Lost on Range Roads!

Alright…so, I threw my meatballs together and when they were piping hot, packed up my wine glass and my bottle and my meatballs and headed for Custom Woolen Mills.  There was a big accident south bound on highway 2…I did a bit of a rubber neck there, but once that was long gone, I couldn’t believe it when I kept driving north on the highway, past the Carstairs turn off.  For a moment, there was panic…I didn’t want to really drive so far as the Didsbury exchange, but, finally resigned myself to going north for a bit and finding my way back to the mills on country roads.  When I go on a road trip, I find it so relaxing.  There is nothing better than enjoying the landscape and the wide open sky of Alberta.

Light was fading, but still there, as I headed east on whatever-its-called.  I knew that I needed to find the 791 to go south.  Hmmm…overshot that by a good 20 kms…but, not before my Spidey senses told me to go south anyway, on some range road or other…I asked myself, “How bad can it get?”  These range roads are all numbered…I’m sure I’ll zig zag my way there, eventually.  In the meantime, I enjoyed viewing a beautiful owl and many grazing deer, some with very large racks…I even considered pulling off for photo-moments, but thought, “No, you really have to get there…”  I spotted a sign for Linden somewhere on the way.  “Now, that sounds like some place I’ve heard about before…”  And on and on I went, feeling like Milo in his little car, lifted right out of the pages of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Never mind…dangit…the sun was slipping down fast.  It might be that I have to do that thing I don’t like doing.  “I need to back track.”  Heading west, the sun was blinding, as it peeked out at eye level from behind the pink clouds.  I thought to myself, “Now, don’t race…watch your way…you can find that 791…just notice.”  And I did…some miles later, I turned east again and then just needed to hook up with 272.  That, too, was a little shaky….the cattle, munching away to the north of me seemed to be snickering.  But that was likely all in my imagination.  From a distance, on the narrow (soft) dirt road, I saw the familiar silhouette of the mill on the horizon…I saw the warm lights…and said out loud, “I’m home.”

Entering in to the mill, Ruth’s voice was reaching above everything.  The audience was spell bound.  Displays of woolen things were to the left.  Lots of people were knitting.  “I love this place.  I love the smell.”  At the edge of the display created with works by Artist-in-residence, Sylvia Olsen, sat a Golden Fleece wool blanket, brought as a gift to Fenn by my new friend, Leah.  I felt nothing but happiness about being at the mill, bathed in love.

I poured myself a glass of wine…rustled up a plate of pot luck food (nothing better) and snapped a few photographs.  This morning, as I think back, I’m grateful for life and love and friendship.  Thanks to all of the folks at the mill for hosting such a wonderful event.

Some of My Favourite People

Ascension Sunday was beautiful in so many ways.  Bishop Emeritus Frederick Henry was with us for the celebration of the Mass.  As much as being a part of this family has, at times, been a struggle, it feels as though I am home with my community when I share in the Mass with so many friends.  Sometimes in today’s world, we can be very MEcentric and I find that I am able to quiet that and really focus on ‘the other’ when I am in community. I sometimes wonder how the human family will look back on the world that we are creating and what our part in history will be.  I lifted prayers and offered up this Mass, in particular, for people in my life who have medical struggles and for my children.  From Mass, I stepped out into a gorgeous-weather day and decided to make my circle of the pond, with Max before anything else.

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I booked up the afternoon with a create! workshop at Wendy’s…a session co-delivered with Ruth Purves Smith, needle felting and wet felting, forgetting that I was also committed to attending Indigenous dance led by Jess McMann.  Sigh… I opted to head out to Lakeview, as I knew I planned to visit my YaYa at the Foothills Hospital afterwards.

The afternoon was glorious, back yard crafting with beautiful and engaged creatives. The birds were chirping and singing and bathing, all the while.  Ginger snaps and ice cold lemonade were served as we went about learning to make dryer balls, wet felting and creating lovely artworks.  A great way to spend the afternoon!  Thank you, Wendy and Ruth.

Not only is Ruth a huge advocate for the Custom Woolen Mills, she is a heart-filled musician and huge song writer and story teller!  I hang out with amazing people!

In conclusion, kits were put together and I was eager to get over to the hospital and my friend, to see if she would be able to try felting.

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It was a joy to watch my YaYa, sit outdoors in the shade of Foothills Hospital and manage some felting.  I will bring the project that she began along with me on my next visit and bit by bit, she can construct something beautiful.  Best she not poke her finger with one of those needles!  The day was so much brighter because I was able to hang out with her and to see the progress she has made in her healing.  Four months later, she is a strong and inspiring fighter!  Her husband is equally inspiring because he has been selfless and supportive through this very unique journey.  They are, together, an inspiring couple.

