Kinda Like the 70’s

I have lots of great memories of the 1970’s. The clothes (well except for Fortrel, that stuff was nasty and don’t let anyone try and tell you otherwise) the cars, the television shows, the music… One of the great things that I loved about the 1970’s was how many fibre arts were in fashion then.

Knitting, embroidery, macrame, crochet, quilting, cross stitch, needlepoint and sewing were all common pastimes.

As a young girl I found inspiration in all things fibre.

I loved to sew and I loved the peasant style blouses that had hand embroidered necklines in bright colours and designs that spoke of rich ethnic connections. I loved knitting and crochet, cross stitch and spinning. I wanted to do it all. I drove my poor parents batty in my quest to understand how it was all done and to try it all. I had a passionate drive to get to the bottom of every process. Once I was convinced I had grasped it I dove into the next challenge with a single minded fervor that simply could not be quelled. I absolutely thirsted for it!

I can hear my parents complain that I never settled into any one thing. In a way they were right.

I settled into two things: music and fibres. Everything I loved most involved those two things.

I still love all that stuff today. It just sucks that there are only 24 hours in a day. There are choices that have to be made in order to be able to enjoy the experiences I love and keep the bills paid and keep up with all that other stuff adults have the privilege of being responsible for.

Many of the skills and passions I nurtured and developed throughout my life have become all but lost arts. There was a time when sewing was considered a vital life skill. They don’t teach it in school here any more. What passes for an introduction to sewing is, shamefully, barely a glance in the direction of a sewing machine. I suppose I should be grateful, since that means my skills are actually valued now. My business relies on people wanting their items fixed but being unable (or unwilling) to do it themselves.

And yet I see and feel a resurgence of those beautiful practical activities.

The fibre arts are making a comeback in a big way.

I couldn’t be happier. And it’s exciting to see the growth of it all.

I love it when people come to my store and tell me they are just learning a fibre art. It’s exciting and I am thrilled that I have the privilege and opportunity to share my extensive experience and knowledge with them. I want to do what I can to help them to have the kind of experience that will make them want to grow, nurture and sustain these interests too.

I have been responding to this shift by expanding my selection in the store to greet the need. Little by little, what I carry is reflecting how public interest in fibre arts is growing.

It’s exciting!

It’s flint to a fire; it makes me want to embroider and cross stitch again. Perhaps it’s time for me to plan out some beginner classes to teach these methods and be the spark that ignites a passion for fibre arts in a whole new generation; even if only a few people at a time.

There are so many things now that are reminiscent of the 1970’s. The “neo-hippies” share many of the same desires of the hippies from back then, but they have so much more at their fingertips than folks did back then. There is an idealistic spirit that has persevered all along that I can relate to. Today’s hippie-leaning folk have incredible technology at their fingertips. Yet there is still the desire for simplicity, practicality, accountability and sustainability that I remember and hold dear.

I try to keep up with what’s going on, but I have to be honest. As much as I love technology, I find that the pace of change of it has begun to feel like a rat-race to me. The shifting trends can start to feel excessive and superfluous. Don’t get me wrong. I love that social media and the internet have allowed regular people like me to have this kind of platform to connect with others (many of whom we will never meet in person). As the context of our lives changes along with our new technologies it’s easy to feel out of touch with it all. It’s interesting to me, to see how differently the newer generations are with technology. It is such a natural thing to them and they don’t even realize it. The marketplace is changing. How we do business is changing. Business models that were in place since the industrial revolution are disappearing completely. Back in the 70’s there was no internet. Computers took up the entire floor of a building. If you phoned a friend and they were not home, you couldn’t leave a message for them and they had no way of knowing you had called. Back then, you could tell someone you called them 10 times without an answer and no one would know if you were exaggerating or not. LOL

In this fast-paced and ever changing world, when I find myself frustrated with all the intangibles that I have to try and keep up with, I know I can count on my wonderful fibres. (In the back of my mind, I know and I’m truly grateful that I can login to Ravelry to find patterns.)

But, I can pick up my knitting and it will be there like a solid friend. The knits will be knits. The purls will be purls. My embroidery thread will always be 6 strands thick in an exquisite rainbow of blissful colours.

And I can pick up my fibre arts project and escape to the “touch-it, feel-it” things that have remained kinda like the 70’s.

