Monday, April 13, 2015

sunlight white

the truth of a colour...

when this idea struck me it seemed simple enough but as i delved into preparing for this first in the series i realized it really won't be that simple at all

-that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality... but so much of what we believe about colour is rooted in perception rather than in science - at least, for most of us that is...

the full spectrum of colour theory, scientific colour theory, can range from daunting to boring to fascinating - but colour is also emotional, full of meaning - cultural meaning, both present and past

 as in many things, to understand a colour is to take a trip into history - an interesting look at our own journey through the ages - what a colour meant and what it means today - what it is, and what it is not

far too big and broad a scope for what i intend so i hope you don't leave disappointed...

i'm beginning with what is called the colour that is an absence of colour...


 i always understood that to be the truth about white but it seems that is just too simple

i like this one better...

"white is the colour of sunlight"

the colour of truth, perfection, honour, cleanliness, purity

at one time also the colour of mourning

b5200 is the whitest of the dmc stranded cotton embroidery threads
 {viewed above and below}

whiter than "blanc" even

which itself looks pretty white, when viewed alone

 illustrating a perfect colour point - colour is relative, and what can be said about the colour of an object when viewed alone may change when it's placed alongside of another version of itself

colour is not absolute and so, you will find no absolute truths in these words

just a few things i have learned along the way

{above and below}

both colours above look white when viewed separately but when placed together, as you see below, there is a difference

 i suppose you might now say "white and off-white"?

vanilla, eggshell, ivory, soft-white, meringue, froth, on it goes
{and why do they say "vanilla" when vanilla itself is brown????}
{{i told you colour is complicated!}}

 then there's #3865
my favourite of the dmc whites

different again... perhaps a little yellower?

and then #3866, which is just slightly darker - viewed together you would most likely pick the top one if you were asked to point to the white one

when people come in to the store in search of white thread they choose one of these - oddly enough b5200 is chosen the least - not because it isn't thought to be the whitest, but because it's thought to be the harshest

when i'm working with vintage laces, they seem to range in colour in much the same manner as the skeins above... when i looked through my lace i found only two that were as white as b5200, all the rest were varying shades

white was not the colour i was going to begin with but last night i finished the cross-stitched piece you see below

on white silk, using waste canvas
{the layout of the letters is a mess as i'm going to cut it up and sew it back together but that's a different story for another day....}

i began the stitching with one white and somehow got mixed up and switched to another - as i was stitching on "white" waste canvas, in evening lamp-light, i couldn't tell until the whole thing was finished and the waste canvas removed... in the evening light the subtle differences were lost to these poor aging eyes

the piece below is made up of various strips of "white" cloth and "white" lace

the first image taken with the stitchery placed on a tan cloth for photographing, the one beneath on a white one

what's underneath definitely casts it's own shadow

 below is a sample made up of three layers  - white silk, white paper and white lace - all slightly different versions of white; layered, slashed and stitched, all melding together into a new white

 next is the same idea except instead of being layered and slashed, the lace and silk were cut into bits and stitched in place on top of the acrylic painting paper - here you can easily see the differences in shading, they haven't melded together so much - maintaining their differences, staying separate

clouds and snow appear white to us because when the sunlight enters them, very little of the colour spectrum which is contained in sunlight is absorbed, so ultimately, the sunlight is reflected back to us

thus snow and clouds are the colour of sunlight... the same effect is found with quartz or limestone beaches - they too are the colour of sunlight

and this is just the tip of the iceberg...

Saturday, April 11, 2015


bits of lace adrift on a patch of grey silk...

it's such a rough, slubby silk it reminds me of old weathered wood

the kind where the elements have completely stripped away any finish it might have once had, leaving the grain of the wood rough and raised

 the colour of this silk is to me reminiscent of driftwood - the oldest kind of driftwood, where the water and sun have bleached away all the brown and all you have left is a ghost-like remnant of what it once was

rummaging through boxes, bottles, and jars
{i did say that sometimes my creative junkets feel somewhat like science experiments!}

i found some special buttons and charms, gathered from travels here and there, safely tucked away in little labelled pouches and envelopes
{another storage system that could use a re-vamp - perhaps i should take the whole "science" thing further and catalogue it all - that actually might be kind of fun, now i think about it...}

along with all those shiny things, i decided to add some ribbon embroidery, in the form of a tiny rosebud on one section and an accordion rose on another

delicate french knots enhance a curve whilst a small rock adds a contrast of weight and substance... pretty and rough, delicate and heavy

 i really like it - love it actually

it took three hours to add these nine bits
all of 30 minutes to actually sew them in place - 2 1/2 hours to decide on them

the metal leaf charm is from a bracelet bought in a charity shop in stow-on-the-wold
i bought it for parts...

