Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Best Wishes for a Safe and Peaceful Holiday

We are having a white christmas and I can't wait to strap on the snow shoes and get out on the trails.   After the holiday commercialism I need to get back in touch with the things that really matter.
Peace to all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Peacock Won an Award!

With Eyes Like Diamonds in the Sky
Several months ago I completed this beaded embroidered piece for a beading challenge with my fibre arts group (Out of the Box) and Canada Beading Supply.  We were given a bag of beads and silk threads and we needed to use them in the piece.  I stitched this peacock on a black background.    All the works are presently displayed at Canada Beading Supply, 210 Colonnade Road, Unit 12, Ottawa, and will be there for several months.  It is an amazing exhibition of bead and threadwork.  If you are in the Ottawa area be sure to drop in.  After the exhibition the pieces will be auctioned off to support the Heart Institute.

Visitors were asked to vote for their favourite piece.   On Monday I was notified that I won!!!    It was a tie.   I share the honour with MaryAnne Toonders and her beautiful piece called City of Gold.

It was a lovely surprise and a nice way to end 2012.   The prize is a gift certificate for Canada Beading.   How yummy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

With Heavy Hearts

I have not felt like posting in the last few days because  my heart is heavy with grief for the lives lost in Newtown and their families and friends.  I'm sad for the survivors who witnessed such an atrocity.  My grief is mixed with anger at the waste of so many lives.  As a Canadian, I find it all so difficult to comprehend and can only hope that something is learned from this tragedy and it becomes a motivator for change.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Pickle Dish - a New Quilt Shop in Carleton Place

We are always excited to see new places to find fabric in the Ottawa area and yesterday I visited The Pickle Dish, a new quilt shop and studio on Bridge Street in Carleton Place.    Owner Jan Kittle has lots of yummy fabric and threads, long arm machine, and offers classes in a warm cheerful shop.   The walls are decorated with lovely fabric art.    My fabric bookmarks and new fabric landscape pins are also available at her shop.  For more information go to   www.thepickledish.ca

And of course I had to purchase fabric.....

The colourful one is for another 60s piece I am working on - all about the passage of time....

I'm also happy to say that another Goddess doll has found herself a new home.  This time it's 'doll with shocking pink hair and extensions' that has moved on, hopefully to spread comfort and joy.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tutorial for Fabric Landscape Pins

This is still a work in progress for me to find the best way to make fabric pins - I'm thinking about mounting them on tiny pieces of wood for example - but for now here is how I make them.

I complete each one individually so I start by fusing steam a seam 2 lite to the back of a bunch of fabric (quite often I just use scraps of fused fabric that I have left over from other projects).  I cut up several small (2" x 1.5", 2" x 2", 2" x 1.75" etc) rectangles from a piece of interfacing or craft bond that is fusible on one side.  This will be the backing for each tiny landscape.
I cut out tiny pieces of sky, hills, fields, flowers etc one at a time, with very sharp small scissors. Starting with the sky and working down, I place them on the piece of interfacing (on the side which is not fusible because my fabric is already backed with fusible).  Once they are all in place and to my liking, I iron them down gently.  I use a non stick sheet or paper backing from the fusible underneath because, remember, the back is sticky.
iron carefully so you don't dislodge the pieces

the sticky side

I trim the edges to the desired size with my rotary cutter.  Oops.  This one is still a little crooked.

For the next step I want to prepare the felt layer and the backing.   In the end there should be a fabric layer, interfacing, felt and fabric backing.  So I fuse backing fabric to pieces of felt.

Then I lay out the landscapes on the felt side making sure there is enough space between them because I want the felt to show at the edges for a picture frame effect.  I iron them down because they are easier to cut afterwards.  I actually cover them with a piece of paper or my non stick sheet because I don't want any gunk from the iron to end up on the pieces.  I wondered if the fusible on the back of the interfacing would still fuse to the felt since it had already been ironed once when I fused the landscape to it.   In the first batch I made it worked fine.  However, this time some of the pieces started to lift from the felt.   So I added a thin layer of  Hi Tac Craft Glue and that seemed to do the trick.  In fact if your interfacing or other backing material is not fusible you just need to add a layer of fusible web to the back of it before ironing.  Or like I did, just glue it down to the felt.

Next, I cut them apart and trim them leaving a 1/8" border of felt.  Make sure your rotary cutter blade is sharp because it has to cut through all four layers.

