Sunday, October 22, 2017


Yes, as I mentioned last week, I'm "Back at It" in the Sewdio, and enjoying the variety immensely.

While ideas for a 'Scottish Landscape' series fill my head, I've been working on prior commitments and gifts.

One of the gifts is (yet another) hedgehog...which I presented today to my friend J, on the occasion of her 87th birthday...

Ain't he (or she) cute?

Another is a set of pillow shams for a client to give as a gift.  For now, let's just say that the pattern has been drafted (a traditional quilt block as the focus) but it's complex enough that I may do a mock-up in miscellaneous fabric before I dip into the fabrics for which the client's paid!

And then there is a Very Special Project.

By this, I'm referring to a series of fabric blocks that have been created by students at the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA), publicized on the SAQA Blog a couple of months ago.  Young people are being encouraged to engage in discourse and activities to support civil justice...and a number of them are involved in creating these blocks that will become art quilts.  Volunteers were needed to add embroidery to the prepared blocks. 

I learned to embroider around age 11, just a few years after I learned to knit.  I love it almost as much, and use these skills frequently in my art work.  I even took a Certificate in Contemporary Hand Stitch from Gail Harker in La Conner, WA,  a decade ago.  AND  I have a huge healthy stash of embroidery floss with which to work.

It only made sense that I would volunteer with this project!

But...I was going away for most of September.  Could it wait till I got back?  Of course!

So...a week ago a package arrived in the mail...from the U.K.  I have no idea why that happened, as SJSA is based in the U.S., but there you are.  In the package were seven (count 'em!) large (15" square) blocks, each with images applied to them...with some sort of glue....and with a 30-day turn-around time!!  I managed to get that changed to six weeks, thank you -- and set to work.  Here's some of that Work in Progress...

A's Block (1)

A's Block (2)

A's Block (3)

U's Block (1)

U's Block (2)

Each block comes with the first name of the artist, a short statement about the work, and if desired by the artists, any special requests.  Above you can see that in U's block, there are grey clouds that have been applied in the sky, opposite the image of the sun.  I put those clouds in, as this is one of her requests, as was the red stripes on each flag in the photos.

I am being very careful to work on one piece at a time so that I can absorb what each artist is saying in his/her work...and plan my stitching accordingly.  While I have complete freedom to select the colours and type of stitches I make on each piece, I am trying to use materials and stitches that will enhance quietly the work and thought behind them.

I know that I have probably never experienced any of the challenges that these young artists have faced in their short this has given me a glimpse at their personal journeys and a great admiration for their courage, as well as gratitude for those who work with them to bring to our consciousness important issues, while providing a means of creative therapy that comes from the expression of ideas, thoughts, experiences and feelings through the realm of art.

I thank the organizers of this project at SJSA, and hope that my modest contribution will be of use and benefit.

To find out more about SJSA, or to take part in this work, click HERE...

Linking to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, where this week she's been talking about picking a colour palette.  (Note that in the SJSA pieces above, there is a distinct palette selected to convey the message of the work.  As I'm not sure these young artists have been especially taught this concept, I'm proposing that some of our colour selections are intuitive -- they "just make sense"...But a little knowledge can work even more artistic magic, don't you think?)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Back at It

It seems that blogging has become a 'Sunday-kinda-thing' for me lately.  ;-)

I've been home from Scotland just over two weeks now and finally -- for the most part -- I seem to be 'back to normal' (what 'normal' is for me, that is).  The jogging has been a challenge -- sluggish and slow -- but I persist!  The weather's been pretty good this past week, so I've pushed myself to go out and plod along.  There are a few 'Scottish pounds' that have to be removed!

I must admit I took it slowly and started back in the Sewdio with a commission I wanted to finish by Thanksgiving (Oct. 8-9 here) so I could save shipping costs.  My sweet sister has a dear friend (I know her too) who's becoming a Young Great-Grandma in November, so sis commissioned me to make a crib quilt in a rail fence -- in a selection of blue fabric because, apparently, the baby is to be a boy.

