Saturday, January 24, 2015

"faith" and what???

can't believe it's been ten days since i did a blog post... last week was a busy one for me with classes and work and the week before even more so
back to normal now though, and still a whole week left in january

for some reason, for me anyway, january never rushes by - it goes at it's own pace and i feel as though i truly get the whole month

things always get different in february - perhaps it's "short month" syndrome...

anyway, in between all my teaching prep i'm puttering slowly at some techniques karen is demonstrating in "swathed in stitch"

working with cross-stitch letters on silk with waste canvas

in deciding on what letters to use i thought perhaps it would be easier if i had a word, rather than just random letters with no particular meaning
not one of those new year's chosen words - been there, done that - just a word to focus this piece on

and since i had already decided, against my nature, to just make samples to put in a ledger i knew i needed something that would help me focus on that
'cause i always seem to think if i'm stitching something, it actually has to be something when it's finished, like a bag or a wall-hanging or such
this time, i just want to do the work and mount it as a reference i can refer back to

so i chose "faith"
i need to have faith in the process and that through it i will get where i want to be
faith that if i do the work, the ideas will come

faith that even though i do not like stitching on waste canvas at all

at all

at all

at all

it will be worth it in the end

 and of course it was

i do love the results...

 my "f" seemed a little plain though so i got out some coloured pencils and began doodling a flower on my chart - i think i have it figured out but want to add two more green stitches, just enough to spread the flower out from the boundaries of the letter

 but i am thrilled all the same

transferring the letter tracings to my water-colour paper, thinking of what to do with this next, i decided if having a word was useful, then a phrase or a quote should be downright beneficial

so i scoured the internet looking for faith quotes - however, i soon discovered most of them are about the feeling of faith rather including the word itself

i did find one though

"all you need is faith and trust
and a little bit of pixie dust"

i like it a lot - it seems very "me"
thoughtful with a hint of sarcasm?
or realism???

regardless i do like it very much and now i'm thinking on pixie dust - for me it has connotations of little bitty sparkly bits

in the meanwhile i'm down for the count with a nasty flu so am doing very little - just some gentle stitching

and speaking of words, your little word-hearts are piling up and should be in your hands by mid-february

just in time...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

breaking the rules...

well, maybe they're more like guidelines...

just when i said i didn't do darts or facings - well, seems i can after all

four darts, two on the front, two on the back

60+ hand appliqued circles

and more french knots than i care to count

hand-made handles

facings all around

 it wasn't my plan to quilt it by hand - i really intended to do it by machine... in the end though, it begged to be done by hand

and even though it put me behind by three days, i'm so glad i did

i'm also glad of the facing - it makes the inside so very neat and tidy

and did i mention the piping????
i don't do piping either - but it seems that's another personal sewing rule out the window - i piped it and i love it

the interesting thing about all of these techniques is that they really aren't complicated - not even time-consuming

i'm puzzled as to why i resisted them for so many years
 i remember well my thirteen year old self getting frustrated beyond belief with zippers and facings - needles pricking, hands sweating, uneven stitches, ripping out seams over and over again, re-positioning, pinning and yet more pinning

trying so hard

 sometimes i was afraid i would ruin the fabric with all my un-picking and re-sewing

i even nick-named my seam ripper "jack"

fourty years later this bag went like a breeze - read the instructions... follow the bouncing ball

pin, baste, sew
you would not believe how much basting i did whilst finishing this bag

i basted the fabric to the handle, the handle to the bag, the piping inside the fabric strip, the basted piping strip to the bag, the facing to the bag - i basted all of that and then some
holding everything securely in place, those large stitches took barely minutes to do...
and from there it was zip ah de doo dah done!

i just might be a convert

Friday, January 9, 2015

all of everything...

writing in my journal the other day, writing of creative desires, it occurred to me what an endless list it seemed to be
expanding and contracting, year over year, one thing coming off, two more added on, wondering when...

i wrote then that i felt as though i wanted to do all of everything

 the little piece i am working on these days feels like something that has all of everything i like to do...

