Tuesday, March 19, 2019

mucking about


there are the things that I like to make and then there are the things I wish I could make...

I can cut fabric and sew it back together to make a quilt pretty well

and I can take up a needle and thread and stitch something nice

but sketching and drawing and painting - well, they... they make me nervous

every time I pick up a pencil or a paintbrush I have to take a big deep breath and then I just kind of jump in

I could go on for a while about why that might be - fear of failure, no vision, no training, no ideas, no clue how to use the supplies, absolutely no understanding of how to take a thought from my head and translate it into sketch, etc. etc.

but sometimes the urge to do it so strong I can't help myself and I just make a start...

we were down in Oregon at the end of December and in the quiet days, in a most amazing setting, Happy Hour was not just about pouring a glass of wine, it was also the time of day when we four, husband, brother and sister-in-law, and myself, would each take up our station in the great room of their large barn/home, and whilst the fireplace burned cheerily, we each puttered away at our separate interests

mine was to finally get started with paper and paint

and gesso and fabric

and sketching tools

my first attempt was inspired by a winter's day

a wash of blue on the page, then gesso - to add texture and also to help stick things down

letting that dry, sipping my wine, thinking about what could come next, realizing I had no clue what I was doing, but that I was enjoying myself nevertheless

finally I decided on stitch - it's always, always there, and whenever I don't know what to do I add stitch


feeling pretty happy with that first effort, the next day I approached it all with a plan

I loved the gates - field gates they were... wire and wood... and the fields behind them, which in Roseburg, where we were, were at the bottom of some very high hills - a lovely rolling landscape

so... more paint, more gesso, and some fabric

then a small stitched piece - gesso on linen followed by fabric, stitch and pen-work


this one I really loved

looking at it here, it's even better than I thought - I'm especially happy with the hills , and this is the very first time I have ever been in a place and made something inspired by it

pretty cool 

 I haven't done anything like this since that visit - my time has been taken up with so many other things, one of them being colour studies

I love colour studies - they're a thinking thing, and I like that

this time I added a twist - instead of working from an image, I worked with words, trying for descriptive colour

what a fabulous thing that was - working from the perspective of a word caused me to think about colour in ways I really hadn't before; very deeply and in a personal way, about what colour can evoke




when I was working on the paint portion of the colour study I found some scraps of watercolour paper to use for testing the mixed colours - I happened to turn one over and found I had already painted on it - a taupe background with three blobby areas of colour... I realized it was piece I had prepared several years ago in my quest to paint large, loose florals

I hadn't been happy with the painting I'd done and so it had gone in to the scrap bag... but as I looked at it a couple of days ago, I thought - well, nothing to lose really - add some lines and see if there are flowers lurking in there after all...


pretty rough, but there they are

I think now I might just be ready to muck with them a little bit more


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

the colour of love

love is Grey...

for many, the colour of love is red

for me though, it is grey

a beautiful soft grey

a baby named "Grey"

Grey Everett, my grandson, appeared in my life just over a week ago and already he fills my heart and my thoughts in so many ways...


we had the joy of being included in the first week of his life, witnessing a family grow, wondering yet again at the expansive, never-ending story of love

hearts grow to bursting, love is unconfined

watching Grey's mother and father love and care for him was amazing to see, the pure delight in just looking at him shone in their eyes... 


it's amazing to me how quickly these tiny humans steal your heart, how you know everything and yet nothing about them in those early days

 my very wise friend Christine wrote eloquently of how living in the present moment is what babies do, and in that, they take us there as well... days go by where nothing but tending and gazing upon them is all that is done, really, all that needs doing

a time apart from the ordinary flow of life

what a gift to have been part of that


and now, one week on, Grey is already losing some of that newborn look, his cries are getting stronger, those delightful baby creases are well on their way


in the quiet moments during that week I sat quietly stitching away at the table, working at a piece of slow stitching, thinking about the nature of love and life... and, on an impulse, I filled this cut-out heart with blue-grey French knots


because after all, love is Grey

Friday, January 18, 2019

the stuff you are making...

