Sunday, April 26, 2020


Now more than ever it seems...

As the world around me deals with constant changes, I am beginning to notice one a little closer to home

In looking at some of my recent work I began to notice there was something afoot there

It seems there is a slight shift in my go-to colour palette... the soft blue-grey I have been drawn to for many years is slowly being replaced with a soft, dusty mauve

It's spring-like, sometimes paired with a soft grey-green, other times a perkier yellow-green seems a better choice

It's perfect for a little of cluster of embroidered pansies

I've also noticed in the past few months I've been doing more hand embroidery than just about anything else

Lots of stitch experimentations, so many in fact, that I made myself a cloth stitch book where I can record all of my stitch explorations and experimentations

It's lovely to stitch in and lovelier still to flip through

Embroidery books are great for looking at stitch patterns but line drawings are not very informative when decisions need to be made about thread colour and weight. Having stitched samples that let you see how a stitch looks when made with one strand, two strands, three strands etc. helps making decisions so much easier. As well, it's a joy to sample in that way and something we don't often take the time to do.

And here again, that soft mauve...

Another change occurred this week...  

I picked up a paint brush and painted with oils, for the first time since I was 14 years old. 

 It was as if all the years between then and now fell away and I was inexperienced,  exploring, trying something wonderful for the second first time. 

I spent such a delightful day, mixing colours, playing about

I love the texture you get with oil

After all the mixing trials and making a little colour chart, I took the leftover paint and began a very small landscape - there's more to done on it still but I need the paint to dry before I take it any further.

I kind of like that about oils... there's time and space to consider, to think about what comes next. 

No need to rush, which for now, is a good thing since there's nowhere I need to be and not much I have to do... 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Today is"Blursday"...

Every day is "Blursday"

When this business of staying home and physically distancing from everyone first began I fiddled around for the first week trying to get used to things... 

each day feeling the same as the last, knowing that when I went to bed at night it would be set to "repeat"
 over and over again
then waking up and having to think about what day it was, the days all blurring together in a strange mix of sameness...  it was very disconcerting and and so I came up with a sort of plan for my days...

an hour of this, an hour of that - time every day for housework and yard work, quilting and hand-stitching - even cooking and baking

each day was like a marathon, running from one thing to the next

tick, tick, tick went the items on the daily "To Do List" but there wasn't much satisfaction in it-sure I accomplished something every day, but everything seemed to take such a long time to finish

like the quilt you see in the photos below
(not the best pictures but lately it's either been way to bright and sunny or way too dull and dark to get a good photo)

 three years ago, the plan was to make a queen-size quilt using the pattern "My Three Stars" by the Buggy Barn
I pieced the large stars but then things came to a standstill for three years, so this was first on the "Finishing Old Projects List"

28 large stars
26 medium stars
28 small stars

it took two weeks of one hour per day to get the medium and small stars done and when I started laying out the blocks on the living room I didn't like what I saw - half the blocks are light stars on dark backgrounds and the other half are dark stars on light backgrounds

and so the quilt looked like a hodge-podge, a mish-mash

a mess

after stewing on it for a day or two I decided to give up on a new bed quilt, separate the blocks by background and make two lap quilts, one dark and one light

below is the dark one laid out

and here is the light version

here is what I'm thinking of for a border

since these kind of match I want to make the borders the same size and keep the match thing happening

working on these for an hour each day, day in, day after day

it got tired, and I got cranky

flitting from here to there and back again... so I decided a change of approach was needed and I made a new plan

each day I do one thing  - a day for house and yard work, one for quilting, another for painting/ sketching

more focus, better concentration and I think even some time savings

it's so easy to get distracted these days - do you find that too? 

I'm hoping working in this way will help with that by allowing me to fully immerse myself in what I'm doing without having to keep one eye on the clock and not constantly assessing what I got done and what needs to be done the next day - I can work knowing I have the whole day 

I figure it's worth a try...

Friday, January 17, 2020

Where to Begin?

It's been so long now, I hardly know at all where to begin

I guess I'll begin at the end, which always seems to turn around and be a beginning of it's own...

I haven't posted for such a long time as for the last half of 2019, and also most of the first half, I was working at least four days a week - ick, yuck, blah

So the end of that story is that I quit my job

and now it seems a new phase is beginning

one with more time for what matters to me

I'm finally getting a chance to do some things I've been wanting to do for a long time... getting caught up in online classes I've been taking, finishing old projects, tidying and re-organizing, doing a bit of designing

thinking about so many things

there are a million things I'd like to make and a roomful of things to make them with and I'm determined that nothing in there is too precious to use

yesterday I dipped in to some of my favourite papers and made a bit of. paper "collage" - kind of like paper "boro"

patched and stitched - this will get torn and patched again before it's done

vintage Japanese wood-block text - simply amazing

I'm hand-stitching this and it's taking time - but thankfully now time is what I've got

and so I'll leave this first post back as a short one, dipping my toe in

and if any of you who used to come here are still out there - I miss you and have thought of you often. And I hope all is well in your yard...

See you soon.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

continuing on.

