Friday, January 14, 2022

New Year, New Work

In my last post, I shared with you the last of my new artwork for 2021: a diptych entitled "Scattered I" and "II".  This week I finally completed hand-stitching the binding on that pair, and they're ready for hanging sleeves.

Since then, I've surprised myself -- and made two more!  

"Why was this a surprise?" you might be thinking (or not!).  Well, as I mentioned in that very same post, like many most probably all of you, Gentle Readers, I'm finding it's a daily practice to Keep Things In Perspective.  As Kate Jackson of The Last Homely House suggests, in these pandemic times it's rather a good idea to "get out of one's head and into one's hands"; thus I'm making time and space to make something every day.

My copy of the Winter 2022 edition of Quilting Arts magazine arrived not long ago, and I made some time to go through it.  In there, I found Canadian textile artist, Anni Hunt's  second of a trio of articles.  The first -- in the Fall 2021 issue -- was about printing on fabric, which isn't something I do often.  This second one, though, was about collage.  This is a technique that I struggle with -- especially when it's practiced in a free-form sort of way.

New Directions 2*
(c) 2019
Yes, much of my work involves some sort of "collage", in that I layer pieces of fabric into some sort of artistic coherence -- but that's not what I'm getting at here.  What Anni and so many other artists seem able to do with assorted materials has always challenged me.  I get so darned hung up on trying to "make it look like something" that I diddle around, fussing about where and how to lay down whatever it is I'm working with, whether fabric or paper or something of both.  The work might end up looking rather attractive, but even to my eyes it comes across as rather stiff and formal.  *In the photo, the flowered background is the paper on the wall on which the canvas is hung, not part of the artwork!

Still, Anni's article piqued my interest, so I thought I'd give it a go -- try to play for a change.  So...I dug out some batting, some light-weight backing, some neutral scraps of fabric and some tea bag papers.  And bonding powder, because I'd not "played" with it in ages, and was running low on fusible web.   After all, I was just making a background, for pity's sake -- just as she was suggesting in her article, "Fabric Collage: New Beginnings" (p. 96 in the magazine).  

My base fabric was very light and a slightly irregular shape; I left it that way.  I layered it over some "franken-batting" (i.e. two pieces zig-zagged together to make a larger piece), and then sprinkled on the bonding powder, before applying a layer of fabrics and tea bag papers.  The powder was an adventure.  With our very dry air (humidifier or not), it was a challenge to keep it from getting everywhere but where I wanted it.  Still, I persisted!  Eventually I had all the layers together, and zig-zagged the scrappy collage:

Collaged background - linen scraps 
and tea bag papers

Collage close-up

Well now!  That wasn't so hard, was it?!

What next?  The part of me that likes "order" and prefers it to "look like something" was on the verge of an attack of acute anxiety.  

Okay then!  Make something of it!  

So I did.  First, I added "trees" from scraps of painted/printed fabric, using matte medium.  And I saw that "it was good" -- so I signed it!

And then I mounted it on a 12" square stretched canvas, which I painted in an attempt at a dark brown -- having no brown paint on hand. (I can't remember the last time I wanted to use any brown paint!)

Eventually, it will be framed.  The title is "If We Were Not Here", after a line in a poem from Wendell Berry in his book A Small Porch (Counterpoint Press, Berkeley, CA, 2016 - Part VIII, "A Small Porch in the Woods") --  a Christmas gift this past year:

The pattern for keeping this place
we must take from the woods, if
the land is to thrive in our using.*
If we were not here, Nature
would give this land to trees...

*An Agricultural Testament, pp. 1-4

In the mood for more "play" I took out a good-sized piece of fabric that I'd thought at first I'd make into a whole cloth piece with free-form linear quilting.  It's more grey-browns and grey-greens than the photo shows, because the photo was taken with it sandwiched and quilted, and lying on my ironing board.

I'd decided to see if I could construct an old tree from some of the gazillions of dark brown "bonus triangles" I had from a former project -- ones I'd not turned into half-square triangles.  Below you see the beginnings of piling up the tiny scraps -- small triangles I'd cut up into even smaller ones:

I liked the effect, but how to put these together?  I created the tree trunk, layered it with MistyFuse and fine grey tulle, and, beneath a pressing sheet, gave it a good press:

Aaaargh!  What a mess!  The photo shows only one corner of the piece, and the darned tulle hadn't merged into the background as I thought it would.  ICK!!  Now what?!

