Thursday, 28 July 2011

Thank you Lion Brand Yarn!

Over the past month, the Beehive and many of our friends and family have been working away on our Knit Night on the Brain installation for Super Crawl. In case you've forgotten, the piece will be a replica of the façade of a bar in Hamilton called The Brain, home to Knit Night, and it will be suspended over the front of the building. We will be recreating the brick work and structural elements of the building while also adding a few touches of our own.

When we came up with the idea for this project, we contacted Lion Brand Yarn to see if they would be interested in donating yarn for the project. Many of us use Lion Brand for our own personal projects all the time. Especially being fans of the Vanna's Choice line.

Founded in 1878, Lion Brand is America's oldest manufacturer of craft yarn. We approached them for help because we knew of their commitment to the knitting and crocheting community and to outreach and charitable works. First we measured the outside of The Brain, then Courtney came up with a pattern, and from that we calculated how many square feet of yarn we would need to cover everything that we wanted to with the installation. We then went through their catalogue in both their Wool-Ease Thick & Quick and Vanna's Choice lines, and picked colours that matched the existing brick and mortar of the building. It was easy to do so with such a beautiful and diverse selection of shades.

We drafted up a proposal, sent it to Lion Brand and crossed our fingers that they would be as enthusiastic about our project as we were. And they were! Five boxes full of their gorgeous yarn were promptly sent to White Elephant where we all squealed and jumped for joy upon arrival.

All of us have been taking our knitting wherever we go. Beehive meetings, the cottage, coffee shops, picnics. There's nowhere we won't knit. And look! A boy knitting! A relatively rare sight.

Even Hollie's cat Tanooki has been trying to help, in his own way...

Once all 69 scarves are complete, we will be assembling them all together to resemble brickwork. We also have to knit the actual sign that hangs on the front of The Brain, which is the silhouette of a human head with the brain exposed. There's a contest among some of the Bees of who will finish the most, with Courtney and Anna currently in the lead, with 9 and 8 scarves completed respectively. We've got lots of helping hands pitching in, from mothers to grandmothers to co-workers to complete strangers who want to contribute. It's amazing to see the knitting community of Hamilton come together for a project like this.

Once disassembled, all the scarves will be cleaned and then donated to Mission Services on James Street North. Art with a purpose! It's so satisfying to know that the scarves that we are working on will be used by someone really in need of them. There's still time for you to pitch in too. You can download the PDF of the pattern on the sidebar to your right, and can pick up some yarn from us every Wednesday night at Knit Night at The Brain,  at 199 James Street North.

We can't thank Lion Brand enough for their generosity. Without them, this installation would not be possible. They are a really amazing company dedicated to progressive thinking within the textile community. We love you Lion Brand.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Vendor Spotlight: Katie Muth

I spoke to Katie Muth about her beautiful hand printed graphic lino-cuts prints and cards. Katie is an independent artist, illustrator, and printmaker based in Toronto, Canada. She designs and prints in her home-based workshop. The lino-cut images depict things from her life that she cherishes most. Her intent is to make beautiful creations that share this joy. You can see more of Katie's beautiful work on her website.

Thea Haines: Where do you draw creative inspiration from?

Katie: Things in my life that I enjoy and value. I think I'm a designer at heart, so I really enjoy solving a creative problem. I like to do collections that follow a calendar year because I thrive on the framework of finding the best representation of what's good about each month.

T.H.: What do you love most about your craft?

Katie: A lot! I love the clean, binary nature of the lines in lino-cut (there is no grey - it's either printed or not printed), and the way the hand is slowed by the process of carving, making the images strong and deliberate. It's also a bit of a magic trick! You have to carve everything in reverse, so you don't know exactly what it's going to look like until the first time that you roll ink on, burnish the paper onto the lino-block, and reveal! It's pretty exciting. And finally, the BEST thing about my craft is that while it's a big investment of time and work to carve the block, you can continue making prints from it for years (unlike a painting that you have to say goodbye to when you sell.)

T.H.: Do you have a favourite place/spot/time of day/etc. to work?