"the stuff you are making is also making you"

i read those words the other day, over on sarah swett's blog


i've already paraphrased it down to "what we make makes us"

for simplicity's sake

but regardless of how you say it, the outcome is the same

it's pretty hard to become fully engaged in the process of making without some kind of change happening, in both how how you perceive yourself, and your relationship to the world around you

the more i work with teeny tiny bits of fabric, the less i want to waste - of anything, not just fabric or thread

the more i make use of what i have, the less i want to buy

the more potential i see in the things that surround me, the more things i notice

the more things from the natural environment i incorporate into my work, the more open i become to the creative possibilities of that which lays at my feet

the more i do handwork, the more handwork i want to do

it's like this great big burgeoning ideal, that just keeps growing and growing

i want to make fewer things, but i don't want to spend less time at it

i want to take the time to do it by hand, add in all the detail a piece needs, enjoy the process every step of the way...
 not racing to the finish, just to tick something off the list and add something new to it

the last time i did machine quilting i cursed and carried on  the whole time - how i despise machine quilting - and then I wondered why, if i disliked it so much, why did i persist in doing it?

why not go back to hand-quilting?

and so i am...


and just for fun, i decided to add it to my teaching roster for this spring

a hand-quilting class

to see if there any others like me

this is one of my samples for the class - using a commercial stencil, tiny stitches, the usual puckered up result that begs to be touched

my stitching is not perfect, by any stretch, but I'm ok with that


light grey thread on a cream chambray fabric


below is a small doll's quilt i made a few years back, machine pieced, hand-quilted


little hearts and criss-crossing the blocks


below is the wrong side of another quilt i made many years ago - about twenty-eight, give or take... 

i actually made it twice



the first time i made it i took the quilt top to the evening quilting group i belonged to

it was the first piecework i'd done and i was proud to take it and show our group

six basket quilt blocks, set on point with two plain setting squares - perfect for an intricate hand-quilted design
{back then hand-quilting was pretty much it... our group's introduction to machine quilting came about a year or two after this}

everyone commented on how lovely it was, pretty fabric, nicely done - all those wonderful encouraging words a beginner needs

i took it home and put it away - piecing was still the name of the game for me and i didn't want to tackle quilting just then

six months later, ready and raring to go, i took it from the cupboard, unfolded it and felt sick to my stomach... almost every single point of all the triangles that formed the baskets were cut-off

not one was pointy, as any good triangle should be

how did that happen?

how did i not notice it before?

why did no one say anything?

the answers were pretty simple:

because i wasn't careful about squaring up my blocks

because i didn't know i should be paying attention to such things

because they didn't want to discourage me

after stewing on it for a few days i decided the only way I would learn to pay attention was to take ownership of the mistakes so i took the entire quilt apart, pressed and straightened all the edges, re-sewed the blocks, squared them up and then put it all back together

lesson learned

making this quilt and then making it again made me more engaged in what i do than any words of advice ever could have

everything I've ever created has changed me 

the trick is to understand how...

Friday, January 11, 2019

a journey...


when it comes to making, well, for that matter, when it comes to me and making, i'm usually flitting from this to that, caught by passing fancies... always eager to try something new, figuring it out, moving on...

for more than a year though, i've been  somewhere between obsessed and absorbed when it comes to working with scraps of cloth and thread

it actually began a few years ago when i first heard of "slow stitching" and decided i wanted to make a patched and stitched cloth from all sorts of scraps of fabric; some leftover from quilting projects and others, off-cuts and lace edges from old table linens that had been cut up and used in other work

at first the plan was simple - piece the cloth with raw edges visible (no turned under seams), and then kantha stitching to add texture and strength

it went along well for a while but the repetitive nature of the stitching, though pleasant enough, was not exciting and the cloth became a thing i picked up and put down but never really made much progress

then I bought the book "the geometry of hand sewing" by natalie chanin and saw linear stitch patterns used for filling 

that was the day the cloth changed and I started filling in sections with feather stitch, herringbone and chain stitches


so delightful

from there I discovered boro stitching and along with the straight lines of kantha, i began to add the little upright cross stitches that add such higgledy piggledy charm 


boro also introduced me to mending and patching and I enjoyed having some of the ground cloth showing, working with fabrics of an irregular shape
(off-cuts from other projects)


