Saturday, December 31, 2011

Nice threads!

Yes, I found a lot of thread to try for hand quilting, and embellishment.  I found silk perle in both #8 and #12, in solid colours, but I'm really more interested in working with variegated colours.  So, I had to go with cotton perle, and I found a lot of it in quite a variety of colour families--not that I could afford to buy them all!!  But, I could afford to buy enough that I was eligible for a free gift--a very nice and well-sized metal needlecase.  While the silk is a dream to work with, the final result is a very "soft in the hand" piece of work.  The cotton will produce a sturdier piece.  Of course, my other option is to try to dye the silk into the variegated colours I want.
On Monday, my Ravenesque fibre art group is coming for the day, and as hostess, it won't be a good day for getting any serious work done.  No matter how much I want to play with my threads, I'll have to execise some self control until later in the week.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oh my gosh!

I didn't realize how long it had been since I posted.  Not that I've been that busy.  Currently I'm working on the second piece of my Milky Way series. A friend sent me a phenomenal photo of the Milky Way taken in Africa where ambient light is at a minimum, and it gave me pause to reconsider parts of the design.  But the end result is whole big bunch of fairly intense hand beading.  I have been spending as much time working on it as my hands will allow, but also making sure that I do one line of stitching per day on my next little 12" by 12".  This one is mainly play, as I don't expect that it will end up as a marketable piece, but the cloours really appeal to me.  Unfortunately, I'm using a Sulky Blendable to hand quilt it, and while this is appropriate to the design, it's blending in so well that photos are useless.

I did find some more of the twisted silk thread, locally, that I used in the textures piece--and it's in colour which is a bonus.  Something to play with over the next little while.  Tomorrow DH is taking me to a needlework shop that is about 2 1/2 hours away, to see if we can find a variegated thread that is firm enough to create contours in hand quilting-- probably something like a #12 perle cotton.  This is more of an excuse to get away than a necessity, as I think the #12 Sulky Blendable may just do the trick nicely.  But tomorrow is also our 46th wedding anniversary, so a trip away together is quite appropriate.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Latest effort

Part of my self development indicated a study of texture.  While a lighter colour is necessary for this type of work, I chose grey rather than the white or beige most people would look at--what can I say, I'm a maverick.  The full piece is 12" by 12".  The fabric is cotton, Duipionni silk and organza.  The ribbons are cotton and polyester.  The entire piece is densely quilted with twisted silk. Unfortunately the silk thread matches the fabric so closely that the quilting is difficult to see in the photo.  (And, yes, those are heart-shaped yo-yo's! lol)  I love working in this size, and format, and have found that my poor hands can handle this much hand quilting and not much more, so I'm able to use that technique, despite not having been able to do it for years.  Between this piece and the Shaded Grapes from a previous  post, I had wondered if I had found something I could put into show stock.  I got quite excited about the idea, and started to plan third piece, but then realized that I was trying to force a design--exactly what I had said I wouldn't do. So, if the designs come--great, and if they don't--so be it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Summing up the year

On the QuiltArt yahoo group today, they are starting to re-visit the concept of designating a single word as your anthem during the year.  In some of today's postings they are looking back over the past year and examining whether the word chosen actually became a by-word for the year, or if another word would have been more appropos.  I had toyed with the concept behind several words, and most of them would have been right for my year.

2011 was a year of re-birth for me.  A year of stepping back and re-examining my life and what I want from it.  Last December/January I wasn't sure where I was headed, or what I wanted my future to be.  Looking back, I can also see that I wasn't emotionally or physically able to visualize my future, and visualization is an important part of future planning.  Physical health was a bigger issue in 2012 than I had thought it would be

I have not participated in a show/sale since November of 2010.  Now I have seen that I didn't miss the shows and sales at all.  I sometimes missed the income, but most of the sales I participated in were on a "break even" basis, with participation being more inteneded to get my name out there--which is not a bad rationale for it. 

So, decision #1  Shows/sales will be limited to one or two per year, and only if I have sufficient stock to participate, without a mad scramble to produce. 

Teaching has not been good for me for several years.  This past year I did some teaching of  more basic quilting methods, to individuals and small groups, more informally than in the past, and I had much more fun.  Most of these chances came as a result of informal, word-of-mouth promotion.  Formal promotion resulted in nothing!

Decision #2  I will no longer engage in active, formal promotion of my willingness to teach, but rather will rely on informal methods.  I will be willing to teach anything anything I feel capable of teaching, including back to basic traditional quilting.

This year there was the opportunity to exhibit more widely than in the past.  Given a reasonable deadline, this was wonderful, and the process resulted in sales.  Gotta get me more of this.

Decision #3  In 2012 to focus more energy and resources toward exhibitions rather than shows/sales.

What went well in 2011?  I firmly believe that I am finishing 2011 a much healthier person.  Many health issues have been moderated.  ( People my age don't get cured of anything!)

Decsion #4  To make every effort to maintain the health gains achieved in 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Today I was about to get started on the next piece in my Milky Way series.  I had been forced ( snicker, snicker) to buy more navy blue fabric, but luckily it was on sale at Fabricland this weekend.  I was surprized at how much more expensive the price of cotton has become, but then remembered that we had been warned to expect about a 40% jump.  Anyway, as I was cutting the fabric, I remembered the problem I had with bearding with the last piece.  I had been going to try using black felt instead of my normal Warm'n'Natural batting, but then thought of trying to use black batting.  Oh Dear, I'll have to go to the LQS--too bad.  Actually driving across town on a Saturday in December, with snow falling makes it less of a pleasure than the trip should be.

Now, I'm fussy about my batting.  I generally stick to the Warm company products, as I've never found anything to match them for the detailed and heavy machine quilting I use.  Fussy enough that I donated an entire bolt of polyester batting to the charity progam of the LQG, when I realized that it would probalby never get used inthis house!  The black batting I found is a Hobbs blend--the same 80/20 blend that I had wanted for the piece.  So far it appears to be behaving exactly as required.  The true test will come when I start the embellishment--which is usually the last step in my work.  Warm Company products do not take well to a lot of hand work--at least not for me.  For those small pieces that are hand quilted or hand embroidered, I use the thinnest polyester batt I can find, sometimes even splitting the batt to make it even thinner.  ( I readily acknowledge that the problem is probably in my arthritic hands, not the quality of the batting.  Old age is a bitch, but Warm products are dense.)  But this all causes problems when I have a larger, machine quilted piece that requires hand embellishment,  as the Milky Way series does.

So a little experimentation is in order.  I'll report my findings.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Shaded Grapes

This is my response to the Fast Friday Fabric challenge #63.  The challenge was to produce something that demonstrated high contrast with the use of colour--no black and white allowed.  I further challenged myself to only use what I had on hand--no special fabric preparation and no purchasing.  To that end, I chose to use my favourite Low Water Immersion (LWI) dyed cotton Damask.  The background is a LWI-dyed muslin ( I think that time I was trying for black and ended up with the lovliest deep smokey blue)  The cotton Damask dyes beautifully, and the fabric ends up with a "glow" that I've never seen with any other fabric.  I think it must be caused by the overshot satin threads of the weave.  I was quite happy with it, until I saw the pictures and realized how much the two light purple grapes stand out.  But that can happen in a real bunch of grapes as well, so it won't be changed.

I had hoped that the natural shading of the fabric would work to shade the grapes,but it wasn't quite enough, so there is a little coloured pencil in there.  This is also my first finished  contribution to my latest 12" by 12" series.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another surprize

I was at the small gallery today to pick up the other two pieces, that were in the show, and while I was there, another hanging sold. I was stunned, to say the least.  When I got home, I e-mailed my family and friends to tell them of my "happy dance".  A little later I got a short response from a sister, pointing out that both of these pieces have been made within the last 8 months, and questioning whether the two sales indicate that my "sabbatical" has resulted in a renewal of my creativity, given the public response to the results.  Yes, very much so.  I have so many ideas that I can't get them down fast enough.  And each idea builds on the previous ones.  I'm looking, again, at the small "quiltlets, that have received a good response in the past.  These are 12" by 12", original designs, and contain a lot of hand work. they are smaller, as that is the only way I can actually bring a design to fruition, before it is pushed out of my brain by another very valid concept.  There are so many ideas. All of them have to be tried out, even with knowing that not all of them will be worth finishing, but I learn something from every attempt.