Well, I sliced the large piece in half (or thereabouts) and then I cut out the tree.  Yep.  Got out some fine-tipped applique scissors and cut every tiny nook and cranny,  Then I placed it on the remaining half of the quilted background -- pinned -- and stitched it down with a dark variegated thread (Superior King Tut #979 - "Obsidian"):

Well now!  That's better!  I faced it, and signed it -- calling it finished at 10" W x 21" L.  May I present Venerable (c) 2022:

As for the cut-out scraps from the other half of the quilted piece, they've been saved for later use -- they'll make great hills and fields sometime in the future.

After all that "play", it was time for a break -- and I returned to 'piece peace, order and good government' (pun intended)...making several more wonky log cabin blocks from crumbs and strings (I'm closing in on 60 but need 90 for something of any size), making a few more pinwheel blocks from "bonus" HSTs, and finally finishing the assembly of the last rows of the "Easy Breezy" (a Bonnie Hunter leaders-and-enders pattern) piece, started long ago as a 'quilt-as-you-go'.  Those rows now have to be joined together.  There are 9 rows of 9 blocks, and I'm putting them together in pairs, thus:

Five of 9 rows ready to put together

I've not enough of the red print to do all 8 long sashes, so row #3 and row #6 will have solid red on the front, instead.  And all the sashing on the back is a solid royal blue that picks up on the blue in the print of the fabric.

Still with Bonnie, my 2021 "Rhododendron Trail" units are coming along -- for Clue #3 ---no! Clue #4* which (she warned us!) is rather labour-intensive...

About 2/3 there!

*I discovered I'm farther ahead than I thought!  Here's what Clue #3 -- now finished --  looked like in process!

"Rhododendron Trail" - Clue #3 units

For a change of pace, I've also been stitching -- and have finished the first 'mini bouqet' in Jeannette Douglas' *free* 2022 informal stitch-along, which I mentioned briefly in my last post.  On 28-count linen, the design area is about 3" square; I'm using DMC threads for the most part -- with a few hand-dyes mixed in:

In my last post, I also mentioned another of Jeannette's designs, Mon Coeur, which I decided to start early -- as a "birthday start" in honour of my daughter, who turned 41 on the 13th of this month.  I'm just working on the border, which is being done in "Perlee Creme", a rather slinky, slippery cousin of perle cotton.  It's going to be very pretty, but it certainly requires concentration!

And of course, Gentle Readers, there's always knitting!

The baby socks are finished and mailed.  Here's the second pair, with a rolled cuff, which I'd not even started when I last wrote:

And my daughter received her two headbands in time for her birthday.  Yes, two.  The first one is in her chosen colour and pattern:

Pattern: DROPS 114-4-a - Alpine Twist
Yarn: Berroco Vintage DK in Cracked Pepper
Shown here before washing & blocking

Pattern: Braided Cabled Ear Warmer
Yarn: Red Heart "Heat Wave" in the "Passport"

The "Heat Wave" yarn was give me by a friend last summer.  I'm trying not to work with 100% acrylic...but thought this was worth trying out.  It's soft and much nicer than any Red Heart worsted I've used before.  AND it's supposed to "warm up" in the outdoors -- even if it's cloudy.  My daughter was willing to try it out -- and this weekend will provide the perfect opportunity!  The Deep Freeze has moved east, so in our more moderate winter temps, she's planning some hiking photography out in the mountains...and will report back on the quality of the respective "ear warmers".  Stay tuned!

It wouldn't be January without all of this "Startitis" -- new artwork and stitching, and now knitting.  Yes, I'm working away on the body of my "Ranunculus" pullover, but I also started a cowl in an odd yarn from my stash -- "Icona" from  Bertagna Filati.  I'm using a Tin Can Knits pattern -- the "Simple Yet Effective Cowl" -- because it adapts to pretty much any weight of yarn.  There's not enough done to show you a photo, and it's knitting up rather stiffly (per the yarn's unusual construction) but I'm hoping it will soften up with washing later.

