Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Selling a Quilt is like Saying Goodbye to a Friend

A few weeks ago I sold one of my favourite quilts.    It was inspired several years ago by a chant we were singing in my women's choir.

                    "The earth is a woman and she will rise
                                   We will live in her"

The piece is named  'The Earth is a Woman'.   Hand stitched and hand-quilted with applique, embroidery, gemstone stars, and sequins, it is 34" x 25".    I was thrilled to sell it but also felt a little sad to see it go.  Nevertheless part of the pleasure in creating a piece is knowing that it will make someone happy.    It is a little like singing.   It's fun to sing in the shower but bringing music to others and seeing faces light up and toes tapping is simply the best!   Now I have new ideas to pursue.   Can't wait for the new year to get started.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Season's greetings

At my last fibre arts group meeting some of the members showed us holiday cards they had made.   So I got an idea.   I had picked up some blank cards which were all coloured in soft greens and coral patterns.   So I designed a fabric landscape using these soft colours.  I cut out some deer from a photo I had taken and some trees and glued them onto the landscape.   Then I copied them with my printer onto photo paper and glued them to the front of the cards which I had printed inside with a season's greetings message.

I was not totally satisfied but it was interesting and maybe I'll include some in gifts to my friends.   I haven't taken photos of the finished product yet but here is a landscape with and without the deer and trees.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

3 x 5 matted fabric landscapes

A few days before my open house I ordered a few mats for my 4 x 6 landscape miniatures.   I wanted a 5 x 7 mat with a 4 x 6" opening.  When they arrived I realized that I had ordered the wrong size and my mat openings were 3 x 5".     So....when life hands you lemons.......I quickly made up a few 3 x 5 minis - a size I hadn't worked with before.  I loved the results - especially with these white/black double mats.   I framed a few and offered a choice of matted and framed or unframed.   They turned out to be pretty popular at the open house.    Of course these are all fused to a backing and left unstitched.    But they look quite striking.  With the 3 x 5s you get more mat surrounding them than having a 5 x 7 mat on a 4 x 6 piece.   I plan to make more but here are some results of my little 'mistake'.

I am also starting back to work on pieces for my summer exhibition.   One is an interpretation of Kuan Yin from the buddhist tradition.   I started her almost 2 years ago, then put the piece aside to percolate (some pieces need more time than others:-)   This week I took it out and started adding hand-painted and appliqued icons - a young tiger, exotic bird, bowl of rice, dragon and lotus flower (so far).   I am liking the results but need to figure out more embellishments for her gown etc.

I also am itching to share something with visitors to my blog but I need to wait for a few weeks.  It was probably more exciting for me than for anyone else........

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Open House

My open house was successful and I really had a good time talking to visitors about my work.   It is always interesting to see the pieces that people choose as their favourites.   I have favourites of my own but they weren't always the ones that dazzled others.     One simple piece that I did with reverse applique called "Rooster" was a great hit with the men who came.  It was my son's favourite too.  

And what a treat to chat with other quilters about the work as well.    It isn't easy to put your work out there but when the feedback is positive I find it inspires me to continue to show my work and take chances. 

Of course, I had many comments about the fact that I do all the work by hand rather than using a machine.   In my many years as a social worker I found the handwork to be a way to de-stress after a day of work.   It was actually soothing to me.   Other quilters have told me that handwork has almost driven them to a nervous breakdown :-)

My thanks to all who came and supported my endeavours.   My friend Dyanne did a great job as hostess so I had time to speak to the visitors.  Here are more photos of the work and of my home all decorated up with quilts everywhere.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Open House

Tomorrow afternoon I am holding a fibre art open house at my home.  All the pieces are hung, the refreshments almost ready and the house is clean except for a last minute vacuuming.   It is amazing how much more critically I see my home when strangers are coming.   Also amazing is how dirt can hide in small corners, how many nail holes a wall can accumulate and how cluttered things get over time.    Ah well, I am hoping visitors will be focusing on the work hanging on the walls and not the walls themselves.     The reward for me is to have people view my work and to hear feedback, see which ones are more popular and to see how people interpret the work.     And the unanticipated reward?   My motto is 'when the house is clean invite people over' so..... I get a good start on my Christmas entertaining after all that cleaning!!   Maybe I'll take some photos tomorrow and post them - if I am not too busy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another Landscape - Berry picking in the Gatineau Hills

