16 December 2007

High as an Elephant's Eye

And I am not talking about the corn in Iowa, but rather the snow in Toronto. Although I probably should not have done so, I actually took a snow day today. I was meant to be at my craft show of 2007, but when the snow started last night, I knew I would have to decide whether it was actually worth it to attend. I paid for my space months ago. Did I want to lose that money? What if nobody came, and then instead of paying just for the table, I also ended up paying for gas and parking, and made none of it back? What if it turned into the best craft show day ever, and I missed out? I waffled forever, and then finally decided it would be better to stay home. Why risk the drive if it wasn't absolutely necessary. At the time I was slated to leave, the roads were becoming increasingly bad according to the local police. People weren't going to go for a walk if they didn't need to, and if they did have to go out it would be to shovel themselves free. Or so that was my reasoning. Sometimes I spend far too much time trying to justify my actions. Its like some sort of obsessive hobby I have!

Moving on....

Taking the snow day turned out to be so much fun! I spent the morning indoors, all cozy and warm, and then when it seemed to let up a bit, my husband and I decided to take a walk. We walked down to the local movie store. We also bought some popping corn so we can have hot buttery popcorn and hot chocolate as we curl up to watch the movie.
On the way back home I flopped onto the clean, untouched snow of the school yard and made a snow angel. I'm not sure why the snow brings out the kid in me. Toronto has been deprived of a good snowfall for a couple years now, so even when my husband was ready to go back in, I decided I needed to head to the park for further frolicking. It was beautiful. Only one other person had been there before me, so the snow was largely untouched. The park sits high on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario. There was complete calm up above, and the angry thrashing of the lake hitting the breakers below. Pine trees droopped under the weight of the snow creating wintery green cocoons that would provide a temporary shield from the wind. The few determined flowers that had held fast to their few remaining petals through the autumn and into the winter, were frozen in the direction the wind was blowing when the temperature plummeted. All was beautiful and serene.
Eventually, I will need to head out with a shovel and free my car from the drift that has blown up around it. For now, though, I am happy to look out at the snow that is now softly drifting past my frosty window.

Fresh Snowfall

The Coolest Seat in the House

Toronto Borrows a Scene From Narnia

Susan is a Stubborn Flower

13 December 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

What's not to love about this time of year (apart from sneakers that soak up slush and tummy-aches which result from squirting too much gingerbread icing directly into your mouth!)?
At every turn there is a project of some sort awaiting my attention. Last week it was cookie baking and card making. This year I made traditional gingerbread men, which resulted in the icing induced tummy-ache, green tea shortbread, and florentines, which are still awaiting a drizzle of melted chocolate. Did you know that Bulk Barn now sells Callebaut chips? Drooool....
I'm eager to make more cookies, but I am not sure that I will have the time. Plus, we will be seeing fewer people this Christmas, which means Darcy and I will need to eat whatever is left. Not such a terrible thing, until you have to make that New Year's promise to go the gym religiously and eat nothing but salads for a month.

For a couple days I wondered about the wisdom of making my own cards. Time was running short, and although I had my vision of how I wanted my cards to look, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull it off and get them written and posted in enough time. Luckily, I embraced the less is more philosophy with this year's Christmas cards, and I hear that some are already arriving in mailboxes, so I guess I didn't leave it too late after all.
And I am actually fairly pleased with the result. Onto a deep blue, slightly metallic card stock, I stamped a snowflake and "Merry Christmas" in silver ink, and then added a touck of white glitter (some of which actually stuck through the entire mailing process!). Then I adhered the blue stamped card stock to a simple black white card.

The next few days will bring a few more fun projects like wrapping presents, and planning dinners, lunches, and snacks. For someone who loves projects and many forms of creative expression, there truly is no better time of the year.

6 December 2007

Crafting Supplies are my Crack!

Its true I can't get enough of raw crafting materials. Last year we had to buy a new storage cabinet to hold my excess materials. Full! So then we bought some new shelving. Full. And overflowing! And still, I feel a compulsive need to "treat" myself to more.

