Saturday, January 07, 2017


I resumed work on "Sometimes..." this morning, and when I looked up it was 12:30 p.m.  I ate something and went back to work.  When I looked up again, it was after 3 p.m.!

Time for a Breather!

The first few hours were spent attaching the 'snow' to the 'sky' -- for real! -- and preparing the entire thing for quilting.  I decided to pin it as I was concerned that spray baste (my basting "process" of choice) would be a challenge with this heavy fabric.

I chose a batik for the backing -- largely because it was one I'd bought to emulate "snow" and never used.  It occurred to me too, though, that the dense weave of a batik could support the heavy cotton of the top better than an 'ordinary' cotton.

Then came testing re: the quilting.  I wanted to do free-motion, especially for the sky.  I tried it out for a couple of hours...with no luck whatsoever.


Well...the colour of thread I had on hand was found on a spool of Superior's "New Brytes" (a line designed in association with Caryl Bryer Fallert Gentry) that I'd received as part of one of the company's "Try Me" specials.  It's a 30-weight polyester.  

I wanted to do free-motion in the sky, a bit more densely than I usually do, following some of the dye patterns.

I put in the recommended needle (100/16).

I cleaned the bobbin case and filled a bobbin with white "Bottom Line" (also from Superior Thread).

I threaded the machine and made a sample and another sample and another sample -- several on each piece of fabric.  They looked reasonably good from the front...

But on the back, the story was quite different:

I put in another new needle, thinking there might have been a 'burr' in the first one.  No difference.

I tried lowering bottom tension. Nope.  Raising bottom tension. Nope.  Lowering top tension. Nope.  Feed dogs up?  Nope.  Feed dogs down?  Nope.

I went on to the Superior website and found that this thread needed a heavier weight in the  bobbin (Bottom Line is very fine).  I switched to the only thing I had on hand in the right colour: "Masterpiece", which is a cotton thread but of the recommended weight.  Some improvement, but not long-lasting.  I continued to end up with this:

Shredded Thread!!
And did I mention that even though the machine 'sounded' fine for the first wee bit while doing this, there would come the moment when it seemed to "choke"?

I gave up.  I think the problem lies not with the needle, thread, fabric or tension settings but with the internal workings of the machine when it tries to do free-motion.  And I have no time to drive an hour to Red Deer on snowy roads of questionable condition to take it in for a "look-see".  (Miss Pfaff doesn't do FMQ well, and I have no motivation to test her in this, so don't suggest it, okay?  😉


I went to Plan B:  I put the feed dogs up, put on my walking foot, kept the "Masterpiece" in the bobbin and the "Brytes" on the top and quilted wavy lines in the sky...

And in the snow.  For the snow, I switched to King Tut in a lovely pale blue variegated thread because those of you who live where there's snow know that it's not all white (grin)...

Then I created the shoreline...the distance and the "island".  I fused it in place and decided -- ENOUGH! for today.   Tomorrow...Sabbath...calls for rest.  Worship.  Peace.  Quiet.  Knitting.  Hand stitch.

The thread-painting of the trees/shore and the figure will have to wait till Monday.

What are you up to this weekend?  I'm linking in to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and checking out what my colleagues are doing...

'Bye for now!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Sometimes You Can Walk on Water

On New Year's Day, my daughter posted another stupendous photograph on her blog.  I was immediately smitten.  I could see it in fabric.  I asked for -- and received -- her assent to use the photo, even when entering the piece into a show.


Well, the Ailsa Craig Quilt Festival in Ontario this year is focusing on Canada -- because of our 150th Anniversary of Confederation (and 150+ as an entity, if you go back far enough with our First Nations founders)...

I could just see this piece in my mind, fully formed -- BUT (there's always one of those, eh?!)...

  • The entry deadline is January 31 at 11:59 p.m. EST (that would be 9:59 p.m. here in the Mountain Time Zone); and
  • The piece must be a minimum of 30" x 30".
Goodness!  I have nothing on hand that's large enough; I've only twice made any art piece that large (or larger) and those pieces are in private hands (not mine).

