Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Trying to...

I don't know how the FB 'quizzes' and 'name tests' are created, but this is one I decided to try used my photos...and presented me with a "Motto for 2018". 

The odd thing is, this particular practice -- keeping 'it' simple, not over-thinking, over-analyzing, not getting lost in details, seeing every tree in the forest instead of the forest as a single entity -- this practice has plagued me most of my 65 years.

And most years, right around this time, I return to it.  "Always [I] begin again," in the way of Benedict.  

This year is no exception.  For weeks now, even as I finished gifts and readied the house for Christmas, I've been wondering how to go forward in this new year, with all I'd like to do.

The challenge?  To prioritize and fit it into weeks that seem to grow shorter every year.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are set aside for work in The Shop, music practice at church and Knit Night. 

Sunday I've managed to keep as a 'Sabbath' day most of the time, with church in the morning, followed by a walk, and a quiet afternoon of reading, stitching and/or napping, ending with a visit, every couple of weeks, with an elderly friend.

Yes, there is knitting as stitching as part of those days, as every day...but not for long, concentrated periods of time.

Then there's the periodic online work that I do as a volunteer...which has to be fit in somewhere as it is not yet time to give it up for others to do.  In some cases there are no others, so it wouldn't get done.  Perhaps it wouldn't be missed; I really have no way of knowing.  Clearly I need to give it more thought before the end of this year...if I am to simplify as I mean to. do I intend to fill the remainder of my week-days in this new year?

For one thing, I want to enable simpler living by finishing old projects, and using up fabric and yarn for things that can be given away to others who need them more than I do.   I've begun by designating Wednesdays, as much as possible, as days to focus on this work.  I started last week, and have managed to knit up a toque and finish a scarf that's been languishing in my UFO basket(s) since the fall of 2015.

Pattern: Chevron Leaf Shawl - by Patons
Yarn: Patons North America
Country Garden DK (discontinued)
- donated to the church some years ago
Today, I took up a prayer shawl begun in March 2014 and last touched in September of that year -- with only one 20-row pattern set and the edging to do!  It's one of those that starts small, and increases steadily, so when I left it there were almost 300 stitches on the needle, so each row takes more time than the last.  Still, it's a lovely, meditative design and not particularly difficult, so I've made progress, confident that it will be finished next Wednesday.

On the quilting front, I've decided to participate in The Quilt Show's 2018 Block of the Month -- using not the kit but my stash.  The quilt is made with a series of 24 small (6" finished) blocks, as well as three applique sections and a large central motif, which I may or may not do.  Three patterns for pieced blocks will be given out each month, and ideally one makes three of each of the blocks, or nine blocks per month.  Monday, I made three blocks from the first pattern.  My aim is to make the other six blocks this month in similar colours -- as far as my stash allows, knowing full well that in February I will have to hunt down different colours for the next nine.  This will make it fun -- and use up that stash as I go!
On the side, I hope to get that treadle machine I bought last year up and running with a simple 'squares' quilt, so I can practice plain, straight sewing with it as I get into the rhythm.  Maybe treadling my spinning wheel would help with well as using up some of my roving...

Then there's my artwork -- and three projects under consideration this year: the Annual Lacombe Art Show and Sale (April 20 - 21); a "Scotland collaboration" with my friend and colleague, Mary Wilton, for entry into the Annual Camrose Art Walk in August; and an entry into a SAQA juried show, with an online entry deadline of May 31 (more about that later).

Design: Carol Leather
Finally, this year there's embroidery in the mix, also in an attempt to use materials stashed for far too long -- so there's a hope I will make up some small pieces from kits I've collected, as well as studying various stitches through the year as part of "Beyond TAST" (Take A Stitch Tuesday), a project under the auspices of the talented Sharon Boggon of Australia.  We begin by playing with the Running Stitch; Sharon recommended doing so by way of 'Pattern Darning' or Kogin, a Japanese embroidery technique.  I've dug out some 14- and 18-count Aida cloth, a tapestry needle, a simple pattern (courtesy of stitcher Carol Leather), and will begin a sampler in two colours.

"Keep It Simple"?  I'm not sure it's going to least not this year...but I'll put one foot in front of the other, "begin again" each day in earnest, and with God's grace, well...who knows?

Wishing you all a Happy -- and Simple! -- New Year, Gentle Readers, and linking up with WIP Wednesday over at the Needle and Thread Network.

And so to bed.