I wish I could show some pictures. I took my camera out to the gallery today, but then found that the memory card ( yeah, the large memory-- 252 images--one that I use all of the time) is cracked and useless.  I have a small--10 image--one and will have to dig that one out, but both hangings will have been picked up by their new owners before I can get out again.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Got fooled

I did the test  of how the machine took to FMQ'g through various types and thicknesses of acrylic paint.  Quite fine!  I don't have to worry about that anymore.  So my only decision is colour, and I think I'm going to go with the oil paint sticks because of the sheeen the iridescent paint leaveson thefabric.  The next step was to design and paint the waterfall.  A lot of research left me with the understanding that:
          -you don't see coloured water when you look at a waterfall from a lower position, only if you look at it from above.
          -as soon as the water goes over the edge, it becomes white foam.  There may be areas of slightly darker foam but the basic and predominant colour is white.

Well, glad I did the research, but don't know where I'm going from here.  An acqaintance told me recently to stop obsessing with waterfalls, and to "chill out".  O-k-a-a-ay--didn't realize it was getting that bad.  Artists obessess on regular basis--don't they?

Very pleased to report that one of the pieces I have in a small local gallery has sold.  This was quite unexpected, and has left me with a slight problem.  I had planned to bring the piece home, take it partially apart, re-size it and enter it into another show---the show it was actually made for.  After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to go ahead and make another piece based on the same concept.  I will use a similar colour scheme but, perhaps, some different techniques, and a very different overall appearance.  So the pieces will be different, but a viewer would also be aware that they are part of a series.  It is interesting that anyone who has seen the original piece and spoken of it, refers to it as being black.  It is actually navy blue, so very blue that I did all of the quilting with black thread to try to mute the colour.  Guess it worked.

To help me "chill out", I have started to work my way through a fibre design book.    I'm really not sure where this will go.  Either I will learn something, or what I have learned in the past will be validated.  An interesting process, none the less.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Getting down to business

The two pieces I have in mind are setting me off in a new way of working.  In the past, I've usually had something planned in my mind, and then jumped right in with fabric and paint.  This time, I have a certain "look"  I want to achieve, and have to figure out how to do that.  I thought I had two options--fabric paint which is transparent and acrylic which is opaque.  My brain was telling me that I wanted opaque, but never having used fabric paint over the whole quilt top, I figured that I needed to learn more about it before starting to slap it on my limited amount of fabric.  I bought a video download lesson on painting on fabric.  The teacher uses a fairly thick layer of paint, but then FMQ's right through it.  This concerns me.  I've quilted through a thin layer, of acrylic, but noticed quite a change in the sound of the machine when it hit a slightly thicker section.  So I did a test strip with sections of all of the thicknesses and types of paint I was considering, planning to quilt the strip so that I had a tru comparison.  I have fallen in love with, and are determined to use, a polished cotton, so did a second test strip of the cotton, after it had been washed but before painting it.  I wasn't really happy with the look of either of the paints, thick or thin.  In desperation I tried a couple of Shiva Paint Sticks that I had on hand.  Absolutely perfect!  Exactly the look I want!  Once this test strip is dry, I'll quilt it and then apply some acrylic paint, as I plan to do in the finished piece.  I need to be sure that the acrylic paint will adhere to the dry oil paint.

I have been on the internet looking at pictures of the images I plan to use.  I find that it helps to view a lot of different images.  They tend to blur together in my mind, but the distinctive bits stay, and come together to form an entirely new, and original, arrangement.   In the meantime, I need to do a sample of the FMQ'g pattern that I hope to use.  It is quite complex and practise in indicated!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gotta get Organized!

Today I delivered my three pieces to Gwen Fox Gallery for their November fibre show.  Now, I don't know what to do next.  There are several more shows on the horizon between April and June, but nothing is started for any of them.  I find I'm forgetting what and when they are, so will have to draw up a prioritised list to work from.

A second consideration is that it has been almost a year since I was last in a sale.  It is time to make a decision about my future direction.  I love what I do, but once a piece is finished, my emotional connection ends, and I'm usually willing to have it go to a new home.  The shows and exhibitions are great for exposure and name recognition, but both of those are usually directed at ultimately selling the work for profit, or as a means of promoting a teaching careeer.  Is this where I want to go?  I enjoy teaching, but, if this is to ever be more than a hobby there is a lot of work required.  It takes me at least a month to set up a class.  Then I have to run a test class, and fine-tune the class. Then comes the promotion, which can be time consuming.  So the teaching will always be part of me, but I'm too old to be looking at it as a new careeer.

That leaves sales.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to find an agent who would do all of the hard stuff and "donkey-work" of promotion!!  Leaving me to work in my studio producing wonderful art.  Not going to happen!!  So, I need to give a lot of thought to the sales, and how I can participate in them without loosing the wonderful creativity that I have re-discovered during my "year off".

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Done-sort of

Yes, the FMQ'g is done, the piece has been paintedand the beading is finished.  I had to reduce the amount of beading I had planned by more than half, but it still took 3 1/2--14 hour days to get it all done.  Now I just need to back it and do the facing--which should take most of tomorrow.

But I can't tell you what a horror those 3 1/2 days were. I had a tension headacke most of the time, I wasn't sleeping for worrying about getting the job done, and the house became a dump.  Meals were whatever could be heated quickly from the freezer.

This is for an exhibition for all of November, and then, hopefully, another one next spring, so I can't put up a picture.  The other two pieces are fully finished, sleeve on one, beads and framing on the other.

But I hope I've learned my lesson,and that I never accept a looming deadline.  It is just too hard ont he system, adn on the marriage.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


We all hate deadlines, but continue to expose ourselves to them.  Does this mean we are all procrastinators, and need the externally imposed structure of a deadline to work?  Early in my career, I learned that the best option was to do the job as soon as possible after accepting it.  Now I said that I learned this as a truth--it doesn't say that I do it!  But often I have a piece finished well ahead of the deadline.  I found that to do otherwise would end up with poor workmanship and frustration.  Well, it seems that I forgot this somewhere along the way.

I have committed to three pieces for a show at the end of the month.  One is finished, one is done except for beading and framing ( I have the frame ready and will mount it myself).  The third was planned but hadn't even been started when I made the commitment, a week ago.  My way of working often involves quilting the background before doing whatever surface embellishment I have planned.  So I started fairly heavy FMQ'g on a piece 28" square.  Got it about 1/3 done when I accidently sewed over a pin, on another project, and knocked out the timing on my machine.  Panicked trip to the dealership on Thursday, where I advised him of the deadline, but, foolishly, told him I had a back-up machine that I could use, and Monday would be alright for getting the machine back.

Spent Thusday evening setting up the old Pfaff and trying a bit of practise FMQ'g on it.  OMG!  It is going to be a very long learning curve!  I had forgotten what a chore FMQ'g was on the Pfaff!  Very easy to set up and the needlethreader is wonderful, but it needs an entirely different skill set.  Obviously I have learned the rythym of the Janome quite well and most of the work is beautifully regular and even.  Not so the Pfaff!  So much practise and working on the piece itself.  Have difficulty seeing where the stitching is going because the FM foot obscures my view.  The machine doesn't like my thread and the other spool of black has more of a sheen than the first one and it shows.  So-- much reverse stitching, and with uneven stitching, this is a PITA.  Then today it starts skipping stitches.  Now, I know this is either the timing out of whack or my hands moving too quickly for the machine.  Again much reverse stitching.  Painful, frustrating,  reverse stitching!!  Many bad words were spoken.  Finally, I gave up.  I will work on beading the other piece over the next couple of days, and hope there is enough time to finish the original piece, once the machine comes back.

 But again-- I took on a deadline and every thing that could go wrong, did go wrong.  I am tired, angry and frustrated.  DH has taken to hiding in the computer room, and even offered to run some errands alone today, rather than spend time alone with me in the car.  Smart man!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peer support and inspiration

We all reach the point when we need the involvement of others who think as we do.  In my area there are only a small number of fibre artists, and those represent a variety of interests.  We DO get together about once a month, but only for a couple of hours.  As we often meet in each others' homes it becomes more of an idea exchange and "show'n'tell" session, as it is in the evening and lighting can be a problem..  Once in awhile we get together during the day and take the time to explore techniques, or enjoy each others company over hand work.  But all of these get toethers are more social and gently supportive sessions.  Sometimes you need more.