One of the benefits of sticking to a daily practice, at least for more than a few days, is by Day 7 or 8, one begins to get one's stride... there is less angst over the blank page and a greater willingness to just dive in and get something on the page.

That thinking has been quite true for me and this week was not just easier, I am also happier with the results of my efforts.
 I think sometimes I am my own worst enemy, and between over-thinking and being too attached to the outcome, I tend to get stuck for long periods of time, usually giving up rather than pushing through.

This past week I chose acrylic paints to work with, one stencil, a piece of punchinello and various types of papers and scraps of cloth.

The first day I expected to do something dark and moody and instead ended up with a blue-sky effect...

Printed paper from the inside of an envelope, a scrap of paper with writing from work I did in an online class and various torn pieces of white tissue paper. Once I realized the paint was much bluer and brighter than I had planned I found it all looked rather like a sky so I went with, using gesso to soften the edges of the paper scraps so they looked like clouds... 

"airmail envelopes taking words across the skies"...

the next day I managed to get a little moodier with paint, gesso and the stencil

I used a scraping tool rather than a brush and liked the effect very much

On Day 3 I finally got "dark and moody"

fabric and paper scraps stuck down with gesso and double-sided tape and then scraped and brushed over top with Raw Umber and Payne's Grey. I was especially taken with the white outlines that formed around the stuck-down paper - that was a pleasant surprise.

The Payne's Grey reads blue more than grey but I didn't care... blue and brown are an enduring favourite

this day saw white and aqua tissue paper glued down and then the whole page covered in a wash of white PVA glue. I left it to dry for a few hours and then went at it paint in various yellow-gold and rust mixtures, scraped on mostly, but some brushwork.

This was my most favourite surprise of the week - I had half-given up on it after the gluing, it was such a mess and so splotchy, but the paint made it come alive like some Italian Rococo fresco...

this is one experiment I will definitely try again, using different colour combinations, making a stash of papers I can use in other work.

Day 5 had me tearing up an image from a magazine that featured out of focus flowers and leaves, using gesso to adhere them in a random way to the page.

Using the scraping tool and heavy body white along with a bright blue and yellow paint, I mixed up some green with swirls of white, yellow and blue and scraped it over the page, at times also using the punchinello. Through the making of this piece, I learned I quite like paint that is not thoroughly mixed, enjoying the random hits of the base colours here and there.

I quite like this page, and was especially intrigued at how the glossy magazine paper lost it's sheen, but still allowed me to remove paint from it than the surrounding paper.

This next page really isn't finished - it was never meant to be left this way, I just had to leave it to dry and haven't got back to it. It's more contrived than I wanted and I haven't yet decided how to deal with that so it sits...

The last page of this week is a light one, with lots of light grey and blue, scraped and brushed and dabbed. The dabbing was actually fun and as I got into it I found myself really pushing on the brush which helped to add some texture to the page.

There is definitely an ebb and flow to this; some days I am far more engaged and interested and others I am just trying to get it done. I lose my way and then find it again, which I suppose is the thing with an artistic pursuits, but I am finding that working with my paints everyday has really made me less afraid, and as I experiment, I learn. Sometimes I learn what not to do but that's often as beneficial as the positive results, and I've found that I can usually turn around the ones I don't like if I just keep at it.

This morning I switched out my tray and this week is pastels, which I know nothing about.  The only paper I put in the tray is tissue paper  - I am wanting less choice for some reason. 

We'll see how that goes.

Friday, August 16, 2019

from here to there...

A few years ago I embarked on a daily stitch practice

using a purchased calendar that had an ideal layout for just such a thing, I worked at making small stitched samples each day, for about five months

I ran out of calendar was what really brought it to an end, but to be truthful, I was kind of glad

it had become very difficult - the stitching often took an hour at least, and I was running out of ideas to try

much as I was happy to be done with it, I learnt so much about what I liked, what I didn't like, and tried things that intrigued me  - and at the end, I was left with an amazing calendar I could flip through anytime I needed inspiration

I've tried to resume a daily practice in one form or another but never with any success

until perhaps now...


I've been intrigued with paint and paper and cloth and stitch in combination for some time now and so I am trying my hand at something that will combine all four

mixed media, I suppose

 each morning, after writing in my journal I take ten minutes or so and create a page

to make it easy on myself I loaded up a tray with three brushes, gesso, pva glue, acid-free double-sided tape, scraps of paper, bits of cloth and some watercolour pencil crayons

in a small sketchbook of 90lb paper, I create a background using whatever I want from the tray

there are 28 pages in the book, so for 28 days I'll make backgrounds and then on day 29, I'll work my way back to the front, one page at a time, adding stitch or any other marks etc. I desire

56 days altogether

from here to there and back again...

naturally the first one was the hardest

handmade paper on the upper left, as well as the lower centre, and the bit on the upper right was an ultra-fine handmade paper that holes in it. I glued it to the page with gesso and then painted all over the whole page

I found the watercolour pencils hard to work with - they were a craft-quality set I had bought years ago and I decided to give them one more try

I did like the effect of the "paint" on the paper with holes and am glad I have a nice big sheet of it for further experimentation