Tomorrow's another day.  😊

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Inching My Way to Christmas

Today I finally made it back into the sewing room!

The last couple of weeks have been focused on knitting gifts, writing/sending cards, singing (at church), working at The Shop, and trying to keep body and soul together while my beloved kids figured out what they were able to do to gather together for Christmas.

There's been some progress since my last post.  As the commissions were finished, I began to focus on gifts...

With at least one sock of a pair finished for two different people:

One sock down, second sock started!

This one is now finished.
It's companion?  I'm well away on the foot!

And there are mittens for my next-door neighbours, who are extraordinarily kind to me all year 'round.  They love to go for walks -- in any weather -- so over the years I've made them toques, neck-warmers, etc.  This year it's mittens.   E's are finished...

Her husband, J's are just started (cuff on #1 almost finished) no photos for now!

Feeling I was in a Good Place as far as the knitted gifts went, today I dove in and -- start to finish! -- completed this year's Annual Christmas Boxer Shorts!!

From this...

To this...

In about 4 hours!

The key?  No fiddling with a drawstring this year.  Elastic waist only!

Oh...and the fabric?

Canada 150, of course!  😏

All this while playing CBC's broadcast -- "Joy to the World" -- an international concert (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) -- loudly on the stereo.

Now...before I get back to that knitting...If I don't get back here before next weekend, 

Happy Hanukkah!

Merry Christmas!

Blessed Soltice!

Merry Kwanzaa!

And thank you again, Gentle Readers, for tuning in whenever I post.  Even commenting encouragement from time to time.  It means a great deal.

Linking in (late) to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Friday" and leaving you with this...

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

I'm beginning to feel like one of Santa's elves...beavering away at Christmas commissions and gifts.  There are some more "Stops" and some more "Starts" as I keep moving right along...

First...some "Stops"...

A sweet baby sweater for the new daughter of a cousin in Quebec, which I mentioned in my last post:

Ain't She Sweet?

Baby will be 1 month old on Monday of next I hope it will fit.  It's been over 32 years since I had such a tiny person in my arms, and this looks so-o-o-o-o-o small!

Next...those shams! In this photo, they are finished, quilted, backed, flanged...and hanging -- folded from side to side -- on my design wall.  The two together, turned sideways, give the full design of a single one which means -- thank Heaven! -- they match!!


On the art front, my client picked the "birdie" piece she wanted...and this went into the mail today:

Answering the Dinner Bell (C) 2017

And the SJSA blocks went into the mail to California on Friday.  I've taken some photos but with 7 blocks, and photos that only show part of the story...well...I will do something more about those pieces in the not-too-distant future.  Suffice to say it was a very special project on which to work, and I may do a bit more for the group in the spring...

There's one more 'almost stopped' Christmas gift ...but as the recipient reads this blog, I will say no more!  😉

And now for "Starts"...

On the knitting front, second socks of pairs.  And mittens -- from a pattern entitled "The World's Simplest Mittens" which, this close to Christmas I really need!  (I can't seem to find my trusty olde pattern book of family sized mitts...probably lent it someone...sometime...)

And to keep me focused...Clue #2 of Bonnie Hunter's "On Ringo Lake" Mystery is fully prepped:

And I even managed to put some of the flying-geese units together...though as you can see by the remaining stacks, I have more to go!

Bottom row: finished 'geese'
Top 2 rows: more unassembled parts!

That's where everything sits for now. I'm linking this up to WIP Wednesday over on The Needle and Thread Network, and to Bonnie Hunter's MQ Link-up for Mystery Week #2.

I'll leave you with a musical memory and wish you a great rest of the week, everyone!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Babies, Birds and Blocks

It's a b-b-b-busy time of year...and I feel like I'm on a roll!

The delight of a new wee one in the family is at least in part responsible for some of the energy. cousin R 'down East' has a new grand-daughter (born Nov. 11) I just had to put a new little sweater on the needles:

Pattern: Bluebell Cardigan designed by Schneckenstrick - free on Ravelry
Yarn: Schachenmayr Bravo Color (discontinued)
Colour-way #2084

The photo above is just the start of it.  It's a top-down, and I've done all the increases.  The sleeves are on stitch holders and I'm working on the body.  Another inch or two and I'll be finished that, ready to complete the sleeves, and finish it off.  Before long, it will be ready to send off to Baby M.  (No, she's not named after me!)