On that hopeful note, I'll leave you with wishes for a quiet, comfy, cozy, creative weekend -- and with a link to my friend Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  TTFN... 😊

Friday, December 31, 2021

In Perspective, Comfort

 On and off over the years, I've chosen a 'word for the year'.  This year it was 'purpose'; in 2020, hope (how significant needing that turned out to be, eh?!)  In 2019, a word chose me; "more" (you can read more about that here).

In between 'hope' and 'purpose' was 'comfort'.  I thought about that one on its own for 2022, because it's what I've been seeking for myself and for others over this past year...and hope to practice going forward, with comfort quilts, words, notes, knits and stitches.

But...I realized that there's been much discomfort this past year too: estrangements and isolation due not only to the COVID pandemic but also to the politicization of public health measures and vaccinations.  Fires and floods and unseasonal tornadoes due to accelerating climate change.  There's a great deal of angst, anger, frustration and just plain suffering going on.  It's enough to make a body join with Ebenezer Scrooge in his pre-conversion view of Christmas -- and probably life in general:

Designer: Bent Creek
Wee pillow idea: Lori Holt (YouTube tutorial)*

*I've owned this wee kit for eons, but just put it all together this week during the Deep Freeze.  It finishes at about 4 1/2" square.

What's one single soul to do?  

Some of you may recall that I finished a couple of cross-stitch pieces, mounted in my living room, to remind me to be positive -- both by Lizzie Kate (now retired, but you might be able to find her designs here and there):

These remind me that I'm a) blessed with a cozy home, sufficient income, wonderful family, a clutch of very close friends, and a sizeable stash of fabric, fibre and floss with which I can create -- I can do something to promote comfort in my little corner of the globe.

And that's the key: "my little corner". 

My recent reading has been encouraging too.  I've recently finished Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee, and The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, a compilation of a weeks' worth of interviews with the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his good friend, his Holiness, the Dalai Lama.  On reflection, both of these speak about the importance of keeping things in perspective.

That's IT!

That's my word for 2022.  Looking around me, close up, to find joy in even the smallest thing -- and looking 'way beyond me, to realize that in the grand scheme of things, I may be only one, but I am one, and while I'm blessed with life, sight and skill, I can't do everything but I can do something -- as long as I don't allow myself to be discouraged by the scope of The Mess the World is In.  As long as I try to emulate God's eye-view of the world S/He created, loves and lives in.


With that in mind I'm filling my days with a routine that I hope will help me be more joyful, and to feel more useful, more purposeful, more creative and more compassionate -- with myself and those around me -- without being overwhelmed and exhausted.

So I'll laugh at the "Humbug" in one of my yarn baskets, and keep on truckin'!  

So...what's on the needles and under 'em now?   I'm so glad you asked!

Bonnie Hunter's moving right along with her 2021 Mystery, Rhododendron Trail, and I'm moving along with it, to whit:

Clue #2 - units finished!

Clue #3 - Units under construction

That wild pink fabric just keeps going and going and going! LOL!

Making the Clue #2 units produced a pile of what Bonnie calls "bonus triangles".  In the past, I've mainly stuck these in bags -- along with Good Intentions! 😊😉  This time, though, I thought I should make-up-as-I-go, so I've made a start. 

First, I didn't separate them when I cut them off the Flying Geese; I kept them in pairs, and then used them as 'leaders and enders' while I'm sewing up the units.  These ones have produced a mountain of tiny Half-Square Triangles (HSTs) -- from which I'm slowly assembling pinwheels, each measuring 3" square (before set into blocks):

It's hard to tell from the photo, but so far I've assembled 2 pink-and-white pinwheels and 2 butter-yellow-and-white ones.  Now, I can't do much with them at 3" square, so expect to eventually put them into some sort of star block for a comfort quilt.  What I can tell you is, that with each star taking 4 HSTs, I'll end up with 15 pinwheels in each colour combination, and a couple of HSTs left over.  Potentially 30 pinwheel star blocks...

