Saturday, February 28, 2015

Finished with February!

This week I finally crept out from under the bacterial infection that laid me low mid-month.  I'm still surprised by bouts of fatigue and the apparent need for afternoon naps every other day...but having received feed-back from EB on my "At the Feeder" submissions, I was bound and determined to finish that piece off before the next assignment -- which arrives tomorrow!

Believe it or not, EB liked this one:
This one, please


This one...
The Original, please

and the original one (above) -- complete with Offending Bird! -- better than she liked the one that you, Gentle Readers, found so whimsical and charming.  

She wrote:

I think I like the bottom one - not because of the Ugly bird...I don't think he's ugly at all!!  Simply because the balance of shapes feels better...I'm not keen on the head only one that does feel a little could keep the top one and add a few tail feathers in that bottom right hand corner...the one that's leaving with a full belly!!  Are the heads and wing spans in proportion?  I'm sure you have quite different birds where you I don't know...just check quickly on that though.
I love the flurry of movement..and you can always link shapes with seeds falling - you know what a mess  they make!!!  and if you have the level in the feeder - I see it hasn't disappeared!!! then I do think you might think about simple seed shapes in there.  the more I look...the more I enjoy this piece!!!  go for the top one, but add the bird leaving...and consider the could just play with real seeds (Don't attach!!) just to see how they would look both in the container and falling...super idea!!!  I love the way this whole assignment has lead to such a variety of work.
So...I compromised.

I trimmed OB by almost 2" -- removing most of his portly out-of-proportion body but showing more than his head.

I bound the piece in black to give it further definition in space (rather than facing it so that it would 'float').

AND...I put in some birdseed...

At the Feeder  (C) 2015

At the Feeder - Detail 1

At the Feeder - Detail 2

(I couldn't figure out how to show a bird leaving...the tail feathers just seemed to me to look like bushes growing out of nowhere!)

I think the birdseed makes it.  It likely wouldn't win any prizes, but I can live with it.

What say you?

Linking up to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday...Roll on March!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Miss Ivy Pump has left the building -- and she took her Peeps with her!  I traded her in yesterday for a bottle of antibiotic tablets which will last me a week and then I am expecting this we Erysipelas Episode to be finis! Done!  Out of my life -- hopefully never to return!

I am now catching up and easing my way back into Real Life.  In a great spurt of energy this a.m. I did my dishes, put in 2 loads of laundry and shovelled my front and back walks and my driveway, as about 2 inches of the white stuff fell overnight.  After lunch, I had a 2-hour nap!

I also managed to put in a full day at The Shop yesterday.  It was quiet, and fairly undemanding, so I finished my second sock for the Socks-from-Stash February Challenge -- thus completing my first ever challenge as part of that Ravelry group, and adding to my sock wardrobe in the process:

Yarn: ONline 4-fache Neon Color
March's challenge is to use the oldest sock yarn in one's stash.  This stuff is so old, I'm pretty sure I didn't buy it myself, but acquired it from donated yarns that no one else wanted:

The Patons and the Nomotta (centre) are so old that there's no yardage (metrage?) on the label, but each of those balls is 25 - 30 gm, while the beige Schaffhouser Wolle is 240 metres.  I'm hoping to eke out a pair of stranded colour-work socks from this trio, based on the pattern "Santa Fe" from Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road: Sock Patterns for the Traveling Knitter (Interweave Press, 2001).  The beige will be the main colour; the green, colour "A"; and the grey, colour "B".  We shall see...

I am also slowly working the lace shawl, though it's taken me a bit to get back into the rhythm of the pattern.  As I can't cast on the new "old" socks till March 1, till then I'll work steadily to catch up on the shawl.

As for quilting...well...only MOB has had any attention at all, and it's blessedly on schedule.  I sent off "At the Feeder" to EB this morning, not having the energy yet to tackle a second version.  I await her feedback.  March 1 we begin a new study, but those other pieces will get worked on eventually.

I can only hope my energy levels continue to improve, and I'm 100% again before too long.  I have 1/2 a kitchen to paint this spring, and places to go, people to see... (grin)

Even though this is not a very quilty post, I'm linking up to WIP Wednesday over at The Needle and Thread Network.  Shall we see what other Canadian stitchers have been up to, eh?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Unexpected Company

Those of you, Gentle Readers, who follow me on Facebook, will already know that late Saturday evening, a Mack Truck (R) drove through my bedroom wall and broadsided me.

Well, that's what it felt like, anyway -- with apologies to the good folks at Mack whose trucks undoubtedly have better things to do!

After the fever and aches subsided somewhat -- on Monday morning -- I took a shower and finally looked at myself in the mirror.  AAAACK!  I didn't yet know what it was, but my face looked like one of those truck tires had rolled over it.

