Monday, June 29, 2015


Remember those wrapped bundles I put away on the spur of the moment a couple weeks ago?


has produced these:

Bundle #1 - Revealed June 22, 2015
Silk charmeuse, rose leaves and onion skins

Bundle #2 - Revealed June 27, 2015
Silk (haboti?), rose petals

arlee warned me that Bundle #2 might just be dark blobs of colour, so I'm rather pleased that it's more subtle...and there's even a hint of pink/purple in spots:

Bundle #2 - close-up view

Not the foggiest what I'll do with them...but they'll let me know eventually, I'm thinkin'.  One thing I do know: I'm going to do more with my stash of onion skins...maybe even with yarn.  I brought out my wheel today...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

EBMC for June (and Assorted Other Stuff)

I think I'm finally getting caught up from all those days away from home in May and June...but it's been so lovely outside that I've not wanted to be anywhere else, let alone at my computer. Today, though, despite the heat there's a wonderful breeze, so I've taken the laptop with me to a table under the trees in my back yard...ah, bliss!

Breezy days in the Outdoor Studio have enabled me to forge ahead on the hand-quilting I've been doing: a throw that was meant for my neighbours, J&E, last Christmas!  It's all finished except for the wide outer-most borders, which I'm doing in a 2"-square cross-hatch design.  All was rolling along smoothly till I discovered that while 3 corners looked like this:

See the nice "T" across the corner?

One corner looked like this...

The "T" was...not, really.

Worse yet, the triangles on that narrow border were based on that bottom cross-wise line, instead of up at the top as on the other corners...and the cross-hatch lines are based on the spots where the triangles meet the wide blue border...

Ah, well.  A bit of frogging never hurt anyone, and I was able to redo the triangles and the cross-hatching without too much fuss and bother.  There is still a tiny "design element" in the narrow border on that side that had to be inserted to get the matching to come out right...but it's far prettier than that oopsy corner!

When the breeze died down and the sun got too hot, I went indoors to work on my "Layers" piece for this month.  I took EB's advice and stuck with the multiple trees, but discarded any plans to paint fabric or otherwise try to augment them in my first attempt.

That's right: I started over.  Here's the piece with the trees layered and fused on the background:

I know; they look a bit funky.  I had it in mind to crop the piece so I played with cropping the trees, literally.  Then I stitched them down with white thread before I sandwiched and quilted it.

I wanted a very thin sandwich, so I used some wool felt (really suiting, I think; it was a donated scrap) as the middle layer.  I went with a variegated thread that was the best I could do from my stash to get as close to the background as possible.  There's a bit of light green in it which adds an interesting woodsy feel to the piece without being distracting.  First I machine quilted the upper part of the piece and around the outside of the tree branches; then I hand-quilted the centre foreground, which reminded me of a pathway into the woods.  Here's the finished piece, lying on a piece of white mat board:

Wait?  Finished? a manner of speaking.  I decided not to finish/bind the edges because...I found a great mat for it!

Off the Beaten Path (C) 2015


I'm very pleased with the results and have sent the photos off to Elizabeth for her critique.  Meanwhile, I'm linking this up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and going to settle down with my book...Peter Robinson's latest, Abbatoir Blues.  Inspector Banks and his team are closing in on the murderer...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


...for Life.

I have photos to download, stuff to post...but that will come...later.

Lest you haven't figured it out (yet), I am all about remembering.  Paying attention to the past for what it can teach us going forward.

Tonight I am remembering my cousin, George David Rennie.  Like a number of our tribe, he went by his middle name (as did my aunt; as did my mother; as did my father for much of his life; as do I; as does my son)...

G. David Rennie - December 2, 1923 - June 25, 2015
shown here with one of his many great-grandchildren

David was a cousin of mine several times removed...but only on paper.  In real life, he was a close as a 'phone call (he lived his life without a computer. Imagine that!)

I didn't really get to know him till sometime in the late 1990s when my Aunt Alice Rennie -- then, herself in her nineties -- needed to be moved to a nursing home.  She was the typical spinster-tookcareofherparents-nevermarried-nochildren person... As the only child of her oldest brother (baby brother had no children), I was her only heir.  Because I'd married and moved several thousand miles across the country, and because she knew him well (having taught him in first grade) David became the Executor of her Estate, but I venture to say he did little in that time after her death without checking in with me first.

