Saturday, February 09, 2019

Managing More

I's been almost 3 weeks since my last post, and over a month since I posted about what's happening in the sewdio.  Time to rectify that!

I'm still on a Finishing Frenzy -- trying to get Unfinished Objects done and dusted!  Most of these are knitting related, to whit:

This tiny cardigan got it's buttons and was put in the mail for a new baby cousin in SW Quebec.  It's a 12-month size, and he's just turned 5 months, so I hope he'll be able to wear it for more than five minutes!

Pattern: Little Coffee Bean Cardigan
Designer: Elizabeth Smith
Yarn: Schachenmayr Nomota 'Bravo'
-  colour #8182 (marl) - discontinued

I also finished a cardigan so old that I didn't get it into my Ravelry records.  I made it shorter than directed, simply because I made it in a slightly lighter weight, and I'm a short person.  Called "Round Trip" it's featured in Knitter's Magazine #72 -- the Fall 2003 issue!  At present I've not photographed it, but I'll tell sat for years (I brought it with me when I moved here in 2008), when all it needed was a few inches and then the cuff on the second sleeve.  And at's got them!

The "Spectacle Quilt" (pattern from "We All Sew") is now quilted and has it's binding on -- I chose the same yellow as the zinger because...well...truth be told, it's what I had enough of to work with!  I have to hand sew the binding onto the back.  The baby for whom this is intended (another Eastern Canada cousin) is due...momentarily.  I hope to get the news before I finish the binding so I can put his/her name on the label.

Finally, I finished a pair of finger-less mittens for The Shop, to be used as a sample whenever we get the delicious yarn they're made in:

Pattern: Holt Wrist Warmers
Designer: Libby Summers
Yarn: "Herriot" from Juniper Moon Farms
100% Alpaca....Yummy!
In the sewdio...I've been playing with more inspirations -- from Susan Lenz and Cas Holmes.

Susan wrote a blog post last month about her button collection and how she felt compelled to use more buttons in her work.  To that end, she created some rather large pieces (30" x 38" or so) and framed them.  She called the series, "Things Kept".  Now, I'm pretty gob-smacked by all of Susan's work, and she's so prolific she makes many of us look slothful, but I have to tell you, these pieces captivated me.

Though as you know from some of my earlier posts, Gentle Readers, I struggle with collage work, I've been longing to become more relaxed with this, to just dig out paper and glue and thread and floss and fabric and "stuff" and get on with it!

I also wanted to make a wee piece for the up-coming SAQA Spotlight Auction at this year's conference -- and I often take this as an opportunity to experiment with new techniques.

I began with this piece, which turned out to be too small for the Auction but just right to become a new 'mini' for (I hope) some future buyer:

New Directions 1
Materials: commercial cotton fabric,
purchased hand-made paper, silk fabric,
perle cotton, vintage button
5" W x 7" L, matted to 8" x 10"

I decided to try a second in a larger size, using more of the same materials...with a bit extra detail.  It's still on my design wall, needing a facing -- and it may end up mounted on painted stretched canvas.

New Directions 2
Same background materials, but
added - couched hand-dyed thread,
vintage buckle (some sort of plastic)
Currently, 12" W x 16" L, unfinished

With this practice under my belt, I decided it was time to return to the Auction piece, and was happy to get the size right this time:

New Directions 3
(C) 2019

Next up, I auditioned different fabrics etc. for a fourth piece, now finished except for sewing down the binding (which matches the background), but here it is, just taking shape on my cutting table:

New Directions 4 - shown in fabric audition
Materials: commercial  cotton and batik fabric;
purchased hand-made paper; blotted torn book paper;
purchased hand-made button

Photo to follow when finished!

Cas Holmes' new book, Textile Landscapes, which I may have told you I received as a birthday gift last fall, calls for practicing with layering in 'dry collage' and then, in practice, attaching layers with gel medium and/or stitch.  She does so in a remarkable, loose way.  Having created rather orderly, formal collages, I thought I'd try to loosen up a bit more.

