Sunday, September 08, 2019

New Year, Fresh Start

This is post #1567 since I began this blog in February 2003, and it's only fitting, for today I turn 67. (Thanks for the celebratory gif, Google!)

Many people equate the start of a new school year each September with a "New Year" such as we mark on January 1 -- and having an early September birthday has often under-lined this for me.  This year I've decided there are some things in my life I have to deal with, and today is as good as any for me to do that.

I need to drop some weight -- about 15 pounds.  And aside from moving more (which is harder to do in the winter around here) and watching everything I eat (which I've been doing for years), I have one last strategy left: cut out the drink-or-two in the late afternoon.  Yep.  It's gotta go.  I have to replace it with a new habit, and I've a couple of ideas: switch to soda water with lemon, and just keep busy.  If I'm out at an event, the odd glass of wine won't hurt me, but I've been over-indulging otherwise and it has to stop.

Next up?  Travel!  I'm going to work on my "bucket list" and lay out some strategies for going the places I want to go and things I want to do in the next ten years.  I figure that by 77 I won't want to do as much, so I've "gotta git 'er done" in the nearer term:

  • 2020: I've booked my registration and made my hotel reservation for the SAQA Conference in Toronto and March.  The registration is paid for, but $$ have to be amassed to cover airfare (about $600) and accommodations (almost $1,000 if I don't have a room-mate);
  • 2021: Take Level 1 of the Master Spinner Certificate through Olds College (about $1,000 with fees and accommodation and meals);
  • 2022: I turn 70, my car will be paid off (!) and so...I'm turning my thoughts to attending Shetland Wool Week (fees, travel, and accommodation costs TBD).
These objectives are going to take some doing -- involving discipline and self-control, against which I've been rebelling rather regularly for the past 15 years.

A rebel?  YOU?

Yes, this Goodie-Two-Shoes has been rebelling against some of her former tendencies to be organized, rigid, and obliging to others -- primarily because for over 50 years that's how I was, and at the end of it all, I was exhausted, frustrated and angry.

But I'm coming back around to my former self -- and hoping to practice discipline and self-control more gently, more softly, more lovingly this time around, so that I can get to where I want to go.

The motivation behind these "New Year's Resolutions" is to live my life, rather than having my life live me.  It's to bring me more enjoyment and more opportunities to be inspired, to learn new skills -- to keep creating art!

And in that vein...Here's what I've been working on lately:

Watch That Sky! is hanging in the Lacombe Memorial Centre, awaiting the "Behind the Words" fund-raiser September 25.  It's a very different sort of fund-raiser, and if you're in the area, you might just want to check it out!  

(L) My piece, Watch that Sky!  (R) Fall Has Arrived,
a painting by Barb McCarten

I finished this knitted wrap that's taken almost a year and has (thankfully!) eaten up a good part of my yarn stash.  It's cozy on its own, but will also add warmth over coats this winter:

Pattern: "Rectangular Wrap" from Vogue Knitting - Holiday issue, 2016
Designer: Ann Morgan
Yarns: Schachenmayr Nomotta Bravo Crazy Color - Colour #85 - "Mexico
and Lang Yarns Thema Nuova - Colour #115002 (ecru)

I picked up a pair of socks that I began in 2012 (!), finished the first sock and am now about to turn the heel on the second.

On Labour Day Monday, my friend G and I spent most of the day working on the first of the two string quilts being made for the Syrian refugees our church expects to arrive in the very near future.  We got 14 blocks -- trimmed to 10" square -- out of the 36 that were prepped.  Later today, I'll be tackling a few more:

It was G's first time making string blocks -- and doing "QAYG" (Quilt As You Go), so she now has a couple of new skills.  What delights us both about these blocks, though, is the way they look when all the sewing and trimming is finished.  You don't really 'get' how they're going to look while your working on them but at the end -- wow!  They're colourful and fun and all those odd strips really do go together!  😊

And what of the Wall-to-Bed Project?  God willing, my long-arm quilter made it home safely from her Maritime holiday yesterday, and I'll be able to take the top and backing over tomorrow for her to start the work on it.

In the next couple of weeks I hope to make my sample(s) for the SAQA All-Canadian Call for Entry, "Colour with a 'U'".  

2020 will usher in preparations for the Annual Lacombe Art Show and Sale, and my role as Featured Artist.  New pieces will need to be made.

And so...more of the same in the coming months, but with a bit more shape, and focus, and determined self-care, so that I can meet the next part of my life with better health, greater peace and deeper joy.

