Thursday, 30 August 2012

H is for...Hamilton Magazine and Hexagons!

Hey look, we're in the Summer 2012 issue of Hamilton Magazine! We're super flattered that they chose to do a piece on us. Hollie, Jen, and Roisin were each featured with great little write ups. And we had a fun time taking photos for the article. Thanks H Mag!

Speaking of things that start with H, this is the last week that we're collecting hexagons for our Supercrawl installation. You can drop your completed hexagons off at any of our listed drop of locations (see below) by this Friday August 31st. And if you need a smidge more time to finish yours, you can drop it off at Needlework (174 James St North) by 6pm on Wednesday September 5th. Holy moly, we can't believe that Supercrawl is in just over two weeks! We've received a ton of great contributions (some coming from as far as Vancouver!) and we're really excited to start assembling!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

On Fermentation and Failure

I was really looking forward to writing this post. A post all about the time that I fermented a huge batch of delicious, full-sour pickles. I had it all planned out in my head - I would talk about how much I loved pickles, how I will never turn down a pickle, how I am that person that orders the deep fried pickles or the huge "Chilly Dilly" pickles on a stick from drive-in movie theatres or street festivals. I would touch upon how even though I have enjoyed my homemade vinegary canned pickles from the last two summers, they weren't the same as the sour dill pickles in cloudy brine that are my absolute favourite type of pickle. I would take beautiful, mouth-watering photographs of my finished product to show you, and try to inspire you to do this easy process at home yourself. It was going to be an all out pickle love-fest, and that's the kind of love-fest that I can fully get behind.

But my fermentation didn't work. Well, I mean, it did work. It only worked too well.

I did my research and most of my reading said that pickles should ferment in their saltwater brine solution for 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. I bought a bushel of small, young cucumbers, picked early that morning. I scrubbed all the cucumbers and removed the blossom ends with a sharp knife, as leaving it on can lead to rot. I used fresh dill, fresh Ontario garlic and a mixture of spices made up from mustard seed, coriander seed and whole peppercorns. I filled my 5 gallon fermenting crock with the correct proportions of water and coarse salt, and weighed everything down with a plate. On top of that, for extra weight, I placed a mason jar filled with water. I covered it all with a tea-towel and tied it with some twine. I sat back and waited for nature to do it's thing.

I was diligent and scraped the forming yeast off of the top of my crock each day, and tasted them every couple of days to see if they were ready yet. They gradually changed in colour from bright green to a faded olive and it seemed as if everything was going smoothly. The smell of dill filled our house. However, I had a vacation away from home coming up on the calendar, and as that neared closer, my pickles were still not quite there yet. I would be gone for week, a week that put the pickles from 2 weeks of fermentation to 3. I enlisted my sister who was house-sitting to be on scum-scraping duty and she was happy to help.

Upon returning from vacation,  I was ready to process and can the fermented pickles pretty much as soon as I walked in the door. But it was too late, I was gone too long. I inspected my batch and discovered that my pickles had turned to absolute mush on their insides while I was away. I had never anticipated that they would have spoiled so completely and so quickly within my estimated timeline. I tried one at the bottom of the batch that was not as gooey as the rest, and the flavour was incredible. A heart-breaking failure.

Not always succeeding is something we talk about within the Beehive often. I admittedly got pretty bummed out about having to discard my entire batch. I dramatically wailed to my husband in between tears "it's back to reality and it's all spoiled picklesssss!"

It's easy to become a defeatist and give up and think that every handmade or DIY project is not worth all the time, energy and effort when one that you put so much into turns out poorly. It's easy to not try at all when the possibility of failure is lurking just around the corner. Failing at something that you put your heart into is one of the worst feelings in the world, and can shatter everything you know to be true about yourself and your abilities in an instant.