the little button, from a vintage button shop in sisters oregon

the lace bits?

some are very old, others rather new
some were already in tatters, some i had to tatter myself

as i worked on this i had the nagging feeling it reminded me of something, especially after i decided the silk reminded me of driftwood

thinking back, of flowers on driftwood, i remembered a trip we once took to visit my mom's parents who lived in rural alberta at the time

they owned a gift store in the tiny town of vauxhall, the front being the store and the back being their living quarters

i loved walking down the aisles, looking at all the lovely things, many made by my grandmother herself
my favourites were the flower arrangements - beautiful silk flowers and shells on interesting pieces of driftwood - the wood chosen for uniqueness of shape and colour, the flowers, perfectly nestled in the exact right place

on one of the days we drove to the old man river to collect more driftwood for grandma's supply
i was old enough to want to help, young enough to be told to stay away from the water, entranced enough to wish i could keep what i found -

i've thought of that day, those arrangements many times over the years and to this day i have a box full of driftwood in the spare closet

it's been used in flower arrangements, made into canes for elves, adorned with colourful threads and bells, fashioned into a crooked little fence for my herb garden - the list goes on

i think of my two grandmothers quite often - my dad's mom i knew very well, my mom's not very well at all
one gave to me what was precious to her - jewellery, wine glasses, pretty silver dishes, all lovely, all gratefully received, all treasured

but the other gave me what was precious to me...
money for my beloved sewing machine

and a life-long love for creativity

Thursday, April 9, 2015


 a week or two ago i was feeling bad about not posting enough on this poor, sad blog of mine

thinking about it while working on some simple handwork, i wondered if a series of posts on a particular subject might be a good motivator for me, and perhaps something interesting for you?

working with my favourite blue-grey thread, letting my mind drift away, i wondered if i was drawn to it because i hadn't yet understood the truth of it

"the truth of {a colour}"

"the truth of {a stitch}"

and finally,

"the truth of {a fabric}"

i liked it

before i could sort out a plan though, the busyness of everyday life crowded in again and short of a quick note on a random scrap of paper, nothing more was developed

and then last night i sat down to do one of the last meditations in the latest series by oprah and deepak chopra

i felt like the message for day 20 was written just for me

"finding your uniqueness, knowing your inner truth"

"release trying to be someone that you're not"

i've been casting about for years trying to find my own creative voice, getting distracted along the way by the amazing work of other people, but always learning, new techniques, new materials 

lately i'd found myself at a standstill, wondering which way to go
the longer i stood there, the more frustrated i got, the more it felt like i was at a roadblock rather than at a cross-roads

and last night, after the meditation was over, after listening to some awfully wise words and thinking about what not only what they meant, but what they meant for me, i found myself standing in my own truth

"standing in my own truth"

this morning i reacquainted myself with what that truth is, what it is i love to do, to work with, to create

 the fabrics, the textures, the colours

the surfaces that can be created, by hand, or by machine

 the ribbons, the lace, the threads

 swirling, flowing, neatly, lightly

 scraps of lace being tacked in place

 a sort of mosaic in the making

crinkled silk,  grey silk

even gold - quickly preparing a few bases on which to experiment

 i filled half a page with ideas for taking this further

and another half with using the same technique in a completely different way

feeling like i'm right back on top!

i want to thank all of you for such wise words on my last post - such good advice there and i am already making plans so i can get back to a structured daily practice of sketching and/or painting - nothing fancy, but something
meanwhile, i am working on the first post of the "truth" series which will begin on monday

i'm so excited!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

every little bit...

trying to get from here to there
in so many ways, on so many fronts

when where you are isn't where you want to be things can really begin to feel rather disconnected

in the whole of a year i never feel that more than i do in the spring

i suppose that's why it's called "spring fever"???

a restlessness of body and soul

one thing i'm struggling with is the daily sketching/painting thing
daily writing is easy - two or three pages, 15 - 20 minutes, whatever comes into my head flows out on the paper

sketching and painting is far too absorbing to be limited by time, at least for me
i could have spent hours at each one, first sketching - refining shape and line, then the painting
they were taking forever, and i began to begrudge the whole thing

struggling first with just getting an idea, often sketching what i saw right in front of me... the one below was born from a desire to do something from my own head

i've copied from a scrap of paper

 from a painting in our daughter's home

each one taking hours

it got to where i sketched one day and painted the next but found i had often lost interest by the second day so then i was only sketching

 i set it all aside two weeks ago while i think on a different way to go about it

it seems a daily practice of sketching/painting is turning out to be another thing i want the benefit of but not the doing of

in the meanwhile i'm making a gift for my soon-to-be-seven niece

they have a dog named "russell"

and this soon-to-be zippered pouch, designed by yoko saito, is russell personified

the front features the appliqued and embroidered beast himself, sitting in front of his doghouse, whilst the back has a cute little crooked window 

i just need to add some embroidered grass and flowers and then make it up

this one not only has a gusset and a zipper - there's piping to be done

i'm really stretching myself here, but as always, one step at a time...