an introduction to block-printed Indian cotton added a new element to the work, along with stitching on the background fabric itself, now not limited to stitching on the patches only


from there i got the idea to make coasters, useful things that didn't take long, using bits of fabric and thread that were often so small they would normally be thrown away


learning about "mottainai"
a japanese term that conveys a sense of regret for waste, a respect for the resources that surround us, and an awareness of just how precious they are 

i've made almost forty of these so far and have ideas for at least many more

next up is to go back to leaving some of the ground cloth showing, stitch into it, and use some of the beautiful indian prints


experiment with variegated threads

use some of my own thread dyed with dandelion flowers 


and when that's been done enough, i have plans to weave coasters with my homemade leaf-cord, adding embroidery, again with my plant-dyed threads

it's interesting to look back on the progression but more than anything, it makes me wonder what's still waiting out in front of me... just around the bend...

Saturday, January 5, 2019

things to work on...

happy new year!

the past few months have been a whirlwind... family fun, work, teaching, and on, and on... I'm sure it's been the same for all of you

"how have you been?" is a common question for us all... 

"oh, you know, busy.." is the standard answer

one of these days, just for fun, i'm going to say " oh, you know, sitting on the couch all day, watching soaps, eating chocolate..."

haha - as if... but i am tired of the usual "busy" answer so am working on a different response...

in the meanwhile, or perhaps, to help with that, these are some other things i am hoping to also work more over the next days and weeks

first up, this little featherweight sewing machine, generously gifted to me many years ago by a very dear friend...


we were just down in oregon for a week,  and in a charming quilt shop in sutherlin, I found this beaut of an extension table, coloured black, and complete with gold details, a perfect match for my little machine

thrilled, to say the least

i love this machine and having this extension table makes it the perfect thing for piecing as well as machine quilting

next up is these pretty prints by "in the beginning"

they remind me of liberty prints - dainty, delicate floral prints, looking even prettier in combination than they would separately


no idea what to do with them, but for now they are being patted constantly
and in quarter yard lengths, there is plenty to play with

then there's these beauties - cotton velvets, hand-dyed

the actual colours are deeper and richer than they look here but i haven't yet figured out how to turn off the flash on my iphone camera (if that's even possible)... regardless, I love velvet and these will be a treat to work with
they have been languishing in a drawer for far too long


below is the only thing i've done with them so far - english paper-piecing using wool fabrics 

I love the contrast of the wool and the velvet


another thing i'm bound, bent and determined to work on is this hand-pieced, hand-quilted bag

tumbler shapes using japanese taupes

couldn't be simpler... but making it up as i go means it could be faster - sigh


and then there's that book cover, pieced in a boro-style using scraps and bit of favourite fabrics
I started it a year ago as well, and it has also sat... waiting...


then of course there are the coasters i was completely absorbed with in the fall
I'd like to make a few more of those-
still so many ideas, colour combinations, stitch ideas, different layouts... on and on it goes


also to work on for the new year is work inspired by a day calendar i found featuring charlie harper's art
fabulous work that makes one look at line and shape in a completely new way

full of inspiration, this will be a treat to putter away at for the whole year through and will help me to be a little more creative perhaps, especially when it comes to working with shapes


and then of course, i want to work on this - "wynken and blynken and nod", in stitch


haven't done a thing with this in a year as well, so it's time to haul it out, and dust it off,
along with all of the above

I  even started a list - it has all these things and more, but i know busy days are happy days and i ain't complaining

so if you see me on the street and ask me how i am, don't be surprised if there's a lengthy pause whilst i try to think of something else to say than "oh, you know - busy..."

I'm working on it...



