Posts Tagged ‘ Teafarm ’
For our second Renaissance Women workshop we decided to learn to sew from a pattern. Patterns have always seemed like some other world to me. Delicate paper that makes me think of old people’s skin. A whole new language of “notions.” And, while the clothes pictured on the pattern envelopes are frequently unstylish, I want to at least have the option of making them. I have run across the occasional wraparound skirt or summer dress pattern that makes me look twice.
I attempted learning this skill once before. I vaguely remember my Mom helping me collect the various supplies, cut out the pattern and the fabric, and start stitching it together. But I’d chosen fabrics that appealed to my aesthetics, not ones that suited me: after putting on the dress-in-progress I threw everything into a box and moved on to other projects. I think that box is still in my shed somewhere.
As to what we chose to make: I suggested an apron partly for irony. We’re rediscovering our domestic skills, so an apron makes sense. But in actual fact I need an apron. I keep ruining my shirts with bacon grease spatter.
I venture into Fabricland. I love fabric stores. I tend to buy too much brightly-coloured cotton, justifying the expense as future quilt supplies. But this time I am in new territory: patterns, notions, polyester blends, non-quilting thread. The cashier thinks I am buying supplies for a school project. (Damn my youthful appearance.) I resist correcting her, thinking I might get a student discount. (I do not.)
While I manage to find everything I need, I am surprised by the surly, unfriendly attitude of the staff. These baby boomer women sigh heavily before guiding me to the correct areas of the store. I had thought they’d be excited by a new generation of customers. Maybe they are just pissed to be working on a weekend.
In the end, I choose a pretty red-black-white pattern (so bacon stains won’t show too much), black thread and black “double fold bias” tape, whatever that is. I choose black so my apron will be sexy.
I rescue my beloved sewing machine from storage in our shed. It is surprisingly heavy. Or maybe that is my guilt, at not having used it for at least a year. I usually use my sewing machine for piecing together quilts, or maybe some final top-stitching, or doing a half-assed job hemming pants. With our tiny home I’ve been doing more hand quilting, so as not to take up space on the already-cluttered kitchen table. I literally have to dust off my sewing machine. Poor thing. One day I will have a sewing room, or at least a room where I can leave her set up and dust-free.
Sunday, noon to 1:00 pm-ish:
I pick up Vanessa at Affinity Guesthouse and we motor to Chemainus for our workshop. Vanessa’s hubby, Dwight, gives us cookie batter to bake at the workshop. I love Dwight. Who else keeps homemade cookie batter on hand?
After a few anxious minutes in Chemainus we spot Kim, our sewing workshop organizer, and find the door to the Cowichan Neighbourhood House Association space, where Cindy works. Yay! Once inside it’s all Renaissance Woman goodness, lots of smiles and love and general good vibes. The Cowichan Neighbourhood House is awesome: a full kitchen, a meeting table area, a cosy sitting area with way too many couches, and an open room where we set up all the tables and chairs we need for multiple sewing machines. We don’t even blow the breakers.
Kim steeps Teafarm tea in the kitchen and Vanessa puts Dwight’s cookies into the oven. Teafarm’s Black Lavender tea becomes my momentary favourite. Soon the entire space smells of peanut butter chocolate chip yumminess. It is a fact that the Renaissance Women are weak for tea and baked goodies.
Sunday, 1-5:30 pm-ish:
Kim talked Maggie Beischer into teaching 15 newbies to sew from a pattern. Poor Maggie. She is magnificent, patiently explaining “seam allowances” and “bias” and interpreting sewing pattern hieroglyphics for us. After a quick pep talk at the meeting table she challenges us to get started. We move to the big room and cut pattern pieces, iron them (so weird, to iron paper!!), pin the pieces to our chosen fabrics, and then (after a final check-in with Maggie) start cutting. Finally it’s “whir whir” and we’re sewing.
It’s funny, how 15 confident women can become so nervous. We’re used to feeling confident. We run businesses, we parent, we create art (which is inherently narcissistic). But to do something for the first time is unnerving.
The “bias tape” throws us off. It’s tiny and tricky to manipulate.
