Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Meanwhile, Back in the Sewdio

Christmas Knitting continues...but not fast enough!

And miniatures like this one are Under Construction:

First, the inspirational photo, taken last May a few kilometres up a gravel road south of Tees, Alberta:

Inspiration for "Wishing Pond"

And the fabric piece, currently submitting to hand-stitch:

"Test Mat" - "Wishing Pond" - WIP October 2014

There's another piece -- "Winter Dinette" -- also under the needle, getting some beads.  Photo will follow eventually!

Each of these finishes at 5" x 7", and are matted to 8" x 10"...and hopefully will be on display by mid-November -- along with "Storm Building" -- at Mirror's "Gracie D's Antiques, Collectibles & Giftware".

I'm linking to WIP Wednesday over at The Needle and Thread Network and then heading off to bed...tomorrow is another day at The Shop, followed by picking up my car...and the long drive home.


Auto Adventures

I've been giving my wee 2002 Toyota Echo, Cutie Pie, some LUV in the past few weeks -- getting her ready for winter, plus some upkeep/maintenance.

October 17 I was due to have installed:
  • Windshield #3 (I live in a major Rock-throwing Zone);
  • New bushings (to replace dried, cracked 12-year-old ones);
  • My winter tires; and a
  • New block-heater cord (as my original one was clipped off by scamps on the Labour Day weekend.)
Well...2 out of 4 ain't  The winter tires were put on, and the block heater cord repaired...but it turned out that the glass installers didn't have the right-sized windshield, and the Parts Department 
Toyota Echo Sway Bar Bushings
 discovered that the sway bar bushings they had in stock weren't the ones that would fit my Toyota.


Parts ordered "STAT!" and appointment re-booked for today.  I drove my car off the lot and home-ward.  Then I noticed a knocking when it was idling at a stoplight.  I figured I'd have them look at it when I came back in for the windshield and bushings.

It turns out it was my water pump...and that the water pump is an Important Part.  And they didn't have one in stock but could rush one up from Calgary (2 1/2 hours' drive away).  Fed Ex to the rescue...but it meant keeping my car there over night as the part wouldn't arrive early enough to get everything done before closing.


They offered me a "loaner".  


You see, I drive a standard shift car, because then I know I'm The One Doing the Driving.  I don't like cars that want to drive me.  I prefer to drive them!  

I was afraid the "loaner" would be a Big Bad Automatic...'s a Yaris, they said.  Same size as your Echo.  And PLAIN.  Very Plain.  

They were right.

The "Loaner" in my driveway
Aside from the fact that its covered with logos and advertising, and is an automatic transmission, and is black, I could drive this car.  Now.  Maybe forever.

Of course, I'm not ready to buy a new car.  My 12-year-old Echo has only 224,500 km on it (give or take) and is in pretty good shape (or will be, with new bushings and water pump and windshield #3).

But if I were...

I mean, this Yaris sedan is a car that's a car.  It doesn't try to drive for me.  It lets me do my own shoulder- and mirror-checks.  It doesn't tell me where to drive.  It lets me use a map.  It's dashboard doesn't look like it belongs in a 747.  It has an AM-FM radio and CD player, and neither of them phone me. It's the right size for my garage and has a capacious trunk.

Now install a 5-speed manual transmission and paint it red...

I'm praying they still make them when I'm ready to buy!

This is not my Echo, but one just like Ideal Car

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Practically Perfect Weekend - Part II

After the events of Friday evening, could the weekend get better?

Maybe not, but it certainly kept it's loveliness through to Sunday evening.

Saturday a.m. I accompanied my daughter to her "On the Spot" 'pop-up' sale at Latitude 53, just a block or so away from the Alberta Craft Council galleries and shop, downtown Edmonton.  She's selling her beautiful photography in a variety of formats: printed on canvas, framed under glass, as note cards, bookmarks and now, a stunning gift book.  I helped her set up her booth for the day, and then wandered around.

The gallery space, divided into three rooms, was crammed with displays by makers of art and fine craft.   The vendor right across from Gina's booth was a preserver of dried/pressed flowers and grasses in frames made from recycled old windows.  Next to her was a young woman selling beautiful blown glass jewellry.  We talked for a bit about her work, and I suggested she think about topping both knitting needles and wooden shawl pins with her glass adornments.

Next to her was a painter...and farther down, a young woman almost completely enclosed in a jungle -- she creates unique arrangements of sedum, mosses and 'air plants' in glass balls and other unusual containers.