I am close to completing my berry picking piece.   Here is a sneak preview of parts of the quilt.  I'm not ready to reveal the whole piece yet.   This is one piece I will be exhibiting at the Textile Museum in Almonte Ontario next summer.     It was inspired by a photo of my son and I in the Gatineau Hills which his father snapped while  I was showing my son some hidden blueberries amongst the long grasses.   Later that afternoon we saw a bear on the hill but in my piece the mamma bear and her cub are watching us as we threaten to take away their dinner ( all this happened many moons ago - note the hippy peasant blouse).   My oldest son is now 38.     I used pale fabrics and tulle to make the sky and hills appear more misty in the distance.   Closer up the visibility increases and I used stronger colours.    In the foreground I hand stitched grasses, fused and stitched tiny leaves on the trees, and used seed beads for the blueberries.   I need to decide whether to finish it as a quilt or not.   Except for the sky, I don't think it needs quilting.   I may attach the finished piece to a stretched canvas and set it in a floating frame.    This is the difficult part for me.     But I am happy with the way it turned out so far.  I am still thinking of a name for it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

More fabric bookmarks and art cards

While I have been wearing out my fingertips from hand stitching my Gatineau Hills berry-picking piece, I have found some relief in making more bookmarks and art cards.   What fun to create tiny landscapes with fusible, fabric and a pair of sharp scissors.    Here are a few more with plastic sleeves and tassels attached.

                             I cover the backs with colourful fabrics.

I try to choose interesting batiks or hand dyes (including some of my own hand dyes).

And lastly here are some window cards with fused fabric landscapes.   Check out previous post on October 4, 2011 for details on how I assembled these cards and bookmarks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

stitched watercolour landscapes

Here is another of my stitched watercolour pieces.   It is a scene from Ingonish Ferry,  Cape Breton, NS.   First I paint with Caran Dache watercolour crayons and pencils onto fabric then I use tiny stitches to quilt through 3 thin layers.  I finish by adding a matt and frame.   This piece is 4" x 6" matted to 5 x 7.    They are great to do when I need a break from the larger pieces.   Another way to relax from the bigger pieces -  I've been using fusible to create more landscape bookmarks which my friends are buying almost as fast as I can make them.  I also have a line of art cards using fusible and fabric.   I'll try to get these items into my blog gallery for sale sometime soon.

I am almost finished my blueberry picking piece set in the Gatineau Hills.   Taken from a photo of myself and my son over 30 years ago on a hill near Champlain Lookout, we were sampling a few blueberries when we saw a bear in the distance doing the same thing.  I have taken liberties with my interpretation.   This piece is destined for an exhibit in the summer but I will give a sneak preview of parts of it once it is completed.  I have worn my fingertips raw with the thousands of stitches ( I hate using thimbles) but I am pleased with the results.  Re: not using thimbles, I have found that there is a moldable tape sold by Lee Valley in Canada that works well because it is softer and more pliable than a regular thimble.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Vacation in Cape Breton Nova Scotia

Here are some photos of my hiking trip to Cape Breton in September.  We think this was an immature bald eagle.  It was perched on a tree and allowed us to take many photos before flying away.

To arrive at this spot we had to climb a steep trail, parts of which were so steep that there were ropes strung along the side to hold onto.    The view from the top of Meat Cove Mountain made it all worthwhile.   It is beautiful up there.   It was also teeming with ripe blueberries which we sampled.
 Here is the ocean behind our rental cottage on a blustery but sunny day.  I love the way the light shines through the swell and the different shades of blue and aqua it creates.
 This was the eerie view from the Skyline Lookout on a misty day.      This trail starts at a high altitude as you walk in for several kilometres from the trailhead.  When you get to the ocean there are many many steps to descend with viewing platforms built into the side of the incline.   Breathtaking!   This is one of my favourite trails.
This photo was taken at the campground at Meat Cove.    To get to Meat Cove you need to drive a narrow winding road through the hills.   Last year, residents were stranded when a serious storm took out their bridge.   They needed to evacuate people by boat.

Computers Yuck!!

Two weeks ago my computer got a virus and shut down and refused to boot up.   After 12 (!!) days in the shop it was returned to me without virus this week.     However I had to re set my emails, reload up stuff, re-connect my printer etc.   And for a few hours I thought I had lost all my photos (some are backed up, some not).    Anyway they seem to be in the computer (but not where I left them!!) so I am going through a big learning curve.    Not good for someone who has serious computer anxiety.   There are still some issues that keep popping up but mostly it's working now.   And it is much faster now that most of the junk is gone.   So that's my story.