And there's this wonderful photo:

Walking on Astotin Lake,
Elk Island Provincial Park, Alberta
Photo by Gina Blank, 2016, used by permission

Monday I awoke in the wee hours with it on my mind.  I'd have to dye the sky; did I have a large enough piece of white fabric?

I found a very large piece of heavy cotton -- rather like duck -- that Gina had given me some time ago.  I think it was a blind from IKEA in another life.  I cut it in half, put it to soak in a soda ash solution and went back to bed.

When I got up I put it into a low-water immersion dye bucket with "Sky Blue" dye solution (Dharma Trading, MX dye) and left it till the evening.  Rinsed, washed with Synthropol and machine dried, it looked pretty good.

Tuesday I worked at the shop.

I woke this morning knowing it wasn't quite the right blue.  I'd have to over-dye it with some back it went into a new soda ash soak and then the dye pot for a few hours.

While it soaked, I worked on plans for my next donation to the now-annual Spotlight Silent Auction at the up-coming SAQA Conference in Lincoln, NE at the end of April.  I'm not going but I can still contribute.  I decided to make a mini of the piece I'm entering into Ailsa I prepped the background and chose thread with which to quilt the sky:

I also did a bunch of paperwork and took a walk to the Post Office...Not long after lunch, I decided to take the fabric out of the dye pot, rinse, wash and dry it...and then...mount it on the design wall.

Goodness!  It takes up the entire thing!  And I have to quilt that!  ;-)  

Miracle of miracles, I found some thread in the right colour for the sky, and will do a practice run on some of the fabric that I'll trim off one side.  I'm a bit concerned because it's heavier than quilting cotton.  I might keep it simple and use my walking foot for wavy lines and large swirls.

I also knew I'd have to enlarge the figure and the island/shoreline in the background.  This took some work with my light box and my scanner/copier, which blessedly enlarges up to 400% -- and I used every bit of that!  After several attempts, I got the entire figure together, and the island/trees...for this mock-up:

Hopeful finished size: 40" x 32"
Working title?  You guessed it:
Sometimes You Can Walk on Water

Of course, the figure and the island/shore won't be white... Just in case you were wondering...!  ;-)

Even if it's not accepted into the show, I'm thinking that if I can get the quilting right, it's going to be a wonderful piece!

So...that's my Work In Progress this week, which I'm linking up to WIP Wednesday over at The Needle and Thread Network.  Time to take a break and do some knitting!


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Play Time/Work Time with Weeks

In my last post, you'll recall that I mentioned I was looking at some new approaches to my work in this new year.  Well...this weekend I began to work on this in earnest.

Shortly after Christmas, Craftsy had a very good sale (50% off or something like that).  I took advantage of this opportunity to look for classes in designing and/or creating "Modern" quilts.  I found two of particular interest.  Deciding to focus on one at a time, I bought "Designing Modern Quilts" with Weeks Ringle.  To date, I've watched it through once, and selective sections at least twice more.

Accompanying the class is a series of assignments, which Ms. Ringle calls "Explorations".  The first has to do with breaking out of one's comfort zone, as far as one's colour palette is concerned.  I decided that I would explore this from the assumption that my 'usual' palette is based on my Prairie landscapes, and that I would use a fair-sized collection of charm squares (5" squares) I'd collected and left languishing for several years.

Here's #1 - My "Preferred" Palette:

Prairie Palette

Next up: fabrics I like (colour, scale) but haven't considered for Prairie landscapes:

Third: fabrics in colours I like, but which I wouldn't consider for artwork or home decor (based on my present colour schemes, such as  they are)...Notice there are more 'novelty' prints and some larger scale prints in the mix at this point:

Last: again, fabrics in colours I like but which would be at the bottom of my consideration for artwork (thus far) and home decor...Note again the abundance of 'novelty' and large-scale prints.  (Also note...I was running out of squares, so this sample is rectangular, rather than square!)

As for the blocks -- Exploration #3 -- first, one from the small-scale prints:

Finished @ 8 1/2" square

And from the large-scale prints (Kaffe Fassett-like but not his actual fabric line):

Finished at 12" square

What have I learned from all this?