perhaps that's way to approach the other things - one sketch a time, one post at a time, one flower bed at a time, one closet at a time

a little bit here and there, always moving forward, understanding just how paralyzing inertia can be... as my mom has always said, 

"every little bit helps"

Sunday, March 29, 2015


it started out simply enough...
{really, it always does}

i saw a picture of a braided tea cozy in a uk home magazine i purchased at our local magazine stand

made with strips of wool cut from worn out jumpers - here, a jumper is a kind of dress that's worn over a shirt or turtleneck but there, i think a jumper is a sweater???

anyway, i had none of either sort but i do have a little bit of cotton fabric {hehe} and thought if i cut strips and wrapped them around yet smaller strips of plain muslin, i might have something that would work well enough

i no sooner got just around the top of the teapot when i thought perhaps if i used some of my heat-resistant batting in place of the muslin i could make a hot-pad

the tea-pot and cozy were pitched aside for the time being and a hot pad begun - cutting the strips wider along with the switch to narrow strips of the batting yielded something much more substantial - i do love the feel of this in my hands - very sturdy, yet not at all stiff... it yields slightly to pressure and i quite like that

as you can see... it isn't finished either

i got not quite as far as you see above when i was struck with the next idea... i needed to make an ornament designed by bunny hill... anne is offering a new free pattern for a snowman heart ornament on the 5th of each month and our shop has a little challenge going on with it

march's offering has a sheep in front of the snowman and i had been pondering it for days, wanting to do something a little bit different...

what if i cut very narrow strips of muslin with a pinking blade and braided them, coiling and tacking it within the outline of the shape of the sheep
{if you go to the bunny hill link you will see her sheep is of quite a different shape than mine - i took artistic license and drew my own!}

the muslin strips were cut about 3/8" wide and when braided the pinking detail was kind of lost, replaced with something fuzzy... unexpected, but...

i just love it!

so sheep-ish, don't you think????

no in-progress photos for you, but all i did was draw the outline of the body, and beginning at the outer edge, laid the braid along the drawn line, tacking it with matching sewing thread, round and round until i was in the middle and it was completely filled in

the background fabric is pale green with little white outlines of umbrellas, rain clouds and birds - perfect for spring, don't you think?

i still have to finish this... eyes and ears and noses here and there

it was such a surprise to me how it turned out - completely unexpected, and better than hoped for

sometimes i feel as though i have a form of creative a.d.d.

always jumping ahead, trying new things, putting things aside when an idea strikes

i've found though that if i don't, i lose it - maybe not the idea so much as perhaps the enthusiasm

and if i'd waited i know i would likely have tried the hot pad at some point or another - maybe, but i wouldn't have made the jump to the sheep as that project needed to be done asap
and after all of it, it's my favourite...

Friday, March 20, 2015

doodling with thread

when the local quilt shop sold a year ago the new owner brought in a number of different hand embroidery threads
people have been looking at them, oohing and aahing but more out of curiosity than of planning projects with them and then i was asked by a customer-friend to teach a class

thinking it should be more about the threads and stitches and less about the end result, a kind of thread exploration, along with some of the fun doodle-style of embroidery i came up with a little sampler of stitches

trying to keep it lively and fun, remembering the riot of colour and patterning of "doodle art"

remember that from the 1972???

i was given the signs of the zodiac one for christmas that year - it took ages to finish, in fact, i think about 5 or 6 years... i don't remember the date but i do remember the day
i had made such a mess of the rays, where they came into the sun at the very centre of the poster that for a long time i couldn't face finishing it - i thought i'd ruined it... one bored day i took it out, thinking how much i really liked it, except for that, wondering what i could do and then all i could think to do was to colour the sun in with black

it was so unexpected, so striking and so unusual

it made all the other colours pop, pulled the eye in, and made the whole thing amazing 

i loved it

so i wanted this "stitchery doodle" to have the same fun, funky, colourful randomness of the original doodle art designs

trying a few old favourites in different ways
layers of fly stitch in different colours makes for an interesting filling stitch

rows of chain stitch with over-dyed thread

back stitch with french knots as an outline

 tiny random straight stitches


there was supposed to be a peace sign but i messed that one up with the drawing so it's kind of a funny wheel-type thing but i'll add more to it later perhaps

that's what i love about embroidery

you don't have to call it "done" until you want to 

you can keep adding, here and there, layer upon layer, for as long as you want to, for as long as there are ideas flowing through your mind, and for as long as there is thread in your needle...