Saturday, November 03, 2018

Piecer Madness!

I don't know about you, Gentle Readers -- especially those of you who are art quilters -- but (as I've undoubtedly mentioned in the past) making Original Art can be exhausting for me. For most of my life I've been known as a very organized, detail-oriented, orderly person.

It would seem, however, that sometime around the age of 50, my persona took a sharp turn off the Straight and Narrow and onto a much more winding road.  I began to move away from Following ALL the Rules to listening to the beat of my Inner Artist.


But what?

But for a period of time each year -- usually between projects and very often in the fall -- my brain becomes too cramped to create unique-to-me work and I find myself following Other People's Instructions (OPI).

And that's where I've found myself for the past couple of weeks -- ever since I sent "Blue Pot" off to the Alberta Society of Artists for its 100@100 fund-raiser.  (This online sale goes up in the ASA Shop on November 15 at 9 a.m.: 100 artworks -- 10" x 10" each -- for $100 each. Stay tuned!)

Yes...there is art brewing.  I've been laying out fabrics and making notes for an ASA Call for Entry, for a Sacred Threads Call for Entry and for a new series that I want to showcase in the spring. A new Artists' Co-op is opening up and I've been mulling over the terms of the application to participate in that next year. the moment I am working my way through an assortment of other projects -- mainly pieced -- and there's no stopping soon!

I got the Rectangle Quilt -- a top finished a few months ago -- quilted (long-arm quilter up the road is very good, and reasonably priced!) and bound and off to a new home -- a gift to a fellow who lives nearby and whose home recently went up in smoke due (it's suspected) to the deterioration of or a faulty join in the chimney pipe from his self-assembled wood stove.

I've had another top quilted -- a gift for a friend's birthday -- and I'm now sewing down the binding.  (No photo; she might read this!)

Both of these are around 60" W by 70" to 80" L, as is this third top, ostensibly for my bedroom, replacing at least one of my collection that's wearing out...

Here it is, getting its second-last border...

Here's the top on my bed (not quilted yet)

The fabric is -- as you can see -- wildly coloured, and it's printed with a sewing theme.  I fell in love with it over a decade ago and finally got it together.  Yes, there's a pattern -- "Summer Citrus", designed by Nellie Holmes and Christine Baker, for the Spring 2009 edition of the Canadian magazine, A Needle Pulling Thread.  I'm not sure my fabric selections were ideal for this pattern, but the resulting top is growing on me!  😉

Then there's the 2018 Block of the Month from The Quilt Show.  But...I didn't want to do either the central 'barn' motif or the applique borders.  Blessedly, there was posted an alternate central motif:

Pattern: "Twinkling Star" - Barbara Brackman #2165
Originally published under the name of Nancy Cabot in the 1930's
Above created by Barbara Black

I modified mine by choosing a solid border instead of a Saw-tooth, and using a white print for the background instead of a more solid white:

Ms. Black goes on to create another border with the applique border motifs from the original Patchwork Barn pattern, and turned the whole piece into a wall hanging -- very pretty, but not my cuppa!

Here's how mine looks once I began to surround it with sashing and the 6" (finished) blocks that form the body of the quilt:

And here's the top lying on the guest room bed.  You can see that it needs a couple more rows -- one on each side -- to make it wide enough.  Then there will be at least one solid-colour border to finish it off.

So... I am creating 18 more of the original blocks, and 4 that are different.  Here are several of those additional blocks, stacked and ready to sew into rows:

The good news about this, is that I'm really using up my red, white and black fabric scraps -- along with a bit of a dusty pink and some grey.

The bad news is...that I might run out of "darks" (red and black) by the time I get to the outer borders!'s true.  You can work hard to use up your fabric scraps, but you usually end up adding to them because you have to buy more fabric to finish the project!  (The same goes for knitting and crochet stashes.  Sigh.)

This quilt is destined for my guest room...but, like the sewing-themed top (above), it'll take me a while to have them quilted.  These tops -- IMHO -- didn't lend themselves to a "quilt-in-sections" approach.  While my new machine has a wider harp, I'm still loathe to quilt a top this large here at home.

Besides the actual quilting, my other stumbling block is trying to sandwich anything this size in limited floor space.  In the summer, I can make large sandwiches in my Outdoor Studio, but at this time of year...there's just no room!  Thus these two tops will have to wait till I either can afford the long-arm again OR June rolls around and I can assemble them outdoors and quilt them myself!

What's next?  More piecer madness?