Here is the top when I finished it just before my trip:

Here it is just after my return -- sandwiched and ready to quilt:

And here it is, finished -- full front and back, followed by detail shots:

I really lucked out with the backing, which I also used for the binding, because I found it at Wild Flower Creations, the LQS in Lacombe -- on the 50% off table!  And doesn't it echo the Rail Fence motif perfectly -- in 4 shades of blue, no less!

Primed for the Next Step

Once I had the quilt finished -- using my trusty back-up machine, a Pfaff 1222E -- I was ready to move outside my Comfort meet a deadline.  I picked up my Husqvarna Lily 555 from the "spa" (Red Deer Sewing Centre), put her back into her sewing table and moved forward...

This past year I joined the Alberta Society of Artists as an 'Associate Member'.  I have no idea how many textile artists there are in this fine organization, beyond two SAQA colleagues -- Barbara J. West and Ilse Anysas-Salkauskas, both of whom have BFA degrees and are Juried Members of both the ASA and SAQA -- but I figured it would be an interesting group to join.

It's been a while since I surrendered my position as a Co-Rep with SAQA, and I was ready to do a tiny bit of volunteering, so I offered to participate in a fund-raiser: "100@100" -- where 100 artists volunteer to produce a piece of work on a 10" square wood panel, to be sold for funds to support the organization.

You may recall that I picked up my panel from President Mail Doktor just before I prepared to leave for Scotland.

Thank goodness for the trip, but...when I got back, I had to think about it.  Get back to the idea of trying to do something with an 'artist's panel' or 'artist's board'.

My dear provender of mats and frames, Andrea Hatch at Cabinet of Curiosities in Stettler, got me a large piece of 'board' which I cut in two (badly, because I don't really have the right equipment), and upon which I began to play.

I knew I needed to prepare the wood with gesso so that it would be sealed, and not damage the fabric I planned to apply to I painted one coat on an almost 10"-square section of the board.  I was inspired in part by the work of the wonderful Louise O'Hara from Northumberland, UK, whose work I first discovered in a tiny shop at the ferry dock at Malaig, Scotland.  I bought a card with this image:

By the Fireside - (C) Louise O'hara
She does work with textiles and paint on board and canvas...which thrilled me to the core...and so I persisted.

On the bus -- near Inverness

Inspirational photo (above -- the second one I'd tried) in hand, I tried painting with acrylics on the sample board I'd prepared...and failed miserably.  It was stiff and stylized and not at all what I wanted.

I did some more internet research and found I should prepare 'board' by applying at least three (3) coats of Gesso, sanding with fine paper in between each application.  So I did -- both on the sample board and on the board Mali had given me for the final piece.

I still wasn't all that thrilled.  Then it dawned on me: I've always felt more comfortable with watery acrylic on canvas -- or with water colour altogether.  Perhaps I could try water colour on 'board'?  What did I have to lose?  In the immortal words of my first art quilt teacher, Anna Hergert: "It's just a sample."
So...I sampled:

Water colour on board (sample)

Whoa!  It worked!

Now, you need to bear in mind that the 'sky/mountains' is only the background.  I also had to fill up the foreground.  And that...that was being done as needle-felting.  The base was a piece of wool felt I bought from a vendor -- Quilter's Quarters of Longridge -- at the Scottish Quilt Competition, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.  I bought 3 pieces all told, for 7.50 GBP (about $12.75 CAD).  I got three shades of earthy greens, which work just right for this work.

And in the end, after auditioning and auditioning and adding wool roving bought at Fibre Week (Olds, June 2017) and fleece self-dyed over the last couple of summer, in jars in the sun...and using my embellisher...

This is what I got:

Oh! Those Highland Hills!

Detail (1)

Detail (2)

It will go into the mail in the next few days, once I get a box that can fit it.  I hope it brings in a good price for the ASA fund raiser.