Happy Crafting

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No Resolutions Here!

Last year I confessed myself to be a bit of a New Year’s Resolution Scrooge. That hasn’t changed. So you won’t find any resolutions or lists of major life-changing goals here; I’m not gonna do it. Lately, I’ve noticed a number of articles about other people’s frustration with this particular New Year’s tradition. Just because I don’t subscribe to the tradition doesn’t mean that I’m not looking for ways to grow or be happier in my life. Over many years, I have found ways to make growing a regular part of my every day life… not just a “Hey, it’s January. I guess I should make a list of what’s wrong with me and my life so I can pretend that it’s a manageable task to fix all that stuff this year.” Ugh. Yeah, that’s really healthy and helpful… NOT! What a horrible and degrading way to think. Sheesh! Life is challenging enough without that kind of self-abuse.

Recently a friend and I were talking about what a mixed bag life can be.

On the one hand, it can be a bit of a meat grinder. On the other hand it can be beautiful and blissful and wondrous… and it can be a whole lot of in-between stuff too.

To deny the “meat grinder” aspect of life, to me is to live in an illusion. But just because life can throw a lot of really tough, horrible stuff in our path doesn’t mean we have to be sucked into a permanent vortex of negativity over it. And I think we all know that it’s really easy to get sucked into a vortex of negativity when things are rough. It feels terrible being in that place. It can be really difficult to pull ourselves out of it when we land there. The longer we wallow in it, the harder it feels to get up and out of it.

As we talked, we reflected on how important it is to be able to find ways to stay steady when challenges are threatening to pull us under. Each of us has our little tricks to help us remember what really matters in our lives. And the strong thread that wove its way through the entire conversation was that when you get down to it the only thing that really matters is Love.

What matters is the capital “L” Love that allows us to have meaningful relations and to see the foot of snow that fell overnight, and feel the wonder of nature’s indescribable beauty as we pick up the shovel and make a path to the car… and let it be okay that we don’t particularly like shoveling a foot of heavy snow. Let it be okay that in that moment we feel what we feel. There’s no need to judge that the thought of shoveling all of that might make me feel frustrated or angry. It’s even okay if some of that shoveling includes some serious grumpiness. The thing about is that once the initial feelings have their say, it becomes a choice about whether to dive into the vortex, or to take a breath and switch it up for something that feels better.

My friend and I are both small business owners.

Both businesses combine services and retail. So a lot of our conversation centered around the challenges and stresses of running a business. Winter is our busy season here so we are in the thick of it now. It’s so easy to be in a highly stressed state all the time, if we aren’t careful. The jobs have deadlines that need to be met; the work has to meet an appropriate standard. As much as most customers are lovely and recognize the value of the services we provide, there will always be some who want something, right now, for nothing and/or insist on being rude. There will always be those who don’t comprehend the costs of running a business (mental, emotional, physical and financial). Bills need to be paid, payroll has to be met. If staff members make mistakes, the business has to absorb the cost of those mistakes. It’s easy to get run ragged and it’s easy to live in a constant state of high stress.

So what to do?

Meh, life can be messy. In my experience all you can do is feel what you feel, remember to breathe and do your best to take a step back any time you start to feel off balance… And let being human be okay. It’s okay that we get angry or frustrated. It’s okay that some days are a circus of stress. I think that being able to catch myself when I start judging my reactions makes a big difference. When I can notice what I’m feeling and know that it’s okay to feel that, it helps to be able to get my sights back into a healthy perspective. I can take a breath, close my eyes and remember how good it feels to fill myself up with Love. The thing is to be deliberate. You can’t really be deliberate if you are running on auto-pilot. It means I can choose to reset my day. The less I get caught up in judging myself and those around me or the situation rather than simply assessing and adjusting my course accordingly, the smoother things tend to be. The more relaxed I can be, the better things flow and the happier I am.

The journey continues. No resolutions are necessary to keep placing one foot in front of the other. My philosophy is: when in doubt, infuse a little Love and do your best to be kind to yourself first. When you do that, it’s easy to be kind to others, whether or not they are returning that kindness.

Happy New Year!

I sincerely wish you all the very best that being human has to offer as we embark into 2019.

