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.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Time Out for Gratitude

Some chores, like washing dishes,  bring out the nihilistic, end of days, depressive side of me. While other chores, like hanging laundry, fill me with peace and gratitude.  So, as it is Canadian Thanksgiving, I thought I'd hang the laundry.  And wouldn't you know it, a wave of  thoughts bright and beautiful blew in with the gentle breeze and filled me with complete love for my life.

I am grateful to live in a town where beauty lives in all the details, where I can walk to the doctor, dentist, hospital, grocery store, bank and post office.  A town filled with music and culture and the best farmers market and silence and interesting people.
I am grateful for my 82 year old neighbour, Margaret, who takes walks with me and inspires me to never stop moving.
I am grateful for my wise ass, funny and witty 13 year old son who still demands to be hugged several times a day and tortures me with bad jokes.
I am grateful to my talented and handsome husband who keeps me laughing, makes me beautiful furniture  and stoically endures the hardship of being married to a rabble rousing big mouth.
I am grateful to have the friendliest dog ever, who lives only to love (and eat) and turns himself into a dead weight when he sees people off in the distance who just might adore him.
I am grateful to the first people I see each morning, Pam and Trevor, who work for the town, who always keep treats in the ride on lawn mower and make detours just to chat with the dog.
 I am grateful to the old guys that sit on the bench at those apartments on Blockhouse Hill, who always have something clever to say and, of course, a treat in their pockets.
I am grateful to live minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean.
I am grateful to have a life of creativity, where my biggest frustration is not being able to materialize all the ideas in my head.
I am grateful for being so damned privileged, to own a home and a car and a fridge full of food.
I am grateful that my son gets to go to a French school where he has learned to be bilingual and that the school bus comes right to our door each morning and brings him right back again at the end of the day.
I am grateful to live in a sparsely populated province, where I can be alone on a beach or a trail and live without traffic or traffic lights.
I am grateful that my son is still excited when he sees an escalator.
I am grateful to have parents who have always supported me.
I am grateful to have never known hunger or violence.

I am grateful that my neighbours cut down their tree in their yard, but still kept the trunk, so that I can still have my clothes line.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Men Say The Darndest Things

Today I have been the most easy going spouse imaginable.  Tony came into the kitchen and suggested I might be putting too many nuts in the salad....He turned off the corn that was cooking for 30 seconds because he thought it would overcook and even asked me what's for supper tomorrow before we had  finished this evening's dinner.  These actions, on a typical day, sometimes cause  the throwing of sharp objects.  But not today.   Today,  I just looked at him adoringly, batted my eyelashes and thought to myself, Don't men say the darndest thing?.... sigh.  That's because today is the day that Tony finished and brought home my new sewing table.  There are some serious perks to being married to The Lunenburg Furniture Co.

  I'm jealous of myself.  I have never seen a more beautiful sewing table.  There's even room for one more machine.  I guess I'll have to get one more machine.

Here's a detail shot.  I know I'm slightly biased, but the man is truly a brilliant wood worker.  I can't say that as a family of two crafts people and one hungry kid that we have money to spare for things like vacations or dental work, but we are rich in furniture, hats and love.  

The man, himself.  Brilliant woodworker.  Electrician...not so much.  He disconnected the wires to the motor of my machine and then couldn't remember how to reconnect them.  Made for an entertaining, spark filled hour.  My job was to unplug and replug the machine while he tried every possible combination.  I was a bit tense and he assured me that there was nothing to be scared of, but in the same breath he asked me if I knew what to do if he got electrocuted.  He explained that I should push him away from the machine, but not with the front of my hands because the muscles on my hands would clamp around him and I would get electrocuted, too.  So, while plugging and unplugging and running up and down the basement stairs to reset the fuse, I pondered techniques for pushing him out of the way should he start convulsing.  I'd body check wait, I scanned the studio for some object that didn't conduct electricity...oh,  the soles of my shoes are rubber.  If the need arises, I could kick him.  But then a radical thought popped into my head.  Hey, Tony, if you were being electrocuted, could I pull the plug?  Quite a bit of laughter.  Yes, I could pull the plug. so glad it didn't come to that.    The machine is now successfully rewired.

Here are a couple of my latest creations made on my straw braid machine.  Now that I have this beautiful table with a cut out for the machine,  I will be able to make these hats without raising my shoulders to my ears.

John is our famous knot man. You can find him most summer and fall days on the Lunenburg waterfront.  I made the hat.  John did the rope work.

Just modelling, but man oh man does this porkpie look perfect on her.

I hand dyed the straw braid on this one.

I often make these pretty hats while listening to audio books about not so pretty history or politics.  I think I'm trying to create an equilibrium.

This hat is not made from straw braid.  It is hand blocked seagrass, but it is still worthy of a mention.  Helene spent almost an hour with me in my studio helping to design her hat.  When she came the following day to the farmers market to pick it up, she burst into tears.  A total first.  I think she was touched that the hat was really and truly made for her.  Her husband was a little baffled by her tears, but as a woman of a certain age that cries at insurance commercials I completely understood the reaction.  Happy to report that the tears didn't last long.