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.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Smocking Project Completed - Yahoo!

1st Smocking Project
In September I walked into the Fabric Addict in Lethbridge (the day after our arrival) and there sat a new shipment of smocking pleaters waiting to be unpacked.  Now I have been thinking about exploring this media for a while.  It's one of the few things I have never tackled, mainly because my Mother smocked dresses for two generations of girls in the family and I didn't want to tread on her space.  She passed away last spring and I've been thinking it was time to pick up the gauntlet and learn this craft.  Expecially now that I have a granddaugher and two great nieces all under a year of age!

Needless to say, other projects went on hold as I researched smocking on line, learned how to use the pleater, worked a sampler of basic stitches and prepared fabric from my stash for pleating! 

For my first project I chose a striped fabric, cotton, but a firm weave - of course I didn't think ease of pleating - part of the learning curve!  I choose a bishop pattern from one of the Smocking magazines I had purchased and prepared the pattern and cut out the pieces (Peaches & Cream, Simela Constant of Australia, Smocking and Embroidery, Issue 85).  Now a bishop style smock or dress must be stitched together at the armholes before pleating so that the stitching is continuous all around the neckline.  No problem.  However by this point I had been working, thinking, breathing smocking for 12 hours and I turned the top the wrong way and by the time I realized my mistake and found that I had to start again, I had to dismantle the pleater to release the fabric.  Twelve broken pleater needles later I had successfully pleated the required area.  Only I had forgotten that I was working with half spaces not full spaces and hadn't used enough rows!  At this point, I was glad I had left my name for a class at the store!  Replacement needles and a book giving more detailed info about using a pleater are on order!

Simple stitches - but it worked!
Not to be daunted, I decided to use the prepared rows and create my own smocking plate (pattern to the none smockers among you!).  I faithfully blocked the smocking gathers according to the instructions and started to stitch.  I love doing smocking!  I always enjoyed embroidery but wow!

Stitching completed I started the assembly of the top and companion pants.  I really was thinking like a frog as going by instinct didn't work and ripit became the mantra of the day!  However, this exercise served as a great refresher course in clothing construction techniques and when to check twice and when to read ahead in the pattern instructions!

All that to say that yesterday I completed the two piece outfit in a 12 month size.  It is based on Australian standard sizes and looks large.  Can anyone help me compare this sizing system to the Canadian or USA system?
The Companion Pants

 Because the pattern called for full lining in the pants and I didn't have enough fabric left,  I did some adaptation, using a decorative stitch from my machine to stitch the top of the partial lining used to create the cuff effect at the bottom of the legs and then echoed the design to attach the turn down for elastic at the waist.  I really like the effect.  I also like the effect of the self cording used at the neckline, cuffs - arms and legs.  I must remember this as I'm not a frills and lace person and cording may be something that I will want to use in the future.

I need to take a break for a couple of days and get some errands done but I'm already planning the next project.  Classes have started so I will be able to get some of my questions answered.  I want to get three projects together before I decide who gets what....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back in the Traces - Wow! Two Ribbons!!!

1st for Memories of Arizona
Wearable Art

On September 23 I drove to Calgary to check out the results on two entries in the quilting and fiber art competition at the Calgary Creative Stitches and Crafting Alive Show and was ecstatic to find that I received a first on my Wearable Art entry - Memories of Arizona and a second on one of my memory quilts - The Fabric of my life. 

2nd for Fabric of My Life

That's the second 'blue' ribbon this memory quilt has received.  This particular quilt is a 'work in progress' as it documents my life through fabric and findings from sewing projects and a collection of lapel pins amassed over a lifetime.  Before mailing it off, I added pieces from the last couple of years.  I still have a few to add for this year but it is starting to look 'completed'.  I will soon retire it.  An earlier, much simpler, version of this quilt placed second in the Quilt Show associated with the International Plowing Match in Lanark County, Ontario, Canada.  It also toured the USA in an earlier rendition.  I don't have a great  place to photograph large work while we are traveling but here is a shot I took when the piece came home.

c 2010 Diane Duncan, The Fabric of My Life, 49"x51", pieced, painted, hand and machine stitching, machine quilted.
And this is the label info:
My Personal Challenge
to preserve memories associated with fabric and findings: Mixed fabrics, ribbons, organza, lapel pins from a personal collection, cotton batting.