He and his dear wife, Audrey, took me in when I went East to take care of things, to bury Aunt Alice, and later (with my step-sis) to bury my/our mother, and still bury my husband.

(L) to (R): My father, John Gillies Rennie;
my husband, Howard Martin Blank;
my uncle, Donald Frederick Rennie

Such kindness, love and kinship runs deep in many families...maybe in most families.  It is not always obvious in these days of violence and lost souls...but it is true today, in my family.  In the phone call from David's youngest son, Randy, closest in age to me, who recognized that I needed to hear the news of David's death by mouth, from one family member to another, not merely by text or e-mail or Facebook message, but in close as we can get across the vast land that stretches from Quebec to Alberta.

I will call him in the morning.  I will look online for the obituary in the Montreal Gazette.  I will print it off and put it in my journal.  I will donate wherever is deemed appropriate (because I cannot send baking)...and I will remember.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.*

*Christina Georgina Rossetti -  1830-1894

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Beneath the Layers...

I'm still here...although I confess I've feel as though I've been away from home and studio far more than not in these past two months!

Since my last post I've been to Quilt Canada down in Lethbridge -- about 4 1/2 or 5 hours' drive south and slightly west of here -- for four days.  Almost immediately upon my return I worked three days in the shop (rather than my usual two), filling in for my part-time colleague who was off attending the university graduation of one of her daughters.

This past Saturday I spent the day in Stettler, Alberta inside The Cabinet of Curiosities, an art gallery, art supply and framing shop, showing several of my pieces at the annual Art Walk.  The rainy weather put a damper on the turn-out, though, so although I had some lovely inquiries, they were few and far between.  The best I can say about the day was that I got quite a bit of handwork done.  All my pieces are finished as to facings and sleeves, and I made great progress on my June Sock for the Socks-from-Stash challenge.

In between I've been catching up on correspondence, doing Rep work for SAQA and -- at long last -- working out my piece for the Master Class for June.  The theme is (wait for it)..."Layers".

Since the topic was announced I've been pondering trees, layered as the are around here in stands of aspen and/or evergreens...

I began the exercises with stencils bought recently from Joggles. com.  One is of tree trunks alone, and one, of a tree, which I traced without the leaves.

I enlarged the traced trunks, extracted a piece of the branches, traced it separately, enlarged that, and layered it over the trunks, thus, as assigned:

For the second, I traced the tree (leafless) several times, layering one tracing on the another:

I did a third sketch, placing the traced tree over a completely different sketch -- a landscape of prairie.  As it has been rejected out of hand by both myself and EB, I'll not include it here.  :-)

However, here's her feedback on the other two:

First, on the tree trunks:

This one is very interesting...nice stencils  I"m not quite sure  how the horizontal bits related but they make a good contrast to the vertical structures..if you can might be worthily printing the same image sideways over the original image...I think the white trunks and branches looked really good against the deep blue back ground...and the square format is very "in" right now - looks good!!
I had to remind her that the "horizontal bits" were there at her instruction. :-)  Once I identified the source of the "bits" she had more to say...

Identifying the origin
of the "horizontal bits"

Okay!!! thanks...I see it now..I'm away from home on a small lap top and sometimes it's hard to get a really good look at these things.  Looking at that detail what might be rather fun would be to take just the skinny branches, enlarge and overlay them - in the same orientation.  I do like the overall idea.

About the cluster of trees, EB wrote:

 This one would work well with cropping...try cropping right down to the edges of the branches and the trunk....I really like the way the branches overlap and interact.  I'd make this the one to work from.

As a result, I've gone with the tree cluster.  First, I cropped the sketch as she suggested:

I rather like the effect.  Then I played with layers on a batik background, thinking that I might in the end paint at least one of the trees.

I used painted fusible web (Wonder Under) for the top left tree, layering over it a tree cut from a brown sheer fabric (drapery), and then a white paper tree (the paper layer from the WU).  I originally thought I'd just stitch the third tree in a high-contrast thread; now, seeing how low value the whole piece is at present, I might go with fabric (as yet to be selected):

Original photo of layered trees

Same photo - "auto-enhanced" in photo editor (not PhotoShop)

Grey-scale of the original photo
You can see how the middle tree disappears...
I've sent these off to EB, acknowledging the challenges of the fabrics selected, and my thoughts about alterations.

And so...I await her feedback...and link up to WIP Wednesday on The Needle and Thread Network, which I've not visited in weeks.  Come along and let's see what's up there, eh?

