Saturday, March 25, 2023

needle doodle / "N'importe quoi"

My neurologist asked years ago if I doodled. I told him I didn't. 

A little scribbling while I'm talking on the phone? 


On the corner of a list? 


When my writing isn't going well and I've already got a pen in my hand? A little cross-hatching, maybe a few circles?

Definitely not. 

Big sigh. There was a study that claimed all migrainers doodled. 

That did not prompt me to go home and start doodling. Doodling is something you do or you don't. 

A couple of months ago, a children's toy and bookstore in Westmount closed. A friend went in and discovered that the store also stocked beautiful embroidery thread from Germany that the owner was selling at a huge discount. My friend bought some for herself and some for me. 

I've embroidered in the past but never seriously. I like the textural look of embroidery. I go to textile museums and admire embroidery. I have a large textbook of embroidery stitches. I like working with yarn and with textiles. But to actually sit down and do embroidery?  

I decided to see what this lovely coloured thread looked like if I stitched handmade paper. I have some from a paper manufacturer on the Lachine Canal called Papeterie St. Armand. They've been around since 1979. If you want to buy excellent, handmade paper, I cannot praise this place highly enough. 
Since I'm not an artist, I get the N'importe quoi scrap bags. 

I LIKED stitching paper! Heavy paper lends itself to stitching a design much more easily than fabric that has to be fastened to a hoop. 

I liked it so much that I walked up the hill to Westmount during a snowstorm to get more of this gorgeous embroidery floss. The store was closing the next day and the owner said to take as much as I could carry. She wanted to give me a large box but I was walking. I also didn't know how much thread I would ever use. 

What a mistake. I should have stuffed my knapsack because I don't just like embroidering. I LOVE IT. Especially with these rich colours. 

Those blank moments when I can't figure out where my writing is going next? I sit on my pea-green chair in the window and stitch a rosette chain or a few Palestrina knots. I get out my oil pastels for a change of texture. I sneak into R's studio and do some finger painting. 

I can now tell my neurologist that I doodle. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


For as long as I've known R, he's drawn cartoons. I have one he did of me radiating menstrual cramps in front of the Eiffel Tower. It's an ugly portrait but it's in the nature of cartoons to exaggerate and I was having a seriously ugly day. It's my memento of Paris. 

Recently a friend started a cartoon/comics course. She's enjoying it and was showing me what she was doing. 

As we talked, I remembered that R once asked to me to write a story for him to illustrate.  Years ago. I'd completely forgotten. I wrote the story in a couple of hours and there's not much to it. At that point I hadn't read any graphic novels yet. I assumed it would mostly be about the drawings. 

R always has a few projects on the go and I didn't know he was working on the drawings until he showed them to me a year or so later. He'd painted approx 120 frames.  

Unfortunately--though perhaps understandably for a writer--my reaction when he showed me was not to see the paintings, but that he'd included the messy first draft of the story I'd given him. I'd thought he was using it as a guide, not putting it in the cartoons. I said he needed to let me revise the wording. He said it was too late. I was in a state of writerly pique that he hadn't respected my work ethic. We argued.  

Fifteen years passed and I was having a beer with my friend who was showing me the project she was working on for her course. When I came home, I asked R if he remembered that story he'd illustrated. He wasn't sure he still had it. He found it on Weebly where it's been hiding since 2007. 

Now, when I look at it, I see the drawings. They're a record of a neighbourhood where we used to live in the late 90s--that doesn't look like that anymore. The cobbler who used sit on a kitchen chair on the sidewalk. The tatoo parlour.  

The story is thin, but at that time I was still figuring out a lot about writing myself. I still am. I also didn't know how serious R was. Next time--if there's a next time--I'll write a better story. And I'll revise it before I give it to R. 

If you're interested meet Scribe: 

Merci, D, for reminding me!