The good news is that my back is feeling much better and I had the best 12 days when I was free to quilt and have fun and not get bogged down with computer stuff.   I didn't really miss it! (except for blogging of course).     I realize that computers were taking over my life and my time.    So I am making a resolution even though it is not New Years.   I am determined to start having computerless days - to put it in its proper place in my life - a tool not my boss.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Experimenting with Fabric Bookmarks and More Fabric Cards

While nursing my back injury I haven't been able to do much stitching (not to mention bending or lifting or much of anything else).   However, since I seem to be more comfortable standing than sitting, I used the kitchen counter to fuse and cut fabric and experiment with making bookmarks and cards.   I ordered some plastic bookmark covers and tassels from Crystal Clear Bags Canada Inc where I also get my cardstock.    I found some backing material by the meter at Fabricland.  I don't know what it is called (it had the word 'craft' on it) but it's sort of an interfacing and the sales clerk said it was used in making lampshades.  So I used steam a seam 2 lite on the back of my fabric pieces and ironed them onto the non fusible side of the interfacing.   Then I ironed a piece of fabric onto the fusible back of the interfacing.  It worked like a charm.  Then I only needed to trim the edges and insert it into the cover.   I am presently looking for small gold foil labels that I can print my name and info on and stick to the back of the bookmark.

I made some more fabric art cards as well this time using the same light weight interfacing craft material and it worked well.   I concentrated mostly on blues, reds and purples for this batch and will do more autumn colours and greens once I fuse some more materials.   Here are some photos.  I am feeling better this week and have been working on finishing my 'Relationship Path' piece (which I think I will re-name "In the Beginning: Weathering the Relationship Path")

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back from Cape Breton

Well I am back from my hiking trip in Cape Breton with some new ideas.  Unfortunately I injured my back (not a hiking accident) and may be taking it easy for the next few weeks.  Hopefully I can still stitch a bit and plan some new work.   The hiking was good with some difficult trails and the weather was mostly sunny except when the tropical storm passed by (that was some hike up at Cape St Lawrence in the wind and rain!!).   I visited a lovely craft gallery along the Cabot Trail called Arts North with some wonderful hooked rugs, driftwood whales, landscape quilts, jewelry, pottery and more.   It was a quick stop and I didn't get the names of all the artists.  I hope they have a website.

We had a great turnout for Hike the Highlands, got to see old friends again and meet new people.   We saw a few moose on the trails and along the highway.   I purchased a couple of interesting books, one called The Song of Rita Joe, the poignant life story of an aboriginal poet from Cape Breton.    The other was a book about Cape Breton weather called Weather Watching for the Naturally Curious written by Bill Danielson -- a very interesting read!    Bill gave a talk about the weather at Hike the Highlands a few years ago and he and his wife Esther invited all of us hikers back to their home for snacks after a hike that year so I was thrilled to find this copy of his book.    The weather extremes on Cape Breton create magnificent landscapes - sun, fog, storms, high winds, rainbows over the water, wonderful cloud formations, great sunsets and sunrises, lovely twilight......great for a landscape quilter.  It is kind of appropriate that I am working on a Weather quilt right now.

Since I need to nurture my back for a few weeks I guess I'll have some time to read.....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Through all Kinds of Weather - Progress

I've been making some progress on "Through all Kinds of Weather: The Relationship Path".   Still not sure of the title since so many relationship don't weather the storms and this little embroidered couple are just starting down the path, so who knows.     I stitched the path with multicoloured threads and the couple in black.  I added some lightning to the stormy sections (purple and grey sections) but a friend thought they were sparks (as in 'sparks of attraction' or perhaps 'when sparks fly' in a relationship:-)   The binding is still partly pinned and I plan to add a narrow inner frame of black.  It is not a large piece, maybe 12" x 16" when completed.  No quilting for the next little while.  I'm off to Cape Breton tomorrow and hoping for good hiking weather.

Monday, September 5, 2011

East and West and a Gift of Fabric

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to western Canada and surprised me with some lovely fabric from an award-winning quilt shop in Canmore Alta called the Sugar Pine Company.  She is not a quilter herself but was impressed by the lovely art quilts on display there.  Just another reason for me to take a trip west.  She brought me their brochure and another flyer about "Canmore Quilt Art Rockies 2011-2012.    I was drawn to one of the quilts shown on the front of the brochure of camels silhouetted in the sunset.  It looked familiar.  What a coincidence!    They are presenting workshops by Gloria Loughman and David Taylor, both amazing art quilters and I had just purchased Gloria Loughman's book "Luminous Landscapes" and was starting to read it.  I showed it to my friend and she was suitably in awe.   A trip west is not in the cards for me this year so I'll just have to be content reading this luscious book.  