When preparing to move into smaller accommodation, my Mother presented me with a bag of fabric scraps that, when examined, I realized dated back to my first sewing projects. I decided this ‘find’ was too good to not use so combined these fabric pieces with left-overs from my own stash, and a few that date back to dresses – and my wedding quilt – from my Grandmother! Both the front and back of this quilt contain only fabrics that have personal significance to me. When I was preparing to ‘down-size’ I discovered a sizable collection of lapel pins, some dating back to my husband’s and my childhood, encompassing many of the organizations to which we have belonged and some from places we have visited. Today we travel extensively in a motor home and I have continued to build this ‘scrapbook’ as we explore the North American continent.

Notes About the Symbolism in this Quilt

The crazy patch portion represents the ‘crazy’ busy years of my life – Sunday School, 4-H, Junior Farmers, high school, university, and later, time spent raising a family and participating in farm organizations, volunteer activities, travel and a return to the workplace.

The tunnel of circles represents the transition years, when we prepared for retirement, took short-term trips and started to let go of the past by sorting and distributing the accumulated trivia of a lifetime. The colors reflect the highs and lows of emotions experienced during this period of my life. The ‘golden’ end of the tunnel reflects my hopes for a simpler, more peaceful lifestyle in retirement, now overlaid with the busy reality of retirement on the road, splitting our year between visits to the home areas of a son in Calgary and a son in Phoenix, with occasional visits to eastern Canada to visit other family members.

The quiet lower area initially represented the hoped for peaceful retirement with occasions of busyness, but is quickly filling with the reality of our new lifestyle.

My Wearable Art entry 'Memories of Arizona' was inspired by my winter home, near a son who lives and works in the USA. I have been interested in rock art symbols for many years - I managed to include some Native Studies courses in my degree program - and decided to use that theme for a 'hot weather' vest and then added a simple top and culotte with similar bead and stitching embellishment to wear under the vest.

c 2009 Diane Duncan  Memories of Arizona.  Back of the vest

c 2009 Diane Duncan, Memories of Arizona, Knee Length Vest.
Applique, machine embellishment, beading, hand dyed fabric and threads (Linda Palaisy)

I kept the culotte and top simple but used similar beading
This past year has been hard - I've not created a lot of new work but this has spurred me on.  Now to turn my plans into reality...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Follow-up on The Fabric Samples


These are the before shots

Just did the heat set and thought I would publish the results.  Above are the before shots. The after shots are below.

Not so much here???

I see possibilities here

I love this one!

I'm going to challenge myself to use each of the pieces someway over the next few days.  I'll post the results.  I'm doing a series of small and quicks so it may work out okay.

Though I would throw in a shot of this morning's sunrise.

©2010 Diane Duncan, Calgary, AB  October Sunrise in Southern Alberta.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Where did September Go and Art Under an October Sky

Fabric Drying in Southern Alberta breeze after preparation for painting
 I do have a lot of activities on the go - I just haven't blogged about them.  There is a smocked dress, a pair of socks, samples of free motion quilting based on Leah Day's work, a challenge piece posted to Dale Anne Potter's facebook fan page .....  All this and now I have my days to myself so there will be lots more.  Let's hope the weather continues to be fair!  The combines will run!!!!

A little personal update to explain that last comment.  My husband, a born farmer from the east, found himself a job last summer working on a harvest excursion crew that traveled from Oklahoma, through Kansas, Colorado and Montana and ended the season in Alberta, south of Lethbridge.  He enjoyed being back in fields so much that even a new granddaughter couldn't keep him off the big machines this fall.  We are back in the Lethbridge area while he runs a 'big red' that has replaced last years 'green machine'.  While he is gone, I can work on my art.  I've just completed my first fiberart piece in a long while - a response to a challenge from a Saskatchewan artist, Dale Anne Potter, who is learning the ropes in radio podcasts.  You can check out all the challenge pieces on her studio page on facebook.  Here is a peek at mine, inspired by a photo I took from my son's deck a week ago.  I'm calling it 'Alberta Gold'.