Then there was the commission to do a 'birdie' piece for a friend to give as a gift...and I made three, finished yesterday:

Answering the Dinner Bell 
SOLD to my client

At the Tween Stop (C) 2017

Home for Christmas (C) 2017

Home for Christmas - Detail

I couldn't help myself with that third just called to be done.  If not sold before, these will be available at the Lacombe Art Show and Sale in April (again, assuming I am juried in once more). allow my brain to rest, I worked on Clue #1 for Bonnie Hunter's 2017 Mystery: On Ringo Lake.  She started us off  with classic nine-patches...and having reviewed her instructions for cutting strips, I was delighted to find that mine intersected beautifully around the centre square!

For some reason I have more than are called for.  No worries!  I'll find a spot for the extra ones somewhere along the line.  :-)

What's up for the rest of the week?

  •  Regular Car Maintenance (while knitting on Xmas gifts) tomorrow;
  • Work at The Shop on Thursday (and it's our busy season);
  • Friday and over the on those commissioned pillow shams...the second one is ready to be marked and sandwiched for quilting.
  • Bonnie's Clue #2 lands on Friday!

It's all good!  Linking up to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network...and wishing you a great rest of the week!  😊

Friday, November 24, 2017

Ups and Downs, Starts and Stops

Gretchen Rubin once said, "The days are long, but the years are short."  As we move toward the Winter Soltice up here in the Northern Hemisphere,  it seems to me that both the years and the days are short right now!  November is slipping away -- albeit with lovelier-than-usual weather -- and according to All Things Consumerist, the Holiday Gift Giving Season is on our doorstep.

For those of us who make gifts -- whether to give to loved ones or for others to give to loved ones (or both!) have been gradually ramping up since late summer (or maybe earlier!)  Certainly, my days are full of fabric, fibre and floss at the moment, and I'm hard-pressed to want to go anywhere but the Sewdio.

I'm working on "birds" again and will soon have three pieces ready, one of which is a commission for Christmas.  All have been stitched and one has been beaded.  Next up: "snow" and a mat.  I'd not done any mono-printing for a few months when I got the request, so I wasn't entirely happy with my initial results:

See how 'smudgy' they look?

The good thing about them, though, is that the printing was visible through the fabric, so...I simply turned them over and stitched on that side!

The three white pieces have become "bird" pieces, but the long, narrow blue one (upper left corner, above) turned into this:

Autumn Skies (C) 2017
12" W x 4" L
hand-dyed and batik fabric, free-motion quilting
wrapped around stretched canvas

Autumn Skies - detail

It's being put in a floater frame, and I hope to pick it up tomorrow.  I love this 12" x 4" canvas, and made another one that's only paint and stitch, directly on the canvas:

November Evening (C) 2017
free-motion stitching on painted canvas

November Evening - detail

The painting is done with watercolour, and I found I had to do 4 coats -- 1 before stitching and 3 after -- to get it to really show up.  This piece, too, is at the framer's, but will be picked up soon.

Speaking of the framer...Andrea Hatch at Cabinet of Curiosities in Stettler, Alberta -- the gal who also cuts my mats -- is an award-winning framer and a real authority on preservation framing etc.  I always enjoy stopping by her shop.  She's put these into floaters for me now:

Highland Hills (C) 2017
5" x 7" framed to about 6" x 8"
Paint and needle-felting on stretched canvas

Fifty Shades of Green (C) 2017
5" x 7" framed to about 6" x 8"
Paint, quilted hand-dyed fabric, sari silk
 on stretched canvas

On the piecing front...About a month ago I posted about a pair of pillow shams I was making for a client to give as a gift (to match a quilt made a couple of years ago).  The post was about figuring out how to convert a quilt/block pattern into shams, and the math involved.


I got the first sham top pieced, and most of the second...

First sham top pieced
(Here's where the "down" in this post's title makes sense)

I had a limited amount of fabric from the earlier quilt project; I was careful to pre-cut all the pieces for each sham before I started.

Or, at least, I thought I had.  😡

BUT...I got to the outer 'Labyrinth' border...and was dismayed to find I'd not cut the four dark brown rectangles (each 3 1/2" x 6 1/2") for the flying geese therein.  What had I done with the last of that fabric?  Sliced it up for the narrow borders, that's what!!  AAAAAARGH!!

There followed almost 2 weeks of hunting...and a generous donation of two completely ineligible pieces of fabric by a sweet soul on the Quiltville community FB page.  But...blessedly...the fabric was found in a shop in Calgary, bought, shipped, received...and both tops were finished!

