Friday, January 30, 2015

A Snowy Day in the Sewdio

After a couple of weeks of milder weather, and many weeks without fresh's snowing at last out here on the Central Alberta prairie.  It's a lovely thing.  Somehow, a steady snowfall gives one the impression that one has all the time in the world, because it's so miserable out that there's no point in trying to do anything outside one's cozy nest.

As a result, today's been a computer-focused day.  I didn't even go out for the mail...

I've been catching up with correspondence and SAQA business (I'm Co-Rep for Alberta, part of SAQA's Western Canada Region).

And...I did the first draft of my tax return (in Canada the deadline is April 30), which involved making sure I had most of my receipts (a few are due in the next few weeks) and had prepared a statement of my artwork-based income and expenses for 2014.

The 'artsy-craftsy' side wasn't completely neglected, though.  Yesterday marked fourteen months (!) for my Mark on the Body project, so the piece was duly photographed and the blog updated before I did today's stitching.

My friend Kathie Briggs nominated me for the Facebook Artists' Challenge, which brought a dilemma.  To fulfill the challenge, one is supposed to nominate another artist daily, as well as post 3 photos of artwork each day for five days!  Whoa!  Not all of my artist friends are on FB, and many of the ones who are have already been decided to post my work daily but nominate no-one.   I've had no objections so I'm sticking to that resolve!

Now that I've finished the baby blanket, I have another baby to knit for -- wee Charlie, who was born just over a month ago in Calgary, the second son of the youngest son of a cousin of my late DH... I cast on a very cute knit-sideways cardigan and am about 30 rows in...

Oh...and today is my 1299th blog post!  This means that when I publish on Sunday...that drawing for lace yarn for my knitting will also be Post 1,300.  Who'd'a thunk it?

Tonight?  Some hand-quilting after supper.  With a video.  Maybe DMTV or The Quilt Show or PBS' Craft in America...

Tomorrow?  Borders on that medallion.

Sunday brings February, and a new month with Elizabeth and the Master Class.

Stay tuned!

P.S. Linking up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday. Let's see what she's doing today, eh?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Little Sewdio R & R

A couple of days ago, I posted my first finished piece for EB's Master Class, and her generous critique.  Before the next assignment arrives (Feb. 1!), I'm taking some time to work on other projects.

Some of you may remember that almost a year ago I posted about a Carpenter's Star medallion piece I was assembling from a kit I'd won as a door prize some years ago.  Fairly small, as these things, go (48" square without all the added borders), I was making it as a test piece for a larger version for which I've been commissioned.

I'm glad I practiced!  Actually, though, it's pretty easy if you follow the chart provided by the designer (Debbie Maddy of Calico Carriage).  I've only reversed a couple of the pieces, necessitating a 'do-over'.

The medallion itself consists of eight rows of blocks.  On Monday, I finished sewing the first four rows, which I'd pieced together a few months ago:

It's wider than my design wall and as deep!
Due to its size, I had to make this note to myself:

This end up!

Today I'm working on the bottom four rows, which have their own label:

Top half of the bottom half...

In between, I finished a baby blanket for a wee one who's arrival is now past due...This morning, I washed it and here it lies on towels on the spare room floor, blocking and drying:

Pattern: "Saurey" from Berroco Yarns
Yarn: Katia "Pisco" - Aran weight,
cotton/acrylic/linen (discontinued)
With this project, I've removed another 5 balls of yarn from my stash, which pleases me no end as whittling it down is one of my unspoken objectives for this year.  Another project designed to do so is participating in the "Socks From Stash" monthly challenges on Ravelry.  I'm a bit behind and won't finish the January pair on time (they have to be cast on and knit up entirely within the given month), but I'm plugging away on the second of the pair and love the pattern which, for a change, is pour moi:

Pattern: "Isabella D'Este" by Jayme Stahl
from Clara Parkes' Knitter's Book of Socks
Yarn: Diamond Luxury Collection "Foot Loose",
super-wash, extra-fine merino wool, nylon
in colour #6307 - Grey (discontinued)
February's project will be a 'plain vanilla' sock in my brightest sock yarn:

ONline Supersocke 4-fach
NEON Color, #01721
Super-wash wool, nylon
That ought to keep away the 'February Blahs', eh?  ;-)

A reminder for the knitters among you, Gentle Readers:  the deadline to enter "Celebrate the Yarn Harlot" draw for one of three selections of lace-weight yarn is midnight, January 31, in whatever time zone you are.  I will make a random-number-generated draw after I awaken on Sunday, February 1.  To enter, read the instructions on THIS BLOG POST.  :-)