As I began to collect that mountain of HSTs, I thought about what I'd done with earlier "bonus triangles"...and looked at my stash.  Well!  I have them in baggies, I have them in baskets...some still just triangles, some already sewn into HSTs.  I found a batch of them all in a very light tan/dark brown combination, and was inspired.  I woke early one morning about 10 days ago with an idea, and produced a diptych:

Scattered I, II (c) 2021
9 3/4" W x 30 1/4" L
Commercial cotton, fused applique,
free-motion quilted

Quilting Detail 1

Quilting Detail 2

Some of the HSTs stand out, and others have sections that meld with the fabric -- especially after quilting.  I don't quilt free-motion very often, but these pieces called for it, and so I used a loose pattern of random squares all over the pieces, and came away liking the result.  I've bound each piece with fabric that matches the background.  Again, I usually face my art pieces these days, but these pieces wanted binding, given their long and very narrow design, so that's what I've done.  

And how many tiny HSTs did I use up in this bold endeavour?  Sixty-two -- 31 on each.  Not much of a dent in the stash, but at this rate, I figure every little bit helps!  😆

All of this -- as well as providing comfort for some and visual art for others -- is in aid of the Keep it Out of the Landfill Project which, of course, is ongoing, and never-ending (or so it seems).

In this endeavour, YouTube is unfailingly helpful -- not only for entertainment, but also for tutorials and ideas.  A new-to-me 'Floss Tube' podcast is one example.  In addition to The Quilt Show, to which I subscribe, I already enjoy Karen at "Just Get it Done Quilts", Lisa Walton's "Quilt Stories" interviews with art quilters, The Woolly Thistle's "Shopcast" and "Little Big Knits" with Selma, an Ottawa knitter.  And this past week I tripped over a new-to-me pod-caster: Lori Holt.  Her name rang a bell and well it should -- as she's a quilt and fabric designer and, as it turns out, a skilled cross-stitcher as well.  Her style in either genre isn't mine per se, and I don't have bolts of fabric in matching lines to draw upon for what she calls "scrappy" quilts (mine are from the "where the heck did this come from?" source of fabric scraps, the ones that breed in the night)...but she's entertaining and I love some of her ideas.

She inspired me to dig out the wee "Humbug" and turn it into something fun.  And she's inspired a new use for some of my scraps from my Scrap Savers System (so named by Bonnie Hunter): tiny squares made into 4-patches, plus plain squares in assorted neutrals and colours.  These I'm starting to assemble in to what Lori refers to as her "Spare Squares" block (a YouTube tutorial). These can be made in assorted sizes, depending on the size of the squares you use; mine are 6 1/2" unfinished...and as of yesterday afternoon, there are a dozen of them:

Again, I created these as 'leaders & enders' while working on the Mystery quilt units.  They'll eventually end up in a comfort quilt...or two or six.  Trust me, there's more where they came from!

Lest the knitters out there think that all I've been doing is quilting and cross-stitch...well, now!  You know that chez moi there is always some knitting!  I finished the "Countdown" socks on Christmas Eve (the last day of Advent); they're now washed and in the charity box:

Pattern: Countdown
Free on Ravelry from EdithABDesigns

My friend Mary W. has a young couple in her life who were expecting their first child any moment, so I offered a couple of pair of baby socks, which I enjoy knitting from left-overs.  Baby Girl arrived last night -- so I'm glad the first pair is finished:

Pattern: Baby Socks - River City Yarns
Yarn: unlabelled leftovers - wool/nylon
Size: 0-3 months

The second pair will be in a 6-month size, I think, perhaps a cotton/wool blend for spring.

And my daughter's birthday is mid-January.  This year she's requested a headband to wear when she's out and about in nature, photographing birds and wee critters -- when we're not in the throes of a Polar Vortex!  So last night I cast on this one in her chosen pattern and colour:

Pattern: DROPS 114-4a - Alpine Twist Ear-warmer
Yarn: Berroco Vintage DK in "Cracked Pepper"
-- a left-over from mittens made a year or two ago

It calls for straight needles, but because there are only 28 stitches, I'm using two double-points that are 9" long, rather than my shortest straights.  The yarn splits a bit more than I remember, but I still like working with it, and love the colour.

