Friday, November 18, 2022

Back in the Studio...and Other Things

 Gentle Readers, I expect you're beginning to wonder what's up with me -- writing a blog post three weeks in a row! 😆  Yes, I'm still stitching and knitting for Xmas gifts (more about that later) but earlier this week I had an urge to get back to the Art in the Park commission, so I did just that.

You may recall that in October, I was making samples to create a 3-D piece reflecting the "False Hellebore" plant that had fascinated me while I was hiking out in B.C. as part of the Art in the Park residency.  I was in particular awe of the leaves.

Here's what that plant looks like:

And here's a close-up of the leaves...

You'll probably also recall from that post that none of those samples worked (what else is new?!) and that after some research, I found a product called "Inn-spire Plus Heat-set Moldable Fusible Non-woven" stabilizer -- at a shop in Winnipeg!  I bought two packs of the 9" x 12" size, not wanting to go overboard with the 20" x 36" size in case what I wanted to do wouldn't work.

This week, I finally played with it -- and was delighted with success from the get-go!

But let's back up a minute.  The sample leaf worked, but I knew I had to make at least 3 of them, and I needed a background on which to mount them.  I wanted the background to look like a mass of green, giving the impression of a crowd of hellebore, as I'd seen them in real life.  And I wanted to recreate a stalk on which to place the leaves.

Cord.  I needed cord -- and fairly substantial cord at that.  I dug out a roll of clothes line cord that I'd bought and never used.  It was plastic, very thin, and very coiled from being wound up for eons.

And then I saw it -- a length of soft, 1/2" cord of a sort, that I'd recycled from...something... at some time or other.  I have no idea what it was part of, or where it originated, but it was long enough to make a sample, then make the piece, and have some left over!

How to install it into a quilted piece?  Trapunto!

Here's the piece, quilted and faced, with the cord running up the centre, on my design wall.

8" x 19", faced

Here are the leaves, made with that wonderful, moldable Inn-spire stuff.  Yes; they're large.  Each one is 4 1/2" wide by 6" long.



The front of each leaf is covered with the same batik as the background; the back of each is covered with a synthetic I'd sun-printed several years ago.  

I pinned each leaf on next to the stem and then sewed them down by machine:

Pinned on

Leaves attached

Now then...the plant has flowers that grow in clusters on its stalks, like this:

I decided I needed a second stalk, so I constructed a narrow tube and ran more of that wonderful cord through it, just as one would run elastic through a casing, using an old diaper pin I keep for the purpose.  Then I sewed the second stem onto the background by hand:

Now for the flowers and buds.  How could I replicate them?  I went digging into my stash of lace and trims, but found nothing suitable -- or at least, nothing suitable that was in a sufficient quantity for my purpose.  That said, I have silk ribbon.  In fact, I have a roll of 1/4" white silk ribbon, bought years ago, when I needed a quantity of it to dye and turn into cat-tails for "Waiting for the Train":

Waiting for the Train (2013)
15" W x 12 1/2" L
Available for a new home... 

I'd not done any silk ribbon embroidery in years!  Could I still remember how to make flowers?  Buds?  

Did I have any instructional resources?  I checked my studio bookshelf and lo, and behold, found two: The Embroiderer's Floral  by Janet Haigh (and photographer Heseltine), published in 2002 and bought for the princely sum of $4.99 off a remainder table at Indigo/Chapters Books in Calgary, who knows when; and Ribbon Embroidery: Simple Stitches for Easy Embellishments (2009) by Natalie Bellanger-Clement. 

It was the latter that was the most help.  Again, I took a bit of the ribbon, threaded a #28 chenille needle, and practiced, following Natalie's illustrations.

I'm pleased to say it worked -- and with far less stress on my hands than was caused by the work on "Fallen Log".  I'm going to take what I've learned and apply it when I go back to the 'log' -- stopping and starting without going through so many layers -- in the hopes it'll be less strain on my hands when I do.

Buds and blossoms started

Close up!

I'll be adding some more near the second stem, and probably up at the top, around the first.  Yes, I'm very pleased!  P.S. False Hellebore is reportedly poisonous, so I've decided on this title for my piece: Pretty Poison.  What do you think?

