Sunday, November 3, 2013


I'm not quite sure how to say this.

Not that I'm worried how you'll hear it, but because it sounds strange to my own ear, and although I'm going to say it, and I intend to say it-- I've been putting off saying it.

It's time to pack 'er in.


It's time to go fallow, go on furlough, let it all go.

I suspect that something will come of doing just that, but that's not exactly the point.

It's been unbelievable, purposeful, rewarding, fun, inspiring, exhausting, energizing, rich and unforgettable.

And I'm curious to see what I'll be drawn to when I let it all go.

Thanks for coming along.

If you're still curious about bags, I have a beat up suitcase full of them. They may land up at the Niverville Slice of Life restaurant for the Christmas season. I'll try to remember to record that here if that's indeed what happens. Or just contact me through the comments if I get distracted, or you want to see them now.

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying doing a little sewing with all the time in the world. And no apparent end result- just playing.

XO. Peace to you.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Annual Report: Harvest Moon

I ought to be at Winnipeg Culture Days right now, in Old Market Square, selling bags. But it's raining cats and dogs and kitties and pups here in Manitoba so I'm home in my cozy little castle, doing a little paperwork for bags4darfur. It's been on my "to do" list- to do the final tally on what money got raised at Harvest Moon Festival a couple of weeks ago.

I'm happy to announce that I've just donated $800.00 to this awesome project through MCC. Pretty groovey to think of a sewing machine generating income for another sewing machine.

Giving Projects

Sudan - Sewing classes

Florence Ayikoru D’ekili (left) spent most of her life as a refugee in Uganda because of Sudan’s civil war. While living in one of the major Ugandan camps for Sudanese refugees, she became involved in tailoring and income generation classes offered by Jesuit Refugee Service. After returning to southern Sudan in 2008, she approached MCC with her vision for reaching out to women in the city of Juba. Today, with MCC’s support, she is the administrator of an organization called Mother’s Union that provides sewing and tailoring courses along with information on marketing, business concepts and self-care. Some participants have started their own sewing businesses and are earning enough to build homes, pay school fees and better their families’ lives. Join in supporting efforts that offer women such as Ayikora D’ekili an active part in the recovery and rebuilding of southern Sudan.

$10 tailoring teacher - Support a tailoring instructor for one day.
$75 sewing machine - Provide a graduate with half the cost of a sewing machine.

Harvest Moon Festival was nothing shy of practically perfect in every way. Once again.

Tradition insists that we drive out in this Southwind- roughly the size of a double wide trailer on protein shakes. Sometimes the front end gets through an intersection on green while the back bedroom squeaks through on a brilliant red. We just recline in the front bedroom under those conditions. Hard to ticket someone who isn't even there.


We go with our most environmentally aware friends, just because its good to indulge in irony, at least once a year. Driving the beast costs us the same amount of money that a sweet hotel would cost for one night, but let's be sensible- Clearwater has no hotels, and we were staying for two sleeps. So, talk about being an excellent financial steward.

I'm entirely happy in Clearwater.

The bathroom stairs charm me.

The randomly placed giant bins full of firewood. No charge.

Of course, it might be partially due to the fact that some farm dude donated a shed, or something.

Maybe its partly because I grew up in the country, but this festival always restores my faith in good old prairie life.


(although I blissfully leave the "tent village" to the under forties in the crowd)


Cuz I got me a fancy room to call my own.....


And there's no beating those mirrors on our ceiling.

But I was here about bags, right?

And these fabulous fingerless mitts that my friend Lory makes out of thrifted wool sweaters.

It was such joy to sell Lory's mitts, and some bags4 in Clearwater. The weather was pretty splendid as well. September in Manitoba can be pretty darned terrific.

And that's just how it's been around here lately.

I'm gonna go edit my sidebar now, its not quite right.

It ought to read: "Total donated: $32,918.00"!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Counting Up and Counting Down

Sunday morning.

Taking some inventory.

It would appear that by hook or by crook, the thrifted piles of whatnots and weirdo skirts, velvet deer wall hangings and burlap rice sacks have once again taken form as shoulder bags.

In five sleeps, we head on down the road to Clearwater, Manitoba for what's probably the province's best kept secret: The Harvest Moon Festival.

I'll be on the street with some other fair trade vendors, doing our thing.

(I can't wait!)

After the joy of a weekend in Clearwater, I'll be home hitting the sewing machine with both hands, both feet, and as much brain matter as I can stir up so that I can be ready for the Artisan Market at Winnipeg Culture Days, September 28 at the Bijou Site in the Exchange District. (where the fringe is held each year). The sale runs from 11 - 4, rain or shine.

Then, I had planned on being at the WEST (Winnipeg Etsy Street Team) Handmade and Vintage Sale IV on October 12 at RA Steen Community Center, but unfortunately a family obligation has fallen on that day. I hope you make it to the sale to support the many talented artists who will be setting up and spending the day selling their wares.

