Saturday, February 10, 2024

It's a WIPGO Weekend PUSH!

 I can't believe it's almost been a month since my last post.  That Polar Vortex is long gone -- and we've had wintry but moderate temps since then, thank goodness!  I've just gotten into a great daily routine, and while I've taken photos along the way and often thought of posting, well, I wasn't always sure I had enough to say!

Let's begin with a bit of a catch-up on the Art Quilt front, okay?  

In my last post, I mentioned that I was taking 3 art pieces in to the Viewpoint Gallery in Red Deer, well in advance of the hanging of the up-coming exhibit, "Craft & Care"  -- and that's now 'mission accomplished'.  That said, while the Vortex had left us, the streets in Red Deer were so slick -- especially at those intersections conveniently placed at the bottom of a hill just past a curve -- well, let's just say that while I arrived safely at my destination, I did so with several more grey hairs! 😆

(Photo above: "Frayed" (2020) -- one of three of my pieces that will be in that exhibit.)

The installation of the exhibit is scheduled for next week -- Feb. 15 -- and I only hope the weather will be good enough (and the roads dry enough!) for me to go and help out.  Aside from helping, it'll be an opportunity to meet the other artists in the exhibit.  I've met a couple of them, but there are at least eight others I don't know at all.)  Stay tuned for info about the opening, etc.!

I've also managed to make a wee piece of Original Art -- my first in several months.  The SAQA Conference is coming up, and every year they hold a fund-raising auction -- sometimes only online and sometimes in person as well: the SAQA Spotlight Auction.  This year the conference is online, highlighting the Europe & Middle East Region -- from April 12-20.  The Auction will be online during the conference.  Right now, members are frantically making their pieces (only one per member!) to get them in before the March 1 deadline.

I confess I wasn't sure I had anything to offer this year -- my artistic mojo was at an all-time LOW -- but inspiration struck and here's the little piece I submitted last week (I know, eh?!  Well ahead of deadline!)

"Ring Around the Moon" - 2024
6" x 8" - will be matted by SAQA
with a 1/2" x 6 1/2" opening
Commercial fabrics, fused applique,
thread painting, fabric painting

I wasn't sure of its quality but have been reassured by the positive response from my colleagues on Facebook.  Phew!

Now then...what's all this about a WIPGO Weekend PUSH?!

I belong to two cross-stitch-related Facebook Groups: "WIPGO2024" and "Alberta Cross Stitchers".  The former was created by the wonderful young stitcher, Jessie Marie of "Jessie Marie Does Stuff" fame on YouTube, and the creator of the "WIPGO" game -- modelled after BINGO -- designed for stitchers, but adapted in various ways, shapes and forms by makers of all stripes and genres.   I talked about it at length in an earlier post, which you can see HERE.

First, to WIPGO:

For every month, Jessie Marie has assigned a "WIPGO Weekend" -- and Feb. 9-11, 2024 is this month's event.  It's on in the FB group and it's a weekend to inspire participants to work on the called-for blocks for the particular month -- or whatever else you want!  Just plan some crafting time, folks!

The February "calls" were #3 and #24.  For me, #3 meant "MFE" (Modern Folk Embroidery) and  #24 meant "Newest Knitting WIP" -- the socks I cast on Jan. 14 for my daughter -- her choice for her January birthday.

As of yesterday, I'd finished my assigned "calls" -- 7 'days' (meaning anything from 15 minutes to several hours' work) on each.  

My "MFE" piece was my attempt at the Evertotes Holiday Countdown 2022 -- pattern only.  I decided to do a deep stash dive for thread and fabric, and do the pattern in a single colour.

Here's were I left it in 2022:

LOL!  Not really.  I did have some of it started, but I never took a photo.  Go figure!

Anyway, here's where it was as of the "7th day" on my WIPGO "call":

I'm doing this on a mystery fabric that feels like it's a wool-linen blend, about 28 count, and rather slubby.  I'm using 1 strand of Waterlilies by Caron, colour 078 - "Pearl", over 2 fabric threads.  Because it's a mystery, there are gaps here and there -- you can see some spaces in the 2nd and 3rd bands (above) -- that will be filled in.  It's a Frisian band sampler done in two side-by-side sections, and I'm currently working on the first section.  It was meant to be done in several colours but I chose to use what I had and go monochromatic.  You can purchase the pattern here, though...and create your own.  No longer a mystery, but just as lovely!

As for those socks -- the first one is finished and the second one is past the cuff and onto the leg pattern:

Pattern: "Vestigial" 
Designer:Beata Jezek 
Yarn: Pro Lana Golden Socks 4-fach
Colour-way:"Fashion R"

Now to the Weekend PUSH!

