Monday, May 25, 2020

Garden Report: Slugs and Raccoons - Garden Companions or Pests

Pacific Banana Slug
Here on Vancouver Island our gardens are enjoying spring rain which happens mostly at night. This coincides with the emergence of slugs. The Pacific Banana Slug, the second largest slug in the world is the only native slug residing in the Pacific Northwest rainforest ecosystem. It plays a vital role in recycling litter on the forest floor converting it to rich dark soil.

The 2020 vegetable garden bed
Knowing rain was in the forecast that night, I spent the afternoon planting out some of the small plants I had grown from seed thinking I would leave the rain to water them in and save me a garden task.
The next morning I was crushed to see the rain had activated an army of waiting slugs who then proceeded to devour most of the seedlings I had planted.
In desperation, in the hope of saving the few remaining ragged plants, I erected a copper mesh forcefield around the bed. 

The jury is out on how effective copper is as a slug deterrent. Does the slime & copper combo cause the slug to experience an electric shock? I'm not sure this is true but I figure at least a copper mesh acts as a physical barrier. It would take a lot of slime to glide up and over the mesh fence and may put off some slugs.

While the large Pacific Banana Slug hangs out mostly in the forest it is the nonnative European Black Slug that is the garden pest. It crawls four times faster than the Banana and has a voracious appetite for garden vegetables.
There are many slug deterrent suggestions out there. Any that involve sprinkling the deterrent on the soil such as salt, coffee grounds, wool pellets, or beer doesn't work here on the North West Pacific Coast where rain is a regular occurrence. People have also tried making the ground difficult for the slugs to slide over by sprinkling around plants coffee grounds, eggshells, nutshells, petroleum jelly.... For every suggestion Grandma Google has articles debunking the same.

Last fall I did try putting pots of diluted beer in the garden beds. A few slugs lured by the sweet smell fell in and drowned but the beer also attracted the raccoons who couldn't resist the slug-beer combo and cleaned up both. Gardener friend, Sharon, suggested I try again only to place the beer pots away from the garden beds to lure the slugs in the opposite direction, especially since we haven't seen the raccoons this year, yet.
The raccoons are great slug eaters and rarely disturb a plant when digging for worms so I don't want to deter them.

But they do enjoy tasting a ripe apple. 
One proven way of eliminating slugs is practiced by my sister, the Garden Queen. On rainy nights she and her husband make it a date night and venture outside with flashlights/torches to handpick the slugs. This is effective and I have the brave members in my household join me on these nightly forays.
In the meantime, I am holding off on planting out my seedlings until they are a little bigger and their leaves less succulent so they have more of a chance of surviving night-time slug raids.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Nana Knitting: A Cobbler of New Baby Booties

Nana Knitting - 1st outfit
Included in the 1st outfit I knit as a New-Nana-To-Be was a pair of booties for a newborn. I used a Churchmouse pattern that most resembled the most successful booties my 3 cherubs had worn i.e they could not be kicked off. Churchmouse calls them Stay-on Baby Booties

I lined this first pair with the softest white rabbit fur.

After this initial success, I set up a cobbler bench and went into production.
The next pair got a soft, gray rabbit fur sole.

Then I worked with sheepskin. The wool was so thick I didn't think there would be much room for the foot but sewed on knowing they would be warm on a frigid cold Edmonton winter outing in the stroller/pram.

I made several sizes and varied the knitting stitch patterns to keep the knitting interesting.

The sheepskin ones got I-cord ties and longer turn-down cuffs.

The rabbit fur ones got twisted cord ties.

Osmund William Lackey
Here they are being worn by their owner, who had arrived by this time.
His parents have decided to give him privacy at this stage in his life. No images of him are put on the internet. However, I did get permission to show this much of him. I wanted to show how well the booties fit. The square box (cobbler talk for the toe area) allows plenty of room for feet to wiggle around unrestricted.

Here is another photo of Ozzie
Notice the grey rabbit fur sticking out around the join. I trimmed this off which solved the problem.
I'll write another post later about my experimenting and testing of toddler shoes but the next post will be about my work as Oz's hatter.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

25,266 Female Convicts Transported to Australia

While in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, recently one of the most moving experiences we experienced was visiting the place where female convicts and their nursing babies were transported to Australia from the British Isles from 1788 to 1853. The story of the Cascades Female Factory has only recently begun to be told.
Above is an image of an artwork in one of the reconstructed yards in the prison...

...the place where the babies were kept until they were sent to an orphanage. Many of them died while living in the cold, damp, windy conditions within the eight-foot high walled prison located in the shadow of Mount Wellington.

