So my dear friend recently pointed out that the previously shared logo must be a remnant from another time. It could not possibly have been designed in the past 10-15 years. And she was right! It turns out the logo and trademark “cover the earth” was first introduced by Sherwin Williams in 1905. It’s over 100 years old! So I guess there might be some sort of sentimental attachment to the logo. If only they kept it as authentic and harmlessly naive as it was in its original concept…there’s some kind of charm in those old school graphics.

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The Sewing Project

March 30, 2010

I’m afraid I have overly expensive taste when it comes to clothes. This is not because I’m a brand whore (in fact I try to find clothes that don’t come from major designers), but is instead because I love fabric… luxuriously soft textiles that I can never afford.

Then when I was home before Christmas, working my way through an overly ambitious list of handmade gifts, I made a trip to a fabric store with my Mom. We found the most beautiful burgundy herringbone wool, for the most outrageously on sale price! So we set out to make my first sewing project: a winter dress for the job interview I’d nail (eventually). The dress had a bit of everything basic: darts, a zipper, cap sleeves, and my Mom was a fantastic teacher. Its one of those skills she’s had forever (part of what inspired me to learn).

She made my Dance and Halloween costume every year. She would start the costumes at least a month before halloween, and I remember many a night of standing on a foot stool wearing pinned together paper, trusting her that this really was a princess costume I was wearing. Before us, she made business suits for herself as a young career woman… yes…blazers, jackets, skirts, blouses, the whole ordeal. Before Mom, my grandmother made all 4 of her daughters clothes for school. My mom was the youngest kid in small town Alliance to wear bell bottoms. When they first came into style her big sisters all had them, so she needed them too… and since bell bottoms weren’t made in her tiny size… Grandma stepped up. All in all, there is quite the history of sewing greatness to live up to. And while this is entirely inspiring, my desire to learn is driven by two simple goals:

1) to learn one seriously useful and money saving skill that will never be forgotten (much like riding a bike)

and 2) To start a wardrobe that I’ve seriously invested myself in. Because when you invest time and effort rather than money, you will undoubtedly appreciate and understand it all the more.

This is the most rewarding part. No seam is just a seam. Especially with these first few projects, every step marks a new skill learned. You equally appreciate the feats and the flaws; and wearing your own clothes instills both a sense of confidence and paranoia that you just don’t get from a store (this thing I’m wearing is 100% unique, but the seam might rip when I sit down). Its quite the adventure.

Oh and shopping… you thought clothes shopping was fun. Fabric shopping is truly addictive! Imagine shopping not only for the perfect item (which exists en mass  in your head), but for the ideal color and texture. You go to by fabric for one project, and inevitably discover your next three.

I’ve now completed 2 full projects (One with the leadership of my Mom) and I’m about to start number 3. Photos and stories to follow…

My yuppy sightings and Starbucks dramas have been lacking recently (probably because I’m now working rather than staring aimlessly out the living room window, alas). But Sunday morning made up for it, we got to witness the ultimate in yuppy impatience: a jittery coffee addict with a parking ticket.

It was about 9:30 am when Mr. Tweed jacket illegally parked his silver SUV in the usual spot, between the driveway to the alley and the side door to Starbucks. Usually these quick coffee park and runs go unnoticed (other than the pissed off truck driver blocked in the driveway, and the neighbours woken up his thundering horn). But today Mr. Tweed would not be so lucky: the parking officer was doing his rounds. After going in to get his morning fix, he returned to his vehicle and stopped suddenly upon finding a ticket on his windshield. Swelling with anger, his brown button coat began to burst open; he stormed back inside and pulled out an innocent young barista. Waving the ticket in her face he yelled on and on about how she personally cost him $50, “this coffee cost me 50 bucks! Why didn’t you warn me? Where’s the sign?” She quickly and casually responded by pointing upwards to the No-parking sign on the lamp-post. Meanwhile another Starbucks goer had just finished parking in the still illegal spot next to Mr. Tweed, and was heading into the coffee shop completely carefree of the scene taking place. Mr. Tweed continued to get louder, and headed back inside to find the Manager… desperate for someone who would listen to his temper tantrum.

Just as it got quiet, the parking officer conveniently sauntered out of the alley, pen and paper in hand. He wandered up to the newly parked vehicle and left a ticket on his windshield too. Mr. Tweed returned and took off in a wild rage, nearly slamming into oncoming traffic. The second customer came back out to his car and took up the ticket like it was an everyday affair… as if it were an extra charge for convenience. The parking officer was still around, handing out tickets, when a third customer pulled in. The officer turned him around explaining that this was a no-parking zone. The Van pulled out, disappeared until the officer was out of sight, then returned to the same spot.