As a sort of  'palate cleanser' after this...I painted a wee canvas (more on that later) and finished another that hadn't had its foreground done.  This time, instead of needle felting, I went with quilting:

Fifty Shades of Green (C) 2-17

I'll have this one put in a 'floater' frame like the others of its kind...and keep going.

Now you're pretty well caught up with the I will leave you linkin up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and wish you a wonderful week!

Sunday, October 08, 2017


For living in this land

Field on the edge of Mirror, AB

For being able to travel to this land

From the train - Glasgow to Edinburgh

For creatures great and small

Hebredian (L) and Cheviot (R) sheep

Don't forget the donkeys!

For friends, far and near

Artist Gillian Cooper & I
Hill House, Helensburgh, Scotland

Travelling buddy, Mary, and I
visiting Hill House

For new experiences

Tartan weaving - Locharron Mills, Scotland

For family history

Where my G-G-G-Grandfather's farm once stood
Kilsyth, Scotland

And family now

My kids!

My son and his Uncle L share a laugh.

Me and my sis!

And for all of you, Gentle Readers...
Happy Thanksgiving from Canada.

I wish you a blessed day, and as I link this up to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Friday", I'll leave you with this poem from British poet, Malcolm Guite, who wrote it in 2010 following a visit to Canada...


Thanksgiving starts with thanks for mere survival,

Just to have made it through another year
With everyone still breathing. But we share
So much beyond the outer roads we travel;
Our interweavings on a deeper level,
The modes of life embodied souls can share,
The unguessed blessings of our being here,
The warp and weft that no one can unravel.

So I give thanks for our deep coinherence
Inwoven in the web of God’s own grace,
Pulling us through the grave and gate of death.
I thank him for the truth behind appearance,
I thank him for his light in every face,
I thank him for you all, with every breath.

*To listen to Mr. Guite read this aloud, click HERE.  Note that, as do many Brits, he refers to us  "American"...meaning North American.  

Friday, September 08, 2017


I was hoping to coordinate my "65" (birthday) with "1500" (blog posts)...but it didn't work out that way, and I'm out of time.

I work tomorrow at The Shop.  I finish packing for Scotland on Sunday a.m.  I drive to Edmonton avec le chat (that's "with the cat", Miss Pooks) on Sunday afternoon...and fly to Glasgow (via Amsterdam) Monday evening.

No time.

Or, rather, what little time there is will pass too quickly to be captured in a "#1500" blog post.

So -- it shall wait till my safe return (God willing)...and perhaps be better for it.  By then I might have actually figured out a way to celebrate it!


Trio - (C) - 2012

In the hour-and-a-half that's left, I'll mark the end of my 65th year with a poem from one of my favourites...Mary Oliver. 

Here in Mirror, all the streets end in trees.  Most streets are gravel.  It is "Aspelund" (Aspen Land).  My art is shaped by trees.  Much of my work depends upon trees.  They shape me, they hold my attention, they shade and comfort me.

So...this gift from Ms. Oliver to me...and back to you.

When I am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myelf,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world,
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves,
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

And to hear it read aloud, the loveliest way to read poetry...

Please "read" and savour and walk among those trees nearest you.

Celebrate their lives and yours...till we meet again.

P. S. Linking this to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Friday".  This week she's talking about 'focal point'.  Artwork -- or at least, a piece thereof -- might have one.  Lives have one too...or two, or three, or four...sometimes vying for dominance, but ideally one at a time.  Wishing you all a smooth and easy journey to discovering YOUR 'focal point' -- that place in which you can rest a bit, knowing (for the time being) your Purpose in Life, or adjusting and adapting to What Lies Ahead, or simply loving Those Around You, and/or The One Who Created You to Start With.  Thanks again, Gentle Readers...I love you all!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Primed and Pumped!

