Tuesday, November 24, 2015

First *REAL* Snow

Sure, we've had a couple of skiffs...but starting yesterday afternoon, it came down.  And down.  And down.  The world outside my wee home is all white.  The sun is just starting to nudge through the cloud cover, and the wind remains high and brisk.

Underneath the snow pack -- at least, on the roads -- is a layer of ice, so...I'm home, effectively snowed in.  I don't make any $$ when I'm not at work, but I figure it's worth my life to stay home and stitch.

Yesterday I worked on two projects.

First I finished the "bird-house mini" I started some time ago, before I was overtaken with the urge to make "Snowy Evening".  :-)  I've made several of these bird-house pieces in several seasons...but the winter one(s) seem to be favourites.  To satisfy Gracie's request for two winter scenes, I decided I'd better get this one done!

As I stitched, I listened/watched several videos on YouTube, mostly about making art. I particularly enjoyed revisiting episodes of "Craft in America" and the "Art City: Simplicity" film featuring Agnes Martin, Amy Adler, Joan Snyder, Richard Tuttle and others.  It dawned on me that I'd begun this piece with a certain level of "same old, same old"...but somewhere through the afternoon that feeling dropped away and I became simply, quietly, gently, a maker*.

"No One Home" - under construction 

Thus the change in my blog title, at least for a little while.

No One Home (C) 2015

No One Home - Detail

I took my EBMC piece with me into the evening.  I'd spent part of Sunday on it too -- daring to quilt the panels...then slash them part-way:

Next, I trimmed back the excess batting along the edges of the slit:

Inserting a bias strip of gold lame into the opening, I pinned it heavily and sewed down one side and then the other -- et voila!  When I held it up to the light...

It comes shining through!

To finish the piece, I bound the sides:

And added "stone" to the top and bottom...for the window was inspired (as you may recall) by those in buildings in that photo from York, UK provided by EB for this assignment.

I haven't put a sleeve on it yet, so to send photos of it to EB, I had to lay it on my design wall, first one side...

And then the other...

Light Prevails.
10" W x 37" L

When ready, I will hang it in a window.

*Why can't someone just simply...make something?  I mean, it doesn't matter if it's on paper or out of concrete, or what-have-you...it's the fact that something is made where there had been nothing before.                                                                                                                                                   -- Richard Tuttle

Linking up with WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network.  Before I go a-shovelling, I'm going to knit, just a bit...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fresh from the Sewdio

How lovely it is when I managed to spend the better part of the day in the sewdio!  :-)

I began by working on my EB piece for November, the window extracted from a rather poor shot of York, UK...  I now have the two "stained glass" panels stitched, preparatory to attaching them one to another:

Front & back...
or back & front...

It's one thing to know what one wants to do; it's another to have the courage to do it!  I'll let these sit a wee bit while I ruminate...and work on the minis for Gracie D's Antiques, Collectibles and Giftware here in Mirror.

Both are winter scenes.  One is a reprise of the birdhouse in the snow-trimmed tree.  The other is a new piece...after a fashion.  I liked "Harvest Moon" so much that I've created this one, just finished:

Snowy Evening (c) 2015

The title was inspired by Robert Frost's well-known poem, "Stopping by Woods", long a favourite of mine.

In the midst of its construction, my daughter arrived for a brief visit.  We had a happy time in the studio, talking about all sorts of things -- my work, hers, and what-not -- and she stayed for an early dinner before driving on up the highway to her home in Edmonton.  While here, she watched Pookie watching the birds at the feeder outside the sewdio window, and snapped this with her camera phone:

I just love it!

Enough for today...My cold still lingers -- just enough to drain my energy early.   So...a bit of stitching, a bit of reading and I'll be off to bed.

Some of that reading will be posts from my colleagues over at Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  Won't you join me?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Year of Early

This year has been the Year of Early -- an early spring, an early summer, an early fall...and no real winter yet, just skiffs of snow and a brutal north wind, even when it's sunny.  Maybe especially when it's sunny.

And now, Christmas preparations all around me, all beginning far too early. Canned Christmas music on my doctor's office 'hold-the-phone' line.  Deflated Santas --  the kind that require a motor to pump up and $$$ to keep the motor going -- and a mediocre arrangement of shabby reindeer on a lawn around the corner.  Even Christmas trees in the occasional living room (spied in online photos).

Then...this weekend? Even before Grey Cup?  The Annual Christmas Market down at the Community Hall on Saturday, followed by the Annual Open House and Tea at the Mirror & District Museum that afternoon.

