Monday, July 16, 2018

Brier Island

This past weekend Tony and I ran away to Brier Island.  I have always had a long list of reasons as to why I can't go anywhere, not least of which is a sense of needing to be open in case someone comes to visit my studio.  But Robin, who runs the Chester Bay Chalet, said it best when I called to book Lego into Dog Camp. She said, "you always remember the times you got away."  Sometimes you just have to hang up the closed sign and go enjoy the world, particularly when you live in one of the most beautiful parts of it.

I can count the number of times that Tony and I have gotten away by ourselves, without junior, on two fingers.  But both times are remarkable because we are immediately reminded of how much we like each other.  Take 'what's for dinner', dishes,  bills, child rearing and work out of the picture and we are the best of companions.

Brier Island surpassed any expectations that we had formed in the 24 hours between hearing about it and deciding to go there.  If you are looking for entertainment in the classic sense of the word then this is not the place for you, but if you love nature, unpretentious beauty, sea creatures, birds, wild flowers, rocks, peeling paint and old boats then this place is paradise. It is unadulterated Nova Scotia.

I didn't put a sound track over the video because what is most impressive are the sounds of the seagulls squawking,  the seals barking, the rustling wind and the whales.

Sunday morning we went out on a Whale Watching Boat run by Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises.  These guys are simply the best.  There were several naturalists on board to explain what we were seeing and answer questions.  We saw many Humpback whales, a Basking Shark, Harbour Porpoises and a Puffin!

The whales were the stars of the show.  They were so clearly entertained by us humans.  They swam under the boat and generally showed off for us.  At one point, two of them turned to face us and just watched.  I felt pretty privileged to be a part of their lives for a short period of time.

Unfortunately, we didn't stay there, but if when we go again we will choose the Brier Island Lodge .  From the photos it seemed a bit Roadside Motel, but in actuality, it's open with lots of picture windows to let in the view.  They have a charming lounge, where you could hang out on a rainy day and the restaurant is excellent.

Nova Scotia summer is short, but I'm so glad I filled this one with a memory of Brier Island.

Enjoy the video.


Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Stitch In Timeless

Today as Lego and I walked the short distance between my house and the Lunenburg Academy, I met a man visiting from Ireland.  Determined to learn a bit about life in Lunenburg, he proceeded to ask me as many questions as can fit into a couple of town blocks.  Happy to oblige him, I did my best to answer.  Most of the questions were pretty standard, but then he surprised me.

"When you moved to Lunenburg" he asked, " What stood out as being different than anywhere else you had ever lived?"

My mouth seemed to know the answer before my brain could do any sort of editing. "Slow," I blurted.
"Everything is slower here.  It takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you do, you can't go back."

In this little exchange it dawned on me that I have been pursuing 'slow" my whole life. I have always been drawn to tedium.  I even once painted a bathroom with a child's paint brush.  I walk slowly.  I eat slowly.  I think slowly.  But now that I have discovered knitting I have truly arrived at the centre of the slow universe. Knitting redefines slow.  In fact, it stands outside of time in a different dimension.  Knitting is timeless.

I am finding that as soon as I pick up the knitting needles, I am calm.  I get lulled into the rhythm of the stitches and before I know it the day is done. What should feel like a daunting project, instead feels like floating in the middle of a lake.  One stitch a time (for weeks on end) and I am rewarded with a sweater or a shawl or whatever has been keeping me company on the needles.

I have been asked a few times if I will be selling knit wear to go with my hats.  I can understand this question, particularly since I don't talk about anything else, but for now the answer has to be, no.  How does one charge for timeless?  Does $1000 seem a bit much for a pair of socks? Because that would be the real cost of this pair.

 I simply cannot measure my stitches in dollars.  They can only be measured in love. 

Here are some photos of my current shawl in progress.  It's called the Suiren Shawl and can be found on Ravelry and can also be found in Amirisu, which is available at Mariner's Daughter in Lunenburg.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hats For the Men Folk and a special delivery on VIDEO

Big News!  I discovered what to do with that iMovie thing on my phone. My poor, long suffering husband, is none too thrilled.  It was bad enough having me photograph the world, but now our little day trips are being filmed. You'll hear him, in the video, subtly ask,  "Will you be video taping the whole drive home?" 