And here they are - but there are still two more steps.
I painted a thin layer of Matte Gel Medium to the face of the pin to give it some protection and keep the fusible from lifting.  

careful not to paint the felt edge
And voila, I have a pin - all ready to attach a metal pin back - the most tedious and time consuming part of the process.   I sew the pin backs on because I don't quite trust using glue.   If I am ignoring a more obvious way of doing this please give me your ideas.
I hope my instructions were clear enough.   I'd be happy to answer any questions about the process.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two More Goddesses Completed

Here are my latest goddesses completed.  I especially love the red hair because it took sooo long to produce that curly look (no I didn't use tiny hair rollers or give her a perm)

I had used two ply yarn because I didn't have any fancy curly stuff in that colour and I wanted her to be a redhead.   Then I unwound each strand to make it curl......if there was an easier way I wish someone would let me know.  But in the end I loved the result.   Her hair really puffs out.  For the  next girl I gave some shaggy bangs.  I used silk threads for her hair but maybe that was a mistake because it does shed a bit and the hair looked a little thin and limp so.....

 I braided in some hair extensions in different colours.   There is one at the front as well.
And I guess I forgot to mention in my last post that the backs of the dolls are all different patterned fabric. So here is a back view.
Now on to making more pins.   This time I'll take photos as I go.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Introducing The Goddesses

Meet my goddesses!
A couple of years ago I started making goddess dolls for friends - especially those who were going through tough times and needed support.  I embroidered words of encouragement on them and dressed them up with flowers and vines.  After getting some feedback and hearing how they really helped them to get through the worst times, I decided I should make more.     These three girls went to a craft show last night and my lovely yellow tulip goddess went home with a new friend.  I hope she helps.

 Here are close ups of the embroidered tulips and words of encouragement - and her cool hair.

Coral goddess has lots of attitude too.

She is embroidered with vines, hearts and flowers.

And finally lavender goddess especially made for those friends who have lost a breast to cancer.  She has lots of heart and her basket is overflowing with abundance.

I have a couple more that are not quite finished.   They do take a long time to stitch.  I need to tweek the design a bit to make it easier to stuff and stitch.  I'd like to make them more 'traditionally built' ie more full bodied.  

I have also designed some tiny landscape pins and they sold well at the craft show last night.  I wanted to post a tutorial but didn't take enough photos along the way (because I wasn't sure they would work out).  I'll try to remember to photograph the next one I make and then I can do a 'how to' post.    Here is a photo of the finished ones.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back to Hand Stitching

As I mentioned last post, I am planning to do a piece for Quilt Canada's Trend Tex Challenge.  I have been sketching 'Sunshine and Vines' in my sketch book trying to come up with something that will utilize the materials best.   I spent some time on my computer trying to find some photos I took of my friend's garden a couple of years ago but they seem to have disappeared (I have learned over time that setting the correct date on my camera is VERY important if I want to be able to find photos that are not in their own albums).  I also changed computers last year and things got a little scrambled in the changeover.    The long and the short of it is that I didn't find the photos.    The good news is that I came across several other interesting vine photos to choose from.  One was from a garden I visited in Quebec last summer.  It was a metal swing structure completely covered in vines.  I also have some interesting vines on a fence overlooking the Ottawa River.   The third sketch came from my own backyard - grapevines growing on the side of my house with the sun  shining down on them.   I did a small piece inspired by this last photo and using lots of hand embroidered flowers, many stitches, and my own fabrics.  Here is the result.


I used a yellow fabric with small leaf/flower shapes on it for the wall and stitched the lighter, sun drenched grape leaves with shiny threads.  The flowers along the patio are embroidered and so are the grapes and curly tendrils.   The tree, fence, grass (mine has more weeds), cedars are heavily hand stitched with tiny stitches.  The whole piece is only 4 x 6".   It was nice to get back to some hand stitching.

Here are some of the other sketches I may try.

 I think the second one may not work - all those tiny leaves and not a very interesting design.  It would need some work.  I am leaning toward the fence/river piece.  But I may do something completely different - maybe an abstract?  That would be different for me for sure.

I am actually working on a piece with a somewhat abstract theme right now.  It came to me while performing a song (see previous post) and I may call it "Five AM and Counting".   Who hasn't lain awake at 5 am worrying about everything from what to make for dinner to world peace?   I have sketches and a pattern and will probably improvise as I go along.   It can be a disturbing theme and I find myself juxtaposing the serious with the absurd - we'll see how it comes out.