Seriously, I still felt pretty sick but Monday was Family Day here in Alberta, and I knew the doc's office and walk-in clinic would be closed and I decided to stay in bed rather than drive 1/2 hour to sit in Emerg at the Lacombe Hospital for an indefinite time, feeling more and more miserable.

By the time I saw a doctor it was Tuesday afternoon at the walk-in (my doc was booked) and he sent me off to Emerg for blood tests and the start of a series of IV antibiotic.  Diagnosis: erysipelas -- of unknown origin (the blood cultures will reveal more next week).   By yesterday afternoon I'd driven twice more to and from town, and had a new house-guest, staying on till at least Tuesday.

May I introduce...

Miss Ivy Pump -- and her Peeps!

The little IV bag holds 3 doses of antibiotic, and is programmed to inject one every 8 hours.  In between, I receive 2 ml. fluid per hour just to KVO (Keep Vein Open).

The Peeps tell me the pump is working, and are pretty quiet most of the time, but when a dose is going through, their incessant "peep, peep, peep" for about a half hour is a bit nerve-wracking -- especially at mid-night!

Ah well; it could be worse!  The stuff is working, my face is improving, my fever's gone and my appetite, though small, is slowly returning.  I can enjoy my coffee again (when I was really out of it I had no taste for either coffee or tea -- just water, hot or cold, with lemon.  Go figure.)

A friend who is a retired RN came over last evening, helped me haul a few groceries (bought before IV) and the box of pre-mixed med packs into the house, put things away, did my over-due stack of dishes (I am my usual dishwasher -- 1952 model.)  and helped me get out of my town clothes and into pyjamas.  I hope she can come back this afternoon when the Home Care Nurse is here, as the HCN will be showing me how to change the bags and reprogram the pump for the next 3 doses.  I may have to drive into Stettler tomorrow (weather permitting) for re-assessment, but I get a reprieve today which is great because after the last 4 days, I'm pretty beat.

I've been ordered to rest.  My next-door neighbour is on tap for snow and/or ice removal on my walks (we've had some freezing rain lately and snow is forecast for tomorrow).  Good job I did all the laundry on Monday (B4IV).  

Though I can't use my sewdio (too much up and down etc.), I can read, nap, hand quilt and knit.  I've made great progress on my socks for the Socks-from-Stash February Challenge on Ravelry (use the brightest yarn in your stash) and should actually finish on time, all being well.  Here's what they looked like on Saturday (B4MackTruck), getting ready to cast on #2:

Pattern: my own Plain Vanilla Socks recipe
Yarn: ONline Supersocke 4-fach Neon-color
Colour #1721

I didn't get that second sock cast on till Tuesday afternoon while waiting to see a doctor, but I'm already on the heel flap and should finish this pair on time.  A plus?  The colours sure make me smile!

When I'm rested enough, I'll catch up on my newest knitting project, which I've parcelled into 6 rows a day (and I need to do 18 to make up for Tues, Weds, and today) -- a wedding prayer shawl for a young woman at church, being married in mid-June:

Pattern: Kimono Shawl by Cheryl Oberle
from her book Folk Shawls: 25 Knitting Patterns and Tales
from Around the World,
Interweave Press, April 2000
Yarn: Misti Alpaca Lace 2-ply (aka Lace Canada)

And then there's MOB, which needs its stitching for yesterday and today.  And EB's Master Class February assignment?  Well...if I don't get to the second "birds" option before the month-end deadline, I'll send her what I've done so far on the first, and await her always-useful critique.  If she's anything, she's understanding and eminently fair.  :-)

Do nothing?!  Not bloomin' likely!  BUT...all I do will be far more relaxing than thumb-twiddling.  

Without textile therapy, I'd have been shipped off to the Funny Farm years ago!

Thanks to those of you who've recently started following this blog.

Thanks to all of you who follow on Facebook and have sent me so many prayers, good wishes and loving thoughts across cyberspace the past few days.

As I rest and heal, may you be safe, warm (or cool!), healthy and happy, wherever you are!


Friday, February 13, 2015

EBMC February III - Feed Those Birds!

"NOW for your next one!! Bigger!" she said.

"Instead of stippling, just [go] with a horizontal line...", she said.

So I sandwiched a piece of white fabric about 22" W x 18" L and using white thread, free-motion quilted horizontal lines, then trimmed the edges:

That was Wednesday.  I admit I was a bit uncertain at first, but after a while on my design wall, it's grown on me.

"Keep the feeder very simple as you doesn't have to be slap bang in the fact, probably better slightly off-centre," she said.

Before stitching, I decided to rehearse with charcoal on a large sketch pad, in a frame the size of the trimmed background (20" W x 17" L):

So far, so good.  In fact, the drawing was easier to do than I expected, given the size (large for me).

