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

Friday, October 12, 2018


When I was about seventeen my favourite perfume was "Y" by Yves Saint Laurent

I remember it as being a very nice scent, but if truth be told, I also liked the responses I would get when people me asked me what perfume I was wearing and I answered them

I hadn't thought about any of that for years, but today the memory drifted through my mind as I once again took up my fountain pen and practiced a little calligraphy... 

I first learned it in an evening class almost twenty years ago - I believe we met for about five or six weeks and we played with several different fonts

 the instructor had a penchant for swirls and flourishes 

it was great fun

this time, I'm entranced by what has come to be called 

"modern calligraphy"

I think of it as handwriting, elegant and flowing

practicing up-strokes and down-strokes, thin lines and thick

graceful, flowing curves

over and over again

when that became tiresome, to relax, I turned back to what I first learnt...

one or two spins through the alphabet and muscle memory kicked in, my hand and head in concert

this was part of today's effort...

and below are pages from my first go round with the craft

I loved adding the roses - now I want to try tree branches

the "Merry Christmas" you see below was coaxed out of me, rather unwillingly, but I'm glad I did it

I doubt I would ever do anything this fancy ever again, but it was fun to fiddle about with it for a while...

I've also been busy with the coasters... and below are more bases, that, in the evening, when the day is done, I stitch on a little more

making them up as I go

the only "plan" is that I don't stitch on all the sections; some, mostly the florals, are left plain

resting places for the eye

I love the light-coloured patch above, with two rows of over-lapping cretan and one of herringbone with straight stitches

below is feather stitch, and below that is a favourite scrap with simple cross stitches in the open space

the weave details on some of these fabrics is amazing and I try not to have the stitching I add interfere with that - enhance maybe but not detract

it's a delicate balance but I do find that using just a single strand of dmc helps a lot

I did use two on the feather stitch though - it needed oomph

and then smyrna crosses, always a favourite 

I've figured out the packaging for sets of four

the calligraphy is part of the plan for the sets of two

it's fun to swing back and forth between the two...

Sunday, September 2, 2018

a sampler...



1. a piece of embroidery worked in various stitches as a specimen of skill

2. a representative collection or example of something

I've loved stitched samplers since I first heard of them, and have loved "sampling" techniques and ideas for even longer

this post then, is a sampler of what life has been like for me for the past little while...

I've tried getting back into my daily stitching practice, now that summer's waning - I love it but it is a struggle to do it everyday

this week I tried to entice myself by using my favourite plaids
it's helped but still an effort...

every day for seven days I work on one textile piece, adding something each day

I lost my way with this one on day four, tried to correct the problem on day 5 and am now just stewing on it - the piece you see above is what I had after two days and this is when I liked it best - sigh...

  I'm working on a sampler "roll" - the plan for this is actually quite broad...
I'll use chunks of vintage cloth for the base, attaching small textile experiments done over the years that up til now have been languishing in a box

some will get further embellishment, others are good enough as they are, embroidery stitches will be added randomly, as the urge to experiment with a stitch strikes and/or to fill in areas that feel too blank

because I'll roll it on a large wooden bobbin when it's finished, I know the width needs to be approx. 9 1/2" but the length will be what it will be...

working on this is such a treat and I'll not only have the joy of doing it, I'll also the joy of having it when all is said and done

I'll be teaching again this fall so class samples have been high on my to do list all summer long...

below is one end of a table runner I designed many years ago but just gave an overhaul

the main part of the house is pieced into the runner itself and the doors, roofs, windows etc. are appliquéd after

there are a few patterns out there now that use this assembly method but when I designed mine I'd never heard of any so I thought I was pretty darn clever for coming up with it myself

I almost always design some kind of snowman each year and the little fellow you see below is this year's offering - again, my own design
{there are snowman bodies buried all over my sewing room - a testament to how many tries it took to get the shape I was after}

he's patched and mended through and through
body, scarf and hat
{you can't see much of the mending on his body at this angle but I'll try and get some better pictures of that soon}

seems there are still as many, if not more, scraps in the scrap box so I'll definitely be making more of him in the coming weeks

a little of this, a little of that - a sampler of what I've been working on for the past six weeks...

and in between all this creativity I took some time for a trip to my happy place

ten days in the Yukon was just what I needed to feed my soul for another year...

the blue, blue water and even bluer sky, punctuated with miles of evergreens and pops of fireweed pink

a landscape that is painted on my heart

several days spent at marsh lake, place of childhood dreams... this one isn't just on my heart, it's in my dna

I brought from there a bag of driftwood and a bucket of water, and now that the busiest days of summer are behind me, I have creative plans for both... stay tuned...

it was wonderful to traipse down memory lane, re-visiting favourite places, but the piéce de résistance of the trip happened just to the right of the rocky outcrop you see below

our daughter got married...

the most beautiful ceremony in a most beautiful setting
her dress was the colour of the water
his suit, the colour of the sky

it was splendid, the loveliest of days
and a joy that sits with me still, weeks later

an omen for the visit, on a walk right after I arrived in the Yukon I came across this...

a heart-shaped stump

so fitting...

the day I left I went for a morning walk along the river's edge, sparkling silver light on the water, gentle golden light in the sky

and love, laughter, joy, beauty all around me

a sampler of life

Monday, July 16, 2018

easy breezy days of summer?

summer is always such a busy time here in the shuswap 

and this year has been no exception

and the busiest time of all for me is always the first two weeks of july when the cherry trees in our yard are ready for picking

at first i'm excited but as the heat and the work wear on I get pretty tired of it

and I get pretty tired of missing my stitching...

