Making of a Wool Shop: The Children’s Play Area

This area of the shop has evolved into a space of its own.

I knew the wall gets too much sun for yarn storage, so my first thought when I was planning the space was that it would be the community space. The wall did scream for a fireplace, and I loved the idea of cozy fireside seating by windows. We in the north have to source as much light and heat at possible!

It IS a cozy seating area beside a window and a fireplace, but it has become more of a children’s playroom than a yarn lovers gathering space. Stitchers do sit by the fire occasionally, but we usually squeeze around the three tables even if there’s too many of us. 😀 (which is so fun!)

The area around the fireplace grew into a wonderful play area for kids. The little table originally had a glass top and I had plans to fill it with decorative wool displays, but before I could put the glass back after painting it somehow filled with Oliver’s toys.

I’m often thanked for creating the space, but really it created itself. Kids now enjoy coming to the wool shop, and moms, dads, and grandparents appreciate the distraction while they shop. Sometimes kids have to be dragged out kicking and screaming when it’s time to go. :S

There’s a lot of weird stuff to pique the imagination: a mounted unicorn head (custom made by the beautifully talented @mommycansew), a monster garland made by @camphappyheart and me, melting snowmen, a toy alien by @sewwhimsicalbykatie, little felted creatures, crochet Oliver in a pumpkin, sheep and alpaca toys, and of course Shaun the Sheep on the smart tv.

This area isn’t what I originally planned but I couldn’t be happier with what it has become. I love that kids enjoy coming to the shop, and that their guardians feel a little less stress about taking littles out shopping. I know the juggle well.

My hope for a community creative space is constantly both affirming my intention and evolving on its own. It’s a great thing to watch.

Thank you all for making the shop what it is today!

Shop Update

If you were lucky enough to be in my shop a few Saturdays ago when my pipes froze and my bathroom exploded, you might have been even luckier to be one of the ones running to the back to offer help… at which point you would have learned that shop walls hide some horrific messes. For months the space outside the bathroom has served as my recycling pile area (imagine lots of boxes), furniture waiting to be painted area, tool storage area, photography area, boxes of bags area, my family’s kitchen, and my closet.

On my list of a million things to do this week, tidying this area was important.

There were three pieces of furniture to paint and add to the shop: my mother’s table, a clock which was donated to the store, and the base of one of the hutches – the top of which is in use housing the needles, it is on top of a dresser rather than its base because the dresser offers better storage for …more needles.

The base is now beside the checkout counter to gives me some extra storage for bags (Adrienne😂) and shop operations stuff. Now called my little blue sideboard, it is my favourite piece in the shop. (Still needs to be hinged, clearly..)

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ck was donated by some new friends, and I'm not sure how much if its story they would want to share. I think it's safe to say the clock was deeply appreciated by its original owner, but for complicated reasons it hasn't seen love (or the light of day) for years. It is the hope that the clock will find a new life in the shop. I think it already has.

My mother’s table has been in my sunroom for a few years serving as my workshop table. With its leaf it seats six, but Not comfortably. Without the leaf it transforms into an adorable pedestal table, and that is how I’ll use it. It was going to be painted white, and the first coat went on white – in fact the base already had its second coat when I decided to go at it with the blue paint, and I love it. Blue round table it is. We’ll use the round table near the entrance to the shop for a few purposes. I’ve noticed people need more space to put wool down and look at colours, compare, or match. This will be our table for that.

There has been some organisation accomplished this week, but still a lot to go. I’ll be moving on to plan B for the main shelving unit, so please be patient while I make the arrangements. There is no one more eager to see the shelves in place than me.

As for wool…

I’ve been busy coordinating the workshop schedule, and hope to post an updated list to the blog later this weekend. Upcoming classes include: beginner knitting, knit lace making, sock knitting, (hopefully knit fiddlehead mittens), crochet amigurumi cacti, crochet amigurumi mice, needle felt sculpture: chickadees, needle felt sculpture: valentine heart garland, needle felt sculpture: Easter eggs with simple embroidery embellishment.

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orkshops in planning include yoga for stitchers and knitting with an energy healer. (I'm really intrigued by these two!)

Thank you, everyone, for your patience as everything falls into place.

Dragonfly Tales

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The book pictured is A Dazzle of Dragonflies by Forrest Lee Mitchell and James L. Lasswell. It’s an enchanting view into the world of dragonflies from an imaginative perspective.

There’s a dragonfly commision coming up that means a lot to me. Each custom order has had it’s poignant effect, and I feel privileged with the confidence and whole heartedness people share their stories. The upcoming dragonfly will in part bring some healing to breast cancer patients, and I can’t help but feel my mother strongly, imagining her holding my little Finn wherever they are, as I bring this project together.

On September 30th 2012 my husband and I travelled the north western shore of Lake Superior visiting artist’s studios as part of the Crossing Borders Art Tour. While at Betsy Bowen’s studio in my favourite escape Grand Marais, I bought this little print of dragonflies which were an illustration for the book Hawk’s Ridge. At the time I didn’t know what I would do with the green darner dragonflies, but the drawing captured a piece of my heart so I knew immediately this would be special.

One year later was the first day of my life without Finn. When I started decorating his nursery earlier that year, these dragonflies were the first thing I put in the room.

The drawing has always made me smile. It’s musical, playful, and elegant just as dragonflies are. Just think about the number of people who associate dragonflies with something magical or profound in their life, to me that says these widely adored insects do possess a connection to something mysterious and lovely.