Alberta Cross-stitchers is a Facebook Group of stitchers in Alberta, Canada (where I live).  We share what we're stitching, and our finishes and new starts.  We share resources and help newbies learn the craft.  Every once in a awhile the Moderator calls for a Weekend PUSH.  This means you decide to work on one piece (at least) and PUSH towards a finish (not required) by the end of the weekend.

Having finished my WIPGO2024 assignments, then, I've decided on a single item for both the WIPGO Weekend and the Alberta Weekend PUSH: the lovely sampler I started for my birthday last fall: "Memories of the Past" from Hands Across the Sea.  Here's the only photo I have -- of my very earliest progress:

I've done more since then, but never took a photo, and am not going to bother now.  That will make whatever progress I have to show for this weekend look exceptional! LOL!

And yes, of course, since my last post there's been knitting and quilting.

1. I finished my friend's "Woodpile Socks", mailed them off and she's thrilled:

2. I finished the little top for my friends' granddaughter:

Pattern: Wee Lima 
Designer: Taiga Hilliard
Yarn: Berroco Vintage - Colour 5181 - "Black Cherry"

3. I quilted up the one baby quilt top I had for her new baby sister:

Pattern: "Chandelier"
Designer: Vanessa Goertzen

4. And this week I've been working on a couple of patterns from the latest issue of "QuiltMaker", which I found at my "local" (43 km away) drugstore's magazine rack (thank you Rexall of Lacombe, Alberta!)

In this issue I found 3 patterns I want to work on.  First up is the "Scrappy Starburst" pattern because -- lo and behold! -- its centre block was straight out of all those 'postage stamp' blocks I've been making (at last count I had 83!!)  Sure...the pattern used 2 1/2" squares and mine were made of 2" x 7" strips sewn together and cross-cut, but what did I have to lose?  I mean, I could adjust the sizes, and wasn't it all about using stash and keeping it out of the landfill?  

Here's what the first few units looked like on my off-the-wall design board:

Next, there were 4 smaller corner units created, and all were assembled together with grey sashing (polycotton, of which I had an abundance inherited from an elderly friend's estate).  This was followed by borders of 2" squares -- barely made a dent in my supply, but...

Yes, after this photo, another patchwork border was added!

Then I added plain blue borders -- more of my inherited polycotton.  The day was sunny so I took the photo out on my back stoop:

The pattern calls for yet another border -- a combination of rectangles and two-patches.  But not likely today or tomorrow -- I've got other fish to fry!

The second pattern is from Bonnie Hunter's regular "Addicted to Scraps" column in the same magazine.  It's called "Four-Patch Fun" and will (I hope!) use up more of those 2" squares plus some 2" x 3 1/2" rectangles  So far I've made only four, shown here on my ironing board:

The corners of each block are supposed to -- like the green one on the right -- but I'm working with what I have, so mine will usually have a scrappier look!

That's all the news that's fit to print for this post, Gentle Readers.  Once again, thanks for following along when so many others are opting for Instagram's quick visuals, and other ways to share our creativity.  

I'll leave you, as usual, with a link to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday. This week she and her hubby are planning a holiday at a 'folk school', where she's taking a class in improv piecing.  Not being anywhere near such a place in Canada, I've been thankful for SAQA's annual "Seminar" series -- because this week I watched videos from Jean Wells, Sherry Lynn Wood and one of my faves -- Joe Cunningham -- on their respective improvisational techniques, all while I was cutting and piecing in the comfort of my own studio!

You have to be a SAQA member to participate in the Seminar series -- which is all online -- but it (among other benefits) is one of my favourite reasons why I've been one since 2008 -- 16 years this May!

Speaking of anniversaries -- well -- a few days ago this very blog and I marked 21 years together.  As my kids would say, "Now it's Legal Everywhere".  Time for a toast!

Until we meet again, friends, may you be warm (or cool), well, safe and creative.  A bientot!

Saturday, January 13, 2024

In a Polar Vortex


We've been experiencing a "Polar Vortex" in Western Canada for most of this week. The wind chills over night have dipped down into the minus mid-fifties Celsius (!) and into the minus forties during the day.  
A couple of days ago I managed to get out to feed the birds, shovelling my way to the garage where I store their food, and to put out my garbage -- again, shovelling my way to the alley to put the pail out for the Friday a.m. pick-up.