And maybe Friday, if the rain stops, I'll get into the garden, where the peonies are in bud and the roses await...

"Never Alone" Rose

Saturday, May 30, 2015

EBMC - May Finish!

To quote a fellow-student in this year's EBMC, "This piece very nearly landed in the bin."

I spent most of yesterday with the re-vamp of my May piece for the "Landscape" theme, and the quilting was a struggle.  It was my own fault, really;  I decided to try a slightly different tension for my walking foot (recommended by the instruction book that came with my sewing machine) and it looked great on top -- but underneath, a mess of small loops where the top thread was pulled down off the surface.  Sigh.

Reverse sewing was the only way out.  Rough-edged fused strips became really rough-edged and bits of frayed thread were all over the surface.

(cut here to weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth....)

Cursing gave way to a frustrated yell to the Heavens...recognizing I should have gone with tried-and-true...

Eventually, the thing was quilted:

Ready for trimming and squaring up

Here's the faced piece on my design wall (facing still has to be stitched down but at this point, I consider it ready for submission to EB):

Wide Alberta Sky (C) 2015
26.25" W x 23" L

And a detail:

And EB's feedback:
I think this came out very well...especially the detail!!   The little hint of gold does just make it!  A LOT better than that darned shed!!  That's because its shape is in keeping with the other shapes so it is unified, but the color is bold and that gives one the contrast.
With hindsight the full version would be a lot better if the sky wasn't so obviously stripped...if instead you had pieced the sky in a similar fashion to the land...the vertical joins stand out very boldly and really for no good reason.
I do like the canola!!!  Yes when I say rape[seed] down here people look at me very funny...interesting though both here - in Georgia - and in the UK, it's a bold chartreuse, never gold - I've got it in a least one quilt and several paintings!! 
The slough looks okay...but would have been better had it come further across...or come and gone (as it were) like the canola.  Remember you don't have  to make it exactly as it really is!!!
But you have caught the sense of the rolling plains and the wide wide sky which is very nice indeed.
All in all, I'm satisfied.  I take her point about the pieced sky, which I created because I wanted to generate movement in the sky and because, darn it, I wanted a variety of blues and didn't have enough long yardage, so I used shorter bits!  (grin)

Any thoughts?

Linking up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and taking a break with some knitting.  I have a sock to finish -- and the Socks-from-Stash challenge deadline is tomorrow night!

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Distracted Gardener

When I first planted the roses, I'd cut some of the longer stems and put them in a vase.  To do so, I'd had to trim a few of the leaves.

Light bulb moment #1: why not try a cold eco-bundle with those leaves?  

Going partly by instinct and partly by reference to India Flint's well-known book on the subject, Eco-Color, I tore a strip off a piece of white silk charmeuse, dampened it by spritzing it with a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water, laid out the rose leaves -- and some onion skins just for fun, spritzed some more, bundled it up and tucked it away in a glass jar.  I promised myself I wouldn't unroll it for at least a month and marked the date on my calendar (June 22).

Vinegar spray, onion skins, roses and bundle

Fast forward a few days. 

The better part of today has been spent nourishing the last of my flower beds, and planting cosmos, poppy and marigold seeds.

In between spurts of digging, weeding and spreading manure/soil mix, I'd sit on the bench in my Outdoor Studio and knit a bit or sip coffee or whatever.

That was before the breeze came up...and began to dislodge petals from the flowers on the overhead branches of the ornamental fruit tree.

Light bulb moment #2: why not make a bundle out of those falling petals?

This time I took a shorter, wider piece of silk (not charmeuse, but I can't for the life of me tell you what it is.  Maybe habotai.), laid it on a piece of plastic, put the layers on the cushions of the bench with a weight on each end, and let the petals fall where they may.

One of the roses -- a Campfire -- was shedding its petals so I added them to the mix (the yellow bits in the photo).  

When I had enough (and the breeze threatened to ignore the weights), I spritzed it all thoroughly, bundled it up and added it to the jar, again noting the date on my calendar.

"Eco-bundles" 1 & 2

I'm neither a skilled nor frequent practitioner of 'eco-dyeing', so what turns up will be purely due to time and serendipity.  What I'll do with the resulting fabric remains to be seen.  ;-)

Note to self: find something in which to collect rose petals...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dew Worms and Dandelions

This week's been spent re-decorating my Outdoor Studio.  In other words, I've been working in my yards (front and back) and gardens.  Now in my 7th spring/summer here, I've finally found the energy and determination to take time to enrich the soil in the beds, dig out unwanted plants and do a general garden improvement with steer manure and peat-moss-heavy "potting" soil (recommended for beds rather than pots.

