Monday, July 17, 2017


I'm having a tough time these days keeping up with life in Blog Land -- whether it be reading the blogs I follow or writing about what's up in the Sewdio.

This week, I blame it mainly on the heat -- and the insects!

Last Monday it was wasps, which I found when I tried to open an old shed with unpredictable sliding doors and was greeted with a couple of stings for my efforts.

By Wednesday a.m. I knew the nest was thoroughly dealt with -- and my neighbour had pointed out a second (old, also dead) nest in the same shed -- on the ceiling!  I've shut the doors on that building, and will return in the fall (after the first frost) to remove all traces!

Friday it was ants!  This is my own fault, I guess.  Sigh.  I love my peonies, but will have to resist bringing any into the house in future.  I've always shaken off the blossoms to rid them of ants before bringing them in, but this year I included buds...and I guess there were critters in there...

Anyway, they are now dealt with too, thanks to ant powder and floor scrubbing and the judicious placement of ant traps for any malingerers!

In between, I did manage to pick a crop of Saskatoons from a nearby farmer's berry patch (over a dozen cups -- some now in muffins and some shared with my next-door neighbour) and some of my own raspberries (4 1/2 cups now in the freezer) and to discover (with that neighbour's help) that yes, indeed, I needed new bathroom taps, as the current ones -- leaking badly -- cannot be repaired.  A new set has been purchased...but remains to be installed.

Sew what happened in the Sewdio?!

Not much... but I managed to get very close to finishing a x-stitch Christmas Stocking (only the details left now, and then construction), to finish a simple shawl (a commission)...

And to quilt and bind "Wall":

Wall (C) 2017
Hand-stamped and marked cotton and linen;
commercial cotton; cotton floss.
Machine quilted and hand-stitched.
12" square

Wall - Detail

I decided to quilt it 'in the ditch' with "invisible" thread (I used a clear mono-polyester from Superior Thread on the top and Superior's "Bottom Line" in black on the back)...and then added a few lines of running stitch (which go through to the back) using 3 strands of cotton floss, picking up the red in the 'wall'.  I finished it with a very narrow red binding.

Next week when I go into Red Deer, I'll take the piece with me and see how it might look mounted on a 12" square canvas.  If I like the effect and if I can find it, I'll also audition it then dropped into a black shadow box frame.

Thinking about "Wall" and my recent tree rubbings, I've come up with an idea for a second stay tuned!

To finish off the week, I went to Sylvan Lake yesterday after church, and finalized the new selection of my work Denise wanted for her Bonavista Fine Art Gallery.  (The above link will take you to "my" gallery on the website.)

I love the way she takes such care to show off the work of each of her artists!  This is how mine looked when I saw it yesterday afternoon:

You might recognize some of those pieces as I've posted about them over the years.  The ones with large 'statements' posted next to them toured overseas when I was part of the 15 x 15 International Group.  Both of us agreed that it was great for viewers to see those stories along with the pieces.

And now, because I still can, I'm linking up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and going back into the Sewdio to work on that new idea.  Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, July 10, 2017

New Work

I continue to play with making marks -- and have added painting and needle-felting to the mix.  All in all the perfect combination for someone who is currently artistically unsettled, yet determined to accomplish something!  ;-)

First up...these small canvases, inspired by a pair of online videos that I purchased from my beloved City and Guild tutor, Linda Kemshall, and the programs she produces with her daughter Laura on DesignMattersTV: "Painterly Acrylic Landscapes" -- Parts I and II.

I've created four small (5" x 7") canvases...and attached to them bits that I've needle-felted on my Babylock embellisher.  It seems I've finally mastered this (no broken needles thus far!)...and I'm enjoying immensely the process of creating these small things using acrylic craft felt from The Shop, pieces of felted wool, roving, hand-dyed cheesecloth (YUM!), sari silk ribbon, and bits of roving from NORO 'Rainbow Rolls' (also available at The Shop).  Each is to be inserted into a floater frame; I'll be in Red Deer next week and  hope to find some there.  If not, I may have to mortgage the house to purchase them online... ;-)

In Green Pastures (C) 2017
5" x 7" - unframed

In Green Pastures - Detail

Canoes on Cranna Lake (C) 2017
5" x 7" - unframed

Canoes... - Detail


Sometimes you think you've finished something, but it's not quite right...