 

 

Advent: The Season of Anticipation

Most people are familiar with Advent Calendars that count down the days from December 1st to Christmas. The colourful cardboard calendars that hide a wee piece of chocolate behind each of 24 tiny doors have been a staple for holiday seasons for at least as long as I’ve been alive.  Advent wreaths and Advent Calendars build up anticipation over the holiday season.

Many people don’t actually know what Advent is. To give a little bit of context: In the Christian tradition, Advent is the season preceding Christmas. It is a time of preparation and anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. It was the time when the wise men followed the signs in the stars and traveled to where they would find the infant that embodied hope, new beginnings, light and love for humanity. It begins 4 Sundays before Christmas.

Each of those four Sundays has a theme: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

When you see Advent wreaths with four candles, this is what those candles signify.

I grew up in a German immigrant family and the Advent wreath was a part of our Christmas tradition. My parents didn’t actually talk about the significance of those candles… or if they did, I was definitely not listening. All I knew was that each week on Sunday morning, the candle for that week was lit along with the ones from previous weeks until they were all alight. I may not have really understood the symbolism or spiritual significance of it, but it definitely built up my anticipation for Christmas. My father expressed his artistry and creativity through a variety of Advent “wreaths”. Anticipating what new design he would come up with was part of the fun of the season for me.

Over the past few years, thanks to social media, I have seen many different incarnations of the Advent Wreath and Calendar. Each one has had a theme and the themes have been vastly varied. Not only are the calendars themselves varied but what people put in them is as well. From fine hand-made chocolates to trinkets to craft beers or local wines, every time I see a new one it makes me smile.

Every year when I see what people have done with this tradition it makes me want to make one too. Of course, by the time it’s on my radar, I don’t have time to actually pull it off without way more stress than I want associated with it. So much for planning! LOL! And every time I see a blog post where someone shows off their hand made Advent wreath or calendar, I find myself cheering for them. Cheering on their design, their creativity and their determination and perseverance. I have lost count of the number of times I have thought about making one and then decided not to.

And once you make the calendar… well… you have to fill it with something. Oh MY! That has the potential to become outrageously expensive!

And my point with all of this? Advent is about anticipation. You don’t have to break the bank to build anticipation. Hey, if you want to spend a whole bunch of money, I won’t stand in your way. All the power to you! There is absolutely no shame in spending money for the holiday season. That having been said, I most definitely advocate staying within your financial means. Heaven knows it’s easy to get carried away at this time of year.

I find that I really want to deliberately mark the Advent season in some way every year.

Perhaps it’s because it was a tradition in my childhood. Hope is the first theme of Advent. Hope is a profoundly amazing thing. No matter how tough things might get, the tiniest bit of hope is all we need to keep us going, keep us fighting and working our way out of whatever darkness we may find ourselves in. Let’s face it, I don’t care who you are, we all experience hardship in one way or another.

Not one of us is immune to suffering!

Hope is that light at the end of the tunnel that keeps us placing one foot in front of the other despite the despair that may fill us at times. That hope may come from the simplest of things, like having someone look directly into our eyes and smile at us from their heart. There is no way to know what another person is going through. What does it take to make eye contact with another person and smile? It takes nothing… and it feels good. I guess what I’m saying is I want to be a vehicle for hope. I want to notice when someone seems down. I don’t want or need to “fix” anyone. But I can notice them and recognize their humanity, recognize that they are suffering in some way.

I can offer them a smile from my heart.

Not out of pity, but out of solidarity: human to human! I can acknowledge their existence and my own. Goodness knows there have been times in my life when one smile gave me the hope I needed to not give up.

I want Christmas to heighten those things that I find most meaningful in my life. I know that like all those years before, I am not going to pull off a fancy Advent calendar this year. I really love the Advent season. I love everything about it. There is a part of me, a wide-eyed, wonder-filled little girl, deep inside me, that wants that sparkling anticipation every year. And often, I must admit, I leave her wanting. This year, I am starting off my Advent season by decorating my store. And there will be knitting… lots of knitting!

Happy Knitting!

 

Reframing Gift-Giving

Ads, ads and more ads… do you get as tired of them as I do?

As a business owner providing both services and retail products, I recognize that advertising is a very important piece of finding and informing the people who may want your products or services. We all need to make a living, after all. And yet everywhere we turn these days, we are hit with a barrage of ads. And it seems to me that it ramps up even more once anticipation of the holiday season begins.

