Sunday, March 29, 2020

This, That and the Other

Well now.  The fact that just over two weeks have disappeared since my last post has caught me up short.  With up-dates every day about the state of the world as it tries to cope with the COVID-19 virus, one day seems to run into another, and what was only a weeks ago seems either as if it were only yesterday -- or as if it were weeks or months ago -- depending on the timing.

It's rather like living in a state of suspended animation.  There's dawn and dusk; morning, afternoon and evening; wakefulness and sleep.  The time gets filled -- sometimes quite productively -- and the hours pass, one day melting into another.  It's a good thing I have hard-copy calendars as well as my computer to remind me of the day, date and time!

It seems I've been in closer touch with friends and family than ever before.  Everyone is checking on those they care about far more frequently -- or so it seems -- and while that is a Very Good Thing, it also is a bit...overwhelming.  That's not a very good description; it doesn't really identify what I'm getting at -- but if you are the least but introverted, perhaps you know what I mean.

March 19 through 21 I was involved with the adventure that was the SAQA Virtual Conference.  And what an adventure it was!  I've never spent as much time in front of a screen as I did during those days.  It was exhilarating, informative, inspiring -- and exhausting! 

I had to give myself permission to tune out and go for walks on Friday and Saturday, because I noticed wierd things happening to my body -- tension through my shoulders and neck, and a bit of elevation in my blood pressure.  The release of that tension as I moved out in the fresh air on a long, empty country road leading out of town -- I can't adequately describe that either.  Suffice to say it did wonders!

While I was watching the conference, I was knitting -- focusing on 'growing' the Darlena shawl I'd started last fall and set aside for a few months.  I managed to finish all but the last five inches.  What you see below is the top garter stitch section (speckled yarn) and about 1/2 the centre lacy section.  That means that during the conference I managed to knit the rest of the lacy section -- a depth of 8 inches in total -- and to move into the final section, which is also garter stitch.  The piece gets larger with every right side row, as 4 stitches are added on each time, so you can imagine how wide it will be when I finish 5 more inches of garter stitch!

Pattern: DarlenaDesigner: Mouton Rouge Designs
Yarns: Estelle Yarns Lumiere in "Jazz N Berry"
and Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering in "Breathless"

A few days before the conference I finished the "Bonjour/Hi" cowl which I absolutely love!  It was easy to knit, fits beautifully and is very cozy!  And sits right down over my shoulders.

Pattern: Bonjour/Hi; Designer: Espace Tricot
Yarns: Berocco Ultra Alpaca Fine in "Prune Mix"
and JaggerSpun 2/18 in "Mahogany

I mentioned in that last post that the cowl is designed for two fine yarns to be held together.  Though the Berocco I chose was a brown/blue sort of mix, and the JaggerSpun was a deep wine colour, I think the resulting fabric is beautiful.  The photo doesn't do it justice:

The day after the marathon (aka the Virtual Conference), I plunged into an online "Quarantine Quilt-Along" produced by Gudrun of GE Designs.  I stumbled over this online somehow, and realized it was just the thing to clear my head and clear some stash at the same time!  

A few years ago I'd made a Magic Tiles quilt using "Red Hatter" fabric, for a friend of mine who's a "Red Hatter".  I had all sorts of the fabric left over, so I dug it out and have managed to make a throw-sized quilt top (50" x 62") plus a pieced back -- and I still have fabric enough for binding and some to spare!  I'm aiming to quilt it myself -- IF I can get my hands on enough batting.  My art pieces are generally small, and I rarely buy more than a craft-sized package of Quilter's Dream.  I've sent an e-mail to one LQS in the hopes she can help me -- with a pay-over-the-phone and a pick-up at the door of her shop, which is "open for business" but only by pick-up or delivery.  We'll see...

