Personal Projects

Being home has given me a lot of time to work on projects I’ve been putting off for years and starting new ones I had never thought off. My parents and I went through and cleaned out the winter clothes in the basement. One thing we brought out were legwarmers my Grandma Marion had crocheted for my mom during the 80s. Since no one in the family uses legwarmers anymore they have been stored in the basement for my entire life. We were trying to clean out the basement and get rid of unneeded things but we couldn’t part with something Grandma Marion had made so I decided to hand-stitch them together into a lap blanket. I left the ends open so you can warm your hands or store things. They were interesting to finagle to fit together but I like out it turned out. I haven’t really done much hand-sewing before but this was a good project to start with as it was very forgiving for uneven stitches.  I like that the edges are uneven because of the different legwarmer lengths. I feel its very folksy and the colors are wild. My Aunt Marcie let me go through her yarn to find a skein I liked. I decided on a sea-foam green to pop against the primarily warm colors of the legwarmers. We also found some socks Grandma Marion had crocheted but Mom wouldn’t let me have them because she was going to start wearing them again. I think it was the right choice because I really like how just the stripes turned out and adding socks in may have made it too busy. It was a family project and I am really pleased with the blanket. It is very warm. A friend suggested I make more of these to sell but I think finding enough handmade legwarmers would be impossible. Plus I like this to be one of a kind.


This poor blog has been neglected for so long. I have many people who have committed to participating but as ever spring and summer is an incredibly busy time for grad students and researchers. It is important to me that participating in the blog does not add stress to an already very stressed demographic so I try not to be too pushy. That being said I will remind you every six months forever: Martin, Tegan, Tricia, Heidi, Bethany, Cecile, Mafer, both Jessicas. Foreeevvveeeeerrrrrrrr.

It has been strange since finishing my Master’s thesis in May. I have been searching for a PhD position since then and working on papers from my thesis. I do not know exactly what I expected but I imagined after I moved back to Alaska, got settled, spent some time with my family that I would find the ideal PhD position quickly and have a clear direction for what I’m going to be doing this coming year. Understandably things never happen that smoothly and I have not yet found my PhD position. I was bemoaning to my dad that I’m not used to searching so hard for the right spot and he pointed out how selective my memory is of the convoluted journey to find my Master’s project.


What I am having trouble with is that my interests (environmental governance, environmental access, community wellbeing, and environmental policy development) are studied in different departments or identified with different keywords in different universities or countries. This makes it harder to search for PhD positions because I have to cycle through different search options to try to get as many hits as possible, sort of like doing a literature review. I am also creating a challenge for myself because my research interests are diverse and I am flexible in what I study that I prevent myself from narrowing down my PhD search. It is really just going to take time to find the correct spot but also it is such an important decision. A PhD is a major commitment and I need to find a project I’m interested with a major professor who I click with in an area where I want to live. I feel like I did when I was trying to decide where to go to school for my undergraduate, at a point where the decision I make will have a clear and direct impact on the direction of the rest of my life. If I choose incorrectly I could miss out on wonderful opportunities and relationships but it will be impossible to know so I really should not be worrying about it. Still, I feel a fundamental part of being human is the ability to worry so I am exerting my humanity to its fullest.

Just before I moved back to Alaska I read an article about Swedish Death Cleaning. (Insert joke about a Swedish death metal band that also runs a cleaning service) The basic idea, from my very basic understanding, is that clutter is an unnecessary stressor and removing it results in a better quality of life. Additionally, it benefits the friends and family you leave behind because they do not have as many possessions to sort through and part with. My mom and aunts have many possessions of my Grandmother that they don’t particularly like but feel obliged to hold onto because the objects were hers and were important to her. This is a problem because my Grandma Marion was a collector and all her daughters are collectors. I predict her grandchildren are going to be left with a large quantity of precious belongings when our parents die and not know what to do with them. I am trying to encourage my mother to pare down her collections while I am home, not because I expect her to die soon, but because some of the objects she does not even enjoy so what is the point in keeping them? Also she is saving some things for my sister and I and our “children” but what if we don’t want these things and what if we never have children? It is positive and smart to plan for the future and to save things you might need someday but it seems to be a slippery slope towards imagining multiple future lives and trying to predict and prepare for every outcome.

I am also going to start decluttering my possessions. I cannot talk to my family about getting rid of their possessions if I do not do the same. Plus, I truly own too much stuff. I still own clothing from middle school (~15 year ago) and I keep reminding myself that just because something might have a use someday does not mean I need to hold onto it for a decade or two. I’ve also come to the startling realization that just because I read a book once and enjoyed it does not mean I have to keep it for the rest of my life. I’ve decided that if the book was not formative or if I have no plans to read it again or if it would not be useful in the future than it has to go. When I first moved back home I sorted through and organized my closest. I feel lighter for it and plan to do it a few more times to slowly work down my amount of clothing. Apart from clothes and books the main burden of my possessions are art supplies. I have 6 large plastic chests filled full of fabric, not to count the polymer clay supplies and my stamp making tools.

