About Me

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Life and the creative process are about the journey, not the destination. I love working with colour and texture and can get totally 'lost' in the creative process. Variety keeps my creative juices flowing. We are currently traveling full time in a 40' motorhome and bouncing between visits with a son in Albuquerque NM and a son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in Calgary AB. In between we are busy exploring this great continent on which we live. It's a challenge working from my mobile studio but I am using our travel time to learn new skills and refine existing ones.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Show time!

Labour Day weekend is usually a quiet one around our house but not this year. I came back from holidays with a long 'to do' list! Top of the list was to prepare for a fiber art gallery show that I made a commitment to earlier in August. The first night back was a meeting with the group of artists who are cooperating. In July I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hang a solo show in a local Book Shop and have been very pleased with the feedback and the sale of a large piece. I discovered that there was another opening for the month of October and decided to run it past some friends who were interested in learning more about preparing for and hanging a show. So we're off and running.

Because I was away until midweek I have spent every available moment preparing one of my pieces - taking it far enough to do some photography for promotional purposes. Today was spent in photographing the work of the other participants so that postcards can be ordered and an e-mail flyer prepared. One of the group has also offered to set up a Picasa site specific to the group so I will post the link when it is ready.

For my 'larger' piece I decided to do an addition to my story pictures series and can't wait until I see it completed. I'm really having fun with these pieces and fulfilling my 'use it or lose it' goal at the same time. Dipping into my bits and pieces, I let the fabric speak to me and presto - 'the Rodeo Queen' was born! Here is a photo of the piece midway through construction.

Now to prepare the canvas mount/mat. the floating frames are ordered. Then to start work on piece #2. I want to make it the start of another series. It's still in the fermentation stage! We have to be ready to hang by Setember 17 and the vernissage is on September 24. Aren't deadlines great!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Once a Mother, Always a Mother!

Back home tonight. What a busy ten days we have had. First a smooth flight with wonderful views of clouds and the fields and forest below as we flew west . . .

Then a walk down Stephen Street in Calgary under wonderful blue skies . . .

a rodeo in Airdrie . . .

a visit to Drumheller on a day when the thermometer registered 40 degrees Celsius and a brisk dry wind was blowing . . .

An afternoon in Banff amidst the glorious Canadian Rockies . . .

A visit with new friends in Wilderness Village RV Resort just outside Rocky Mountain House, multiple trips to the Marble Slab for icecream, evenings spent catching up on the day's events at the Olympics, chatting and sharing good food, hours at a borrowed sewing machine hemming ten pairs of pants for my son ......

And the creation of yet another of my 'memory' projects ....

My daughter-in-law entreated me to help her solve the problem of a crowded closet by finding a way to help preserve my son's memories is a more compact fashion. The result - a pillow constructed using the sweater my son wore on their first date as a base, logos from a pile of too small golf shirts that represented past work experiences and work related events and trim cut from one of the golf shirts. What do you think?

Did I mention that the memory quilt with T-shirts from high school sports activities was a hit?

What a week!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Time to Catch my Breath!

We arrived in Calgary last night to a warm welcome from the 'grand-dogs'! This morning we are taking a lazy start as we are still on Ontario time and our planned trip downtown is best left until after the morning rush hour. I wonder what adventures today will hold.

The last couple of weeks were a real scurry and culminated in a marathon photography session so I could record the T-shirt quilt before it was packed for delivery. Here is the final product - and it was well received!

Sorry, even rotating these images in other software, they upload like this. What is the solution?

In addition to accommodating a number of showings on the house I was also able to finish yet another UFO - Haven't named it yet but here it is along with one that I finished while in Phoenix last winter. These are based on Wendy Fraser's 'fracture' technique where you cut multiple copies of the same design and they reassemble as one piece. I used 6 preprinted quilt blocks about 10.5 inches square to assemble the fracture portion of each of the pieces. This is a great technique for people who are math oriented but doable by anyone.

I continued to work on my piece begun two years ago in a workshop with Barbara Olsen. However it is just at the half way point and will have to wait until this fall for completion.