the pattern is "drunkard's path" - irregular shaped pieces forming irregular shaped blocks

i tried curved piecing and hated it - even by hand, with these tiny pieces, it's a pain
so i folded over the seam on the small pieces and appliqued them on top of the larger - much, much easier to do

this will be a small tube-shaped bag
the design is by yoko saito

once all the piecing and joining together was finished, the embroidery began
curving chain stitch over every seam

beginning with the straight ones...

followed by the curved
using cosmo embroidery floss for the first time - love it
so smooth, with a soft sheen
no tangling at all, none

 i've been embroidering over the seams of traditional patchwork for almost fifteen years
my stitches of choice were usually feather, cretan or herringbone, but i'm thrilled with how the simple chain stitch looks here with the hand-dyed thread... colour and stitch meandering along

 and now i'm at the quilting stage - tiny furrows, in random directions
curving, cross-hatching, straight lines and diagonal ones
adding yet more texture
adding strength

itching to remove the basting thread to see how it really looks

random shapes, piecing, applique, embroidery and quilting
this piece ticks all the boxes

nothing about it is perfect and yet in it's togetherness, in the sum of it's parts, it's everything it needs to be...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


as one year draws to it's conclusion and the next is poised to begin, I like to think on things a little

looking back, looking forward

i must admit i do prefer beginnings most, but sometimes in looking back one can see forward just a little better

this past year has been one of my favourites ever, a feeling that stems from inner rather than outer factors
and that in itself makes me happy indeed

it was one year ago i set out with the intention of writing every day - and in the whole of the year i have missed just one day
i've grown to love that daily ritual, sandwiched between morning coffee and breakfast...
words of wonder, of wisdom, wishing-words, great plans and idle thoughts, a little stack of notebooks growing ever steadily on the shelf in the closet

a feeling of contentment has fallen over me that grows just as steadily - "all's right with the world" echoes in my mind almost daily... lucky me

i have no guiding word for this year, no one thing I want to improve upon, nothing weighing on me 
i'm just thinking about what i'd like to do more of

more experimentation in my creative pursuits, more original work

like this dragon-scale smacking i tried but haven't done any more of since discovering it

making more useful things like this knitted hot water bottle cover - i did manage to finish it in time to be a christmas present for someone special… next year, i want all my gifts to be hand-made

i want to create a garden like this one, growing my own food finally, with enough to share

 i want to pore over seed catalogues while there is still snow outside!

read more, learn more: fashion, clothing construction techniques of styles long gone, embellishments like fly fringe and sequined beading
i want to learn more about fabric, such as toile and embroidery techniques - tambour work being one. sequined beading being another

walk more in green spaces
writing poems of green

i want to finish what I've started, enjoying processes but bringing projects to their conclusion, taking knowledge and discoveries forward

i'll be spending more time with friends and family - I've given up one job and cut back on the other, adding capacity, making time
since this earth wasn't lucky enough to get a thirty hour day i've resorted to finding my own ways of adding the hours i need!

nothing remarkable, nothing life-changing, nor dramatic
small enhancements for an already perfectly wonderful life

just enjoying the moments; moments of joy, of peaceful quiet reflection, of eye-opening discoveries, of laughter, of bliss

and i hope for you that you also have a year full of many special moments, of wonderful things

happy new year everyone!

- i forgot about monograms… i also want to learn more about monograms, and then there's exploring texture, and of course, fabric manipulations, not forgetting free-form piecing 
and remember there's also working with gimp and braid...