my newest love is really an old love that has now found a purpose

you all know how much I love little bits of fabric, especially when they're stitched in place with little bits of thread

and a fancy stitch or two

a couple of weeks ago, whilst casting about for ideas for something small, original and varied to make and sell at my spinner's and weaver's guild annual sale, I hit upon this idea...


the one on the left was my first and though I loved it, it was a bit softer in feel than I wanted - coasters should have some sturdiness to them

the one on the right is the result of a little tweaking with the filling materials and has a lovely solid feel to it, without being stiff - perfection

I lay out the main base pieces first, secure them with over-stitching and then add interest with patches and decorative embroidery

the cloth dictates the style

they're kind of a cross between kantha and boro

a hybrid I suppose, but with a twist

layers of cloth, layers of stitch

i love the scope for variety - each one unique

my plan is to sell them in sets of two...

they are the perfect vehicle for playing with various combinations of colour, pattern, different embroidery stitches, different threads

 working up fairly quickly
{unless i get carried away, which happened here with these cross-stitches - i just kept adding more and more}

perfect summer stitching - easy to pick up and put down, never losing your place, just stitching one section at a time

easy breezy summer fun 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

without a plan...

every once in a while I have an urge to stitch pieces of cloth together...

well, duh, you might say

what I really mean is that every once in a while I have an urge to stitch pieces of cloth together without a plan - just a strong desire to see what this and that might look like if I join them together with stitch 

sometimes, that's where it all ends and the joined pieces can languish about for a long time, until... a day comes when I have an urge to embroider on cloth

a few years ago I gathered together scraps of linen, coarsely woven cottons, bits of embroidered doilies and towels, and using one of my english diapers as a base, 
{it was bought a few years ago whilst on vacation in the uk,  in a desperate desire for lightweight muslin but not finding any yardage!}
I joined them together to make a table mat about 13" x 21"

then I lost steam as I had no plan for what would come next

I did a little kantha stitching on it over the years but realized pretty quickly that I didn't want that for the entire surface... so eventually, back into the pile it went

late last fall, I got it out again to see how it might look if I used linear embroidery stitches like herringbone and feather stitch as filling stitchings, working them in rows across the surface of various patches

it was love at first stitch

about that time i decided the cloth wasn't patchy enough, and far too beigey-grey, so I added a few scraps of blue-grey here and there

the bit below is my favourite place on the cloth - a faint blue and grey striped fabric with pale chain stitches, stitched in pairs, resembling leaves

other stitching commitments caused me to set the cloth aside yet again but the other day, whilst looking for something else, I happened upon it again...

and began to surround one of the added patches with tiny cross-stitches... love, love, love this look

practicing seed stitch with a variegated thread

another patch of blue

varying textures

a heart cut out for some long-forgotten, long-gone project left this behind

 like an echo, don't you think?

I like that idea...

cretan stitch in blue minor 
{aka "pale"}

I take out almost as many stitches as I put in - it's always a struggle to get the reality of the piece to take the shape of what I see in my mind's eye, but I am gaining ground 

and though I still have no straight path forward, I am loving doing what I know to be right at the moment

this is one where the journey is the goal 

the finished cloth?

well, that's the bonus

Friday, May 18, 2018

mucking about...

I've been mucking about lately


oh such fun it is...

there's something deeply personal about colouring thread to stitch with, even though the results are rather difficult to control, never mind often unpredictable

maybe that's what I like about it though...

if I do it often I'm sure I'll learn enough to get fairly predictable results when working in a controlled manner, but as it's just for me, I really don't care - sometimes it's when we don't get what we think we want that we make astounding discoveries

anyway, I've bought a few books on plant-dyeing, read a few articles online, and recently, enrolled in an online class with India Flint where it all came together and I finally felt ready to make a start

below is my adventure with dandelions...

the first four plaits are straight from the depot, the fifth had a dunk in rusty iron water and the sixth went into a small amount of the dye to which I added baking soda - watching the colours change was indeed magical

these have all had a bath in synthrapol soap, followed by a good rinse and the water ran clear - this way, they will stay

avocado skins were another dye-pot I set to brew

a nice long, slow, simmer - the first threads were quite dark, and as I was using a small pot which I think I over-stuffed, the dye wasn't even... the second batch, seen below came out much better

the first two are straight from the pot, the next had a dip in rusty iron water and the fourth went into more of the dye with rusty iron vinegar added

from light peachy-pink to a deep plummy-grey - love...

my last thread adventure was with a dye bath that had some of both the avocado skin and dandelion dyes with the addition of a branch of eucalyptus leaves garnered from a local florist

this dye-bath yielded soft pinky-beiges with a hint of grey - "fawn" might be a good colour name for these... the one on the right was the only plait that was treated with a pre-dye mordant and gave out a beautiful, soft brown, tempered slightly with grey

oh my stars 

I'm busy plaiting more threads in preparation for a good bit of dyeing next week

I have lots of the avocado dye as well as the eucalyptus mixture and the dandelions are still growing

there's lavender and rosemary and the carrots are peeking out of the ground already - carrot tops make a lovely colour

last year I grew woad and got enough leaves to extract enough pigment for a couple of skeins of grey-blue thread... this year I'm hoping to do even better with that

after the thread dyeing, I tried my hand at eco-printing

decent results with one branch but I can't say I care much for this process at all - I did dye small pieces of fabric when I did the threads, and they turned out fine, but it's really just dyeing embroidery thread that has captured my imagination

though the marks of the wrapping string on this pale mauve fabric look rather wonderful

so much opportunity for stitch here

the true colour of this is wonderful - a pale, pinky mauve but I can't edit this image to anything but grey...

and another outer covering fabric with even more string marks

it's a messy business, and not a quick one but if I putter away at it over the summer I should have a lovely range of threads for winter stitching

though I expect I'll be into them long before then...