My show at Read's Book Shop is over so I am now on the hunt for another location to show them. I'm also trying to get a couple of pieces ready for a group show later in September and need to get my paint brushes out again for some new pieces for the VAM Market Place. Who said 'retirement' would be relaxing?

For the next few days it's over to family time and exploring new places.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Aftermath of Shopping Summer Sales

On Tuesday a friend met me at my fibre art exhibit and later we had lunch and browsed through some of the local shops. I don't think either of us started out with the intent of making purchases but some of the shops had buys that were just too hard to pass up. Among my purchases was a pair of slacks, regular price $70 for $20. At 5'9" I often have difficulty getting pants that are long enough but this pair met that criteria. I also often have trouble getting sufficient crotch depth. This pair had depth to spare but did not sit right around the waist. I looked at them for a few moments and this is what my mind saw - not what they looked like in the store -good length, level waistline, few puckers - and this is also what they looked like after a few alterations! The pants are a stretchy rayon polyester blend with a wonderfully soft yet stretchy feel but unless fitted properly presented a bit of a challenge for my 'round' tummy!

While trying on the slacks, I determined that the 'no waistband' with elastic insert waistline would be easy to 'unsew' so that was the first step in my work today. Note that the waistline is almost correct in the centre front but an inch and a half high at the side seams. I had anticipated that this was part of the problem. Last fall, while drafting a updated pant pattern, I found it hard to believe how much a standard pattern needed to be altered at the waistline to provide the smooth fit required. In spite of weight gain over the years, three babies and years of computer work, resulting in little muscle tone where it counts, I have retained significant waist definition !

I used some soft cord to mark where my waistline should fall. To determine this I worked with the side seams to remove the wrinkles from the crotch and inner leg. The cord actually was sitting level, but one of the joys of trying to photograph techniques by oneself is making do - I extended my arms to take the picture and the cord distorted!

Because I also tapered the front crotch seam, which is normally a straight seam, to provide some front 'roundness', the elastic was long enough for the new waistline and did not need to be replaced or extended. I pinned it in place with one edge along the marked new waistline (I used pins on the right side rather than pencil or chalk). I used a stretch overcast stitch on my sewing machine to rejoin the elastic and pant fabric along the bottom edge - not the top - of the elastic. You can see how much excess fabric resulted! Trying the pants on once more to confirm the fit, I then trimmed the fabric close to the stitching. I may use some fraychek but on the other hand, with the stitch used, it shouldn't be necessary.

One of the advantages of doing alterations to ready made clothes is learning some of the techniques used. In this case I realized that the elastic had not been stretched when it was joined to the 'stretch' fabric, allowing both to lie smoothly along the waist when in place. I anchored the ends of the elastic to the tape on the invisible zipper to ensure that the elastic would take the 'stretch' strain not the fabric.

Note that the elastic is tucked under the tape on the zipper before stitching so that it would not interfere with the zipper function. In heavier material I don't worry about folding the excess zipper length back into a waist facing but with this lightweight fabric I decided to remove the excess 'teeth' but not the tape. This made it easier to fold the tape under the facing before handstitching the facing to the edge of the zipper tape.

I finished off by securing the bottom of the facing to the side seams, darts and zipper making sure that the exterior fabric was free of the facing. This way there are no puckers on the right side. Note the fold line where the old waistline was!

A second purchase was a wonderfully beaded denium skirt regularly priced at $145 on sale for $45. The great thing about these purchases is that I couldn't purchase the fabric and, in this case beads and hand dyed velvet, for the price I paid. I also purchased the matching beaded sweater and jeans for a fraction of their original price. Although both the jeans and skirt could be worn as is I chose to enhance the fit around the waist. Both had a dropped waist but because of the differential between my waist and hips, the 'waistline' was loose and tended to gape slightly. I decided to add some discrete elastic to both. Here is the skirt with my hand inside the waistband.

I cut a small slit on the inside of the waistband, under the location of the front belt loop and inserted some elastic with a bodkin. I left about an inch of elastic beyond the hole and later tucked it inside the waistband.
I secured the end with a pin and then using a slanted zigzag that I often use as a straight stitch on stretch fabrics, I stitched through all layers - the waistband and elastic - making sure that the belt loop was out of the way. I secured both sides of the slit and ensured that the elastic was securely attached. This is what the right side looked like with the belt loop moved to one side.