And now to connect to WIP Wednesday over at TNTN, and get back to the sewdio!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Untitled - EBMC January, Part V (Crit Update)

16" x 16" 
Commercial cotton fabrics, 
cotton thread and batting
Machine quilted with walking foot

ETA (Editted to Add) the Crit:

EB is very perceptive as well as kind and supportive with her remarks.
Square is definitely "in"!!    I like the simple uncluttered do have a lot of weight in the left hand corner though - something to think about for next time.  it is hard to balance such a distinctive and strong shape.  I love how the lines form an abstract pattern.
I think the 'weight' in the lower left was one reason I was struggling with proportion -- I just couldn't put my finger on the problem at the time.

I'm thinking that if I'd reversed the fabric it might have been a bit less 'weighty'.
The distant hills work well...narrowing it off you do get a sense of going off into the far distance.  Probably, with our 20 20 hindsight would have been interesting  to have reversed that rather distinctive fabric for the further hills, so that the pattern was a little less clear...but it's just a nicety.  
Re: the background fabric (the not-snow parts): I'd already auditioned that fabric both 'right' and 'wrong' side up...but it's a batik and there's really no difference.  Had nothing else in my stash that was quite right -- either too dark or too light.  Tried coffee-dyeing a piece...too uniform, no texture.
Also the quilt on the very light band could have been further apart at the bottom and closer together at the top - also giving an illusion of distance.  Otherwise looks good!!  Very prairie!
I think EB is referring to  the quilting on the wide band of snow, and she has a good point there.  I hadn't thought about that.  Need to tuck that valuable point away for later use!

In the next few days before February, I'm piecing, hand-quilting and knitting while resting up up for the next episode of EBMC!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Happy Blog Anniversary, Steph! (A Give-away...for the Knitters)

Stephanie Pearl McPhee -- The Yarn Harlot

One of my Very Favourite People  celebrated a Blog Anniversary yesterday -- 11 years since she "cast on" in "Fibre Space" (with apologies to arlee)...

In the above photo, she's knitting on the ribbing of a sock I made for my daughter's friend P -- a Christmas 2014 commission.  The location?  The Hilton Doubletree Edmonton (formerly the Mayfield Inn).  The event? "Comedy Night" -- the Friday night opener of the "Stix in the City" weekend event back in October 2014, sponsored by River City Yarns.  

It was a "bucket list" moment for me...and one in a million  several thousand for Steph, I'm sure.  (grin)

But without that first connection...
  • I'd have missed all the glorious books about knitting and knitters;
  • I'd never have laughed so long and so well;
  • I'd not found someone who so deeply understands what it is to be
    • Canadian; and (simultaneously)
    • A knitter... 
Happy Blog Anniversary, Steph -- and many more!

P.S. Thanks to Joe and 'The Girls' for enabling you to enable us all these years... ;-)

P.P.S. What would a knitting blog anniversary be without some YARN?

I have three (count 'em) lace weight yarn prizes to give away on a random basis:

  • One skein of Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Lace - 100% Baby Alpaca - 800 m..847 yards in colour #21 (Lavender Blue);

  • One skein of Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Lace - 100% Baby Alpaca - 800 m..847 yards in colour #03 (green mix); 

  • And two skeins of Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud lace weight yarn:
    • One 440 yards in CA07 - pearl grey; and
    • One 440 yards in C740 - green mix.

So...If you are a knitter -- or you know a knitter that would like to have any one of these three lacy prizes...Please post a comment on the blog saying so, sometime between NOW (i.e. Saturday, January 24, 2015 at almost noon Mountain Standard Time) and midnight wherever you are on Saturday, January 31, 2015.  Three winners will be chosen by a random number drawing process when I get up on Sunday, February 1.

Happy knitting!

Thinking About Proportion (EBMC January - Part IV)

"Fence" (working title!) is quilted now.  When it came to applying the fence to the background, I confess I was sorely tempted to leave it like this:


But no...I bit the bullet, fused it in place and stitched it down with my walking foot and a subtly variegated thread (Superior's King Tut, colour #992).  Here it is on my design wall, trimmed, but not finished (I'm planning to do a facing):

Unfinished, it's currently 16.5" W x 17" L -- or not quite square.  So far I've opted to leave out any 'embellishment', in keeping with the clean, peaceful look of the piece.  (By 'embellishment', I mean hand stitching or thread painting of tufts of grass here and there; adding 'grain' to the wood of the fence -- and like that.)