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to visit with Mali Doktor, current President of the Alberta Society of Artists...and with Andrea Hatch, owner and star framer at her shop, Cabinet of Curiosities in Stettler.

Well, those meeting happened -- and left me with heart pumping, eyes shining, brain spinning in a gazillion directions about the pieces that need to be and will be made in the next several months.

First, the ASA.  Mali gave me my 'board' (resembles a canvas except that it's made out of wood) on which I'm to mount/create something "in [my] chosen medium".  It's 10" square.  The finished piece will be my contribution to a fund-raising auction event entitled "100@100".  That's me in the pink (!) with Mali in the right-hand photo.

I've never worked on a 'board' before so have to pick one up on which to practice before I make the final product.

I have it in mind to do something similar to what I've been doing on canvas -- in a much smaller size (5" x 7").  I picked up the first three finished ones from Andrea (my trusty framer and mat-cutter) yesterday.  Here's just one example:

She can produce 4 of these frames (with a bit left over) from one "stick" of moulding; the same would be true if they were 6" square.  Thus she could get two out of one "stick" if they were 12" square...and so on!  At the price she is giving me, I would be foolish to try to reproduce them myself.  What a blessing she is!!  Once I'm back from my Scottish holiday, I hope to create a good supply of these over the winter, for sale at the Lacombe Art Show in the spring (April).

Meanwhile, Bonavista Fine Art in Sylvan Lake is having its close-out sale, and I've given permission for a modest discount on my work.  Anything not sold will come back to me after September 30, when its doors are closed.

There's a bright side to that...because I've been booked by the LQS in Stettler (where I generally buy my backings and batting) to do an Artist's Talk and Trunk Show on the Saturday afternoon of a quilt retreat weekend.  Caroline, the owner of Homespun Seasons, has wanted me to do this for some time now, and seems to think that though Stettler is in the heart of what I call "Bed Quilt Central", there will be an interest in the whole process of coming up with original designs.  As for me, I look forward to any opportunity to show my work.  She wants me to include MOB I and my books...and will permit me to sell the books, given that the proceeds go to JDRF and Diabetes Canada. can only hope!

You can see I've much to think about and prepare for in the coming months...but my focus right now is getting ready to leave for the Celtic Quilt Tour to Scotland!  I fly out of Edmonton with my friend and colleague, Mary Wilton, on September 11 and will be touring there through the 28th!!

I decided that being away from the sewdio would make this the perfect time to take my Husqvarna Lily 555 in for her annual "spa treatment" at Red Deer Sewing that will happen on my way to work at The Shop today.  That said, I just had to keep working her till bed-time last night...putting together blocks for what I'm calling "My Quilt".

I've now managed to create six rows of six blocks each. My design wall accommodates only three rows of six at a time; here's what the second set of three rows of blocks looks like:

All in all, I plan for it to be 8 blocks per row x 10 rows (i.e., 80 blocks each finishing at 8" square) -- plus borders.  I doubt that I'll try to quilt it myself, but I've had fun playing will all these brights, knowing full well the finished top will look nothing like the original pattern.  The goal is to have a fresh new quilt for my bedroom, and in that, I think I'll succeed!  😊

Continuing my Utilitarian streak, I've now finished two dishcloths from stash cotton and have cast on a third, aiming to replace my sad and sorry collection with at least a half dozen new ones.  The patterns are all mysteries from an old Ravelry KAL (2009/2010), so I never know what they look like till they're finished.  Here's the first one -- from a pattern from the middle of September 2009:

Side One

Side two
Yes, it's reversible -- and yes, it's a diamond...
or rather, diamonds within diamonds!

The yarn is Nova Four Seasons Cotton from Diamond Yarns (I'm not kidding!) in colour-way #25.

And that's all the news from the Sewdio for today.  I may squeeze in one more post before I travel; we'll see.  Meanwhile I'm linking up with WIP Wednesday over at The Needle and Thread Network, and wishing you a great rest of the week!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

And Today, This

I've been behind on my blog this evening I am trying to catch up a bit.