This is what it looks like when the belt loop is in place.

On the skirt I started at the front belt loops; on the jeans, which have a more distinctly dropped waistline and fit a little more snuggly, I started at the second belt loop from the zipper. This allowed me to snug the waist without adding any bulk across the front. When they are worn, the slight gathering is not noticeable but the additional comfort is. When worn with a closely fitting sweater on the outside, the profile is much smoother.

All this to say that I left my detailed free motion embroidery work today. I went to bed with a stiff neck last night so thought that I should give it a rest. More on that at a later date.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My new toy and recent inspiration

Earlier this spring I had the opportunity to buy an embellisher but had little time to play with it. Now that the exhibition work is completed, I was able to use one of the recent rainy days to play and here is one of the first pieces I completed. Because this was strictly experimental I just used materials that were easy to access - quilt batt trimmed from the edges of the T-shirt quilt, some odds and ends of wool and scraps from my 'baggie' of clippings. This is a picture of the first strip before pressing. I like it so much that I plan to use it in a project in the near future. More on that at a later date.

Having spent hours doing a simple border by hand on a coat project, I was amazed at how quickly and securely fabrics were bonded together. And what a great way to use the little pieces that were originally collected to make 'snippet' pictures! Note the silver snippet and how it shredded. I cut a small piece of chiffon and placed it across the middle of this piece to secure the pieces, leaving the ends free for texture. Otherwise I think it would have pulled off the piece.

I love skies and sunsets and frequently wish I had my camera. The other night, while driving with my husband I was able to capture the following through the sun roof of his car. Enjoy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Quilt is Ready for Delivery!

The last two weeks are a blur! Work on the quilt progressed quickly once I worked out a system and side two only took a day and a bit! By trimming and aligning logos that were similar in width and then grouping them into piles so that the lengths came out to approximately the 55 inches less the number of borders required - I was able to create the strips to be joined together. I found that I did the sorting after adding inner borders to the 'too narrow' logos so that I could just count the number of joins x 2 inches. Somehow it all worked out BUT before it did, I had to rectify the extra 8 inches in total width on side two! To do this I went back to side one to add end pieces to match the main framework fabric.

Rather than use my main sewing machine for quilting large items (my back doesn't like it), I often use my Juki machine in a Hinterburg frame for larger pieces. I still prefer to sit for doing smaller pieces requiring a lot of free motion or precise quilting. For a one sided piece I use the quilting machine frame as designed to feed the back and front of the quilt from separate rollers but for this one, a reversible quilt, I decided to do a traditional quilt sandwich because I didn't have much fudge factor if I was to ensure that the edges of the two sides stayed aligned. I basted 6 inch temporary strips of fabric to all sides of the back (underside when quilting) so that I would have fabric to pin the quilt to the leaders and to ensure that I could provide the necessary tension when stitching near the edges of the quilt. These were later removed.

When I make a quilt sandwich I like to lay the backing fabric out on the floor (sometimes using masking tape to keep it square), align the batting with the backing and then the front of the quilt on the top. I use a spray adhesive to hold the layers together. Because I was going to use my frame to do the quilting, I wanted to ensure that when the quilt was rolled it didn't shift. I added quilting pins in a grid of approximately 10 inches as well. I made sure to remove these before I started to stitch each pass.

I decided to use a simple pantograph - just a wavy line - for quilting to ensure that the quilt stays soft and puffy. Again this was a first for me. I tend to prefer to free motion work (most of my work is 'quilt art' rather than 'traditional quilting') and I wanted to discipline myself to using regular patterns when the work really calls for it.

I had an additional challenge of trying to work with rollers that were technically too short (almost the same length as the quilt width). Normally you use a minimun of at least the width of the quilt plus a foot to allow access to the sewing machine to change bobbins and to ensure that you can quilt to the edge of the quilt. Because I have to be able to prepare the house for showings (it's on the market) I didn't want to change to full length rollers. As a result I was not able to stitch right to the edge of the quilt and had to do some additional work once it came off the frame but did accomplish my goal of keeping the edges aligned.