As we approach the holiday season, I find myself feeling quite irritated by all the junk being advertised as gifts. You know what I mean? The stuff that only sells because it’s weird and will get a laugh (before being tossed in the garbage along with its packaging), or the stuff that sells because people want to look cool or be on the cutting edge.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve been contemplating. When I’m asked what I would like for Christmas (or my birthday), I always feel at a bit of a loss to come up with anything because I have all the “stuff” I actually need.

What I really want is time and the opportunity to spend unrushed time with the people I love.

I want to laugh with them. I want to enjoy home-cooked meals with them or go for walks and enjoy the scenery in this amazing part of the world. I want to feel connected with them. I don’t need them to spend money on me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive gifts as much as anyone. And I love the way it feels to know that they have spent precious time and energy to make me something. It’s a very clear message that illuminates just how much they love me. How wonderful is that?

I was reminiscing about past holiday seasons and remembering how varied they have been for me. There were years when it was all I could do to pay the rent and still have enough money to feed myself. I remember feeling a tremendous degree of shame in those years when I simply couldn’t give material gifts. The commercialization of the holiday season persistently and insidiously plants and builds an unconscious (or subconscious) sense that we must purchase items to give as gifts… and not just to loved ones but to teachers and co-workers and bosses and the check-out lady at the grocery store.

No wonder I found myself feeling overwhelmed with shame in those years when I had no money to spare for gift giving.

It’s so easy to get carried away and overspend in a way that puts us behind the 8-ball when the new year settles in. I’ve definitely fallen into that trap and paid the price!

I still really wanted to give my loved ones gifts, so I made up coupon books and each coupon could be redeemed for some service that I could provide. For instance, “this coupon can be redeemed for a kitchen cleaning”. When that person called in the coupon, I would go to their house and clean their kitchen for them. I gifted “tea party” coupons and “walk in the country” coupons, “pedicure” coupons and “car wash” coupons. People didn’t always cash those coupons in, but when they did, I was delighted.

Years ago, after my mom passed away we were doing some organizing of her things. I needed a small pair of scissors and looked through the drawers of her sewing cabinet and found one of the coupon books I had given her.

She had saved it all those years.

It’s funny, at first I felt bad that she hadn’t redeemed any of them. Yet she had kept that coupon booklet, and she kept it with things that (before her dementia was too severe to allow it) she used every day. That left me feeling deeply touched. She didn’t need anything from me. She just wanted to be reminded that I loved her. I like to think that my little coupon book shouted, “I love you Mommy!” every time she opened that drawer to get her scissors out. (And yes, I called her “Mommy” right up until she passed away.)

In other lean years, I would go to the thrift shop on $1/bag sale days (that was a few years ago… LOL) and look for items made of really interesting fabric. I’d carefully choose things that I could transform into new and useful items. A dated leather coat could become a beautiful purse; a several decades old fur coat could become a teddy bear. I often found remnants of new fabric, bundles of lace and other trim. I always went primed to be creative and think outside the box. I always found interesting things that had the potential to be transformed.

One of the things I love about Revelstoke is that our community embraces earth-friendly practices. Re-pair, re-purpose, re-use, re-cycle… in Re-velstoke. My business couldn’t exist without people who want to avoid throwing things away just because they are slightly damaged. Repairing clothing and gear is a huge part of what my shop offers our community. I love to see people purchasing items at the thrift shop and cutting them up and transforming them into something completely different.

I love that. I love the creativity and ingenuity that goes into that process.

It’s fun when customers bring their projects in to show me. It’s inspiring.

Like most people, I want my holiday season to be meaningful. If I’m going to give gifts it’s going to be done within my financial means and it will be because I want to express my love for those people dearest to me. And hey, I’m happy for any excuse to bake and knit! I’m all for less stress during the holiday season. I’ll be in a lovely state of Zen, knitting under a blanket in my comfy chair as the snow falls outside.

Happy Knitting!

So Many Ideas…

I am blessed to know a lot of very creative people. It comes with the territory considering that I run a yarn/sewing shop. One of the realities of being a creative person is that there are always a lot of ideas, inspirations and goals to strive to manifest. There are new skills to acquire and develop too! And on top of all those luscious projects, you still have to make your way through the mundane day to day responsibilities too. At the risk of sounding cliche, there are only so many hours in a day.