I spent the evening on my own…a little putzing in the garden…some more walking with Max…some texting with my daughter who had entered a song-writers competition.  She got to chat it up with one of my favourite Alberta song writers, Joe Nolan, and so I will aptly conclude this post with one of his tunes.

The day was a ‘Ballad of Some Sort”.  (Changed my mind…but, YouTube it!) Instead, River Ends. Both Ruth and Joe deliver music in wool socks.  I think song-writers who perform in sock feet are generally good people.

Thanks, Wendy Lees, for being a beautiful person!  Thanks to you, Ruth…for sharing the joy of creation with me, again.  Such warmth and generosity!

Love Art in Calgary Tours

Wendy Lees

Ruth Purves Smith

 

 

Wool

Yes.  Here it is again.  Another post about wool.

It can’t be helped.  Through time and research and memory, the smell of the woolen mill is a forever-sensory-experience.  When I DO get around to writing ‘that novel’, captured between the pages somewhere will be the sound of the machines and the smell of the wool…it can’t be helped.  It is in me to share.

My readers have been patient and tolerated my obsession with this process, texture, landscape…you know it it is the landscape of this woman’s heart.

And so, I will keep words to a minimum and simply share that when my cousin, Laura, made a recent trip west, it was perfect that Laura, her brother Peter and I should drive north east to the Custom Woolen Mills, together.  Cousins, in our family, share a special bond and one can not possibly, in a post such as this, capture or contain the sort of laughter and fun that is shared when we get together, even as adults.  It’s pure joy and ridiculousness.

I am forever-grateful to our grandparents who gave us this bond and this relationship with wool and the manufacture of products from wool.  It is pretty special!

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Peter and Laura Dewar, children of Mary Moors and Peter Dewar

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Cousins, Kathleen Moors, Peter Dewar and Laura Lee Dewar

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Post-Mill and we share wine, laughter and lots of Italian food.  I was so grateful to share time with you, Laura and Peter.

We spent an hour or so together, researching and playing upbeat songs off of our phones…so hilarious.  Here’s one.

 

Bitterly Cold Winter, Wrapped Up In Wool

Monday morning saw the accumulation of a whole lot of snow overnight.  The sun was shining and I was grateful for that, as I picked up the shovel and cleared the sidewalk, yet again.  I was excited to be heading for sister-friend time, a hearty soup and warm-biscuit lunch prepared by my Ya-Ya, Wendy Lees, and the experience of felting with a woman who knows wool, so well.  In fact, like me, wool is her history…her story.  Ruth Purves-Smith, oh, how I grow to love you!  Now, you have been my teacher and I treasure that!

Gathering together means the sharing of stories, the week’s events, creative projects, vision, frustration, hard work and yes, edits on cover letters, even dog tales/tails!

Meeting  Booster for the first time was more than fun!  This sweetie really wasn’t ever supposed to have a chance at life, but because of her willingness to negotiate around Booster’s many special needs, Ruth gave her that!  Apart from very unique dietary concerns and the fact that she has to consistently wear a little diaper, Booster seems to lead a very happy and contented life.  As Max’s best friend, I can tell you that this gives me great respect for Ruth.

Settling in, I loved the colours and textures that began to spill out into Wendy’s living room!

I’ve had opportunity before to watch a remarkable lesson on felting delivered by Leah C. Donald  to my grade three students.  However, I didn’t have the opportunity to share in the experience because it was necessary to supervise the students’ use of the felting needles and to be a part of their process.  So, I was excited to actually manipulate the media and to enjoy the hands-on practice.

Ruth brought some of her creations and I was at once, in awe.  Hmmm…no pictures of lunch, likely because I was enthusiastically ‘putting it down’.

 

I decided that I would like to create a hot pad for the table and to focus on technique.  I was definitely the slowest person in the room!  It took quite some time before I sorted out the use of the felting needle.  Thanks for your patience, ladies!

 

Yesterday afternoon was just one of those magical times that created memories, both in my heart and head, but also in my body.  The warm smell of wool, the texture and the concentration…all so wonderful!  The next time you feel really cold, I highly recommend wrapping yourselves up in wool, good food and friendship.

Support the Custom Woolen Mills, when you can.  Buy your gifts from artists and artisans.  Buy music from local artists.  Support the creation of treasures that come out of your local community.

 

May 8, 2015

…my 60th birthday!