Katie: I recently moved to a place with a lovely deck overlooking my vegetable garden. I used to have to heat the linoleum in the microwave to make it easier to carve, but now when I work out on my deck, the sun warms it to the perfect temperature!

T.H.: How do you get your work out in the world? Where else can one find it?

Katie: The internet is a wonderful thing. When I first started my card business, I would get a few orders in one day (from California for example) and it would be because someone blogged about my work. Mixed Media on James St. in Hamilton has been a great supporter of mine, and they carry a wide selection of my cards. I really love doing arts and craft shows though, because nothing compares to seeing all of the original prints displayed together, and the lovely tactile quality of ink on paper that can only be appreciated first-hand.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Pea Preparation

Several weeks ago a few of us were able to get up to the farm, and after an evening of much needed weeding we rewarded ourselves by pick some peas. We ended up with so many peas (about a bushel and a half) that I decided to take the opportunity to bring a little over half a bushel home to freeze some so that we could have tasty peas all year round.
First you need to shuck the peas. We did this while watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 to get ready to see Part 2. I have to say that fresh peas might be a better movie snack than popcorn.

To properly prepare peas for freezing (and most other vegetables and fruit) they have to be blanched to kill the enzyme that causes the peas to lose their freshness. To blanch the peas they need to be submerged in boiling water for 90 seconds.

I put a few handfuls of peas into a metal steaming basket to contain them so that I didn’t have to chase the loose peas around with a slotted spoon in a boiling pot of water.

Once the peas had been in the boiling water for 90 seconds I dropped the basket into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

After cooling in the first bowl of water for about 30 seconds I would dump the peas out of the basket into a second bowl of cold water. I would keep the peas here until the next batch of peas had come out of the boiling water.

The peas would then be poured into a strainer, then onto a paper towel to blot off the excess water.

(To me it looks like the peas are in the shape of North America, anyone else see that?)

Once the peas have been dried off they can be spread out on to a cookie sheet to freeze. When the peas have frozen solid they can be collected into sealable container. Freezing them this way allows the peas freeze separately, not stuck to their neighbour so you can take as many as you want to add to your meal.

I had so many peas that I had to make a second layer on both my cookie sheets with tin foil.
How do you use your peas throughout the year?

photos by Courtney Lakin

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Vendor Spotlight: Rosalyn Faustino

Spotlight time! Rosalyn Faustino is another vendor in the Beehive Craft Fair this summer, and all of us are simply thrilled about it. Rosalyn is one of those crafters that seems to do a little bit of everything she can get her hands on and her blog is full inspiring pictures of new crafting skills that she is constantly picking up. White Elephant carries some of her crochet wire and thread necklaces (pictured below) and they are a huge hit. We're excited to see more of her work this summer at the fair.

Photo - Karyn Valino 

Jane LaBatte: Tell us about yourself.

Rosalyn: My name is Rosalyn Faustino, born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. I went to school at the Toronto School of Art, University of Toronto and Sheridan College focusing on Sculpture and Design. You can normally find me at the workroom or the dance floor when I'm not craftin' it up.
Photo - Karyn Valino

J.L.: Where/when did you become acquainted with your craft?

Rosalyn: I was always surrounded by craft by both my parents. My mom would always tat, sew, knit, crochet for my sister and I, and my dad always loved to assemble things. I felt that when I was in elementary and girls were chasing boys, I was too busy cross stitching. I would have taken it with me everywhere I went and while I was watching tv. I stopped crafting for awhile and focused more on my fine art practice. It wasn't until I was in my 4th year university when I discovered using my domestic techniques and altering them by using non-traditional materials. 

J.L.: Where do you draw creative inspiration from?

Rosalyn: Everywhere, but mainly through nature - trees, organic objects.

Photo - Karyn Valino

J.L.: Tell us about your creative process.

Rosalyn: My process involves no pre-determined conceptions as to how the overall work would become. The work manifests from the trial and errors I encounter and where every it can take me. This way of creativity has allowed me to work subconsciously

Photo - Rosalyn Faustino
J.L.: How do you get your work out into the world? Where else can one find it?