The aim of the prison's harsh conditions and treatment of the women was to break them down then mold them to be suitable wives to procreate and populate the new colony. 
On arrival, their hair was cut off and sold. Throughout their sentence, they were forbidden to speak, they had to share the sleeping hammocks and they worked 12 hour days spinning fiber, weaving cloth, washing and mending laundry and as punishment unwinding strands of worn out, tarred rope for reuse, while in solitary confinement.

Actors from Live History Hobart, Her Story, "offer an immersive theatrical experience" where small groups follow convict Mary James around the prison as she tells her story - in 1833 she was shipped from Ireland to Australia to serve a 7-year term for stealing a square of cloth. For the participants, it is an emotional roller coaster as Mary tells of her life in the prison. So few have heard her story or the stories of any of the other women.
A friend, Jo Ann Allan, through her family genealogy research, found a family member who served a sentence in the Female Factory. Jo Ann has written about her relative,  Mary Anne Nankivel, on her website, Fibergenea. She has shared this extensive research with the Female Factory's research centre.

Honourary artist-in-residence, Dr. Christina Henry decided to tell their story to the world by inviting over 25,266 women to each to create a bonnet to pay tribute to these women, each bonnet named for one woman. The project was launched on International Women's Day on March 8, 2007, in Hobart.

While living in Calgary I can remember the night at the Calgary Guild of Needle and Fibre Arts monthly meeting when we were told about the project and members were offered the chance to pick a name and make a bonnet for her. Jo Ann Allan made bonnet for her ancestor, Mary Anne Nankivel, and contributed to Dr. Christine Henry's project.
While a few of the bonnets are on display in the Matron's House in a restored part of the prison, the project is ongoing as the majority of bonnets travel between Australia, Ireland, and England and continue to tell the women's stories wherever they are displayed. For more about this project check Christina Henri - Roses from the Heart Facebook page

As a tribute to the work the women did, there is an art installation within the prison walls.

Cotton garments have been hung on a line with metal clothes pegs.

The only reference I could find to this installation is a plaque about convict Mary Kennedy serving 7 years for stealing a gown. Her occupation is listed as a washerwoman.

 Maybe these garments will hang on the line for 7 years in remembrance of Mary's time in the prison.

On another level, I was also intrigued by the installation as it is so closely linked to my current body of work in preparation for an exhibition with Laura Feeleus, Laura's website called 'The Laundry Room' where Laura and I are exploring the nature of women's work.
After several hours exploring this World Heritage Site, we came away emotionally exhausted. We walked back to our rented cottage and rested quietly for the rest of the afternoon, not up to doing any more exploring that day. We were emotionally drained and needed to reflect on what we had experienced and learned.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Nana Knitting: Pinterest Board, Vintage Patterns and Searching for Buttons

Previously I posted about my new project, Nana Knitting, here How this project began
The new mother-to-be, daughter Katherine gave me guidance - a Pinterest board she had loaded with the styles, colours and look she was after for her first born's knit wardrobe. She described it as 'Christopher Robin Chic.'

From the Pinterest board I could see vintage styles in low intensity, gender-neutral colours.
I started with a traditional wrap-around surplice (that's a really old word for this baby garment) worked in one piece.
In a past life when I taught knitting I was known to my face as The Swatch Queen because whenever anyone had a problem they needed help with I would first ask to look at their swatch. I began most workshops with a swatch. I suspect I was called other names out of earshot...
Now I must confess when working on Nana Knitting I don't make a swatch. Also, I continue with my habit of rarely ever working a pattern in the yarn it was written for. For Nana Knitting I make my choice of yarn, match the needles and make a bigger size the baby will grow into. It's then up to the parents to get the garment out of the closet at the right time. That is no problem with my daughter. She is an organiser.

The nursery in anticipation of baby's arrival.

I made a pair of traditional short rompers with crossed straps to go with the surplice. According to the the pattern it was for a 12-month size but instead because of my yarn and needle choices it ended up more like an 18-month size. This sizing was just as well because the combination of the all-over seed stitch and the high twist yarn made for a 'hard' fabric more suitable for an active toddler than a sitting baby. 

I found an amazing yarn for a cardigan using a 1960s vintage pattern. The yarn is Lang Magic Tweed Superwash, a soft spun, single ply that fluffs up after it is washed.

Blocking the garment pieces after the first wash.

Working the neck and front band edgings.

Another wash and block.

Christopher Robin Chic requires buttons with a specific understated look. None of those cute shaped Fimo plastic animal etc buttons will do. But I found Christopher Robin chic type buttons are hard to find. I have now added buttons to my shopping list when I travel.

The finely knit garment fabric itself does not provide much to secure buttons on safely so I add a circle of fulled wool on the inside to stitch the button securely to not wanting it to become a choking hazard.

Sewing on the button with a pad of fulled wool fabric at the back.