The pattern is "Elvira" and was available for free only during last weekend.  It's relatively simple and the blocks are large, so the size I chose took up a fair bit of my fabric:

"Elvira Wears a Red Hat!" -- Top
Pattern: "Elvira" from GE Designs

To make the backing wide enough, I echoed some of the blocks and inserted them.  This is what Karen of Just Get It Done Quilts refers to as an "after-quilt" -- though the ones she makes are far more elegant!

"Elvira..." - Pieced Backing

I've still not finished the fourth of four 'quiltlets' (each 29" or 30" W x 30" L) but I finally have photos of the second...

And the third...

I know they look alike, but in fact, if you look closely you'll see that the only similarities are the backing and borders.  Both key in around blues, but one has more greens and browns.  Both -- before borders -- were created as a colour study in a Craftsy class I took a few years ago. 😊

Remember the socks I'd just started for the Socks From Stash March Challenge?   They're finished now...

Pattern: "Longing for Spring"
Designer: Caoua Coffee
Yarn: a mystery -- no label! 😳

And here's a close-up of the wee flower pattern...

The theme for April is "Well-loved Pattern" -- which means participants need to pick a pattern that has been made more than 500 times.  I've decided on another from Caoua Coffee, in this very old stash yarn.

It's a bit heavier than a fingering, and I'm not sure I have enough of it, but I'm going to take a stab at it anyway, with the pattern entitled "Canon".  I might leave out a pattern set, if this doesn't interfere with how long in the leg they have to be to qualify for the Challenge -- they have to be full-sized socks.

What's up next?  

In quilting: assembling the blocks from Bonnie Hunter's last mystery quilt -- "Frolic!" -- and checking out her new project -- a "sew in place" quilt-along that starts Monday.  If you're inerested, you can find more info HERE.  I've just had a peek there myself and have no idea if I have any fabric that will work, but it's to be a medallion-style project, which means you can alter the size easily -- just add fewer borders!   If in the end I don't have enough of anything to play along, I'll just work on "Frolic!" and my knitting -- and maybe a 12" x 12" piece for the SAQA Benefit Auction.  It's all good.

In knitting: besides the aforementioned April SFS Challenge and the aforementioned Darlena shawl, I have yet another pair of socks on the go.  This was a pair I abandoned a while back and when I last stumbled over it, I was part-way down the leg of the second sock!  As of yesterday, I finished the heel and I'm now making my way down the foot, so they'll be finished in a day or two.  Maybe earlier!

Pattern: Hummingbird
Designer: Sandi Rosner
Yarn: Patons Kroy Socks FX - in Camelot Colors

And the "startitis" I was suffering in January has resurfaced, now that I'm spending even more time at home than when the good folks at Shetland Wool Week sent along the SWW 2020 hat pattern, I had a look -- and fell in love!  I've collected these hat patterns for several years now but this is the first one I think I'm actually going to make.  I've even auditioned the yarn for the colourway I want.  There are four on offer.  I could buy a kit, but I decided to shop my stash instead, and came up with this for something close to Colourway #3:

Yarn audition for "Katie's Kep"
Designer: Wilma Malcolmson
Shetland Wool Week 2020

More about that project after I've acually cast on, okay?

I'll close this missive with a photo of "Green Pot", which was delivered by my framer on Friday.  It's now nestled in plenty of packing material inside a sturdy box, and will be on its way to its new home on Ontario on Monday...

Green Pot (C) 2020
10" x 10", floater frame
commercial cottons, self-dyed cotton,
synthetic fabric, fabric pen
fused applique, machine quilted
applied to stretched canvas

I'm linking this (late as usual!) to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and sending you all, Gentle Readers, a hope and a prayer that you are well, keeping calm and creative, taking care of yourself as well as those you love, and remembering that we're One World, and we're all in this together.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Back on Earth

A week ago I was crowing about being selected for a short summer residence in Glacier National Park near Revelstoke, B.C.  I was "over the moon".

This week?  My feet have definitely landed back on solid ground! The SAQA conference in Toronto has been cancelled -- well, more like "replaced" (and creatively so!)  by a 'virtual' conference.  A mixed blessing, that, but still enough to keep me excited!