As a creative person, with a broad spectrum of interests, I do sometimes find myself feeling frustrated that I can’t pack more amazing things into each day and still manage to eat, work, sleep and keep up with a basic level of housekeeping. I already pack my days pretty full. As winter settles in and November firmly plants itself I find that I have to be careful not to let myself get overwhelmed when I start thinking about all the things I would really like to do before the holiday season arrives.

Winter is a very busy time in the store, between the sewing repairs, the yarn sales, making sure my stock levels are where they need to be, providing a high level of service and making sure that my paperwork gets done, it is a lot to do. I love it, don’t get me wrong; it’s fantastic. It makes for a full and rewarding life! In the evenings, I like to be able to knit as I curl up in front of the TV with my DH. Some nights, I have to be honest, I am simply too tired to knit.

Every day, I am surrounded by all the beautiful yarns that I sell in my store. I am the one that orders all the patterns and pattern books. There are so many stunning possibilities, so many potential projects. I imagine mittens, socks, hats, cowls, sweaters, cardigans and more. It can be a challenge to rein all that in. And like most knitters, I have a number of projects on my needles, patiently waiting to be completed.

In January, I started my 2018 Ravelry Challenge and set a goal to finish 20 projects this year.

You know, I have already completed 27. And I wasn’t rushing them. Well, maybe the Tour-de-sock socks were a little rushed… but the other items were definitely not rushed. I completed them mostly in the evenings in front of the television in the company of my husband and cat. Some of them progressed on Saturdays in the company of other local knitters who came to my shop to knit. Some of them on lazy Sundays when I just wanted to ignore the rest of the world and indulge in the zen of my knitting in my cozy chair.

Every one of those projects was a visceral and sensual outlet for my creativity. Fibre arts is amazing that way.

It’s such a tactile “pastime”. (Or should I say obsession?) The colours and patterns are a feast for the eye. The textures of the materials are sheer bliss to me. My friend would grin, with sparkling eyes and insist, “Orgasmic!” Yeah, some of them really are. And to take a ball of spun fibres a couple of pointy sticks and a bunch of hieroglyphics on a page and turn that into something wearable… yeah, now that is a pretty amazing experience. To do it again and again… what a privilege.

As much as the typical stresses of life can get to me, I am so grateful to live this life. I’m grateful that I am able to run a little shop. I love that I can provide the sewing services that I do; that our little town has the demand for those services! I love that I can surround myself with glorious colours and textures of yarns. Most of all I love that I get to interact with other amazing and creative individuals who share my passion for fibre arts.

I am learning that it’s okay to take each day as it comes.

Some days fly by and fill themselves up, with complete disregard to the things I thought I was going to do. I have my lists of what must be accomplished and the deadlines that apply to those tasks. And I do my best to navigate, filling a lull with a quick job off the rack, or perhaps a single round of knitting… or even a quiet moment to savour a well earned cup of coffee. I am learning that it’s a waste of energy to beat myself up if a day doesn’t go the way I thought it should; to let go of expectations that really don’t mean anything to anyone but me. Some days I’m more successful in that than other days. And when I give myself permission to allow the days to flow, somehow everything manages to get done in time. Not only that, but I enjoy those days so much more, even if they are very full.

As the moments of pre-holiday season panic shiver through me, I am determined to take a long deep breath and let those feelings simply dissolve. I am making a list of the items that would be nice to get done for those closest to me. But I am determined to keep my knitting blissful. I am absolutely determined to keep my knitting time sacred. It’s important to me that I don’t make it start to feel pressured or like “work”. My goal is to infuse my love of fibres and knitting into each project for each of the people I make something for. And I’m confident that when they wear those items I made for them, they will feel the love I poured into them. I refuse to allow my own expectations rob me of the joy that knitting brings me. I invite you to join me!

Happy Knitting!

Gearing up for Winter: New Products

Every day as I fill in work orders, I look at the calendar. I am surprised (though I shouldn’t be) at how quickly October is disappearing.

The snow is creeping its way down the mountain and there is a definite chill in the air. In my store, I’ve been busy stocking up on the products that I know my customers will be looking for, what with cold weather coming on.