Nevertheless I am heading east to Cape Breton in a few days for my annual Hike the Highlands trip.   We will be doing day hikes for 10 days and I am so out of shape.   It has been a hot summer and I have not had much opportunity to hike except for a few short hikes in Gaspe in July.   Just being in Cape Breton is a treat however and I am looking forward to it.   I have been trying to figure out how I can afford to spend my summers there - house sitting? renting a seasonal trailer site, living in a camper van?    People always ask me if I am a maritimer and I say "no but I'm a wannabee".  My heart is really in the east (you can tell by my artwork).  I love the combination of hills and ocean, big sky and forest.     It's the best of both worlds for me, a place where you can drive a long time without seeing a fast food outlet.    Hopefully I'll come back with inspiration for more art quilts.  Here is a photo of Fishing Cove (a 12 km hike through these hills ending at the ocean)  and one of a bald eagle we saw while hiking the Coastal Trail near Neil's Harbour.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

stitching on black eyed susans completed

To prepare for an exhibition next summer, I am spending most of my time this year working on my 'pathways' series.    I am still working on my 'relationship path' and foggy 'mickeleens's path pieces ( the latter has already a zillion stitches!).    I have also spent time on another piece showing my son and I blueberry picking in Gatineau park which I already love (it's from a 34 year old photo).      I like to work on several pieces at a time.    But I also like to complete pieces because it motivates me.   And working on smaller pieces especially these painted stitched ones is very relaxing.  So here is my finished black eyed susans, all stitched and bound.   I decided to  add batting and backing and stitch through all three layers.   By cutting the backing slightly bigger than the front, I was able to fold it over and use it for the binding.    So the small piece (4 x 6" plus binding) is complete as it is but I will probably add a mat (8" x 10") and frame it without the binding showing - and without glass to show off the 3D effect of the stitching.  Why finish it this way if I am going to cover it with a frame???   I don't always do it this way but  I kind of like knowing that whoever ends up with this piece can remove the frame and have the nice surprise of seeing a finished stand alone little piece.   

Monday, August 29, 2011

Continuing my Pathways Series - The Relationship Path

Still on my 'Pathways' theme, I had an idea for a quilt about weather so I gathered up some  sky fabric, painted some more and waited for inspiration.    Since I often think in terms of music,  soon the words "through all kinds of weather" came to mind - and my quilt became about relationships (this is how my mind works).   

I started piecing skies with sunrise, blue skies, starry skies, sunsets and storms.   I used a mix of cottons, organza and painted satin (with ranger dyes).   The cottons were painted with my usual water soluble crayons, watercolour pencil crayons and setacolours.    I added a kind of rainbow pathway with painted satin and cut some pink and gold organza, fused it with misty fuse and created a soft morning sun.  After stitching it all together I added black couched cord around each piece for a stained glass look.   Next I will add two small black silhouettes of a couple along the pathway and embroider some lightning in the sharp-edged stormy segments.    Now I am trying to decide whether to add any quilting or just frame it as it is.   Also how to frame it - possibly with sky fabric or black binding?  I'll need to do some thinking and audition some fabric before I go any further.  If I use sky fabric I will add black binding as an inside frame.   It might even be interesting to mat it and frame it under glass.   I think I will call it "Through All Kinds of Weather: The Relationship Path".    Maybe it should end with a question mark.   What do you think?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Canada Mourns

I am writing this entry in orange today as a tribute to Jack Layton, the leader of the official opposition (NDP) in Canada who passed away this week.   His funeral is today.   Many Canadians, whether we share his political views or not, are saddened by the loss of a man who has consistently fought for the rights of all Canadians.   He has tirelessly supported the poor and marginalized of our society and has always shown optimism and hope for creating a better world  for all.   He was a role model for his beliefs - for example - driving a bicycle to work,  taking time to speak to all groups in society, even opening his home to people who needed a place to meet.   He was known to entertain the press on the campaign trail with his guitar and love of music.   In a time when many political parties around the world will do anything just to win at all costs, I believe that Jack Layton always put the needs of the country and its citizens first.    I hope that politicians around the world will see the great outpouring of love and respect for this man and realize that their citizens are intelligent enough to see what they are doing.   Ultimately we will choose those who genuinely care about their country and not those who are simply seeking power and wealth while the average family suffers.  Rest in Peace Jack!  May the dream live on.    