Last weekend I attended the annual retreat of the Fibre Art Network ( ).  (FAN) This is a group of professional and semi-professional artists working in fibre.  These retreats are not stitching marathons but rather more business-like.  A friend related them to professional scientific conferences where there are meetings, such as organizational committee meetings, the Annual General meeting, and the presentation of professional papers, as well as time for social interaction.  As well as all the associated meetings, we often have workshops on either technical  matters or professional issues such as time management, and other organizational aspects of fibre work. Most importantly, our professional papers involve reports on our work over the past year.

It is the personal experiences and resulting work that is the most valuable part of the retreat for me.  I saw some stunning art, and being able to hear, directly from the artist,  how the piece came to be and why, was a crititcal part of the process.  I also heard how some of the members work together collaboratively, even to the point of organizing small shows in their home communities.

This conference is what keeps me going.  I come home inspired, refreshed, and full of creative ideas.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stretching yourself

Today and tomorrow I'm taking an embroidery class.  The teacher is from France and speaks no English, but many of the other participants are bilingual and are very good about providing translation.  Several years ago I, more or less, left my embroidery behind.  My arthritic hands just couldn't manage the very fine, fussy detailed work that I so very much loved.  Since then I've done some coarser, fairly basic embroidery in some of my fibre pieces, but today it was back to very fine work, with a single strand of silk perle smaller than #12,  through heavy wool fabric layered with acetate taffeta.  It didn't take long until the old skills emerged.  My poor vision turned out to be more of a problem than the work itself. 

It was like coming home again.  Euphoria!  Now, I know that the pain will return if I keep it up.  I'm concerned about having the tolerance to finish tomorrow's class.  But for this small period of time  I'm able to go back to a time in my life that has many varied and fond memories for me

Monday, September 12, 2011


The sunprinting my granddaughters did has been made into tote bags for them and they are quite happy.  But I was left with a pile of painted scraps.  I carefully cut the scraps into small rectangular pieces and fused them onto black, for another quilted piece.  I've titled it "Chaos Theory II: Painting With Children"  Now the pieces have to be stitched down--which will be a real bother (I almost used another word).  Once I got them fused down, the piece, itself,  told me to turn it 180 degrees.  It was right!  I much prefer the hanging swirl, to the grounded swirl.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Painting experiment

Friday I had to opportunity to do some fabric painting.  I had wanted to try a technique described by Robbie Joy Ecklow, where she hung lengths of fabric and dripped paint at the the top allowing it to flow down.  Now, I didn't have much fabric, and I didn't have much time--just a three hour window, before the grandchildren arrived--and I had to work outside.  Got every thing ready and the wind came up--more like a howling gale than a gentle fabric drying wind.  But I persevered.  I think my husband laughed more watching me than I did.  It was quite a battle.  I ended up totally covered in paint--even soaked through to  my underwear.  The first piece I thoroughly wet in a bucket, and then figured out that it would be much easier to hang dry fabric in the wind than wet, so used the hose to wet the rest.  The scrunched up fabric of the first piece produced a texture that the others didn't have, and I may want to re-visit that.  I tried it in four different colour-ways, and am pleased with them all.  It took far more paint than I expected,  but this meant that I got rid of a lot of old paint. 

The next day, while doing a bit of sunprinting with the grandchildren, we found an old light disgarded in the bush.  It is about 12 inches square and is a bas relief of a sunflower. It's obviously commercially made, likely out of a mould.  I've done two painted impressions of it, and am thrilled with the result.  But now I have the quandry of attributing the design.  I have absolutely no idea who did the original design, and I see so many possibilities in the pieces I've made.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Just do it!

All of us have UFO's, and all of the ieces are UFO''s for a reason.  Usually, it's because I can't figure out where to go next on a piece and it falls by the wayside --a victim of procrastination.   Over two years ago I wanted to make a piece for an exhibition sponsored by the Fibre Art Network (FAN).  I wanted this to be a very special piece, and devoted a fair bit of time finding the right image and taking a picture of it ( actually this process took almost two years, as I had a idea in mind before the exhibition was ever announced).  With my sister's help, and to the annoyance of  the driver of the semi in line behind us at a construction stop on Hwy #1 outside Kenora, I got the right picture.  I had it blown up ( Ka-ching!), painted fabric,  and fused a very detailed picture of a rock cut and tree growing out of the middle of it.  Then  layered it ready for quilting and realized that something was wrong.  Dead halt.  Could not figure out where to go next with it.  A year passes and I took the piece to the 2010 annual FAN retreat for a critique, trying to figure out how to proceed.  Not much help, but one lady did offer the suggestion that I needed to step back and do some thread work before I started quilting it.  Good idea, but I'm still not sure how to proceed with thread work.

It's now late August 2011, and I haven't done a thing.  I want to take the finished product to the 2011 FAN retreat in late September.  OMG!  So I just plunged in.  De-contructured the layers and started some basic thread work on the rocks.  OMG again!  It looks fairly good!  I started this over the last weekend.  The thread work on the rocks is finished, and the thread work on the trees about to start.  I have a good idea of how to proceed with the trees and expect them to be finished within the next week ( we're going away for the weekend or it would be done sooner.)  The quilting will be for structural reasons, not decorative and should be quickly finished.  The only decision wll be to face it or bind it.  I want to face it, and think it will look better that way, but with the stabilizer, and layers of fused fabric, the piece might prove too thick and binding may be the only option.

So, was this a case of procrastination, or was two years ago just not the right time to work on this piece?  I have to confess that two years ago I may not have had the skill with thead work that I do now.  There have been two or three pieces with heavy machined thread work finished and my skill level has grown significantly.  But this also proves that we don't know what we can do until we just get down to it, and  try.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

As promised

Here is the finished project, as promised, --both sides.  Several technical problems came up.  It needed two-sided binding, and since it was only an experimental piece, I wanted quick and easy.  Didn't happen.  The binding itself was made according to instructions in the book (why re-invent the wheel?), but the mitering technique described in the book was based on a 90degree corner, not a 60 degree.  Then came the issue of how to join the binding strips for finishing. The origninal instructions had the ends curt off and hand sewn at each corner, but again this was for a 90 degree corner, not 60 degrees.  The technique simply wouldn't work for 60 degrees. The join was especially important because of the bulk of the folded and seamed binding.  After several experiments, I ended up separating the two strips and cutting them to length separately, Joining the ends of each, then  folded the first side in half, and sewed it to the second side, then pressed open the seam according to the original instructions.  Sewing it to the quilt was fairly simple after that, and because the ends were cut at 45 degrees for joining, the bulk was well distributed along the edge of the piece. The purple side was planned as the "B" side, but I'm finding that it is quickly becoming my favourite.

As I said, this was meant as a learning piece.  It's hard to justify, to myself, spending time and supplies for a piece that will never be exhibited or sold. But this sort of activity is essential for any sort of growth, as an artist.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Over the past little while I've been playing with the reversible quilt technique described by Sharon Pederson, in her book, "Reversible Quilts".  This is the technique I had been asked to use in most of the charity quilts I've worked on over the past few months, and I wanted to learn more about it.

She has a second book, "More Reversible Quilts", that explores the technique a little further, but I couldn't afford to buy both, so information in that one hasn't been available to me.  In my exploration I've been using fabric that is mainly from my stash of hand dyes, especially some of my dyed cotton Damask tablecloths.  The cotton Damask takes a Procion MX dye beautifully, and there is something about the soft, well aged fabric that gives the colour a glow that I've never found anywhere else.  Only one of the light blue strips was cotton Damask, but all of the red/purple strips were Damask.  I found that using it this way requires a very cautious cutting and seewing technique.  I buy my cotton Damask at thrift stores, and the used tablecloths often have stains or holes in them, that I have to work around.  Trust me, I don't cut up valuable antiques

I particularly like a low water immersion dyeing technique and most of the fabric used was dyed that way.  However, the darkest of the light blue strips could only be found in a commercial fabric.  The patterned fabric used on the dark side of the piece was originally a pale red hand dyed piece that was overdyed with navy using a Shibori-type technique.  I've had this one for awhile and was glad to finally find a use for it. I think it works very well. 

The following pictures show the trimmed but not joined sections of the piece, both sides. As well there is a close-up of the red/purple Damask strips.

Monday, August 8, 2011

the frustrations of a happy marriage

The kitchen was finished, although we had discussed needing the paint the ceiling.  So, back to the studio, with glee.  A whole day to work, and enough on tv during the evening to accomplish a lot of hand finishing.  That was yesterday.  Today, DH announced that it's now time to paint the living room and hallway.  I reminded him about the kitchen ceiling, and he denies ever having discussed it with me.  But now we're doing that as well. 