Once off the frame I returned to my trusty tiled floor and use the tiles to roughly align the edges of the quilt. Measurements from corner to corner (X) showed that the quilt was basically square. So then I trimmed the edges by inserting one of my cutting board under the quilt and aligning my 'large' square (20 1/2 in) in one corner, and two long rulers at right angles along two sides of the quilt. Once I felt that I had a true corner that would work with two sides I used my rotary cutter to trim the sides ready for the binding. I used these two sides to help me align the sides for the other corners using the same positioning of rulers. I double check before cutting to ensure that the measurements through the centre of the quilt (w and l) and the width and length at the edges of the quilt are basically the same. Small discrepancies (1/2 in or less) I rectify when I apply the binding as I sometime feel that they arise from the quilt relaxing differently in different places. It works for me!

Binding the Quilt

I cut strips of fabric for the binding of a normal quilt 2 1/4 inches wide on the straight of grain. The length equals the perimeter of the quilt plus at least a foot. I piece the strips together on the bias so that the thickness of the seam is distributed and does not come all at one place in the binding. I do this by placing right sides together, at a right angle to each other, allowing enough of the cut edge from the underpiece to show so that I can stitch on an angle from where the two pieces cross to the opposite corner. I always check to make sure that I am sewing the right corners together to get a continuous piece as the other angle gives me a mitered corner! (See illustration below of joining the ends at right angles)

The next step is to press the binding fabric in half so that it measures just over an inch wide. Some people press the seam open but my thinking is that pressing the seam to one side is stronger.

I pin the folded binding to the edge of the quilt measuring carefully to make sure that opposite sides are exactly the same length. This sometime takes some pinning and repinning as the first of the sides pinned may need to be 'shortened' or 'lengthened' to match the corresponding side. I hold the binding taut but leave the quilt fabric relaxed, but not so much so that it 'bubbles' when stitched. I start pinning about 2 feet from a corner and leave a tail of binding about 10 in long at the start of my pinning. There should be at least the same amount of binding hanging free when you stop stitching at the other end.

Some people like to use a walking foot to stitch the binding to a quilt and I sometimes do this. On this quilt I opted to stitch using a quarter inch foot.

I stitch to the nearest corner and I stop stitching 1/4 inch from the edge and turn the fabric so that I can stitch directly to the corner of the quilt at a 45 degree angle to the binding seam, stitching right off the quilt. I remove the quilt from under the pressure foot of the machine and fold the binding so that it aligns with the next side to be stitched. The fold in the binding aligns with the side just stitched. I begin the stitching the new side at the edge of the quilt and repeat this process at each of the subsequent corners.

When I am approaching the starting point and the loose end of binding, I stop stitching about 10-12 inches short of where they will meet. This gives me sufficient space to open the binding fabric and align the two ends so that the meet at right angles, allowing me to stitch them together from corner to corner creating another bias join. I make sure that the finished length matches closely to the quilt to which it will be joined. Then I refold the binding and complete the stitching.

I like to use quilt clips to hold the binding in place for hand stitching as they do not get caught in my clothing or on the furniture while I hand stitch the binding to the back of the quilt. I use a very small blind stitch (catch the quilt fabric and slip the needle inside the binding for about 1/4 inch). I work with the corners to make sure that there is a good miter fold on both back and front and as I stitch the binding I place a few stitches in the corner to secure the miter on the back.

Hope someone finds this useful! It is at least a reminder to me when I haven't done a binding for a while!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Busy Week - One side of the Memory Quilt is Completed!

How I cherish my morning walks! A friend and I meet around 8 am for a walkabout (so far just on nice days) and does it ever make a difference in my day. I am not by nature a morning person and I often can barely put words together when we start out but by the time we return we have walked and talked for 45 minutes to an hour and it seems like no time at all. I've tried to motivate myself for a daily walk for years but for me having a walking partner is essential! The other day I took my camera along and took pictures in some of the gardens along the way and then took time for some in my own. Fodder for future artwork. Here is one to illustrate what terrific inspiration can be found in our everyday world.