Well...Bonnie Hunter's next mystery has just been announced, so that will take some consideration.  And I still have to finish last year's -- "On Ringo Lake".  All the blocks are finished; it's just assembling the top that's needed.  And that one is very large, so it definitely will go under a long arm!

But in the thick of this, one of those Calls (the ASA) has a fast-approaching deadline, and there are Christmas gifts on the knitting needles so...

As soon as I sign off, you'll be finding me in the Sewdio.  For ongoing encouragement and inspiration, I'm linking this to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- and I wish you a happy weekend!

Monday, October 15, 2018

And So It Goes...

I promised in my Thanksgiving Post that I'd share news from the Sewdio soon.  So...this post has some of this, that and the other!

The Bookshelf Quilt got finished and is now happily (I think) ensconced in its new home.

Since then, I've made a top that will be a gift for a friend (no photos; she might read this post) and finished (except the binding and sleeve) a commissioned hanging for another friend (again, no photos as this is a gift for someone who might read this).

J's Xmas Socks 2018
I'm working on Xmas socks now for my neighbour E, wife of J.  His socks are finished.  These two are so very good to me all year -- with advice, sharing garden seeds and veg, house-watching etc., that they are regulars on my Christmas gift list, and this year it's socks!

If you're curious, they're made with 6-ply sock yarn from Online, and the pattern is my adaptation of the Yarn Harlot's Sock Recipe, found in her long-published book, Knitting Rules(Lest you're wondering, E's socks are in reds. Same yarn source; same pattern source.)

And...I've actually managed to create an original piece!  My contribution to the 2018 "100@100" fundraiser for the Alberta Society of Artists was mounted on its artist's panel today and is ready to ship as soon as I can find a box that will accommodate it -- without being too big!

I call it "Blue Pot", and it's taken from a photo of the geraniums I have over-wintering indoors in my sunny back a ...well, that should be obvious!

Inspirational photo

Blue Pot (C) 2018 - 10" x 10"
Machine piecing and fused applique,
machine quilting, faced and affixed to an artist's board

Blue Pot - Detail

I got to play with the free-motion quilting on my new machine for this one, which set me up to do FMQ on the commissioned hanging (mentioned above).  I still have to practice to get really good at it, but I certainly appreciate the features on my new Pfaff Performance 5.2 and the 'hovering' darning foot.  I may explore a more traditional spring-loaded foot as time goes on...we shall see.  For now, this does the trick!

Mosaic Wrap - first panel
Outside the Sewdio, I've been working on a mosaic stitch 'wrap' for myself from stash yarn, using a pattern found in the Vogue Knitting magazine -- Holiday 2016 issue.  It's a simple construction of two panels, sewn together and bordered in a 'tweed' pattern.  I'm now on the closing border of the first panel, and manage to do a few rows a day.  No rush!

I'm able to do this because, outside the above-mentioned socks, I'm making fewer knitted gifts this year.  I've made one (a small scarf in exquisite yarn) and am building a long, cable-trimmed hooded coat for my daughter -- which she knows about because fittings have been involved -- but that's it.  There will be the Annual Xmas Boxer Shorts, of course...but they're not quite on the radar yet.

This has freed me to work on some embroidery kits I purchased long ago -- in another life, it seems -- which I've offered to donate to the gift table at our annual church Bazaar and Bake Sale.  The kits even include frames, and they're turning out quite well, so I hope they will find new homes!  Each one is a tiny gem -- no more than 4" to 6" square -- in simple cross- and half-cross stitch, so a bit of time stitching each morning with my coffee and reflections...and two of the three of them are now finished.

Meanwhile, my Sewdio Assistant keeps me company...

And my leaky 13-year-old hot water tank is on Permanent Vacation (awaiting replacement on Wednesday!) vien bien!  (It goes well!)...

How have you been, Gentle Readers?

Linking very late to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and hoping she's well too!

And because this post is that sort of late re: last week, it's early enough to be shared with the Canadian-based Needle and Thread Network for this week -- so I'm linking to that too!

Have a good week -- what's left of it!

Saturday, October 06, 2018

I Am Thankful...

This weekend, Canadians are celebrating their Thanksgiving holiday.

I am thankful that I am a Canadian living in this generous, open-minded (for the most part) land.

I am thankful to live in a country...

The Peace Tower
Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario
With a parliamentary system of government that can be voted out of (or into) office earlier than (but no later than) every five years. With a system that votes for political parties rather than political personalities. Where there is (at least as long as I can remember) no longer 'gerrymandering' -- excluding voting rights for Canadians of colour or race. (Yes, Canada had 'gerrymandering' once upon a time. Look it up.)