  • Bonnie Hunter is right: there's no fabric so 'ugly' that it won't look better if cut small enough;
  • That value is key to good contrast in traditional blocks, no matter the hue; 
  • That I've spent enough years doing this that I can 'read' colours and prints more accurately than I first thought;
  • That even fabrics you don't like that much can look good when you take time to combine them appropriately re: hue, scale, and value; and
  • That this exercise is easy but not necessarily simple.  One needs to be prepared to spend some time if one wants one's selections to be artful and attractive!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Contemplating 65

2016 was a tumultuous year.

I know; I know -- I write that knowing how trite that sounds on this second-last day of the year.  There were many high and low points for the globe, on which I won't elaborate; that's already been done by pundits, analysts, and most folks on Facebook.

The year held many blessings for me personally, and for my family.

In April, I sold my first large piece at the Lacombe Art Show and Sale

Edging Toward Spring (C) 2015

In May I travelled to Stratford, Ontario to see my first successful entry
into a major SAQA exhibit, My Corner of the World: Canada
and My Corner of the World: International

It's Still About the Sky (C) 2016

In July my son Marty married his lovely Chereena

The Alberta Blanks, July 23, 2016

In October, I had several of my 'minis' and many of my larger works
accepted into the beautiful space at Bonavista Fine Art in Sylvan Lake -- and several have been sold.

That same month, my first solo three-part installation opened
at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.  Up for a month, with a companion book, to date Mark on the Body has raised $456 for Canadian-based research and education about the nature, cause, treatment, cure and prevention of Type 1 Diabetes.

In September, I crossed into my 65th year.
How will I mark 2017?

I've been pondering a different approach to my work, involving more abstraction, "improv" and sampling of "Modern" quilting...both as artwork and utilitarian pieces.  This will influence my minis and my 15 x 15 Group contributions.

I have a hand-stitch project underway, with the working title, "I Shall Wear Purple".

I want to do some serious practicing with my spinning wheel, my embellisher and my "new" treadle sewing machine.

I'm celebrating my 65th Birthday with two trips: first as part of a panel for SAQA Western Canada's first-ever Regional Retreat in Kelowna, B.C., in early May; and second, on a quilting tour to Scotland with friend and SAQA colleague, Mary Wilton, in September.  We are taking sketchbooks and supplies to record what entrances us...with plans for new work inspired by the trip.

Of course, there will always be knitting, making for others, a bit of making pour moi, and the ongoing blessing of relationships inside and outside this blog.

Linking this to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and wishing you all a
Happy New Year, Gentle Readers!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Isn't She Lovely?

Many of you may not know this about me, but I've long wanted a treadle sewing machine -- ever since I had to leave my grandmother's back in SW Quebec in 2000, because I couldn't afford to ship it west at the time.

Meet Joan:

With top


I've so named her after the friend who helped me acquire her.  Joan (my friend) bought her at auction decades ago.  About ten years or so ago she gave the machine to her DIL,,,who -- just before Christmas -- decided she no longer wanted it.  So...the machine was taken to the local antiques shop -- Gracie D's here in Mirror (Gracie sells some of my minis).

On Christmas Eve, when I was snowed in, I contacted Joan (my friend) to see if she was okay (she's...ahem...Of A Certain Age), and she told me about the machine.  When she found out I'd have loved it, she nearly cried.

"I would've given it to you," she said.  "No", I replied, "I'd have wanted to pay you something for it."

Well -- straight-away I contacted Gracie, only to find out the machine had sold the day before...though it was still in the shop, waiting to be picked up.  I told Gracie that if the purchaser changed her mind, I would be happy to buy it, because I would clean and oil it and learn to use it.

Long story short, "Joan" (the machine) came home with me yesterday afternoon after I got back from my flying visit to Edmonton.

I've done only the barest research but the serial number (I needed a flashlight to see it) has no alpha prefix, and is in the range that's dated 1894 by the ICMS International Singer Sewing Machine Serial Number Data Base.  And that was all I needed to know for certain that "Joan" (the machine) was meant to be mine.

You see, the crazy quilt block I found in a trunk in my aunt's attic in 2000, signed with my grandmother's maiden name initials, is also dated...1894.

Here are some close-ups of this beauty, now ensconced in front of my (north-facing) living room window:


Look at those drawer handles!