Thanks for hangin' in with me for 1567 blog posts...and for joining me on this journey of life with HEart.  💗  I'm linking this to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and wishing you all a wonderful week ahead!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Grass and Trees, Trees and Grass

That's almost all that's been before my eyes since my last post -- as I've worked hard to finish the top for the Wall-to-Bed Project.  Today -- it's done!

Here it is in its glory on my back lawn -- the only place large enough to photograph it in its present state.

I'm calling it Prairie Quintet because of the 5 trees.

After I photographed it, I went to great lengths to determine if it was even all around.  To do this, I had to fold it in half, and pin the end and side edges together.  That's when I discovered it was a bit out of whack on one grassy corner (bottom right of photo).  That's been trimmed now.

In addition, because of all the seams and bits and bobs of fabric in this piece, I decided to stay-stitch it at 1/4" all the way around, with the hope of preventing stretching and unravelling of seams.  Done! It now measures the desired 72" W x 86" L  plus a bit for seam allowance when I bind it. (It's not intended to cover the pillows at the head of the bed.)

Now I wait.  My long-arm quilter is away till September I've arranged with her to call on the 9th and take it and the backing over for quilting.  If I get it back within the week, I should be able to have it in the mail to my client by the end of the third week of September -- a good three to four weeks earlier than I initially estimated.

Also since my last post, I did up the final version of the piece for the Lacombe Arts Endowment Fund fund-raiser, "Behind the Words"; I delivered it to the City office on Thursday:

Watch that Sky! (C) 2019
Hand-dyed silk, commercial cottons, machine quilted
and applied to painted stretched canvas.  12" square, unframed.

All of the pieces contributed will be on show in the foyer gallery of the Lacombe Memorial Centre from September 1 through 23.  Then they'll be wrapped in brown paper -- hidden from view! -- and displayed with a poem or bit of verse written by local poets.

On September 25, there'll be an evening event at which people can purchase a piece they've previewed -- based on the poetry attached to the hidden piece.  Aha!  That will test the public's powers of observation and memory...

It's not an auction.  All pieces will be available for $150 each and as the event description says, "It's first come, first served!"  As one of the artists, I get to attend for free, and enjoy the evening, mingling with purchasers and joining in on their sleuthing fun.  😊

What's next?  Well...there's a small family of refugees coming to join their relatives here, and they'll need comfort, so there'll be three quilts under my needles soon -- two quilt-as-you-go string quilts for the kids, and a more formal design for their mom.  All no larger than throw-sized...with the faint hope they'll use up some of my stash, but you all know how that turns out... 😉

Linking belatedly (as usual) to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday...

And linking on time to WIP Wednesday over at The Needle & Thread Network.

Have a great rest of your week, everyone!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

And Then There Were Five

Trees, that is.  On the Wall-to-Bed Project piece.  As you may recall, the original art piece had three trees:

Trio (C) 2012

My client wanted me to ensure that the look of the original -- with the three trees -- was the part that would lie over the top of her bed (approximately 40" wide).  That left me with the question about what to put on the sixteen inches on either side of the "top" that would go down each side of the bed.  Knowing that my client is well up in years (those of you who've followed this saga from the start may remember that she turns 99 in October!), this quilt may or may not be on her bed for a good long while.  As I mentioned in my last update, her heirs (or to whomever they sell it) may want to mount it on a wall.  Thus, it can't have simple, broad-swath, plain borders!

I decided to add two more trees to the left side, and landscape on the right side.  That would take the piece to 72" wide (16" on each side and 40" in forming the centre on top of the bed).  Then...tree trunks and grass for 16" that would need to be added to the bottom of the piece to take it from its current length (70") to the finished length of 86".  (These are all "finished" measurements; seam allowances are factored in as I work out the blocks.)

That's what I've been doing for most of the past week -- finishing the "drops" on either side.  The piece now measures 72 1/2" x 70 1/2" and is so large that I cannot photograph it anywhere in my house.  I took to the back yard and draped it over a bench.  Naturally, my Studio Supervisor had to ensure I was doing this properly!  😉

I hope Miss Pookie-cat approves!

And here's a photo without Miss P...

Before I resume work on this project, though, I have another deadline looming!  The Lacombe Arts Foundation is holding a fund-raiser in late September and has called for artists to contribute a piece.  At the Art Show & Sale in April I volunteered and was given a 12" square, 1" deep stretched canvas on which to create a piece.  With so much going on, I set it aside...until earlier this week, when I checked the deadline for submission: August 30!  OOPS!  Best get on it!