For now, I'd love to chat, but there are fabrics calling my name! See you in Clearwater on the weekend, and/or Old Market Square, Winnipeg on September 28.


Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm so Darned Spoiled, and That's The Truth of It.


Mrs Schellenberg is moving out of the family home. The one she raised her five sons and one magnificent daughter in.

The Schellenbergs are a bit of a Royal Family in these parts. After all, they owned "The Sew and Save Shop" in Steinbach- the sewing shop of my childhood where I went many, many a time with my mother to pick out fabrics for dresses, curtains, and blouses (we said "blouses" in those days. Not "shirts". Nope- "BLOUSES". Sounds a shocking lot like "brazzierre" which I very occasionally heard my mother whisper in hushed tones. Way too intimate to be spoken of.)

Well, I don't want to make you feel bad, but I know one of the Schellenbergs.

(I actually think the Schellenbergs were way more worldly than we'd been led to believe when we were children and not allowed to touch their notions. A shocking discovery was made whilst rifling through the estate. In bold letters, right out in the open, just casually resting on the dining room table, with no shame or anything. English Breast Pump. Not even a Mennonite one- pffffft.)

I politely pretended not to notice the abomination. And stuck to more charitable thoughts.

I have in my possession many of the notions from the Sew and Save.

I got the kitty and the ducky buttons.

The "Mend-a-pocket". I'm relieved to know that by having this in my possession, I will never lose my keys, change, or etc again. That's a bold statement.

I got clasps for my brassierre. (I couldn't say no to all the naughty things. They'd think me prudish).

"World Famed" hooks and eyes.

A complete and unabridged hanky collection.

They even saved a 1972 calendar for me.


There's no cure for spoiled.

(thanks, Alice. You and your mom are the cutest women on the planet).

Friday, June 14, 2013

So. Sew!

Dottie Angel I am not.

In particularly weak moments, I dream that life as Dottie Angel is more perfectly perfect than life as "Joyce, spinner of many plates". From my teensey jaunts to her blog and her ETSY shop I know that love her, though we've never met. And, so, I'll not envy her, nor begrudge her thrifty, arty successes. Besides. What sort of person would I be if I indulged in jealousy with a like-minded soul who "likes to spend her days wisely treading the righteous and goodly path of handcrafted and secondhand"?

dottie angel do's

1. do have high hopes

2. do follow the righteous
and goodly path of thriftiness

3. do think you are most peachy perfect

4. do feel a little crafty
at least twice a day

5. do wear your slip peeking
out from below your skirt

6. do embrace all that is
granny chic
and give it a forever home



But meanwhile, in my very real and present land of plate-spinning, I feel that familiar panic setting in. That frightened inner voice who rebels against the "dos" of peachy Dottie Angel-ness. The voice that fears all my best ideas have been spent and there's nothing left. Nothing at all.


I have a dealine. And I must create. Hence the fear.

There's a familiar pattern to all of this, so I'm not as scared as I was the first billion and one times. It'll start with some bad dreams with the theme of being unprepared. Then I'll plan to start getting up earlier to do some stitching, but I won't because I'm tired. Then the mounds will start to grow: stacks of cottony goodness on the table, the chairs, the sewing table, the floor, the office, the "living room". And in the two and three minute gaps between filling cups and dashing small people to the parks, I'll pair together incongruent bits. My evenings will stretch a little longer, my Saturdays will begin a little earlier. And I'll start to feel the joy, anticipation, excitement of another summer fair.


This year, at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival in Morden, Manitoba. August 23 to 25.


Hope to see you there!


Saturday, May 11, 2013



International Fair Trade Day, May 11, Ten Thousand Villages, Winnipeg.

Seven hours.

Twenty-three bags sold.

Five hundred and twenty dollars raised.

Thirty-two Thousand, One Hundred and Eighteen= new total.

Time well spent.


Saturday, April 20, 2013


It's been a while since I really loved something I made.

May 11, Ten Thousand Villages, 134 Plaza Drive.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Death and Resurrection

We were fresh from our glorious trip to Ecuador, heading down a very snowy and blowy highway towards a little church near Mitchell, Manitoba. I'd driven past it often enough on my way to visit my parents, or get to the grocery store. I liked the sense of disrupting my typical pattern of driving past, and instead, took a sharp right turn onto the driveway. It strikes me as peculiar that there are places we never go to, and have no sense of belonging with until something happens to change all that, and that benign place you've always driven past becomes your destination.


What had begun at the retreat was growing little shoots and stems, the first which was to occur at this little church on Easter Sunday. Armed with my Ipad, which held the records of all the hours I spent on prep for that glorious women's retreat, I approached the podium with joy in my step. It was even easier the second time to share the story of the bags4darfur project. I felt grateful for everything I heard myself say, and realized again that I'd inadvertently become a part of something ordinary but miraculous.


