Clay Adventure: Making a Mug

Handmade clay mug.

A few months ago, my mother-in-law told me she’d been dreaming of taking a ceramics class. A wheel class for beginners is proving difficult to find here in Vancouver, but I did eventually come across a one-night workshop at a local arts studio on how to make a mug.

If I had to name a single kind of object that’s my favourite, that embodies qualities I find important and beautiful, it would be the humble handmade mug. These are the objects I can’t resist at a craft fair. These are the objects I seek out at open studio events.

Even when money is tight and original art is too expensive to buy, a handmade mug can be affordable. That I’ll use it regularly as part of a daily ritual that brings me joy makes it all the more valuable a purchase. Working from home, I routinely use two mugs a day – one for my morning coffee and one for tea in the afternoon; maybe another for herbal tea at night. I have a relationship with my mugs.

So it was thrilling to make my own at the workshop last week. Clay feels so good. It felt good to throw it down onto the table to get air bubbles out of it. It felt good to roll it and smooth it into this shape, however clumsy I felt about it. It felt good to quietly work on it as my mother-in-law quietly worked on hers next to me.

I realized while enjoying myself so completely that this mug is as much a product of my first Year of Making as anything else I’ve made*. It wasn’t too long ago that a one-night workshop about something I had no experience with would have been a little stressful to me, no matter how much I wanted to be there. But I wasn’t at all stressed about making this mug. I wasn’t concerned about getting it done in time. I wasn’t concerned about screwing it up to the point that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the finished product. At the same time, I was excited about the finished product. Though I was happy to live with the many imperfections I put into this mug, I didn’t go all Mighty Ugly on it. I didn’t throw this first mug under the bus in the interest of calming myself down. I started out calm. My enjoyment of learning and exploring and making was total.

I’ll show you a photo of the fired mug after I pick it up!

I made a mug at a 4Cats workshop. So much fun!

* I haven’t been chronicling my second Year of Making on a daily basis, but I have continued to make something pretty much every day this year. And I’ve been thinking about how my experience this year has been different from my experience in 2014. I’ll write more about it very soon!

PS Are you doing a Year of Making? How’s it going?

PPS Do you want to do a Year of Making? There’s no rule about when to start, so start now! This can help.


Halloween 2015: The Family DIY Star Wars

DIY Star Wars costumes for Halloween: Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Han Solo in carbonite

Between the Saturday-night timing and the rain stopping around 5PM, Halloween this year was one of the best and busiest ever. We saw around 350 trick-or-treaters!

Back in August, the kid declared that for Halloween, he wanted to be Chewbacca… driving the Millennium Falcon. Then we all fell in line and were assigned or chose our own Star Wars costumes. He told me I should be Darth Vader, and that was so perfectly obvious that I was happy to go along. Greg decided the morning of Halloween to be Han Solo, then emerged a couple of hours later encased in carbonite. Such is Greg’s aversion to ever doing the expected. My parents arrived with their Yoda and Leia costumes ready to go (okay, those weren’t DIYed).

DIY Chewbacca Millennium Falcon costume

Greg worked so hard on the cardboard Millennium Falcon, and this photo is the only one I got, because Owen refused to wear it at his school parade and on Halloween proper. Kids, I tell you.

DIY Darth Vader costume

Obviously, I bought my Vader mask, but I made the rest of the costume myself. For the cape, I followed these instructions, including the hood since I figure I can use a black cape for a hundred costumes into the future. For the rest, I wore black leggings, socks and gloves. I turned a printed t-shirt inside out and made the computery part with duct tape using these photos as reference. (Google auto-generated that .gif up there, you guys.)

It’s taken me many years to get used to Halloween being a fireworks holiday, but this is how we roll here in Vancouver (across all of Canada?). Our neighbour put on a huge spectacle for half an hour!


So tell me, did you DIY your Halloween? What did you make? How much fun did you have?