I took a length of a synthetic sheer that I had in my stash, and applied to it layers of linen that I'd stamped and/or scribbled on (credit to Valerie Wilson and Susan Purney Mark for encouragement to do those things!).

The results are...ummm...rather mixed, to say the least.

Once a whole piece, sliced in half, trimmed

Left side, 6" square, unfinished

Right side, 6" square, unfinished

I'm undecided about these -- whether or not to add stitch or just file them "as is" in my 'samples' binder.  I think they have rather more glue between the layers (even though I diluted already-liquid gel medium with water), so any stitching would need to be by machine.  You can sort of tell I was in a 'landscape' mode when I played with this stuff, but it's not based on any particular scene.  Time will tell, but I'm thinking 'funky' landscapes aren't my style!  Still, it's good to have the inspiration (i.e. the book) to draw from, from time to time.

There was a kind of 'release' from these experiments, so I was able to return to creating pieces in a style for which I'm better known.

First, another new 'mini'.  I started by painting some tea bag paper to create a 'moon'.

I then backed some eco-dyed silk (from my friend arlee) with fusible web, on which I'd loosely traced trees from a wonderful tree stencil that I bought somewhere.  The moon and trees were fused onto the same background as "New Directions 3", and thread for quilting the trunks was auditioned:

Once the trunks and background were quilted, "snow" and "fog" were added...and the piece was ready for its mat:

January Moon (C) 2019
5" W x 7" L, matted to 8" x 10"

I've finished off this period of "MORE" with another, larger piece -- one that I've carried around in my head for a good year now.  It's based on a photo of a tree, bare of leaves, that's one of a small group on the edge of my favourite walking path around Cranna Lake in Lacombe.  It's a good thing I printed a couple of it -- because I can't find the photo to show you!  (I can, however, take another next time I'm by there, in the right season.  Sigh.)

I beavered away on this one without taking any process photos here you have it:

In the Bleak Midwinter (C) 2019
Commercial cotton fabric, cotton thread,
mono-poly filament, water-colour pencils
17" W x 27" L

In the Bleak Midwinter -  Detail now I've caught you up on MORE in the studio for this year so far!   As Madeleine L'Engle wrote about writing, and which I paraphrase here...

Discipline is essential in the artist's life...but when you start to [create], don't think.
[Create.]  If you think when you're [creating], it's no good.  You have to have done your thinking just as you have to have gone through the emotion.  You get out on the other side of the emotion, and out on the other side of thinking, and you [create].

It would appear that once I 'got out on the other side of the thinking, the emotion', I could give birth to January Moon and In the Bleak Mid-winter.  Nina Marie's taken a creative day this week -- and I'm betting she's got something brewing that's on the other side of both 'the thinking' and 'the emotion'.  I'm linking to her "Off the Wall Friday" page...and leaving you wishes for a creative weekend.  

What are you birthing in your sewdio?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Economies of Scale

In 2015 (the year for which latest figures are available), the population of Canada was 35,749,600.  At about the same time (or perhaps a bit later) the population of the State of California was/is 39,691,912.

I live in central Alberta.  The province's population is approximately 4,334,025 as of...about now.

I live in a hamlet (i.e., a small village without its own governing body), "owned and managed" (quotation marks mine) by the County of Lacombe. 

Here?  There are 480 people -- as I put it, "on a good day".

Notice something? 

The population scale from California to the whole of Canada to the Province of Alberta to the Hamlet of Mirror is...definitely declining!

I'm here because I like it that way...but sometimes there are "inconveniences". 

Today marks two weeks since I ordered a batch of Procion MX dyes from The Paint Spot in Edmonton.  That shop is located in "Old Strathcona" which is a wonderful area in the original part of Edmonton, appealing to artists and whole food buyers and all sorts of esoteric and wonderful shop owners -- and their customers. 

Two weeks.