All in all, the officer hit a jackpot for his monthly quota. Watch out yuppies…you can bet he’ll be back.

Streetcar Shorts

March 22, 2010

Riding the street car everyday, despite its relaxing and carefree nature, is generally anything but uplifting. It seems to bring out the worst in people: their selfish need to steal a seat, their ignorance towards those who need that seat more than they do, their herd mentality, and their apparent deafness that requires them to play their i-pod at some obnoxious volume. But, there is the odd time that I’m privileged to witness a truly heartfelt moment…

The other night Dave and I were boarding the streetcar on Queen Street around Leslieville. After having had a few drinks at a nearby Irish pub, I took the steps up somewhat…lets say…sloppily. Off falls one shoe, bouncing down the steps towards the closing doors. I sheepishly yelp towards the driver, “wait! my shoe….” The car goes silent and the driver holds the door as Dave climbs back down and retrieves the lonely black slipper. I stand awkwardly on one foot, center stage, awaiting my shoe. When Dave puts it before me I look up to a car full of truly concerned passengers. One hipster sitting in the second row grins and says, “I guess you found your prince charming!” How true…

It seems there are a few instances that can shake the everyday streetcar rider from their oblivious routine, igniting a shared sense of concern; I guess the potential loss of a pointy toed black flat is one of them.

One brisk day in January we went antique shopping in Hamilton, where by the way the prices are infinitely cheaper than Toronto. In our travels we found an awesome set of Pyrex bowls, one clunky metal lunch box (that we didn’t end up buying), a quirky yellow blown glass vase, and a “porceliron” kitchen table. Deciding that the table was classic and absolutely awesome (and a sweet deal) we swiped it up and took it away in the back seat of the car. After setting it up in our new apartment, I decided to climb under the table and do some research. And there was the stamp… “porceliron, sole manufacturer of porceliron, co. Frankfort, Indiana”. After some internet research, I dated my piece of wartime propaganda back to pre-1920.

When the US joined the war in 1917, Herbert Hoover became the head of the U.S. Food Administration and began to implement his campaign to conserve food. “Hooverizing” inspired new and old ways of providing food, recipes, and an overall outlook on the modern kitchen. The campaign encouraged vegetable gardens, and cutting back on meat. It boasted the slogan, “Food will win the War,” suggesting that housewives could make the difference right here at home. Today we might call a similar movement vegetarianism, but that would have been a terrifying term for a nation that prided itself in meat. So … the creative bunch ended up with delightful sounding recipes such as:

Mock Ham

from Helen Moore's 1918 cookbook titled, "Camouflage Cookery; a book of mock dishes"

Now, the table is related to this believe it or not. Food storage and efficient home cooking inspired kitchens that were resourceful, well stocked, compact workstations for the thrifty housewife. And out of New Castle, Indiana emerged the “Hoosier Cabinet”. It was an all-in-one storage and workstation that swept a nation of wartime homes. As it developed, the manufacturers went through a series of trial  countertops for the workstation. They started with wood; then seeking something more sanitary and durable, opted for zinc; and upon it being pronounced poisonous, joined forces with our beloved manufacturer out of Frankfort, Indiana. Porceliron is made of porceline enameled steel, and began to dominate the marketplace for not only Hoosier Cabinets, but kitchen tables and counters too. The tables were all the same; 4 square legs, a drawer on one side, and raised top edges to keep spills off the floor.

In a March 28, 1918 issue of “The Pittsburgh Press”, a porceliron topped table was selling for $4.98, an absolute steal sandwiched between ads for $5.00 “Smartly Trimmed Spring Hats” and “Sampeck” clothes for boys from $6.50 to $20.00. I’d say my $50.00 find was a bit of a rip off! “Over the Kitchen Table passes the family food and here if anywhere is the place for Sanitary Cleanliness”. Well spoken!

So here it is, our little piece of wartime history, bringing out the inner frugal cook in me…

Sketchbook 101

February 17, 2010

Just a peek into one of my recent Christmas projects…

The only thing more satisfying than keeping a sketchbook filled with your own thoughts and doodles, is keeping one that is yours inside and out. Last year, thanks to a friend who is tirelessly passionate about bookbinding, I learned how to hand bind sketchbooks. Then from a combination of her expertise, a few you tube videos, and my mother’s sewing finesse, I started Dave off with a set of personalized sketchbooks. The goal: to never have to buy another overpriced and ordinary sketchbook again.

row of hand bound sketchbooks

Here’s the idea: Each sketchbook is covered in basic millboard with a different colored binding (for filing purposes). They’re all made to fit in one removable cover I made out of a recycled old leather jacket. Thus, the leather is already worn, aged, and soft. The books are bound so that they open flat, and are the perfect size for sketching on your lap.