 from a booklet that we bought at the five & dime store. That’s also where I got the horrible scratchy acrylic yarns that I used to knit miles of “horse reigns” on my Knitting Nancy. I rarely managed to finish making a hot pad or some such out of them though. Then there were the paint-by-numbers kits and the mosaic craft kits and all the other kits that kept me amused. When I wasn’t reading every book I could get my hands on, that is.
My parents really ignited my interest one Christmas when they gave me a little hand-cranked Singer sewing machine. I think I was 8. I made clothes for my Barbie (one doll, singular) and created hideously ugly stuffies. I still own the doll I made then. Her name is Cynthia and she is coloured with crayons, her long brown hair is braided and she wears a white shirt and miniskirt. I remember I craved a doll with blue eyes and brown hair like me. All the blue-eyed dolls were blond and all the brown-haired dolls had brown eyes. It’s probably still true. In Grade 8, I used my little Singer machine to make my first flower-print shift dress for myself, definitely not perfect but so empowering especially for a girl who wore a Catholic school uniform most days. After that I convinced my parents to get me a real sewing machine, one that didn’t make a chain stitch that zipped right out if it got caught. I was off to the races! By the time I was in Grade 10 and finally in public school, I was making many of my own garments. I had only had a year and a half of formal sewing classes and the rest was self-taught. I had no interest in the “fashion” classes in Home-Ec. I wisely took cooking instead. And I wore my miniskirts and tent dresses with pride – even if I occasionally got flak from those who didn’t understand my personal style.
I graduated from high school and went to art school. Now that was eye-opening! After a year and a half of that all I came away with was a future husband and the knowledge that I was most definitely not any kind of serious artist. I made things. Mostly practical things. It may have helped if there was a textiles department in the school. Or not. Instead I got married at 20, had 2 kids and enjoyed (mostly) being a stay-at-home mom. Our wedding clothes were my designs. The kids had lots of mom-made clothes and even Thom sported a shirt, jacket or vest that I sewed. I also knit and crocheted but not with the intensity that developed after I learned how to spin.
It was Thom’s fault. He bought me a kit with greasy carded fleece and a clunky plywood spindle. I had nowhere to take lessons and the instruction booklet was rudimentary. I raided the public library for information. (Of course the Internet and YouTube were still about 20 years away from being ubiquitous.) And, darn it, I learned how to make good yarn on that thing. A year later I got Sleeping Beauty, a Saxony-style kit wheel from New Zealand who lives now at my daughter’s. I made even better yarn on her and finally learned from a German-born friend how to knit Continental style. I found local sources for wool fleece and dyes and more tools like hand-cards and a drum carder. I learned how to weave on a borrowed loom. Thom made me a skein winder/unwinder which I still use today. The stashes were well and truly building up.
Moving quickly on, I found the Greater Vancouver Weavers’& Spinners’ Guild where I’ve been an active member since 1985. I also was a member at one time of the Vancouver Fibre Arts Guild, the Handweavers Guild of America, Complex Weavers and Tablet Weavers International Studies and Techniques (TWIST). Over the years I’ve taught classes and workshops in many venues and on many subjects including weaving, spinning, knitting, dyeing, kumihimo, beadwork and paste paper. Besides this here blog, I’ve written articles for craft magazines, self-published a couple of out-of-print booklets and was past editor of my guild newsletter. I like to think I’ve encouraged and enabled more than a few fibre-crafting folks!
Even though I’ve never thought of myself as a capital-A Artist, I’ve had a few items exhibited and a few sold over the years. I don’t like to make things for sale though. It takes all the pleasure out of it when I have to do it! I’ve also been invited to jury for exhibits and sales which was difficult for me. I don’t lack opinions (hah!) but I also believe that everyone’s work and ideas have merit. Hard to choose the best when it’s all good work.
So now we’re pretty much retired around here. I’m enjoying puttering about the studio and garden and spending not-nearly-enough time with our three grandchildren. We walk as much as possible and bring home most of the groceries on our backs. For a different perspective we head off every September for camping trips in our little old VW Westphalia. Otherwise I’d just be permanently rooted here in place. I enjoy where I am, the skills I’ve learned, the perspectives I’ve gained and am glad I still have plenty of patience and curiosity to explore techniques more fully than before. Even though my crafty interests have shifted, I’m not giving up anything permanently quite yet. On hold maybe. Most stuff doesn’t go bad if it just sits there. We aren’t in danger of being overwhelmed by the stashes especially now that we have much less money to spend on them. As a matter of fact it’s kind of fun to be challenged to use what I already have.
Life is good. Craft on.