So deciding to give myself a day off from holiday madness, I relaxed the best way I know how - supply stalking! First stop, Michael's. I intended only to get some plain white cards and envelopes so I could get my Christmas cards made over the next few days. I didn't get off that lightly. My nemesis was lurking on the shelf fronts - sale signs! Damn you, price reductions. One giant block of paper, reams of wrapping papers, oodles of ribbon spoools, swirly rubberstamps, epoxy stickers... what? How did all of you little fellows leap into that basket? I sat in the car and surveyed the damage. It was all justifiable, I reasoned, since I had not paid full price for anything.

Next, to Queen Street West in downtown Toronto where a supply stalker becomes misty-eyed from the realization that there are all those shops devoted to supplies. For today I opted to stay away from the bead stores. I was looking forward to a fondling day. Its not that weird, really! Deisgner Fabrics and MacFab have little hangers of fabric samples hanging all in neat little rows. So pretty, so inviting. Silks: patterned, striped, solid, Dupioni, Chinese. Linens, some rough, some gentle, all beautifully coloured. Toiles, velvets, cotton, twill, organza. Heavy upholstery fabric, flimsy curtain materials. Oh and then there are the buttons, the tassels and trims, the purse handles and other findings. Sigh.

Oh and of course there are the wool shops. The Knit Cafe where the squashy skeins are neatly stacked and knitted samples are artistically displayed, and where you can revel in the cozy comfort while enjoying an espresso. And Romni Wools, where any woolen thing you can imagine is surely to be found in the high shelves that overflow into laundry baskets below. And in the basement, a sale section and as I newly discovered, giant bags of roving which can be purchased by the ounce! EEeeeeeep!

And as if the stacks of sale paper at Michael's weren't enough, there is The Paper Place. Sheets of screened Japanese papers, handmarbled Brazilian papers, cardstock, envelopes, hand-dyed ribbons, and so, so, so much more. And my favorite part, little 4x4 inch scrap squares of Chiyogami paper. So beautiful! And such a small price for such elation as having that little square in your hand as you leave the store.

I am totally sated this evening. And I realised that I forgot to buy the plain white cards and envelopes that was the only actual item needed today.

3 December 2007

Little Fuzzy Orbs are Taking Over my Life!

This past Sunday I took part in a craft show. Knowing that an early winter storm was due to arrive the night before, I didn't anticipate a great turnout, and I wisely packed a book to take along with me. I would have had plenty of time to read if..... the most incredible 9-year old girl hadn't happened into my life.

She was with her mom and together they were selling knitted items at a table near me. I wandered over to see what they had for sale, since the best therapy for not making any money is to spend money. The young lady had a huge wad of wool roving which immediately set me drooling. As you may remember from one of my first posts, I have an insatiable craving for wool in any form, despite not really knowing what to do with it. And just to get off track for a moment, the scarf I started way back when is still on the needles since I decided I wanted to add length but do not know how to change from the emptied ball to the new one.

The girl showed me the project that she was working on... a multi-coloured needle felted cupcake. I nearly squealed with excitement. I have been fascinated for some time with the concept of needle felting. I had always pictured some horrible medieval torture instrument being used for the process and was so surprised that it was in fact just one solitary needle, albeit, a very long and thick needle. She showed me briefly how she attacked the roving with the needle and magically a shape began to appear. Then, gasp, she ripped off a hunk of roving and passed me a needle and told me I could take it back to my table to try for myself. Giddy! I was absolutely giddy with the excitement of it all. I started poking away at my little cotton-candy like fluff of purple softness. I figured out how to manipulate it and slow coax it into shape. Eventually it was a somewhat rounded shape. The girl came back to check my progress and told me that I had done it; I was done. Then she ran off, and came back lickety split with more fluff, this time green.