The bed decals are almost all worn off
and the serial number plate is hard to read

Singer label

The collapsible end table
The belt was replaced ten years or so ago when Joan (my friend) gave it to her DIL.  There is at least one bobbin (a 'turbo' shape) and J thinks she has another at home.  There are several feet and other parts -- I'm not really sure they all belong to this machine!  The fact that there are two instruction booklets -- one of which refers to an electric machine -- points to that fact...

I will take some time to read the booklets, sort the parts and pieces, and clean it according to the instructions provided by Bonnie Hunter's wonderful "Vintage Machines" resources page, and then we'll see if I can learn to treadle!

Just another Christmas blessing, I'm thinking.  It's going to be a creative year ahead indeed!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Snowfall Warning

Issued at 04:31 Saturday 24 December, 2016

Snowfall, with total amounts of 10 to 20 cm is expected.

An area of heavy snow will continue to move across southern Alberta this morning. Many areas around Calgary received around 15 cm of snowfall last night and another 5 to 10 cm is expected this morning especially for areas near and east of Red Deer. In addition brisk easterly winds will generate local blowing snow over open areas and along major highways. Conditions should improve later this afternoon when the weather system responsible for the snow finally weakens.

Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow. Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow.
9:13 a.m.: This is the current view from my back door.  Note: the 'stoop' has a roof, but that hasn't stopped the snow from entering, given the wind that's accompanying this storm.  (And yes, for the yarnophiles among you, that's my largest yarn storage chest...)

9:31 a.m.: Still snowing, moderately heavy, with wind.  My neighbours across the street cleared off their van and drove off about 15 minutes ago -- the first moving vehicle I'd seen.  Since then, three fairly large cars -- and one small one -- have driven by the front of the house (the hamlet's main street).  No sign of a plough, though I've heard what I thought might be one, more than once.  Probably out on the highway that runs north-south just a few blocks east of the house.

On the Alberta Motor Association Road Reports site, the highways hereabouts, running both East-West and North-South, are all either red or yellow, which means either completely snow-covered, or partially snow-covered, and if you click on one, you get messages like "Covered snow, Snow and Ice on shoulder, Snowing, Strong Wind, Drifting Snow. Fair visibility."

I'm still ready to go up to Edmonton for this evening, but if I can't leave by 2:30 p.m. I won't go.  It's a good 90-minute drive and sunset is scheduled for 4:17 p.m. up there.  Driving in the snow and wind in the dark?  Nope; not happenin'!

I could try for tomorrow a.m....but we'll see. One snowy day at a time!

Wherever I find myself this year, with Christmas and Hanukkah both beginning this evening, there'll definitely be light, love, music, and joy.

To that are a few 'crafty' photos for the season...

Winter Warmth!
"Muffatees" from my friend, J.

One of several cotton "spa sets"
with soap/body wash included

One of a couple of hats

Of course, the wonderful "Cracker Candy" has been made -- this time with almonds instead of walnuts -- and it was so much easier the second time around, because I was geared for the speed required to assemble it!  

The Five-Minute Fudge is all wrapped and ready to go;  Hanukkah 'gelt' (gold chocolate coins which, in Canada, are wrapped as imitation 'loonies') is packed, as are other stocking-stuffers.

But the stockings are stuck in the garage with the other stored Christmas decorations -- and the car.  

10:13 a.m.  The snow continues.  Only one other vehicle has come down the street.  Miss Pookie-cat is curled up on my bed.  Time for me to wrap the last two gifts and get out my suitcase...just in case the next three hours bring a break in the weather.  

And download Skype just in case.

Whatever source of Light you are celebrating this weekend...may there be an abundance of it, with joy, health and happiness now -- and in the year ahead.

Linking up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...

God bless you, every one!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


This beautiful young woman is my daughter.  She, my son and I are on the Introvert in...we seem to be introverts of varying degrees.

Their father, my late husband, was the only apparent extrovert in our family.  He balanced us out, each in our own way.

But he wasn't just gregarious, fun-loving, social.  He was also a listener, a rememberer, and a Wise Person.

From him, my sweet daughter developed her love for photography and learned her initial skills in that area...and from him, she learned a measure of wisdom.  Today, she shared some of that on her blog...which I invite you to read HERE.