Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Just Can't Quit You, Rain Hats

Sometimes hat making is a smooth and easy process, where I contentedly whistle while I create.  The customer then picks up the hat, realizes she can't live without it., money exchanges hands, I feed the kid, pay the bills and a happy lady walks away with a new hat.  And then there are the Rain hats.....

I fall in love with the most adorable fabric and every cell in my body says, must have.   I pay a lot of money for this fabric because it is not inexpensive oil cloth, but is laminated cotton, free from PVC and BPA,  and then I start sewing.  Fabrics that are coated with plastic do not like to bend.  Threads snap, tensions go wonky, puckers happen, curse words fly out my mouth.  I hear Tony saying to Dustin, Oops, Mom just said Seal again in french.  (Phoque) and I vow to stop making rain hats. When the hat is completed, I look at my baby, forget the hard labour and feel nothing but love.  And so it goes, over and over.
Through the years, I have perfected the process.  I found the right thread and the right presser foot and learned that there are no shortcuts.  Every part needs to be hand basted before sewn and  linings need to be hand sewn into the hat.  All these steps make my rain hats pricey.  There are those special customers that appreciate this and I certainly understand if it's just out of budget, but more often than not I am confronted by horrified looks, or worse, conversations between two people holding up the price tag and shaking their heads as though I was not standing two feet away.  Fortunately, the ladies that do end up buying from me are always wonderful and tend to understand that hand made with love does cost more.  That said, there is a disconnect between the attention, both positive and negative, that the rain hats receive and the amount of hats I actually end up selling.  So, every year, I vow to just stop making rain hats.  But then, some adorable new print gets waved in front of my nose and some new design swirls around my brain and it's the same old story.  What's a girl to do?  Rain hats, I just can't quit you.
Love the photos?  Check out www.heidijirotka.ca

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Nova Scotia's Slow Change Movement

You may have heard of the Slow Food movement or the Slow Fashion movement, Slow Living, Slow Farming....   These are all movements that embrace the concept that anything worth doing is worth doing well.   Fast doesn't last.   The joy is in the journey.  You get the point, right?    Nova Scotia has its very own slow movement and it's called the Slow Change movement.

Nova Scotia has a special set of challenges in front of it.  We have an aging population and a lack of decent paying jobs has sparked a mass exodus of our youth.  A tiny population means higher taxes.   So, a couple of years ago, our provincial government commissioned a report from a man named Ray Ivany.  It is full of all kinds of wonderful recommendations to save our beautiful province from ruin.  It's rallying cry is NOW OR NEVER.  The entrepreneurs went wild, the town councils all wrote pretty reports, a call to action was heeded  and where are we now two years later?  Further behind.  The old are getting older, the young are still leaving and the entrepreneurs who according to Mr. Ivany will be the saviors of this province are tripping over  stumbling blocks at every turn.  Stumbling blocks put in place by our own government.

The rallying cry was NOW OR NEVER.  It took Nova Scotia two years to respond, but the answer has been loud and clear....Not so fast, Sonny.  Don't get your knickers in a knot.  That's not the way we do things around here. 

I hope I'm not making it sound like I disapprove because while I desperately want change and wish it could happen faster, I am learning that Nova Scotia has its own pace and we can scream NOW OR NEVER till the cows come home, but Nova Scotia will not be rushed. 

 I'm going to intersperse the rest of my words with photographs of the incredible town I call home because this is why I will learn to be patient. 
Just about every morning in Lunenburg begins like this, muted, soft, sometimes grey and then, often, slowly, slowly, the fog lifts, the clouds drift and suddenly, we have glorious blue skies. It has taken me years to stop looking out the window in the morning to determine what sort of day it will be.  Nova Scotia days unfold.  Slowly.

 This is what spring looks like in Lunenburg.  I think you get my point here.
We wail, we lament, we complain and then, slowly, slowly, the back harbour melts.

Before moving to Nova Scotia, I spent five years in New York's Hudson Valley.  There is winter and then there is summer.  One day the flowers simply open.  Instantly.  You pack up the winter clothes and pull out the summer ones.  

That's not the way we roll here in Nova Scotia.  One day you might take your mittens off and then you might take off one of your coats or find that you are not wearing your coat in your house.  Sometime in June you might only need a sweater and then, glory be, in July and August you will pack up the winter clothes, but not bury them too deeply in the attic.

I have learned to search for signs of Spring by looking up and often the signs can be heard before they can be seen.  I love every painful, tedious and drawn out moment.  Spring  is a slow, sensual unfolding.  This is the way change happens in Nova Scotia.  One step forward, two steps back.  Beautiful sunny day and then a snow storm, followed by another sunny day.