My time in the studio had allowed me to plan out my work for the next three months.  Along with doing all of the preparation for a class I'm teaching in mid-October, I'm half of a two-woman team jurying a fibre show for the month of November, hanging it, and organizationing the necessary demonstations and volunteer, knowledgeable docents.  Add to this my plans to attend a four-day fibre retreat at the end of September, and the need to be ready, willing and able to provide any sort of help DH needs, over the next while.

So, today I bought some fabrics to start making embellishments for the next fibre art piece.  It will be simple hand work that I can put down whenever duty calls.  I also bought flexible plastic cutting boards from Dollarama.  These are perfect for making sturdy templates and cost $1.00 each for a piece of plastic larger than the template plastic sold in quilting stores for $5-6.00.  The eyeglass cases are finished and in use, but teaching samples need to be made.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Life takes over

Yes, it has been a long time between posts.  DH has been painting the kitchen, with me standing by and cheering him on.  The job has included the back door foyer, and some of the pantry.  Since DH now admits that he's not 22 any more, it has been a slow process, as I've had to ensure that he paces himself carefully, and the hottest July in years has complicated the issue.  The downside, as far as this blog is concerned, is that very little has been happening inthe studio.

The most that has been accomplished has been a little bit of hand work.  For many years my arthirtic hands and wrists have forced me to minimize the amount of hand work that I do.  This has lead to some wonderful times teaching myself to use my machine more creatively, and to develop my machine skills in a number of ways.  A fantastic period of new concepts and ideas and learning.  But there is also something to be said for the gentle peace that can come from repetitive hand work.  No, I'm not ignoring the tantrum-inducing frustration that can occur when something goes wrong, but rather, I'm celebrating the satisfaction when something is going well, and you are truly "in the groove".

My "groove" used to be found in delicate, fussy detailed embroidery, and applique, and I know I  will never again have the patience to get involved to any extent in either of those.  However, I needed to make myself a couple of eyeglass cases.  Since I must now use reading glasses in several different areas of the house, I have five pair of dollar store glasses that I need to keep track of.  So, given the bad influence of friends who are heavily into crazy patch right now, I've been working on Duippioni silk, with one or two strands of silk thread.  The work had to be small, given the small size of the project. It's amazing how quickly old skills can come back!  The success has caused me to consider trying some other older techniques that I have abandoned, possible the hand applique.  One of the friends mentioned has offered to work with me on an applique project, and this just might provide a counterpoint to the heavy machine work that has occupied my creative life recently.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A rose by any other name---

So, okay--I'm now accepting the idea of re-naming Lucifer's Tears.The original concept was the idea that not all apparent remorse is genuine--that remorse has to come from the heart and soul--and how important it is to be able to recongize the difference.  So--have I actually expressed this concept?  Or have I just produced an image of hellfire?  Any suggestions for a name change?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

time passes

Between  an unexpected, slow but steady, painting of my kitchen, and some time-consuming, and not completely resolved problems with my desk top computer, it's been awhile.  There hasn't been a lot going on in the studio, but, finally, yesterday, I finished the thread work on Lucifer's Tears.  Comments from friends have been mixed.  Some appear interested, and anxious to see the finished product, while another doesn't like it--no discussion, no constructive critique-- just doesn't like it.  This sort of response is hard to deal with, ranging from acceptance, to luke warm to dislike.  I have to really examine my emotional investment in it, and separate that emotion from my technical investment.  The result is 50/50.  This was a technical challenge, and that sort of challenge has always driven much of my work.  But I experience a sense of emotional discomfort, in response to the name, as much as the actual image.  (There was a lot of thought behind both the name and the image.) And isn't art supposed to evoke an emotional response in the viewer?  Maybe it's this subconscious response that is behind the reaction of my friends.

In any case, I'm having second thoughts about entering it in a mainstream show.  It should be finished in the next couple of days,and I'll post a picture then.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prairie Moon

Here is the very basic starting point of Prairie Moon. Taking a picture is so useful.  Already I know that the moon is too small, and that I need to make another one--about twice the size.  No, this one isn't on permanently.  The only further changes will be to do a lot of FMQ'g to turn the chaos into prairie grasses.  The only thread that seems to blend in well, is grey!  Go figure! I had picked out pale lemon yellow, but it was just too strong against the navy.  I'll have to play with it a bit, but I may have ot use dark bleu to define the grasses and then the grey for texture.  The pale lemon yellow may end up being useful in the very highly discharged areas.  I have a feeling that there will be some crystal beads along the edges of some of the blades of grass, as well.  It's a good things that I have a "doodle" cloth to try things out on.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Still dreaming

Some of my fibre art friends were over on Friday afternoon for a bit of casual stitching, and they took a look at my discharged moons. Neither of them could come up with any sort of clear idea of what it could be, any more than I could.  Later I went back to the idea of bamboo and translated that into grass.  If I reduce the number of moons to one ( Duh!) I think I may have a prairie moonscape.

But Lucifer's Tears is still trudging along.  The re-vamping of the background is not yet finished, although I put several hours into it yesterday.  Now that I have an idea for the Prairie Moon piece, there is incentive to finish Lucifer's Tears.

One of my goals for this year of sabbatical was to try to develop a body of work, so that I'm not always scrambling to catch up with myself.  I have two pieces (Silken Blossoms and Inua: Spirit in the Wind)away for the Mancuso show in New Hampshire in August, followed by the Pennsyvania show in September.  My Twilight Snowfall is still travelling with Canadian Content. ( This one can be seen on the Fibre Art Network website )That show was supposed to be a one off, at the Remarkable Symposium in Queenston New Zealand, in May, but has now been booked for three exhibitions here in Canada over the next few months, and may possibly travel to Houston later in the year.  As well, I'll be assisting with the organization for a fibre art exhibition at Gwen Fox Gallery in Selkirk, for November.  While I can't be part of the exhibition, I can have a piece mounted, as part of my bio, being one of the organizers.  I was hoping to use Lucifer's Tears for that, but maybe, I can come up with something better, in the meantime.

There is also a show on the horizon for 2012, in Saskatchewan.  I am considering a new box to enter there.  It's been awhile since I made a box, but I've been gathering bits and pieces to use in one that may ended up being called Silver Seas.

And, of course, there are still at least three UFO's lurking around the studio.  One of those is a major piece, and I had hoped to have it finished before I go the my fibre art retreat at the end of September.  I had it critiqued at last year's retreat, and received a suggestion about a lot ( read a lot) of thread work on it, but now I'm considering using paint for some of the shading, or maybe even Inktense pencils, as I've had such success with those.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wheww--it's been awhile

Still working on Lucifer's Tears.  The thread work, that I had planned, turned out to need about twice as much stitching, which meant that the background quilting needed to be twice as intense, to balance.  I'm pleased with what is happening so far, but I've come to realize that the design is not the wonderful thing I thought it would be.  However this is turning out to be a fantastic learning experience.

I've also been doing a little more discharging and now have a very interesting piece.  I had planned to discharge flame shapes to see if I could produce flames, as I'm doing in Lucifer's Tears, but with more discharging and less thread work.  The process worked beautifully, but the shapes produced would take an awful lot of imagination for anyone to see flames in them.  Actually, they make me think of bamboo bushes. (How's that again!)  So I thought of getting some fabric to match the discharged areas and cutting circles, that I could applique onto a piece of the orginal background fabric  and then applique over the discharged areas to tone down the discharging and create more of a focal point.  (Okay, I'm a little stressed and crazy here.)   Then I figured that I could match the colour of the discharged areas by discharging more fabric, and if I discharged in circles, it would eliminate one set of applique.

Well, the background is navy and the discharged areas a very pale yellow, so when the circles were discharged I had moons!!  So instead of another piece in my Hellfire series, I think I may have the start of the  Temple of the Moon piece that has been floating around in the back of my mind for over a year.  Could this be my subconscious at work.  Now I'm excited, and starting to think/work in an entirely new direction. And isn't that what taking a year of sabbatical is all about?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Studio Names

In one of my internet groups today, an art quilter stated that she had named her studio, and therefore, it needed a quilt ( a sort of quilted banner).  So I got to thinking about how I would design a banner for Mouse Factory Designs.  What does the name mean to me, and how would that be reflected in the design.  I came to realize tht the name in no way reflects the work I do today.  It came about in the 70's, when I was very busy making and selling stuffed mouse dolls.  So I discussed it with DH, and we both think it may be time to re-name the studio.  This would mean re-naming this blog (I'm not even sure that can be done).  But--how do I select a name?

