Recommended Reading: Indigenous Authors & Stories

I was inspired by the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to pull together a reading list of books by Indigenous Canadian authors. These are a mix of non-fiction and fiction books I’ve read over the past three or four years, that are important books to read in coming to an understanding of the lived experience of Indigenous people, the continued effects of Residential School, and intergenerational trauma.

If you’re afraid to read about the hard emotional stuff that other people have gone through, please push past it. It was harder for them to live it than it is for you to read it. Indigenous people need our empathy and understanding in order for all of us to move forward.

Five Little Indians, by Michelle Good – Tells the story of five children and their cruel experiences of Indian Residential school, and the ripple affects in their lives after they leave.

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies, by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – a beautifully written non-narrative story combining Indigenous mythology in the modern world. It’s a striking and unusual book.

Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer – This book was a huge hit in 2020 for the beautiful writing about the natural world through the dual lenses of science and Indigenous knowledge.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, by Alicia Elliott – An intimate autobiography sharing the authors experiences of growing up severely underprivileged, experiencing intergenerational trauma, struggling with mental illness, and finding her own voice through writing.

Empire of Wild, by Cherie Dimaline – A terrific work of fiction centred around the Métis story of the Rogarou, a were-wolf like creature of legend. A woman’s search for her missing husband, who mysteriously disappeared for over a year, and his sudden reappearance in an unexpected place.

This Place: 150 Years Retold, by multiple authors & Illustrators – a graphic novel anthology exploring the last 150 years (published at the time of Canada’s 150 anniversary) from the perspective of Indigenous peoples under the thumb of colonialism. There’s now also a podcast called, This Place, based on the graphic novel.

Split Tooth, by Tanya Tagaq – The book moves between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a hauntingly beautiful arctic world. A strange and unusual book by Inuk musician and throat singer, Tanya Tagaq. 

The Break, by Katherena Vermette – A family saga told from multiple perspectives, and centred around the witnessing of a violent crime. It explores intergenerational trauma, and the relationships between three generations of women of the same family. 

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, by Bob Joseph – The title is pretty self-explanatory. Definitely read this if you want to understand more about how the Indian Act has effected the lives of Indigenous Canadians.

The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King – This book is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America. (This is an excerpt from the summary on Good Reads).

Nishga, by Jordan Abel – A moving work of art exploring identity, that tells the story of Abel’s lived experience through a collection of documents, transcripts, and letters. I find this book really difficult to describe because it defies categorization. 

Moon of the Crusted Snow, by Waubgeshig Rice – A fictional story of what happens in a small Northern Community when the power goes out, and the end of the world may have happened.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography, by Andrea Warner – The amazing life of folk singer and activist Buffy Saint Marie. She’s an icon. Go read this! Yes, it’s written by a white lady but with great reverence for Buffy Saint-Marie.

If you are local to Vancouver,  please consider ordering books through Indigenous owned books stores such as Iron Dog Books, or Massy Books. Please make a donation to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.


Art & Craft Social – March 2020

Join us for another edition of Art & Craft Social. The event is FREE. All you need to do is bring a small creative project to work on, such as stitching, sketching, crocheting, collage, etc. (You can also come and just be social). The Social provides an opportunity to meet new people, get inspired, and learn something new through exposure to the creative work of each person’s project.

Please RSVP through eventbrite to attend as space is limited. You can also sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know about future events:

Art & Craft Social
Date: Wednesday March 11th, 2020
Time: 6:00pm to 8:30pm
Cost: FREE
Location: 1610 Clark Drive, Unit 201, rear entrance off of Graveley St

Refashioning A One-Of-A-Kind Thrifted Find

I buy second-hand clothes as often as I can find what I need, but I also can’t resist when I find something unique at the thrift store. I picked up this dress from a consignment store on Salt Spring Island over the summer. It’s made from a silky smooth black nylon with a large piece of vintage kimono fabric sewn across the front. I tried it on despite the fact that the size was XL and not my size. I figured I could wear it as-is or figure out how to alter it. That vintage kimono fabric had to come home with me.

Flash forward six months and I’m in need of something to wear to my office Christmas party, and I decide now Is the time to alter that dress! I was fairly confident I could figure out how to do it, but not at all confident about my ability to sew it. Thank goodness my good friend Barb was up for the challenge, and is also a WAY better sewist than I am.

The alteration was pretty simple. First I unstitched the kimono fabric so that it wasn’t overlapping the seam on one side, and pinned it out of the way. Barb took the side seams in 1.25 inches on each side, trimmed the excess fabric after reinforcing the seams, and then I ironed them flat. The finishing touch was re-sewing the side of the kimono fabric back into place.

The dress fit so much better after the alteration, though the bodice is still a bit too large because it needs the darts adjusted. I may try that another time.

I wore the dress to my Christmas party and felt super awesome wearing it. Yay for thrifting and refashioning.

Exploring Embroidery in a Sampler

This summer has been a time for focusing on stitching work, with two completed sashiko pieces, and now this embroidery sampler. I’ve continued working on this small piece which I started in the Katy Biele workshop at the beginning of July, and recently finally finished it.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked with so much colour before, or texture for that matter. I really enjoyed making layers of dense French Knots in a few sections, and also layers of the Picot Stitch. The fuzzy pink bit is a pom pom I attached during the workshop, and cut down very short to fit better with the composition.