In the second room (I never got to the third) I found three artists that Gina recommended I visit.  The first two are sisters -- their booths side by side.  The first was Allison Findlay of Nomad Fibreworks -- handspun yarns, batting/roving and spinning supplies.  We talked about my recent adventures in felting, and she told me about her being contracted to provide batting/roving for an up-coming class in Nuno felting in Edmonton.  Next to her sat her sister, Chloe Findlay-Harder of Painterly Art Works,   She is a crocheter, maker of textural scarves and cowls, and also a creator of studio art quilts in fabric and mixed media (wool, felt...),  We too had a great chat, and I told them both about seeing The Yarn Harlot the evening before.  I felt very at home with these two young textile artists who, like me, share a love of all things fibre.

The other person I was meant to visit was across the room from the sisters.  Lynne Fortowsky is a woman closer to my age who is a skilled seamstress and embroiderer, specializing in sashiko.  She combines traditional sashiko stitching with recycled wools and cashmeres to make fingerless gloves, scarves, purses and packets of quiet beauty and high quality.   We had a lovely chat about embroidery, recycled textiles, the properties of cashmere, sashiko...another soul sister in textiles.  :-)  I purchased a gift of fingerless gloves for a friend, and a pair for a scrumptious periwinkle blue.  Wore them to drive to church this morning...mmmmm.....

Across from Lynne was a booth with two young women selling soaps and bath products from The Red Elephant Project.  The price was right, I love handmade soap, and the cause is a good one, so I selected a bar of lavender soap as a treat.  Can't wait to try it out after my next long jog!

It was time to go...before I got into more "trouble"!  ;-)  I skipped the chocolatier, the jewellers, another knitter/spinner...and, bidding Gina good-bye, headed out for a visit to the Alberta Craft Council galleries and shops.   The current exhibit in the Discovery Gallery on the main floor was a blend of pottery and textiles.  It was the latter - "21 Konstruktions" by Brenda Raynard -- that blew me away.  Cross stitch at such a fine level I was breathless:

These are but three of the series displayed on the walls of the Discovery Gallery.  The blurb in the accompanying issue of Alberta Craft (Fall 2014) describes Ms. Raynard's work thus:
To create these works sepia images of the 'konstruktions' were uploaded to a site that translates photographs into cross-stitch patterns.  From a distance these 4" x 6" artworks look like the photos they're based on but upon closer inspection the pixels are actually 4,050 tiny cross-stitches finely crafted by hand. [emphasis mine]
Though actually under-priced for the work involved (reported at over 125 hours per piece, or over a year for the collection), I couldn't manage to purchase one to have after the artist's tour finishes.  Ah...but one can dream...

After such richness?

I went home, pondering.

Practically Perfect Weekend - Part I

When I posted on Friday, I was headed to Edmonton to attend "Stix in the City", sponsored by River City Yarns.  It was a Big Deal for them -- and for those of us attending.  Many knitters and crocheters were able to attend the full weekend of events with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Fiona Ellis...

I was just thrilled to be one of those at the Friday night "Comedy Club".  First, though, I had to pick up my entry ticket at RCY, the shop.  And of course, I had to browse...and though I recently protested to my daughter that I didn't want any more yarn (she gave me yarn for both Mother's Day and my birthday), this wee skein paid no attention and insisted on coming home with me...

"Wild Berries" - hand-dyed 100% merino
Indigo Moon Yarns, Gabriola Island, B.C.

What's a knitter to do?

I beat a hasty retreat!  Stashing the yarn in the trunk of my car, I dashed across the parking lot to Laser Quest and surprised my son at work.  Nothing like a hug from one's #1 son to start an evening off right.  :-)

When I got to the Hilton Doubletree hotel, knitters were already gathering in the lobby, waiting for the doors to open.  At 5:30 we trekked down the hall to the room, picked our seats, took up some wine and more knitting...

The Main Event was scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Just before that time, I made my way to the...ahem...facilities. Afterward, coming out into the hallway -- there she was!  The Yarn Harlot herself!  A typically inane, "I can't believe I'm talking to a celebrity" conversation ensued:
MB: "Hello!"
YH: "Hello!"
I put out my hand: "I'm Margaret." (smiling broadly)
YH (also extending her hand and smiling broadly): "I'm Stephanie".
MB: "I know." (grinning even more broadly) "Um...if you need the washrooms, they're right there." (pointing down the hall)
YH: "I'm okay...but am I going in the right direction [to get to the meeting room]?"
MB: "Yes...right this way." (pause; still grinning) "I have a gift for you."
YH: "I like you already." (grinning back)
By this time we were at our destination, so I ushered Stephanie to the hostesses for the evening and said something like, "We'll catch up later".  YH: "We sure will" (both still grinning).