Monday, June 20, 2011


The straight lines are pretty well finished, and I'm quite pleased with them.  My brain is already working on the FMQ'g, and we were off this morning to buy another spool of Sulky Blendable.  Well, one spool turned into 3, and I'm now up to 7 distinctly different colours of thread, including 5 Blendables--all to be used in creating the Flames of Hell in thread painting.  I've not done a lot of thread painting.  I wonder if I should have started with something simpler--DUH!  I've decided to plan it pretty carefully instead of just winging it, as I usually do.  I will sketch out each flame and plan the values before starting to stitch.  There will also be a"doodle cloth" to test out the way the colours work together, before making a final decdison on which to use and where.

The more I work with this, the less pleased I am with the discharging that was done with bleach.  Never again!

Friday, June 17, 2011

More comparisons

Have started the quilting on Lucifer's Tears.  I had wanted parts of the more background areas of quilting to be straight lines 1/4" apart.  This is a pattern I've used quite successfully in other pieces but I ran into difficulty keeping the lines an equal distance apart here.  Previously I had done this using my old Pfaff with its wonderful 1/4" foot.  I don't have such a foot for the newer Janome, and didn't figure out the problem until a fair bit of the work had been done.  ( I turned it over and looked at the back.  OMG!  You can see a lot of sins on the very plain coloured back that don't show up on a more varied-coloured front)  The lines are straight, but the distance varies.  Now, I know that I haven't used this pattern in awhile, and I am probably out of practice, but I'm darned if I'm going to take out all of that stitching!  So now I'm trying to make the lines slightly different distances apart.  With my luck they will all turn out to be exactly 1/4" apart.  So far the piece is looking very dull and uninteresting, but I've only been working on the background quilting, which is really of more structural importance than important to the overall design.  I hope it comes to life when the FMQ'g is done.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The reading glasses work!  But with them on, and not doing close work, I can't see properly and get dizzy, so off they come whenever I'm moving around. Nuisance!  I had no idea how much of my time is spent in close visual work.  But I finished the machine work on charity quilt number 6, and they are all off to the ladies who do hand finishing.  So now I'm working on Lucifer's Tears.  This has involved discharging with both bleach and discharge paste.  I had wanted to compare the results of both and find that I very much prefer working with the discharge paste.  I have much more control and can do much finer work and there is little chance of bleeding.  Inktense pencils have also been involved, and I was comparing them with Daler Rowney FW Pearlescent black Liquid Acrylic.  Thank Goodness I always use a "doodle cloth" to test this sort of thing, as the acrylic ink turned out to be much more silver than black.  However, the Inktense Pencil, once wet, worked beautifully.  I can't show pictures, as this is for a juried show and must not have been displayed in any way prior to the show dates.

It feels great to be working!  There are even more ideas on the horizon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When life throws you lemons---

to heck with lemonade, bring on the brandy!  Had my second eye surgery done yesterday.  The results are disappointing.  My close vision is badly compromised--to the extent that reading, computer work and fine sewing are not possible right now.  With proper glasses, I should be able to continue with all of these, but I must wait, at least, two months for the eye to settle down before pursuing that.  I'm going to explore drug store reading glasses, in a few days, but in the meantime, DH has given me a four inch magnifying glass to use.  No handle, just a big round glass.  It works, and this morning I was able to read parts of the newspaper.  The good news is that I was also able to read the headlines without help, something I haven't been able to do since the first eye was done in March.

What does this mean in the studio?  I don't know.  Yesterday I managed to thread the sewing machine and sew some straight lines.   Before the surgery I had been doing some very fine hand work using both my normal glasses ( now toast!)and a special magnifier.  Once I have the reading glasses, I'll take another look at that.  I hope to be able to work on a new piece, tenatively titled "Lucifer's Tears".  This will involve a lot of FMQ'g, but with a stronger contrast in thread colour than I've used in the past.  There is also a new box on the horizon, and the basic machine quilted background should pose no problem.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Two steps back

Things were going well in the studio, but, now, for some reason, my shoulder has had enough of using a rotary cutter and is refusing any further activity!!  Thank Goodness for a supportive husband.  Yesterday he spent hours cutting for me, and a bit more today.  Yes, I'm making a few more charity quilts, for a total of six, but then NO MORE.  (There are more creative things on the horizon!)  The sewing is routine, but I believe in doing my best work, regardless of the ultimate purpose of the piece.  Is is so easy to slip into bad habits.  I think that, for me right now, the time in the studio is the best possible way of keeping on an even keel.  And I think DH realizes this and is willing to do whatever he can to let me have that time.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Herding cats!

Went to the AGM of one of my artists' special interest groups tonight.  This is a well established group,with formal by-laws and a good executive.  But--I don't think any of them have ever heard of parliamentary procedure!  With many of such groups I find the meetings, generally, chaotic.    Tonight, it appeared that the executive had put very little planning into the meeting, and most of the time was given to general discussion on a variety of topics, often all at the same time. This doesn't appear to be only the case with artists, as I've had the same type of experience with other volunteer groups.

 Now, much of my background is in management, where the idea is that you should be able to finish any meeting within an hour. Since retirement, my experience is now within the volunteer sector, and I don't know if people have more time, but the meetings are much less of an information exchange and more of a discussion/decision-making event.  This is an entirely different approach, and needs to be experienced to be understood.  It's tremendously frustrating unless you are used to it, but--things actually get done.  A much slower process, but more of a collaborative process, which means a better 'buy-in" from the participants.

Thank Goodness I've been getting a little experience with saying "no" lately, so was able to escape involvement when I was nominated to the Board. I am determied to protect my "sabbatical", but the pressures are certainly all around me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Had been really looking forwar to the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge this month, but cannot get a handle on the challenge at all! We are to find inspiration in the realm of Art Deco.  I've been through about half of the internet references given and all I'm seeing is ugly buildings.  There has to be more to this--there just has to be--but I'm sure not seeing it so far.  And this month I had time and space to be working on it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scarey business

This morning I mailed two quilts to Southern California for inclusion in one of the Mancuso exhibitions.  But--considering that there is a pending Canadian Postal strike, this is really a "Leap of Faith".  Even scarier was when the Postal lady questioned the Zip code I had.  Ah well, I have a tracking number, and am thinking good thoughts.  Keep your fingers crossed!

P.S.  I later realized that I had addressed the parcel to her phone number.  Thank Goodness I made it backto the Post Office in time to change the address just before it went onthe truck.  DUH!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

From the ridiculous to the sublime

I worked through some of those ideas.  Then put them on the design wall and managed to not throw things at them.  It was quite an experience and I learned and practised.  I'm not sure what to do with them now.  My art quilt support group( Ravenesque) was over today and they seemed a little unsure of what to say about them as well.  The projects may never seee the light of day, but well worth the time.

Before the ladies came over DH and I tidied the studio and adjacent sitting area.  Some things got thrown away.  Every once in awhile I get into a mood that will allow me to get rid of things.For several years all of my small fabric scraps have been put into a 5+gal primary wine fermentor.  It was full and tightly packed, but now is empty and back in the wine making area.  I found a small piece of a very special fabric that I had bought years ago.  You know the type of thing.  So beautiful or so capable of arousing memories that you can't bear to throw away even the smallest piece.  I gave it to one of the Ravenesque ladies who does amazing crazy patch embroidery, and she immediately had an idea of what she would do with it.

Visits such as this are the highlight of much of my life ( those grandbabies will always come first).  There is a tremendous exchange of ideas, and every one of us learns something, despite all of us having many years of experience in all of these techniques.  But there is laughter, and the fellowhsip that I've spoken about before. We spent some time talking about the upcoming quilt show being sponsored by the  LQG.  The entry classifications have been publicized and we feel that there may possibley be a mis-understanding of the entire genre of art quilting.  But since the classicications have been released to the public, there is very little that can be done about it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


What they say is true!  When you're in a creative slump, just do something--anything!  I've taken articles from Qulting Arts and Machine Quilting Unlimited, and have been playing.  Now the ideas are flowing.  I can't keep  up with them and need to write them down.  Oh, this is wonderful!  I just hope I can work them through and actually produce something worthwhile.  What fun!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Special Interest Groups

Last evening I received a phone call asking if I could give someone a ride to the quilter's guild meeting tonight.  I was tired and cranky and forced to make a decision quickly, so said I wasn't going to go.  Over the past 3-4 years I've slowly withdrawn from the embroiderers' guild and actually resigned my membeship last fall, so I now see this decision about the quilters as, perhaps, the thin end of the wedge leading to total withdrawl.  I have intentionally given up my other volunteer work for the next year.