***********     ***********     **********

Meanwhile, as I mentioned, I'm also working on Christmas gifts.  In last week's post I showed the finished hand-knit cowl for my nephew's partner, and the start of a plain one for him.  That's now finished:
Pattern: Just Try It!
Designer: Susan Ashcroft
Yarn: Kathmandu Aran 100 from
Queensland Collection Yarns

Yes, I know it looks like "just a tube" but it's 5 x 2 ribbing (5 knits, 2 purls), and at 4 - 4.5 stitches to the inch, will stretch to a good 21" when he puts it over his head.  It's a cozy 9" deep and the yarn is a blend of wool, silk and cashmere so it's soft as well.  The nice thing about the pattern is that it's adaptable to different yarn weights.  I made one of these for my son several years ago, in a much finer yarn -- Berroco Boboli Lace -- and it was perfect.  Just takes a bit of math and you're off to the races.

I still have two Christmas knits on the needles, but there's nought new to report there.  On the other hand, Christmas stitching is proceeding apace.  I finished the little piece for my son's partner.  It's washed and pressed and ready to be 'Fully Finished':

"Lick the Bowl" from 
The Kitchen Counter Series
Designer: Hands On Designs
Done on 30-ct mystery even-weave
with my own selection of DMC floss,
two strands over two.

The stack of pieces to be 'Fully Finished' is growing.  I'm hoping to add this to it by the end of the weekend:

"Quaker du Japon" from Jardin Prive
Done on 36-ct Antique White Edinburgh
linen from Zweigart
in the called-for DMC floss,
using 1 strand over 2.

I'm working on the "Mount Fuji" Motif near the centre left of the photo.  Following that, there are two more large motifs -- a kimono and another Quaker motif -- and a couple of small ones.  In between brisk walks to keep the ol' bod moving, I'm going to work steadily on this till it's finished.

And next week?  It'll be time to revisit the gnomes!  😆

Onward!  It's time to thank you all for stopping by, to wish you all a lovely weekend, and to send you all over to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Friday" to see what she has going on.  This week she's pondering originality -- and whether or not there's any such thing.  Hmmm...What do you think?

A bientot, mes amis!

Friday, November 11, 2022

Dumfungled and Gobsmacked!


I learned a new word this week: 'dumfungled'.  It's an old Scots word meaning "mentally and physically worn out" -- and it can imply being depressed.  And I've been all of that much of the time for months.  Years.  Since DT was elected, anyway.  I thought I was easing out of it, but then there were planes shot down and COVID and BLM and the unmarked graves of Canadian indigenous children discovered, and January 6, 2021, and cancelled art shows, and Zoom exhaustion, and over 30% of the US Electorate losing its mind and...and...and...

And then, in the last few months, I've been soundly reminded just how blessed I am:

  • For one thing, I'm still here.  I turned 70, and lightning didn't strike. I didn't get "called home" as some folks put it.  I AM home, here in this wee hamlet with all its beauty and wonky citizens and such;
  • I have a glorious yard and garden, and the deer haven't attacked too much of it.  I have baby apple trees and Saskatoon bushes, and lilacs and wild flowers, and 5 bird feeders.  I have bees in the May/June blossoms.  I have benches on which to sit and knit or stitch or read or just think.
  • I have two great kids who, despite their own health challenges, are managing to live independent lives, pay their bills, and show me they love me.
  • I have a sister who's a delight and who shows me love and hospitality whenever we get together.
  • I have a few close gal pals, and a whole lot of long-distance friends, some whom I've never met -- who gave me support by buying my work this summer so I could afford the trip to Art in the Park, the price of which had sky-rocketed since COVID interrupted the planned 2020 event, which finally happened this July.
  • I've a faith community that struggles with aging members and fewer hands to do the work, but we gather every week to worship and pray and learn and have fellowship and struggle together -- and it's a blessing to be able to bumble along in person again after 2 years apart.
And then...yesterday...I was totally gobsmacked!

I went for the mail.  In it was a package from Traditional Stitches, my trusty LNS (Local Needlework Store), which operates online as well as in person.  I have a Wish List on their website, that's six pages long.  Yep!  I place orders as I have time and $$$ to do so.  Each order takes a long time; they're a tiny shop and don't keep a warehouse of inventory, so often things take weeks to put together.  I placed an order recently for a pattern they've told me is now on order, and I'm prepared to wait several weeks for it.  They don't request payment (via PayPal) till it has arrived in their shop, which I see as another Good Thing.

So, I looked at this package and wondered what the heck it could be.  They'd not asked me for $$ recently.  Had I ordered something, paid in advance, and forgotten??  Was I drunk or sleep-walking when I did that?  

