Since I first learned to ride a motorcycle, I’ve noticed that many motorcyclists have a lot of nostalgia for the bikes of their youth. The first bike I owned was a 1983 Suzuki GS750E, which was a hot sportbike in its day.

At the time I bought it, I didn’t know enough to notice that this is not exactly a standard exhaust pipe … !

The thing is, I bought it in 1999. It was a 16-year-old bike but it was strong and sexy, and I took it on a few road trips. I enjoyed riding it but I didn’t always feel 100% comfortable on it.

Here I am on a road trip for work, visiting a massasauga rattlesnake research project.

It turns out it was a bit too much for me as a newbie rider, so I sold it after one year. I managed to find a used BMW F650 that I could afford. I continue to be uncomfortable with the fact that it’s a BMW because that fact leads most people to make all sorts of annoying assumptions. But the first time I rode it, the F650 felt like it was my bike, like it was designed for me physically. The seating position is such that I felt more like I was in the bike than on it, because of the seat design and handlebar position. Also it was newer and thus lighter to handle. I wanted a dual-sport style bike, and the options in Canada at that time were pretty limited.

Road trip!

Honda makes several dual-sport bikes, but not in North America. (Now, years later, Suzuki makes a great dual-sport bike in two displacements. It’s what I would have bought if it existed at the time.)

Now that I have more experience and have ridden a few more bikes, I would love to get back on the GS750E (the E is very important you know) and take it for a spin. So even though I started riding relatively late in life, I feel that nostalgia for my first bike, since in a way it was my first love. It’s not a very common bike so on the rare occasion that I see one, I just about get whiplash watching it go by.

Unlike me, Bill has ridden motorcycles since he was a teenager. (And very luckily for me, he is quite handy when it comes to taking them apart and fixing things and putting them back together.)

Bill fixing my carbs in his kitchen!

The photo above is from a couple of years ago – just a little maintenance work on the carbs.

Just like a computer, my bike is great when it works. When it doesn’t work, life is not as good. In the past couple of years I have had a lot of problems with my bike. Most recently, it stopped running at the end of the May 24 weekend… something to do with the engine. Bill removed the cylinder head so now the top half of the engine is in my bedroom. (It’s priceless having a boyfriend who can disassemble your engine when necessary!) We will be taking it to an engine place soon so they can check it out and possibly do some work on the valves.

Like many men of a certain age, Bill has a thing for the motorcycles of his youth. The temporary unavailability of my F650 was a bit of a trigger for Bill to act on something he had been thinking about for a while … so we bought a darling little Kawasaki a few weeks ago. It’s a 1978 KZ400. We looked at a few bikes but we were sold on this one because it was in such good shape, was in our price range and it came with almost enough spare parts to build a second bike. The spares include two wheels, another engine, two sets of carbs, another gas tank & body panels (in black), part of the exhaust system, front forks, and I think handlebars too. Pretty much everything but a frame. With a ‘vintage’ bike, there is something to be said for having spare parts handy, just in case they aren’t easy to track down at the local Kawasaki dealer!

So I still have wheels for getting around town, and I’m enjoying getting to know another bike. And this one gets a lot of comments – evidently this 29-year-old strikes a nostalgic chord in many hearts.

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Sometime last fall, my charming and brilliant eight-year-old niece Claire asked me if I would make her a sweater. I live in Halifax and she lives in Vancouver, so we could hardly live much further apart and still both be in Canada. I don’t get to visit her as often as I like. Last time I was there she was six and she was interested in learning to knit, but her little hands and her attention span weren’t quite ready for it.

Since that last visit, Claire has learned to knit, coached by her grandmother who lives in Vancouver. Since that time, I have opened a knitting store. So now Claire is more interested in knitting, and I was flattered and pleased that she asked me to make her a sweater. That meant she was sure to like it – especially since the request was accompanied by a detailed, annotated design sketch and a series of measurements. A long cardigan in orange and hot pink, with a hood and pockets. She asked for it in the fall, politely implying that it would be nice for a birthday or Christmas gift but it would be okay if it took longer. I let her know that that wouldn’t be possible but I would get right at it.