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Betsy Bowen’s green darner dragonflies

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Also coming up is another infant elf hat using Dauntless Dragonfly from Expression Fibre Arts. Not only is this yarn stunning and soft, it’s named so appropriately, and is also the shades of my favourite Oliver baby blanket from Aunty Helen, Uncle Patric, and cousins Alex and Phoebe. It will be decorated in needlefelted dragonflies in a colour and number chosen by the buyer. I believe strongly in the ways we relate to symbols.

Some time ago I edited a photo I took of a dragonfly that Hannah rescued at Little Dog Lake one day when we were swimming with the dogs. It rested on her hand long enough for me to take a number of photos of it and it was beautiful. I won’t link the quote because I’m not sure the full text is really in context, at the time (when I was reading random leads to all things dragonfly) this particular quote sunk in deeply and still resonates.

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‘Hannah’s dragonfly’ 2010

garden blogger to wool blogger

For years I kept a garden blog. It was something I worked hard on but never took too seriously, purposely. The point was to document my gardens and horticultural interests, and somehow keep a record of my adventures in gardening. I did, and it’s wonderful, and I hope to someday get back to writing it all down. It would be a shame to not have a record of how my garden has developed at our new house.., which we’ve now been in three and a half years, long enough for a lot of gardening to have happened. It’s just that so much else has happened that I don’t know where to begin, or catch my breath sometimes, so writing it just hasn’t happened.

I purposely left my garden blog stopped where it is. I like that photo of Adam holding the bees a lot. We were in the Roots to Harvest backyard beekeeper course, and those downtown bees were fueling up around the Cornwall garden site, and charming us all. I was pregnant with Oliver at the time, and it was the last time I felt truly consumed by gardening. (Well, other than the autumn of 2015 when I planted over 600 bulbs in my garden.) I’ve worked on our beds since, but it’s going to be a while before they’ll make sense to anyone but me. In the meantime I’m using my #amysgardentbay hashtag on Instagram photos to track the little garden moments.img_2667

My horticultural adventures understandably appear in my fibre art work, whether needle felting or crochet I’m always inspired by my garden. The colours of the wool look like a garden to me, and throughout the seasons I felt and hook what I’m growing (or eating).

As with photographing my garden, I find immense enjoyment and forever changing challenges in the photography of crafting. It intrigues me not just personally but also technologically, and from a marketing perspective. My photography browsing is now often spent admiring how creators capture their work.

I love the combination of my garden and my wool. The textures of nature matched with the colours makes for endless hours of creative heartwork. When my friend Sheri was teaching me to crochet she described how her addiction isn’t just to the making of things but to the feeling of the yarn in her hands – the “buttery softness” as she says. This is so true – to many from my understanding, the healing in #craftastherapy is found most in the texture, the softness, and comfort of wool. It’s not that different than the power of garden therapy, the texture of the soil, plants, and scents. I have to say my house never smelled better than the day I unpacked a shipment of merino wool in my sunny dining room – in a way is smelled like there was a herd of sheep in the house, ..but nicely washed sheep.

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even my winter garden inspires

My hope is that this blog will become as personally valuable a record of the evolution of Olives and Bananas, as my garden blog is to the evolution of “amy’s garden” and when I compare to the records I’ve blogged, drawn, and scribbled about my garden over the years, I see so much of the process is the same. Keeping a journal of the journey.

New Blog, First Post

img_1570This is it, the beginning of a new adventure. About a year ago, when Olives and Bananas first came to my mind I didn’t really know where it would go or what it would be, I just wanted to find a way to share needle felting and fibre art with others. After making gifts for friends for a couple years I began entertaining requests for custom orders, from there the development of needle felting kits came about as more and more people requested supplies and instruction, and together it grew into this little made by me business that I’m really enjoying.

I realize communication is an area I need to improve, thus the creation of this blog. One of my many goals for 2017 is to maintain this with weekly updates, a newsletter perhaps, so that those following know where I am on projects – especially the creation of needle felting kits, what is available, and what is coming up. I also want to relay better information about workshops, which I plan to host regularly on Sundays in my sweet little detached sunroom (which is an inspiring room to create in!).

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, but this year the turn of the calendar is feeling like turning a corner. It’s been a difficult few years for my family. Loss and grief weighed on us after losing my mother then our son Finn in 2013. Then the emotional highs and lows of bringing a rainbow baby into this world – followed by my husband’s job loss, and the changes that made to our lives. We struggled for a while, but it’s turning around. Finally some better employment options are arising for R, and I’ve found both healing and challenging work in this business venture. I feel like we’re finally headed toward some better days.

Olives and Bananas is more than felting, more than crochet, fibre art, and creating from wool. It’s also challenges me in photography, marketing, and business planning. The math is done in collaboration with by my husband, my accountant and calculator, as all the supplies, duties, exchange rates, and prices whether wholesale or retail is quite complicated. Completing and posting my price lists are a high priority on my to do list right now. My hope is that 2017 is the beginning of a solid business plan in action, even if it takes a few years to get there.

My main priority now is still my sweet Oliver, my wild little rainbow toddler. He’ll grow up too fast, just like his big sister Hannah has, so I’m savouring my time with him while he’s little. Wool will always be waiting, but he’s happening right now. So, please bare with me as I sneak in small moments each day to work on Olives and Bananas, while enjoying him.

I’m excited about what’s ahead. Posts I’m drafting include more information about needle felting kits, what goes in them, how I account for supplies and costs, future kits and where I stand in their development, as well as information about “just wool” kits, downloadable instructions, felting supplies, and retail wool.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for all the support this past year. Now let’s see what happens next….