Okay.  If' the Good Lord had come for me then, I would have been perfectly happy.

Blessedly, though, He didn't...and so I was able to enjoy Stephanie's anecdotes and laugh till my sides hurt and tears ran down my cheeks.

And to give her my wee gift, and  have her sign the book I brought, and tell me how please she was to see it had already been read (tell-tale dog-eared pages and a couple of coffee stains on the frontispiece...)

And to have her allow me to photograph her holding my sock..and to knit a bit on the ribbing...

That was the sweetest gift of all.  Thanks Stephanie.



Friday, October 24, 2014

Where I'll Be This Evening

I haven't a formal "bucket list" but if I did, seeing this woman would be on it -- and that item will be checked off tonight in Edmonton.

The speaker/author/knitter/teacher/humourist and proud Canadian?  Stephanie Pearl-McPhee -- aka the Yarn Harlot.  

I'm taking one of her books for signing, along with a wee knitting-related gift.  And a sock-in-progress.

More later.  A bientot, mes amis!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Parliament Hill came under attack today after a man with a rifle shot and killed a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill's Centre Block nearby.
MPs and other witnesses reported 30 to 50 shots fired inside Parliament, and a gunman has been confirmed dead inside the building, shot by the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms [Kevin Vickers], according to the MPs' accounts.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the Hill at the time of the shooting, but was safely taken away.
Ottawa police confirmed early Wednesday afternoon that the soldier died from his injuries.
*Source: CBC News:
"...Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven..."  
- Jesus of Nazareth*
*Matthew 5:44 - New International Version

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ditching It

:-)  No, I'm not about to "ditch" blogging -- or anything else, for that matter.

"Ditching" is how I spent most of this afternoon.  Remember this wee quilt?  It's been almost a year since it was sandwiched for quilting...and put away.  It was being made for a babe that didn't survive to term.

The good news is that the young couple involved tried again, and baby Keiran arrived safe and sound just over a week ago!  Thus...the quilt has been brought out, it's folds opened and pressed, and the quilting has begun.

"Ditching" is what quilting guru Ann Petersen calls the machine preparation of the lines of a quilt -- from the borders inward and back outward again, and top to bottom -- before the body of the quilt is filled with the desired quilting design.

Using my walking foot, with a variegated (greys to black) cotton thread in the top and black Bottom Line thread in the bobbin, I "ditched" both sides of the narrow border of this Magic Tiles pattern, and then both sides of the main horizontal and vertical lines.  Now it's ready for some free motion fun!

Because the pattern is all irregular shapes and angles, I'm thinking of a 'free-hand' Baptist Fan.  This means I won't draw precise, evenly-spaced curves for the fan; rather, I'll aim for smooth curves but some might be closer than others.  I found a neat tutorial on this by Victoria Findlay Wolfe -- on her blog -- and decided to go that route.

It'll have to wait till Saturday, though; I'm working all day tomorrow and in Red Deer winterizing my car (winter tires, replace heavily chipped and cracked windshield, repair block heater cord) on Friday.  It's the windshield that takes the time...I'll be spending most of that time knitting.

These may be finished, but there's another pair on the needles and two more waiting in the wings.  Then there's a Fair Isle cowl and an infinity scarf to finish...

And so it goes.

"What about the needle felting?" you ask?

I returned a week ago from a three day needle felting workshop at the MAIWA loft on Granville Island in Vancouver, taught by Briony Jean Foy of Madison, WI.  Formerly a lawyer, Briony went back to university in 1996 for an MFA, first working in weaving and then falling in love with needle felting, usually using a single needle, by hand, creating unique patterns and shapes.

This workshop was an introduction to her world.

I'd enrolled hoping to extrapolate the information to work on my embellisher (needle-felting machine)...and I believe I still will do some of that BUT I have also discovered more of what I can do by hand to add interest to my landscapes (my miniatures) and to create other pieces that stand alone.  Suffice to say I have a great deal more learning to do in this medium...but here are some photos of the samples I made in the workshop:

Day 1 - first samples with yarn, ribbon & fleece
on commercial acrylic felt substrates
Introducing grids -- roving, yarn, pre-felt strips
on plaid wool suiting substrate

Free-form grid - commercial felt, roving, ribbon

Day 2 - Leaves of yarn & fleece on commercial felt
Day 3 - a free-form tree: yarn, roving, fleece on same substrate