Painted Fabric - black eyed susans before stitching

Here's a photo of my black eyed susans painted onto fabric.   I don't worry about a lot of detail because the stitching will take care of that.  I think I will add the backing first and stitch through the layers.  I haven't quite decided whether to add batting or not.   As I said before it makes the piece a little thick for framing under glass.   But it does add some contours to the design when stitching through 3 layers.  If I do add batting I will probably frame it without glass.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Painting Pictures on Fabric

Recently, I completed a few 4" x 6" 'pictures' painted on fabric.    For subjects I chose a photo of the Tablelands in Newfoundland, an amaryllis, a scene of kayaking down a river and some black-eyed susans.  First I painted the scene/flower on white cotton fabric with caran d'ache crayons, water soluble pencil crayons or setacolours then I heavily embroidered or stitched them with tiny stitches.   I experimented with stitching first then adding thin batting and backing, stitching through top layer and backing but no batting, and stitching through all three layers.   Then I matted them.    I find that if I want to frame under glass with a ready made frame the batting sometimes makes it too thick so I think for these tiny matted pieces it works better to finish them off pillowcase style without a middle layer.   I do like the way they look when I stitch through the front and back layer however.    Another alternative is to simply add a plain muslin backing to the top layer and tape it onto the mat then frame (more like a painting).   Here is a look at the two that I have finished.  I matted them on 8 x 10" mats.


Here is another which still needs a backing.   Shown here with a 5 x 7" mat.  I don't have a photo of the black eyed susan piece which still needs to be stitched.

These are fun to do and gives me some practice painting fabric.    The major stitching does take a while to complete even though they are small (so are the stitches:-)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Gannet Family Album

Here is my latest - inspired by my visit to the gannet colony on Ile Bonaventure in the Gaspe.    I decided to use pigma pen and my new water soluble pencil crayons to draw and colour in my gannets doing all the things that gannets do (see previous post of gannet photos and info).     Then I hand-stitched them on a watery background and embroidered on each 'photo'.   It seemed appropriate to call it "A Gannet Family Album".     I love these new Caran d'ache pencil crayons.   I have already fallen in love with their watercolour crayons but the pencil crayons allow me to be more precise and put just the right amount of colour where I want it.   I usually add just a little water using a small watercolour brush after drawing on the fabric.     Then I heat set with a hot dry iron.   I made stamps of stars and fishes using a foam sheet and stamped fish and stars to the background in golds, silvers etc.  I also added three fabric stars.  Then I added thin batting and backing and hand-quilted along the lines of the waves with multicoloured threads.    I used a fun multicoloured and polka dotted fabric for the backing and binding because these birds are almost clown-like with their gait and their blue eye ring and feet markings.   If I were to do it over I would make the "on guard" gannet bigger with the others around it as in cartoon bubbles......

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More Work in Progress

Well I am almost finished organizing my space and starting to feel more creative - It always works!   I am still working on my gannet piece and have gone back to this foggy, Newfoundland piece to do some more stitching.  Another pathway, I think I'll call it "Fog on Micheleen's Path".   This is a 'before' photo (before stitching that is).   I started by painting the background and faraway trees, adding layers of netting then painting and fusing tree trunks to the background,  lighter ones in the distance, getting darker and bigger close up.   I added lots of bushes and ground cover then more netting as I moved to the foreground, then cut and added strips of white netting to show the fingers of fog drifting round the trees.  I used dyed cheesecloth (purchased) under netting for the foliage of the evergreens.   Now I am appliqueing the trunks by hand and adding stitches to the ground cover.   I will photograph my progress with the stitching and post it soon.    The inspiration was a foggy day hike on Micheleen's Path part of the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland.   I think it is starting to take shape now.  It needs some more layering and stitching to create depth and a less defined look.  It sometimes pays to put things aside for awhile to see if new ideas emerge.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Gannet Colony

I have almost completed the re-organization of my workspace and storage area and have started planning a new piece.   It is inspired by a gannet colony we visited on Ile Bonaventure and I am calling it "A Gannet Family Album".   Gannets are kind of goofy-looking birds when walking - with their blue eye ring and matching blue markings on their feet.   Their faces look painted on.    But they exhibit some interesting characteristics as these photos show.   Their nests consist of rows of lumps of earth which have been prepared carefully for their one egg.    The mother shows care and concern for the fluffy baby.   As we watched, one little one put its head into the mother's mouth to eat regurgitated food.   They can be fiercely territorial and will attack if another gannet unwittingly strays into their territory (see photo with 2 birds holding each other's bill - neither will let go until a third bird joined the fight and one managed to slip away.    Their courting rituals are graceful and captured often in art as they rise up and touch bills, wings outspread.    They also show reverence by bowing deeply.  I'm not sure of the purpose but it really looks very human like (or are we copying them?).   Apparently the partners winter separately in Florida and meet up the next spring back at the same colony (not a bad idea.  No wonder their relationships last).   They recognize each other by their voices (very similar to penguins I believe).  These behaviours and family groupings just called out to be part of my 'gannet family album'.    I plan to paint, applique and embroider this piece.  I'll posts the results.
See the blue eye ring