I Made a Sock!

I knitted a sock for the first time. It was surprisingly fun!

My friend Teresa walked me through grafting the toe with Kitchener stitch, and my first sock was done!

I haven’t started the second yet, because I’m working on a couple of projects that have a deadline. But I’ll cast on for it soon, and I’m (dare I utter these famous last words?) looking forward to it, and I can’t wait to give my kid his first pair of hand-knitted socks.

Sock heels are AMAZING.

Sock heels are amazing, you guys. I love how this one is a happy rainbow.


Spinzilla 2015: The Skinny

All the handspun from Spinzilla 2015

Spinzilla ended at midnight on Sunday, and the photo above shows all the yarn I spun by hand during the week of the event. I’m a little surprised by how much I accomplished, to be honest. The yarns are arranged in the order I spun them, and if you look closely, I think you can see how much my spinning improved over the course of the week. The first one I spun is the green singles in the top-left, then on from there clockwise around. With the watermelon-coloured skeins in the bottom-right, I started feeling like I’d actually like to use the yarn to make things.

This one right here (below) was the first that made me really feel like I was starting to know what I was doing. That I spun it on a grey autumn day, looking out the window to a landscape that matched the wool entirely, made it that much more enjoyable.

wool handspun yarn

After spinning up a merino/tencel blend (the blue/green skein sandwiched between the purple and watermelon skeins in the top photo) and not enjoying it very much, I was curious and a bit wary about spinning up the first of the three braids of fibre I bought in New Mexico last spring in anticipation of Spinzilla – it’s a merino/silk blend. Turns out that though I found the tencel to be, I don’t know, tough and unpleasant, the merino/silk was a dream. The feel of this grey fibre was the most delicious of everything I spun during the week. I’m very excited to have one more merino/silk blend left from my New Mexico purchases – that’ll be my celebration spin.

merino/silk handspun yarn

Below is the last braid I spun. It’s 100% merino, the second of my New Mexico wools, and the most saturated sections of colour were all felted. So instead of ending on a high note, I ended Spinzilla with a day of cursing and ripping and tugging. I still managed to make some good yarn out of it, which actually made me feel even more capable and triumphant. But still. I’ll be inspecting my purchases more closely moving forward.

merino handspun yarn

When I decided to participate in Spinzilla, I thought it would be a good excuse to get my spinning wheel out and to maybe up my game a little. Instead, I feel like I learned a ton and upped my game a lot. I developed a more intuitive feel for drafting (that’s the part where you feed the fibre into the wheel), and for tensioning. I discovered I have a good feel for splitting my fibre in half so I end up with two nearly equal bobbins for plying (I could weigh it, of course, but that’s not nearly as exciting). And most importantly, I feel confident that I’ve moved on from the very beginner stage into a more advanced beginner stage that involves making useable yarn and feeling curious about more advanced techniques.



Spinning Yarn. Badly. And Loving It.

Spinning yarn for Spinzilla 2015

So, Spinzilla started Monday, and I’ve been spinning yarn every day since. Not as much as I’d thought I would, and not as well. I’ve yet to produce any handspun I want to knit or crochet with, but I’m enjoying myself a lot.

And, as it happens, I’ve got a not-yet-assembled frame loom sitting on my kitchen counter, and I think I’m going to weave with some of this yarn. Oh yes.

As of yesterday in the early evening, I’ve spun just over 800 yards of Spinzilla creditable yarn (plying counts toward your total yardage!).

I’m sure I’ll make it to 1,200 yards by the end, which is an arbitrary yardage and far more than I’ve ever spun – in total – up to this point. I’m not sure my yarn will be any more even than what you see here, but I don’t care one bit.

Spinning yarn for Spinzilla 2015

Spinning yarn for Spinzilla 2015

Handspun yarn for Spinzilla 2015

Ok, so this final ply from last night is getting closer to what I’m after (and not so hair-pull-outy).