 On Wednesday, a neighbour, who was collecting mail for others, offered to fetch mine too; otherwise it would still be at the Post Office!  Our Anglican parish priest has cancelled the service for this Sunday, which means you know the weather's bad.
The kitties are all rather stir-crazy.  The little ones have upped their games of 'race' and 'wrestle', while Miss Pookie, the elder-cat, sits in her favourite spot behind my laptop, and glares at the weather.  
I've been in pretty good form as far as food goes, but will be glad when the weather warms up -- possibly Tuesday.  Then I hope to get to town for groceries.  I'm a decent cook but not a foodie; as my supplies dwindle -- and it's too @@!!**  cold to walk the four or five blocks to the General Store here in this tiny hamlet -- I've had to get creative.  

Before it got too brutal -- on Monday, after Sunday's snow day -- I got down there and bought the smallest bag of pasta (spiral noodles) I could find (I don't eat pasta or potatoes as a general rule) plus a tin of mushroom soup and 2 litres of low-fat milk.

I still have bacon (a full package in the freezer), but otherwise have no fresh meat; I'm not a vegetarian and need the protein!  I have some tuna, and some frozen mixed veggies, so I put together a tuna casserole -- something I've not made (as far as I know) since my kids left home!  That lasted me four meals.  I also took out the chicken/veg soup I'd made in the slow cooker on Xmas night, and I made a batch of cranberry muffins for breakfasts.  

Now that the muffins are finished, I've turned to oatmeal with raisins and wheat germ for my breakfast, along with the above-mentioned bacon.  And for a change of soups, today I cobbled together an "Italian-style Zucchini and Tomato Soup"**, using shredded zuke (from the freezer) and half a can of diced tomatoes, lacking anything fresh.  Delicious, if I may say so myself.  And for an alternate carb, I've made a loaf of whole grain bread in my bread-maker.  The recipe is one of my favourites -- very 'grainy' -- because it includes 1/3 cup of Sunny Boy cereal.  Yum!  ** NOTE: If you click the recipe link, scroll down to get the 'recipe card' you can print.  There are an annoying number of flashing adverts etc. on the silly website!!

My hands have been busy with other things as well: knitting, quilting and stitching in my usual round.  I've been following the WIPGO board I described in my last post and am progressing rather well on the called squares for January: #9 and #22.

I started with #22: "Monochromatic".  In that last post I showed you where I'd left off in August 2023.  At the time, I was one-and-a-half motifs into a "9-patch-style" pattern:

My rule for my WIPGO is to do 7 days work on whatever project is in the squares called in a given month.  By 7 days I don't mean 8 hours' work at a stretch! 😆  Rather, I simply mean I have to put some time in for seven days during the month.  

I began January with four days' work on this project -- it's "Peace" from Carolyn Manning, and I'm stitching it on 28-count pearl grey linen using a hand-dyed tencel yarn (ostensibly for knitting!) that I bought from a vendor at Fibre Week in Olds, Alberta last June.  I have three more days to go to meet my January commitment, but here's what it looks like after those four;

And here's a close-up of the first motif:

It's so pretty!  I'll get back to it in the next week or so to finish those last few days (at least!)

This week I switched to #9 from my board: "Full Coverage".  And yes, I dug out this half-finished piece I abandoned a good 20 years ago: "Bag Ladies" -- a kit from Sunset Counted Cross Stitch:

In my last post I spoke about the stain you see on the right side, and how I couldn't get it out for love nor money.  Blessedly, I think pretty much all of it will eventually be covered by stitches.  I've worked on it daily from Monday through Friday this week, and just might do so today and tomorrow too, thus completing my 7 days for the month.

Here's how it looks as of last evening.  I'm starting to encroach on the stain to the right, but want to get that striped cat done first!

On the knitting front, I've been working on the socks for my friend Brenda, who's a rancher and the "birth mom" of my kitties;

Pattern: "Woodpile Socks"
Designer: Bethany Hill
Yarn: Estelle Yarns Highland Alpaca Fine in 
Colour #18 - "Lagoon"

Yes, the second sock is nearly finished!  In fact, after I took this photo, I finished the pattern on the foot, and am nearly finished the toe.  They'll be finished completely by the end of today.  😊  (While there is knitting on my WIPGO board, these are a gift, so they're not part of the WIPGO project.)

And with the onset of the Vortex, I got the urge to knit a blanket.  Yep.  I rarely knit blankets, but this one was highlighted for me last year by Marsha (Betterinmotion on Ravelry).  I tried it then in some of the mystery yarn my daughter gave me for Xmas 2022, but frogged that.  Turns out the yarn was better suited to weaving, so I gave it to my friend Anne who's used it to make small rugs, to great effect!

