Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Visit to Yesteryear

This keeping quiet is paying off!  Limiting my computer time daily -- with or without background music -- means that I'm spending more time doing What Needs to Be Done, as well as What I Want to Do (you know as well as I that these two aren't always the same!).

For example, the first section of the Japanese Taupe Quilt is now together in its entirety.  When I laid it out on the twin bed in the guest room -- whoa!  To think this is only one of four planned sections...and that there will be wide swaths of applique in between them.

What am I thinking?! Well...I'm thinking that I'm about to start quilting-as-I-go.  The pieced blocks will be done by machine and the plain blocks, with Sashiko-style hand quilting.  To that end, I went out yesterday and bought wide backing.  It's beautiful stuff too -- taupe marbled batik-like stuff.  Alas, it has no identification on the selvedge, so I can't give you the name of the line, designer or manufacturer...but it's perfect!  And, bless her heart, when she saw my rough draft of the design, Caroline -- of Caroline's Homespun Seasons in Stettler -- agreed to cut the backing for me in sections so I wouldn't have to worry about laying out and cutting a ginormous piece of fabric for my QAYG sections.  :-)  (Note to readers from the Southern US: up here 'bless her heart' means exactly that.  (Grin))

I also got my September block done for the 4 x 4 Block of the Month -- you know, the one I'm doing from the kits bought in another lifetime back in Calgary.  This one has a Christmas Theme in its fabrics, but the blocks are classic patterns.  I really like September's selection:

Wild Rose & Square

Where have I seen those chevron shapes before?  Oh yes -- in the mysterious fabric pieces found in a basket at the Mirror & District Museum:

But the "Museum Pieces" are all-in-one -- not constructed from separate sections using 1/2-square triangles.  Along with these pieces we found 3" squares, and some diamonds -- very scrappy, with much of the fabric appearing to be genuinely from the nineteen-thirties!  What did the quilter have planned when life got in the way?

Was it a LeMoyne Star block?  Nope; not enough pieces.

I wandered down to the Mirror Library and found a treasure: Better Homes & Garden's America's Heritage Quilts (Meredith Corporation, 1991).  In there, I found two other possibilities for these pieces: a Peony block and a Carolina Lily block.  The latter stems from Civil War days, and features one or three "blossoms" in a "basket".

Single Blossom Version
Photo - Lillian's Cupboard, 2011

Three-blossom Version
Photo - Generations Quilt Patterns

These didn't seem quite right, so I researched the Peony block and found this on the Shelburne Museum website.  It too features multiple blossoms...though you can find it in single-blossom versions too.

Catherine Bolster's Peony Quilt

To add to my excitement: you can purchase this pattern -- and the templates with which to make it -- and one of the templates is an all-of-a-piece chevron, just like the pieces we found at the museum.

I thought I'd try to make a replica using stash -- albeit fairly contemporary fabric (no thirties scraps or Civil War reproductions; sorry!)  Blessedly, the book had instructions on how to do set-in (in-set?) seams:

I tried it by both hand and machine:

Can you tell which is which?
The hand-pieced version was actually easier and a bit neater, but if you look closely you'll notice there's a tiny pucker at that inside corner, regardless of method used.  Clearly set-in (in-set?) seams take practice!

Here's the block now...still in pieces, without stem or leaves...modelled after the photo in the B H &G book.

Single Peony block under construction

In other news...MOB stitching and Christmas knitting continue...and I finished a third 'mini' so that I could put all three in the mail to Different Strokes Gallery yesterday:

Prairie Oasis (C) 2014
Before I sent them off, I took them down to the new antiques-and-gifts shop in town -- Gracie D's -- and it was agreed I should make up a half-dozen for them to try on in the shop.  :-)

My morning computer time is over...must away -- but first, I'll like this up to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network.  See you later!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Last week my iPod disappeared.  I last had it Monday evening after a walk; next came to want it on Friday, and it was nowhere to be found.  I've decided to do without...and then extended this idea of disconnecting just a wee bit farther.