We've had some amazing skies this summer so I decided to use a photo I'd taken near the end of July, headed West out of Lacombe on a Sunday afternoon to visit my sister, then on holiday at her cottage in Sylvan Lake:

I just love it when the canola glows under a stormy Alberta sky!  But it's been a while since I've painted a sky on a canvas, and I didn't want to wreck the fine canvas I'd been given.  I routed out a less expensive canvas of the same size and took a stab at the sky, with a touch of the trees on the horizon:

When I showed the photo of this to my friend and colleague, Mary Wilton -- a painter as well as a quilter -- she responded enthusiastically, so I went ahead and sampled some stitching for the foreground.

Once that sampling was done, I completed the sample...and I have to say, I like it!

Under the Wide Sky 1: July Canola (c) 2019
12" W x 12" L
Commercial fabrics, thread painting, machine quilting --
applied to painted stretched canvas.

This means I can a) go ahead now with the piece for the silent auction; and b) have the sample framed, with the hope that it too finds a new home!

Creating the auction piece will be my focus for the next 24 - 36 hours...and by Monday I expect to be back on track making tree trunk and grass blocks for the Wall-to-Bed Project.  The weather here this weekend is supposed to be rather "iffy" -- sun/clouds/wind/showers -- perfect for studio work, and for making jam from the latest crop of very ripe raspberries I picked from my bushes on Wednesday.  😊

There'll be church Sunday morning, a SAQA Zoom call for the Western Canada Region -- the first ever! -- on Sunday afternoon, before warmer, sunnier weather is scheduled to arrive on Monday.

With Monday, there comes yet another deadline!  This one is not for me, but for the vendors of the double lot (52' x 130') that's for sale right next door to my home.  You can see the edge of the roof of my house on the right side, and the white building at the back is my garage.  This photo was taken in the early spring before the bushes on the lot leafed out -- they are very bushy now!

I consulted with my kids, a couple of friends and my financial advisor and determined I could afford to make an offer for the property, on which I'd not build anything more than a gazebo, and do some additional landscaping, so I could enjoy it into my dotage! 

Thus the deadline.  The vendors have until 5 p.m. on Monday to accept, reject or counter the offer. While I wait, I'll create!

I was planning to link this to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- on time, for a change -- but it appears she's taken this week off with the hope that all is well in her world, I wish you all a lovely rest of the weekend!

Friday, August 09, 2019

Time it was; oh, what a time it was...

My DH and I first met in Grade 9.

Not really.  That is, we didn't really meet.

I'm pretty sure I've told this story in this space before, but for those of you who are new to it -- or those of you who won't mind hearing it again...

We were a (Canadian) Centennial Project.  Our English teachers (1966 - 1967) were friends but, as life would have it, lived in opposing corners of Canada: southwest of Montreal (mine) and in Vancouver, B.C. (his).

The year was 1967, and Canada was celebrating the Biggest Milestone in its relatively young history: 100 years as a Confederation of disparate origins -- including indigenous peoples, European immigrants, American draft-dodgers and so many others.

Nobel Laureate, Lester B.(Mike) Pearson, was Prime Minister -- on the Liberal side of the ledger (for my U.S. friends, think "Democrat").

Our teachers thought it would be a Grand Idea if they could connect two sides of the country with correspondence -- paper and pen, envelopes and stamps, long before e-mail and 'texting' had ever been invented.  (The only computers were in large rooms on college campuses and elsewhere. No cell phones either.)

My DH picked my name off a list...and we wrote for 2 years, till some time in 1969 or '70 when (I expect) each of us got bored and stopped corresponding.

I graduated from high school in the spring of 1969, and after a memorable summer working for a wealthy family in White Plains, NY, I entered McGill University.  I graduated from that venerable institution in 1974, and spent most of the summer visiting my younger sister Out West in Calgary.

On returning home, just before I was to begin work as a nurse at the Montreal Children's Hospital, I heard from my parents that "a fellow you used to write to in B.C. has sent you a letter".  On a visit home I collected said letter.  He was planning a trip East to look for work.  Could we connect?

Truthfully, he later told me, he never expected a response.

He spent a week in Montreal at the YMCA, following up on letters of reference for work in radio (he was a behind-the-scenes producer).  He landed a job, found an apartment and with an empty suitcase, returned to Vancouver to tell his stunned parents he was moving to Montreal.

That was in October, 1974.

We were engaged in February 1975 and married on August 9 of that year.

We moved to Calgary in the fall of 1976 to ensure a secure future, as Quebec's political situation at the time was very uncertain.

We eventually raised two children in Calgary...and struggled through his long, debilitating, terminal illness -- Type 1 Diabetes.