Rosalyn: I've only recently started showing my work into the world. I was a vendor with my partner Caitlyn, of COSMIC LATTE, at City of Craft in 2009. From there, I was invited to be part of the Wunderkabinet 2  in Berlin. The Beehive Fair will be my first show going solo!! I'm hoping to open up an online shop keep your eyes open!!

Photo - Karyn Valino

J.L.: What do you do when you’re not working on your craft?

Rosalyn: I like to do dancing and discovering all the little shops and eatery places in Toronto!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Vendor Spotlight: Dear Edna

Next in our lineup of wonderful vendors is a local Hamiltonian: Erin of Dear Edna. She makes gorgeous aprons (for girls and guys!), cute screen printed totes, and has a fun blog that does a great job of letting me know what's going on in Hamilton each month.

dear edna 1

Kate Hunter: Tell us about yourself.

Erin: My name is Erin McIntosh and I’m the one-woman show behind Dear Edna, a small handmade accessories company based in Hamilton, Ontario. I was born and raised in “the Hammer”, but it wasn’t until I had spent four years at the University of Western, two years in Japan and Australia, and three years in Toronto that I decided to move back to my hometown, reignite my relationship with my sewing machine, and finally turn my life-long hobby into a creative business. When I’m not sewing, I am a full-time editor, tea fanatic, bookworm and baker.

dear edna 3

K.H.: Where/when did you become acquainted with your craft?

Erin: I come from a long line of crafters. My grandmother was very well known for her quilting skills. I think she made a quilt for every new grandchild and every wedding in our family, and I have fond memories playing beneath her quilting frames. Many of my baby and doll clothes were handmade thanks to my aunts, and my mother’s crocheted afghans and doilies are warm reminders of home for me. I began teaching myself to sew at a very young age, when my mother inherited a sewing machine from a friend. I was immediately fascinated with it, and after practicing sewing line after line into tea towels, I progressed to creating pencil cases, skirts and dresses, and finally, home accessories. It’s only in the last year that I’ve picked up screen printing and I’m really excited about where that will take me.

dear edna 2

K.H.: Where do you draw creative inspiration from?

Erin: Hopefully it is evident in my work, but I am heavily influenced by the past – florals, houndstooth and plaid; doilies and lace; brooches and pearls; high tea and happy hour. Browsing antique stores is one of my favourite things to do and I could do it for hours on end.

I am also really inspired by the handmade tradition. Skills such as sewing, needlepoint and weaving that have been passed down for generations are now disappearing art forms. I am really eager to try my hand at many of them and find ways to incorporate them into my work.

erin bags

K.H.: Do you have a favourite place/spot/time of day/etc. to work?

Erin: I live in a two-story condo with my boyfriend in downtown Hamilton. We recently created a sewing room and office that takes up almost the entire top floor and opens out onto two rooftop patios, which I just love. Words can’t describe how nice it is to have my fabric collection on display, all my tools within arm’s reach, natural sunlight and a dedicated space to just create. My favourite time of day is currently unavailable, so let’s just say it’s evenings and weekends.

erin aprons

K.H.: How do you get your work out in the world? Where else can one find it?

Erin: I primarily sell my work online through my Etsy store: I also have a few pieces for sale in White Elephant.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Vendor Spotlight : Fieldguided

Time for another craft vendor spotlight! Today we’re talking to Anabela of Fieldguided. She’s the mastermind behind the Thunder in Our Hearts totes you saw everywhere this past year (and that five different members of the Beehive own themselves), as well as the oh-so-sweet neckties featured below.

Amy Kenny: Tell us about yourself.

Anabela: Fieldguided is me, Anabela, and my partner Geoff. We live with our two cats in the Dufferin Grove area of Toronto.

A.K.: Where/when did you become acquainted with your craft?