Since Sunday evening, I've been online only three times a day.  Facebook?  Looking, lurking, "liking" only if it meant something, answering messages and making no comments.  E-mail?  Reading and responding as needed.  Blogs?  Reading most of the ones I follow regularly but again, commenting only if I really have something to say.  Radio?  Off.  (And as most of you Gentle Readers know, I haven't owned a television in five years...)

The results?
Domestic bliss.

The weather has been glorious, and I've spent the better part of the last three days outside, till it's so dark in the evening I can no longer see to read.  

I've been able to manage a good jog early every morning, and I managed to get a load of laundry out drying on the line.  Monday was "a good day on clothes!"

I've harvested seed pods:

Cosmos seed head

Hollyhock seed pods
and herbs

Basil, dill, thyme, mint, oregano

I've begun my Christmas knitting;

Pretty blue socks

and finished some dishcloths to replace my shabby ones:

I baked some cookies:

to go with the rhubarb I harvested and stewed in the slow cooker:

Getting ready for stewing

I finished those two miniatures I started last week.  Lest you think they're familiar, I've made similar ones before, but never for the gallery in Olds where I hope they'll have only a brief stay before finding new homes:

Sailor's Delight

There's One in Every Crowd

 I put together two rows of the first section of the Japanese Taupe Quilt:

Top 2 sewn together; bottom row prepped for sewing

and I finished the applique of the last two (of four) fan motif blocks for the centre of the same quilt.

I've kept up my stitching on MOB.

I finished two books and am well along a third,


I finished a tiny embroidery and am well along another (both will be gifts).

I've written two "real" letters...and now this blog post.

Mostly, I'm mulling, as September draws ever nearer.

More later.  :-)

P.S. Enough WIPs in here that I'll like this to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Prepped and Coping

Over the last day or two, our weather has cooled and we've had much needed rain.  Today's morning showers, swirling grey clouds and stiff breezes makes it look like Mother Nature is practicing for September, a mere 10 days away.

With cooler weather and the sense that autumn's creeping in comes a renewed Sense of Purpose and a determination to Get Things Done that I welcome after a summer of strained emotions coupled with uncertainty about Where I Go From Here.

Yesterday was mostly about prep:

The garden-fresh beans my sis gave me on Sunday were prepped for blanching and freezing:

I prepped my luncheon omelette:

And I prepped my materials for another series of miniatures at the request of one of "my" galleries -- Different Strokes in Olds -- which re-opens in September after a summer of renovations and roadwork:

Foundations prepped
Sketchbook, inspirational photos, fabrics...

I prepped my "10 x 10: The Unknown Artist" silent auction piece -- now it's ready to hang at the Preview which is Wednesday evening, September 24, at the Lacombe Memorial Centre:

Special thanks to Susan Lenz who is a framer as well as a textile artist, and who gave great advice recently about this sort of hanging paraphernalia on the SAQA Yahoo Group.  :-)

I also did more work on the Japanese Taupe Quilt.  Not liking all the blank space of plain blocks, I auditioned strip-pieced-and-plain four-patches instead:

A. -  Five plain blocks in the centre -- see?
B. - Auditioning 4-patches -- see?
Today?  "Prep" became "WIPs" or "Almost Finished":

This mini is almost there -- but I ran out of the colour of thread I need to create some motion in the sky:

Mini #1 - "There's One in Every Crowd"
This one just needs stitching of the evergreen, and trimming:

Mini #2 - "Sailor's Delight" - WIP

And the Japanese Taupe Quilt is coming together -- because I'm coping!  I discovered my math on the 4-patches was a tad "out", so...instead of starting over, I added narrow coping strips to the blocks and will incorporate them thus:

JTQ - Pieced Section #1 - Rows 1 & 2 (of 5) on design wall

Tomorrow?  I work at the shop, so the studio will have to wait till Friday.  Meanwhile, I'm linking up to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network -- let's see what others are up to, shall we?  :-)

  • Finished this as a shop sample -- the Bollard Shrug from Berroco, in Weekend Chunky yarn:

Bollard Shrug - Self Portrait!
  • SAQA colleague and cyber-friend Susan Lenz (she of the hanging apparatus tutorial) was in Portland, OR, this past weekend for the "Quilt! Knit! Stitch!" show, and saw my piece in the "Coming Up Roses" exhibit.  She had her husband, Steve, photograph her with my piece...see below (used with permission).  I'm thrilled to bits!
So lovely when someone known to you actually recognizes your work!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Be Still, My Beating Heart!