This go 'round, I dug out an acrylic/cotton/wool blend I'd bought back when I worked at The Crafty Lady's brick-and-mortar shop (now gone):  Diamond Select Stonewash in the colour "Chalk" (#501).

The pattern Marsha used is aptly named "January Blanket"; the other day I cast on using a slightly-shorter-than-called-for circular needle, and got the first border (seed stitch) done:

It doesn't look like much now, but I think it's going to be worth the time and effort -- and the yarn is a treat to work with for this project.

The "Wee Lima" pullover I showed in my last post is now finished but for the buttons; the "Chandelier" crib quilt is sandwiched and pin basted.  It's been too cold to get down to the PO to mail them, so I just decided to finish them once it warms up a bit -- they'll go out later this month.

Instead, having given away four quilt tops for Ukrainian refugees, I went back to work on the Scrappy Star Buster Quilt from Pat Sloan that I mentioned in my mid-December post.  It's been so much fun to make, that I put time into it almost every day, and now the top is finished!

Here it was earlier this week, as I assembled the rows with sashing.  Note that my design 'wall' is leaning up against the wall of the closet in my studio, instead of hanging on the wall.  That's because Sylvie Kitten tried to climb it once too many times, and pulled it right off the wall!!  I reinforced and cleaned the fabric covering the thick blue foam insulation slab that forms the base, but couldn't get it back onto the wall without moving my entire sewing table -- that just wasn't happening! -- so I'm making do.  

Rows/sashing under construction

And here it is -- the finished top draped over the love seat in my living room because it's too cold to take a photo outside:

Top (unfinished) measures about 54 1/2" x 64 1/2"

I don't think I have enough batting to sandwich it right now, so I'll leave it for the moment.  I've got sets of blocks ready to assemble into two more throw-sized tops: string blocks that I'm turning into string-HSTs:

String blocks = 6 1/2"; HSTs = 6" unfinished

And a stack of postage-stamp blocks:

Each block = 6 1/2" unfinished

I was going to turn the postage stamp blocks into curtains, but decided that putting them into a comfort quilt was a better use for them.

So, stitching, knitting and quilting.  That's what I've been up to, to stay cozy during this Polar Vortex.  I've also entered a SAQA Regional (All Canadian) exhibit, but can't share the entry photos with you until April, when the acceptance/"so sorry" letters are due to go out.  There are only 30 spots available, so competition will be stiff!

This week, after it warms up some, I'm taking three pieces in to the Viewpoint Gallery in Red Deer, for the "Craft & Care" exhibit into which I was juried.  The installation is February 15, but I wanted to be sure my work got there -- and that I got to see the gallery space -- well before hand, given the wintry weather and road conditions.  The show will run through the last Saturday in April, and there's to be a First Friday opening on March 1, which I also hope to attend.

"Order Out of Chaos (aka Chaos Can be Colourful") -- at right, is one of the pieces that will be in the exhibit, along with "Frayed" and "And It's Only June".

I'm one of only eleven textile artists chosen for this show, and as far as I know, I'm the only art quilter.  There are two silk artists (I own a scarf created by one of them), some felt artists, and several whose names I couldn't connect with anything online -- so there might be another quilter in there somewhere.  I'm looking forward to meeting them!

Now it's time to sign off so I can get to finishing that sock toe -- and go back to quilting and stitching for the afternoon!  Nina-Marie is back with her Off the Wall Friday link-up, so I'll leave you with that and the hopes that wherever you are you're well, safe, warm, cared for and caring.

A bientot!

Friday, December 29, 2023

Plans, Hopes, Dreams...

 Do you make New Year's Resolutions?  I don't -- any more, that is.  Haven't for years.  That said, I've often written in this blog about my susceptibility to "Startitis" -- both in September (the start of a school year) and now, as we move from one calendar year to another.

This year, for the first time, I'm going to try to corral that "infection" by jumping on the WIPGO bandwagon.

"What's WIPGO?!" you might ask.  It's...a process for working on ones WIPs (Works In Progress) in order to finish them -- or at least make some progress on them -- throughout a given year.  

It's 'founder' is Jessie Marie, who created it some years ago now, in order to manage her cross-stitch WIPs.  It's a flexible game, really, that's adopted from Bingo -- and uses a 25-square "board".  You assign either projects or processes or categories of project -- or whatever you want, really -- to each square.  Each month -- on the 25th -- Jessie Marie "calls" (posts) two numbers to be worked on in the following month.  They're called about a week before the end of the month so you can prep your projects ahead of time -- the better to accomplish whatever your goals are for the month.