The exhibition in Prague in April -- where Season After Season was to be shared with a new audience -- has been cancelled.

The "Town Hall" meeting to be held in Red Deer tomorrow -- organized by the Anglican Diocese of Calgary for its central Alberta parishes -- has been converted to a Zoom session.  Yes, I'll be there...and look forward to it.

As for Art in the Park, planned for mid-July -- news of which had me soaring just a week ago --'s under discussion, and I'm told there'll be news in the next week to ten days.

The Lacombe Art Show & Sale?  It's scheduled for April 24-25...NOT.  
Just got a phone call...
Lemon?  The show is cancelled for this year, given Provincial regs re: large group gatherings.
Lemonade?  I will be the Featured Artist for 2021.  

As Maureen (organizer) said, "We'll just pretend this year never happened."  She's going to continue to write about the artists on Facebook; the "Under $100" Art Sale is still booked for the pre-Christmas season, and perhaps some of us artists will have her put our work up on exhibit in the local public a sneak peek for 2021...

People everywhere are being called on to make lemonade out of the lemons handed them by the novel coronavirus (I just recently learned that is one word).  And so they are.

I live in hope, so...
I choose to make lemonade.

I'm spending as much time as possible doing things to lift my spirits, to soothe my soul, to be a peace. This calls for making -- and that I am blessed to be able to do!

We've had snow storms two Saturdays in a row -- and a third bout of frigid air and snowfall began this morning (the snow is expected to ramp up this evening and over night) -- so in reality, I've been at this now for some time.

Here are the ingredients for my latest batch of "lemonade" 😉...

Two of the charm square "quiltlets" are now finished; the third one has part of it's binding attached; and the fourth has just been pinned and prepped for quilting -- more "big stitch" with #12 perle cotton.  The first three were blues, greens and browns.  This one is...not...

The photo doesn't do justice to that green border -- it's very acidic!  Lime, actually -- bright keeping with the citrus theme... 😉

I finished my "Millie" pullover, and really like how it turned out.  It's comfy and easy to wear, and even though it's an odd colour-way for me, it looks great with grey pants and purple accents...

Berocco 'Boboli Lace' - here's the yarn knit up
Colour-way: #4367 - "Gazebo"
(Who thinks up these yarn names anyway? 😕)

Millie - from Nice and Knit

I cast on my first sock of the pair for the Ravelry "Socks from Stash" March challenge.  The theme this month is "flowers" -- relating to either the pattern chosen or the name of the yarn used.  I found a lovely pastel yarn in my stash -- no label!! -- and chose what I think is the perfect pattern: Longing for Spring -- designed by Caoua Coffee, free on Ravelry.  It's a toe-up pattern that I've managed to convert to my preferred 'cuff down' method.  The photo below shows it in the early stages; I've now finished the heel and am making my way down the foot:

Last but not least -- in the knitting department, anyway -- I cast on the Bonjour/Hi cowl (or "shoulder warmer") designed by Espace Tricot (another free Ravelry pattern).  It's an experiment in yarns, as I am knitting two together: a fingering weight alpaca-wool blend, and a lace-weight wool-silk blend -- again in colours unusual for me, but the 'marl' created is beautiful.  I've enjoyed this simple knit so much that -- like the Millie -- I may make another if I find just the right yarn combo!

Berocco Ultra Alpaca Fine
in Colour #1284 - "Prune Mix"

JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-Silk 2/18
in "Mahogany"

And the two together on the needles...with a bit too much light!

Lest you think all of this knitting etc. has kept me from new'd be wrong!  😉

This week I've essentially finished two pieces.  The first is the third in my "plant pot" series.  I took this photo of my Christmas Cactus -- which bloomed at Hallowe'en (2019) and now in Lent...