Side by each on my design wall

As of this afternoon, Sham #1 has been quilted -- but not without it's "downs"! 

What happened? machine -- taken in for its annual spa treatment in September while I was away -- spit an oily substance of some sort out the back (when the presser foot lever was raised) that landed on (you guessed it) the lighter fabric in the piece -- in four spots!!  Thanks to Grandma's Secret Spot Remover followed by the application of some mild detergent (Sunlight) with a soft old toothbrush...disaster averted -- only to be nearly thwarted by a thread with "just the right colour" that refused to play nicely with the bobbin thread...but that was taken care of replacing it with something that would! 

It also wouldn't be the latter part of November without the temptation of Bonnie Hunter's Mystery Quilt.  It comes at a time when I am ready for some cutting of fabric, clearing of stash, a new project to distract from all the other STUFF I have to do, and definitely from all the STUFF going on around the world.

If you tap into the link above, you'll see that though it's a pieced bed quilt, it's inspired by a landscape beloved by Bonnie...and not too far off the landscape around where I live.  I shopped my stash and discovered I have fabric in appropriate colours that would work.

HOWEVER (there's always a 'however', isn't there?!) before I could entertain the thought of a new mystery quilt project, I realized (to my chagrin) that...erm...the last one I'd attempted (in 2014) lay in pieces in trays under the ironing board in my Sewdio, where I could trip over them more often than not.


The good news was that when I sorted that out, I discovered I was only 2 clues shy of a finished mystery that would fit my twin bed (sorely in need of a new quilt) I got to work -- et voila!  The top is finished and will be taken to my friendly long-armer for quilting in the new year.

Not-so-Grand Illusion!

I may have trouble sleeping under it, but I sure love those cheery colours!!

And now for On Ringo Lake...with a lovely nature-inspired colour palate...and (so far) all from my stash!

Sunrise/sunset skies, the earth, water...
and for me, the neutrals signify the inevitable snow

I've saved and printed the Intro and Clue #1, and will turn to them over the course of the next few weeks, even as I finish the Annual Christmas Boxer Shorts, some Christmas knits, those pesky shams, the 'birds' in their bushes...and welcome in the holiday season.

Blessings, Gentle Readers...have a lovely rest of the weekend!

Linking up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, for which I too am very thankful!

Friday, November 03, 2017

Order Out of Chaos

It is not the subject that makes art religious or sacrilegious, but the impulse behind it.  You sometimes get an artist who is spoken through despite his own professed atheism, because it's the creative impulse to look at the seeming chaos of the universe and then to express this chaos in terms of pattern and of order and of love and -- perhaps most important of all -- joy.
"From Chaos to Pattern", from Madeleine L'Engle: Herself, Reflections on a Writing Life -- compiled by Carole F. Chase, Shaw Books, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2001.

Now...I'm not an atheist (as anyone who's read this blog for some time has undoubtedly realized!) it's not really the first part of this reflection that captured my attention, but the last part: the part about "the creative express...chaos in terms of pattern and of order and of love and -- perhaps most important of all -- joy."

Since I began my art practice in a serious way, I've sensed a tension between those whose creative impulse seems to express terms of pattern and order...but also of fear, anger, darkness and a distinct lack of joy -- and those who include in their expression of chaos that love and joy, and...a certain light and hope.  Sometimes, yes, the former is needed to jolt viewers out of their determined complacency in the face of such chaos.  To make a point.  To inspire action.  And often times, putting those expressions "out there", sharing them with the world, can heal and restore peace and order within those creators.

But I believe that too much of it can lead to a diminished ability to see hope and light in the chaos around us.  Joy can become eroded and may even be belittled as naive and unsophisticated, in favour of cynicism and pessimism.

My 'statement' pieces and participation in such projects as Threads of Resistance and the Social Justice Sewing Academy have come about because I felt compelled by the issues at hand -- and I've learned a great deal from those experiences, from making that work.

But I can't live there.  I cannot dwell in the realm of despair, righteous anger, ongoing fear and anxiety.  Even as I resist the dull, grey wintry days with injections of "those little birds", I resist the temptation to be drawn into a permanent home in the sturm und drang of current events...

And so I find myself returning to colourful piecing and to making more of those little canvases of which I am becoming particularly fond.

Here's my latest offering...finished on Monday of this week...the first in my "Inspired by Scotland" series. (And yes, it will be put in a 'floater' this one.)