Friday, November 16, 2018

same old, same old?

seems like i've been doing the same thing for a while now...

bits and scraps of fabric, cobbled together into a patchwork of sorts, then embroidery added here and there for a little visual texture

coasters in the making

don't ask me why but for some reason or other a few months ago i decided that coasters were just the thing for the upcoming local spinner's & weaver's guild christmas sale

and now that i'm well on my way to making more than thirty  of them, i hope i'm right

i suppose it was because they're useful... and also because they're small and don't take much time or materials... also maybe because they're unique

addicts can always justify their addiction can't they?


what i really like about them is how useful they are for playing about with colour and texture


endless variations of layout

endless variations of stitch

each one scratches an itch

my latest foray has me playing with traditional quilt block patterns

still done in a free-form way, cutting with scissors, no measuring, over-lapped raw edges

whip-stitching holds everything in place

this one, in the log cabin pattern, is a particular favourite


though stray threads abound, thanks to all those raw edges!


it's amazing to me how the smallest of pieces add the biggest impact


with all this patching and piecing of bits and scraps, I just couldn't resist one more idea...

a little rag-tag snowman


patched and mended he is, and his hat and scarf too


so, so much fun to make this scarf

and of course, now i want one of my own

would that be too weird, do you think?

i'm tempted...

there is a real benefit from immersing yourself in a particular style of work or technique

you get a lot of ideas out of your system, though quite often you end up just replacing them with more

i am grateful though, when I try something new and realize it's not for me - than can be quite gratifying, not to mention a big relief

but this business of working with bits of fabric and thread in a haphazard way has as much appeal to me now as ever and i see no end in sight - modifications maybe, an evolution in style or technique, surely, but i see no end in sight...

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

what's in your pocket?


I'd love to say it all started here...

England's Lake District, a year and a half ago

having such a habit begin in a place such as this would surely make it far more respected than if it began in almost any other place on earth

for in this landscape, which is steeped not only in an unparalleled beauty in nature, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, steeped in a history of poetic and artistic observation, one could easily be forgiven for gathering just about anything if it inspired one to write or paint or draw... 


but I just can't say that...

stuffing things in my pockets has been a lifelong obsession

 sticks and shells and leaves and flowers and heaven knows what else

an unusual colour or shape of an everyday thing that catches my eye
anything that strikes my fancy or sparks an idea is sure to make it's way into my pockets or handbag - whatever us handiest

several years ago I broke down and bought a gathering basket...
an ingenious contraption with a strap for putting it around your waist or over your shoulder

a hinged lid for easy emptying

a small hole in the side for easy stuffing any bit or bob that comes my way

the trouble is, I never have it with me when the really interesting stuff captures my eye... but I almost always have pockets

the stick and stone and sheep's wool followed me home from a walk in the hills above Ambleside 


I have no plan for them other than to look at them any time the mood strikes

and each time I do I see something different, even though they've sat like this, on a dresser-top, since the day I came home

a few weeks ago my son suggested we go to see the Adams River salmon run
we took my mom and step-father and it was a grand day


such a beautiful place...


though you could see the fish well enough in the deeper water, it was in the streamlets where they were most visible


As we walked toward the river I saw several birch trees downed

already cut into smaller lengths, most with the bark curling away from the trunk itself

naturally I peeled some off and stuffed it in my pockets... interesting driftwood and rocks followed suit

by the time we got back to the car and my son held out a bag he found in the truck, my pockets were bulging, and as I emptied handful after handful, his laughter grew... shaking his head the whole while

back home, I washed the bark and then pressed it, between sheets of drawing paper, weighted down with a stack of heavy books

{I had to improvise as my flower press is still full from foraging whilst in the Yukon in August!}


and last week I read about making twine by twisting the leaves of day lilies, irises and cattails

day lilies and irises are in my back yard, cattails, just down the hill at the little lake...

these are my day lilies

I've been mucking about, experimenting with how to preserve them 

after twisting, I want to weave with them, but as they dry they'll shrink and become brittle

I first thought of rubbing some kind of oil into them but plant-based oils might go rancid, and petroleum-based ones just seemed wrong

then I remembered some roses I had bought many years ago that had been preserved with glycerin

they looked dried but were beautifully soft

information online was sketchy at best so I've been experimenting 


it's kind of a goldilocks sort of thing... you don't want them to soak for long or they'll be oily, nor for too short a time or they'll be too brittle

it has to be just right - soft, but natural


I think I've just about worked out a method I'm happy with that yields the results I want

this is just one of my twisted twine - I still have to snip off the bits where I've added a new leaf, but it's coming along just fine


soothing and addicting

the irises are just about ready to pick and soak

cattails are in a bowl soaking as I type this

and there isn't a plant out there safe from scrutiny

so much fun...

and my pockets are empty and ready to go