We loved each other; we loved our kids.  We wept and prayed for miracles that didn't happen the way we wanted them to.

And my DH, Howard, died on August 9, 2006 -- 31 years to the day we'd married.

I've had to craft a new life out of those ashes -- as have my brave and struggling children.  But they were born and raised in love and I know they know that.

I created an art installation -- Mark on the Body -- to honour the people who -- like us, like my husband -- live with and try to cope with life with the auto-immune disorder that is Type 1 Diabetes, for which there remains (at present) NO CURE.

I've moved on to make work that has and is touring the globe, or can be purchased in local galleries, or commissioned.  I moved to a small hamlet in a beautiful place that heals and sustains me.  I have friends, new and old, and travel "home" to Quebec every few years to visit family and friends well as my long-gone parents, other close relatives, and of course, my DH.

Howard loved me more than I loved myself.  He taught me wisdom and grace.  My analytical, introverted spirit was matched by his love for life, his extroverted joy in others.  We matched each other in persistence and determination, and in our blended Judeo-Christian faith.  Our love for our children was beyond expression, as we sought -- and failed -- to protect them from the ravages of his illness.

I am who I am not only because of my heritage, my parents and their choices, my siblings and our relationships...but also, in great part because of the gracious, funny, loving man I married, whom I remember on this day.

When we met in person for the first time, Howard reminded me of Paul Simon, who in those years was sporting a moustache and sometimes, a peaked cap.  It is only fitting that this song from Simon & Garfunkel was recorded in 1967-'68 -- the years Howard and I were corresponding.

As if this writing, I am a month shy of 67.  I think that Howard and I knew we would never see 70 together.  Funny how back in the day, 70 seemed so old and so far away.

On one of our first dates, we coined the phrase, "AFA" -- for "A Friend Always".  I gave him a small gift as a token of that day, and I still have it on a bookshelf in my home.  Howard was my love, my partner, my co-parent...but most of all, from 1967 onward, he was my friend.

I know that I know that he watches me as I approach that age -- 'three score year and ten' -- and as our children make their ways in the world, and we all craft our lives through challenges, struggles, joys, sorrows, and with the love he and I tried to foster...we remain friends.  Old friends.

Happy 44th Anniversary, Sweetie.



Howard Martin Blank
November 29, 1952 - August 9, 2006

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Summertime Dreamin'

I've been an Artist Member of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) since 2008...and most years I've made a contribution to the Annual Benefit Auction, which raises money so that the organization can educate others (collectors, other artists, John and Jane Q. Public) about the medium of quilted art.

In the past several years, members have been invited to create "Dream Collections": a selection of pieces each member would like to own if s/he were able to purchase each one without the competition of an auction -- or if, money being NO object, s/he could purchase each one on the first day -- the Diamond Day -- of the auction, at the highest firm price on offer.

This year, I've entitled my selection "Faith, Hope and Love" after this passage in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 13:
And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.
Because we could all use some of each of these things right now.  

In my rationale for the selection, I wrote: "In these tough times I turn to these three tenets for solace and encouragement.  Often, they are expressed through the hearts, minds and hands of artists like these."

And here are the pieces:

I'll leave each to your own interpretation as to why I chose them 
-- some being more obvious than others.

The Auction begins online on from September 13 through October 6.  Meanwhile, as it's SAQA's Thirtieth Anniversary, there is a special 30th Anniversary Exhibition of some of these works at the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, through August 4 in the Beavers Terrace Gallery.

Note the dates...and the online link.  Bid early; bid often!  You might find some great artwork for your home or office -- or to give to someone special.

And yes, I did contribute a piece. They'll be auctioned off in sections, but I don't know in which one mine is just yet.   You'll just have to look through all 443 pieces -- listed alphabetically -- to find mine. 😉


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Tale of Two Quilts: Editted to Update!

When I posted last week, I was pretty frustrated...but my frustration had been soothed by some wonderful news (click the link to find out what). would seem that that news was just enough to get me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going.


Had become this...


And everything I'd done by Wednesday night hadn't improved it:

  • Two soaks in Blue Dawn liquid dish detergent;
  • Two soaks in Synthrapol;
  • One soak in Palmolive Original dish detergent; and
  • Two soaks in Oxy-clean solution.

 (Photo taken the aftermath.)

In my last post I mentioned getting colour catchers -- specifically, Shout Color Catchers -- but you can't get them in Canada, unless you order through, and I'd no time for that. The Shop on Thursday (July 18) I picked up 2 boxes -- 2 envelopes per box -- of Dylon SOS Colour Run.  I used them both, following the directions...and managed to improve/remove the pink from some of the whites but that one fabric -- that one with the black figures on it that comprised the background of the centre star and all the sashing?  It stubbornly refused to budge.