Well, in other news I made a man's hat and I really enjoyed it and I plan to make more.  This might not seem newsworthy because, after all, what's the difference between a man's hat and woman's hat?  I suppose the general answer is tradition and shape and the more specific answer is leaving off the plethora of flowers. 

The latter is remarkably challenging for me.  I like to make flowers.  What can I say?  I often attempt plainer hats and then my hands just take over and before I know it I've created a botanical garden head piece.  It's bigger than me.  But now, with my beautiful, antique straw braid sewing machine, I have found the right dose of creativity in the hat construction itself to abstain from flower madness.

So, Peter asked me to make him a very wide brim garden hat and because Peter and his partner Alasdair live in Port Medway, Nova Scotia and Port Medway happens to be one of my favourite places on this planet, and also because Alasdair makes amazing marmalade,  I was only too happy to hand deliver the hat.  The bonus was a lovely tour of Peter and Alasdair's home and garden.

A visit to Port Medway, necessarily means a visit to the Port Grocer Cafe.  I'd call the Port Grocer a restaurant, but it's really more of  a community hub. You'll see a bit of the Port Grocer and its cheerful owner, Annabelle, in the video. You'll also see our trip home on the Lahave Ferry. This is a five minute cable ferry ride across the Lahave river.  It's a regular part of our lives here in Nova Scotia.

At the end of the video I added a little walk through Lunenburg.  Just because it's so damn glorious here and also because I'm playing with iMovie. 

Hope you enjoy seeing a glimpse of my charmed existence.

Friday, April 13, 2018

My Idea of a Custom Order

My idea of a custom order might not look like a  typical custom order. In this case it went something like this.... 
Brenda- Hi Anna, I love your dangling flower hats.  They are so Springy and I really need a fun hat.
Me- Oh, sure, but would you mind if I made a couple of changes, like a totally different shape and completely different flowers located on a different part of the hat?
Brenda- Well, O.K, you do what you think will suit me best.

And you see!!!  I was right.  I can't think of a more perfect hat for this beautiful face.

  You gotta love a woman who is not afraid to take Spring into her own hands.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

One Extraordinary Woman (with good taste in hats)

This is Thelma.  We met a couple of weeks ago.  She was looking for a hat for her friend in British Columbia who is going through chemo.  She came by my studio and together we came up with this...

Word on the street is that her friend was delighted.  But back to Thelma.  When she came to pick up her friend's hat she asked me to make  a travel hat for herself.  We arranged a pick up at the Kiwi Cafe in Chester.  That's my Wednesday afternoon hang.  While my son does theatre, I am forced to drink lattes and knit.  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Back tracking to this morning, I opened up Facebook (yes, I'm still doing that, despite my better judgement) and there was Thelma in the middle of this Chronicle Herald article.  Seems that Thelma, with the help of other community volunteers, decided to tackle Nova Scotia's health care crisis by themselves.
They formed an association, bypassed our provincial health authority and are opening up a walk in clinic in Chester.  Wait, What?  How the heck does one do that?  How do you just walk through a mess of red tape and simply do what needs to be done?  Well, inquiring minds wanted to know and my opportunity to find out came up this afternoon.

Thelma came to pick up her hat, which, I don't need to tell you, is absolutely perfect on her.  I proceeded to bombard her with 1000 questions. Really, this achievement is astounding.

 Apparently, she discovered that with a little bit of leadership people will gladly help.  She talked about finding board members with unique skills.  There's a lawyer to help with legalities, a former CBC journalist to help with communication....people are helping in whatever way that they can. Most of the doctors who have signed on live locally.  Some are semi retired and are happy to commit to a day or two in the name of helping their community.

But how do they get paid, I asked?  They just bill MSI (That's our provincial health insurance) for their services.  I had no idea.  I imagined that this big centralized health authority had to be in the picture for that to happen.  Well, what do I know?  I'm a hat maker. The bottom line is, this team of citizens said, we've got a problem.  There are hundreds of residents without a family doctor and we have to do something.  They tried to go through the regular channels, but when the red tape blocked the way they just did it themselves.
In a perfect world this wouldn't have to happen, but I'm amazed that it did.