The fence is not centred, but not very far off-centre, either.  I'm not sure I like it.  I got to thinking about the Golden Ratio in art, and what this would do to the piece.  If I kept the length and altered only the width, I'd have to narrow it significantly; it would end up 10" W x 16" long when finished.  That would put the fence right in the centre of the bottom of the piece -- totally out of whack!

Before doing any more mathematical gymnastics, I pondered the current sizes of stretched canvas that are available (though I'm in Canada, generally our canvases come from the US so they're in inches rather than centimetres).  Believe it or not, there's a blog post about that.  Even more informative was the author's related post which included a table of the required sizes in Europe (citing France as the authority -- with sizes recommended for 3 different types of paintings - figure, landscape and marine scape) as well as an analysis and rating of those most used for painting in the in the U.S.

And what was most interesting about the analysis?  The fact that the most popular sizes (most used for painting) in North America (the ones the author ranked with the most stars) had a ratio (one side to the other) of 0.75 to 0.80.  The Golden Ratio is 0.618.  The canvas sizes closest in proportion to the Golden Ratio (at 0.65 to 0.71) were the ones used more often for personal photos, art prints and photographic prints but not for painting.


So...what about my textile piece?  Not a painting, but not a photograph or print, either...Hopefully, though, a 'painterly' expression of a landscape in fabric....

Ideally, to keep the width at 16" I should have made it longer (20" instead of 17"), for a ratio of 0.80 -- but I didn't even start out that long, so forget that!  Sigh.

The next idea is to trim it on both sides, and reduce it to 11" W by 14" L...shown below by the magic of photo cropping...bringing the fence farther forward, and cutting out most of the sky...

Here are the two (almost) "side by each"...

Roughly 16" W x 16.5" L (finished)

Roughly 11" W x 14" L (finished)

I confess that looking at them like this, the right-hand one is growing on me...but I might have to effect a compromise, so that I don't cut out so much sky.

Any ideas?  I have to have the thing faced and finished by month-end!

Now to link up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and go and do some quiet, simple piecing.  My brain hurts!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

EBMC - January Part III

Onward and upward, as "They" say!  Today I fused the background layers to my foundation fabric...

I decided to stick with my instructor's recommendation to flatten the rolling Alberta hills a wee bit...and let the quilting do the talking.

I kept the thread toned in with each background area, and simply used my walking foot to stitch lines across the piece rather intuitively, even in the 'snow'.  As for the sky...well, there I got a bit creative, trying to give a lazy impression of clouds.

Next up: the fence!  Meanwhile, I'm linking this up to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network, and going out for a spot of exercise!  See you soon!

P.S. To the Gentle Reader who asked in the comments on my last post, "How about using a lighter dark of a slightly different color?"....I can't.  This is meant to be a monochromatic value study, which means I have to use various shades of a single colour to create the piece.  But thanks for asking.  :-)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Feedback Arready!

So...I sent these photos to EB:

Rough Block #1 - how it *really* looks!

Rough Block #2 - how it might look when finished

And she -- quick, like a bunny! -- replied:
"I think this is a very strong start...great abstract design with the fence over the fields.  If it's not too late, I think I'd be tempted to keep the lines of  the fields straight so as to echo the fence lines...especially the top line...Also have a dark line at the top of the hills does pull them might consider removing  that line and straightening the top of  the hill both to push it back and give you more depth and also to pull the two sections (fields and fence) together.   At this stage, it's important not to think of things as they "really" are, but rather how the design is working.  
"Seeing it put together too, I wonder if it wouldn't be better without the two dark lines stretching into the corner on the right hand at the bottom.  without those the viewer can walk past the fence and towards the distant horizon.
"At this point it's good to think: what can I leave out?  And i think this piece would be stronger without those two lines and also without the wavy dark like at the top.   Then there would be a lovely quiet expansive feel to it.."

So...I made some adjustments (by finger pressing, etc. -- nothing permanent) and this is the result:

The "hills" have been flattened and the dark line at the top removed.  Also the two cross-bars from the fence (lower right corner).

She's right to a point; there is a quieter, more "expressive feel" about the scene.

Then I thought about an alternative:

The fencing on the lower right corner has broken down.  It's not  missing (as above) but it still allows the wanderer to "...walk past the fence and towards the distant horizon"...

What do you think?   I mean, with all due respect, EB is a Brit living in the U.S.  When I talk about the Canadian Prairie she might think "Saskatchewan"...when I'm thinking "rolling hills of Central Alberta".   

I can see leaving out the dark line between sky and ground (in the background) but to leave out the "roll" in the hills"?  And yet....and yet...EB just might have a point when she writes, "At this stage, it's important not to think of things as they 'really' are, but rather how the design is working."