Beside Still Waters (Before)

Something about this one fell into that category; the trees in the far background were too bright, so I went back in with some paint and...

Ahhh...that's a bit better...

Beside Still Waters (C) 2017 - unframed

Beside Still Waters - Detail

The fourth one is still Under's felted foreground isn't done you'll just have to stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I've quilted 'Wall'...and am preparing to apply a very narrow (1/4" or less) binding to it, preparatory to affixing it to a canvas.  I've trimmed it to 12" will be posted later.

And I've done some more mark-making...using a tree in my backyard and a couple of oil pastel 'crayons' I had kicking around.

Here are some samples of the Mountain Ash trunk (Rowan for my U.K. readers) 'subject':

And here are the samples/results in a red-brown and a dark grey:

I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with these yet, except to know they invite stitch -- probably hand-stitch.  First, given the medium, they need to be 'cured' until later tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday.  Then I will heat set them (using a protective pressing sheet and a dry iron) and go from there.  I sourced the fabric from an online class in modern/improvisational quilting I took a few months ago. There was an awful piece...I cut it up and got all this wonderful white KONA cotton to work with.  The moral?  If you're willing to play, you can turn your "failures" into your next artistic "success"!  ;-)

P.S. for the knitters...I finally blocked this shawlette I finished a month ago.  It's a gift for a friend of mine...

Pattern: "California Skies" by Evelyn Uyemura
Yarn: Painted Desert by Knitting Fever - Colour #109
- Available at The Crafty Lady in Lacombe and elsewhere...

"California Skies" - Detail

Linking in to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday (at the last minute!)...and wishing you all a creative week!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Because She's One of My Favourites

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee,
aka the Yarn Harlot
in Edmonton, October 2014
This year, the Yarn Harlot was a tad late with her Annual Canada Day post...but as usual it was worth the wait.

If you don't know of can read THAT POST and more on her blog...and look for her books on and or and probably other places too.  I have them all and have read them all...and had a 'bucket list' item crossed off when a few years ago she came to Edmonton, and I was able to meet her, get her to sign one of those books, and knit on my sock.

In knitting circles, she's one of Canada's best and brightest for her wisdom, her humanity, her humour and her skills.  A yarn-lover's treasure -- and I'm grateful she's ours.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Ignoring the Voices

It's July.  :-)

It's peak Outdoor Studio time -- except when it gets too hot, or the thunder clouds roll in.

I'm still playing, still resisting the Voices that try to tell me that everything I'm doing must lead to something concrete, something useful...that everything I'm doing must be productive.

I've had to set aside the spinning for a bit because my 'death grip' on the fibres has given me some aches and pains (I need a better chair too, but that's another story).  Suffice to say, I wasn't practicing good spinning ergonomics and it bit me.  :-(

So...this week I played with marking and stamping, based on what I learned from Susan Purney Mark and Valerie Wilson at the SAQA WC Regional Retreat in early May.  I had fun and -- surprise, surprise -- some of it was also productive!

I wanted to see how the techniques would work on scraps of linen -- various thread counts -- that I have collected as left-overs from embroidery projects through the years.

I began with 'Asemic writing' on some 32-count, and it worked very well!

Length of 32-count linen;
asemic writing with fabric pen.

Asemic writing on linen - detail

I liked it so much, in fact, that I added it to what I've done with my retreat sample, and created a dozen art cards -- now available for purchase at Gracie D's Antiques, Collectibles and Giftware here in Mirror!

I then tried using the plastic wedge on wet linen.  Whether I did the marking, then sprayed it, or sprayed it before marking, I got mixed results.  I was using not only the black Speedball fabric paint I bought at the retreat, but also some blue Jacquard fabric paint and some green -- a Stewart Gill sample given me at a SAQA conference some time ago that was past its prime and needed water to soften it up.