Where we continue to try harder to be better citizens in the world. Where our armed forces are tough fighters against dictatorships, violent theocracies etc., but are also brought in as peace keepers.

That has laws that control the use of firearms by those not in the military or police service.

Where we welcome those seeking asylum, who are willing to put up with our winters because what's winter when you've faced persecution and death threats for your faith or your race?

Where we are trying to do better with relationships between the founding European nations and the pre-founding Aboriginal/First Nations peoples.

Where we are trying to encourage more equal representation of genders in government at all levels (and we hope one day for another (wiser) woman to become Prime Minister will be 20..., right?).

Where a woman has the final say over her own reproductive system (whether or not her sisters and (br)others agree. (If you want to know -- and I can tell you are itching to ask! -- I don't support abortion as a matter of course; I believe in adoption as an alternative. And education -- LOTS of education!)

Where I am hopeful that victims of serious sexual assault (i.e. more than a tickle under the shorts or a hasty "goosing" as it once was called) are beginning to be believed and their assailants brought to trial -- and where, if an accused assailant was a nominee to our (appointed) Senate or Supreme Court -- that person would be denied the privilege.

Where people are people. put a finer point on it, persons are persons.  

Next year, on October 18, 2019, Canada marks 90 years since the "Persons Case" -- wherein a handful of women from across Canada took their petition to Westminster in the UK and were HEARD -- and moreover, determined to be "PERSONS" under the law, such that they could vote and hold office and become active in the political life of this young country.  And where, in 2015, the Prime Minister selected a capable, well-qualified cabinet that was 50% male and 50% female -- because...

This means that try as some might, there can no longer be dividing lines in this country between who are considered "persons" and who are not. If women are persons equal with men, this means ALL women -- not just Caucasians, but Aboriginal/Indigenous women, refugee women...ALL women. All residents, equal in the eyes of the law and -- once confirmed citizens -- equal in voting and other political and socio-economic rights.

I am thankful that I was married to a man who recognized me as a person.

I am thankful that we tried our best to raise our daughter and our son to know the truth of their person-hood...and grieved that through our history, this has not been supported this as well as it might have.

I am thankful that I live in a country that hasn't (at least in my living memory) politicized religion, and that the faith expression I practice refrains from preaching politics along with its Gospel -- but that it expects followers to live out their professed faith - "...and when necessary, use words" (attributed to Francis of Assisi).

And...I am thankful to have had this forum within to showcase my work, to express my thoughts and to share with my readers ideas and information these almost 16 years.

Happy Thanksgiving to Canadian celebrants!  Fervent prayers for unity and so much more, for those readers in the United States...and blessings to Gentle Readers everywhere...

An art post is pending.  Soon.  I promise!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

First Snow of the Year

I'm pretty sure that most kids who live where there's snow in the winter look forward to that first one -- at least in part because it's a change from spring rains, summer heat and autumn leaves.

Parents -- at least based on my own experience -- have mixed feelings about it. If the snow is wet and heavy -- also known as "snowman snow" -- it can be great fun for the kiddies, but a heckuva thing to shovel (if it shows signs of sticking around for a while).  And then...there are icy roads to worry about as we get ourselves -- and perhaps our kids -- from one place to another.  Not fun!

And when that first snow arrives unexpectedly early -- rather like a house-guest who invited him/herself at short notice -- the First Snow of the Year can be distinctly distasteful.

Especially if, like I was this year, you're away from home when it begins, have to drive home a long distance through it, and have no small children at the other end waiting to enjoy it.

This year, in these parts, the snow arrived Saturday night -- a wee bit before the exact time of the Fall Equinox.  

I arrived home late that evening from a long drive in freezing drizzle, rain, fog patches, dry patches and (yes) snow, to find this:

That's a large branch from high up in the Mountain Ash (Rowan) tree next to it.  The photo was taken this morning from my back stoop.  Blessedly, the branch missed the roof of the stoop and an overhead wire (I think it's the phone line) you can't see from the photo.

Later this afternoon, when some melting had begun, I was able to go around and clear snow off the other (undamaged) shrubbery.  The downed branch looked like this:

The highlight at the bottom left is to give you an idea of the size of the break.  Here's the other end (as close up as I could get it; again, I refer you to the circled area:

It's 'way up there in the tree, and yes, that's the wire it missed that you see running across the bottom of that photo!