Oh! I'm so excited I don't know what to do with myself!  I knew this event would be happening in Edmonton in October, but today it was finally announced: "Stix in the City" at River City Yarns -- featuring Fiona Ellis and ---- Oh!  Breathe! -- the Yarn Harlot herself, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.  I have all of her books.  I follow her blog.  If she had a podcast I would hang on every word.  This gal is a) Canadian; b) a prolific and talented knitter; c) a spinner; d) a mom; e) a knitting humourist extraordinaire -- with a big heart (her major charity is Medicins Sans Frontiers, but there are others).

The event runs October 24-26 and includes several options.  I'm opting for the Friday evening "Comedy Club" event with Stephanie, as I have to be home on Sunday to sing at church.  That said, there is a Friday afternoon kick-off at the store -- a "Meet and Greet" where I'll be able to have a book (or two) signed and get to talk to these remarkable fibre artists of the knitting genre.  The evening event is at a nearby hotel, and includes cocktails, a reception and a talk by Stephanie, including time for Q&A.  At the end of the evening (8:30 or so) I'll have the option of driving home or driving to my daughter's for the night...I suspect the latter!

And yes...I'll be taking a sock-on-the-needles with me.  :-)  I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Sometimes it takes a painfully lo-o-o-ng time for me to get a piece out of my gut/heart/soul/brain and into fabric.  I say painful, because sometimes the angst manifests itself in anxiety, poor sleep, and ennui bordering on depression.

It's been this way with the piece on which I'm working for the Lacombe Foundation for the Arts second Annual "10 x 10: The Unknown Artist" silent auction fundraiser.  Though the event isn't until late September, the piece needs to be delivered on or before Tuesday, September 2.  Time's pressing!

I began with an idea that involved taking the canvas off the stretcher bars.  Testing this out with a sample canvas, I decided that while this was indeed feasible, I really didn't have time to experiment this year.  It could be wonderful; it could be a dud, know.

Raise the anxiety a notch.  Now what?

I had another few ideas percolating for miniatures that I want to make and send to the Discovery Gallery when it re-opens in September.  What about one of them?  Hmmm....Went to my sketchbook and drew out a 5" x 5" scale draft.  Yep.  And some of the silks I dyed over the long weekend would work beautifully...

That was last week.

TODAY I finally "Just did it" (with apologies to Nike).  I went into the studio, cut the foundation fabric, applied the fusible web, created a pattern on clear plastic, auditioned the fabric, and fused it down.  Next step: stitch.  Man-o-man, do I feel better!

What's it look like?

It's a secret.  "The Unknown Artist", remember? peeking till after the auction...

Still, I'm linking this up to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network...I'm sure you'll find something there to look at!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Time to Catch Up

My last post wasn't made even a week ago, but it seems longer.  A great deal has been going on, and I'm only just getting back into a routine.

Friday (Aug. 1), late in the day, my friends arrived from Calgary for the weekend.  They've been here before for such weekends -- whereupon we talk a lot, eat a lot of wonderful food (often al fresco), make a lot, and sleep a little.  This weekend Mother Nature smiled upon us and the sun was out just about all day, every day.

Mary sketching

Shalaya preparing to rust fabric

Wonderful things happen during this sort of weekend.  For one thing, my friends get me to do things I've been meaning to do and have been procrastinating about, like acid-dyeing silk and wool yarn, heat-set by the sun:

Start with the Primary Colours, eh?