I'm in awe of my seemingly ordinary customers who quietly prove themselves to be extraordinary. What an honour to make a hat for such a worthy head.


Oh, I almost forgot...LOOK AT THE SWEATER I MADE!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fifty Years

I had big plans for my fiftieth birthday.  I was going to get in the car and drive an hour an a half to Wolfville and take a lone adventure to Gaspereau Valley Fibers.  I have been thinking about how I used to be so adventurous.  I was the twenty year old that just left Toronto for NYC without a place to live and with $500 to my name.  I was the thirty year old who slept under the stars and climbed scary rocks. I was the forty year old who packed her husband and kid up and moved to Nova Scotia from NY.  For goodness sake, woman, how hard can it be to get in the car and go spend the day in Wolfville?

But then I felt a bit lazy and I thought, I'll go to Mahone Bay for the day.  I'll walk around, have a coffee at The Barn  and go check out Have a Yarn .  That was the back up plan.  I woke up, snuggled into the day bed, had coffee delivered to me by the man and started knitting my first sock.  Three hours later, I was still knitting.  Then I got stuck and walked down to my home town knitting store, The Mariner's Daughter for help.

The Mariner's daughter is owned by the most wonderful mother/daughter duo, Hannah and Faye.  Hannah (Mama knitter) was behind the desk and I explained to her that it was my 50th birthday and I could not face the possibility of ripping out hours of stitches on my birthday.  As always, she was beyond patient.  I snuggled into the armchair for over an hour and she helped me understand the mathematics of sock knitting.
She told me about her sailing adventures with her husband, children, dog and cat.  Apparently the porpoises loved to come out and tease the dog and the cat was a true mariner who loved the sea life and also loved to explore the many ports they docked in.

Before I left she said that she and Faye had a birthday present for me and asked me to choose one of their beautiful baskets.  She knew my birthday was coming up because my favourite 83 year old neighbour, Margaret, bought a gift certificate for me.  She told me that they were really grateful for all my knitting anecdotes that I have been sharing on social media.  It seems that quite a few customers have come in the shop because they have been following my adventures in knitting on Facebook.  Well, how could I refuse.  These baskets are so beautiful and are purchased directly from the artisans in Ghana.

On the way home I stopped at Shop on the Corner  and had the perfect latte. 

When I got home there was a giant birthday cookie from my friend, Jennifer,  a boy with infinite hugs, a man who is kind and patient who made me lunch and dinner, and a day bed, made by that same man, just calling to me to curl up and knit.

It's just so hard to go anywhere when you are where you want to be. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Always Trust a Politician in a Good Hat

I try so hard to not mix hats and politics, but when a wonderful Nova Scotia politician goes out of her way to support a local hatter there's nothing left to do, but talk about the two things together in one place.

This is Lisa Roberts. She is the NDP MLA for Halifax/Needham.  Lucky Halifax/Needham to have such a caring, intelligent and stylish representative in the legislature.

Lisa emailed me a couple of days ago and told me that she was heading out on Monday to Windhorse Farm for a community event and might she stop by afterwards for a hat and chat?  I responded by telling her that I had just watched a video of her questioning the auditor general in the public accounts committee and was impressed by her calm, rational demeanor.  I think I might have surprised her.  I guess there aren't too many people who watch videos of public accounts committees for fun.  What can I say?  I'm a fabulously boring person at heart.

When Lisa walked in the door the first impression that came to mind was, Oh, it's me.

Do you see what I mean?

Well, aside from the two of us looking like long lost sisters, we were both equally passionate about small, local businesses that keep money circulating within their communities and who prioritize sustainability.  

It's no surprise that Lisa gravitated right to this hat.  The fabric on this hat is hand woven for me by Marrie Berkelaar of Double Whale Handwoven Designs, right here in Lunenburg.  Marrie buys the wool from a small company in Quebec.  You just can't get more Canadian than this hat.

I have so much respect for Lisa and all her convictions and it is a true honour to be so well represented at Province house.