I came home and opened the package.  It was a kit for a pattern that's been on my Wish List for months, maybe a year.   I checked my e-mails. No hint of it.  I checked my PayPal account.  No transactions recorded that referred to it, and none in that dollar amount.  I decided to look again at the order form that accompanied the kit, to check the Order Number.

Keziah Campbell 1796
Designer: Needlemade Designs (2017)
A Scottish-style sampler
Photo source: Traditional Stitches

And that was when I was GOBSMACKED.  
Right between the eyes!

Two of my dear stitching friends -- people I've known for years, and with whom I gather annually to stitch and talk and walk and eat and enjoy art and textiles and gardens -- had sent this to me.  The name and address of one of them was on the order form as "purchaser".

Oh. My. Ohmyohmyohmyomyomy!

But...why now?  Why in November?

I picked up the phone.  When one of my friends answered and asked, "How are you?", I replied, "Stunned".  I then explained about the mail and the parcel and asked, "To what do I owe this honour?"  "It was supposed to be for your birthday," she said, adding that it was because it was a Big Birthday. "We didn't know it would take so long."

After thanking them both profusely -- the call was on 'speaker' at their end -- we had a lovely chat and I ended with telling them, "nothing for Xmas", because this in and of itself was enough to cover both occasions!  

Now, I'm not interrupting my Xmas 2022 'making' to start this.  (I can hear some of you snickering.  Trust me; I'm not going to do that! 😇😆😁)  But my friends have suggested that perhaps I could have it finished by the time we get together again in August 2023...God willing!


Meanwhile, the Gothic Lace Cowl for my nephew's partner is finished but for sewing in the ends and adding the buttons:

And I've started a simple cowl for my nephew:

Pattern: "Just Try It"
Designer: Susan Ashcroft
Yarn: Kathmandu Aran 100 from Queensland Yarns

I finished the "Wabi Sabi" quilt top for a Certain Young Man -- now it's ready to sandwich and quilt:

Original Pattern: "Magic Tiles" by Kathleen Bissett
My adaptation: "Wabi Sabi"
No pattern notes; it's One Of A Kind!
Size: 9 blocks + borders = 50" x 50"

And I'm 90% of the way through stitching "Lick the Bowl" for my son's partner.  It'll be made into a journal cover -- I've bought a little journal to go with it -- and I hope she'll use it to collect her favourite recipes, as I've been told she likes to bake.

One of the "Kitchen Counter" Series
Designer: Hands On Designs
Fabric: 30-count mystery even-weave
Threads: my own selection - DMC

My right hand is still a bit 'iffy' -- aggravated somewhat not only but the stitching but also by the writing, typing, and shovelling.  I try to rotate activities...but my art-making is on pause.  I figure if I get these gifts finished, I can move into sampling for the 3rd piece I need to do re: Art in the Park.  

And in the weeks left in November, I have 2 short theology papers to write, two Morning Prayer services to manage (with homilies), 3 dozen Christmas cookies to bake for the church cookie sale (Nov. 26) and the Under $100 Art Market in Lacombe (Nov. 24-26), where I'll be showing small works and volunteering.  

Here's just one of the pieces that will be for sale at that Market:

Winter Grasses (2021)
5" x 7", floater frame

Just a few things to keep me out of trouble!

Meanwhile, it's Remembrance Day here in Canada, and I'm going to wander downtown (3 blocks from here) around 10:30 a.m. to see if there's a ceremony planned.  The good folks at the Royal Canadian Legion here used to do it every year at the Community Hall, followed by a buffet lunch at the Legion Hall.  Then COVID hit and it didn't happen in 2020.  Last year it was an outdoor service (no lunch).  This year it's been very cold and snowy, and while I noted that a small area around the Cenotaph at the Legion had been cleared of snow, there's been nothing posted about a service at the Community Hall -- or anywhere, for that matter.  So we shall see.

It's also Friday, and Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday is up and I'll leave you with an invitation to check out the action over there, and with the hopes that your weekend is warm and cozy, or cool and beachy, and wherever you are -- safe, sound, happily creative!  'Bye for now!

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Christmas is Coming...

Yes, Gentle Readers. 

  • Following a long, lovely, warm autumn, we've had two good dumps of snow here in the last four days.  
  • There's not been a County plough in town -- yet.  
  • Only on the highways, and then again, our not-at-all major highway linking two larger highways is partly covered snow with icy patches.  
  • Our clocks went back an hour overnight -- from Mountain Daylight Time to Mountain Standard Time.  
What does all this mean?!  "Winter is coming", as they say in the movies, or wherever they say it.  And in my world, up here in the Northern Hemisphere, with 'winter' comes Christmas.

