Sunday, December 24, 2017

oh christmas...

christmas eve... the quiet hour before dinner

time to pause, breathe, gather thoughts, anticipation

it's interesting, getting older...

it always surprises me how differently i see things as the years slide by

when i was young i was enthralled with the story of st. nicholas... "santa" was who i believed to be the bearer of gifts but in grade five i read a book about the story of st. nicholas and i loved it

i thought then, and do still today, that it was a better story, a truer belief and something we could all aspire to, every day

to give what we can to those who need it more than we do

to think about others before we think of ourselves

a few years ago i made a "wrapping cloth" in one of karen ruane's classes - she spoke of a wrapping cloth being a cloth you make in honour of a person, to symbolically wrap them up and keep them safe. stitching your love for them into every part of it

i made mine in honour of christmas and all the love and memories i have of those early christmases of mine

of my mom who did everything she could to make them special, of my brothers and my friends, the importance of loving and giving

of sharing

of the year my oldest brother went out after we younger ones were asleep

he cut down a tree, set it up in our bedroom, decorated it and put presents under it - what a grand surprise that was!
there are stars on it like these. for the wishes that need wishing

and hearts like this one, for those who need loving...

christmas, with all it's beautiful layers of meaning, might seem like an odd thing to want to keep "safe"

but sometimes this world would like to drag us down a different path

and the love and joy the season brings, and all that goes with that, need a helping hand


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

cobbled cloth

ever since i embraced piecing fabrics together without a traditional seam i have been stitching together the tiniest scraps to make larger pieces of cloth 

it's bordering on a addiction now which is fun but also frustrating as i work with pieces that are sometimes no bigger than 1/2 inch square

they do wriggle and squiggle around

but they also create wonderfully unique pieces of cloth that i can use as they are, cut up, or in this case, handquilt

and for a purist, this is indeed three layers, held together by stitch

the top layer is all the snippety-bits which are carefully stitched together on a base of the lightest muslin 
once that is done the cloth is placed on a square of soft, spongy flannelette and then i hand-quilt it

a beautiful unique base for all sorts of interesting things
(which i haven't made yet!)

i've been distracted with card-making again

 here i've taken a fragment of paper and cloth, tacked it on to a piece of hand-made paper, added beads and french knots
as well as a few other stitches

mounted on a card blank, it becomes a small piece of art in it's own right

a few other designs i've been playing with... the heart below is adapted from a design put out by quilt mania a few years ago during one of their christmas advent projects available online

the stocking is of my own design

a simple appliqued stocking, a few french knots and felt holly leaves combined with scattered seed stitching

below you can see two designs from a process i'm developing at the moment

i'm playing about with gesso and matte medium, brushing them on linen, sketching with a permanent marker and then painting with watercolours
 finally, a little hand embroidery to add texture and interest

thrilled with the results, now conjuring up more designs... it never ends...

 maybe i'll try throwing a little applique into the mix?

and now back to cobbled cloth again... this time purpose-built to be backgrounds for collage-style cards

 i have two bases on the go, on one i'd like to do a tree, on the other i'm thinking about a deer

seems deer are everywhere in the design world though so i'm letting my thoughts on that one percolate for a bit whilst i finish up a few other things that have been lying around a little too long...

 the flotsam and jetsam of an inspired mind and fingers that can't keep up!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

you've come a long way baby...

many years ago i took a book-binding course in vancouver

it was a fabulous day, folding paper, making signatures, covering bookboard, working with book cloth, learning how to glue

the result was a lovely little little hard-bound book

the only thing i didn't like about it was the way the book block was cased in - we had to cut slits in the spine and then thread the linen tapes (or ribbon, in this case) through the slits, pulling the book-block firmly against the spine and then tying bows

i hated the look of the bows so after the class i undid them, tied knots and cut the ends short

which proved to be a dumb idea as they keep coming undone

the frayed knots can be seen quite clearly in the photo below...

for years i puttered at book-binding, improving my techniques with advice gleaned from here and there but i wasn't satisfied - they weren't as good as i knew they could be...

whilst in london this past spring i was generously taken about the city by a kindred spirit who knew all the best places to go for textiles, ribbons and trims, and paper

first stop was shepherd's book-binding

"oh to be in england in the spring-time"
especially if i could be here...

 the selection of specialty papers is astounding and though i did treat myself to a few, i was really after actual book-binding tools

i did find a few of those and in addition, i treated myself to a very good book of proper book-binding techniques

over the past few weeks i've been working my through the various lessons - not difficult but definitely daunting

i've made a pamphlet book, a single folio (signature) hard bound book and now this

 a hard-covered, rounded-spine cased-in book

and i smocked the spine!