My neighbours had some damage to one of their aged willows, but all in all I must admit that -- compared to folks in the southeastern U.S. coping with flooding, and folks in the Ottawa-Gatineau area in Eastern Canada handling the aftermath of tornadoes (!) over the weekend -- I have much to be thankful for.

Still, I don't think this First Snow of the Year -- 2018 Edition -- was quite what Hawksley Workman was getting at with his song...

(with thanks for Jason Hammond and You Tube for the video.)

Monday, September 17, 2018

More About 'Them Books'

I love books.  I began to read around age 5 -- as did each of my children.  My father's sister -- a K-2 teacher -- used to say "Readers are Leaders".  I dunno about that, but I know that I agree with Emily Dickinson...

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry – 
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll – 
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

All the homes I've owned over the years have been filled with books.  I have a bookshelf in the kitchen (mainly cookbooks), my bedroom (five, if you count the self built into my headboard and the two built into each side of my desk), one tall one in the guest room, two in the studio -- not counting the boxes of magazines and pattern booklets -- and then there are those in the shelves in the base of the coffee table in the living room, and still others in a basket beside the love seat, art books stacked on an antique round table in the front window, and the art/craft magazines in the wooden rack next to an over-stuffed chair.

And did I mention the stack(s) on the pass-through shelf from the living room to the kitchen?  Or the ones on the top of the coffee table at any given moment?  What about the ones on the 1910 pine pedestal table next to the computer desk?

No?  Oh well...   😉

I had a birthday about 10 days ago -- and now await eagerly the two books I bought from my Chapters/Indigo 'wish list' with a gift card from my son and his wife:

Brand new...just out!
Textile Landscape - Cas Holmes


Ten years old but speaks to me now...
the art of felt - Loumange Francoise Tellier

Both should be in my hands by early October.  Yummy!

Meanwhile, I've spent the last four days finishing the Bookshelf Quilt.  

Five of six rows joined together

What the back sashing looked like
before it was hand-sewn down

Quilting Detail - bottom

Quilting Detail - side

Quilting Detail - top

Ready for binding

Label Detail
You Can't Tell a Book by Its Cover

I confess it's taken me much longer than I expected -- due in part to the customized quilting and then again, in part due to my learning curve involving adding borders to the centre six shelves (a 'medallion' of sorts).  I am so thankful for my new Pfaff (Performance 5.2) that has enabled me to finish it up with even stitch tension etc.  😊

I'm on the home stretch...and soon my friend will have her throw.

As for me, though the application for a solo exhibit at the Leighton Centre didn't pan out for 2019, I've got a 10" square panel to do up for the 2018 Alberta Society of Artists 100 @ 100 Fundraiser; I have a piece coming up on the block in Section 2 of the 2018 SAQA Benefit Auction -- next week; I have more features of my new Pfaff sewing machine to explore; and I have more ideas and experiments to play with in the coming months so...

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

Here's to books -- and here's to a great rest of the week!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


My father was the hero I never knew.  He did his best to shepherd Displaced Persons (DPs) from WWII to safe havens at the end of that war, and died in 1952, a few months past his 47th birthday, of his second heart attack, suffered because of the work he did in military government, seconded to the British Army of the Rhine and trying to give refugees a fair shake in the face of Communist Russia.

My step-father was a hero too.  As a Sergeant in the Canadian Black Watch, Royal Highland regiment, he lost two (2) fingers off his right hand and took a bullet through the same arm "somewhere in France" in WWII -- and never talked about it. 

His father died "somewhere in France" in WWI -- 1916 -- leaving behind 3 sons; the youngest -- my step-father -- was aged 2.

Viet Nam was the war being waged when I was in my teens.  I knew that some of the young men in our area -- 16 miles north of the Canada/US border -- went 'south' to sign up and get an education and training in the US Army.  I don't know their names (most were older than I) but...there are those who do.

I couldn't understand that war, and know now -- almost 50 years later -- that many couldn't.  I had rip-roaring arguments about it with my step-father who, having served (and lost) so much,  believed that if/when your country called, you should go.  Even if you had no clear reason (like stopping Hitler) why.

In my early university days I dated a fellow (I still think of him often, and fondly) whose parents were from the U.S. and had moved to Montreal, where his older brother and he were born.  At 18 he renounced his right to US citizenship, in favour of being Canadian -- and a few months later he -- an employee of Canada's Militia that does the Changing of the Guard on Parliament Hill in Ottawa every summer -- found himself guarding our Governor General's home in Ottawa in the midst of the October Crisis, as part of our government's calling on the War Measures Act in the face of terrorism perpetrated at the time by French Canadian nationalists.