That's a long time in 2019 terms -- especially from a place that's less than 2 hours' drive north of here.

So...I phoned. 

I talked to a human being...who put me onto another human being, whose name is Laura.  Laura was contrite.  She found the order.  She realized it hadn't been flagged on her "to do" list.  She apologized.  It will be sent out tomorrow.

Shipping costs -- it must be noted -- are very reasonable from this shop. (It's MUCH higher to ship from a shop in Vancouver or from another in Toronto, both of which shall remain nameless for purposes of this post.)

I expect that I'll get the order by Friday.

I'm okay with that.

Laura and I had a conversation -- with typical Canadian apologies on both sides.  😉

I am content. 

My blood pressure has remained normal.

And...I wonder...having read the angst experienced by others in a Country That Will Remain Nameless...if...just appreciation for doing Smaller Business on a Smaller Scale with Smaller Expectations and Greater Interpersonal Contact, well...maybe that's perhaps a Better Way?

Works for me!

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Starting with Finishing!

In my last post, I said that one of the things I want MORE of this year is time in the studio.  Well!  Since that post -- a mere 5 days ago! -- that's exactly what I've made sure I have (notwithstanding the fact that I worked at The Shop on one of those days!)

"Random Rails" chez Gina Blank's
Air B&B, Edmonton, Alberta
"Bookshelf Quilt"
As those of you, Gentle Readers, who follow this blog regularly, know -- I've been stricken with "Piecer Madness" for some months now.  I had two commissions for pieced quilts in 2018 -- the Random Rails twin-extra-wide-and-extra-long for my daughter's Air B&B; and a Bookshelf Quilt -- throw-sized -- for my school-days friend, M, who lives in B.C.

I finished a quilt I called the "Rectangle Quilt" (for want of a better name!) and gave it to a fellow whose home burned down to the ground about a block from me, a few months ago.

And I was determined to finish Bonnie Hunter's 2018 Mystery Quilt, "On Ringo Lake".   Lo and behold, that happened this week!  I'd finished the first five rows (laid out 'on point' on my narrow guest bed) and finally wrestled the second five-row section into submission -- and then (be still, my heart!) I managed to stitch them all together -- into one GINORMOUS (is that a word?!) top:

Finished top out on my back stoop -- on the chest freezer!

Finished top on my own (regular-sized) twin bed!

Finished top - detail

I put in all three photos to show why I love Bonnie Hunter mystery quilts!  I'm not a great bed-quilt maker, but I LOVE to piece -- it rests my brain (believe it or not!) during intense periods of Original Design (which, even if I've nothing to show for it, is most of the time).  And despite my shabby piecing skills, it never fails to amaze me that the tops I make with Bonnie's patterns (mystery and otherwise) always turn out to be amazing!!  So, Bonnie, I applaud you -- and thank you with all my heart for enabling me to turn my scraps into wonderful things!  (And yes, lest you wonder, I have hopes of making her 2018 Mystery Quilt -- now fully revealed -- some time later this year!   And YES, I have the scraps with which to do it!!)

Next up?  Somewhere along the way in the past couple of weeks I stumbled over a pattern for a "Spectacle Quilt" that was offered up on the Internet for those who wanted to make quilts for Project Linus.  Well...I wasn't in the market for that BUT I was looking for a way to put some 4" (OLD) blue and yellow 'charm squares' into a quilt for a new baby cousin (born in September). 

I fell in love with this simple way of using 4" or 5" squares (the pattern is for the latter; I adapted it for the smaller squares) -- and came up with a top I'm calling "You are My Sunshine".  I used a charm pack from well over a decade ago, when I had a subscription (quarterly) for samples from Benartex.  I added white fabric left over from the wide backing for a throw-sized quilt -- sheep and cats on the fabric! -- that I made for L, the owner of The Shop, whose birthday was in November. 