Finishing the cardigan with coconut shell buttons.

The finished cardigan fits age 6 to 12 months.
 Another characteristic I like about this Lang Magic yarn is it makes a very light and soft garment. This cardigan took less than 2 balls so it is economical too.
A note from the future: This cardigan was a favorite. It was worn and machine washed regularly until reluctantly it was retired when it no longer fit.
I am loving my Nana Knitting Project with reports on more results to come.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

'Current Threads 19' Vancouver Island Surface Design Association Exhibition, October 3 - 24, 2019

Steaming the wrinkles out of Origins after it traveled in a box from Gimli, Manitoba to Duncan, British Columbia. This is minutes before the Artists' Reception of Vancouver Island Surface Design Association's annual exhibition, Current Threads 19.

This work is about a group of Icelandic people settling in Canada bringing with them their material culture and their DNA. I wrote about it in a previous blog post here 

This year's exhibition is in the new, expanded Portals Gallery run by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council here. With so much more room the VISDA artists were able to hang large works.

During the reception, I was able to talk to some of the artists about their work.

Gina Dingwell, No Looking Back, dress: hand-dyed, indigo silk, recycled knitting, and crochet with various yarns; personal objects.

Gina's artist statement: 'The process of knitting with found knitting materials from my past was a visceral experience. It was an exploration of materials that I had left behind, past experiences, self-image, burdens, things said and done. This piece represents a challenging and yet beautiful process of letting go to find new awareness.'
I think Gina shows great courage in putting out such intensely personal work for all to see. Gina has done what I have just learned about from Merill Comeau, website, during her workshop 'Mining the Personal for the Universal' she taught during the Surface Design Association's conference in St Louis, see previous post.
Visit Gina's Instagram site to see more of how she views the world.

Barbara McCaffrey, Ogham - Oracle of the Trees, 3 Oak staves imprinted with Ogham alphabet letters compiling the words 'Courage,' 'Harmony,' 'Strength'.
Barbara's artist statement: 'Ogham writings were discovered in the Book of Ballymote, a 14th-century Irish manuscript. The book contains treatises on the history, genealogical and geological survey of Ireland among others.'
Barbara has recently returned from a trip to Ireland where she spent time discovering and exploring her heritage. She told of her findings in this and other works in the exhibition.

Laura Feeleus, Cellular Articulation, hand and machine stitching and beads on repurposed textiles.
Laura has recently been exploring the biological processes involved in the body's assimilation, storage, and breakdown of fatty tissue. At the same time, it is a comment on the global problem of obesity and overconsumption, a concept reinforced by her use of recycled materials. 
Laura's website here

Jean Cockburn, Green Worlds, hand embroidery on linen gauze backed with cotton.
Jean's artist statement: Imagine many green worlds, large and small, spinning through the infinities of space. What possibilities for Life!
Jean's meditation on green can be explored in many ways: a colour study, a survey of hand embroidery techniques, the power of the mandala, the cosmos of the universe.
Read Jean's blog here to see more of her work.

Susan Duffield, Traveller's Dreams, cotton dyed with indigo and madder.
Susan's artist statement: 'Stitched with memories of childhood and travels to Australia.'

Traveller's Dreams, detail
Like Gina, Susan is working with the personal to access the universal and like Jean, she is exploring the power of the handstitched circular mandala shape.

Bryony Dunsmore, One Rift, One Flaw No. 2, textile
Bryony's artist statement: Inspired by a Margaret Atwood poem which includes the words "...there is one rift, one flaw, where we are nailed to the earth forever."

One Rift, One Flaw No. 2, detail
I didn't get the chance to talk with Bryony about this work so I can't give you more details.
I am always drawn to Bryon's beautiful colour schemes. They are just so harmonious and soft but always with enough contrast to speak loudly. She demonstrates complete mastery of her technique the result of which is always a pleasure to explore up close.

Lesley Comassar, Uprooted, (the work on the left) hand-dyed, hand-painted cotton, machine pieced and appliqued (raw edge), free motion quilting.
Lesley's artist statement: When our vital connections to the earth, our families, and communities are forcibly severed, the effects reverberate through the generations.
Lesley's website here.

This is one of a series of 3 works where Lesley has explored the effects of migration at both a personal level and in different communities around the world. I talked with Lesley about how she reworked the colour scheme to ensure the works had the impact she was looking for, the right grey the right red.

These are just a few of the outstanding works in this year's VISDA annual exhibition. As you can see, members are willing to tackle large, serious and intensely personal subjects and they have the strength and courage to express their viewpoints and feelings on these subjects while demonstrating mastery of their craft.
Many thanks to Gillian Riordan and her committee for presenting an exceptional exhibition.