You might be able to tell that I've put both cross-stitch and knitting on my 'board'.  No quilting?  No spinning?  No rug hooking?  Nope.  I don't have a plethora of WIPs for any of those crafts.

If you want company, or advice, or encouragement, there's a Facebook Group (you have to answer questions to join) and there's action on Instagram (but I don't do Instagram so you'll have to look for it there yourself).  

Here's a link to her "how-to" video from 2022:

I found both of these resources very helpful when setting up my first "board". 

The mantra for the process is "Your board; your rules."  Some folks discover it doesn't work for them, and that's okay.  If you're a first-timer, though, you're encouraged to try it for the year before you decide whether or not it suits your practice.

And of course, just because only two board numbers are called each month doesn't mean that's all you work on!  Heck, no!  Work on any and all of your other crafts, hobbies and practices.  After all, there are 28 to 31 days in any given month (and 2024 is a Leap Year so February has 29 this go 'round) -- you can decide to work on a project for "100 stitches" or "300 stitches" or "3 days" (and a 'day' is what you say it is -- five minutes or 12 hours!) 

I've decided that when a number is called, I'll work on a project in the designated category for 7 days during the given month.  I decided to use categories of project rather than get specific, because I have 19 cross-stitch WIPs and 16 knitting WIPs, and some fall into more than one category.  

For January, the numbers 9 and 22 have been called. 

Looking at my 'board' -- photo above --  "9" is designated "Full Coverage"!  I've only one of those, which I began...oh...some twenty years ago (give or take).  Entitled "Bag Ladies", it came as a kit from Sunset Counted Cross Stitch of Reading, PA.  The pattern cover indicates it was designed by Braldt Bralds -- or perhaps more appropriately, used a design based on one of his paintings or illustrations -- and was kitted up for stitchers in 1999.  It included a large two-page pattern, all the floss, a needle and a  piece of 16-count grey aida.  

When planning my WIPGO board, I dug it out -- only to discover some sort of weird rust-coloured stain on a portion of the fabric!  Having stored it carefully (I thought) in a cloth tote, and having no recollection of having spilled anything on it, I'm at a loss as to what it is.  I tried soaking it in my eco-friendly laundry detergent and warm water.  No visible change.  Tried again with blue Dawn in slightly hotter water.  Ditto.  Scrubbed with a soft brush and mild hand soap.  Maybe it's a bit lighter.

And then I took a close look at what I had left to stitch.  Lo and behold, I think the remaining stitching will cover most -- if not all -- of it up!  Here's what it would look like finished:

Photo source: Pinterest

The red bag with the feathery tail at the upper right will cover quite a bit -- as will the rest of the bags and cats therein!  And the background is only partly bare fabric -- there are stitches all along the top, creating shading and dimension.

With my love of cats, and the fact that I'm just starting the second page of the pattern, how can I not finish it -- or at least, try to?!

As for square #22 -- that's "Monochromatic".  I have two stitching pieces that fit that description.  One is the Holiday Countdown 2022 from Evertote and Modern Folk Embroidery.  I decided to stitch it on a piece of fabric in a gorgeous red, using a creamy perle cotton from Caron.  Both are from deep stash:  

That said, my start was so small that I didn't even photograph it!

My second monochromatic WIP is the one I really want to return to, especially seeing as the 'holiday' season is drawing to a close.  It's a Carolyn Manning design from her "One Color Wonder" Collection: "Peace":

I'm stitchiing it on a piece of 28-count pearl grey linen that I got from a sale table somewhere.  It has no identifying maker, but it also hasn't the trade-mark orange stripe in the selvedge that would say "Zweigart".  It's perfect for this project though, and suits my choice of thread perfectly, to my mind.  I'm stitching it with a single strand of a hand-dyed tencel yarn (!) that I bought at the vendor's market at Olds Fibre Week last June; it's in a variegated purple:

Dyer/vendor: Trail Yarn
Colour-way: "Badass Babe"!

Preparing my WIPGO board gave me a great opportunity to track down all my WIPs -- including some which were tipping into the UFO category.  The  Mystery shawls fit that bill, along with a pair of socks that had succumbed to Serious Second Sock Syndrome:

One piece that's probably not going to get on the board is "No Winter Lasts Forever" from Silver Creek Samplers.  That's because I'm planning to finish it this weekend!  