Day 2 was silk scraps from an attempt to dye silk in the ground by wrapping it around the roots of sage and oregano/marjoram and leaving it over the winter... not much mauve colour came through and the various silk bits got chewed to shreds

I stuck it to the page with gesso, added gesso all over for texture and then painted it

This time I dabbed the wet brush on the pencils to get the colour which worked much better

this piece represents my love of scraggly ragged cloth and texture

On day 3 I had very little time so painted the page, experimenting with red, yellow and blue.  I used all three colours in varying proportions in each area - in the third section down on the right you can see the pencil marks quite clearly - not what I wanted, but trying to diffuse them was taking too much water and the paper was beginning to degrade

the page seemed rather boring so I "stabbed" at it with the black, softening some of the marks more than others with water

back to texture on Day 4 with used herbal tea bags

I left the edges straight and stuck them down with gesso

this created a page full of texture and one that made me very happy

 in sticking all the edges down, gesso became visible along some of the tea bag edges but I like the look - it reminds me of plaster

a painted page again

the bit on the left was inspired by the image of a door I had torn from a magazine

a beautiful old weathered grey door

the multi-coloured bit on the right was a nod to a profusion of brightly coloured flowers in an image just to the right of said door

pale, ghostly marks, lightly made and then washed with as much water as I could get away with

by this time I was more relaxed in my approach, had enough successes under my belt, and was inclined to just experiment

Day 6 involved a left-over scrap of my linen from the stitched daily practice - I really wanted to include this, but in a simple way

this page was all about being "spare"

and playing with rectangles

these were also stuck down with gesso, which I lightly washed with grey and brown

the scrap of fabric with writing is an old favourite that I save every tiny bit of

and in an effort to be more "free", I left the scraggly threads as they were, sticking them in their place with gesso

and today, Day 7, I used the picture of the door mentioned above, a bit of a handmade paper envelope and then made a flower of sorts using left-overs of the tea bags

the whole page was lightly washed with pink and then grey

this one is my favourite of week 1

to keep things fresh, I changed out the materials on the tray today

for the next seven days I have the same adhesives and brushes, new scraps of paper and cloth, two stencils, a heavy body white acrylic paint, 6 or 7 bottles of various colours of acrylic paint, a paint scraper, an eye-shadow sponge applicator and a wooden skewer

I'm actually beginning to look forward to doing each day's page, love that when I'm finished I can turn it over and go on to the next without having to figure out what else to do

I know there's a possibility that when Day 29 comes and I have to progress with stitch etc.,  old hesitancies might start up all over again

I'm hoping though that I will already have learnt that all I need to do is put one stitch in front of the other and make way along

Saturday, August 10, 2019

I See Pretty...

I've spent a lot of time these past weeks thinking about this exhibit - why the fascination?

I suppose it's because I don't really see clothing... I see art

I see amazing artistry in a particularly sculptural form

I see brilliant creativity in taking something we are all intimately familiar with and re-inventing it in a new way

 I see unbounded skill and workmanship in the construction details

And I see pretty...

I took many pictures, but no notes

All I need to know I can learn from the photos I took

For reasons I still don't know the red one below was another dress I absolutely adored - my second favourite of the show. I thought it was brilliant... the silk is so structural and this dress showcases that beautifully

(I have a small selection of silk fabrics of my own and since I got home I've often taken them out, unfolded one or two and then scrunched them, placing them in an upright position and enjoying how the fabric stays put - no wonder the designers love to work with it so much.)

The dress and coat you see below were also big favourites - the intricate designs of the coat paired with the simple elegance of the dress... this is one I would wear

But my favourite part of the entire exhibition was the display of the toiles...

The toile is the final "draft" of the garment, allowing the designer to ensure that the form and fit of a garment are correct before making it up in costly fabric. Usually made of a fine calico or muslin, a fabric that would unmercilessly reveal any flaws in either design lines or fit, the light-coloured fabric also allowed for making highly visible marks for required adjustments. Their simple beauty, with the workings of the design evident, drew you into the process of garment design and construction in an evocative way, allowing a better understanding of structure and shape.

That they have been preserved as much as the final garments themselves is testimony to their significance in the design process.

Haute Couture is "Slow Fashion"...

When I was a teenager in need of a party dress I sewed it. I wasn't a big fan of dress-making - zippers just about did me in, and I have taken great delight in avoiding making anything with either a zipper, a dart or facings. In fact, at the quilt shop where I work, if a customer asks me about any of the above, I tell them very sweetly that I am unable to help them because I have a personal rule when it comes to sewing,

"I only make things that are flat"
I say
"But I can find someone else who can help you"

(even though we're a quilt shop we do get the odd person who asks...)

Anyway, a year or so ago I got a hankering to sew a frock so I  hiked myself down to the other fabric store in town and found a pattern, some pretty cotton voile, and - a zipper!

It has all sat in the cupboard since then, waiting for me to work up my courage... after visiting the Dior exhibit, I think I'm ready to dangle a tape measure around my neck and give it a go.

Wish me luck!