I started playing with the new piece of fluff and my second attempt was a tighter, more compact ball. I figured out that the more I attacked, the better the effect. For someone who grew up hearing the phrase "you win over more flies with sugar, than with vinegar" this type of venomous violence was rather new to me. Alarmingly, I am not sure if it is the ability to finally let go and attack, or the amazement of seeing something take shape from nothing, that led to the feeling of elation. Whatever it is, I can't wait to go and buy myself a felting needle. The knitting stores in Toronto seem to all close on Monday so sadly I wasn't immediately able to get the needle. But maybe that's a good thing as I think my thumb needs a chance to heal from all the misguided pokes it endured over my learning session.

Here are photos of my first attempt at felting. The purple ball was my first, the teal was my second.

*** Post-Script ***

I have since made my trip to The Naked Sheep in Toronto where I picked up a pack of felting needles and some beautiful multi-hued roving.

Last night I made a little ball that being deep green with a spot of deep purple reminded me of autumn ornamental cabbage. I decided that making the little balls, though exhilarating was a little limiting. Thus, I used my next little ball and turned into the centre of a flower. I thought I was gettting a little ahead of myself in trying to master something that required so many little pieces, after all I had no idea what to do to get all the pieces to stick together if I did actually manage to make them into a shape other than a ball! But, in time I had a wad of purple roving that was beginning to resmble a flower. An off the cuff decision to stab the two pieces together resulted in one full piece all stuck together. So looking at my roving and thinking, "hmmmm - green", I decided to aim for leaves for the flower. So an hour or som of fiddling and I ended up with a blue-centred purple flower, with yellow-veined green leaves.

Here it is:

I Took the Pledge!

I Took The Handmade Pledge! BuyHandmade.org

Not only do I love to create handmade loveliness, I also love spending my hard-earned dollars supporting others who devote their life to the pursuit. So I took the pledge.

And... well I may have taken it a little toooooo seriously over the past week. Hey, it is a pledge, not somehing to take lightly. Oh, and the One of A Kind Craft Show was in Toronto the past two weeks. I wiled away three full days in hand-made heaven!

What a glorious handmade Christmas this is going to be. Between my show purchases, and my etsy purchases, there is not a single person on my list who will not be receiving something handmade! How exciting to know that they will not need to exchange anything due to duplicated gifts. Like the Christmas I got not one, not two, but three crockpots! Wow!

I can't imagine that the people receiving these gifts will not be overjoyed to receive them. I'd share the list of who gets what, but I don't want to ruin any surprises.

I'd encourage everyone to take the pledge. Handmade just simply rocks!

14 August 2007

Autumn Splendour

Who wants to think about cooling temperatures and shorter days during the last few precious weeks of summer? Well, I do for one. I hate being sweaty and clammy. But, I also have to start work on my autumn jewelry designs and plan for Christmas craft shows. So I have been hard at it.
Last week I delivered an order to a store which was completely focused on Autumn. Gone are many of the bright and vibrant colours of spring and summer, replaced now with rich, warm earth-tones and jewel colours. Also introduced are some weightier items, perfect to balance out the bulk of sweaters, or compete with turtle- or crew necks and the return of sleeves, scarves, and jacket collars.
Here is a sneak peek of some of the items that I delivered to the store, and which will be making their way into my craft show displays and etsy shop.

As you can see from these two photos, I have fallen in love with shells over the past couple months. I love their organic nature, especially mixed with the cool sophistication of freshwater pearls. A simple seed bead necklace with dashes of more pearl throughout finish, this look nicely.

I have had a wood and stone necklace listed on etsy for some time. The retailers that I have met with have been very excited about the piece. For autumn, I have mixed the wood with warmer stones and coral. Again, I love the natural and organic feel of these pieces!

Shells again! This time simply layered and hung from a trio of coloured wire. Simple, lightweight, and very funky.

And now for something completely different. Giant orbs of glass that drip with colour. These fused glass focal beads have a silver foil fused within which makes them dance with light. Complemented with crsytal beads in a variety of colours and shapes. These have been popular at shows for the past couple of years, and still are going strong. The colours are truly eyecatching!

25 July 2007

Jewelry, Jewelry, Everywhere!

I made a huge, life-altering decision last week. I decided that I was going to quit my job and spend my time concentrating on what I love! Jewelry making, obviously.