I'm not following the "12 x 12" event closely, but I'm going to stitch like I am.  For one thing, I won't get home from church before noon on December 31; for another, I'm in bed by 9 p.m. and sleep through the entry of the New Year!  But I expect to have a good six or seven hours in which to stitch, and "No Winter" will be part of that (if it isn't finished even before that!)

All I have left to stitch is the snow, my initials and the year at the bottom!

Pattern: No Winter Lasts Forever
Designer: Silver Creek Samplers
Fabric: 28-count Pewter from Picture This Plus
Floss: DMC and a bit of Weeks Dye Works

Another item that probably won't make the WIPGO board is a sweater I'm knitting for a just-turned-18-months-old little girl  -- the granddaughter of a long-time friend, who lives in Ontario.  

Pattern: "Wee Lima"
Designer: Taiga Hilliard
Yarn: Berroco "Vintage" in "Black Cherry"
(from stash)

As you can see, I've only a portion of a sleeve to knit -- and it'll be finished except for sewing on the buttons (See the large stitch holder, shaped like a safety pin? That's where the buttons go!), sewing in the ends, and washing/blocking it.

Now little Sophie -- the future recipient -- also has a new baby sister, Ivy (2 months old).  She'll be getting a little crib quilt.  I made the top last March and when I learned of her arrival I decided to quilt it up for her.  Here's a photo of the top:

Pattern: "Chandelier"
Info: see my post HERE

Note that neither of those projects is on the WIPGO board.  That's because I've classified them as Priority Projects because they're gifts -- and will be finished come heck or high water, WIPGO or no WIPGO!

Speaking of gifts...being who I am, and being who my friends and family are, I received some lovely yarny and stitchy gifts for Christmas and "just because"!

My son's partner gave me a gift certificate for a southern Alberta indie yarn dyer -- Arcane Fibre Works.  His colours are fantastic -- but his yarn base is all extra-fine merino.  His prices are reasonable but I was hoping for a skein of fingering for socks.  And y'all probably know by now that unless colour palate is an issue, I won't make socks from high-grade merino.  They don't wear well.  They might stretch/slouch more than other socks.  They pill.  And they might felt -- even if they're super-wash treated.  Oh -- and feet don't need socks that soft.  Never test sock yarn on your face or neck. Your feet aren't that fussy!!

So...I've got a colour-way in mind but will reserve a purchase until I can afford (even with the gift cert) two skeins for a shawl.  (And yes; two skeins will equal free shipping -- at least in Canada.)  I'm willing to bide my time...

My friend Mary W. gave me two balls of yarn.  This is admirable, because a) she doesn't wear wool; and b) she doesn't knit!  (True friendship: supporting a friend's passion even when you don't share it!)

She gave me a lovely ball of German sock yarn (NOT 'extra-fine merino' -- the Germans know their sock yarn!) in one of my daughter's favourite colour-ways.  And my daugher?  She's always up for a pair of sturdy, well-wearing, hand-knit-by-Mom socks!  So...her January birthday prezzie is taken care of!

She also gave me a ball of 80% acrylic (!)/20% wool yarn from James C. Brett -- a lovely UK-based company.  The colours are similar, but the yarn is clearly for a shawl or something cozy; it has a 'halo' that makes it look like mohair but there's no mohair to be found in it.  And...I have a friend who suits this colour palate (she has auburn hair and complexion) maybe this will become something for her.  Hmmmm....or given to her -- because she knits.  She knits shawls (and I found a pattern for this yarn).  Prayer shawls, even.  Hmmmmm....the possibilities!

Isn't it delicious?!

Yarn: "Shhh" DK (but it's more like fingering)
Supplier: James C. Brett
Fibre: 80% acrylic, 20% wool

I'm not lacking in stitchy gifts, either.  Today I had lunch with my friend C. (we do this every 2-3 weeks -- two-hour lunches at Mae's Kitchen here in Mirror, AB.  Food and friendliness par excellence!)  She had a major reno to her home this past summer (don't ask; it wasn't planned!) and now is putting things back where they should go.  In the course of doing that, she's sifting and sorting her "stuff" and gave me this beautiful book: Sampler & Antique Needlework: A Year in Stitches.  It's available on (and probably "dot com") for a pretty reasonable price but oh!  The treasure of it!

I managed some years decades ago to procure a couple of the original magazines by that name, which used to be published quarterly, but I wasn't aware of this book.  The publisher of the magazine is/was Phyllis Hoffman, and she published the book under the company called "Symbol of Excellence Publishers, Inc."  That title is appropriate -- even as I gaze on the cover of the book, having yet to open it and go through it.  C. is a stitcher too -- but she knows how I've fallen in love with reproduction samplers, and so this is a very special gift honouring that affection for this genre.