So, this morning found me baking shortbread cookies that insisted on being particularly difficult this year. (The photo above is from last year.)

I've divided the batch between the Museum and St. Cyprian's Anglican Church -- as my contribution to the annual cookies-for-shut-ins that the Anglican Church Women in the parish will be taking out on Monday afternoon.

Usually I make another batch for neighbours etc. but not this year.  I'm done in.  I have a bit of real butter left over that will be saved for the Christmas mashed potatoes or something.  It will freeze, too.  But no more shortbread cookies.  My kids don't like them and my waistline doesn't need them.

Oh, I'll still make a batch of fudge to share with family and friends, but that will be next month, when Christmas is right around the corner.  And if I get a hankering for it, I'll do a cranberry casserole bread, which never tastes right except on Christmas, when I enjoy it for breakfast with coffee, orange juice and later, another slice with some egg nog for lunch.

And next year?  No shortbread.  Maybe nothing else either -- at least, not before December 1.

Humbug!  ;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Still Here...

I'm at the start of what I hope will be another quiet week.  I've been nursing a cold since November 6...and am still in the can't-taste-or-smell-anything stage.  Except for the days in The Shop, I've tried to lie low as much as possible.

Most of last weekend was taken up with binding the medallion quilt.  Once that was finished, i turned to knitting -- and that, mainly for Christmas...like

This cowl:

Pattern: Darn Knit Kinetic Cowl by Carly Stipe
Yarn: Berroco 'Espresso' in colour #7958 - "Pera"

And this one using the same pattern but a completely different yarn:

Yarn: Aslan Trends 'Litoral Sparkle'
in colour #1379 - "Cabernet Multi"

And these mittens, done as a commission:

Pattern - from a book of my mother's -- or maybe
her mother's -- in 'Merino Stretch' from
Schoeller + Stahl, now discontinued

Then the last of three pair of slippers for my DD's "Air B&B" guests, also in 'Merino Stretch' yarn:

Pattern: "Mountain Form Slippers"
by Tricoquelicot Designs

They actually look quite nice on the hoof... :-)

This past Friday (the 13th) I finally drummed up enough energy to get back into the studio, and by yesterday evening had finished a mini on commission:

Based on a photo of a popular trio of peaks in the Canadian Rockies, it's a Christmas gift from my client to a friend, so I'll say no more...though yes, the 'snow' is needle-felted white wool roving...

And I began to agonize over my assignment for EB's Master Class.  Here's EB's feedback about my sketches:

The first two are okay but seem a little literal and the perspectives are puzzling rather than mysterious.  Mysterious is good! Puzzling or confusing is not!
When I try the crop tools on them, they're kind of empty in the middle too.
But...let's go down to the third one...

Now you've not indicated how these would actually be placed in a quilt, but i do really like the little units you've extracted, I suggest putting these - some of them probably not all of them 0- into a specific structure i.e. not just floating around in space as they are at present.  you could arrange them in horizontal rows, vertical rows, squares overlapping, different grids, radiating out etc etc...  Be thinking focal point - keeping your greatest area of interest just off center, less interesting and more space towards the edges. I think you've found very interesting details in the photo...now to organize them!

Well. Hmmmm...

Though this was my favourite of the 3 sketches , I hardly knew what to do next.  I tried rearranging sets of windows in some sort of sampler, and it just came off looking rigid and stilted.

Then there were the bombings in Beirut and Paris...and I was distracted...but only long enough to be inspired.

I decided to focus on one window shape: the one in the top left corner.

I found some charm squares - 5" unfinished - in a variety of what resembled hand-dyes, mainly dark and sombre blues, greens and maroons, all with a good deal of grey in them.  And some, not so dark, but softer, lighter.

I found some narrow strips of black fabric from a long-abandoned project.

So...I got this idea about a stained glass window, with a curved 'stone' top and stone base (I have a good deal of wonderful fabric for this), reversible -- the dark fabrics on one side and the lighter on the other -- and in between, gold, peeking out through a crack that will be sliced through the panes...the Light getting in, no matter how hard the darkness tries to stamp it out.

So far, I've only blocked out the two panels.  

Where you see white spaces, there will be more black sashing; it's just that I didn't want to cut and place till after I hear from EB...
Having posted it off, I turned once again to knitting...and pondering...

I leave you with the words of Leonard Cohen, from his song/poem, Anthem...

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything;
that's how the light gets in.

Linking belatedly to Nina-Marie's Off-the-Wall Friday...and wishing you peace.