I wanted to get the hint of the outside through the blinds, and was fortunate to find a piece of poly-cotton I'd dyed a while back.  The blend of fibres meant, of course, that it didn't take the dye strongly.
For the blinds, I used pieces of a synthetic I'd been given several years ago.  It frays like crazy, so I pressed the edges under and stitched them down as I sewed them to the background fabric.

Then I added a wonderful striated dark brown batik, and a slice of grey "grunge" print for the counter-top, and auditioned a dark green for the pot:

It was time to "plant" the cactus -- using a different green print, one with a bit of black in the pattern.  You can see I've also added the "light" shining on the pot -- simply by using the same "pot" fabric, turned to the "wrong" side...

Now for the blossoms.  I'd dyed a chunk of fabric a few years back to use as the roses in Mackintosh's Garden, and was fortunate I still had some left!

Mackintosh's Garden: Hardy to Zone 3 (C) 2014

Hand-dyed fabric for flowers...'Green Pot'

The extra good news is that I didn't need to make much of a dent into this piece to cut what I needed.  Gradually I placed the blossoms and the stems:

I stitched them all down, free-motion, added a voila! Ready to attach to a 10" x 10" x 1/2" stretched canvas and take to the framer!

Green Pot (C) 2020

And still...there's more!

Concurrently with "Green Pot", I worked on a larger, 'soft' piece, inspired by "Morning", a poem by Mary Oliver, that is one of the poems in the wee book entitled The Great Cat, given me by my friend Peg for Christmas 2019.

I was captivated by these lines:

"...Milk in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow..."

And so...this (click to enlarge):

Milk in a Blue Bowl: After Mary Oliver (C) 2020
14" W x 18" L
Commercial & hand-dyed cotton and
faux silk fabrics
Machine quilting

Cat - close up

Top close up

Bottom close up

Maureen's phone call interrupted this post...and has me rather teary...must be from squeezing all those lemons, determined to make lemonade!

The wind continues to blow, the wind chill is nasty, there's light snow in the air...I'll be pouring a cuppa and heading to the couch to watch some quilty podcasts and do all the hand stitching that's stacked up.  Meanwhile, I leave you with a link to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and a hug and a hope, Gentle Readers, that you are all safe, warm and well this weekend.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Over the Moon!

This just in:

Thank you very much for taking the time to apply to Art in the Park in Glacier National Park, Canada for our 2020 program. This year we had a large number of applications and it was very challenging to choose only 12! However I would like to congratulate you as you were selected as one of our top 12 artists!
Attached is an acceptance letter, as well as some information we need from yourself for the program. I will be sending out other forms and information in the next few weeks. If you have any further questions at this time please feel free to contact myself directly.
Thank you,
Rachelle Simard
Partnering & Engagement Officer
Mount Revelstoke & Glacier National Parks of Canada"


Be still, my beating heart! THANK YOU, Susan Lenz, for your encouragement and advice! I am BESIDE myself! I have my first artist residency opportunity -- short and VERY sweet!

Linking to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- because I just have to share this news with colleagues!!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

What was That About Spring?

The above photo isn't from today -- or even this year (the tall birch stump beside the garage in the background is gone now) -- but it might as well be!  As forecast, the snow began early this a.m. and is ongoing.  It paused long enough -- well, lightened up long enough -- for my neighbour to satisfy his urge to clear it from his deck and some of his walkways, with his big snow-blower (in fact, he and his wife are still out there as I type!) -- but it's full on snowing again now and isn't destined to stop for another two or three hours.  And it's blowing. 

A fellow with a sidewalk sized vehicle with a blade on the front has been by at least three times, ostensibly clearing the public sidewalk in front of our houses, but all that's happened is that it's filled up again.

What's a gal with a girly snowblower and an aversion to blowing snow supposed to do?  Stay inside and create, of course!

Let me begin with what I've worked on up to today...