Monday, December 29, 2014


continuing along...

working with these soft, pale neutrals was soul-soothing during some very hectic days in early december... days when it seemed i would never get to the end of any to-do list

the pale beauty and subtle colour shifts captured my imagination... somehow the minor differences became amplified as i paid closer attention to each of them

as before, you begin with the taupe colour wheel, arranging the beige-tones and grey-tones, finding the "accents" and determining grey-beige proportions
This one turned out to be fairly equal, but I loved how the colours drifted into pale purple, lending themselves to the naming of the collection as a whole


which easily led to a shape to explore

squares stretching to diamonds

as before, all pieces cut without measuring
pieced by hand

then moving on to measured pieces, layering
Introducing darker values

i could fiddle with these colour collections for a long time, there's just so much to explore, to play with

i've had to resort to writing my ideas down, but it's hard to capture the excitement i feel - i seem to be able to record the mechanics of my "inspired" ideas well enough, but looking back on some i wonder why i was so excited about them at all

they lose their shine, the sparkle's gone and sometimes there's barely a dull sheen left

as if my diamond in the rough became an opal

so as this year comes to a close that's one of the things i'm going to work on for the new year
perhaps i'll make it easy on myself and make it the only thing
a focus on better organization and recording of ideas and plans
it may sound a little boring but i'm of the opinion it will be an exceedingly worthwhile venture

especially if it helps me sort out the ever-increasing pile of scribbled notes and sketchy diagrams i'm continually riffling through

time to make some plans...

Friday, December 19, 2014


working on this book still, following the path of yoko saito's taupe colour theory but adding in a dash of me here and there

a painted card purchased in oregon last summer has the perfect colour mix

part of it on the cover, the leftover parts inside

her theory is based on creating the perfect mix of grey-toned and beige-toned fabrics
creating a colour wheel, complete with light and dark accents

because her quilted items always incorporate embroidery I'm looking for ways to bring that element into the mix
after all, it's what drew me to her work in the first place

each colour group has a shape
this one is squares and rectangles - it's my way to make them regular, hers is to make them irregular
i kind of like the randomness of that

it's stretching me

pulling me in new directions
trying hard to be imprecise 
it's a lot harder than one might think!

i've been doing this piecing by hand and it has reawakened a desire for "slow" quilting in me, where i piece by hand, cutting with scissors, nothing perfect, no matching, letting it come together as it will... a slowing down

and then there's hand-quilting...

what i'm liking most of all is taking the time to play with my fabric, play with colours and play with shapes... I guess what i'm saying is, i think i've found a new playground...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

making magic

fabric and thread is a magical combination for me; thread joins fabric shapes to create something wonderful, but real magic happens when the thread lies on top...

when i first started on this circle bag i wasn't so sure about it - the picture in the book is lovely indeed but my few bare appliqued circles, all in light beigey-greys - well, it was a little barren

so i began with embroidering just one, and then another, and the more i did, the better it looked


the texture of the stitch, and the texture created by the slight distortion of the fabric beneath it

 keen to see how each fabric would change, i embroidered until the wee hours the other night...

and see those faint blue lines?

those will be darts

there goes the "no darts" rule...

i'll let you know how that works out

 after the circles comes hand-quilting

hand-quilted circles around each applique, then lines swirling off into the spare emptiness of the upper section

 still more circles need to be added but like i said, i couldn't wait to begin the embroidery
i kept telling myself i needed to see how they would look in order to balance out the colours... yeah right - i wanted to get to the magical part...

this bag is a sample for a new class of mine

  based on yoko saito's style of japanese quilting

exploring taupe colour arrangements
discovering shape
adding embroidery

i've been working in these colours for years, and much as i thought i knew them, there is so much still to learn

her taupe theory book breaks it down, building a taupe colour wheel, balancing the greys and the beiges, intermingling them, adding accents

 the first one i'm tackling is one she calls "nut-tart"
rich greens and browns, fawn, grey and pink

 the diagram for the blocks is a log cabin but her samples are actually courthouse steps

i chose to make mine the same
freely cut, adding angles where they wouldn't normally be, creating an orderly haphazard look - that was a challenge for me!

deciding to extend her ideas with my own, working with squares and rectangles together and separately

it never ceases to amaze me how different fabrics look when cut into tiny pieces

playing now with the nine-patch

a stack of fabric squares
"grown-up building blocks"

 in her book, ms. saito stresses you cannot truly understand a colour unless you think of it also in terms of scent, taste, texture, hearing
i'd never thought of it that way before, at least not in terms of fabric and quilting

i love it though

it's a wonderful, eye-opening, magic-making way of looking at colour

and i am spell-bound