Friday, November 06, 2015

EBMC November: Photo Finish

Instructions this month:

  • Choose one of three photos provided;
  • Create a quilt.
The key words are "photos provided"...meaning "not taken by the artist/student".

All landscapes -- well, largely urban landscapes.

Even I, a "point-and-click" person, could have taken better photos! (Grin)  But...I know these were chosen deliberately in order to challenge the viewer to make something (better) of them.  At least, I believe that's the purpose of the exercise -- and once again I hope I'm up to it!

Here's the photo "inspiration" I selected:

York, UK, from the Bar (Roman wall)

It took me a while to distill something from this.  I began by converting it to 8-bit grey scale;

I cropped away till I had a couple of focused areas:

It was the windows that 'got to' me.

I traced out sections of windows, copied them onto 'proper' paper, enlarged the copies...and then set to free-hand sketch (all done on large paper - 18" x 24").  (I rotated some too, but decided I liked 'em better "right way 'round".)

First...a collection of the windows/buildings assembled in this version of the 'scape.  I liked adding doors that look like some of the church windows.

I then pondered the possibility of creating a triptych; hence the lines dividing this sketch into thirds:

Lastly, I decided to cover a page solely with window shapes based on those in the photo:

I rather like this last one -- a collection or sampler.  I'm thinking it could be done as a dip- or triptych, with some of the windows on the bottom falling completely off the edge...

We'll see what EB has to say, eh?

Meanwhile, I'm linking up with Nina Marie, who's back at last with her Off the Wall Friday after a couple of weeks' hiatus.  (I too missed and worried about her -- and am delighted she's back!)  Curiously, in her latest OtW post, Nina Marie contemplates the winning ways of a quilt -- made by a well-known and award-winning artist -- that appears to be...well...let's just say closely aligned with its photo inspiration.  Hmmm...Are you prepared to weigh in?  ;-)

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Binding the Ocean

At least, that's what it feels like these days...

The medallion quilt is piled up on my love seat.  I take a bit of it at a time and stitch down the binding.

As this is a special quilt, though, my usual single-fold, straight-cornered binding just wouldn't do.  This quilt has a double-fold binding (not bias), and mitred corners!

Following the instructions in my 'quilting bible' (The Quilter's Ultimate Visual Guide editted by Ellen Pahl), I calculated the length of binding I'd need for this king-sized quilt, cut the strips, attached them together using the method in the photo below...and stored the binding around my 15" square ruler till I could get time to sew it on the quilt.  :-)

This takes more fabric than a straight-across seam
but I like the look and there was plenty of fabric available!
Temporary binding storage!

Look, Ma! A mitred corner!

By Friday I had the binding sewn on, and was trimming out the excess batting, pinning as I went.  What to do at the corners?  How to get the mitres to look good on both sides and stay put?  My pins just didn't cut it.

Blessedly, I had lunch with my friend C, who is a quilter...and who had invested in some of these:

A Clover 'Wonder Clip' in action!
What a neat gizmo!  Darned expensive (about 69 cents apiece U.S. if you buy a packet of 10)...but worth the price of admission if you're going to be binding quilts.  I think we carry these in The Shop...so will check that out tomorrow and likely buy my own pack.  I have a few bed-quilts to bind in the next year or two...and they might just come in handy with art quilt facings....

Once all the pins and clips were applied, I ready to stitch.  I've finished one side and am well down the second.  Oh -- and the label has been made and applied in one corner.  All this, of course, under the watchful eye paw of my Studio Assistant, Pookie (aka Miss Pooks, among other things...)

"What?! You want to stitch on this?"
Once I get stitching, I like to put on a favourite computer video, such as Design Matters TV (DMTV) or The Quilt Show...

In fact, a recent episode of DMTV was the inspiration for the mini I made today.

One of the hosts is my former C&G tutor, Linda Kemshall.  What a grand person: artist, mother, teacher, writer -- she presents everything she does with enthusiasm, style and a touch of humour.

Anyway, a few months ago she began a project -- a daily art journal in a sketchbook.  Though several of her viewers have joined her on this adventure, I'm not one of them.  That said, I was interested to see the DMTV episode on her September entries.  The one that really caught my eye was her working out images of the 'Blood Moon' and the eclipse that occurred recently.  I'm an early-to-bed sort, so I missed it -- but saw images posted all over the Internet.