I look forward to hearing from you!


EBMC #1: Value

Just before I slipped away to the sunshine, I posted my first 'sketches' for my first assignment for my first month in Elizabeth Barton's Master Class.  Thank you, Gentle Readers, for re-assuring me about my drawing abilities.  :-)

EB, too, was very encouraging, as in her first critique of my work she pointed out the 'linear quality' of my initial outline drawing, which she particularly liked.  She thought, though, that the piece might be more interesting if the front opening in the fence were a bit more off-centre (and I agree).

She also liked the varied lines and shadings in the "value contrast" drawing, and then she read my mind!  ;-)  I'd been looking at the drawing with the thought of cropping it somehow, when she suggested doing so...

With those suggestions in mind, I've played around with the drawings -- cropping, enlarging, reversing the image...

And I came up with this version, from which I'm working to block out the piece in fabric:

Yes...the gate in the fence still looks too 'centred' (sigh)...but I'll work on that!  First, I blocked out the background.  I decided, as it's a prairie scene, to go with various shades of brown, and auditioned them thus:

Auditioning fabric on the design wall

Next, I plunged into cutting the fabric shapes.  I created some bias strips for the dark shadows on the tops of the hills, and then decided to use the "wrong" side of the strips for more subtlety...and some unexpected texture due to the nature of the print:

Today's mission?  Work on that fence!

Gettin' ready to fence 'er in!

Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, it may be Monday, but I'm going to link up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...because I still can!

P.S. Feedback always appreciated...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Back on Track?

Home from Cuba!  A beautiful resort -- exquisite beaches, sparkling swimming pools, glorious colours of flora, fauna and architecture everywhere.  Plenty of fresh fruit and veg, delicious food, refreshing beverages...I'd never been to an "all inclusive" before and I can definitely recommend Memories Paraiso Azul resort.  The staff were friendly and the service, excellent.

We (I was with a gal pal from Montreal) were completely charmed by the restaurant servers who remembered us from day to day, down to where we liked to sit and what we liked to drink: coffee for me -- which the Cubans do particularly well (I brought some home) and tea for Peg; a mojito or cervesa in the afternoon; and which one of us liked red or white wine with dinner...)

We had a 3rd floor room (no elevator -- good for keeping one in trim when one spends a good portion of each day eating...!) with a balcony that had an ocean view.

I took photos -- over 250 which, for this "point-and-click" gal is considerable!  Flowers, birds (humming), butterflies, plant life (trees, leaves, bark), skies, the ocean (I can't easily articulate
the number of shades of blue-green-grey-white seen in one sitting)...and buildings (arches, tile roofs, tiled floors -- patterns! -- and walls in all sorts of colours.  I'll not be doing a retrospective here for you.  Simply stay tuned as they show up from time to time over the next several months, as artistic inspiration.  :-)

Peg on the beach
We walked the beach -- one day we went west for an hour and turned around and came back.

We walked around the town of Remedios off the market square (more about that another time).

We walked around the resort to the pueblo/market for souvenirs (ditto).

We danced to the live music on the steps of the Teatro after dinner...but were snug in our beds by the time the indoor shows started.
Two of our favourite kitties

We cuddled the kitties that wandered the grounds, all of which were clearly related (!) and equally clearly well cared for.

Huge tree, town square, Remedios, Cuba
We took a half-day tour to Caibarien and Remedios, visiting the sugar mill museum in the former, and the market square in the latter...

One of the 3 pool areas,
Memories Paraiso Azul resort

I swam circles in the curvy pools, and dipped into the ocean -- breezy with white caps most days but still fun -- and ran on the beach one early morning. (This is not a commercial photo -yes, I took this shot myself!)

All in all, though, I am very glad to be home, back to my own kitty, my two-days-a-week job at The Shop, my sewdio and my jogging/walking routine.  I don't do the "Sun Bunny" role well; neither do I enjoy snorkeling among sea creatures or surfing in

On the road to Remedios
Then there was the whole uncomfortable sense of being "privileged", which really goes against my core values...There is distinct poverty in Cuba...but I am conflicted about the damage that could be done to the culture by a renewed relationship with the U.S....Praying for a balance between genuine support for the people and their culture and the temptation to commercialism and 'extroverted capitalism' which would destroy the beauty and simplicity of the landscape and the culture.  It's a tricky business...

I've spent today working on my EBMC drawings, prepping for blocking my first piece (deadline is Jan. 20)...and will share that work in the next few days...

But for this evening?  A cuppa, a good book, quiet music, and zzzzzzzzz......

All for now!