June Ann and Lyle quilt

Part of my downsizing is not buying any new fabric other than fabric (backing or batting) needed to finish a project. My goal is to use up the insane amount I have, which is taking up substantial real-estate in my parent’s basement. I have six large plastic trunks stuffed full of fabric, most I do not even remember where it came from. Some was from my Grandma Shirley’s stash when she moved into her apartment, some I got at garage sales, some I got from my mom, and so I have not bought any new fabric in 8 months (some has been given to me) and it feels really good. It has been forcing me to be more creative and flexible with my color choices and has been a fun challenge. Though to be honest I have so much fabric that at this point I am spoiled for choice. A project that has really gone through a lot of fabric is making Christmas stockings. It’s been a lot of fun because I do not have to invest weeks into a single project and can make several in a day. I’m excited to give them away to friends and family.


Due to being more free with color choices I have also become more free with piecing and patterns. The technique called “free piecing” where it is as described, you are free with piecing. You do not measure the fabric, or plan the quilt, or even use a ruler to cut a straight line, you just grab strips of fabric and sew. It is very liberating and fun. The quilts turn out very wacky and I am always very happy with them. Though they are not for everyone. Some friends need quilts with coordinated colors and straight lines and some friends need quilts with none of those things. When I choose a pattern and colors for a quilt I take into consideration the personality and characteristics of the person receiving the quilt. I’ve never been able to make a quilt without knowing who it is for, I find it very confusing to try to make a quilt and not to have that direction. That’s also why I do not like to repeat quilt patterns, it feels untrue to the first quilt and the person who received it. My philosophy around quilting and the gifting of quilts is surprisingly complicated not that I’ve sat down and thought about it. Maybe that’s why I enjoy free piecing so much, I can turn off my brain.


I have really enjoyed all the sewing I have been able to do and time I’ve been able to spend with my family while I am searching for a PhD position but I am ready to know what’s next for my life. 9/2/2018


While I have fallen behind updating my blog to the determent of my large number of readers, it has come as a signal of my thesis progress. I have had an incredibly productive month (January, 2018) and I’m really pleased with the direction of my thesis. I will be finished in May, 2018 (*knock on wood) and I have started to look for PhD opportunities or internships. It’s a lot of fun but a little overwhelming because whatever decision I make could impact the direction of my entire life. However, I suppose that could be said about any decision. Since I plan to be leaving Saskatoon I have made a rule about not buying any more art supplies. I have to use up what I have and give things away because I am going to have to ship everything I don’t use to Alaska or wherever I end up. It has been fun, it has forced me to be creative and to break from my usual mold of using black as a statement color. Also most of the fabric I have is very neutral earth-tones so I am moving away from my usual unicorn rainbow vomit aesthetic. (The quilts I made for Alexa and Vito and Grandma Shirley are the exception not the norm.) I am currently using up my scraps and doing “made” fabric, sewing a bunch of scraps together to make single piece of fabric and then treating that fabric as a single entity and cutting it up to incorporate into a quilt. I somehow have managed to find a way to make quilting more laborious. Still, it feels good to use up my scraps and after a productive day of writing to have a productive evening of sewing. 1/30/18

cordie quilt

The quilt I made for Cordelia, the daughter of my major prof. Phil and his wife and amazing person Alysa. I gave it to her in June-July, 2017. It was a fun and bright quilt that I felt really fit Cordie’s personality but I am not going to make a quilt with such small squares again for a very long time.


The quilt I made for my Aunt Marcie (right in the right photo) for Christmas 2017. The quilt has been waiting for her for a while. It was quilted a while ago but I was not home to add the binding before this past Christmas break. She really loves it and her granddaughter Joslyn (in the left photo) asked to sleep under it the first night. My mom (Melanie, left in the right photo) chose out the fabric and the quilt pattern. I think she also chose the quilting design, she was really the mastermind of this project. It was a hit and I am very pleased. However. I do have other relatives mentioning they have not received a quilt yet so there is still more to do.

Alexa and Vito's quilt

A quilt celebrating my sister and her fiancee’s engagement. I am very happy for Alexa and Vito. They chose the design and color so they should feel very lucky because that is something I never do. I prefer quilting on my terms but this was really fun to do and I think turned out really well. It was finished by the quilter in September or October 2017.


The quilt I made for my Grandma Shirley and gave to her in November 2017. She really liked it so I am happy.

Yarrow Journal

A journal cover I made for my friend Tegan from polymer clay. She told me she had a special connection to the yarrow plant and she does a lot of kayaking/canoeing so I incorporated one as well. I will not do flowers, with all their little petals and leaves, again for a very long time. I gave it to her on 9/5/17.

Clam garden

This is journal cover is kind of a visual pun on clam gardens. It was made for my friend Jess whose research is focused in clam gardens. There are clammages, clam on the cob, clammots, clampkins, and clamatoes. Clam gardens are cultivated by building rock walls along the beach to change water flow so that is why there are pebbles along the edge. I unfortunately cut it too small for the journal and I still kick myself every time I see it but I am still very happy with how it turned out. She received it around 5/26/17.