I also found a couple more wool blazers at the thrift shop - in a soft yellow and pale green - which I plan to dissassemble for my next rug hooking project.  I am still looking for some blues.   There was a lovely sky blue blazer there but I couldn't bring myself to take it away from someone who would want to purchase it to wear.  It was just too elegant.  

Still practicing free motion,  here's a little piece I stitched up yesterday (how I love saying that seeing as it takes me weeks/months to do a hand stitched piece).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Blogathon visits Ontario

All week Sew Sisters Quilt Shop  has been holding a Blogathon.  Hosts from each province link up to bloggers in their home province.   All week I have been visiting blogs and 'meeting' new Canadian quilters.   On Saturday it is Ontario's turn.   You can click on the red and blue button on the right to visit with bloggers from sea to sea to sea.

 I live in the Ottawa region where we have lots of wonderful greenbelt, bike trails as well as the Gatineau Park to hike, cross country ski, snow shoe and bike (and where I find lots of inspiration for art quilts).  I must admit that my heart (and inspiration) lies also in the Atlantic Provinces especially Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

 For new visitors, in the last month I have been taking a break from sixteen years of hand stitching and teaching myself to do free motion and machine thread work.  This week I completed a couple of pieces (with some frustrations and foul language).

Tenerife II
In this one I used a photo of Tenerife Mountain as viewed from Cabot's Landing Beach in Cape Breton.  I had already completed a painted hand stitched version of this but in this one I layered fabric then machine stitched it all.   In the foreground I added some hand stitched grasses for perspective.  I added a bit of paint to the sky to reflect the pinks in the variegated stitches on the water.

Photo Inspiration

Original Painted Hand Stitched Piece
I think it can be helpful to explore themes and inspirations in more than one way.  I often used to  paint a piece on canvas then develop it in fabric. It gave me a familiarity with the theme.  Sometimes after finishing a piece I think that I should have just used a part of the picture or used different techniques or a different size.  I want to try more reworking of these ideas.  I also like to work in a series - trees for example.    

Not that I don't have enough new ideas to work on.   I can't seem to keep up with them.   So I sketch them out and work my way through.   This year I seem to be exploring water.   I was in the middle of a performance with my women's choir earlier this week and an idea came to me right in the middle of a song about dreams and rivers and searching.  I found my mind wandering and designing in my head.   Talk about multi tasking!!   Good thing our part was somewhat repetitious!   So I hurried home afterwards and drew out some sketches......to be continued.

Here is another little piece (3 x 5") that I completed by machine stitching this week.
Machine Stitched Mini

And finally for hand stitching fans, I have not abandoned my first love.  Here I have fussy cut flowers, appliqued them to a background fabric and hand stitched and quilted the piece.  It is not large - about 6 x 9".

Hand stitched floral

Close up of stitching

Trend tex challenge fabric
 And a last piece of news that might interest some of you.  A few weeks ago I received my package of fabrics for Quilt Canada 2013's Trend Tex Challenge.  This year's theme is Sunshine and Vines.  I have laid the fabric out on my dining room table to observe and think about and have sketched a few possibilities.  I even worked one theme in a small piece but am not thrilled with it.   I'd better get at it.   For more information  go to Quilt Canada 2013 and look for the Trend Tex Challenge.  There may still be time to order a kit.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave comments or say hello (I love connecting with other fibre artists).    

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Free Motion Stitching

View near Mud Lake - Machine stitched

We had a great time at our quilting retreat and I spent almost the whole weekend working on this piece.  I was determined to master free motion work so I just stitched away all weekend (aside from eating the wonderful meals we took turns preparing, drinking wine and talking....).   I will post pictures of the retreat next week.   I was pretty satisfied with the results of my machine labours and have continued since my return home to work on more pieces which I will post later this week.   I learned about changing needles often, I tried to get my head around all the different needles for different processes, still struggling to learn about threads and tensions etc etc.   I must say that it is great to be able to complete a piece in a weekend.  I can't do that with hand stitching.   However,  I still feel a lot more relaxed after an evening of hand stitching.  I think there's a lot more swearing that goes on (and talking to inanimate objects ie the machine!) when I am machine stitching.   But I am trying to remain calm even when the stitches bunch up behind the work and the machine begins its ominous clunking noises.    I stop, check my threading, check the tension, look to see if there is anything caught in the machine - then, if all else fails, I stop and have a cup of tea.:)

Inspiration near Mud Lake
Here is the photo that inspired this piece.    We have a lovely area down near the Ottawa River with a small pond called Mud Lake which is a haven for many kinds of birds and waterfowl.  This was taken on the river side.