Anabela: We don't really have a specific "craft" -- we like to do a lot of different things. I like to think that we've always been fairly creative, and that knowing each other has brought out different strengths in each of us. For example, I didn't know anything about photography before I met Geoff, and earlier this year I flew to London to attend the opening of a group photography show I was in. He's taught me a lot over the past 7 years.

Above photo courtesy of Hannah Hayes

A.K.: Where do you draw creative inspiration from?

Anabela: All over the place, really. The internet, magazines, books, our educations, our childhoods, our friends...a lot of the time when I'm riding my bike around I'll have ideas spontaneously pop into my head and those tend to be my best ones.

A.K.: What do you love most about your craft?

Anabela: I get really excited when I spot someone on the street carrying one of our tote bags. The fact that other people like what we do -- that's what I love the best.

*Above photo courtesy of Francesca Zmetra

A.K.: Do you have a favourite place/spot/time of day/etc. to work?

Anabela: I love to work in our living room in the middle of the afternoon but that doesn't happen too often since I'm usually at work at that time. The light is just perfect then.

A.K.: What are your most favourite materials to work with?

Anabela: Fujipro 400H film, neon pink fabric ink, cotton, linen. A bit of everything, really.

A.K.: Is there another craftsperson/designer/artist that you admire?

Anabela: So many! Jessica Williams, Alice Saunders, Nigel Peake, Eviana Hartman, Aidan Koch, Laura Lombardi. We could go on for days about this!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Hip to be Square: Granny Square Blanket!

Way back in the winter our fellow bee Courtney was kind (and patient!) enough to teach a few of us how to crochet simple granny squares at The Brain's regular Knit Night. In general I tend to gravitate towards simple projects that I can pick up and put down easily or do while watching a movie; it makes me feel like I'm being productive! Granny squares were the perfect project to fill my idle hands and use up that ever growing yarn stash. Slowly but surely, one square at a time, you're bound to build up enough little squares to make an afghan without having to tote around a large and daunting project.

Jenna Rose used some gorgeous light airy colors for her granny squares (above).

I love natural colors of wool and using Canadian or hand spun yarns, so for my project I used up some hand spun Manos del Uruguay left over from an old project and purchased some Briggs and Little yarn while on christmas vacation in Nova Scotia. I love Briggs and Little because it's a Canadian company and is very inexpensive for pure Canadian wool, which they buy direct from the producer. It makes an ideal yarn for natural dyeing as well as for large projects like blankets.

I started by dyeing some of the wool with onion skins, one of the easiest and most rewarding natural dyes to work with. After saving up my onion skins until i had enough to fill a pot, I dyed two balls of natural white "Heritage" (2 ply) yarn from the Briggs and Little line. I boiled the onion skins 'til the water was full of their dark rust color, then I filtered them out and placed the water back on to boil. I dyed one skein first which soaked up the strong darker yellow right away - the ball in the back of the picture below. Then I dyed the second skein in the remaining water - this is called an exhaust bath. The water is not as potent with dye but this second round will produce a softer, often more beautiful, shade of yellow.

To go with the natural yellows, I picked up some Heritage yarns in shades of grey and started making the granny squares that Courtney had taught me. The stitch was surprisingly simple. Starting with a small circle made with a few chain stitches and then working outwards with little "shells" of three double-crochet stitches followed by a few chain stitches you eventually get a square. There are many great books and videos on making granny squares and tons of variations of patterns but I thought I'd stick to the simple square, mixing up my colors to make every square just a little bit different from the last. Soon enough (and thanks to a couple seasons of "Mad Men" that I definitely needed to catch up on...) I had a big pile of granny squares ready to be stitched together into a blanket.

As I made up the squares I added in some bright fun bits of left over wool in my stash to fill out the blanket and add some different colors!

Using the same basic pattern of three double crochet stitches I edged each square, and stitched them together by picking up the edge of the previous square as I went. When I was all done I edged the whole blanket with a gradation of grey to black yarns to frame the whole thing making the lighter grays and yellows pop in the middle of the blanket.

And just in time for summer weather, voila! the perfect picnic blanket for Bay Front Park!