I have also been busy following up on some leads that have been thrown my way over the past few weeks. Thank you friend for looking out for me. As a result I now have a series of watercolours in the Virtual Art Market (V.A.M.) gallery, 77 Bridge St. in Carleton Place. It isn't open Sundays and Mondays and opens at 11 on other days but seems to be doing a great job of marketing local artists. You can preview some of these painting by following my link to galleries and checking out the watercolour folder.

I have also received word that son #2 will be visiting next weekend and the t-shirt quilt that I introduced in a previous blog is for him. So, I'm making a concerted effort to get it as far ahead as possible before his arrival. Through the blog, I will document my aha's for any of you that may want to attempt a t-shirt quilt in the future.

As previously noted, the quilt started with the sorting and washing of a bag of T-shirts saved from my sons' public and high school days. I was hesitant to proceed after all these years as my sons are well past that era but I have been assured that they would love these as a memento. Then I used a rotary cutter and a small mat that would fit inside the t-shirt to cut the logo from the shirt. I was careful to leave at least an inch or two inches of fabric around the logo for future size adjustments.

Then, I took each of the logos and ironed on tricot interfacing. I chose a fusible tricot knit,a very light weight interfacing, as it left the t-shirt material soft. By turning the stretch in the opposite direction to the greatest stretch in the t-shirt it provides stability and minimized stretch.

There weren't a lot of logos that were the same width so the first task was to make them match. I framed some of them in one of the four fabrics selected for this purpose and trimmed all of them to fit the desired width. As I will say over and over, measure, measure, measure. Each time you press a seam open or even in the stitching there will be some stretch and reshaping appear in the t-shirt material even though it has been stabilized. Make sure opposite sides match exactly. I found out the hard way that this is important!

Once the chosen logos were trimmed or bordered so that they were all the same width, I started to add the framing fabric I had chosen. Thank goodness, I chose a fabric that, when joined to a piece of the same fabric, didn't show where the joins occurred. More on that to come. I added the horizontal pieces first, creating a strip, then checked the sides of the strip for any distortion. Then I added side strips, being careful to check that the length of each logo and of the strip was the same.

Then I joined the strips to form the top. Even though I measured carefully, there were slight variations in the lengths of the strips so, I stitched them together so that one side (in this case the bottom) of the piece was even and all adjustments would occur on the other side (the top).

I did this because I determined that in a couple of strips I could open seams and make logos shorter, bringing the strip in line with its neighbours. In other cases, I made the cross framing strip wider or narrower as required. The quilt will have logos on both sides, so there will be an outside border added to bring this side of the quilt in alignment with the other side which I am sure will not measure the same!

Because I had selected a fabric where joins are not obvious, this adjustment does not jump out at you.

The top (or back) is finished!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

Today was one of those glorious summer days - warm without a lot of humidity, a light breeze blowing and bright blue skies above. Don and I joined friends for an early morning walk that developed into a tour of the classic car exhibition in the local park. I think that everyone is eager to be outdoors after a month of rainy days. The participants were busy giving a last minute polish to their vehicles in hopes of catching the judge's eye later in the day but many took time to stop and chat.

Back home by lunch time, I decided I had enough time before our afternoon plans to start a memory quilt for my son. When we were packing to move to our present house in 2001 I discovered a bag full of his T-shirts from various sports teams from public and high school years. Initially tempted to just throw them out, I decided to see if I could create a 'cuddle' quilt for his family room that would not clash too much with the decor. It has to be something that meets with the approval of my daughter-in-law as well! A couple of years ago, after laundering the shirts, I used a rotary cutter to save the logos from the front of each T-shirt. Today I took knit iron-on interfacing to stabilize and add more body to the fabric. This will also strengthen the fabric from well-worn shirts. I'm still contempating how I am going to put them together. I'm not aiming for a masterpiece but I want the finished piece to be attractive and useable. Worst case scenario, I have a blanket for the 'granddogs'! More on this project in the days to come.

Then on a Canada Day party in an neighbouring town. I found a recipe for a Canadian flag cake in a recipe e-mail last week and assembled the main ingredients last night. After adding the creamy topping and strawberries, we were on our way. We spent a pleasant afternoon meeting new friends and enjoying the music of some young musicians from the community. We forgot our sweaters so returned home before the fireworks in the local park but were able to watch and photograph the fireworks in our local park from our back deck.