©2010 Diane Duncan, Alberta Gold.  Fibreart 12" X 16", fabric, batting, ink, quilted and hand drawn.
Today was one of those glorious fall days with warm temperatures and moderate breezes (for Lethbridge!).  I decided to make the most of it and spent the latter part of the day outside experimenting with paint on fabric.  I've decided to go through my stash and pick out the pieces that I am least likely to use as they are and see if I can do something with them that will be more appealing. 

One of the 'unfavorite' pieces I worked with

Another of the 'unfavorite' pieces
Today's effort may have been a 'win some lose some', but time will tell.  I washed all the fabrics using synthrapol to remove the sizing and just played.  I thought I took more pictures than I did but when they are heat-set I'll post more of the results.  Here is one shot of a before and after fabric.  The finished piece doesn't show well - I actually like the result!  I'll take a better shot of the finished piece and post it with the others tomorrow.

Before fabric (under) and strip of painted fabric (top)
The downside of my outdoor studio is the tidy-up at the end of the day.  I hope the weather holds as I could use a couple more days working outside.
A messy workspace at the end of the day!
Tonight's eastern sky was gorgeous and I happened to be at the computer so missed the sunset but caught the eastern reflection.  I love this big sky country!

The end of a wonderful October Day
  As for the other September activities, there will be more to come as those projects near completion. Today's playtime was more immediate and I wanted to share it today.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Joy of Networking

2008 Revisited: Retirement Angst
Check out the link to Quiltersmuse.com for a posting re one of my quilts with 'words' or writing on it (August 28th posting).  I have been catching up on past postings on the quiltart digest and noticed a call for ideas about how people use words on their work and thought of this piece '2008 Revisited: Retirement Angst'.  It hasn't been posted anywhere yet and this is just a teaser shot as I would like to exhibit it somewhere before I post the full piece.  In this piece I used both free motion stitching and the capability of my machine to program words. The piece comments on the drastic drop of the stockmarket in the year 2008 and some of my thoughts/turmoil about having been forced to reset my retirement plans to a date earlier than originally planned.  Any ideas regarding a show where this piece might be welcomed?

I'm working ahead on my Leah Day sample file and have completed the first 27 plus the 'basics' that Leah does not include in the series as she feels they are overworked.  More to come on this later.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Mobile Studio

As a follow-up to all the postings on Dale Ann Potter's FB page about her dream of traveling by RV and teaching as she goes, I decided not to delay any longer with this posting.  It's been planned for a while but I thought I should wait until everything was tidy!  This may be a bit of a ramble and I'll try to group info but here goes!

We have been traveling full-time in our motor home since January 2009 and one of the conditions was that I would not have to stop working on my artwork, including fibre art.  Long before we purchased our motor home we had both individually made up a list of needs (non-negotiable) and wants and then discussed how we would achieve as much as possible from these lists.  My non-negotiable included a kitchen with some counter space and storage and work area for my art.  Taking my sewing machine with me was a given!  When we actually made our purchase we were on holiday with no expectation of finding 'the one' but it was meant to be and we made it work.  My husband specified motor home not 5th wheel, and diesel not gas, and I'm glad now that he did.  When traveling in an RV weight and weight distribution is always a concern and diesel gives more lug power.  We periodically drive over a scale, weighing each wheel, to check that we have not made an inappropriate shift of weight inside the coach or storage. Interesting point we discovered this year, we travelled for a distance this year with a couple with the identical coach but theirs was much more lightly loaded and our fuel consumption wasn't much different.
Sewing Table
I purchased a Sewezi table for my machine in advance and again it was a good move.  It is stable and folds down for easy storage when traveling - sometimes in the car we pull, sometimes on the bed depending on how much I anticipate using it in the immediate future.  I currently have it set up in the bedroom at the foot of the bed facing a window which gives me reasonable light. 

Dual Purpose Bed!
I use the bed to spread out the tools and work in progress so that it is easily accessible.  I do have to gather it up at night but at least I have the use of this space during the daytime.  When I work on larger pieces I will T to the table in the eating area to provide additional surface. 