First up, the dew worms (aka night crawlers).  Big, ugly things apparently -- I haven't ventured outside in the dead of night to view them, nor do I plan to!  There's no cure that won't sicken or kill plant life, pets or worm-eating birds.  According to a venerable nursery in Lacombe, they move about in a seven year cycle, and just about everyone in this part of Alberta has or has had them dwelling under their lawns.

They are particularly partial to shaded, aged lawns with a build up of thatch, which undoubtedly describes my front yard, on the north side of my house.  The recommendation? Magnesium apparently helps the grass re-grow where the worms have been, so...sprinkle Epsom salts (dry) on these spots from time to time, keep the lawn mowed, and with 'em and let Mother Nature take her course.

Pretty much the same thing can be said for dandelions...except they are a bit prettier than dew worms.  I live next to a vacant lot and across from a swath of County-managed green space that lies between the public sidewalk and the street.  Dandelions come with the territory.  Every spring I wage a short battle against them with a dandelion fork; after that, I just mow over 'em.

After mowing front and back, I moved on to the garden beds...where I tackled two grass-infested patches of yarrow, and an unwanted bush.

The "bush" was actually an off-shoot of one of my ancient ornamental fruit trees.  Clearly the prior owners thought it would make a nice shrub.  Alas, in recent years it failed to flourish, produced few flowers and no fruit to speak of, and lots of "sucker" branches.

I'd had enough; this year, it had to go.

I dug and dug and dug around it, till I got down to the root system.  There were 5 main roots that needed to be cut in order to remove the thing -- and amazingly, I managed to cut 'em using only my large pruners!  Then I huffed and I puffed...

And I pulled the thing out!

I rewarded my efforts by replacing the yarrow and bush with four roses (yes, hardy to Zone 3).

Here's a close up of one... from the "Never Alone" Rose collection (red opening to creamy centre):

Isn't she lovely?
I also bought a yellow "Bill Reid" rose (named for a Canadian Haida artist and jeweller), a two-colour (yellow to deep pink) "Campfire" rose that honours Canadian painter, Tom Thomson, and a red "Hope for Humanity" rose, honouring the Centennial of the Canadian Red Cross but used as a fundraiser for various Canadian charities, including shelters for the homeless etc.

The rest of the week was spent clearing my veggie plot of invading "jolly jump-ups" and wild poppies (I left a few) to make room for my raspberries to spread, and for the planting of tomatoes, lettuce, lemon balm and mint, as well as planting hollyhock, forget-me-not, cowslip and marigolds in my south facing bed under the back window.

We really need rain, so I'm hoping for the forecast thunder showers to actually happen mid-week...

Then maybe I can get back into the Indoor Studio and finish my EBMC piece for May.

Oh, yes, there was feedback on my initial effort:

The sketch is really nice, it's interesting and the line quality quite beautiful...but when you put it into fabric you're being way too literal - as you noted!   I think maybe you should limit yourself to just one color, or at most two - and use many different values of that your ideas are working, your sketches are working...but the color and fabric choices are not yet there.
When you come to translating the sketch into fabric, if the sketch is good...don't change it.  BUT first make a copy of it and shade in the values.  In the sketch above I see wonderful flowing lines...but they're all straight in the quilt...the barn is at a slight angle to us in the sketch, but not in the quilt, the furrows really make the sketch, but are not evident in the quilt...everything is stiffer and straighter in the you've lowered the horizon to the exact mid point which is much less interesting that the high horizon you have in the sketch.
So a really great sketch - and I like the two (or three?) of them put together as you have....just square it off of course - a really great sketch which totally shows your love of your country....
So square it off, make a copy, do a value study - or more than one - choose ONE or TWO colors, colors that you have a lot of different values in...and follow the sketch as literally as you can. and you'll have something really wonderful!

I've not done the shading in of the values as suggested.  Instead, I scrapped the entire piece and have returned to piecing skies and flowing hills -- several values of blue for the one, and greens for the other.  Wondering if a pop of another colour is needed...but it's not over till it's over...

Stay tuned!

Linking to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and going back out to the garden with a cuppa coffee and a good book.  See you later!  :-)