Still...these ones have potential to become something (ahem!) productive...

Speedball black, Stewart Gill green and
Jacquard blue on closely-woven linen sample

Close up of the above

Speedball black paint on closely-woven linen

Black and blue - ditto

I decided I might have more success with stamping on this fabric, and I was right -- and it was more fun, too, because the fabric didn't fight the stamps the way it fought the wedge.

The green piece is a detail shot of a long, narrow piece of fabric (similar to the black-on-white above).  Clearly all three of these have potential to become productive!

I turned from fresh mark-making and stamping, then, to trying to make something of my retreat samples...

Playing on the design wall

In the end I came up with a piece I've entitled, "Wall" -- yet to be quilted.  Even its orientation is as yet undecided!

"Wall" - approx. 12.5" x 13.25" before quilting

I ended the week by finishing my long assembled Canada Day table runner -- based on a 'mystery' pattern from Quilter's Connection magazine, and done up in my favourites from Northcott Fabrics Canadian collection for Canada 150...

When I'd finished the binding, I used it as my banner till the thunder storm yesterday evening!

Linking this up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and wishing all my Canadian friends and family a wonderful rest-of-the-Canada-150-holiday weekend!

Happy July 4 to my American friends and family...for Tuesday.  I gather you've already begun to celebrate.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Embracing Uncertainty

That's the title of a book I'm reading right now -- written by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, which I read a bazillion years ago...

I came across Embracing Uncertainty at a second hand book cafe when I was in Olds a week ago for a Fibre Week class.  Coming on the heels of my last post, the title seemed too appropriate to pass by...and so I brought it home with the coffee I bought for the road.

In the week since, I've continued to drift some, do some, make some, think some, sift some, sort some, work some...

The spinning class was a challenge; it focused on spinning fine yarn from tiny uncarded locks of wool -- from sheep bred for their delicate fleece.  No sturdy Shetland!  These were CVM, Merino and Sharlea locks!  Whoa!  And me, an inconsistent, out-of-practice spinner!  I'd had to empty 3 bobbins to take to the class, which forced me to practice a bit, and I was reasonably pleased with the results...

Lumpy, sturdy "character" yarn ;-)

But the demands of this class -- !!  (Photos of the results may or may not be posted at a later date!)

Still...I persisted, and actually enjoyed it enough to stay on a bit into the evening, buying some Falklands roving (a blend of wool from fine-fleeced breeds) to practice on at the Spin Social.  I came home later that night feeling tired but happy...and have practiced some almost every day since.

The next day was spent mainly outdoors, cleaning my eaves troughs (gutters), working in the yard and garden.  Completely physical; completely free of thought (or over-thought).

Sunday and Monday involved a trip to Calgary (after church and a good walk around the lake in Lacombe, complete with a fistful of photos for future minis), dinner out with a dear friend, and a trip to the dentist for a filling -- my first in almost 50 years.  Aaargh!  It went well (the most painful thing was holding my tiny jaw open for extended periods) but I hope it won't be repeated!

Tuesday...prepared and mailed a proposal to exhibit "MOB" in the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in 2018, and had a long, lovely lunch with another dear friend.

Wednesday...more lawn (mowing) and garden.

Yes, there was some knitting and spinning both days...and this is taking shape:

Pattern: Glasgow Rose Stole - Lucy Hague
Yarn: "Hannah's Summer" - 2-ply lace-weight silk
Fyberspates Yarn, UK - bought in Glasgow, 2007

God willing, I'll finish it in time to wear it to Scotland (including Glasgow) in September! one day at The Shop this week.  This is the slow season, so I'm working only on Thursdays through the end of July.  Then we'll see what's needed. took up a piece -- one of a pair -- that I'd begun to map out in my mind a few years ago, and which is finally coming to fruition.  As they won't be traditional hangings, I've no idea where they'll be shown, but they're demanding to be made, so there you have it.