I took a regular mechanical pencil, lightly sketched the placement of birds and feeder on the white quilted background and then went to the sewing machine, again with black thread top and bottom:

Alas...I got the feeder a bit too far left.  With only 3 birds, there was a gaping white space on the right and lower left of the piece.

Solution?  Add two more birds (middle right and lower left) -- first in pencil; then in stitch.

BUT...d'you see it?  Take a closer look:

The lower left bird's not too bad, but that one on the middle right is decidedly UG-LEEEE!

Can this piece be saved?  Or will it be filed away as "just a sample"?

I could get rid of the offending bird altogether:

But...that a) puts the feeder closer to the centre (again) and b) leaves four birds -- an even number which, I believe, is not favoured artistically by Those Who Know...

I could leave a hint of that offending bird that is, well, less offensive:

This one's rather fun, I think.  It's as if Offending Bird is coming late to the party. "Save some for me!"

Let me know what you'd do, eh?

As it is, I'm leaving the next quilted background for tomorrow...and linking this to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  I'm grabbing a cuppa while I read the other posts and take up my hand quilting.  Join me?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Betwixt and Between

Wednesdays are in-between sorts of days.  They're between Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I work at The Shop, and the run-up to my long stretch of studio days (Fri/Sat/Mon and sometimes Sundays).  I find I look forward to Wednesdays and then, all too often, fritter them away at the computer.

Today, I've vowed, is not going to be a "Wasted Wednesday"!

I spent a good part of last weekend working on the commissioned medallion quilt so that I could turn the central square into a rectangle.  At the same time, I had to figure out how to tastefully convert the largest size in the pattern (queen-sized) to fit a king-sized bed.

It couldn't be done simply by adding deeper, solid-fabric borders.  B-O-R-I-N-G.  Plus, my client originally wanted a pieced border in there somewhere.  Trouble was, the pieced border in the pattern was illustrated only for the two smallest sizes (a twin size and one 70" square that's somewhere between a lap-size and a twin).  Thus it was rather narrow (3" finished) and had the pieces laid out horizontally, like rail cars.  The proportions would be all wrong for this very large project.

What to do?  Blessedly, on Sunday afternoon a long-time quilting friend -- one of the two gals who actually started me on this journey almost 20 years ago now -- called.  I ran my challenge by her and about 10 minutes into the conversation, I had it.  A piano-key border!  I have one of these on a quilt I made some years ago.  It was a class I took, and the pattern is Kathleen Bissett's "Garden Delight":

Okay; so I didn't turn the corner very prettily!  That was then (about 15 years ago); this is now -- and there will be a corner-stone or some such to perfect the border this time 'round! :-)

But you get my drift.

Then I had to figure out the math, answering the question, "how deep?"  I created an Excel (R) spreadsheet...All measurements are in inches, "finished":

Pattern as Written Proposed Adjustments
Queen Queen King King Fabric
Length Width Length Width Selected
Centre         60.00         60.00         60.00               60.00 Assorted
Inner border           2.00           3.00           2.00                  3.00 Background
          2.00           3.00           2.00                  3.00 Background
Rectangle conversion
               -             5.00                -                    6.00 Brown  
               -             5.00                -                    6.00 Brown 
Zinger (narrow border)           3.00           3.00           3.00                  3.00 Gold
          3.00           3.00           3.00                  3.00 Gold
Piano Key Border                -                  -             6.00                  6.00 Assorted
               -                  -             6.00                  6.00 Assorted
Wide Outer Border
        10.00         10.00           8.00               10.00 Brown 
        10.00         10.00           8.00               10.00 Brown 
Total:         90.00
        98.00             116.00

Note: The highlighted measurements show the deviation from the pattern.  

Once I received approval from my client for this type of pieced border, I went to work turning the square into a medallion.  Here's the top-in-progress on my kitchen floor, showing the finished rectangle conversion and the "zinger":

And here's the "keyboard" under construction:

All the while, EB's response to my blocked pieces is swirling in my head...So the plan for today is to do some more strip-piecing, and then...maybe a background or two for the EBMC...while I link up to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network.  

Have a great rest of the week!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

EBMC February II - For the Birds

In my last post I showed you my inspirational photo/drawing and the two sketches I sent to EB for evaluation.  Frankly, her words surprised me -- and thrilled me no end.  Apparently, I'm actually getting a handle on this stuff!   I don't feel comfortable sharing everything she wrote, but I will tell you this: like you, she preferred the second of my two sketches, the one that was looser, freer.