Aside from these smaller projects, I've decided to make fewer socks this year, and to focus on finishing at least 3 of the sweaters I've started.  The first of these is the Ranunculus -- on which I've finished one sleeve and am working on the body:

Pattern: "Ranunculus" from Midori Hirose
Yarn: BC Garn Bio Shetland GOTS

I'm told the pattern is addictive; indeed over 10,600 of them have been at least started -- some folks having made half dozen for themselves, friends and family.  I'm not sure I'll go that far, but time will tell.  It's an interesting top-down construction without seams, which is a real plus!

So...what's ahead for 2022?

    • Inspired by Lori Holt, who has a habit of starting new projects based on holidays through the year, I'm planning to return to What Remains is Love, created by Blackbird Designs for Traditional Stitches' 20th anniversary.  I'll be working on it through the month of February because not only is Valentine's Day mid-month, but also my late DH and I announced our engagement February 11, 1975.  I'll do what I can in the month, and then come back to it in August, which is the month we were married in '75.  
    • On Valentine's Day itself, I'll focus on a tiny piece (another wee pillow, I think!) that Jeannette designed -- again, a little kit I've had for over a decade: Mon Coeur. If it interests you, click on the link on the page for the free PDF of the pattern.  It's very tiny -- 1" x 2" on 32 count linen -- though it'll be a bit larger when I make it on 28 count!
  • Then there's spinning, in which I've decided to make a larger investment of time in 2022.  I bought (on sale!!) a Craftsy class in the basics, in hopes of a) being motivated to spin more; b) to improve my spinning techniques and learn more than one or two ways to draft and ply; and c) use up fleece, roving and top so it doesn't end up in the landfill. Focus!
  • Last but not least: when spring comes, there will be The Yard and Garden.  I'm hoping to plant a sugar maple (hardy to Zone 3, of course!), to plant more wild flowers (ones that didn't need to be over-wintered in the ground), to preserve with dandelion blossoms, raspberries and rhubarb in season, and to reconfigure the veggies I put in my two raised beds.  And Outdoor Studio will continue to be the perfect place to read, knit and/or stitch, helping me keep a sound mind -- and a comforting perspective.

And so, Gentle Readers...thanks for reading this epistle.  May your New Year be safe and healthy, full of the comforts you find in home and hearth, family and friends, the work of your hands.  May you bloom wherever you've been planted.

I'm linking this up to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday, where this week she too is pondering a Word for 2022.  

Happy New Year!  


Friday, December 17, 2021

Everything Old is New Again

 That's what it's felt like over the past couple of weeks, because I've been doing such a variety of things.  Every day I try to stick to a routine, and for the most part it's working, but some days I'm more distracted than others and have to take myself in hand to get anything done!  I don't know if that's a sign of the times, or my age...or what.  Anyone else out there feel the same? 

There have been at least two (count 'em!) consistencies in my life during this time: the "Keep It Out of the Landfill" project, and the last of my Christmas knitting.

I'll start with a finish: the 'Basket-weave Strings' top is done!  It's now folded away in my cat-free guest room, awaiting the time when I send it out for quilting (too big to do myself without injury!)  This photo was taken last week, before the snow arrived and the temps plummeted!

Pattern: Basket-Weave Strings
Designer: Bonnie Hunter

At the risk of making it look like a Christmas quilt, I went with a dark red border.  I was going to use the same green as the set-in triangles, but it just fell flat.  Bright red would have been too much, but I think the dark red works fine.

You can probably sense from my comment about the red/green fabric for "Basket-weave" that I'm not a seasonal decorator, though I do put a few festive things out for Christmas -- and I always put out my creche.  Well, Kate, who's one of you Gentle Readers, invited me to drop by her group's "Virtual Show & Tell" to see all the Christmassy things being made, and I was inspired!

I routed out a kit I'd bought long ago and far away, and set to work.  Within a few hours I had it all together; all it needs now is for me to finish attaching the hanging sleeve.

Pattern: "The Reason for the Season"
Designer: Sew Be It (can't find a link)

Underneath the fabrics I'd stored away for that nativity scene (far more fabric than the small version actually required!) there was this wild piece -- almost two metres worth!

It's called "Bubble Blast" and was "Designed for Red Rooster Patterns 10475 - (c) 2003 (see the selvedge below).  I've no recollection of buying it -- or what I thought I would do with it.  All I know is that it's not part of my "inheritance", as it's been buried under other fabric in the bottom of a dresser in my studio for the last 13 years (where I stored it before that, I've no clue!) 


