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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Hat To Grow a Garden

There is often an idea in my head for years before it actually materializes.  This is as true for hat making as it is for folding laundry or sorting through piles of paper. 

Being an avid, albeit a negligent, gardener, I have been wanting, forever, to create a hat with special gardening status.  I can now proudly say that I have accomplished this one task.  The laundry and my child's artwork from the past nine years remain untouched, but the hat has finally been made.

I present to you....Gardenia.  She is made on my new (100 years old) straw braid sewing machine from raffia braid.  This raffia braid has nothing to do with the raffia braid commonly seen in factory made hats.  This stuff is substantial.  The braid is really wide and really thick.  It makes the most rustic hat that just makes one want to go out and plant tomatoes.  The band and the rose are made from hand dyed linen.  Yes, hand dying is one of the stupid things I do to ensure that I consistently hover just above the poverty line.

Here are some photos from my garden.  It looks better in the photos than in real life. I love that cropping tool.  If someone invents a garden tool to crop out the physical weeds, let me know. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Livin' The Dream in Lunenburg

 I live in a beautiful town with a beautiful family and I make hats all day in a life size doll house. Once again, I need to drone on about how lucky I am.

This past week I felt ridiculously lucky.  With the help of my new brochure people are finally finding me. I had two women from Toronto pick up my brochure in Peggy's Cove and made a detour to Lunenburg to see me.  I had a travel writer pick up my brochure in Amherst and decide to head over my way.

These two gorgeous sisters found me via the Lunenburg Art Map and the next day while visiting Peggy's Cove they were stopped by a woman from Ontario who inquired where they got their hats.  That woman then high tailed it to Lunenburg and showed up my door.

I'm pretty sure that I am sending these ladies home with unique memories.  When people are touristing, life is filled with restaurants, fun shops, museums, beaches and trails.  But my home-based shop offers something a bit different. A peek inside a home.

The first being to meet customers at the door is Lego.  Usually he brings his pillow.  Not so much to give, as to show.  Do you like my pillow?  Look, I have a pillow.
A quick glance around my studio makes it very clear that this is where the hats are made and a quick glance through the open door into my messy dining room makes it clear that this is also my house.

I try to always be generous with my time and travel advice, but the generosity goes both ways.  Every time a customer leaves my shop I find they have also shared a bit of their lives with me.

This coming week will be our ninth anniversary in Lunenburg.  I can so remember the insanity of that first year.  I was trying to be a mom to a four year old while simultaneously trying to keep 30 stores stocked with my hats.  I was a nervous wreck.

I moved to Lunenburg thinking that my business could thrive despite being in Nova Scotia, but it didn't take me long to discover that my business was thriving because I live in Nova Scotia.  It's just so fun for people to wander the streets of a historic town and then discover an artisan working from home with an open door.

These days my life is so much calmer.  Aside from that four year old now being a thirteen year old,  being able to welcome people into my shop has allowed me to give up a lot of the wholesale part of my business.
Between my little shop, the farmers market, online sales and a few great wholesale accounts, I get to live the dream and there is time in the day left over for swimming, walking, biking, and gardening.
 What a life!  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

All this and I didn't leave the house

O.K.  fine, I do leave the house once a week to go to the Farmers' Market and I also walk my dog, but my life revolves around my home and that's the way I love it.  I know it's not a life for everyone, but being by myself in my little studio with the occasional visitor is my definition of heaven on earth. I often have to pause and  consider how incredibly lucky I am to be able to make a living in the way that I do.
My weekly Thursday  trip to the Lunenburg Farmers Market is my social day.  It's my time for chatting, shopping and hat selling and it is a highlight of my week, but when I get home I am toast and am always thankful for six more days of not leaving the house. 

This is Julia.  She was visiting from South Africa and circled my booth a number of times before finally allowing herself to be sucked in.  She was having a great time trying on hats and I wasn't about to pass up on the opportunity to photograph such a beauty.

Pam was helping Cheryl Corkum sell her beautiful paintings at the market this week and was all dressed up for Canada Day with one of my hats.

Cheryl's paintings are  at the market every week.

When the market was over, Pam came over and said, "Did you sell my hat?'  "Nope."  I told her,  "It's waiting for you."  And off they walked into the sunset.  I would ordinarily have a hard time parting with this kind of hat so soon after finishing it, but Pam is Hat Junkie family.  One of the many women that have kept me eating through the years.  It couldn't have gone to a better head.

Terri was visiting from the Annapolis Valley and off she went with this Suitcase Sarah.  I really couldn't ask for better advertising than all these beauties.

Did I mention my new hat boxes?  For years I have been dreaming of carrying good quality hat boxes, the kind that will actually protect a hat.  They are made by a small company in the states.  The quality has exceeded my expectations.

I had another one of my regular Hat Junkies come visit me at the market yesterday.  She needed a hat for her son's wedding.  I had two days before she needed to hop on a plane back to Manitoba. This is what I refer to as a hat emergency.  If humanly possible I am always happy to help. I received my marching orders (Do whatever you want) and got to work.  This is what I came up with.

When Louise came on Friday evening to pick up her hat we both knew it was all wrong.  Louise grew out her dyed hair and now instead of a brown bobbed cut she had a silver short cut.  The earth tones were not working anymore.  We spent about an hour rummaging through my ribbon stash and she put these two colours together.

I love when this happens.  Pink and silver is not a combination I would have thought of, but now I will.  I spent the evening on the day bed redoing the hat.  She came back the next day and we were both delighted.

And, of course, she needed a hat box to protect her new hat.