What to do?  I gave up.  I dried the **@@!! thing and put it in the mail to my nephew (it was his birthday gift) with a letter of explanation and the hopes he'd still like it.


Editted to Update: Culprit found!

I thought hard about what red fabric could have caused the damage and concluded it was likely the newest one: the backing/binding -- even though it had been washed before using, just like the other fabrics.

I did a test with a small strip of the stuff in a sink of hot water and Blue Dawn...

The culprit!!

As I still have quite a bit of this left over (who doesn't, after using 108" wide backing for a twin-sized quilt?!) my plan is this: soak the remaining fabric in Retayne, dry it, then test again.  I'll keep you posted!

Thus ends the tale of Quilt #1.

There was nowhere to go but up, right?

Quilt #2 is, of course, the Wall-to-Bed Project, which I am pleased to say is humming along nicely.

It's gone from this to this...

Two trees...

To this...

Three trees...on my kitchen floor!

And here's how it looks when tested on the 'twin extra-long' bed in my guest room:

Currently 47" W x 69" L

At last I was able to send my client another up-date.

Now I'm contemplating how to finish the sides.  The bottom is straight-forward as is the right side...but the left (the 'tree side')?  I'm thinking about adding two more trees with background in between, to take it to a drop of 16" (finished).

The right side drop is about 7" so only needs another 9" to finish it, while a full 72" W x 17" L strip needs to be created of trees and grass in order to finish the bottom and bring the entire thing to a finished size of 72" W x 86" L.

The thing is, I have a deadline for this piece -- the sooner the better! -- because my client turns 99 in October.  Whoa!  And I want to ensure that when she eventually passes on (the later the better!), should one of her heirs want it, and want to hang it rather than sleep under it, there's some artistic merit to the entire piece, that it's consistently designed, even though it's meant to be utilitarian. I go to contemplate...leaving you with a link to WIP Wednesday over at the Needle and Thread Network, and soliciting any ideas you might have about that left side!  Have a great rest of the week!

ETU - Saturday, July 27: Preparing to work on the last of the right-hand side of this quilt later today.  Meanwhile -- because I still can -- I'm also linking to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  Have a great rest of the weekend!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

It's There

I'm tired.

It's been a long day and a heart-breaking week -- watching as more of what made Canada's Neighbour (with a 'u') to the South great, disintegrate as the vote to impeach didn't pass, as DT continues his buffoonery and insults, as his smarmy face shows up next to that of an accused child molester and trafficker of whom he disavows any knowledge.

As much of his party refuses to condemn him.

It's heart-breaking.

Closer to home, I've been struggling for over 24 hours to clean the quilt I made for my nephew's birthday (July 5).

It was beautifully quilted by my long-armer; I picked it up Friday a.m. and bound it over the weekend.

Then I washed it.  And some **##@@$$!! PRE-WASHED red fabric bled into the white print that dominates the sashing and background.

Most of yesterday and today I have worked to try to fix this...with no change.  There is one last shot -- when I get to The Shop or to a larger grocery tomorrow to buy 'colour catchers' -- YES, with a 'u', because that's how we roll up here.

I took out part of my frustration by mowing my backyard in the 23 C of the early afternoon, at top speed -- I finished in 40 minutes what usually takes 60. 😮

I've eaten chocolate and had perhaps a drink or two too many.  I yelled (alone, in my house) at the Almighty, accusing HIM (it's always a 'him' when I am angry) of ignoring goodness here on earth and sitting back on HIS "cloud", being mightily entertained by HIS puny humans in some HIM-forsaken "reality show", not doing a darned thing about it.

And then...

I decided to crawl into bed with the new issue of Quilting Arts magazine that arrived in today's mail.  And there it was: a spread of Season After Season...the SAQA Global exhibit in which I have a piece.

And then there was the piece -- on page 20.  Who cares if the Americans can't spell "colour" to save their souls?  It's there -- full out -- with the blurb I wrote (misspelling notwithstanding)...

And suddenly...I feel better. 


Maybe I really can get up tomorrow and go to work at The Shop.

And go back to the Sewdio on Friday for another stint at the "Wall-to-Bed Project".

Maybe I can keep on keeping on...and let HER take care of DT and DT's ilk...and all the problems they're causing for their country and the rest of human kind.

Just maybe...there's still hope.

Incarnation to Resurrection:
Celebrating the Colours of the Church Year
(C) 2018