Those of us who are Makers understand.  Our needles (stitch or knit), our hooks (crochet), our machines (sewing, quilting, felting), our wheels (spinning), our looms (weaving) -- all are ramping up to top speed if we are making gifts for others.  And I am with you, Gentle Readers; I'm with you!

On the knitting front, I'm making fingerless gloves (by request) for a long-time friend who, apparently, has never owned any.  The pattern is 'Cielo' from Eweknit Toronto on Ravelry, and I've combined two yarns to make these: Filatura di Crosa Fancy Line Gioiello -- in colour #5 (red) with a bit of gold bling, and Jaggerspun Zephyr Wool-silk 2/18 lace-weight, in 'Cinnabar' (all from stash).  I've finished the first one of the pair -- a bit 'blingier' than expected.  I hope my friend will like them!

The 6-ply socks for another friend are well on their way to being finished (on the foot of the second sock) but they're Very Plain photos at present.  Sorry!

I did, however, cast on another knit for Xmas this week -- and am about 25% along the road to a finish.  It's the Gothic Lace Cowl, a free pattern from Tin Can Knits on Ravelry.  I've made it before with a thick yarn.  This time I'm doing 2 finer yarns together, and so far I'm happy with the result.  

I chose this one because it's for my nephew's partner who has a "goth" esthetic and who, he says, would like lace.  The yarns I'm using include one purchased especially -- "Widowmaker" -- a sock yarn (merino/nylon blend) from Black Cat Custom Yarn out of Chilliwack, B.C., which I bought when in Revelstoke in July.  The other is another lace weight from stash and yes, another JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-silk 2/18 selection -- this time in the "Mahogany" colour-way.  The lace-weight selection is adding just the right amount of weight, while blending in beautifully with the hand-dyed yarn.  Yes, I could worry that the colour selection 'interferes' with the Gothic Lace pattern, but I've decided not to!

The pattern calls for buttons, and I found the perfect ones at the Prairie Fibre Festival in Lacombe in mid-September, to whit:

I only hope my nephew's partner likes the results!

There are also gifts in the cross-stitch department.  First, I can now show you the gift I sent my sister, as her birthday was Friday and she received it early last week.  The designer is Erica Michaels.  I created the piece on 32-count Lambswool linen from my stash, using Needle Necessities over-dyed cotton floss, in a colour that I knew my sis would like, as she has a 'beach esthetic' going on at her cottage.  



The initials are my sister's and mine; the dates mark the year we became sisters (1957) to the present -- 65 years since her father married my mother and brought her and her older brother (RIP 1981) to create a new family.  This was a very special piece for me to make, and I'm glad she likes it.

Another before Xmas gift in the cross-stitch realm is a "November Needleroll" that isn't.  Say what?!  I chose the pattern by that name to make a little piece for a friend of mine who has a Big Birthday coming in the middle of this month.  But she's not a stitcher, so it's not a needle roll.  Instead, I found a darling little frame at a local vintage shop (Cuckoo's Shop in Alix, Alberta) and made this:

With apologies for the glare from the window on the's only about 6" W x 8" L.  It's now packed up and ready to mail this week.

 Today I finished one of my family Xmas gifts in stitch but because I think my daughter reads this blog...sorry!  No photos!

And I've taken up a cute piece for "Black Sampler November" -- but again, it's for my daughter's household photos!  Sorry!

Meanwhile, on the quilting front...the top for the throw for a Certain Young Man is almost finished.  I have the centre part done, as I mentioned in my last post, and I'm working on a pieced border.

As for the artwork?  My hands have finally recovered, so I'm hoping to return to beading and stitching the "Fallen Log" in the coming week.  There'll be more about this in the next post, I'm sure.

I'll leave you with a link again to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and wish you all a cozy, safe, creative week!  Till we meet again... Hugs! 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Something for Everyone!

 It might have taken me almost a month to post an update but, Gentle Readers, I hope you'll find it worth the wait!

For a change, let's start with my progress on the work for Art in the Park 2022 -- which is to tour B.C., starting at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre, in 2023.