The one thing Claire didn’t realize was that I have never made a cardigan. In fact I had only completed two sweaters. Technically I have knit a couple more, but they are still in pieces not sewn together and I have recently accepted the fact that they will never be sewn up. They predate my enlightenment regarding natural fibres.

Of course, there is the Earth Sweater. I’ve made this twice. This is not a photo from a 1986 Sears catalogue … this is my former co-worker and favourite surfer dude Marty, right here in Halifax a few years ago.

 

The pattern for this sweater was my original inspiration to knit. When I was in grad school and was truly honing my procrastination skills, circa 1991, I decided to learn to knit. Perusing the giant knitting store which was then the only one in downtown Toronto, I saw a pattern pamphlet with two super-stylin’ folks wearing sweaters with earth maps on them. I found the map really intriguing, although these wimps had done it in only one colour – BO-ring! My vision for this project was that it had to look like an outer-space photo of the earth. (Or is it inner space when the photographer is still orbiting the earth?) I also recognized that many design elements would have to be changed to bring this pattern into a more modern era: No shoulder pads! No tighty waist & cuff ribbing! (Though you can see that I still managed to make the sleeves pretty goofy-looking.)

I didn’t try knitting it until many years later. I found satellite photos of the earth online, which I used as a guide to colour onto the chart for the pattern. Then I dove in and learned to do intarsia by trial and error, having no idea it was called intarsia.

Hey! There’s Nova Scotia!

 

 

 

I didn’t know how to sew it together properly but finally I finished this. And even though I had made the smallest size in the pattern, it was huge. This was probably for two reasons: the pattern was designed in the 1980s, and I had no idea what a gauge swatch was. So I gave the sweater away and made another one for me, but smaller.

 

The thing is I don’t like wearing sweaters much. They make me too warm. Especially wool/acrylic blend sweaters. So I have all the pieces of this sweater that I completed years ago. But I am going to try to turn it into a pillow instead of a sweater. Someday.

So back to Claire … she thinks I am some kind of genius knitting expert, based on her experience as a six-year old student and based on the fact that I am co-owner of a knitting store. She had no idea that in my recent knitting life, post-Earth sweaters, I have made only one top-down raglan sweater. A pullover. But you can’t say no to an 8-year-old’s hot pink and orange cardigan request.

Top-down raglan to the rescue! Cascade 220 Superwash provided just the right colours.

 

It took me about seven months to complete. It was a busy few months for me and really the sweater took less time than I expected. I did things I have never done before like make a button band (a long one) and a hood.

It’s a little nerve-wracking making something for someone who is thousands of kilometres away and who is possibly growing an inch taller every week I’m knitting. I think I made the body of the sweater and the sleeves nice and long, so she can keep growing into it for a while.

Naturally I had to make special buttons just for Claire’s sweater, since I dabble in such things. Here is a blurry photo of them. Okay it’s a terrible photo. They are orange with little red hearts inside.

 

To personalize it I embroidered a ‘C’ on the yoke, à la Laverne and Shirley.

I washed it and put it in the dryer for a while. The glass buttons made a horrific noise in the dryer so that didn’t last long. I knew the Cascade 220 Superwash is nice wool, but I couldn’t believe how soft it was after washing. People like my non-knitting sister, Claire’s mother, probably won’t believe it’s 100% wool, because it is so soft.

According to Canada Post’s tracking website, the sweater has made it to North Vancouver and will be delivered any day. I can’t wait to see photos of Claire wearing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I posted earlier, I am pleased that I finally got all the elements together and created my Etsy shop for Vivero Glass.

Hundreds of people have told me that they are in suspense to understand just how I create my jewelry. Hundreds I tell you.

I sit and stare into space and random ideas pop into my head. Ideas pop into my head while I am talking to people. Some ideas come from people’s suggestions. I make notes and sketches in a notebook. Then I start cutting pieces of glass, often late at night.