It’s always exciting to see new things. As I do every year at this time, I find myself either feeling really excited about the new things I’m bringing in or hyperventilating about the cost of doing so. I just never know for sure whether customers will be as excited about the new things as I am. I’m pretty sure it will be worth it, though.

So, here’s what I’m really excited about.

Estelle Chunky Yarn

estelle worsted and chunky

I’m being either brave or insane, but I am bringing in the entire colour line of this amazing, gorgeous, super-soft yarn. I initially brought it in only in the heathered colours by special request for a customer who wanted to make a Chunky Fair Isle sweater. When it came in, we both went crazy for how exquisite this yarn is. With the taxes in, it’s a $10 bill per 100g skein. You just can’t beat that price. It’s a blend of wool, acrylic and nylon; an excellent combination for long wearing and easy care.

47 colours, my friends! I’m STOKED!

Estelle Worsted Yarn

Okay, all those things I just said about the Chunky apply here but in worsted weight. I’m bringing in 40 colours of this one as well. These are set for a ship date of November 1st. (Keep breathing, Judy!)

Estelle Bulky Yarn

This one, I only ordered in Hudson’s Bay colours. I feel blankets coming on!

King Cole Big Value Baby DK

40 colours of this lovely yarn as well. I don’t remember specifically where the price point lands on this, but it will make customers happy!

King Cole Comfort Kids DK

I just brought a few colours of this one in. It’s already here. So soft, such an excellent value and lovely colours. I brought in a few solids to go with the multi colourways as well.

King Cole Drifter DK for Baby

this one is really cool. The colours are a little more sophisticated. It gives a sort of Fair Isle effect. The balls are 100g.

Rico Creative Bubble

SCRUBBY YARN! This is the actual yarn for making scrubbies for doing your dishes. How cool is that?! I have 3 colours on hand right now, the others are on back-order. They will get here when they get here. I brought in a pattern for pot scrubbers that look like emoticons. I also have a pattern on order to make scrubbies that look like watermelon slices. Too cute!

Black Cat Custom Yarn

I’m bringing in a selection of both their sock weight and their “Let’s Get Worsted” (British Columbia dyed) yarns. If you know and love Malabrigo yarn, you will adore Black Cat Custom Yarn! I can hardly wait!

I ordered other new yarns, but they get to be a surprise. 😀

Nostepinnes

Now, other new things include Nostepinnes. Noste-whosie-whatties, you say? Nostepinnes. These are beautiful turned wooden tools that originate (from what I’ve been able to gather) in Norway. You use them to hand wind yarn in such a way that it gives you a centre pull ball. Here is a link to how you do it. I haven’t had a chance to try one out yet, but I will.

Needle Keeper

Next up on the new items list is the “Needle Keeper”. If you knit with circular needles, you need this amazing little gizmo. I don’t believe I ever lived without it. It protects your needle tips and connections from breakage while also preventing stitches from falling off the needles. They also help to keep your knitting bag tidier. Your needles won’t get tangled with all the other stuff in your bag. If your cat likes to chew on your wooden or bamboo needle tips, you can foil their evil plans with a Needle Keeper! There’s no way your cat will chew through this puppy! This is my favourite new thing. Here is a link to the video that the inventor has up on YouTube:

DPN Tubes

Another cool product along the lines of the Needle Keeper is Knitter’s Pride’s DPN Tubes. These do for double point needles (DPN’s) what the Needle Keeper does for circular needles. I found a review of this product. Here’s the link:

Eucalan

After all the endless hours of knitting or crocheting your beautiful garments with exquisite yarns, you need to be able to take care of them. Eucalan makes a lovely rinse-free wash for delicates. I brought in 4 scents of this in 500ml bottles: Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender and Natural. If there is enough demand, I’ll bring in jugs to allow us to refill your containers. A little bit of this product goes a long way. It contains lanolin, which acts as a fibre conditioner and keeps your items soft and lovely. Here is a link to Eucalan’s demo of the product.

With all these new products coming in, I guess I’d better get busy rearranging the store!

Happy Knitting!

Creative Outlets: Hallowe’en!

The leaves are falling, a nip is in the air, frost greets us in the mornings and the countdown to Hallowe’en has begun.