Clearly, the fates smiled upon me as I made this decision because last Friday I received a nice sized order from a store in the town where I grew up. I deliver it to them in mid-August, just in time for them to move to their new, bigger location.
I'm very excited about the prospect of building my own business.

Although working "for the man" has been an experience that had to be endured, I relish the thought of new challenges. Moreover, I relish the opportunity to have more time to devote to the process of creation. Working during stolen moments in the evening and for short bursts on the weekends, has a habit of stymying creativity. I have been getting into the habit of making items that are reworked versions of the old stand-bys. In itself, that's fine. If I know these pieces will ultimately appeal to most people, and will therefore result in me being able to pay the bills, then I am happy to keep making them. There is after all enjoyment still to be had in coming up with new colour combinations, or experimenting with new textures and shapes.

I am not happy however with having limited time to explore new and unique designs; those one of a kind pieces, that challenge me and leave me with a glow of satisfaction.

My first day of freedom I think shall be spent recapturing the joy that comes when I am surrounded with perfectly shaped, brilliantly coloured baubles of glass and wood and stone!

28 June 2007

I Hearts Me Customers

I have a craft show this coming Saturday. I can't wait. I love doing shows because I get to meet the people who will buy, wear and appreciate my work. It is immensely gratifying to have a chance to chat, and to know that the jewelry I make will go to a good home. I have met some really fascinating people this way.
I'm often surprised by the things that people buy as well. I have made items that I thought were more youthful, but they become the favorites among the 50+ set; whereas things that I have made that seemed more mature, elegant and professional are drooled over by teenagers in lo-rise jeans and sneakers. Its an interesting way to see your market, and to gauge feedback. Sometimes the things that I make and haven't high hopes for, because of cost, material or because the item was made to suit my own whimsy are the first things to go, and other times, the items that I figure are a sure thing languish on the table.
And every crowd is different. Bracelets are hot in one space, and practically invisible at the next. You can never really gauge fro one show to the next and that is what makes this so interesting.

Here is one of my latest items. I posted one on etsy and it had an immediate buyer, the second listing for a similar piece, has been sitting and hoping for a buyer. Maybe the new versions I made will find homes over the weekend.

19 June 2007

Important Newsflash

Last night I had to take drastic matters. Armed with scissors and no prior hair-cutting experience, I decided to annihilate the cowlick which has recently decided to present itself so prominantely on the left side on my head. I took a deep breath and snipped wildly, all the time hoping for the best.
After a night of anxiously awaiting this morning's lather, rinse, repeat, I am happy to report that said cowlick is now resting comfortably, hidden in amongst the curls where it belongs.

Spreading the Etsy Love

Etsy is at the same time both the most wonderful place on earth, and the most dangerous.

When I set up my shop on etsy, I viewed it as a savvy business move. I could present my work to a global audience, increase sales, and propel my business forward. It's not having quite the effect that I had originally desired. Instead, etsy has become a playground.

For starters, I have met a really great group of arts-and-crafters in the forums. We meet daily to discuss any random topic and thought, share our triumphs on and off etsy, commiserate when someone has drama in their personal life, as well lend support and feedback on our work. When I come in to work in the mornings, I log ino the forum thread even before checking my work email or voice-mail. (You can find many of these wonderful folks on the etsy blog ring, just be meandering off to the right-hand side of the page.)

But the biggest problem with etsy, is that I have uncovered a treasury trove of items that I never realized I needed. Items like needle-felted pet rocks; fabric foodstuffs; drawings of odd little creatures proffering squash, and pins with pictures of emotional breakfast foods.

And of course there is a never ending supply of items that it only makes sense to own: lip balm cozies; clay couches for your business cards to relax on; tiny purses shaped like a slice of cake; a never-ending supply of thank you cards; and hairpins with flowers exquisitely made from Japanese kimono silk or fun little balls of felt.