Here's a close-up:

"Wild" is an understatement, don't you think?  Still, Bonnie Hunter's theory is that "there's no fabric so ugly that it won't look good if you cut it small enough" -- and she's right!  

In my last post  I mentioned I'd printed off the first part of Bonnie's "Rhododendron Trail" 2021 Mystery quilt; pink is one of the fabric suggestions -- including 'raspberry'.  With this yardage -- and the change in the weather from 'confused' to 'actual winter' -- I decided The Time Had Come.  

Between yesterday and today, I've made the units for Clue #1 and started them for Clue #2.  See how nice that pink looks when it's cut up?

Clue #1, "in progress" photo (finished now)

Clue #2 - some units cut out

As for my strings, which continue to multiply, I've been using them -- with crumbs to start -- to make wonky log cabin blocks -- 5 1/2" square -- as 'leaders and enders' for whatever else I'm working on, trying to use up crumbs and strings.  I've assembled almost 30 of them now, and am aiming for several dozen more, so they can become something more substantial than a lap quilt, but in the Lap Quilt Department...

And there's yet another find: a baggie of small blocks I made a good 20+ years ago, when I was a very new quilter.  They were from a set of printed patterns (long gone) for a beginner's quilt.  I gave it up when I was invited by a friend to accompany her to a local quilt shop for a block-of-the-month, which was much more fun than trying to figure this stuff out on my own.  The baggie was stuffed with a batch of nine-patch and Rail Fence blocks, each about 3 1/2" square.  I say "about" because...well...I wasn't the world's best piecer back then!  (I'm still not, but I've come a loooong way!)

I decided to make them up into lap quilts, and started with the nine-patches, thus:

Yes, it's funky, but I don't care!
It's also too small.

I dug out some 2 1/2" squares and made borders.
Still too small.

I added more borders (there's that same dark red
fabric!) and finished up the nine-patches.
Now it's just right -- about 35" x 42".
It'll make a lap quilt or tummy time blanket.

Next up: the nine-patches, some of which had already been assembled into larger blocks:

Rail Fence blocks laid out.  What to do?

My initial plan - on the design wall.
Not very big.  Thought about sashing but...

Then I woke in the wee hours with an idea...and got to it first thing after my morning coffee:

Rail Fence (c) 2021 - 16" square, once it's faced.

Detail of the quilting, the fence
and the thread painting.

I love it!  I hope it'll make a quilter smile.  All it needs is its facing, a label and a sleeve, and it'll be ready for the (God willing) Lacombe Art Show/Sale in the spring!

On the knitting front, my Advent socks are languishing a bit.  I did get the first one finished:

It's still hard to photograph that purple!

The second one is cast on, and I'm 2/3 through the ribbing, but that's all.  The reason?  

THIS!  The knit that kept on knitting...

Pattern (on label): 1 Ball Throw
Yarn: "Kasha" from Sirdar
78% acrylic, 12% mohair, 10% polyester

Finally finished!

It's a one-ball (300 grams, 600 metres!) throw -- plain stockinette with garter stitch borders -- on 7 mm needles, and I finished it this morning after knitting what seemed like forever!  It finished at 36" x 45" after washing and hanging to dry.

I really liked the colour, so bought 2 balls of the stuff, but after making this one, I'm going to give the second away (probably to the local thrift shop).  I don't want to make another!

I've just had my COVID booster (Pfizer) and with the Deep Freeze in full force, it's going to be a pretty quiet weekend.  I'm going back to my "Countdown" socks, maybe even finishing them before Christmas Day.

And I've two new books (bought with an Xmas gift card) well as the Winter Issue of "Quilting Arts" magazine.  What's not to like? 

I'm linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Friday"; as she says in this week's edition, sometimes we need to slow down our days and take it easy -- savouring the time with friends and family (whether in person or on the phone or online).  Given the pace and the lapses into distraction that have filled my days in the last while, I think that's good advice indeed.

Wishing all my Gentle Readers a safe, happy, peaceful Christmas, however you mark the season.  Till later...