This will be a "tummy time" quilt for Marshall Richard Douglas McKellar (!), born in September, and once I get it quilted it will be well on its way East, where that part of my (father's) family lives. Meanwhile -- till I make an LQS run for batting and backing! -- it remains on my guest bed, measuring in at about 40" square:

And from there...I "screw[ed] my courage to the sticking place" (thanks, Shakespeare!) and finally executed a piece that's been rambling around my brain for over a year.  Part of what I refer to as my "Spirit Series", it's based on a passage from Isaiah 11: 1-3, often read at Advent in churches that practice liturgical worship:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him -- 
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the  fear of the LORD --
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

For the Jews, the "shoot" is the tiny, fragile thing that will grow up out of a dead, decaying stump of a people, to give them hope.  To fill them with Life and Inspiration.  For Christians, the 'shoot' is also a metaphor for the Messiah, the Saviour, a fore-telling of Jesus the Christ...and so...I took this image, and created a new art piece, which I've just this very afternoon entered into Sacred Threads 2019.

I began with the idea of the stump, which I'd drawn out on large paper so as to meet the minimum 80" PERIMETER  requirements for the show.

I started at the top, which I created from a wonderful batik from my stash (you know -- those fabrics that tell you to buy them but at the time you've NO idea why?) and another batik-wanna-be commercial cotton:

I then turned to a combination of Cas Holmes and an online resource re: creating "fabric paper".   It had to do with recycling tissue paper, using muslin as a base, spreading on the tissue, and 'painting' the surface with a mixture of basic white glue, water and paint.  Can I find the pages I printed about it to tell you the source?  No!  Sigh...If I do, I'll edit this post!

Anyway, I made this stuff and sliced it up into "bark":

"Fabric paper" laid out to dry

"Bark" slices on the stump's trunk

My new Pfaff Performance 5.2 didn't balk a bit at stitching those slices to the (much lighter-weight) fabric, and from there I fused both the 'trunk' and the top to a background, sandwiched it and quilted away:

"Bark" stitched to background of stump

"A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse: Isaiah 1l:1" -- finished

And a couple of detail shots:

As you can see, I decided to keep the background quilting simple by following the lines on the fabric -- and I'm happy I did!

Today, all the info and photos were sent via the Internet to the Call for Entry for Sacred Threads 2019.  This is the first time I've entered this show -- though I've been thinking about it for some years.  The decisions will be made by the last week in it's just to put the piece away and wait.  😊

Meanwhile, I've found a supplier in Calgary for Procion MX dyes (so I don't have to deal with USD exchange rates or higher shipping costs from Canadian sources in Ontario and B.C.) so I've put in an order to replenish my sadly depleted stock of dyes -- preparatory to my "Under the Wide Sky" series.  I think I'll make a small piece to kick-start it -- and make that my contribution to SAQA's 2019 Conference "Spotlight" auction. 

I continue to collect tea bags, and have some more ideas for experimenting with gel medium, paper, fabric, Transfer Artist Paper, cheesecloth, muslin...etc.

Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I wish you all MORE time to pursue whatever captures your fancy this new year!  And...I'll link up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, while there's still time.  Enjoy her recommendations for increasing your art history knowledge -- and just look at that wonderful cabinet her DH got her to tame the chaos in her studio!  I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Have a great rest of the week -- and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

I Don't Really *Want* a Word

"A word for the year", that is. 

I know, I know...some folks still choose one, rather than -- or perhaps in addition to -- making New Year's Resolutions.

I gave up resolutions a while ago...but the idea of a 'word' comes back to haunt me every year.  The last time I chose one it was 2016, and the word was "Celebrate!".  Indeed, that year there was much to celebrate.

The following year?  Not so much -- though 2017 found me having a great time at the Lacombe Art Show & Sale (April), turning 65 (September) and travelling to Scotland...out of which arose the 'Scotland Series'. 

And that -- in collaboration with my friend and SAQA colleague, Mary Wilton -- gave birth to two well-received exhibits.  ("Shamrock & Thistlemo: Textile Art Inspired by Ireland and Scotland" is showing in Lacombe's Memorial Centre as I write; it comes down January 30.)