I can't now.  Not since this, which I looked up (I guessed until I found the right information) I can write, quietly and softly and gently, to the right person.

A knitter.

With a we all have mothers.

Whose mother has left this world, now, just a couple of days ago, after a brief illness.  Young (from my vantage point) at 74...

I am so sorry.

I will write to tell her that...But I thought, Gentle Readers, that those of you who are knitters, and who know of and love the work of the Yarn Harlot, that you might want to write too. Old school.  A real note, on real paper, in real hand-writing.

Stephanie, I am so sorry.

P.S. The official notice is HERE.  No mention of donations in memory but Stephanie is partial to Medecins Sans Frontieres and  PWA Friends for Life Bike Rally...just so you know.



My work is exhibited in 3 Central Alberta galleries/gift shops, as many of you know.  I've had pieces in the Bonavista Fine Art Gallery in Sylvan Lake for a good year or so now and was absolutely thrilled to show there, as the owner, Denise Milne, gave me beautiful wall space...

So you can imagine my emotions this morning when I opened my e-mail to find this, written last night:
Good evening artists,
I am writing today to regretfully inform you that Bonavista Fine Art Inc. will be closing it's doors September 30th, 2017. It is not financially feasible for us to continue operating.
I'm very sorry for any inconvenience I have caused anyone and to those of you whom I have set classes up with.
Thank you so much to each and every one of you for giving us the opportunity to showcase your unique and stunning pieces of artwork. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours! 
Please contact me to set an appointment for when you can come in to sign out your pieces before September 30th, or if you would like to leave your pieces up to the last day I can schedule your pick up appointments for the first  week in October, just let me know.
I will be discounting my pieces by quite a bit because I don't really want to take them all home ;) So if any of you would like to do the same please reply to this email with your desired percentage discount and I will change the prices in the gallery asap. 
Sincerely,Denise MilneArtist/Owner

It's a letter you hope never to get, signalling not so much a reflection of the still-wobbly economy in these parts but (and this is only my opinion) the challenges of trying to create a viable venue for artists in a part of the province where there are many practitioners, but not that many consumers or appreciators of art.  This is not the Big City.  Sylvan Lake is a large town that bursts at the seams in the summer, with cottagers and vacationers...a town that fosters (perhaps) a more casual lifestyle.  It has a Jazz Festival that has struggled in recent years to provide entertainment for all ages, for families as well as jazz afficionados and connoisseurs -- again (perhaps) because of lack of appreciation for the artistry involved.

I know I'm rambling here, Gentle Readers, so I will draw this to a close...but welcome your thoughts.

P.S. I offered to allow a modest discount to see if some of my pieces will sell before she closes the doors.  Her commission has always been very reasonable, so this wouldn't impact too much.  We shall see.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


It's been well over a month since my sewdio work focused on art.  Not that it's been far from my brain; it hasn't.  I still have ideas swirling around in there, but my hands have wanted no part of those.

While this is on the design wall...

(L) - tree rubbings - under construction
(R) - Wall (c) - July 2017

These are ready to go under the needle...

3" blocks waiting
to become 1/2-square triangles

And these have already been assembled...

7" square, 1/2-square triangles

They're going to come together with a stack of waiting rectangles, like this...

Pattern: "Summer Citrus"
Designers: Christine Baker & Nellie Holmes
Upper Canada Quiltworks Publishing
from A Needle Pulling Thread
Spring 2009 edition

Yes, that's 2009.  That's how long that faded purple sticky note has book-marked that pattern...and pretty much how long I've had most of that fabric -- with a sewing-related theme -- just waiting to be put into use.  Recently at lunch, my friend C gave me two fat quarters of similar fabric -- in a completely different colour palate -- and I was spurred to add it to the stack and get going on (Heaven forfend!) a quilt pour moi.  Heaven also only knows how long it will take for me to get it quilted (it will likely be large enough that I don't want to do it myself)...but the top is far enough along now that it should be finished this fall.