It was a terrific learning experience to work on this, and it has definitely reignited my love of embroidery. I am considering a new daily project idea around stitching, to keep building on the momentum of this, but I need to figure out the parameters.

I’m so pleased with this little piece that I’m going to add it to the salon wall in my living room.

The Finished Sashiko Table Runner

I am so thrilled to share the finished hand-stitched table runner I made for the beautiful side table I restored last last year. They look wonderful together.

The runner is stitched with a cross-stitch sashiko pattern called Jujizashi. I’d always wanted to try this one but felt intimidated by its seeming complexity. It was so much easier to do than I’d assumed.

My lovely friend Barb did the finishing on this for me because when I attempted to sew it together myself I completely messed it up. I had to undo all the sewing, and then Barb offered to do it for me. She did a spectacular job. The shibori dyed fabric coasters pictured on the table in the first shot were also made by her.

Making things for my own home is such a special thing, and always a great opportunity for learning.

Learning Techniques for Contemporary Embroidery

Last week I was excited to attend an embroidery workshop, along with my friend Simone, taught by Katy Biele. She is a Chilean textile artist living in Victoria, and she creates elaborate and brightly coloured embroidered pieces inspired by her culture.

Work sample by Katy Biele

Work sample by Katy Biele

In the class she talked about learning embroidery while travelling in India, figuring out how to embrace a more free-form approach to her stitching, and breaking the rules. She taught us a basic repertoire of stitches, such as the French Knot (my fav), seed stitch, back stitch, and a few others I cannot recall the names of, and left it up to us to experiment with our samplers.

We worked with a bright colour palette, which was very fun, and used fibres and yarns that are thicker than traditional embroidery thread. I have a passionate dislike for the eight strand threads, so I really loved this part. We were all so absorbed in our work that the three and a half hour class flew by in no time.

My work-in-progress sampler

Samplers made by the entire class

The final stitch Katy taught us was the picot, which is like a tiny weaving in the shape of a petal. I ran out of time for trying it in the class, but have continued working on my sampler at home and am now obsessed with this new stitch. IT. IS. ADDICTIVE!

I am left feeling inspired by this wonderful learning experience and will continue working on my sampler until it is “finished”.

Work In Progress: Sashiko Stitched Runner

I started working on this new sashiko stitching project a few days after I finished the previous one I made for my friend Barb. I needed a new project to work on in time for Art & Craft Social.

I’ve wanted a unique custom runner for the side table I refinished in December, and decided this was a good opportunity to work on more sashiko stitching. I’m using the same cotton/linen blend fabric in indigo for this new project, and trying out a new-to-me style of stitching.

I measured out and drew a quarter inch grid over half of the fabric to guide the pattern, and then started stitching across the length of it with staggered lines. This part of things went surprisingly fast.

When all of the stitches going along the length were finished, I started a series of shorter ones crossing over each of the first layer of stitches. I’ve always wanted to try this pattern but it seems so much more complicated for some reason than it actually is.

I completed the last few rows of stitching over the long weekend, and now I need to figure out how to do the finishing. When I cut the fabric I left enough material attached to become a backing piece to hide the stitches and to sew the two sections together. I’m not following a pattern so will have to wing it to figure it out.

I’ll share the finished runner in another post.

1 Second A Day of Patterns Part 2

I continued with the theme of patterns for my 1 Second a Day videos in March. I came across so many interesting bits of pattern design last month, and also kept noticing new things in familiar places.

I decided to take a break from the project this month but I’ve been missing it, and still noticing so many terrific examples of pattern design.

An Updated Container of Good Things

In 2018 I started the habit of noting good things down on paper that happened throughout the year and collecting them in a special container. This project is inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar, and it was a much-needed project of looking at the good in what was a difficult year.

I opened the container on New Year’s Eve and read through all of the notes. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many I’d collected because there were a few periods of time I’d forgotten to keep up with the habit (especially the two months we were away). There were many notes about good meals with friends, which was not a surprise at all.

Container of Good Things 2019

I decided to give the Container of Good Things an update this year. It’s a repurposed tin from Muji that I’d covered in washi tape. I peeled it all off, covered the tin with white paper, and then added brand new washi tape in layers. It had always bothered me that the print on the tin showed through the tape and made the colours dull. The new tin in a pleasing blast of colour and pattern, and I love looking at it all the time. It helps keep it top of mind.

Container of Good Things 2019
Container of Good Things 2019
Container of Good Things 2019

I also prepped a new batch of origami paper to use for the notes, and of course they are also covered in pattern and colour.

2018: Year End Review In Twelve Photos

It’s my annual year end review of some of the things I made over the course of the previous twelve months. It started off as a difficult year because of the flood, and I only recently realized I spend almost seven months without a dedicated studio. I worked on a lot of small projects, struggled with feelings of failure, and of never getting enough done. I’m working on all of those things, because I do enough, I have enough, and I am enough.

Sashiko on a thrifted shirt


31 days of Scribbles

Signs of spring

Printing cut paper




Laser cutting experiments



Paper decorations


Fingers-crossed for a super productive, and fulfilling 2019!