 i've long admired kate bowle's books 

especially her smocked spine ones

they sell almost the minute she posts them so i finally decided i would attempt my own but before doing that i wanted to learn how to make a better book

 first i learned to smock - several amazing tutorials on the internet helped a lot, and after a few trial runs, i got it right

 then on to the book-binding techniques, working my through every stage, patiently waiting the days and hours for glue to dry, papers to press, over and over and over again

and then came the day where i had to glue the spine, round it, cover it and cover it again

breathe deep and jump in

 thrilled is an understatement!

next up is to learn head bands which will be the icing on the cake

i have all sorts of plans for these new skills, the first of which is to make myself a 

"book of trees"

doing that was never on my radar but sometimes things in the universe conspire and if you stop long enough to recognize it, something wonderful might just happen...

the trees across the street from us, many of them 100 years old and more, have started coming down

 the first day was heart-breaking 

the thudding sound as they hit the ground in sections reverberated through the house - i couldn't ignore what was happening if i tried

over and over, one by one, they felled the first four

there's a pause now, until someone buys the wood and hauls it away

 and then the rest will follow

sad doesn't begin to explain how i feel, but they aren't mine and there's no choice in this

that evening i stumbled upon an online course coming up this month on making your own "book of trees" and i thought it might be just the thing to do to capture the memory and perhaps pay my respects

100 years is a long time

standing sentinel on that corner, the land falling away to the lake below

imagining the changes over time, the houses built, the people who walked by, children playing under and in them, climbing from branch to branch

the generations of birds that have sheltered there, year after year

they have stood there, in that same place, for a century and more, strong and silent, bending but never breaking

standing still, yes, and yet what a long way they have come

Thursday, October 26, 2017

plodding along...

a day, a week, a month and then two
i wouldn't have believed it if you'd told me

this month especially has flown by
the leaves are yellow and red, glorious against the bright blue sky, falling at the barest hint of a breeze

winter is not far off...

fall is without doubt my favourite time of the year, especially when it's slightly damp and there's a wooded area to walk through... smoke curling in the sky, peek-a-boo views that have been hidden since spring

i try and get out for a walk every day and though i easily managed that in the summer, this month tells a different tale
it isn't daily right now but it's as often as can be and i love it
i do my best creative thinking when i'm walking outside - just need to start carrying a pen and paper with me so i can jot some of that "brilliance" down - ha!

stitching time has been all about little pieces, tiny bits that are fiddly beyond belief but give very satisfying results

i am making cards these days, to sell at the shop where i work part-time, and have been experimenting with a few different things
below is the first one i did and though i love it, i won't be making them to sell there - for what i'll get paid, this takes way too long to do so i'm working on a simplified version

i do love little houses though, especially those made out of fabric so i'm working on a re-vamp of the design, simplifying it, wanting something equally as charming but a little quicker - maybe one house will do the trick?

I'm also wanting to make some abstract ones, cards that aren't necessarily seasonal or occasion-themed

art cards i guess

that idea is still percolating but has been fueled by something else i made a while back

the piece below is all sorts of tiny scraps of silk and lace, loosely stitched with a simple grid and now cut into three pieces

i've done a bit of stitching on one of the pieces already but am thinking that it might be worth trying out a few ideas on one of the two remaining

i love the colours and all the textures, the looseness of it all
and how fragile they feel in my hand
stitching on them is a huge challenge but i am reluctant to try and stabilize them in any way as I just don't want to detract from that soft fragility

careful experimentation then, with a light hand

i will be back, with more to show, and sooner rather than later...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

tales of childhood

when i was seven we moved to our newly built house in a completely different area of whitehorse

having lived my whole life in the downtown portion of the city, being out in the country was a new experience... businesses and sidewalks gave way to houses on large lots with loads of trees
the new school was one block away
and no longer would i leave school every noon hour to go to my grand-parent's house for lunch

i loved lunchtime
my grandfather "papa" came home from work, as did my mom - they, my grandmother, and us four kids made for a pretty lively lunch hour... i was going to miss that terribly...

but my mom had a plan and it involved the lady next door

she had three small daughters, and was very young herself... a stay-at-home mom who loved to sing whilst she worked... cooking and cleaning, baking her own bread, washing and ironing... i can never, to this day, do housework without singing "scarborough fair"

we went there for a hot lunch five times a week and again after school until mom and dad came home from work

one day she was hand embroidering on a piece of the softest flannelet... it was the yoke of a nightgown for her middle daughter... three little heads, full of wavy hair, each one different...

as she stitched she sang the poem

"wynken and blynken and nod one night sailed out on a wooden shoe..."