Move on to secondary colours...and wool yarn...
Next, I get to see what they're working on, and to learn their techniques for doing what I may have already done on my own, like rusting fabric.  And...we share not only ideas but materials (many of those rusty bits came from my stash).

More silk -- and Shalays' rusted fabric - drying in the breeze

Friday and Sunday night we barbequed (chicken, then beef) but Saturday the gals treated me to dinner at a wonderful family-owned restaurant in Lacombe -- Leto's Steak & Seafood House.  If you're ever in the area, you need to try it!  Don't be fooled by the "official" name, though.  The family that owns and runs is it Greek, and the lamb is....perfection!  (Guess how I know!)

Monday was a holiday here but still the gals had to head back to the city early enough to beat the "wagon train" of campers and trailers that would be heading back later in the day.  We had a thunderstorm Sunday night, so it was lovely and cool Monday a.m. -- perfect for heading out to the "U-Pick" at Billyco Junction Gardens near Lacombe...aiming for strawberries, honeyberries and Saskatoons. Another something I'd been "thinking about doing" but needed a prod...

After a good morning's picking, we went to the Honeyberry Cafe for lunch.  I had the beet soup (not traditional borscht) with barley bread...and Mary and I shared the last piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie in the kitchen.  All of this was enjoyed on the patio. Mmmmm...

Ellis Bird Farm, near Lacombe, AB
We went our separate ways after lunch with a promise to do this again soon -- maybe even next summer -- with the next planned feature to be a field trip to the Ellis Bird Farm (and tea room...of course!)

Over the next day and a half, I finished the process of dyeing the silks by washing and drying them on the rack in the sunshine.  I had a bit of trouble with the Sun Yellow dye bath "curdling" (i.e., producing a residue of apparently undissolved dye when left overnight).  This seemed to be resolve with added heat  (via microwave).  However, I think that the Scarlet and the Sky Blue were such strong colours that a) the second red silk sample barely absorbed any secondary (yellow) dye (I was hoping for orange); and b) the blue sample, when yellow was added, turned into a beautiful deep green, but still had yellow residue -- it was clearly pretty saturated too!

Top to Bottom: Pure Scarlet, Scarlet + SunYellow,
Pure Sun Yellow, Sun Yellow + Sky Blue,
Sky Blue + Sun Yellow, Pure Sky Blue
Each piece positively glows!  I have plans for them, so look for up-coming pieces...

In addition to finishing up the dyeing, I put the Saskatoons in the freezer for future use and turned the strawberries into jam:

Jammin' on Tuesday

I also got back to some sewdio activities, including more pieced blocks for the Japanese Taupe Quilt.  I've managed to lay out the first corner section (to finish at 45" x 45")...and I'm thinking I need to replace the centre line of five (5) plain blocks (which would otherwise have quilted motifs) with something with a subtle print -- or with an applique on that plain background.  I laid the section out on the stripped bed in the guest room.  Ideas, anyone?

Finally, because it's now August, I assembled Block #8 of the "Four by Four" Block-of-the-Month that I began in January, in Christmas-themed fabrics.  This one is called "Cross & Crown" and I rather like it.  Because I'm working with the admittedly small stash of "Christmas" fabric I have on hand (I'm not a 'holiday quilting' person), it's always a challenge to interpret the pattern -- even though I collected these particular fabrics to go with the background and pattern provided by the LQS.

Cross & Crown - 4 x 4 BOM - Block #8
So...while only the BOM and the Taupe Quilt qualify as 'WIPs'...I'm linkin' to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network.  Then...I'm heading outside for a bit of time in the late afternoon/early evening sunshine.  Gosh, I hope it's cooled off by now!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Thanks for the Memory...

The "Memory/Memories" reveal is UP at 15 x 15 Quilt Group!  Yet another varied and creative response to an intriguing challenge theme...

Thanks to my friends and colleagues.  :-)

Bob Hope & Shirley Ross ca. 1938...