Using a kiln to fire fusing glass is referred to as ‘warm glass’. I fire my work at a final temperature 1475 degrees, but the firing process is precisely staged. The temperature increases and decreases are controlled by a computer unit, to ensure heating and cooling at the appropriate rates for properly annealing the glass. That ensures that the glass will be strong and durable, in addition to being shiny and pretty.

It’s not as exciting or dangerous as forming hot glass, either through lampwork or glassblowing. Since I was 14 I’ve wished to learn to blow glass. Someday …. In the meantime, the most dangerous thing about this work is nicking my fingers and forearms with glass pieces or random slivers. Granted, some days I feel a little like Edward Scissorhands (remember all the little cuts on his face?), but it’s not a huge problem. I hardly ever bleed because of this work.

Some of the glass starts out like this:

 

The beautiful swirly ones are called Opal Art Glass. It’s fun to pick just the right little swirly bit for my tiny necklaces and buttons. I get these pieces cut from the original sheets which are about 4 feet x 3 feet and truly magnificent to look at.

Then there is the ‘regular’ fusing glass. I have certain colours I prefer to work with, in both opaque and translucent forms.

 

 

These were a couple of bundles of glass that I just brought home from Cranberry last week. I had strapped them onto the seat of the ‘new’ little motorcycle and they got home safely. (Bill and I bought a new little motorcycle … did I mention that?) Then, on the way into my building, I dropped one of the packages. Hence the chipped corners and the broken-off pieces! Luckily, this doesn’t matter at all, at the scale of my work. Eventually it will all be cut into tiny pieces anyway. Nonetheless I felt like a spaz.

The Glassline bottles are liquid glass, which I use like paint for some of my designs.

 

And here are most of the tools I use on a regular basis:

Glass cutter, pliers, grozier (that’s the largest set of pliers), a big file, glass snippers, fine paintbrushes, and of course tweezers!

So I cut, snip, tweeze, glue and paint. When I have enough pieces ready, I pack them up to go to the kiln.

Into the oven, my pretties!

 

It’s always exciting to see how things turn out. Most kiln loads have couple of duds, but it’s great when a new idea turns out well.

This was the first of the whale tails I did. It now adorns the neck of a friend of mine who studies endangered right whales for a living.

Now I’ve made my first couple of sales on Etsy which is fun. I’ve also sold things through several stores, but the Etsy experience is a little different and pretty cool. It’s a more personal transaction where someone from far away likes something I made and sends me money for it. I like it!

Okay not me, but my ‘stuff’. Late last night I made my first listings on Etsy. It’s pretty easy to do, though you have to be organized with photos and descriptions of each item ready before you post them. But now I’m ready to sit back and watch the orders pour in from around the globe. Maybe!

Here is the link if you would like to have a look and maybe even send it to everyone you know:

http://viveroglass.etsy.com/

So far I’ve listed a dozen items, but I have more to come.

I especially love the snowglobes, and I intend to keep making more of those. I’ve had a thing for snowglobes (snowshakers) since about the time I was in university. The first one I ever bought was during a trip to Paris. I’ve bought many more in all sorts of places, and the best thing is that friends brought them back for me too. Sometimes people I didn’t even know that well would bring them for me, because they seemed to enjoy the idea of adding something unique and exotic to my collection. Many of them had great stories attached, like the one from Egypt … My Egyptologist friend sought out a tacky souvenir for me, despite the horrified protestations of her esteemed Egyptian colleagues who thought she should be looking for fine antiquities. That’s what friends are for!

At one point I had about a hundred snow shakers. I’ve had to cull some as I moved into a smaller space, but I still keep and treasure many of them. And now I’ve found a new way to explore my fascination with those watery idyllic little worlds.

I already posted about the lovely parcel I received from Emily in England, a perfect stranger who was assigned to me through the Knitters Treat Exchange. The first parcel had been thoughtfully wedged into my mailbox by the letter carrier, saving me a trip to the post office. A few days later, I received an unexpected notice of a parcel. Off I went to the post office and to my delight, there was another box from England. Inside were several little packages carefully wrapped, with little notes on them. (In the parcel I sent my treatee, it never occurred to me to do something that nice.)