About that, she wrote:
Sketch 3 - this is where the artist realizes that there's a better way to portray the movement of the birds..we don't need the technical details of the feeder and we're really not interested in what kinds of birds these are but rather their constant fluttering movements as they approach and feed...furthermore look how she has echoed the curves...the curves of the head, of the wings of the tail and off the feeder - all is harmonious, all pulled together and the whole nicely balanced.  The whole meaning is there with great economy and simplicity that is so elegant.  Nicely done student 8!! Love it!!!  Worth all the thought that went into it.

Even before I received this feedback, I had an idea for one way of doing this piece, so this morning I worked it up -- a sample just over 9" square.  I began by tracing my original sketch onto a piece of white-on-white cotton.  Then I sandwiched it with batting and a cotton backing, and 'thread painted' it, as if I were doing a pen-and-ink drawing:

At the Feeder (C) 2915
Approx 9 1/2" square, unfinished

I'm not a 'comfortable' free-motion quilter -- by the time I'd finished the dense stipple-meander around the birds, my shoulders were up around my ears!  For the curious, here's the back:

It's a cute wee piece but small (in my usual style)...and I wanted to try it out with a variety of fabrics so I made these two mock-ups:

At the Feeder 2 (WIP) 2015
Approx. 18" W x 14" L

Just the Shapes, M'am!  ;-)
At the Feeder 3 (WIP) 2015
Approx. 13" W x 9" L
And yes, I know it looks like the feeder is floating in space in each of these!  That little detail would be handled either simply by stitching or by couching a narrow cord...depending on the weight of the piece.

Of these two, I actually rather like the top one.  It could be the background (self-dyed cotton velveteen) or it could be the fact it's less geometric; I don't really know.

What do you think?

I think I'll link up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and then go for a jog in the sunshine!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Get a Move On!

The topic for February's EBMC is "Movement"...

We began by visiting several websites to see examples that EB provided of artists creating movement in their pieces.  An example?  Hokusai's famous painting, The Great Wave.

Katsushika Hokusai - The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
first published between 1826 and 1833 (public domain)

As this piece is now in the public domain, it has been used to inspire other artists...such as my C&G tutor, Linda Kemshall, who combined it -- in paint and stitch -- with a traditional quilting pattern -- "Storm at Sea" to create something wonderful that she titled "The Big Wave" (scroll down).

In the examples (including the one above), I found that the idea of movement was clearest to me when curved lines -- whether in fabric or in stitch -- were involved.  Another quilter who incorporates movement in her pieces and does so beautifully with both shading and stitch is Maria Elkins.

People & Portraits
When EB mentioned wind-blown hair in her class notes, I immediately remembered Ms. Elkins' piece featured on the cover of  SAQA's publication, People & Portraits.  You can see the piece in the header for Ms. Elkins' website; it's well worth taking a closer look to see her stitching of the hair.

Pam RuBert's "Tango with a Technopus" is another example of an artist's using the shape of the fabric -- curves and swirls -- to express movement.

Following the research, of course, came the sketchbook work...TREMBLE!  I have never consciously attempted to express movement in my work.  Still....there are the birds that visit my property...and my feeder... I've never been successful photographing them.  They move too darned fast!  And I'm a point-and-click photographer.  Even if my camera could capture them, the instructions put me to sleep.  I'd never figure it out!

I turned to the internet for images, and found this one from

5 birds at feeder
The feeder resembles mine -- and the birds resemble the chickadees that show up regularly.

Using this as an inspiration, I tried my hand at sketching:

First, I ran out of room for a third bird, which made it seem 'unbalanced'.  Second, it struck me as rather formal and stilted.  Darn.

Solution?  Go out for a jog (this was yesterday afternoon, when we weren't having a snow storm.)  Now, Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way fame, espouses walks, which I find are helpful...but somehow, I seem to resolve even more things in my mind when I am jogging (I'm no longer fast enough to call it 'running').

Sure enough: while I was out there trucking along the highway and off through the snowy side-streets, it occurred to me that I didn't have to get so caught up in rendering a precise (precious?) image of birds-at-feeder.  What I was aiming at was the MOTION involved.  When I got back to the house I came up with this:

I've submitted to EB the progression you see here; we'll see what she has to say.

Meanwhile, as I'm waiting, I'm working on some more hand-quilting.  I have only borders -- 1 wide side border, all the narrow borders, and the wide outer border -- to do...and then I can bind this piece and give it to J&E, my wonderful neighbours, as their belated Christmas 2014 gift.  They are SO good to me -- you have no idea!

And this afternoon, home early from The Shop because of the weather, I assembled the February block in this year's use-it-up Block of the Month, "Zen".  Four squares-in-a-square, it was a surprisingly UN-Zen-like experience.  A bit of 'reverse sewing' and then -- Oh-what-the-heck! kicked in...but I do like the fabrics I chose to go with the background:

All for now...