In case you were wondering what I did with the other flowers, they ended up on this wheat straw boater.  I named the hat, Marilla, for my favourite character in Anne of Green Gables.
I know  that last week I waxed eloquent about how I don't make hats for the races, but then I got to thinking...If Anne Shirley and Marilla went to the Kentucky Derby what would they wear?  This is what Marilla would have made for herself and this ...

would be Anne's hat.

The details are mostly in the back.  Now I am officially out of wheat straw, but fear not, there is a whole new batch on its way to my local post office.  Imagine that!  I can order all my supplies without ever leaving my house.

If you also love to work from home and you live in Nova Scotia then please consider joining Homegrown Works, Nova Scotia's home-based business association.  I started this association less than a year ago and we are seeking new members.  You can check out my latest Homegrown Works blog post HERE.  See you next week.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Take This Hat to Ascot at Your Own Risk

My adventures in sewing wheat straw continue. Wheat straw is seriously rustic.  Sewing with it has caused me to recall the breathing techniques that were taught to me in birthing class, many moons ago.  (didn't work then either) Tony has several times closed my studio door to put a physical barrier between himself and the colourful expressions that seem to fall out of my mouth and Dustin's new catch phrase is, "Language, Mom!" But I just love the stuff.

I had to do a bit of self analysis to ensure that I wasn't chronically drawn to abusive hat making relationships.  But I think I can explain why wheat straw and I stay together.  I know, I know, this is classic denial, but, really, hear me out.  This is the straw of the people.  It is not fancy or pretentious, yet it is so beautiful.  The colour is like variations on sunshine.   It's imperfect and it's perfectly real.

Here's another one of this week's creations.  It's called, Hat for a seamstress.

This is the season for horse racing- Kentucky Derby, Ascot, Queen's plate....  Milliners all over the world are busy creating masterpieces of pomp and flippery. (I think I made that last word up)  I have had some requests for fascinators from ladies that don't know me well and I have learned to just say no.  When I don't want to do something, the process becomes tortuous.    It's just not me.  I could not go to a horse race.  I would inevitably do something inappropriate.  I mean, on purpose. Like eating a banana without peeling it while sipping champagne with the Duchess of Dingle.  There's something about all that  entitlement that would cause me to go bad.  And if you were to fall in love with one of my hats and wear it to the races, the hat would inspire you to do the same. You have been warned.

My hats want to go the Country Fair, the local farmersmarket, a weekend trip to Annapolis Royal,  or to the Lunenburg folk Harbour Festival.

My hats also love to take the cable ferry across the Lahave River and have lunch at the Lahave Bakery.
This photo of the Lahave ferry in the late 1800's comes from a book called, Images of our past, Historic Lunenburg, The Days of Sail.  I bet you dollars to donuts that it's available at Lunenburg Bound.

But if you have your heart set on going to the races then you should buy a hat from my dear friend and one of Canada's best milliners, Edie Orenstein.  Some of her creations can be found at the Nova Scotia Designer Craft Council store next to Pier 21 in Halifax.  You can also contact her through her Facebook page.

If any of you are familiar with Vancouver, Edie was the founder of Edie Hats on Granville Island.  She's kind of a legend and she's hiding out here in Nova Scotia, at least for the next year.  She's the real deal.

I will leave you with a couple of photos from the Lunenburg Farmers Market.  Yep, every hat finds its rightful head.

Carol is visiting from Ontario and she didn't buy this hat....yet.  It's killing me because it's a perfect match.

And, finally, some really big news....Today Dustin learned to wash the dishes.  My investment has finally paid off.    After months of the kid flaunting our rapidly changing physical stature, it occurred to me that he was now tall enough to wash the dishes without serious risk of precious pottery breakage.  Life just keeps getting better and better.  See you all next week.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Does This Hat Make Me Look Old?

Last week I set up my wares at Lady Luck Boutique in the Hydrostone Market in Halifax. Gloria walked into the shop looking like the text book definition of elegance. She tried this hat on and asked, "Does this hat make me look old?"  We all agreed that it looked beautiful on her and she went home one hat richer.

There's something wonderful about this question coming from a 90 year old woman.  It means that in her mind, she is young.   She wakes up every morning and dresses to meet the day.

Although I meet plenty of women who have convinced themselves that they can no longer dress to be noticed, I am inspired by the ones who expand the rules.  Beauty doesn't stop at middle age.  It just changes.

Randi also came by the trunk show. Just so happens that she has an entire room full of my hats. I don't think she'll mind me telling you that she is 65.  Every time I see her she is more beautiful.

And then there's Linda, quilter exraordinaire.  I could tell you about how Linda is always dressed so beautifully, but a picture speaks a thousand words.

 I made this hat last week on my new straw braid machine.  It was one of those labours of love where I just give up on calculating my time. I expected the hat to live with me for at least a few months before finding its rightful head, but Linda walked by my booth at the market at 9:30 a.m and that was that.   It left me without so much as a backwards glance.

 Here's a side view where you can see all the silk flowers that I made, petal by petal.

And this is what the hat looked like before it decided to become a hat. That's wheat straw, by the way.  My new best friend. We didn't like each other at first.  It cracked every time I looked at it.  But then I discovered that it likes to bathe before becoming a hat.

This is the straw soaking in a bucket of my tears. If only there were a manual.  It's all trial and error and I'm not always the epitome of patience.

When the tear bucket fills up, Tony is always there to mercilessly mock me. It's probably a good thing that he refuses to take me seriously.  (shameless promotion warning) Check out his beautiful doors and furniture HERE.

 And when I truly lose the ability to laugh at myself, I go for a walk.

 ...or work in the garden. Dustin wanted me to tell you that I was quite adamant that there would not be any ripe strawberries yet.  Good thing he doesn't listen to his mother.  I let him eat both.

So, yeah, all in all another charmed week in Lunenburg.  See you soon.