So I ask, what role do organizations such as this play in our lives?  I have been very active in both groups, spending over 20 years on the executive of the embroiderers' guild and over 10years on the executive of the quilters' guild.  I made a good contibution to both, but also received value for my effort.  At a time in my life when I was a wife, harried, mother, and full time employee in a stressful job, they provided much needed stress relief.  I told my children, who expressed resentment at the four evenings a month I went out, that those four evenings kept me from committing murder.  ( Thank Goodness they were old enough to get the joke)  I learned so many new things, resulting in an excellent grounding the the basic techniques and traditions of both fields. Good enough that I have been teaching both for over 35 years.

Now I have taken that knowledge and am applying it to my art work.  I am using every techniques I have learned in both, plus more, and using all of it,  in creating what can only be called fibre collages.  My stimulation and knowledge development is now coming from wider sources.  The special interest groups I belong to are more regional or national, and/or much more focussed. 

So what is left to gain from the local, traditionally-based, special interest groups?  Fellowship for sure, but my interests are no longer the interests of the majority of these group members.  Certainly I have grown, intellectually, but as I age, I also find my sphere of interest getting smaller.  I worry that if I continue to drift away from some of these organizations, I will end up a lonely old woman working in my studio ( or maybe playing internet poker--Heaven forbid) with little human contact and only a tenuous hold on reality.  This is scarey!

So, while I may still slowly leave the traditional local special interest groups, I think I better do so using a long term plan that will maintain my vision of myself as a social animal.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The week continues

Today I went bead shopping.  I particularly chose stores that I don't often get into.  Found some neat stuff and even spent some time showing a local store owner some of the options available for over-dyed silk ribbon.  Had a marvelous conversation with another store owner about rescue cats and treating obesity in cats. At both stores we ended up talking about the business of dealing in a commodity that must be considered "luxury" goods.  DH went with me, and there were occasions when I noticed the "eye rolling", but he never said his usual "What the H--- do you plan to do with that?!"  He even took a book along and sat in the car reading, so that I could take my time.  Since I was able to do that,  and not worry about what I was doing, I actually spent far less than I have other times. 

The last commission is finished and in the mail today.  Now the planning process for two embroidered evening bags--which will probably never be used--and an experitmental wall hanging is underway.  What a great feeling!

But I must remain constantly vigilant.  The tempation to commit to a show or an exhibition is always there.

Friday, May 13, 2011

This and that

Last Monday evening, my small art quilt support group, Ravenesque, met at the friend's house with whom I recently shared her inherited stash.  She is very generously continuing to share, and during the feeding frenzy (we are such a calm and polite group!), she casually brought out a very nice device that is used to make the thread rings  that are part of Hedebo lacemaking.  These rings were made and used in the 70's by serious embroiderers, not in actual lacemaking, but to add texture to the very detailed and complex surface stitchery that was popular then.  These devices were usually made from wood which had been turned and shaped in a lathe, then polished to a very smooth finish.  The device she had appeared to be glass or crystal, and was very small/fine, for making very tiny rings, and was probably quite expensive in its day.  I expressed pleasure and surprise on seeing it, and this lead to a conversation about the technique. By Tuesday evening I had the whole embellishment part of a new piece planned.

On Tuesday, itself, my DH and I headed out for a three day visit to the USA, with me sitting in the front seat making Hedebo rings using the body of a Sharpie pen for shape.  I made those 'suckers' for three days and 1000km.  We even had to stop at Nordic Needle in Fargo to buy more colours of thread for making them.  I also found the spray adhesive for quilting that I had been looking for, and 15 small matts for pictures at a price I couldn't refuse.  Today, it was off to the sell-out of a local Ukrainian museum gift shop, where there was a significant amount of embroidery thread on sale, stopping at a local rummage sale to buy old jewlery, on the way home.  The embroidery thread I bought will likely be overdyed to make it more interesting, and then used in embellishment, as will the beads recovered from the jewelry.

Can an art quilter ask for a better week?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reflections on a new machine

Last evening my new sewing machine started to mis-behave, so I stopped working immediately and took it in to be seviced today.  Of course, once the serviceman took out a screwdriver, the machine was scared and immediately began to behave.  However, I've had it for almost a year, so left it behind for a routine servicing.  Now, I'm determined to finish the last of the three charity quilts I've committed to, so we hauled out the old Pfaff for me to use over the weekend.  It fits fairly nicely into the table I got for the Janome 7700, and after a few minor difficulties, I got it working. 

I used that Pfaff almost daily for 7 years, and, while we had a bit of a love/hate relationship, I had always felt that it was the most useful machine I had ever owned, especially for an "art" quilter or fibre artist.  There were features of that machine that I really miss on the Janome.  But using the Pfaff again after a year, I am amazed at how much I miss the Janome.  Yes, the Intergrated dual feed on the Pfaff is much easier to use than the Accufeed on the Janome, and the needle threader on the Pfaff is more reliable, but other than that I now know that I'm thoroughly spoiled with the Janome and may never go back to any other machine.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Beaded pendant

The beaded pendant isfinished.  if you remember, this was the evening bag that was converted when I lost the fabric needed to finish it.  I think this has worked well, and I'm quite pleased with the result.  The cord was hand made with perle cotton and floss with beads incorporated into the twisting.  I'm not sure how the colour will be represented here but the cording, which matches the beads beautifully, is done with DMC820

Monday, May 2, 2011

Curved needles

One of the best tools I've ever found for finishing is a curved needle.  It takes a bit of practise to use efficiently, but well worth the effort.  When I started my finishing business, I ordered curved needles from California ( and what a hassle that was!) Several years ago, I found some curved John James beading needles, locally, that work well, but are so fine that they quickly break or loose their curve, and I go through them very quickly.  Well, old age is making itself known and I can no longer thread the little curved beading needles that I like so much.  I tried a wire threader and it worked--once! So one of my tasks today was to see if there was still a local source for any sort of curved needle, and the threader to go with it.  I found some huge curved needles in Fabricland that are sold for tying quilts, but far too large and coarse for what I'm doing. Then, in a little embroidery shop, that I went to in desperation, I found the exact curved beading needle that I had hoped to see.  She also had three sizes of curved tapestry needles, and --bonus!!--stronger wire threaders.  The tapestry needles can be sharpened with a bit of emery and elbow grease, and I'm thinking a size 24 will be perfect.  I intend to try it over the next couple of days, and if they work, go and buy as many as she has.  The other two needles ( size 22 and 20) are a bit too large, which means paying $2.99 for a single needle, but if it's the right  needle, it's worth every penny.

When my friend sold her emboidery shop a couple of few ago, and the new owner had a family member to do her finishing, I had thought that part of my life was over, but business still trickles in.  Thank Goodness, because it forces me to keep my hand in, and now I have a couple of pieces of my own that require a well-experienced finisher.  I know just where to find one, and I know she has some really good tools.

New beginning--Again (lol)

A new month and no looming deadlines almost makes me giddy!  I have a commission to finish a heavily embroidered evening bag.  I haven't been doing a lot of finishing lately, so wanted a practise run before starting.  A beaded evening bag has been hanging around the studio, unfinished, for so long that the fabric to finish it is long gone.  So I have turned it into a pendant.  This gives me the chance to practise my hand stitching and finishing skills before tackling the commission.  It's going well, but selecting something to hang it from is giving me pause for thought.  I have a twisted cord that would work very well, but is a little large for the pendant, and I have a black chain that may be a little coarse. The answer may be to go shopping--and who can resist that?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

End of the art sale

Two of my larger matted pieces sold, so a bit of money coming in.  I only had 5 of them there.  Lots of positive feedback on my work.  This will allow me to consider working with this group again.  The most positive comments came in response to my larger, older work.  Since I'm now free to explore whatever I choose, I may take a look at working on a slightly larger scale.  Some of the other artists reacted well to my comments about doing some work with print making, and it would be no problem to enlarge the size of the basic prints that I start with.  All good food for thought. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Progress and a lighter heart--

Having finished the second charity quilt, and no pressure to finish the third, I gave myself a day off to play with the latest Fast Friday Fabric Challenge. No deadlines looming, no pressure to do anything else,  I had pure fun. I had forgotten how much fun creating can be.  The piece is pieced and quilted, and a couple of leaves printed on it from one of my thermofax screens.( Gotta get some more of those!)  Today a friend is coming over to explore the wrapped stitch --just play, yet again.