Maybe etsy was not as business-savvy a plan as I had hoped. After all, I seem to have trouble getting too far ahead, when every time I make a sale I turn around and treat myself to one of the gajillions of lovelies that I come across each and every day. Let's call it karma then... I'm spreading the love and helping support fellow etsy artisans. Maybe more of that good vibe can back to me. Ah dang... that will just give me more reason to buy.

12 June 2007


I have been obsessed with my camera lately. Although the practical part of me tells me to sit down and start beading, building inventory for upcoming shows or for listing items on etsy, the creative part of me again and again keeps crying out for my camera. Its hard to resist. This is easily the most beautiful time of year.
The park at the end of my street offers up a new selection of buds and blooms almost hourly. And softer spring light illuminates nature's offerings beautifully throughout the day. If I take a photo of a certain bloom in the morning light, I feel compelled to go back and recapture the same beauty later in the day to capitalise on the new angles of light.
My subject matter at the moment has mainly been all of the stunning flowers, but I have recently been told that there is an owl living in our park, so I have become a dusk-stalker, hoping to catch sight of this elusive creature. In the meantime, flowers require much less sneaking up on, and here are some of my latest captures.

30 April 2007

Damn, good trick!

I'm not sure what came over me this past weekend, but I was overcome by the need to bake. I needed the security of a good solid recipe, guiding me step-by-step through a hit or miss process. I craved the stickiness of batter, the cozy heat of the oven, and the mouth watering smells of a homemade creation.

I pulled out a Weight Watchers cookbook, which usually sits neglected on my shelf. I don't follow the program, but figured that it can't hurt to have healthy recipes on hand for those times when I want to have my cake and eat it too, in the truest literal sense. I flipped through the book and finally settled on banana bread.

I pulled out my ingredients and measured out the first two: Butter and sugar. The following instruction read "With a wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until creamy." I pulled out my wooden spoon and got started. Any other time I have creamed butter and sugar as the first step to some wonderful creation, I have used some sort of electric mixer. As I hacked away at the butter and sugar, I could feel the muscles in my arm start to ache. I switched the spoon from my right hand to left hand. Left hand to right. The sugar was slowly beginning to melt and yield into the butter. Minutes more went by and my arms began to hurt a little more with each passing second. Eventually, with my arm burning after what seemed like hours of stirring, the butter and sugar were at a point where I deemed it to be creamy enough.

Suddenly, it occurred to me. Damn, Weight Watchers, with all the wooden spoon hacking, stirring, and whipping, they had actually tricked me into exercising! Sly one, Weight Watchers.

Lucky me though, surely all that exercise earned me another slice of banana bread!

26 April 2007

Sheep Have Nothing to Fear from Me!

It is an impossibility for me to walk past a yarn store with out ducking into it, stroking skeins or squashing balls (Keep your mind out of the gutter!) The texture, the soft silkiness, the colours. Hand-painted yarns where the colours blend and ooze from one colour into the next are my absolute favorite. Yarn to me is at the same time, both comfortingly cozy, and subtly sensuous. If I feel blue, I wander over to the yarn store and soak up the strands of eye candy on display. It takes all my effort to walk out of these shops empty-handed.

The problem: I can not knit! Or crochet. Or any other art or craft that uses wool.

I decided to remedy this problem. A friend and I signed up for the "Down and Dirty Knitting for Beginners" class at The Naked Sheep, in the Beach (Beaches?). It was meant to be a simple enough class: learn the knit stitch, move on to purl and finally, learn to bind off, and cast on. Two full hours for four simple concepts. Easy, right? Um... no! I got held back!! While everyone else was learning the fundamentals behind purling, I was left still struggling with knitting. By the time our two hour class ended (after three and a half hours), I did manage to figure out the binding off and the casting on. Purl remains a mystery of the universe!

I may not be ready yet to play with silk yarns, or invest in the beautiful ebony needles from Lantern Moon, but I have two simple needles now, with a deeply hued indigo yarn firmly cast on, ready for me to plunge in and start knitting.

The good news is I didn't lose an eye during the experience. The bad news is: I neither cured my yarn addiction, nor do I think I will develop enough skill that I will be able to justify buying skein after skein of yarn. Which is a shame, since while at the store I discovered the pure beauty and luxury of bamboo yarn.