And then...the piece de resistance!  My friend A. is a quilter known for her album quilts and the beauty of her applique and hand-quilting.  She also knits and stitches, and is a lot of fun to be with.

This year, she gave me the most delightful, exquisitely executed gift for Christmas.  I have it out on the table in my living room, where I hang out to stitch, where I can see it.  It's useful, yes, but the artistry and detail make it so very special.  The pattern is from the "Block Party Series" from Hands On Designs; this one is "Meow".  A. knows I'm a Certified Cat Person...with an Elder Grumpy Cat and two 6-month old she paid tribute!

I just had to show you the top and all four sides (the bottom is plain but for her initials and the date):

Her stitching is par excellence, because she never does anything by halves.  💓

And now, my friends...I've spoken of plans and gifts -- but what about hopes and dreams?

My hopes for 2024 are too numerous to list, but in the main consist of these:

  1. "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." -- Isaiah 2:4 -- that the lust for power and dominance globally, nationally, regionally, locally and within families disappear and be gone forever.
  2. That the US doesn't fall into fascism; 
  3. That in all times and all places we can -- as Fred Rogers' mother instructed -- look for AND FIND the Helpers.  May there always be helpers.
My Dreams? a concrete sense, I've only one.  It's far smaller than my plans or hopes.  I long to return to Scotland...just one more time.  I have a friend -- Anne H. -- who is willing and eager to come with me.  Both of us knit.  She crochets; I do a bit.  She weaves; I do not.  I spin; she doesn't.  We both walk.  And we are on a wait list to be notified for the registration to sign on to a Knitting/Walking Tour of the Shetland Isles in 2025.  

I may never go home (to Quebec) again this side of heaven (though I'd like to do so too) but if I get to walk the isles, experience the sheep, the scenery, the skills of the knitters there...oh!  That's my Dream.

All that said, I told Anne recently that if I never made it there, I'd not die disappointed.  Sometimes the Dream is enough.

And so, Gentle Readers, I close this with a message of thanksgiving, and hope for you all: that you will find your space, your purpose, your calling.  That you will know the peace of God (however you understand that) that passes all understanding.  May that Peace enfold you, enable you, inspire you, encourage you and bring you to where you need to be for your own equanimity and for your giving of who you are and what you are to others -- a light in the darkness; a safe haven in the storm; a quiet centre in the whirlwind; a refuge.  May you be given the resources to do and be so -- and may you know that you are held in love in the Everlasting Arms -- however you understand that to be.

A bientot!


Saturday, December 16, 2023

Another Year...Another Festive Season...

 Within 2 months of marking 21 years of blog posts, and 10 days from Christmas, and 2 weeks to the end of another year, I'm pondering.

For several years now, I've chosen a "word of the year" -- but not, Gentle Readers, for 2023. I'm rather glad of that, because I've no idea what it could have been.  Chaos?  Coping?  Comfort?  Giving?  Exploring?  Planting?  Grieving?  Aching?  Learning?  Celebrating?  Joy?  Sorrow?  Friendship?  Love?  Marvelling?  Family?  

I still have no idea -- and so will probably defer selecting such a "word" for 2024 as well.  (Though I reserve the right to change my mind! 😉😄😆)

Instead, I'm going to "keep on keepin' on" as long as the Good Lord lets me.  To that end, I'm pleased to tell you that I Survived November (the bleakest month in my year, each and every year) and am Moving Toward the Light.

Last week, Sylvie kitten helped me celebrate 
the Light of Hanukkah

Now, those of you who are familiar with the stories of Jesus might recall that he had some close friends (not his disciples) -- Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus.  They lived in Bethany, a suburb (you  might say) of Jerusalem, and he'd often stop there on the way to the Big City.  Sometimes he'd sleep over, but pretty much always, he'd join them for a meal and some good conversation.

Mary was inclined to sit at his feet and listen, which aggravated her (probably older) sister Martha, the DO-er.  Martha was the one preparing the meal, setting the table, making sure all was comfy for their guest.  

Well, folks, I'm a "Martha".  I don't entertain much any more (being rather introverted, I like it that way), but I'm still a DO-er, and a Maker and a Planner.  Without Marthas, in my view, no one would have a stocked larder, or clean clothes (or any clothes, for that matter!)  No one would be fed -- human or animal.  No one would get anywhere on time, with a packed lunch or money to buy one.  

I always have a grocery/supply list at the ready for my next trip to town.  And yes, my Christmas cards have all been sent -- except the ones to people who live here in the area, and they'll go out this week.