Whatever anyone’s personal view of Hallowe’en might be, it has become an excellent opportunity to express creativity. Whether through costumes, decorations or parties I love to see people’s creativity shine at this time of year.

When my kids were small, I liked to make them costumes for Hallowe’en. Of course in our region, it’s very cold on Hallowe’en. So their costumes needed to be inherently warm or fit over a winter coat. As a performer and costume designer, I love any excuse to dress up in a costume. In a world that can be heavy and demanding, I firmly believe that we should take every appropriate opportunity we can to have some silly and lighthearted fun.

You don’t have to be able to sew to come up with a costume. Sure, if you want something elaborate, it helps. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money. It does help to give yourself a bit of time to come up with something. What you really need is a sense of humour and some creativity.

The thrift shop is a fantastic place to start.

  1. It’s best to make a few trips. The cool thing about thrift shops is that the stuff there is constantly changing.
  2. Watch for anything unusual. Perhaps a hat, a coat in an out of the ordinary colour, something that you could use as a prop to imply a character…
  3. Don’t let it pass you by! Because thrift shops have a quick turnover, if you see something unusual or cool, buy it! Go with cash and be prepared to grab the items that make you stop in your tracks. You might not use them this year, but if you leave them and think they’ll be there when you go back, you will be disappointed. If you think it’s cool for a potential costume, someone else likely will too.
  4. Let the unusual get your creative juices flowing. You need to give yourself permission to get out of your normal head space in regard to the clothes you see at the thrift shop.
  5. Think outside the box. A giant coat that would fit more than one of you might be worn over a backpack to create the impression of a hunchback. A bright red child’s coat might need some small black pompoms hot glued on it. Pair it with black pants or leggings and a black toque (beanie for non-Canadians) and you have a Ladybug costume.
  6. Don’t be afraid to cut things up. Don’t be afraid to reimagine what you see. A coat with a wild looking lining? Turn it inside out and be a Wild Thing!

Sometimes it’s worth it to purchase an inspiration piece.

  1. An inspiration piece in this context is something that evokes a character or an era.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of a hat. A hat can transform normal clothes into a costume. Put on a suit you already own and add a fedora, a pencil thin mustache and a cane… Presto, you are suddenly from a whole other era. A distressed bowler hat? Get some grubby old work clothes in shades of brown and suddenly you might be a railway labourer from the 1880’s. A cowboy hat, a hard hat, a helmet, a bee keeper’s veil, a welder’s cap, a newsboy cap… you get the idea.
  3. Props can also give the impression of a character. They can inspire a complete outfit. Of course if you have to carry that prop around in your hands it will make it difficult to do other things. Oh, and I don’t recommend using a real Katana as a prop. Most venues frown on patrons carrying edged weapons in their establishments. And children with weapons…. hmmm… not a good idea. Costume shops often carry plastic swords and other interesting items that can act as your inspiration for a costume.
  4. A wig can transform you. Enough said.
  5. If you have any consignment shops in your area, these are another great place to look for inspiration pieces. You may have to pay up a little for an inspiration piece. However, it may mean that you can pull the rest of the costume together with items you already own.

Recycle, Repurpose and all that Jazz…

  1. It’s amazing what you can do with some cardboard, tape and spray paint.
  2. Throughout the year, keep an eye out for unusual items that could be used to make a costume. Old bleach jugs with the ends cut out could become the arms of a space suit. They can even fit over the sleeves of a winter coat you picked up at the thrift shop. Spray paint the whole thing silver? Tadah!
  3. Check out You-Tube videos of Cosplayers for inspiration in this regard. Cosplayers are genius when it comes to transforming what most people consider garbage/recycling into brilliant costumes. Use the words  “hacks” in your search. That will generally bring up cool work-arounds and creative (and inexpensive) suggestions. If you are not familiar with Cosplay, be prepared to see pictures of people dressed up as cartoon or video game characters. Many of the female costumes are based on Anime and can be rather revealing. So, your search will bring up these images. If you are looking for ideas for little kids, maybe do that search after they go to bed.

Make it up…

A little makeup goes a long way to imply your character. There are lots of costume make-up tutorials on You Tube.

Put it all together and you’ll be on your way in a great costume. And bottom line, it’s about giving yourself permission to be playful in a world that generally expects us to be anything but. Have fun!

Happy Making!