Day 3 - another tree experiment -- roving & fleece

Close up of tree trunk

Although I particularly enjoyed playing with the roving and hand-dyed fleece (brought from my own stash), I also tried my hand at making a more dimensional shape with a single needle:

Manipulated floral shape on 2 layers of commercial felt

Even more than the workshop, I enjoyed the entire experience of being on Granville Island for the better part of three days.  There are two MAIWA shops on the island -- "Hand Prints", the source for clothing and home decor items, largely from India, hand-dyed and embellished; and "Supply", my favourite place, brimming with bolts of hand-dyed fabrics (usually natural dyes), undyed silk fabric and yarn, hand-dyed yarn, wool roving (merino, blue-faced Leicester, Corriedale...), silk roving, mulberry silk yarn...shelves of books, shelves of containers of dye powders -- madder, marigold, cochineal, indigo, logwood, walnut (to name a few) -- fabric paints, stencils, knitting, embroidery and felting needles, packages of pre-felt sheets -- it's a textile artist's dream.

Also on the island was a silk-weaving shop -- with a floor loom in action most of the time; a tapestry shop; B.C. Arts Council shop; Opus paint supplies; stationers; pottery studios; glass studios; a micro-brewery; restaurants galore -- and of course, the indoor market with every conceivable foodstuff for sale.  The colours and scents were dazzling and a bit overwhelming.

Here is a glimpse of one side of our classroom in the Loft -- the table immediately behind mine:

Imagine that abundance multiplied in the rest of the room...and spilling out into the entire environment...and you will understand why I came home not just with samples and a binder of instructions, notes and resources, but also 3 lengths of undyed silk fabric, 2 skeins of undyed lace-weight silk yarn, extra felting needles, a length of madder-dyed Indian cotton fabric, and a package of merino-and-silk roving in shades of greens and blues...and a head full of ideas, such that I've had to put it all down till I can focus.

And yes, there was other scenery too...but this post is long enough and it's time for bed.  I'll save that for another time.

Before I go, though, I'm linking this to WIP Wednesday on the Needle and Thread Network...Catch you later!

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Mountain Ash (Rowan), prairie sky - Oct. 10, 2014
This weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada (L'action de grace in the French-speaking parts of the country).

As statutory holidays go, Thanksgiving is relatively new in Canada -- having been proclaimed in Parliament as recently as January 31, 1957 -- when I was a few months past four years old.  It's not even a universally statutory holiday here -- it's "optional" in the Maritimes (but I hope they observe it in most places there too).

That said, the history of Thanksgiving in our country dates back to the early explorers -- Martin Frobisher in the Arctic and Samuel de Champlain in what is now Quebec.

Religiously, it corresponds to the English and European traditions of Harvest Festival, and today's service in the Parish of St. Cyprian (Anglican) in Lacombe was no exception, with bowers of flowers and baskets of locally-grown fruit, veggies and preserves decorating the sanctuary.  Special prayers were taken from the "Harvest Sunday" section of the prayer book, and special hymns were selected.  Coffee hour included the leftovers from our Annual Fall Dinner (October 9) and a cake celebrating 40 years of marriage for one of the couples in the congregation -- lest anyone go home hungry.  ;-)

Afterward, I drove out to Sylvan Lake for an early dinner with my sister.  Tomorrow I welcome my daughter.  We'll indulge in ham, yam fries, salad, wine and Saskatoon pie, likely followed by a long walk!

I have much to be thankful for this year -- not the least of which is for good health!  I contracted a nasty cold in Vancouver this past week and am blessed that by this morning, it had all but disappeared!  It means that very shortly I'll be able to fill you in on my MAIWA adventure in needle felting.

Happy Thanksgiving -- and "see" you soon!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

For a Friday: A Few Finishes!

It's rather refreshing to have a few 'finishes' under one's belt when one is flying off on another adventure.

The pies for the church's Fall Dinner are baked.

The dishes are done.

The cat box is clean and fresh.

The laundry is done.

The yard work is done.

MOB is up to date.

Christmas knitting is on track.

"Stepping Stones Socks", pair #2
from The Knitter's Book of Socks - Clara Parkes, 2011
Yarn: Opal Handgefarbt in "Afrika" colour way

And I finished a couple of miniatures -- one for my host and hostess this next week, and one to kick-start a batch for Mirror's new gift-and-antique shop, Gracie D's.

Prairie Peace - High Spring
Prairie Peace - High Spring (Storm Building)
These were the ones I posted about before, under a different working title.  I'm really pleased with how they turned out.  :-)

Linking up now with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday for the first time in ages...and I'm going off to pack. 

See you after The Adventure.  Have a great week!