But--working on the FFFC piece showed me how much my technical skill has deteriorated over the past few months of inactivity.  Have you every actually analyzed how much of the hand coordination of using a sewing machine is dependant on the left hand?  With a broken left shoulder, I've been forced to consider this, and I'm very surprised.  All of the gadgetry of the machine is set up for right-handed use, leaving the fabric manipulation and control almost purely a left-handed function. This means that you need a good range of motion and the ability to sustain a muscle contraction for a period of time.  FMQ'g and machine applique, when you want smooth controlled movement, becomes awkward and jerky with a left arm that can't sustain that control. I see a lot of practice FMQ'g in my future.  I also found out that a densely quilted surface is not good for screen printing.  Duh!  Today I hope to be able to do some beading and ribbon work on the piece. The picture is only of the basic background.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The inks weren't quite as good as I had heard.  I tried them on watercolour paper, and they worked very, very well--both on dry paper and wet.  I then tried them on Duippionni silk, and found that there was very little bleeding when the brush stroke went along the warp threads, but some bleeding when the paint was applied on the cross grain. The bleeding was worse with the pearlescent inks than with the regular colours. The result on cotton was very much the same , but not quite as dramatic.  I still haven't played with them on Lutradur.  I think I might do a little more with the watercolour paper, as I especially liked the effect when the ink was applied onto wet paper.  I have to wonder if I can create images by manipulating where the paper is wet or dry.

This week the first of the charity quilts was delivered.  The lady coordinating this particular project had asked that I not attempt to finish it, as she knows that I'm no longer capable of hand finishing.  But she has several volunteers who are quite happy to do any hand stitching required, so everyone is happy.

Yesterday I attempted to make a couple of more small matted pieces for the art show/sale next week.  The result was dismal, which only proves to me that, having made the decision to leave the production work for awhile, my soul objects to being asked to do more of it.  So I'm more determined than ever to leave that part of my life behind, for a few months. By coincidence, yesterday a friend sent me a quote that speaks to the same issue.
   "The notion of making money by popular work, and then retiring to do good work, is the most           familiar of all the devil's traps for artists."  Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946)

Now, for those of you who want more pictures, I'm sorry.  Right now I'm far to busy finding myself to be able to find pictures.  But I sure hope that , in the end, the results will please both of us.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Decision made!

No more sales/shows for the next year.  I can't believe what a relief it is to have had this conversation with myself and actually come to this decision.  This gives me a year to play and, hopefully, develop a body of work that I can draw on for exhibitions.  I figured out the $$$, and it makes no sense for me to be participating in these smaller shows, when I barely cover expenses.  I certainly don't make enough to pay myself any sort of wage, so I probably just end up making myself crazy for nothing. And since I don't make expenses, it isn't going to affect my basic budget to continue taking studio supplies out of household $$$s.

Today I bought some acrylic inks to play with.  I want to experiment with them on various fabrics, including silk, as well as watercolour paper.  I've heard that they don't bleed, even when diluted with water.  This I've gotta see!  I read about them in Quilting Arts magazine and talked to the staff at the local art supply store.  Both gave me the same information. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekend sale

This weekend we were part of a high-end craft sale that I had committed to months ago. Since I really haven't had much time in the studio, the stock I took was mainly what had been left from last summer's sales.  I took in enough to cover expenses, and a bit more, so a reasonable sale but not a great one.  Several of the vendors were talking, especially as one vendor had significantly lowered her prices, in response to weak sales over the past year.  Most of those there have concluded that their sales are down as a result of the economy, and no other reason.  Between them there was enough of a history with this sort of activity to make them believe that their prices are appropriate to what they are selling, but, given that this sort of thing is really a discretionary or optional purchase in the scheme of things, sales drop when the economy is poor.  There was excellent feedback on my items, and several people commented on how reasonable my prices were, so this downturn is just something to ride out.

I have no more sales like this scheduled at this point.  ( I have an exhibition/sale later this month, but this is quite a different type of event)  Before I apply for any more high-end craft sales, I need to look at whether or not I'm interested in producing more stock.  No, I'm not--I want to explore my creativity--but--will I continue to participate in sales?  I've been doing it for 30 years.  So, yeah, I'll probably spend a bit of time doing the "donkey" work, but I'm determined to find a better balance between the mind-dulling stuff and the creative stuff.

Friday, April 8, 2011

charity quilts

Today with my DH's help I finished the quilt-as-you-go blocks for the third charity quilt that I've been making.  The tops for the first two are done, and the batting and backing cut, ready to sandwich.  DH is getting very handy with the rotary cutter.  He cut all of the strips and other shapes for the block, and then did all of the trimming, once they were sewn together.  I have other commitments this coming week, so the whole project will be put on hold for awhile. Over the past couple of days, the conversation on my art quilting internet groups has been on how it's relaxing and renewing to go back and do a little traditional quilting once in awhile, and I now know this is true.

This sort of work is somewhat routine and thoughts can be elsewhere.  I'm now convinced that the Doorways piece is never going to be as good as my original vision.  I will pursue and finish it, but the quality just isn't there.  However, this has been a fantastic learning situation, both in terms of the technique and in the capacity of the new sewing machine. So, time well spent.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The value of others

The week was the monthly meeting of my fibre art support group--Ravenesque.  Only half of us were there-- an unusual occurance.  One lady is moving away and won't be able to attend any more meetings, but we only rarely have anyone actually resign.  So there is  a flow to our membership, but every person adds to the strength of the group. 

Because there were only 4 of us, the conversation was more subdued than normal( chaos is normal), and we were actually able to exchange much more in the way of ideas, and explore those ideas in a little more depth.  Two of us appear to be at a cross roads.  We are unsure which direction our future  efforts may take, but we both know that we are about to make some sort of shift.  A third member has acquired a sponsor and is in the process of making a shift ( maybe temporary) to accommodate some of the sponsors ideas ( as artists have done for hundred of years)  Thr fourth member present is fairly new to the group, but not to fibre art.  She is quite taken with the various techniques we talk about, with such ease and apparent familiarity. 

I mention the meeting because I truly, truly believe that this sort of stimulation and discussion with other artists is absolutely essential to the growth and development of any artist, in any medium.  Most artists do the actual creation of art in isolation.  That is; alone, in the isolation of their studios.  What they actually produce is an amalgam of the experiences and ideas that have flowed through their lives, and the support of a like-minded group can only a positive effect. These ladies give me honest critique-- a hard animal to find.  They force me to explore and verbalize my own creative thoughts.  They encourage me to actually try new things and not devolve into living entirely within my comfort zone.  All of those efforts may make me temproarily uncomfortable, but they all help me grow in both skill and confidence.

So, the next step?  Inks.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pushing too hard and paying the price

What a quandry!!  After almost 6 months of very little studio time, I'm feeling the need, desire, and energy to get down there and work.  Part of the lack of ambition comes--I firmly believe--to the Extra Strength Tylenol that I've been taking regularly since since early January.  So I've been making a firm effort not to take any during the day, and I've noticed a marked increase in both initiative and creativity.
So down I go and work my little fingers ot the bone to end up exhausted, and in discomfort.  The shoulder just isn't ready for such demands, and ergonomically, the area isn't set up to reduce demands on the shoulder.  Planning for efficient work flow, and pacing the speed of work both help, but I have to reduce my expectations of myself--a very difficult task for me.  Only a few years ago I could put in 12-14 hours/day of steady studio work and look after my house as well.  Old age is a bitch.