In my last post, I was busy making gifts -- but they've long been completed, mailed and (so I'm told by the recipients) received and put under trees -- or opened immediately, as was intended.  

Yep, I'm a Martha.  I don't sit without something in my hands on which to work.  It's how I feel safe, how I sort out my thoughts and make sense of the world around me.  Making keeps me calm.

As of this post, I'm still making gifts -- but of a different sort.  I got word recently that there are several families of Ukrainian refugees arriving in the Edmonton area this winter.  I connected with the person who advised this and am putting together a box to send off to her early next week.

The box will contain four quilt tops -- one twin-sized and 3 throw-sized; five hand-knit wool hats; one hand-knit wool cowl; and a couple of pairs (or maybe 3) of handknit wool blend or acrylic mittens.  My contact has a resource who will sandwich and quilt the tops.

In that stack of tops are the following -- from the top -- "Butter Churn" (from an "Addicted to Scraps" column by Bonnie Hunter earlier this year); "Triple Treat" (Bonnie Hunter's "Leader/Ender Challenge" #11); "Add It Up" (the latest one finished -- from "All People Quilt/Wendy Barker Paul - Quilts and More"); and "Rhododendron Trail" (Bonnie Hunter's Mystery 2021).

For those who are curious, here's what the "Add It Up" top looked like when I finished it:

It was fun to do -- but it's time to move on!  This week I started a new scrap quilt: "Scrap Happy Star Buster" from Pat Sloan.  I've made six blocks thus far (I need thirty for the top) and none of them match except for some of the background fabric.  It's how I roll these days!

Six on the ironing board!

And here's a close up of what a block looks like:

I've developed a winter routine that goes something like this:  knit in the morning; quilt from noon to 3 or so; somewhere in there go for a walk (maybe two) or shovel snow; stitch in the late afternoon/evening.

In addition to five hats and a cowl that will go in the care package, I've been knitting mittens (all from stash yarn).  I finished this pair for an adult:

Patten: The World's Simplest Mittens
Designer: Tincan Knits
Yarn: Emu Superwash Double Knit in colour 1112

And am on the thumb of the first mitten of a pair for a child:

I'd like to make a third pair before I mail the box this coming week, but that just might not happen.  Ah, well.  I'll keep on with them and mail any additional pair separately.

You migh be wondering what I do to "relax".  For Marthas, this sort of creativity is relaxing!  

In the summer, of course, in addition to the 'chores' of yard work (raking, mowing, planting, weeding, watering) there's just the sheer pleasure of being outside.  Ditto for the winter work of shovelling.  There are long walks and filling the bird feeders.  There's cuddling the kittens and making sure they don't destroy the fabric, fibre and floss!

And there's stitching.  Up till a couple of weeks ago, as my earlier posts have shown, even my stitching was to give away.  But now that those pieces are finished, I'm stitching just for fun, just for me.

I've dug into my WIPs (Works In Progress, for the uninitiated), and pulled out the "Stitcher's Prayer" from Kathy Barrick, which started me down the stitching rabbit hole again a few years ago.  I'd done only one motif.  Now I've done one-and-a-half! LOL!  So no photos till it gets a bit farther along.  (It's an old pattern (2001) so may not be readily available except for the Carriage House Samplings website.)

I also took out the "Autumn Bird" from Blackbird Designs, a pattern lent to me by a good friend.  She owns all three in the series.  I finished "Summer Bird" with my own take on the bird (I turned it into a red-winged blackbird, which is common in the summer in these parts), so this autumnal brown bird is the second in the series, and I'm stitching all three on the same piece of fabric:

I'm enjoying this one so much that it's been hard to put down -- but I managed to make time for a new start:  "No Winter Lasts Forever" from Silver Creek Samplers.  Here's my small beginning, on 28-count "Pewter" from Picture this Plus, with an assortment of floss from my stash:

I have another "Winter" WIP on which to work, and others, including "Keziah Campbell", which is nearing a 'finish', and as my family and friends are replete with stitching (for the moment, at least!) I'm going to focus on these in the coming months.

To that end, I finally "fully finished" a couple of small pillows that seem to suit the festive season, and have put them in my large glass bowl on the buffet:

"Summer Bower"
from Modern Folk Embroidery

"Chubby Bird" from
Jeannette Douglas Designs

With the new kittens around, this is as close to decorating for Christmas as I'll get this year!

And so, on that note, Gentle Readers, I want to wish you all blessings for the Season, and health, happiness, peace and creativity for the New Year.

Onward!  A bientot!