The pieces are "garments" -- robes, actually -- illustrating this text from Isaiah, which I've carried around in my head (as I've said) for years now:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me*; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound...
...To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness...  - Isaiah 61:1, 3a (King James version)
 *refers to Isaiah, and quoted by Jesus in the synagogue as he began his ministry.

Two garments...and I've begun with "the spirit of heaviness" (or mourning).

Remember my Tree Wrap Experiment?  Well...the fabrics have now been wrapped in vinegar water and "rusty bits", along with some wonderful recycled garden-bundled burlap (acquired from a chance encounter while visiting Stratford, Ontario in May 2016 for the opening of My Corner of the World).  I've cut them up and assembled a few into a kimono-like robe, which I am stitching by hand with #12 perle cotton in an off-white colour.

This afternoon I attached both sleeves...

Sleeve pinned to body

"Ladder" stitch

When the weather behaves, I will stitch in the Outdoor Studio, in silence but for the birds, the breezes and the neighbourhood...

...ushering in a peaceful summer.

Linking to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and wishing you a weekend full of Good Things!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Imperfect, Unsettled, Uncertain

Perhaps its the weather; perhaps it's my age (I'll be 65 in less than 3 months); perhaps its everything going on in the world...

Whatever it is, lately I've had a daily challenge to feel anything but emotionally and mentally unsettled.  Sometimes I just wanna do what I wanna do, even if it's nothing.

It didn't start with this, but one of the frustrations of late was the discovery that my first two pieces for 15 x 15 this year weren't quite the right size.  Even blocked, they were both a tad small.  In the photo below you can see edges of "Agnes Meets Jane" that are just within the bounds of an earlier piece -- "Back to the Garden" -- that is the right size.

And here's the same sort of photo of "Winter", in which the differences are a bit more obvious...


It's not as if I can't make something 'to size'.  Here's my piece for the 2017 SAQA Benefit Auction, for example, with is indeed 12" square:

Vincent Meets Mod/Improv (C) 2017
12" x 12"
Available at online auction in September.

Taken together with the fact that I've not been as excited about the 2017 project in the group, as I was with earlier themed challenges, and the fact that sometimes I want to work either larger or smaller from the get-go...and...well...I've decided to step out of the group.  There are other projects that are calling to me -- ones that are unlikely to be exhibited, even.  Ones that call for a 'when it's done' time frame, and more hand-stitching.  Ones that are more utilitarian, for charity.  Ones that aren't quilting at all but knitting and/or embroidery (I've just been commissioned to make a set of pillow shams, to make a twin-bed quilt, to bind another 'apple core' bed quilt and to make a knitted shawl).

And please...I've heard the platitudes about 'you're only as old as you feel'.  I don't feel old, physically -- but some days I am very weary within myself, indeed.

In Canada -- as I was explaining to a Dutch colleague recently -- 65 is rather a milestone, whether one wants it to be or not.  One becomes eligible for a government pension -- the "Old Age Security" pension (OAS or OAP for short) -- and there are distinct changes in expenses as well as in income.  For example, in some provinces, insurance premiums for some health insurance programs (like one I'm in) are waived at 65**, and other benefits increase in scope and value.  One truly becomes a "Senior" tangible as well as intangible ways.

And this seems to have sent me into a bit of a rebellion -- wanting a looser time-table, saying 'no' more often to requests for 'volunteering', while simultaneously wanting to be sure I'm still needed, still have a purpose.  Just without strings, without expectations, without demands.  I want to eat what I want, drink what I want, exercise only if and when I want...instead of doing what 'They' say I should do, what is good for me.

For a rule-following, nerdy, goody-two-shoes, this is quite a turn about!

And thus...unsettling.

I hope within the next few months I'll find my footing again -- or at the very least, learn to tread on this road that's 'under construction', full of bumps and holes and blind corners.

Right now, it's time for a jog.   Happy trails!