Highland Hills I - (C) 2017
5" W x 7" L (unframed)
Mixed media on stretched canvas:
acrylic paint, wool, wool roving
Needle-felted, machine quilted

The fun of this came at the end when I actually followed a "what if...?" to its conclusion (instead of ignoring it or dismissing it as silly or impractical)...

Side view -- see the clouds of roving?

Front detail

Another close-up of those misty hills ;-)

There will be more of these -- and some in other sizes (though not, I expect, larger than 12" x 12").  But these take time.  Despite the myriad of photos from my trip and the ideas swirling about within me like those misty clouds swirling on those hills, the ideas take a while to coalesce, a while for me to figure out how I want to express the loveliness, the light and the joy of being in a beautiful landscape -- whether it is in a far-off land or outside my own back door.

So, Gentle Readers, I leave you with my answer to Nina Marie's question this week, even as I'm linking up with her Off the Wall Friday.   She's written about 'creativity exercises' and wondered aloud what sort of 'calisthenics' her readers might practice when feeling 'creatively challenged'.  

My challenge, creatively, is of having too many ideas pulling at me all at once, without a clear way to sort them and get them out into the world.  My 'creative calisthenics' in this in this case is more akin to stretching, rather than jumping jacks!  As I mentioned in my last post, when I find myself 'tectchy' and at loose ends, in between specific projects, or 'coming down' from a major project (like this), I often turn to piecing and/or fabric cutting, or re-organizing my sewdio.  Creating order and pattern out of the chaos of fabric and scraps enables me to bring order to the swirling thoughts in my mind while bringing colour, light and joy to my world.

May your weekend be full of that same colour, light, love and joy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Into the Mystery

I'm out of sorts, "tetchy", at loose ends.  The weather, unlike yesterday when it was clearly miserable, is uncertain.  It's by turns snowy and less snowy, and the roads are unpredictable.  The wind rises and falls.  There are ice patches on the highway at the edge of town.  I had some errands I wanted to run (because I couldn't, yesterday) and just when I think I might risk the highway, the snow and the wind both pick up.  😣  Sigh.

I've worked on some knitting (gifts-in-the-making); I've stitched on the third SJSA block; I've sorted some more of my Scotland photos.

I shovelled (including my driveway), commiserating with my neighbours and Miss Pookie, who pranced delicately about in the footsteps dented in the snow, rather than risk an all-out gambol.  I went to the Post Office (no mail).  I ate some lunch, and caught up on blog reading.

Bless Bonnie Hunter!  As I was reading her latest post -- and commiserating about her late night at the Emergency Vet's with her beloved pooch (all shall be well now but it was a long evening!)...I remembered.

The annual Mystery.

It's that time of year again -- and she's recently posted the introduction to this latest quilt-along.  Why not take a look at it?

Who am I kidding?!  I didn't participate last year (the use of templates is just not my idea of a good time), but maybe this year...?  My current commission is stalled -- temporarily.  I need more of one particular fabric, and while my LQS is holding some for me pending inspection, I can't get there because of the questionable road conditions.  A Quiltville (Facebook) Community colleague in the U.S. is putting some in the mail today with the hopes that it's a between those two sources, I am hopeful. 

But while I wait...I'm antsy.  I finished another small canvas yesterday...but I don't want to do another today.  Yes, I'm an art quilter, but my hands want to piece -- so I printed off the 2017 Mystery intro and took it into the sewdio.  Cutting and piecing is rhythmic for me; it might just relieve the tension of waiting for the weather to clear.  Why not at least audition the fabric?

It didn't take me long to notice, though, that there in a series of Styrofoam trays on the floor under my ironing board Unfinished Mystery: "Grand Illusion" from 2015.

Well, then!  I could hardly start a new one when that one was in pieces on the floor, could I? (rhetorical question! 😉 

"Grand Illusion"
Clue #2 units finished
Clue #3 units finished
I did a quick check of where I was -- counting out finished units -- and realized that I'd finished up through Part III of five "clues".  Two more, and I could put together full blocks.  I can do this! 

And I've just enough time to work on it today and to pick it up over the coming weeks, even as I (finally) finish that commission, and those knitted gifts, and perhaps a few more canvases.

The realization was just enough to reignite my Quilting Mojo -- and that, Gentle Readers, is the blessing, the miracle and the mystery of the creative process.  Onward and upward!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network, and gettin' back into the sewdio.  I've fabric to cut!