Outside studio when required!
If you visit our travel blog  you may stumble on a picture of me working under the awning outside the coach (Casa Grande winter 2009) or more recently with my quilt frame (retrieved from storage) her in Cochrane.  When I do this I set up folding table that we carry to provide work space.

When we are 'touring' I tend to work on had projects that I have prepared in advance or on computer preparation for future projects.  I gather everything I need into ziplock bags, including the right needles and a small pair of scissors or other tools that are required if duplicates are available.  I store a number of these bags in a large UFO bin in the storage compartment below and only keep the current ones on hand.  My stash, yarn, embellishments etc. are in labeled bins in one of the storage bays below. 

Books, embellishments, yarn, fabric, and ???
We are fortunate that one of the bays has a pullout tray and that was dedicated for my 'studio'.  DH has been quite supportive!  A few books ride topside but I select the ones I want each year from the storage locker and limit myself to two bins.  I shipped the most pertinent ones west when we moved.  The rest are in storage back east and will be revisited when we go back that way.  We decided not to move everything until we 'come off the road' as we purchased a 40' cargo container, had the interior spray- foamed to reduce condensation and packed it with what little furniture we thought we might use in the future, family memorabilia, dishes etc.

Sewing Machine, embellisher, embroidery unit and ????
As for storage, the unit we chose has lots of cupboards.  In the first six months we had to rearrange contents a couple of times to balance weight but have more or less settled on an arrangement that works.   My sewing machine and embellisher sit in the bottom of a closet. 

Sewing and other embellishments and tools
I have forgone a washer/dryer in favor of storing two upright plastic drawer units in the space (1) findings and small sewing tools 2) craft/art tools and supplies.  Because the closet nearby was not full used for clothes, I was able to add a 3)rd unit with mainly art supplies, brushes etc.  Another cupboard has my thread, paint etc. in smaller drawer units and art boxes.  I've been careful to make sure anything that might be affected with temperature change is inside the coach.
Gave up closet space for art
Yet another cupboard

In the front of the coach, large sheets of paper and a large cutting board are lodge in the space behind the pull out couch.  We removed a loveseat on the opposite side (not terribly comfortable even though it was leather and DH constructed a desk from prefab cupboard units from Home Depot and a piece of MDF board topped with a piece of plexiglass.  The couch is in storage if the desk is a problem when we decide to sell the coach. 

DH's Handiwork
The desk has a printer/scanner on a pull out tray and storage for files, small projects, map books, etc.  It works as my computer space and I keep some stacked drawers on top with small sewing tool, pens etc. 

All my marking/small sewing tools
Everything sits on no skid stuff so that it doesn't move when we are traveling and the draws are turned to the wall so they don't pop out.  DH has a table cover that fit over the steering wheel and makes a computer space for him.  It works because he is mainly surfing RV sites and reading e-mail while I often have reference material nearby.
DH is happy here!

All in all it works for us.  Part of our travel experience ties in with my interest in genealogy so I also have some related materials stashed in bins down below and use a computer program for what I have managed to get recorded.  This is a work in progress but the geo-tracking component makes it easy to check and see if we should check local resources for more info as we travel.

I'm sure this post will generate more questions but it will maybe provide a basis for discussion.  What one needs to take with them is a very personal thing and as I 'garage saled', dealt with antique dealers, sold via word of mouth and sorted in preparation for this adventure, it became very obvious to me what was important to me. ' Things I couldn't part with on the first pass (year one) had moved to the not so important list in the second year and so on.  We were four years in this preparation but then we had been family 'archivists' and 'curators' all our married lives.  The benefit/cost of having lived in a large farm house for many years.  Once it was determined that no-one in the family was willing/able to take on the rolls, we started seriously searching for new homes for things, always mindful of our mantra 'Is it part of our life today, do I see it as part of my life tomorrow, can it be easily replaced if I change my mind.'  With both of us coming from families that have treasured family memorabilia and always re-used, recycled as much as possible, the experience of purging was freeing.  Check out a previous blog posting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Samples