**And on that note...I was going out the door just now when I got a call from Alberta Blue Cross about this 'milestone birthday'...forms are on the way to me to register for the changes that will take place effective October 1...!!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Meanwhile, in the Sewdio...

SAQA Western Canada's first Regional Retreat has dominated my posts for the last few weeks -- when I've managed to post at all.  The paucity of posts arose from a variety of reasons, including the demands of yard and garden, as well as a late spring head cold (for which I mainly blame the unseasonably hot weather's triggering the automatic air conditioning to cool down the innards of my new car with a blast until the pre-set temp (19.5 C) was reached.  I now keep the AC off and roll down the windows instead!)

But I have been creating in the Sewdio -- really I have!  And here are some examples -- in addition to "Agnes Meets Judy", about which I've already posted.  :-)

First, two "birdie" commissions that arose from the Lacombe Art Show & Sale near the end of April:

Gather 'Round


Next, another commission of the quilty variety, but something completely different, and just a hair outside my comfort zone: binding an "Apple Core" quilt, which means bias binding around scalloped edges.  

The quilt is one of a couple owned by my client, who inherited them after her grandmother's death...about 40 years ago.  She'd kept them in a drawer, so they are in pristine condition.  She also told me that the pieces were made from fabric originally used in home sewing projects, such as house dresses, other dresses and aprons.  The fabric is clearly 1930's type:

See the irregular edge?

Though my client and I worked together to estimate the amount of fabric she'd need to buy for the binding she wanted (1/2" visible on both the front and the back), and though we used formulae found over the Internet at the turned out that the 1 metre she bought was more than enough!

A large puddle of home-made bias binding
next to my sewing table

The preparation of the binding -- which I did 'all-of-a-piece' using instructions from my trusty Quilter's Ultimate Visual Guide -- turned out to be the most intimidating part of the process.  Once it was finished, though, pinning it and applying it by machine -- mitred corners and all! -- was much easier than I thought it would be.

Next I had to trim the excess batting and backing, left behind by the long-armer when the top was quilted:

Then, more pinning and a few hours of quiet hand-stitching, et voila!

In addition to paying me, I'm rather hoping that my client will let me keep the trimmed backing and batting.  While the latter is rather 'poofy', the extra fabric could prove handy for backing future small projects -- especially minis!

As for that excess bias binding -- well, the client has another (slightly smaller) "Apple Core" that needs it, and "would [I] do the job?"  Sure!  After all, the tough part is behind me!

***   ***   ***

In the way of art work -- besides "Agnes Meets Judy" -- I've taken what I learned from Susan Purney Mark at the retreat and turned some samples into note cards:

I bought the blank cards eons ago, knowing someday I'd do something with them.  Now I've finished five using squares of the 'asemic writing' to which Susan introduced us as part of her 'mark-making' workshop, embellished with a touch of colour.  This week the clear plastic envelopes and labels I ordered especially for the back of each card arrived, meaning now I can go ahead and play some more with my fabric samples -- and make new ones. 

I plan to take a batch down the street to Gracie D's to offer them in her antiques/gifts/collectibles shop...and may take a few more to Different Strokes gallery in Olds when I drop in there in a couple of weeks.  I'm thinking that both Gracie and Deb might think they're a fit for their shops.

***   ***   ***

I'll leave you with "before" and "after" photos of the yard work that's kept me out of the sewdio for the past 10 days or so -- an aged rock garden that's in my front yard.  Grass had encroached more than ever this spring, and there was a great deal of winter kill of the flax and other perennial ground cover, so I decided it was time to dig that stuff out:

In the process I took out all of the rocks.  These are but a few...

Finally the bed was clean and ready for fresh planting!

And here it is...complete with topsoil to build up the "holes" left by the removal of sod, new plants -- including a few annuals (marigolds) just because, weed barrier (no more grass and dandelions etc.! -- I hope!), and fragrant bark chips...

Now that I've caught you up with my corner of the world, Gentle Readers, I'm off to the Edmonton Festival of Quilts...and linking up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.

Have a great weekend!