Inside was a cornucopia of goodies. Chocolate from the U.K., shortbread cookies made in Newcastle which is where Emily lives, and a package of espresso from her own stash, brought back from travels in Italy.

The shortbread was the first casualty, and I did share with Bill. We’ve worked our way through most of the rest. The coffee is so good, very rich and almost … chocolatey?

I feel very spoiled by all the treats. Thanks Emily! It’s a funny concept, getting gifts from a total stranger who is far away. It’s one of the wonderful things the internet can facilitate. The great thing is, this swap involved dozens of people from all over the world, so you can imagine these parcels full of goodies flying all around the globe. It allows people to experience exotic treats – of the sweet or the yarn variety – that they might not otherwise know about. My treatee is still waiting to receive her parcel… I hope she gets it soon!

My package arrived! Back in March I signed up for the Knitters’ Treat Exchange. If you are reading this and aren’t a knitter, you may not know that one of the knitting trends spawned by the internet is the gift exchange / secret pal swap phenomenon. I don’t know exactly how to describe it because this was my first one. Two Irish knitters organized it. They matched up the dozens of people from around the globe who signed up, and sent each of us our assigned treatee. I think some of these swaps are just yarn; some of them seem to be finished object – e.g., knit a scarf and send it to a stranger, and another stranger sends you a scarf they made. I think in some cases, your pal remains secret, but in this case you would eventually find out who was sending you something. For the Knitters Treat Exchange, there was a list of suggested treats not just for knitting, but for pampering as well. Everyone who signed up filled out a questionnaire to guide their treater.

I sent a parcel very far away and it hasn’t arrived there yet, as far as I can tell from spying on my recipient’s blog. Mine didn’t make it there by the finishing date for the exchange because I didn’t want to spring for $44 airmail! The destination is surrounded by water, so it’s on a slow boat I guess … I hope she will get it soon.

Meanwhile, my KTE pal sent me a lovely package with nice treats for me and for my furry family. She also sent it from pretty far away … but between the Royal Mail and Canada Post, I had it in hand only six days after she mailed it from England. Specifically, my KTE Pal Emily sent my parcel from Wallsend which is just outside Newcastle. I thought that was cool because a musical hero of my youth is Eric Burdon and he is from Newcastle. (No I’m not that old … When I was in high school in the 80s, the 60s were what the 80’s are to the kids today. Except my friends and I were trendsetters I’m sure.)

But I digress. Look what I got:

Two skeins of exciting laceweight yarn. It’s handknit and hand-dyed wool that is not much thicker than thread. The two skeins total 1900 metres in length. And she also sent me a pattern for a beautiful stole to make with it. This is exactly the kind of project I want to work toward. Note that I say work toward … I think I’ll have to do a couple of intermediate lace patterns before I dare tackle this one. But I really like it!

And as a bonus there is a magazine for me to peruse (okay I already have done so), nice-smelling bath treats, a bookmark (I like bookmarks more than you probably realize) and even something for my kitties. Like most felines, my cats love catnip. These catnip drops are a convenient way to feed it to them, and they loved it. (I gave some to Molly the token dog, so she wouldn’t feel left out, but she seemed unaffected. I wonder why that is.) Clark is a belligerent drunk, he gets feisty on catnip, but Ruby is a happy stoner. She loved the drops so much that she tried to eat the wrapping paper that had been around the unopened package!

Back to the lace stole pattern. The pattern is a design by Eunny Jang, based on traditional Shetland lace patterns and elements. The motorcyclist in me can’t help but see something else …

It’s not just me – Bill saw it too when I quizzed him. Call me crazy but I like it all the more for this reason. This opens (to my mind) a whole fascinating possibility of lace patterns designs based on tire treads. I’m not the only knitting motorcyclist out there, but that is a challenge for a stronger mind than mine.

Thank you KTE pal, from all of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… It’s ‘Ocean Mist’, the latest “theme” from WordPress.  I wonder if I will like it.

EDIT: No I didn’t really like it. Back to the “Cutline” theme.