19 down and 41 more ready to go!
Over the weekend I continued to work on samples until I ran out of suitable fabric - plain enough for the stitching to show but not totally plain.  My machine was cantankerous, making new noises and not making perfect stitches so I was glad that I had booked a visit to the service man Gil at Rumpled Quilt Skins in Okotoks.  Not next door but this store comes highly recommended by a friend back in Ottawa.  What a banquet of quilts to view and fabric, books and tools to explore!  They really had some pieces that got me anxious to get my embroidery unit working!  The visit yesterday did not disappoint and I found out that, in addition to the usual accumulation of lint (in spite of my frequent cleaning), somewhere along the line there had not been enough lubricant used on my machine - or all the dry climates I have been in over the last two years have taken their toll.  On the way back, while pursuing other errands, I located some inexpensive fabric that should do just fine for samples so I was back in business today.

It took a chunk of time today but I now have 41 quilt sandwiches prepared ready to stitch.  I'm much more likely to sit down for a short period of time if I don't have to start from scratch and make the sandwich.  Now to spend some time researching new fillers so that my reminder cards are ready to roll also.  Then tomorrow I can get back to stitching for a while.  I'm actually enjoying this exploration - not as boring as I thought it would be.  The next series will be an exploration of some new surface design techniques but that will have to wait until this series is completed.  I hope to actually get working on some 'work' along the way as well.  Hope hubby doesn't decide to hit the road too soon!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thanks Leah Day!

A Great Start!  Thanks Leah!

I'm finally back at my sewing machine.  Thanks to surgery and physiotherapy, the wrist is working fairly well, although my coordination is not what I'd like it to be.  So I designed my own therapy to work on that! 

I started about a month ago when I tackled a task I had talked about for two years - documenting the built-in embroidery stitches on my sewing machine.  Somehow the computer images just don't tell the whole story.  Forty two six-inch squares later I have a reference file of the actual size and scale of each stitch and what a feast.  All the time I was working on these samples I was thinking about how they could be used in my work.  Even the edges of the samples were tests for various edge finishes that will work on small pieces, postcards, ATC etc.  Some are working better than others but that is what 'testing' is all about.  Because the project just involved preparing the fabric sandwiches (I stitched on a quilting sandwich because I want to see the texture added by the stitches) and setting the machine, this was a great project to reduce my frustration with not being able to work on my art.

One page in the sample book under construction

Sample book - 42 pages later

All that as an introduction to my newest project and the next step in my 'therapy'.  It's been almost a year since I have been able to do any fiber art and I find that my skills need some refreshing.   Although I was able to work at my quilt frame earlier, I am aware that my hand coordination for free motion quilting while sitting at my machine has really suffered and I am not able to work with the precision that I am accustomed to.  This is where Leah Day's website 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs comes into the picture.  Using the concept I developed for my sample book of machine stitches, I've started a second sample book using her patterns.  I find that when I am working on a specific piece I can never find 'the right' idea for quilting and tend to revert to the same old ones.  By actually stitching the samples I embed each pattern in my memory - although it may become buried - but the book will act as a reminder of options that I have tested.  I'll also be able to hold the sample to the piece to be stitched to make it easier to visualize the effect.  Later I'll check out some of the books in my library for other ideas.

Constructing the Sample Books

The 9-inch Square
Marking with a 6-inch Square
Digging around in my goody storage, I found two square measures, one that is 9 inches (+/-) and one that is six inches (+/-).  This has made the preparation of the 9-inch quilt sandwiches easy, and serves the marking and trimming of the stitched area to 6 inches. 