Finally we realize that we should get home for dinner, so we pack up our partially-finished aprons or tote bags. Someone washes the dishes. There is one cookie left, because everyone is too polite to eat the last one.
Sunday, 6 pm-ish:
I eat the last cookie when I drop off Vanessa. It’s really good.
Once at home I finish my apron. It’s not perfect: I did the steps out of order and there are rough edges showing. The fabric is probably too soft for a proper, functional apron. But it’s awesome. I love the little black bows on the pockets.
And I start looking at the sewing book I found in Chapters’ bargain bin. Now that I know how to read a pattern, I can actually use it. Watch out, world.Continue Reading »
I was so nervous before our first meeting. There would be speaking in front of a group. This group was comprised of some of the most remarkable women I’ve met in my three years in Duncan. They were all superstars. I didn’t want to be in charge, to tell them what the rules were and the lofty achievements I expected from them as participants. I wanted it to be a collective effort, a shared experience.
They were so gracious and supportive, reclining on the cosy couches of Affinity Guesthouse, sipping their Teafarm tea and praising the bizarre food I’d brought them. Green tea cookies, baked an hour before. Sprouted wheat bread — “manna bread,” as Vanessa called it. Garlic scape jelly that Cindy had made and given me. Cheese made from yogurt, a byproduct of the whey extraction necessary to make the fermented sodas that they bravely drank. The kombucha in a pickle jar. The menu theme was “things I learned to make in 2010.” Not-so-subtle inspiration for our year ahead.
I lurched through the notes I’d made, explaining what I thought the group could be, the commitment I was proposing, the guidelines that I thought would keep us on track. Heather K. nodded encouragingly, Maeve backed me up on the “women only” rule. The two requirements for our group were: 1. commit to learning a new practical skill as a group once a month in 2011, and 2.) commit to sharing your experience through your art, whatever that may be. I’d invited writers/bloggers, two photographers, an audio artist, jewellery makers, print makers, and numerous Jane-of-all-trades, or “dabblers” as Vanessa self-identified.
We brainstormed the skills we’d always wanted to learn: how to milk a cow, how to make bread from a sourdough starter, how to shoot a gun. How to back up a trailer. We used up all the poster-sized sheets of paper I’d brought, taping them to the large windows along the North wall. Who knew there were this many skills to learn? Most of us are in our 30s: what have we been doing with our lives?
Then we voted with markers, “x”ing or checking or smiley-facing 10 skills each. I felt powerful, selecting what I would do over the next year. Literally choosing, with every smiley face.
By this point we had become a group. I didn’t want to interrupt the conversations that had started. Many of these women had heard of one another. Some knew each other, but mostly superficially. In our introductions we’d shared our names, what kind of art we did, and any practical skills we had. It was an inventory of superpowers, and we were a powerful bunch.
Eventually I read out the skills that had received the most votes. These were our top 10 skills, and would be our priorities for the months ahead:
- make, distill and use essential oils
- make fermented sodas and other fermented drinks (kombucha)
- make yogurt
- milk a cow/goat/water buffalo
- cheese making & wine appreciation
- sew from a pattern
- identify wild, edible plants and mushrooms
- use sourdough starter to make bread
- make ice cream, without an ice cream maker
- make soap
We also had four “runner up” skills that would be our back-ups, in case we couldn’t find a cheesemaker teacher or get together enough sewing machines:
- build a cob oven
- make paper
- kill a chicken & process it
With five vegetarians in the group and only four votes being cast in favour of learning the skill, the chicken workshop was relegated to the bottom of the list.
Some of us then volunteered to organize a workshop: our February meeting now depends on who confirms a workshop first.
At some point in the discussion the name “Renaissance Women” was suggested, which was generally adopted despite my inability to spell it without help. I promised to set up a group emailing list to facilitate private group communication and a Facebook Page to share our experiences with our friends.
And so: whew. I made it through our first meeting thanks to two cups of herbal tea, a cookie that Katie had brought, and a piece of Heather K.’s amazing olive oil, rosemary and chocolate cake to calm my anxiety. Now that the ship had launched, I could relax on deck and get to know my fellow passengers. And I would have to start writing again.Continue Reading »