As for this past year (2018)?  Well...yes...there have been some memorable moments: the 19th Annual Lacombe Art Show & Sale; the showing of S&T at the Camrose Art Walk and now at the LMC; a lovely visit with friends at their new home south of Calgary; and the acceptance into my first juried International Exhibit with SAQA, Season After Season.  In addition, I taught my first-ever mini-class on knitting with double-pointed needles (dpns) at two consecutive "Creativ Festival" shows, and have secured a spot (dates TBA) as part of an Artists' Collective in a nearby town, for a four-month period later this year.

The not-so-memorable moments? Relationship challenges in my family...coping with health issues myself (nothing major but nonetheless troublesome)...and the mess the world is in -- in no small way related to the foolishness in the government of Canada's neighbour to the south.  Sigh...

So why a word for 2019?  And what word?

Like I said, I don't -- and didn't -- want a 'word'.  I didn't want to think of one.  I didn't want to own one. came to me out of the blue -- and here you have it:


Not as in "more stuff" or "consumerism" or "unbridled accumulation".  NO.  "More" as in...

More peace.
More quiet.
More time in the studio.
More fruits and veggies.
More water.
More rest.
More sleep.
More giving (away).
More fresh air.
More long walks.
More poetry.
More finished projects.
More connections with friends and family.
More love.
More forgiveness.
More patience.
More kindness.
More gentleness.
More self-control.
More people remembered.
More letters written.
More sweet memories made.
More joy.
More prayer.
More contentment.

I'm thinking I might just like this word. More of it, every day.  Any of you want more?  It's there for the taking, if we can just slow down long enough to find it, treasure it, and take it home with us.

Happy New Year, Gentle Readers!

May it bring you MORE than you hoped for.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Show's UP! -- And Other Things

This has been a very full week!  The catalogue for SAQA's Global Exhibit, Season After Season, arrived in my mail.

I've become shameless and showing it off, and when I think of it, all I can think is, "WOW!"

My pages!

I'm particularly thankful for my daughter, Gina Blank, who did this photography for me.

As if that weren't enough, on Wednesday morning my colleague Mary Wilton and I over-saw the hanging of our collaborative exhibit, Shamrock & Thistle: Textile Art Inspired by Ireland and Scotland, at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.  We have 18 pieces between us, and all are available for purchase (to do so, contact Maureen MacKenzie at the City of Lacombe.)

I apologize for the lack of close-ups -- my camera's battery was threatening to die at any moment, so this is a cursory overview!  Perhaps I'll go back another day and do better.  The show is up till January 30, 2019.

And of course there's been the finishing of Christmas preparations.  This is the Last Year of the Annual Xmas Boxer Shorts...The end of an era!

And the Very Long Hooded Cardigan for my daughter is also finished and -- now -- washed:

Back -- showing the hood
Pattern: Dubline from Marousa Gallagher
Yarn: Berroco Vintage (worsted)
Colour 5181 - "Black Cherry"

Front -- cabled border goes all
the way up the front and
around the hood

NOTE: This jacket sweater is buttonless; I just put the pin on the front to hold it closed for the photo!

And there was some baking...a trio of mini Bumbleberry pies for my son's freezer...

In the midst of this I did manage to fit in some studio time.  I finished "The Content of Our Waiting" -- adding some hand stitch and applying a facing.  All that remains to add is a hanging sleeve:

The Content of Our Waiting (C) 2018
11" W x 13" L
Painted paper, commercial and hand-printed fabric;
machine quilted, hand embroidered.
Inspired by the writing of Steve Bell,
the season of Advent, and the work of
both Cas Holmes and Deb Boschert

And I dug out and quilted a "Crumb-pilation" I'd created some months ago, out of neutrals, that I really wasn't sure what to do with.  Once it was quilted, I zig-zagged the edges and mounted it on a thin stretched canvas to which I'd applied slices of linen fabric.  I might still get it framed, but here's what it looks like for now:

Crumb-pilations V: Making My Way Home (C) 2018
10.5" x 10.5" mounted on 12" x 12" canvas
Machine pieced and quilted. first I numbered it "IV" but I've managed to fix that!