However, I was in Utilitarian Mode long before I started to put this one together.  I finished the third quilt top (crib size) for the B.C. fire effort...

Lest you think, "I've seen this before!"...well, it's the same fabric I used for a throw-sized top.  Originally, the kit from which they came called for it to be all one quilt...but I thought it might be more useful in two smaller ones instead.

All three tops were boxed up and sent to Coleen in Peachland, B.C. on Wednesday.  Now there's a fire threatening nearby I hope she is safe and gets the package in good that she isn't interrupted in this good work for the thousands displaced earlier this summer.

Also mailed out: the wee "Oilers" toque and a pair of "wristlets" -- fingerless gloves -- for the up-coming 65th birthday of a friend from high school.

Pattern: "Queen Vicki's Wristlets"
Designer: River City Yarns, Edmonton, AB
Yarn: Peruvian Baby Cashmere from

Here's what they look like on my hands:

Left Wristlet
Right Wristlet

A knitting UFO was crossed off yesterday, too, when I finished a side-ways knit garter-stitch (knit every row) cardigan I began in 2012.  I dug it out in June, figuring it would be ideal to wear on my up-coming quilters' tour of Scotland in September.  I started where I'd left off...and soon went off the rails.  It's shaped with short rows, using 3 stitch markers...but which was Marker 1? 2? 3?  I thought I knew -- till I finished the back and found the neckline had become woefully misshapen.  Sigh.  I turned to Ravelry for help, and sure enough, there was a 'help group' for the pattern.  One gal in particular set me straight.  I frogged back to where I thought I'd begun to go astray, and started again.

Now it looks like this:

Pattern: "Corinne Cardigan"
Designer: Crystal Urb Junkins
Yarn: Patons "Venus"(Vintage)

The apparent 'gathers'
smooth out when on the body.

Neckline detail.  See the short-row shaping?

The pattern calls for four buttons, smaller than shown, but I wanted to show off this one I bought years ago at my then-favourite LYS in Calgary, The Knitting Room.

Pretty Button!

I found out earlier this week that a friend from university days and her hubby became grandparents for the first time at the end of now a wee pair of socks from some cotton-blend stash yarn is on the needles, and will likely go out later this week.  I started them last evening in the Outdoor Sewdio.  It got a bit cool, so I put on my new cardi.  Perfect!

So there you have it, Gentle Readers: several weeks spent satisfying a hankering to create beauty, but not the kind one puts on one's walls.  It seems to come from a combination of wanting to Use Stuff Up, to Keep Hands Busy, to Enter the Creative Zone without too much strain on the brain, and to Give Something to Others at a time when there is great chaos, anxiety and turmoil in the world.  

All I know is, these projects have kept my hands touching textiles, fulfilling a purpose, finding meaning, and creating calm -- at least, in my wee corner of the world.  They've soothed my soul even as the summer sped by, and enabled me to spend time reflecting on the year ahead -- but that's a subject for another post!

Today I'm off to meet Mali Doktor (Vargas) the young woman who is the current President of the Alberta Society of Artists...and who's going to give me a 'board' on which to create something for an ASA fund-raiser.  It's my first contribution to the organization since I became an Associate Member several months ago, and really the easiest and most practical way for me to 'volunteer' for a group that is based a good 2 1/2 hours' drive southeast of here.  I've never worked with 'board' before, though, so it'll also be a learning experience.  Who knows?  I might just find another avenue for my textile ideas!

Monday I expect to drive over to Stettler to get an estimate on some floater frames from Andrea at the Cabinet of Curiosities (she's the gal who cuts most of the mats for my minis)...

So you see?  Art's been happening, is happening, and will happen here in the sewdio for the foreseeable future (God willing!)

Linking this up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- and wishing you all a wonderful weekend!