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.