I think I'll spend my whole summer right here.

photos by Jenna Rose and Anna Taylor

Friday, 8 July 2011

Vendor Spotlight: Scout & Catalogue

Here's another spotlight on one of our craft fair vendors! We're so excited to have Scout & Catalogue in the Beehive fair this August. Breanna's collections (mostly scarves and pouches) are heavily influenced by the bohemian beach culture of Mexico. In her 'scavenger collection', Breanna upcycles thrift store finds into limited edition pieces. We're so excited to see Scout & Catalogue at the fair! Breanna was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work:

Meg Makins: Tell us about yourself.

Breanna: My name is Breanna and I run the small fashion accessories label, Scout & Catalogue. I grew up in Vancouver, lived for a bit in Mexico and am now residing in Toronto with my boyfriend and a cat called Mouse. While I currently spend most of my days sewing I started my professional career as a graphic designer working in ad agencies and more recently as a creative director at the fashion retailer Aritzia. Leaving my 9 to 5 was both liberating and terrifying and I currently spend my days longing for co-workers to chat with and relishing in escaping the endless meetings that took up so much of my time in the office.

M.M.: Where/when did you become acquainted with your craft?

Bre: Before coming to Toronto my boyfriend and I lived in Mexico and it was there that Scout & Catalogue was born. There were no real art stores in the town I lived in but tons of fabric stores since Mexican women still sew for their families. I started to fiddle around with fabric, dyes and studding and began to sell my stuff online to make some extra cash. Mexico has a really strong artisan culture and it felt natural that I could make my living by selling work I'd made by hand. Obviously Mexico's low cost of living made that reality a lot easier than back home in Canada! These days S&C has changed from a diverting project to a (more than) full time job but the rewards of running my own business are worth all the extra work.
M.M.: Where do you draw creative inspiration from?

Bre: I draw inspiration from all over the place and tuck it away for future collections. These days I've been liking hazy summer photos, neon accents, the markets of Istanbul and India and summer cocktails served in Mason jars. I've also been obsessed with house listings - is my go-to site for future fantasy dreaming.

M.M.: Describe your perfect atmosphere for crafting.

Bre: My perfect atmosphere would be a shared studio space with a few other industrious and talented artists. There would be great light, a giant laundry sink (to save my bathtub from anymore abuse) and possibly a little patio garden to grow herbs or flowers during the summer. It would also be extremely cheap, easy to commute to and close to cute coffee shops and restaurants. It's an extreme pipe dream that I nurse on a daily basis.
M.M.: How do you get your work out in the world? Where else can one find it?

Bre: I sell most of my work online and have just started to work with retailers to have my pieces in shops. I'm currently only sold in one Toronto boutique but that should change as my production capacity increases. I also sell at craft sales and will be participating in the upcoming holiday One of A Kind show.

Photos via of Scout & Catalogue

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Bee's BBQ

When I wrote this, Mel (one of our very own Bee's) was about to have a baby, but right before I posted I found out that little baby Margaret Jane was actually born early this morning! How exciting! A few weeks ago, we thought we'd celebrate by hosting a Beehive BBQ in honor of this little one.

We gathered at Kate's place, and had a lovely time chatting, and enjoying so much amazing food. Kate made a totally delicious rhubarb rosemary spritzer (you can find the recipe on her blog, here).


The rhubarb spritzers were wonderful, but my personal highlight of the meal was Kate's fiancé, Erick, rocking the BBQ. He grilled veggies, Black Walnut Lane sausages, and divine rosemary chicken burgers - amazing! All of the meat came from local farmers, and you could taste the difference. Everything was so yummy!

It was just so nice to sit together in the afternoon sun and, instead of talking about the craft fair and our knitting project, we just got to relax and learn more about each other. We even invited the boys to this event - that's a first!

The BBQ was completely delectable, and so much fun. By the end of the of the evening we broke our own rule and started talking Beehive projects. We can't help it, it's just too exciting!

Perhaps we should just make all of our meetings barbeques?

Photos courtesy of Meg and Kate