i never forgot it, nor have i forgotten how i felt about what she was doing... a nightgown with an embroidered yoke for a three year old? 
i knew even then that wasn't a commonly thing done, even if it was 1968

devotion - and not just to her daughter, but also to the making

this poem then, for me, is all wrapped up in a beautiful telling of the imaginative workings of a child's mind, and the devotion of a mother, in time and thought in an artful practice
i've long wanted to make something inspired by that most wonderful of poems and now i've finally begun

i'm stitching the story, the poem "wynken, blynken and nod", making a little cloth book, complete with text and illustrations of my own design

 it's taken me a long time to work out the construction details but i finally have a plan that i think (and hope!) will work

one page with the text written out along with a few stitched details

and a facing page that illustrates that portion of the poem

it's a bit of a challenge as there aren't really many "scenes" but i'm making the most of every nuance in the verse

the details are tiny, time consuming, repetitive

but i don't mind

some of the applique is needle turned but much of it is just overcast along the edges

it'll rough up a bit as it's handling but i'm ok with that - i think it will just add to the tactile nature of the book

the pages will be about 6' square so just the right size for little hands to hold and turn

and a nice size for a scene - simple illustrations, fun with the details

i'm not just stitching a story though... i'm stitching a memory

a lasting memory of a very special person who has had a great influence on my life, and even more clearly, on my work


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

a bird in the hand...

 last year i decided to try my hand at weaving and bought myself a "wee weaver"... a tiny weaving loom for weaving swatches and samples

wanting very much to take it with me on our travels to the uk, i made myself a little pouch to carry it about in
 it's made up of a pieced section with embroidered seams and a plain area of light coloured linen on which i embroidered a little wren, taken from a watercolour of edith holden's

and take it i did...

on our journey, we had the amazing good fortune to meet up with the most wonderful couple, spending several days in their company whilst visiting the peaks and their lovely little village of hayfield

they wined and dined us and took us to the most wonderful places... beautiful country drives, a tour of a grand estate, a musical experience we'll forever treasure - the list goes on

we joked about their "typical english life" but they way they welcomed us into their lives for those four days was in no way typical at all

it was magical

the highlight for me was the day christine and i hiked up in the hills above hayfield - up to the moor, to the heather - to wide open spaces i'd dreamt of and read about in the words of charlotte and emily bronte
oh, that wide and windy moor... i loved it

but those were the things i knew of the moor - christine knew of another and she was keen for me to know it too

the curlew, the bird of the english moor, with a cry as distinctive and haunting as the loon of our north american lakes

a bird of place

not long into our hike, there was first a rustle, then the feathered-thrum of a bird in rapid flight and finally the sound of the curlew floated back on the wind, back to where we stood, and straight in to my own heart

i had wanted to take my little loom and weave a bit up there, to put the essence of the place into a small scrap of work, even down to using some of the grasses and plants along the path

but with the threat of rain, it was too cold to linger and so we hiked ourselves back to her cozy and warm house where, with a cup of tea and warming lunch, she played with my loom and i read from her amazing textile book collection

and so passed my favourite day in england...

i wanted to make something for christine that would embody that day, capture that memory, and seeing how much she admired the carry bag i made for my little loom, i resolved to make her one of her own

 a quick sketch from an internet photo

laying in the under feathers

trying for a feathered, not furred, look

not so easy i found out, especially with these markings...

switching off to the heather now and again for a bit of something easy

at one point i lamented to my son how hard it was to stitch, to get the feathers right, to get the distinction between the wing, body and underbelly

he said at least i could be thankful christine's favourite bird wasn't the peacock...
true enough, but a small mercy!
but i persevered and each stitch brought the image of the curlew to life

i wouldn't say i did her justice, but i do think it's close, and i learned so much - there is an order to thread-painting that i think makes it easier, and whilst there is a very strong desire for "exactness", i am learning that "representational" is often a better way to go

and now there are two

 the curlew and the little wren...

one for each

Saturday, August 5, 2017

little bitty...

like the song, it's alright to be little bitty...

i love it actually - there is a special quality to that which is diminutive

perhaps it's the smallness in size that makes us sit up and take notice of special details...

perhaps "small" lets what's special shine

whatever the attraction, i find these little stitched samples rather entrancing - they draw you in, the loose lower edge is irresistible
they have to be lifted, if only to look from a different angle

eleven weeks now, a daily patch
not always finished daily but i'm working on that - it's an untidy heap, each week's worth, as i stitch on this one and that, ideas building, one to another

 these ones are among my most favourite - tiny bits of fabric, loose, raw edges, embroidery on the surface

i can't tell you why, but the one above with the star stitches is probably my most favourite of all

 though these stacked up ones come a pretty close second

 for the first eight or nine weeks there was no plan - whatever i felt like doing i did

pick a swatch, choose some fabric and thread, think for a minute - go

 then one day i got into the buttons and suddenly, a series was born...

variations on a theme, embroidery surrounding buttons - stitching the buttons themselves down in ways that differ from the ordinary

the little white one on the bottom of the swatch above was a treat to do and joy to look at

 and after that i tried out the same sort of technique with scraps of fabric

 the two above were borne of a hankering to play with my favourite colours and favoured materials... a geometric, scratty lace and embroidery thread

the scraps are used as they come from the bowl - fitting them together, like a jig-saw puzzle

and then i thought of weave...