Whoot!  It was a wonderful day!  And, yes, I taught the full day.  But then I had the pleasure of sharing a late afternoon walk with my daughter, Erin and pooch, Max. We did our bird, coyote and muskrat watching and enjoyed the warmth.  The afternoon with my students, was spent needle felting with Leah C. Donald, visionary for Art Felt Studio.  With our previous experience painting spring flowers, this was an amazing extension and a great opportunity to create a more-than-special Mother’s Day gift.  I enjoyed connecting with Leah and learning that one of her favourite spots is the Custom Woolen Mill near Carstairs, Alberta.  I told her that I had grown up with the smell of raw wool and we gave each other a big hug.  Thanks to my gang of grade three friends who made the arrangement for this magical activity!

Some people might be fearful of age, aging and the changes that passing years bring.  For me, being 60 means a freedom to be and I stand firm in my gratitude for that.

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Cell May 8, 2015 Franks, Needle Felting, Birthday 009

Going to the Country

It was a beautiful day as we headed north on the highway to meet up with other relations; my Auntie Ruth, cousin Rob and his wife Deb; to share an adventure at the Custom Woolen Mills Ltd., located near Carstairs, Alberta.  There was quite a haze covering the landscape due to forest fires blazing in northern Alberta and British Columbia, but still the canola fields were golden and the undulating hills rich summer green.

I look back to the years I attended the University of Lethbridge and meeting Fen Roessingh and husband Bill Purves-Smith for the first time.

These portraits are borrowed from the company information booklet, professionally produced to inform visitors to the mill of the process from the collection of the wool until its creation as a beautiful wool product.

P1180124 P1180125Back in the 70s, these two young folk were ‘learning the ropes’, working along side my Grandfather John Moors, at the Magrath Wool Card and Spinning Mill, this, after developing an interest in fibre arts and weaving out at the Leighton Center near Calgary.  They had a truck load of raw wool and were seeking out some guidance about how they might turn it into yarn…something that my grandfather was generously able to do.

My Auntie Eleanor with her Dad, John Moors

My Auntie Eleanor with her Dad, John Moors

P1160907P1160913 P1160914The equipment at the custom mill dates back as far as the 1860s, some of it, coming directly from the Magrath business when grandpa, in his 70s, decided to sell it and support this new adventure outside of Carstairs.  Interestingly enough, I found equipment yesterday that was manufactured in Sherbrooke, Quebec, my mother’s home from the time she was twelve.

Equipment Manufactured in Sherbrooke, Quebec

Equipment Manufactured in Sherbrooke, Quebec

From the time that any member of my family enters a woolen mill, a flood of memories returns with the warm smell of raw wool.  This isn’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but I suppose that the sense of smell really DOES inform memory and for this family the smell of wool is very nostalgic.

We proceeded to enjoy a tour and lively conversation with all of the staff, our friends, although this was a day when all of them were ‘running their feet off’, being short-staffed and filling lots of orders.  It was lovely to see how gracious and respectful all were with Dad and Ruth, giving their intimate connection with this story.  In fact, my Aunties Eleanor and Ruth spent a lot of time as women, working for my grandfather in the mill, so this was even more special for Ruth.

P1180080Fen, Ruth, John (my Dad) and Garry Swanson.  (The following short bio is about Garry and the reasons he is viewed as such an asset.  He was also very welcoming and informative on our visit.  Thanks, Gary!)

P1180122 P1180123Following, an archive of images snapped throughout our visit, a magical afternoon that took us through all aspects of the processing of raw wool; washing, dyeing, carding, spinning, producing skeins of wool, quilts and socks. The summer’s day ended with Dad’s purchase of a pair of wool socks, a lunch time visit on the front porch and a beautiful drive home.

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P1180117 P1180116 P1180115 Dad grabbing a photo of the different varieties of raw wool.

P1180114 A porch for hanging out with Ebony and the cats…

P1180113The quilter shares stories of the origins of this equipment and her role at the mill… P1180129

P1180111 P1180110 P1180108 P1180106 P1180105 P1180104 P1180103 P1180100Sock making machine explained, in detail and demonstrated at full speed and slowly, so that we could see the magic of the process, by Garry.

P1180099 P1180098 P1180097 P1180096 P1180092 Auntie Ruth used to make skeins in the Magrath Mill…this was like a blast from the past for her!

P1180090 Someone caught me in a photograph in front of the mule, a piece of equipment that DID come from our family mill.

P1180087 P1180086 The dyeing sheds…several of these.

P1180085Fen’s feet…many miles a day put on for years!

P1180084Telling stories…and listening to stories.  Pure awesomeness!

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