One of the themes that I focused a little more intentionally on was that of death and resurrection. It wasn't a contrived attempt at being relevant at Easter time in a church, but more a like an exciting time to share out loud something that I've learned over and over again during the years of sewing, selling, being excited, being bored, feeling exhilarated, feeling totally dead, dried up, has-been, even mildly embarrassed. I've learned (often kicking and screaming and panicking) that death is an important part of rebirth. Death must be accepted, even embraced if you're mature enough to push it that far. I usually cower and wail, snivel and worry myself. Still, I've tried never to force the project. I've tried not to push out bags that I'm bored of (although I still have done that, its part of the monotony of a longer term project). I've tried not to keep riding a wave when it seems clear that it's turned into a tepid parking lot puddle.


And I have been going through a rather dead stage. No energy for creativity. Sick and tired of photographing and uploading, and deciding on prices, and maintaining sites, followers, and e-mails. I've been hard on myself about that sometimes, but still sure about the conviction not to force anything that really wasn't coming from the heart.


So when Bonnie approached me about sharing the story at her retreat, I got a new glimmer of excitement. I could spend some time re-reading all the years I'd recorded on the blog, I could write it all out in some coherent way, and then I could speak it out in one continuous dialogue. I was also intimidated and afraid, but it felt like the good kind of fear that stretches and grows a person.


Almost immediately following that first presentation, I was asked to do a repeat performance at Mitchell Community Church. Because they were going easy on me, and allowing me to simply repeat it all verbatim off my ipad, I quickly agreed. It felt like a rebirth again. A new way to breathe life into the continuing passion of doing something tangible for situations that are much too big to change, but ought not to be ignored. And it felt amazing to do it in another way- in speaking out, lipstick on, clothing unstained, looking out across a room of adults! So much of what I've done for bags 4 darfur has been amidst the clutter of my home, un-showered, wearing clothing sprinkled in ketchup and chocolate chips, multi-tasking kids, food, fabric bits, pets, and feeling like the only adult in townships and ranges.


There are new tentacles and shoots growing out of bags4darfur, and I'm lucky to be the happy gardener. It's been a pretty terrible winter, and for all the pinning in the world, I've been hard pressed to garner the right kind of inspiration to truly pour myself into creating. The opportunities to write and speak have given me new hope, and a tentative excitement for new things on the horizon.


Meanwhile, I have been approached by the manager of Ten Thousand Villages, plaza drive, Winnipeg to partner with her store in celebrating World Fair Trade Day on May 11. She has graciously offered to give me a spot in the store to sell bags, promote the project, and take part in the day's festivities. They will allow me to donate any money from the sale of bags to the project of my choice. Interestingly enough, I had just done a little research for the most recent donation of $777.00 and found that Mennonite Central Committee

is part of a project entitled:


MCC’s Sudan: Coming Home campaign, a five-year campaign ending in 2013, enables MCC to support projects including those that empower women, strengthen livelihoods, build peace, promote nonviolent solutions to conflict and improve food security.
Each year 20 women in the capital city of Juba, South Sudan, participate in a six-month training program where they learn sewing, life skills and small business management skills with the hope of building a better future for themselves and their children.

How cool that the money I just donated to MCC was going to be part of a project to empower women, and teach someone how to sew?! And then the funny little connection to MCC's Ten Thousand Villages, following so quickly on the heels of that discovery.

In this endless winter on the prairies, these signs of resurrection and rebirth are particularly exciting.

And now, I must sew!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bags of Another Nature


I've resurrected my passport bag. It hasn't carried a passport since 1991, when a friend and I spent six weeks exploring Australia, sleeping in hostels, partying on beaches, and jumping off cranes.

It's been a while.

Twenty-one years since my husband and I travelled together. On Thursday, we'll give it another go, and celebrate our nearly 21 years together in Quito, Ecuador.

I didn't want to get a new bag, I wanted to carry my old one. The one with history.

So, I "be-raggled" it. (a brand new hippy version of "be-dazzling).

I patched some holes, added some signature touches- a stretch of ancient tape measure measuring 45 to 47.. the next few years of my life. A custom made button by my friend Lory, made out of home made shrinky dink, with the words "bags4darfur" stamped all over it. A salvage edge of fabric sent by Lettuce in England.

A few more patches on the back, and a tiny bit of needlework from a decaying leather glove that my friend Rosa gifted me many years ago.

I'm taking little bits of home and my friends with me when I go. I'm taking little pieces of history, and memories, and thoughts of my younger self as the explorer.

When I get back, it will be Good Friday. I'll have a day to find my head, and then I'll be presenting again. This time at Mitchell Community Church. I'll be like a preacher or something. I hope my papa will be proud.

I'll tell the story again about bags4darfur. The surprises, the redemptions, the miracles, the beautiful people. The hope, the faith, the energy to carry on. And I'll watch it all come to life again- it will remind me of another story we never tire of hearing- that ancient story of death and of resurrection.

So until then, au revior.


Thursday, February 21, 2013