Crumb-pilations V - Detail

I'll be spending tomorrow tidying the house and packing for my trip to Edmonton on Sunday, right after church.  The toughest decision will be what book and what knitting to take!  I've pretty much decided to leave my laptop at home, so I expect to be incommunicado for a few days.  😊

Now before linking up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, I want to bid all of you, my Gentle Readers, wishes for joy and blessing over whatever you'll be doing through the Christmas Holiday time.  

Thank you all for continuing to read, when there are so many demands on your time.   Thanks especially for those who take time to comment on occasion.  You all inspire and encourage me to keep making.  To paraphrase Tiny Tim, "God bless [you], every one!"

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Starts and Stops

A couple of weeks ago I wrote in a bit of a panic, about all the Christmas knitting I had on my needles.  Well!  I'm here to tell you that progress has been made!

I've turned the heel on the second of these socks, and am well on my way down the foot.  The finger-less mittens are finished and in the mail.

My nephew's scarf is in the mail (sorry; I forgot to take a photo!)  And...the long hooded cardigan is farther along.  There's only 6 1/2" left to knit to get to the top of the hood!

And what of those boxer shorts?  Well...not yet.  But their construction is on Monday's 'do now!' list.  Really!

I've set aside work on the On Ringo Lake mystery quilt to play with some of the painted paper I made recently, and have come up with a piece that emulates the work of the wonderful Deborah Boschert.  In her article entitled "Developing Meaning and Exploring Shapes" (See Quilting Arts magazine for Oct/Nov 2018), she states that part of her process involves "incorporating personal symbols" into her pieces.

Up to now, I've not given serious thought to what personal symbols I might have in my life.  That said, I realize much of my work incorporates moons and trees, hills, roads and fence posts -- aspects of my environment, in addition to that wide sky I love so much.  In my Scotland series I explored echoing archways found in the ruins of an ancient abbey in Melrose.

Abbey Echoes I (C) 2018

Abbey Echoes II (C) 2018

But I've not thought of any of these as personal symbols -- despite the fact I love everything about them.

One of the symbols that's important to Deborah is the bowl -- and she's made several pieces incorporating simple bowl shapes.

And that's the shape I explored this time 'round -- inspired in part by Deborah's work, yes, but mainly by the words of Canadian singer-song-writer, Steve Bell, in the first book of his Pilgrim Year  series, the one that delves into the Christian season of Advent.  It's a season of preparation, of waiting for the arrival of God Incarnate, the miracle of the arrival of God in human form as a vulnerable wee baby, at Christmas.

In his essay for the First Week of Advent, Mr. Bell writes, "So when we consider the Christian season of Advent, what is the content of our waiting?  How are we to prepare?...How do we ready our lives to receive the gift of Christ...?" (emphasis mine).

The words echoed in my mind: '...the content of our waiting'.  The idea of 'waiting' as a vessel that contains our prayers, thoughts, feelings, spiritual preparations.  And what kind of vessel?

A bowl.

Content of Our Waiting  (C) 2018
Under construction!

Partially quilted, it's on my design wall, waiting itself for the rest of the quilting and then, I think, some hand stitch.  And ya know, when I look at this piece, I see the hint of some of those elements I mentioned above: tree/grass/crop shapes, rolling land shapes, fence post shapes and natural colours -- green, muddy grey-brown and rusty brown, white-off-white (we have snow here).  There's a certain horizontal symmetry to it too, despite the fact that this piece is a rectangle in "portrait" orientation.  

Maybe -- just maybe -- my personal symbol is the prairie landscape.   

While I chew on that idea for a while, I'll leave you to link up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and wish you a warm and happy rest of the weekend!