Wednesday, 25 May 2011

May 25, 2011 - My Nest is Empty

I just turned 48. Many mothers my age have kids under or around 10 years old. Mine are nearly 25 and 19. Yes, I became a parent freakishly early for my era. And it was a fairly crazy thing to do. Yet as I listened to a group of women friends tell the bald truth about raising kids at a recent dinner party, I felt affirmed in my reproductive course of action. As one mum pointed out, if you've never had the pleasure of disposible income or leisure time as an adult, you don't miss it when kids arrive. The main theme of the discussion was energy - as in the vast energy it takes to care for small children. By the time I turned 40 and acquired a penchant for rest and comfort, my daughters were leaving and entering adolescence, respectively. They were welcome to stay up later than me if they wanted. They could take themselves places on the TTC. It was awesome.

I could never have opened Wise Daughters two years ago if my kids had been at more dependent stages. A small business sucks up huge resources of time, as well as money. I don't know how parents of young children manage, frankly. Not that I didn't work hard when I was young, and my kids were young. But this is all-consuming in a way a regular job simply isn't. I don't remember how I coped with commuting, challenging paid work, constant housework, school projects, extra-curricular activities and all the other demands of parenting, but I did. And I'm guessing my youth helped a lot.

Now here I am, settled in a condo my partner and I affectionately call "Club Crone". Neither daughter lives at home. One has been criss-crossing the country and may or may not land nearby when she wraps up her Master's in the coming months. The other is taking off for European adventures before university. It's a funny sensation. I'm thankful modern technology makes it easy to touch base with them daily, no matter where they are or what they're doing. It's amazing how close we can remain when we're physically far apart. But it still feels odd to have an empty nest already.

At least I've increased the odds that it'll fill up with visiting grandbabies before I'm too old to get down on the floor and play with them.

Friday, 20 May 2011

May 20, 2011 - Flirting with Fashion Design

I have written in this space about how my mother wanted to be a fashion designer, but her father dissuaded her, arguing it was a frivolous pursuit.  I never even learned to sew, yet one night a couple of months ago, I  dreamt up the perfect pyjama - actually dreamt it, in vivid detail, in my sleep.  At least I thought so when I woke up and drew my design.  This perfect pyjama answers several needs I feel are not satisfied by my existing sleepwear: to breathe, flow, keep me warm enough but not overheated, to leave the sweaty cleavage region exposed, and to be beautifully flattering and lovely to the touch.

I promptly phoned my friend Anna Redish, who often teaches here at Wise Daughters, to ask her to help me.  Being a wildly creative type, she fully embraced the idea that I had created a viable design without knowing the first thing about sewing, pattern-making or fabric.  In no time, we were on the phone to a local bamboo supplier, and over the course of a few afternoons, Anna created a first draft of the pattern.  She sewed a prototype, which I put on and she pinned in all the places we decided small adjustments were necessary.  But even this first garment is phenomenally close to what I imagined in my dream.  It feels fantastic. 

When I had it on over my tights and tank top yesterday, a customer exclaimed that she would absolutely wear this out to dinner with a snazzy scarf or bold necklace.  Being made of beautiful bamboo, there is no reason this outfit couldn't be worn pretty much anywhere, as well as in bed.  This revelation opens up a world of marketing possibilities.

Now Anna has made a second draft of the pattern, ready to go to the grader (I have learned this is a person who sizes patterns; Cynthia of Black Daffodil referred me to hers).  It's getting real!  After we have the patterns finished, we'll sew up more samples in the smallest and biggest sizes (and by we, I mean Anna), and try them on women of different body types to see if they find them as comfy as I do.  I'm hoping that if it makes my modest bust and immodest bum look good, it'll do wonders for anyone.

The next step will be to produce a small run. I have determined that it will be more cost effective to have the bamboo supplier manufacture them, here in Toronto, than to contract the cutting and sewing to individuals. This will mark a departure from Wise Daughters' primary mandate, but I feel like I need to give this a try.  If it works, it will literally be a dream come true.

Look out for the launch of Wise Daughters Wear this fall!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

May 18, 2011 - Creative Round Robins

Last week a group of 10 women celebrated the end of a six month round robin with a potluck at my house. Every three weeks, we'd been getting together to swap books (usually over dinner).  In between, we'd write - any style, any length - on the topic chosen by each member of the group for her book.  Mine was aging (a current preoccupation).  Other topics included life lessons, relationships, unsung Canadian heroes, and my personal favourite, "as luck would have it..."

As a recovering A type, I need an assignment and a deadline to make time for creativity.  I loved having to write. It inveigled me to write more, for example on this blog. 

I encourage everyone to form a small group and start one of these round robins.  It doesn't have to be writing.  Last year, some of the same people were in an altered book round robin, which was equally inspiring.  We each chose themes for our books, which the participants interpreted in varied ways, using various media (collage, painting, drawing, beading, fibre).  Here are a few examples:

It costs virtually nothing, and requires no special training or talent - just a willingness to express yourself somewhat publicly.  There's all kinds of informal learning that happens along the way.

My group can't wait to reconvene in the fall, this time with another sort of art project to be determined. 

Thursday, 12 May 2011

May 12, 2011 - Gendered Gifts

Wise Daughters carries lots of lovely baby sweaters, onesies, booties, bonnets and blankets, and most are sold as gifts.  Often I hear, "I can't buy the baby a gift yet, I don't know the sex."  And I wonder, why can't you just get the baby whatever you want?  Nearly everything I carry is what I would consider "gender-neutral", meaning neither blue nor pink.  Like the items pictured here. 

But it amazes me how many people are uncomfortable even with colours that are of indeterminate gender.  As if all kids have to be clearly labeled via their wardrobe.  A whole lot of people only want to buy pink for girls and blue for boys; some share that they'd choose something different, but this is what the baby's parents prefer. 

I have to wonder what harm people think - consciously or unconsciously - will come to baby girls who are mistaken for baby boys or vice versa.  What if every infant wore green or orange and people didn't know if they were addressing a boy or a girl?  Then they'd have to ask the kid's name, and the answer might well be "Cranberry" or "Clog" and they'd still be stumped.

There's lots of evidence to suggest gender divisions are getting more pronounced than ever - princesses in this corner, and tough guys in the other.  It's got to be homophobia, or perhaps more precisely a backlash against the relative fluidity of gender and sexual orientation that's come to be accepted among adults (in Canada anyway).  And it sucks.

I feel badly for all the boys whose parents actually dress them entirely in navy blue, grey or brown.  I've encountered shoppers who won't even put a boy in red.  Girls can get away with a lot more, but you can be sure the ones in the plain duds are still going to be in the back row of the class picture.

Wearing a particular colour won't make you gay any more than it will make you good at Scrabble, prone to hives, tone deaf or lactose intolerant.