And then, on Thursday evening coming home late after work and music practice at the church (I'm in a trio), I saw it: a full, round, gorgeous Harvest moon!  I couldn't stop the car to photograph it -- and my little camera wouldn't have done it justice anyway -- so I just kept watching as it rose above the hills and trees, searing the image into my brain.

Yesterday I went back to that DMTV episode, and worked it out on fabric -- three small samples:

Cotton fabrics, freezer paper stencils,
a disposable 'tub' (recycled), a sponge
and a bottle of "deColorant" discharge paste
I'd bought a bottle of this paste a couple of years ago at a quilt show, and had played with it with less-than-satisfactory results.  Now it was time to try it again.  I used a sponge to apply it to the circles of fabric, which was easy and fast.  I let it dry all day, then removed the stencil paper and ironed the fabric squares:


As recommended, I used extra steam and ironed the pieces from both sides, to great effect. 

I then wanted to add a bit of colour to my selected 'moon' to give it that Harvest moon golden glow.  Not having any "deColorant PLUS" (which has colour added), I decided to over-paint it.  First I used my yellow and my red InkTense (R) pencils, well blended, and then...a hint of dilute Lumiere fabric paint, the copper metallic option.

Once dry, I ironed the fabric again, and set it into a small scene.  I used a stencil to trace tree forms in a repeating pattern on fusible web (Wonder Under) and applied this to black fabric.


In my excitement, I ironed the fusible to the "topside" (aka the 'right' side) of the fabric...not the "underside" (aka the 'wrong' side)...

But, in the end, I think it turned out rather well, as the "wrong" side of that particular black fabric has some texture to it -- just right for trees...

Harvest Moon (C) 2015

Just a bit of time now to stitch some more binding.  Tomorrow will be a work-and-knitting day in The Shop...

So I bid all 'farewell' till next time...

Addendum:  Linking this to WIP Wednesday because I don't know if I'll be able to link later...

Friday, October 30, 2015


I know that I promised earlier to post about this...so...spurred on by the reminder in this blog post...

I took a class earlier this month at Central Sewing, in the use of InkTense (R) pencils.  Edmonton artist Ginette Guevremont was the instructor.  I promised to post about it...and at last...

There were about a dozen of us in the class -- just the right size for lots of sharing and feedback, and personal as well as group instruction.  :-)  We ranged in skill and experience from artists who draw on fabric to never-tried-this-before.

I had no preconceived ideas about the class; I registered because I wanted some hands-on instruction in the blending of colours with these pencils.  Hitherto, I'd tried them out and failed rather miserably...the photo here looks better than the 'real life' piece...


Ginette began by introducing us to her work, largely done with pre-printed fabric which she'd found at IKEA...some of which is no longer available (sigh).  Each of us was invited to take a sample, and I went for the piece with fruit and veggies.

Using these, we practiced colouring in the shapes, then sampling with the 'outliner' pencil, and then with a different -- liquid -- resist, both of which are designed to prevent 'bleeding' when the pencil-coloured areas are gone over with a wet brush:

Samples 1 & 2: 1) InkTense pencil with outline pencil
resist; 2) leaves done with Tsukineko inks

Sample with Jacquard liquid resist on the edges

Then we moved into playing with Crayola and/or Sharpie fabric markers, and learned how to handle 'bleeds' to create shadows to good effect:

It's worth noting that a "marker" creates a very distinct line/shape and doesn't allow the blending that can be created by these soft-tipped pencils.

A key point: unlike colouring or drawing with pencils on paper, where one might want a sharp tip, InkTense (R) pencils are meant to be used with a softer, more rounded tip for best "colouration" results.

As for colouring in pre-printed shapes...this was all well and good, but I left colouring books behind many years ago.  I wanted to play differently.  And we did!

We moved into "rubbing" on plates (also used with Shiva (R) Paintstiks).  Here, I used a couple of different pencils to rub a design on batik fabric.

I then surrounded the floral with a stencilled design, which you can see in blue (swirls) above.  I also played with the stencil and a marker...very sharp and clear against that background...

But I valued more this idea of creating a 'controlled wash' -- that is, a 'wash' of colour on a background done in this fashion:

  1. Select the desired background fabric;
  2. Secure it to a firm surface (such as foam core);
  3. Colour it using the side(s) of an InkTense (R) pencil;
  4. Using a wide brush, wash water over the coloured area to create colour on colour:

Et voila...the beginnings of a sunset sky...or an early dawn...without dyeing wads of fabric!

Thanks to Ginette and Central Sewing for providing this class.  It was fun, interesting and  useful.

And there you have it!  Give it a go, eh?