But making mistakes is one of the best ways to really learn a lesson. All of the Bees try and lead lives where we make as much as we can by hand. It's one of the principles that brought us all together as a group. Making things by hand can often be tedious and requires patience, as it's not always about convenience. As many successes that we have with our DIY projects, we have just as many failures. After picking our self-confidence up off the floor, we take our new knowledge of our failure and try and turn it into inspiration to do a better job at it the next time around. Because when you do get it right, there's really nothing sweeter.

I recently took a dress-making class at Needlework where the wonderful instructor Mary confided in me that she was so surprised to see so many of the Bees signing up for her sewing classes. She had assumed that we were all proficient sewers.

We don't know everything. We make mistakes. The most important thing is that we try. Sometimes we have to try again. And hopefully, I'm not too late in the season to pick up another bushel of young cucumbers.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Etsy + The Beehive

At the beginning of July we had the opportunity to collaborate with Etsy and host a night of crafting in Hamilton. We were really humbled when Nada, the local Etsy rep (seen in the fifth picture), approached us with this idea, since many of the Bees got their start on Etsy selling wares and handmade goods. This opportunity presented a great way to accomplish a number of things that were important to both Etsy and to the Beehive - to provide an atmosphere for crafters to meet each other, to spend time actually making something together, and to get a jump start on our Supercrawl hexagon project (if you've been making them, you know this is a big undertaking!)
We posted about it on Facebook, the blog and Eventbrite, but weren't sure how many people would attend - and we were absolutely blown away by the response! Seriously... a whole bunch of people came out! We met all kinds of amazing people that night, and had the privilege of sharing the Beehive story about how we came to be and about what we envisioned for the hexagon project.
All in all, we had a really great night and are so thankful to Etsy (and specifically Nada) for all the effort put into this event, and to Low Key Studios for take photos and for hosting - such a great space! Want to see more pictures? They're all on the Etsy Flickr page here. Hexagon-making is still in full swing, and we are so excited about all the people who have been stitching away - again, this project is seriously big and judging by the pieces that have already been dropped off, it's going to look awesome! Hexagon pieces are due by August 31st, and you can find out more about where to get supplies and where to drop off finished hexagons here!
There was a photo booth! And Kieran was there!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Hexagon Due Date!

We're having flashbacks to last year around this time when it was a mad dash to knit knit knit as many scarves as we could for Knit Night on the Brain. Luckily, paper piecing is a much more enjoyable craft to work on in the summer compared to knitting with all that heavy wool.

But it IS getting down to crunch time. And so we're asking all of our lovely friends, family and Beehive enthusiasts who are helping out with our Modular Beauty project to finish up and hand in their completed hexagons so that we can start assembling for installation. We've been trying to gauge where we are at, and we think that with all of your help, we've done a pretty darn good job and that we're going to be able to make a real statement with our fibre intervention on the street at Supercrawl.

We've extended the deadline for drop off to Friday August 31st 2012. If you're helping us out (and we love you so much for it) we're hoping you'll be able to drop off your completed pieces by then.

If you need a reminder as to where you can drop off the hexagons, any of the following locations listed below will happily take them off of your hands:

White Elephant – 133 James St. North
Needlework – 174 James St. North
The Ship – 23 Augusta St.
The Hamilton Public Library:

Central Branch – 55 York Blvd.
Terryberry Branch – 100 Mohawk Rd. W.
Sherwood Branch - 467 Upper Ottawa St.
Citizen Kid – 188 Locke St. S.
Cake and Loaf – 321 Dundurn St. S.
The Baltimore House – 43 King William St.
Detour Coffee – 41B King St. W, Dundas
Downtown Bike Hounds - 19 John Street North
The Cannon - 179 Ottawa St N

Kid Icarus – 75 Nassau St.
Russet & Empire – 390 Keele St.
The Arthur - 550 College St.  
The Workroom - 1340 Queen St. W

And we promise, we've been up to other fun and exciting non-hexagon related things that we'll fill you in on shortly. Magazine write-ups! Crafting with Etsy! Adventures in fermenting! All these things and more. But right now, it's stitch stitch stitch.

Thanks, friends!!!