He was a hero too.

But the greatest hero in my life was the one I married, the one I knew best, the one who lived with a terminal, incurable illness for almost 47 years.  He loved me, he loved our children, he inspired all of us to be better than we ever thought we could be.

He found his faith later in his life.  He knew he was blessed.  He honoured his parents -- and he honoured me and his children.

He had many friends. 

Living with him in his last decade was indescribably difficult, especially for his children.

There are no easy roads for heroes.

Today, as I see photos of Mrs. McCain paying tribute to her husband Senator John McCain, another hero -- one about whom she will tell stories as I do about mine -- all I want to say to her is:

"I've travelled your road.  Our husbands lived very different lives, experienced very different challenges and traumas.  They were, each in his turn, heroes -- particularly to those who knew them best.

"I hold you in my prayers and in my arms as a companion who has loved a hero, who has children to comfort and stories to tell.

"May God bless you and keep you; may God's light shine upon you and be gracious to you; may S/He lift the light of God's countenance to you and give you Her/His peace, power and love."  AMEN.

My Dream Collection

One of the most fun activities associated with the Annual SAQA Benefit Auction is being able to pick a "Dream Collection".  I become a curator of my own six-pack of art pieces that have some meaning for me, and might just inspire others to participate in the auction for real -- to the benefit of both SAQA and the artists.

This year, I'm calling my collection "Pet Project", and here's what I've written about that theme:
I'm a Certified Cat Person -- and recently lost a scrawny stray despite my attempts to save him.  I don't understand animal abuse any more than abuse of humans or the environment.  I'm honouring "Mr. Man-cat" and my very lively Miss Pookie-cat -- as well as all other pets -- with my collection this year.
Here are the pieces I chose:

Have some fun!  Pour a cuppa, visit the Benefit Auction Preview Page and pick the ones you'd put on your walls!

P.S.  Many thanks to Iina Alho, who chose my piece as part of her Dream Collection, "Rhapsody in Blue".  😊  Click the link and scroll down to enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Two New Ones Up!

Can you handle two artsy blog posts less than a week apart?!  😉

Here goes...

Fridays this summer have often been an "Artist's Date" kind of day.  Today was no exception.  Having finished the two pieces I needed to replace the "sold" ones at the Camrose Art Walk, and having taken them in for framing, I had to pick them up today and deliver them to the Walk's organizer.

I invited my friend G along for the ride, for a bite of lunch and for a viewing of some of the other work in Section II of the Walk.

The artwork had to be picked up in Stettler, which meant approaching Camrose from the east end -- something I'd never done.  After meandering for some time -- and getting confused as to the order of streets and avenues! -- we found the Chuck MacLean Arts Centre and dropped the work off to the lovely and capable Jane Cherry, organizer of the Walk.

Starving (it was then after 1 p.m. and neither of us had eaten since early morning, a good 6 hours before) we went to Fiona's for lunch (and to admire more art).  We both agreed it was the best chicken noodle soup we'd had in a long time!

We followed that by crossing the street to see the art featured at Candler Art Gallery this time the work of Cindy Bouwers.  Getting into the car, we drove down to City Hall to enjoy the Paverpol sculptures of Beverly Oliwa and the wet-felted creations of Kathy Warren -- a student of Mary's in a wet-felting workshop last year!

From there, we went on up to the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta to see the work Mary and I had in the foyer of the Jeanne & Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre -- and to my delight, those new pieces were already hanging in place.  Even lovelier was the news that Mary had sold another piece that day!

Here are those pieces, framed and labelled, in situ...

View from Eilean Donan: Loch Duich - (c) 2018
Needle-felt, commercial fabric,
machine quilted, painted,
mounted on stretched canvas.
10" W x 10" L

Loch View: Inverness to Eilean Donan - (c) 2018
Commercial fabric, wool felt, machine quilted;
applied to painted stretched canvas.
12" W x 12" L

We ended the afternoon with a bit of grocery shopping at the local Safeway, and our favourite coffee selections -- while viewing yet more art! -- at the Starbucks in the same outdoor mall complex.

All in all, a very satisfying day!

Have a lovely rest of the weekend, Gentle Readers.  Linking this up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- with the hope that she's inspired to break through her current 'writers' block'!