For those who are proficient at knitting, I hope you are aware of these two fabulous companies: Be Sweet (yarns) and Lantern Moon (needles). Both companies have been developed to provide employment income and education to women in developing countries. Beautiful products, and a fantastic mission.


21 April 2007

So, what about me?

I thought I should start my blog off with a bang. But, I'm not going to do that. I figure the natural place to start would be to explain a bit about who I am and how I got to be this way.

My name is Carol. I grew up in "the sticks" about an hour east of Toronto, Canada and currently live in Toronto. I moved here over 10 years ago for university, and apart from a two year stint in the UK and Ireland (oh ho... what an adventure, and maybe in time I will share), I have lived here every since. My cramped living space is shared with my husband of 3 years.

I have a boring old office job that I go to Monday to Friday. Not much point expanding on that. I try to fill the rest of my time creating when and what I can. Specifically, I love beading jewelry, but more about that in a minute. I also love spending hours with my cameras. I still have a trusty Canon T-60, which is the idiot-proof, totally manual SLR on which I first learned. I recently added a digital camera, a Canon Powershot A-620 (named L'il Digi), and though I originally resisted making the technological leap out of loyalty to "Ol' Snappy", I am now officially hooked! Recently, I have also completed 2 sewing courses, and am now the proud owner of a handmade skirt and a handmade purse. I am particularly proud of the purse despite some of the wonky stitching on the lining. Before taking these classes I had a huge fear of sewing, caused by unrelenting teasing from my family over a grade 5 sewing project, a stuffed snowman Christmas tree ornament, named Snowy. I was ten, people, give it up! There are a myriad of other artisan pursuits which intrigue me, and which I am itching to try my hand at. If only I had more time and unending financial resources. Hopefully, the lottery gods are listening!

(Notice a weird trend - I tend to nickname a lot of inanimate objects!)

As for what my blog will be about, well, it will be like Seinfeld. Nothing, really. I have no theme in mind, just my own rants (personalised license plates -- WHY??); raves (Arton Beads on Queen West!); musings on the important things in life (When, for the love of God, will Paris Hilton just go away?), and; the ongoing exorcism of the voices in my head. Oh... and I am sure that I will give little plugs now and then to the wee business that I am trying to establish, String Me Along. Hence the title of the blog.

String Me Along is my jewelry business. As I mentioned above, I try to fill my free time with creative pursuits and I LOVE Arton Beads on Queen West. I can't get enough of all the shiny baubles. So rather than curb my appetite for beads and baubles, I support my habit by taking these beads and baubles and creating hand-beaded jewelry. I started this habit in University. It fell by the wayside and I thought I was cured, until 3 years ago I decided to make my own wedding jewelry. Suddenly, the demon was back and with a vengenance. It didn't help that Arton Beads had doubled in size and there were so many more shiny things available. My husband finally sat me down and told me I should start making jewelry in earnest since it was clear that I loved it so much. So I did. I started selling again at craft shows, and recently, my hard work and creativity have started to pay off. I recently sold a sizable jewelry order to the CN Tower Gift Shop. I dropped the order off Easter weekend and I am still having trouble believing that my good fortune is real. I will be selling at a number of craft shows again through the year, as well as various other venues. I will post a list of where I will be and when, and if you live in the area you can come take a look at my work. I'd also love to meet readers who happen upon me on blogger, unless you tend toward stalking, then I ask that you maybe stay away!

I have also recently started on online shop on ETSY. If you don't know already, ETSY is the coolest place on earth! It is an online shopping site filled with creative and talented crafters and artists from around the world. I am hooked. The problem is that any time I make a sale through ETSY, once the money is deposited in my payapl account I feel the need to celebrate by spreading the love and buying from some other artist. Its a vicious cycle! But I have found some amazing buys on this site, and I guarantee that you will too. You can start here, with my shop.


From there, browse around the rest of the site. But I do caution you: It is highly addicitve!

That pretty much sums up the intro. Thanks for scrolling through all of the preamble.