There are three shows coming up, one next weekend which is a high end craft sale, and a more formal art show at the end of the month, followed by a gallery show at the end of May.  The formal art show requires that all things displayed are ready to hang ( read framed)  Anything else can be displayed, in shrink wrap, in a different room.  I had asked for space in the shrink wrap room only, but this is not allowed, and I am required to put up something for display in the main area.  I have a couple of small pieces but they have been shown before. So--having a little extra money-- we decided that maybe it was time to frame the large matted piece that has been under the bed for three years.  Last time I was in to the framer I had a smaller piece and asked for a simple frame.  The price quoted had been over $200, so I was apprehensive about the whole thing, as the mattted piece is big.  Well, tax included the total came to $55.00.  So now I will have a new, large piece for the more formal art show, which is unlikely to sell, so probably, a new piece for the gallery show at the end of May, as well.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fusible web

Problem solved.  I was in Fabricland to buy something else and found the remains of a bolt of paper-backed fusible web.  A very old and decrepit piece of fusible web.  So I asked if they had any more, and she found a bolt in the back for me.  It had been opened( no plastic protective covering) but there were still 22m, and at half price, I bought them all.  I may never have to buy it again, but then I've been through more than two full bolts over the past 4 years, so who knows.  What I had been looking for was the spray adhesive for basting quilts.  In Fargo, I can buy a big can for about $10.00.  Here I found a small can for $25.98.  It's almost worth the trip.

Two of the three charity quilt tops are done.  In finishing the second one ( trimming and squaring up blocks) I realized that I had a whole pile of narrow strips of good quality fabric.  I've actually taught a class on using this sort of scrap, so why was I about to throw these out?  ( And what happened to the same sort of scrap when I finished the smaller top?)  So later today, after I finish a small clothing construction job, I plan to play with these scraps and see if I can come up with a saleable product for the "big sale" next weekend.  I have an idea, but had been toying with the idea of using narrow scraps of fabric paper.  Hm-m-m?  Looks like an interesting day.  And it also looks like the muse really has come out of hibernation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thought the Muse had died....

A friend invited me over for what is to us, the most fun thing two art quilters/mixed media artists can do--explore stash.  She had recently been part of the the distributon of stash from a deceased relative, and wanted to share.  This was the day before my pension cheque arrives and I barely had enough ready cash for a cup of coffee, but you better believe I jumped in the car, bought gas on credit, and hightailed it right over there! Her method of sharing such a find is to slowly go through it, and the first one to share a good vision of how something could be used, gets first dibs on it.

This means picking up something, fondling it carefully and discussing what could be done with it.  I truly believe that there is no more stimulating activity.  It doesn't work nearly as well if you try it alone, as your comments and ideas stimulate the other person.  Out time together is particularly interesting as we each approach  the task in our own way.  I'm driven by colour, and while she is certainly stimulated by colour, I sometimes think she has a way of looking at texture that I lack.  Her work is big and bold and dramatic, while mine tends to be more subdued and formal.  We complement each other very well.

A wonderful afternoon, and time very well spent.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Traditional quilts

Everything has been set up as almost an assembly line. The top for the smallest one has been pieced, and it's bigger than I anticipated.  The organization has been done and the tracing completed for the second one, so it's ready to assemble tomorrow.  In the queue is the Doorways.  I wanted to get all of the fusing done on that, just in case I ran out of fusible web.  For this sort of job I prefer the paper backed fusible, and it's been hard to find around here for a couple of years, but it looks like it's time to start looking again.  Last time I found it in Fargo, but I don't see a trip there in my near future. Usually I buy it by the bolt, but there don't seem to be as many deals around as there used to be.

The third one is "quilt as you go", which means a lot more cutting at the beginning.  I feel so guilty having to ask DH to help me with that, that I haven't yet mentioned it to him.  Today I had to put away a lot of fabric and get more out, which meant tossing around my big Rubbermade bins.  So I had to break down and ask for help.  He's always willing, and never makes a fuss, but the "guilts" get to me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Out of my Mind!

Whenever soemone complains about artistic block or trouble getting into a project, the recommendation is always " do something.  It doesn't matter what you do, but just get busy."
The Doorways has been stalled out, as I just couldn't figure out how to place the door sections on the background,  and I had cataract surgery on Wednesday, which kept me out of the studio for a bit.  On Tuesday, I got together with a small group of stitchers that has met once a month for over 10 years.  One of the ladies was telling us of her difficulty in supplying donation quilts to the local Transplant Unit.  In a moment of insanity, I promised her not one, but two adult size qults.  I had already made a mental promise to make a smaller quilt for the donation project at the LQG.  So I'm now working on three traditional quilts from a commercial pattern--and loving it!  Because of the surgery, I can't lift anything for two weeks, and because of the shoulder, using a rotary cutter is difficult, so VDH ( and that's a Very Dear Husband) did most of the cutting for two of the quilts, and the original friend has offered to help cutting the third.  The project has served as a review of traditional methods, and has made me think about the reasons behind most of them.  A good thing to go over once in awhile.

And with anything like this, as soon as my brain had transferred interest to another project, the answer to the design problem in Doorways came to me. So now I'm off and running!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Today was the meeting of our Local Quilt Guild (LQG).  A pleasant gentleman gave a short presentation on a historically significant quilt made by his grandmother, and also showed some more utilitarian quilts she had made--by hand.  The important quilt he showed had been made over a period of two years as a special project to honour the Canadian Centenial year of 1967--well befoe the quilt renaissance of the 1970's.  The others were very traditional, but here was still the touch of an artist in the colurs and flow of the designs.

Now, I'm an art quilter, or more probably, a mixed media/fibre artist.  But this display took me right back to my roots.  This was the type of quilt made by my grandmother, and both of the aunts, whom I consider mentors.  Quilts made to be used on beds, made out of out of scraps, or, only rarely, from purchased fabric.  But each piece made with love, and care and great attention to detail.  And each piece a tribute to the technical skill of the maker.

So, perhaps I can pay tribute to these women in my past by making sure that every piece--in whatever medium--is made with love, care and attention to detail, and with as much technical skill as I can muster.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some progress

Doorways is coming along.  I started with 6 prints, all of which showed some sort of portal.  I'm designing a surrounding border for each piece that takes inspiration from the type of stonework shown within the print itself.  The four I have finished were sort of bla-a-h, so I attacked them with Inktense pencils, and the result was dramatic--a big improvement.  I experimented with the pencils and found that applying them to damp fabric made the colour too intense, so I'm using them lightly, and then dampening the piece with a paint brush.  More and more I'm thinking that I might only want to use five of the six in the hanging.  I scrapped the original paprika print fabric I had chosen for the background, in favour of a dark charcoal grey, that makes the individual pieces sing.  There is only a small piece of the grey, so this will impact on how large the final hanging will be, and how the individual prints will have to be arranged. Regardless of how I proceed, it will be a somber piece, and not in my usual style. 

Normally, I have the entire piece planned in my head before I eve start working.  In this case I have a general idea, but am really designing as I work along.  While I feel a slight loss of control, this allows the piece to actually speak to me, and forces me to think about everything I do, instead of operating on automatic pilot.  Maybe my muse is coming to life.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One of those days

I'm proceastinating over my Doorways.  Usually this means that there is a problem that I haven't yet recognized, but I think it's because I haven't figured out all of the technical aspects to my satisfaction.  Complicating everything is the fact that I'm trying to do without pain killers--at least during the day time.

Anyway, I spent the morning working on a small needlefelted collage that I have fooled around with when I was first trying to get back into the studio.  Now this poor piece has had many problems.  I spent a fortune trying to figure out what beads to use until I accidently spilled the beads from another project onto it.  Okay that problem solved (I had to scrap the other project--I had no more beads)  Some of the larger beads fought back and I had to subdue them with glue.  I hate to do that but will if I have to.  While hand sewing the beads I realized that the mono print on cotton that formed the background had been pounded into shreds when I added embellishment with my embellishing machine.  I tried to stick everything together with gel medium, and it seemed to work, in a small sample area.  But the next day I could feel a drastic change in texture.  So I sprayed the whole piece with spray fixative--which has worked well in some other pieces.  Tamed the threads,but dulled the finish on the large focal beads.

Are you still with me? 

I wasn't sure if the piece was ruined or not, so I took it to my Ravenesque meeting last Monday and showed it.  I said nothing and waited for anyone to notice the flaws.  Hurrah!  No one noticed.  So today I decided to finish it. I found a hanger that was almost a perfect fit.  Measured everything carefully and cut the piece to size ( I had planned to face it, as I felt that binding would detract from the overall appearance)  Shit! Instead of cutting off 3/4 inch, I cut 3/4 inch of EACH side!  So now, if I added a facing, it would be too narrow for the hanger--and the right hanger is hard to find!

After auditoning every piece of blue fabric in my stash, I found one that worked and was big enough.  The piece  is now backed and bound.

And I still haven't done anything on my Doorways, but to be on the safe side, I think tonight I'll play poker.  Or is that just more procrastination?