On my way home from the quilt retreat, I stopped in at Loblaws to pick up a few things.  When I came out, this is the sight that greeted me.  Luckily I had my camera with me and quickly took some shots.  What a spectacular sunset!   Sadly a couple of days later it seems I missed a magnificent aurora borealis.   Ah well another time....

Urban Sunsets

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Practicing Free Motion

I was determined that, before the year was over I would tackle my sewing machine and practice free motion/threadwork.   Never mind that I haven't even learned the basics of machine sewing,  what I really needed to learn was how to embroider on my landscapes with my sewing machine.   I have been having some pain in my fingers, wrist and shoulder from all that hand stitching and need to give it a break, although I am reluctant to lose the 'label' as exclusively a hand stitcher.  After doodling on pieces of felt for a couple of hours, I decided to jump right in.   I figured it would be easiest to try stitching on some ready made flowers before trying to create my own so I cut and fused flowers onto a background (I actually used craft bond as if I was making them into art cards).  And here are the results of number 1 and number 2 sample.  The stitching is pretty basic but I had fun learning to follow the veins in the petals and leaves, trying to control my speed and the direction of my stitching. I had no trouble with stitches, thread or needles. I even tried a zigzag stitch.

 Since I do a lot of grasses, trees, bushes and water, I next drew a pattern with mountains, grasses and a stream running through it inspired by some of my photos, and went to work.   I used solvy stabilizer and a hoop for this one.  I like using the hoop to move the fabric even though it can be cumbersome and I needed to re set the piece inside the hoop several times.   I really stitched the heck out of it and had fun trying different threads (like the multicoloured one that I used for the section below the trees.   I finished by hand stitching individual grasses and bushes.  I had actually found sketches of various grasses in a photography book about the prairies and tried to emulate some of them.  I also looked at various embroidery stitches in my handy stitch book but ended up inventing my own simple stitches.   So here is the finished product.

 I have prepared a few more fused pieces because this weekend I am going to a quilting retreat and will bravely try to machine stitch in the presence of 11 women who are experienced machine quilters.  Yikes!   The first piece is from a theme that I used before in a hand stitched piece called The Tenerife Challenge.   I'm using it again because the photo has these lovely long grasses in the foreground, bushes, water, trees and mountains.  It's all ready to start stitching.

 Then I prepared a piece inspired from a photo I took at Mud Lake with lots of trees, rocks, water, bushes and cattails.  I sketched in some of the areas that I want to stitch with white pencil.

I have a couple of other pieces ready to work on (one of underwater rocks and another swamp piece) as well as my hand stitched colour challenge piece so I'll have lots to do this weekend (besides eat and drink wine).

Two observations - When I was reading about machine stitching, free motion and thread painting I got pretty scared about thread!   Top thread, bobbin thread, fine thread, heavy thread, silk, metallics, cotton, poly, invisible.......tension...needles......how will I ever learn all this?    So I said to myself, this is an experiment and I tried every thread that I could get my hands on, even metallics and fine silk.....and most of them worked!!  Once I learned how to re set the tension and how to read my errors ie too tight or too loose, I was off to the races - literally.    I learned why you need a finer needle with finer threads (to avoid big holes in fabric) and why you need to loosen tension (bobbin threads showing through on my pale beige fabric).   So my advice to anyone starting out is to not be too afraid of it.   Early on I had a few thread pile ups but soon learned how to control that.   It was fun - but pretty intense.

The second thing -  On several of these pieces I used Elaine Quehl's multi coloured hand dyed fabric and boy, does it make the scene pop, especially if you don't stick to blue for sky, green for grass, etc etc.  I love colour and find that hand dyes and batiks can give a piece extra pizzazz.  I am inspired by other art quilters' use of colour.  One example is Gloria Loughman's luscious pieces (see her book 'Luminous Landscapes').

I'd better get packing.  Maybe I'll have something to post on my return.