You might recall from my last post that I'd made several unsuccessful samples for ideas I'd had re: a "meadow" piece, and had finally returned to my passion for improv and "artful log cabins" in the style of Katie Pasquini Masopust.  Now that piece is finished but for trimming, facing and attaching a hanging sleeve:

As a reminder, here's the inspirational photo:

Next up, another "flora" inspiration: a plant called "False Hellebore" that grew in profusion in the area, but though pretty, is poisonous.  Here are some photos I took in situ:

Don't those leaves look luscious?!

I had a vision of something 3-D.  Along came a wonderful episode of The Quilt Show featuring artist Mary McCauley, who (by happenstance) makes pieces that resemble "pop-up" books.  Who knew?!  The show got me excited, so I bought her book -- in PDF format because the CAD exchange is out of this world.  At least this way I avoided shipping and printed off only essential pages.

I then tried samples in paper, using recycled file folders as Mary recommends:

Sample 1

Sample 1 - closed

Et voila!  Sample 1 opened

Sample 2 closed

Sample 2 opened

Ah well...neither of these would give me the look I wanted: 3 sculpted leaves meeting around a centre base, like the ones in the photos.  Sigh.

Then I did a bit of internet snooping and found a product that would enable me to mold leaves in the way I wanted -- and maybe this would also enable me to hand-stitch them onto a corded base.  And it's fusible!  Hmmm.   The product is "Inn-spire-Heat Set Moldable Non-woven Interfacing" and -- joy of joys!! -- I could get it in CANADA -- from a shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba: KTR Sewing Centre.  Who knew?!  There's a YouTube video on how to use it.  I ordered two sheets -- despite the flat rate shipping which was almost equal to their cost -- and lo and behold!  Because the actual shipping was significantly less expensive, this wonderful shop refunded me the difference!!  It arrived last week; I've  yet to return to stay tuned!

Meanwhile...I moved on to a third piece, from the "forest" inspirational photos -- a section of fallen log:

This one is going to be full of texture.  I began with a simply wonderful commercially-produced background fabric, which I quilted with straight lines.  Next, I painted some used dryer sheets (courtesy of my daughter and one of her friends), and applied them to the surface with hand-stitch, using #12 perle cotton.  

Next I put the piece in a Q-snap frame and began to free-hand embroider the surface with straight stitches, seed stitches, sloppy French knots etc., starting at the top:

I decided to move slowly down the piece, applying all the surface embellishment in one section before moving on to the next.  To this end, I auditioned (and have now begun to add) some seed beads:

Because the fabric isn't easy to stitch through (2-3 layers depending on how I work it out, using threads of varying thickness), it's going to take me some time, but I think it will be well worth it in the end!  Stay tuned for more progress!

Now...what about the other stuff on which I've been working?!

Well...there's all the cross-stitching, mainly for Xmas gifts -- progress on several fronts, some of which I can't share here as the recipient(s) read my blog:

It's been sitting idle since just before Canadian Thanksgiving, because I've also been working on this:

For a young woman who I'm told likes to bake -- this is one of a series called the "Kitchen Counter" series from Hands On Designs.  The full caption will read, "Life is short; lick the bowl".  Great fun!  (I'm using my choice of DMC floss from my stash, plus a 30-count "mystery evenweave", also from stash.

And this week was -- once again -- a visit with the gnomes on the "Growth Chart" project.

In my last post it was here -- approaching the "90" mark:

As of late last evening (October 22), it was here:

Yes, I'm working on flowers and leaves, just past the "100" mark.  Coming along nicely!

Meanwhile, the other wee project for the baby who's going to be given the Growth Chart, was a promised pair (or 2) of socks as the weather grew colder.  These are now finished but to sew in the ends and wash them -- and they'll be mailed off this week:

Last but not least, one more Xmas/birthday gift has been in progress: a throw quilt for a young man of my acquiantance. The top is finished except for the addition of a border to make it a bit larger -- but still within my ability to quilt it here at home.  

The pattern is "Magic Tiles" but, true to form, I messed up the slicing and dicing a bit, so I'm calling it "Wabi Sabi" instead! 😉😆

No matter; it's going to be a cozy covering for TV watching, movie watching, reading, game-playing etc., and I hope it gets well-used!

My theology class is almost over, much to my relief, and I won't be taking another till the new year -- a good thing, because I have too much to do between now and then!

I'll leave you with my usual link to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  She's busy this week so is "just hosting" -- but there are lots of blogs to look at, and be inspired.  Happy end of October -- and if your in the Northern Hemisphere, get ready to hunker down and stay cozy!

'Bye for now!