The Quilt Sandwich
Marked and Ready to Stitch
As part of my use-it-or-lose-it strategy, I joined strips of batting, salvaged from the edge of the quilts I made earlier, to make the 9 inch batting pieces and went through my stash looking for fabric (without a lot of pattern) that I probably would not be using.  The backs of the squares are actually recycled fabric.  I prepared a stack of sandwiches and then stitched an outline for the 6-inch stitching area to keep the fabric from shifting while it is being stitched.  As I reviewed each day's stitch, I made notes on a 3x5 recipe card and in a 2-inch square drawn on the card, I did a hand drawing of the stitch.  I reinforced an area on the top corner of each card with tape before punching it so that it could accompany the sample when placed on a 2 1/2 inch ring used to keep the samples together.  I document several fillers at a time and take them to the sewing machine with me as a reminder of what I am doing and include any observations I make while stitching.  Yesterday and today I have completed the first 12 and am amazed at how quickly my dexterity is improving and my confidence returning.  Thanks Leah!  Many of the designs are similar to ones I have used the past and its great to see new interpretations of old friends.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The McKenzie Baby Bump

Drawing Squiggles
I didn't get back to the project until late in the day yesterday as an invite to lunch could not be turned down!  The next step was to added the surface design.  I considered using white glue and decided it would take too long to dry.  I considered getting 'stringing compound' and decided it would be too expensive.  So in the end I chose to use my old standby, quick drying and paintable, DAP.  I had part of a tube on hand so did a sample and although I would have preferred a finer line, decided it would work and made a trip to CT to get some additional tubes.  I spent a couple of hours drawing squiggles and finished just in time to respond to a invitation to have dinner with my new granddaughter!  The result had to dry overnight anyway so it was great timing!
Painting with Gesso

The weather here is changeable and they are forecasting thunderstorms for later today, so I have plowed ahead with this 'work of art'.  Before leaving for my Monday morning art group, I painted the surface with black gesso.  I wanted a black surface for the background color.  I chose black gesso as it would seal the plaster so that it will not absorb paint and would allow the paint to retain it's gloss.  After painting I realized there were a couple of areas where the design was 'flat' - the result of trying to get that last bit of Dap out of the tube!  So a bit of repair work was done with the hope that it would be dry enough to paint by noon.
The Base Coat Completed

Before lunch I repainted the area where repairs were made and after lunch the fun began.

Adding the 'show through' colors
I blotch painted areas in burnt sienna, ochre and a grayed yellow.  The weather at the time was warm and sunny and the humidity low so it dried quickly.  I added a layer of spray fixative at this point.  The next layer was to blotch rub some gold and silver into the design.  Again a layer of fixative.

The Final Result
The final layer was an all over rub with bright copper. The result was close to the concept requested and I think they will be pleased.

Signature Time
I promised to show the mounting.  After the last post and before starting the surface design, with DH's assistance, a dowel was cut and two screwnails used to fasten it inside the body cast.  Two holes were drilled through the dowel and threaded with picture wire stretched so that it would not show above the top of the piece.  To finish off I will note where the cast touches the table and apply some dap so that the paint will not rub and mark the wall.  All done.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baby Bump Sculpture

I've been told that the in-thing is to do a casting of the 'baby bump' and to decorate it as a piece of art.  My young'uns decided that the kit was too expensive so after a discussion with me they purchased the plaster embedded tape at the local M store and got out the jar of Vaseline and went to work.  Then they announced that it was over to me to decorate!
I spent all day yesterday shaping the edge with a Dremel and adding tape to build up and strengthen the edges so that it would hang flat on the wal and not collapse over time. Then left it to dry over night.
Here is my process:
The Original Casting and Proposed Shaping Lines

The Trimmed Cast
The creators and I had discussed final shaping and this is what we decided.  I might have trimmed closer to the belly but the rounded edges seem to work.  The trimming left raw edges so all had to be wrapped with tape and in some places had to be built up so that the finished piece would lie flat to the wall.  I used two rolls of tape for this process and in the resmoothing of the surface after the edges were finished.
Smoothing and Strengthening the Edges
The Surface Finish This Morning
Before applying a final finish I added a cross piece to the back so that we can attach a hanging mechanism.  I'll show this tomorrow.  I used Artplaster to provide a final surface and to remove all traces of tape texture that remained.  The casting needed time to dry so this is as far as I went yesterday.  I mixed a small amount in a bowl and had a bowl of water nearby.  I used my hand to spread a thin layer over the surface and the wet sponge/pad to smooth the surface.  It's not super smooth but good enough to work with.  When dry the casting seems quite strong.