Stand in line at a Nova Scotia Bank and you will witness the true pace of this province.  If you are anything like me you will be driven to both tears of rage and tears of love and compassion in your 30 minute wait.  and that's if there are two people in front of you.  Because Mabel will be telling the teller (that's why they call them tellers)  all about her sister's son who got himself a fancy job on Bay Street in Toronto and how her dog has a nasty case of the runs and just when you see a glimmer of hope that the conversation may be coming to an end the teller will ask her another question about her grandchildren.

But it works both ways because when I go to the post office to pick up my mail, my dog forces everyone in line to wait while the folks behind the counter give him his treat and a scratch behind the ears.  This is just the pace of life here.  
Slow as it may be, Nova Scotia is filled with Hallelujah moments.  Whether it's the view as you turn the bend, the blue summer skies or the autumn light, there is always a reward for a tough winter, a slow spring a long line up or Slow Change.

So, yes, I believe that necessary change will SLOWLY happen in Nova Scotia, but I think the Ivany Report's rallying cry of NOW OR NEVER just doesn't meld with the spirit of the province.  How about this instead, After you tell me about your gall bladder surgery,  your no good son in law, we have thoroughly discussed the weather and my dog has been given his biscuit we get around to making some necessary changes.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spring is Possible

It looks like spring just might actually happen.  I'll come out from my hiding place now.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My All Time Favourite Comment - Daffodowndilly

I love all the kind comments that people leave on my facebook page, but the following comment left in response to my new Daffodil hat is really my all time favourite.  It is a poem by A.A. Milne


She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
'Winter is dead.'

A.A. Milne

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't Cry for Me Texas

Today this Mabel Rose hat begins its journey to sunny Texas where, I hear from my customer, the temperatures are now in the seventies.  So, I am sending along my deepest concern and sympathies for anyone living in a warm climate who is not afforded the opportunity to enrich their moral character by way of fighting the elements.

While the sun penetrates your skin, warming your soul and relaxing your muscles, we here in the frozen North are building strength both physically and spiritually.  Perhaps you may be swimming in your outdoor pools and sipping Pina Coladas, but we here are building thunder thighs stepping over snow banks to cross the roads.  As we trudge down the barely existent, icy sidewalks, we develop a heightened sense of balance.  We learn to take our time, lest we fall on our asses. My back and neck have become so incredibly strong from shoveling snow and having to throw it on top of an 8 foot snow bank.  You probably have to pay for this sort of work out.

I am concerned as well for your immune systems.  We get to fight colds and flu on a daily basis.  My own son has sneezed on this very key board so many times that I feel confident that my own immune system could withstand a cholera epidemic.

Speaking of sons....How do you live without snow days?  Do you even know how to play Monopoly for hours on end?  Is sorry just a word to you or are you aware that it is a bored  board game?

What must it be like seeing color everywhere you go?  Do you realize what an advanced sense of color I have?  The other day, I would swear to you that I was seeing blue tones in the snow.  Have you any idea how many shades of grey there actually are?  More than fifty, I assure you.

So, my dearest southern belles, please accept my hats not only as a way to shade you from the sun, but as a token of true northern strength of character.  I will leave you with a photo of the view from my living room window.  If this doesn't say perseverance and fortitude, I don't know what does.  Don't cry for me, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Argentina.......Let me cry for you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Amelia Earhart, Eat Your Heart Out

If Amelia Earhart was still around, I feel certain that she would have commissioned me to felt her a hat like this.  I also feel certain that she would have loved Linda Ruth, who did commission me to make this hat.
I met Linda Ruth a few weeks back at the Lunenburg Farmers Market and I realized pretty quickly that we were kindred spirits.  It's true, this sort of hat is not for everyone.  It is most certainly not for the timid at heart, but there is nothing timid at heart about Linda Ruth.  She called to tell me that she was coming to pick her hat up today because she had to cancel her snowboarding date due to the -15 C temperatures out there with a wind chill of bloody cold.
She brought with her a bag of mittens that she has been making from recycled wool.  They are sooo cute, I could hardly stand it and if it weren't for my electric bill, I would have succumbed.   When Linda Ruth is not bombing down a mountain, she can be found in her beautiful shop in Chester, Nova Scotia, hooking unbelievably intricate rugs and making mittens. Her shop is called Come by Chance Antiques and is five floors of beauty made by several artists.  Her facebook page can be found by clicking here.  

I am just having so much fun making these hats in various colour combinations for various strong willed, beautiful and creative women.  If you plan to take to the skies soon, be sure to drop me a line and I will get your flying cap made for you.