Aside from knitting on my Millie sweater, in which I'm making my way down the body to the point where I can begin the finishing (3" - 4" deep) ribbing, I spent last weekend working with the "mystery materials" I showed you in my last post:

Materials: indigo-dipped silk scarf, cut into 1 1/2" strips,
piece of recycled cotton pillow case
 -- sea green, over-dyed with cobalt blue MX dye.

Inspirational photo by Gina Blank
-- a section of Riel House, Manitoba

Silk strips sewn together in random order;
tracing of the shuttered window, auditioning position

Strips quilted; "window" fused to top.

Et voila!
Shuttered: Riel House, Manitoba - (C) 2020
Highlighted with Pitt pen,
coloured pencil and mechanical pencil,
and wrapped around 12" x 9" stretched canvas
-- awaiting framing.

By Monday I was ready to rest my brain a bit, so I took out several small 'tops' I'd created in some colour studies in a Craftsy class a few years ago.  I'd put borders on them a few months ago, figuring I'd make table toppers for the Bazaar at our church last November.  Well, that didn't happen.  But...they are coming to life now as little cuddle blankets or car seat blankets or whatever for a new moms-and-babes program in Lacombe.  I decided it would be enjoyable to quilt them by hand, using a 'big stitch' (1/8" or a bit larger) and #12 perle cotton. 

There are four in all, measuring up at about 29" x 30" or 30" square.  The first one is finished.  The blue border has more green in it -- but I couldn't get it to show on camera.  That said, it suits the blues in the squares.

Lazily lying on the top of my easy chair...

A detail of my 'big stitch' hand-quilting

The second one has been quilted, and I'm ready to sew on the binding on two of the sides.  I do what I've heard referred to as an "Amish binding" -- straight of grain; first two sides sewn edge to edge, then hemmed to the back; next, the second two are cut a bit longer so that when you hem them down on the back, the ends are folded in for a neat finish.  I'm not sure it's Amish (I can't find proof) but it works for me.  I find mitred corners clumsy to do and this method is less bulky in the corners than sewing all the bindings on a the same time and then trying to fold in the corners (which is what I used to do).

Today...well I was in the mood for Something Completely Different. 

One of my favourite video podcasts on YouTube is Kate's Last Homely House.  Kate is a knitter, spinner, quilter, potter and gardener who lives in a "cottage" on a farmstead in Northumberland, UK.  She's a few years younger than I, with grown children, four cats, a goose and several hens.  Something about her strikes such a chord in me...and I love to hear her "witter on", as she calls it.  She sometimes does tutorials, and one of them really caught my attention several months ago (maybe even a year).  For those of you who want the whole thing for what I'm about to share, click HERE.

Now, those of you who know me, know that I'm not particularly partial to paper arts -- even though I've altered one book and created an artist's sketchbook/journal or two. 

But that said, I absolutely love stationery and fine note paper and cards.  I don't care to make them, but I enjoy receiving them, and using good stationery for real hand-written correspondence.  Well, then.  Kate shared her idea for creating a sort of album in which to store favourite cards one had received.  It uses cardboard -- best from recycled cereal boxes -- decorative paper, glue and string or ribbon or even elastic to hold the cards in place in the album covers.

My cereal box, opened out and trimmed
of the flaps.

My cover trimmed to fit the selected cards,
prepared with its "binding",
and lined with decorative paper.
(I have a very limited selection!)

Cards fastened inside
with #8 perle cotton; view of
finished "album" from the outside.

Inside view.

The card with the two kitties was sent me by my friend Maggi Birchenough of the U.K., whom I met when we were both SAQA Reps at the Portland conference in 2015.  She died a bit more than a year later, but in that time we became fast friends.  I miss her still.

I leave you now, Gentle Readers, to figure out what to make for my supper...and to resume knitting on that Millie!  I want to wear it at the SAQA Conference in Toronto in a few weeks, and it's not going to finish itself!

Linking this to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- and wishing you a cozy rest of the weekend!  (Think of me tomorrow, when the storm has passed and I'm shovelling out! 😉)