Monday, November 13, 2017

3 Shorties

For the past 3 days, I thought it was Monday and now that it is Monday, I think it is Sunday. On Wed. past my mom fell and fractured her pelvis. She is in Toronto. My brother had just left for the Dominican Republic and a few hours later, my sister landed from Vancouver. She was there for a fun filled weekend with her daughter. My sister and niece managed to get everything done that they had planned, but in a manner that only people on speed would find interesting. My mom is well and now in a rehab centre for a couple of weeks. I am due to go on Sunday because I am helping her get to and from some day surgery as well as keeping her entertained while she is recuperating. All this information to say that I have spent a lot of time on the phone and being stressed.

I made this little skirt from 3/4m fabric purchased last winter in Ottawa when visiting my daughter. It is a simple gathered skirt, no shaping or darts. I love it various colours and it has a lovely drape. It is going in the suitcase for Toronto.

Two weeks ago I made this wool herringbone patterned skirt from a new pattern. It too has a nice drape. It is lined and isn't itchy. It is meant for winter days when I want to wear a warm sweater and curl up in front of a fire. It feels very English.

It won't be going in the suitcase although I've been told that the temperature in Ontario has already been well below zero with wind chills. I will cross my mittens and hope the prediction of 2 to -2 degrees is correct.

The third shorty is this post. New windows for the studio are supposed to be coming the day I return from Toronto and I need to pack up the studio. That is an exercise in trying to keep one's shit from flying. What to pack and not pack. Stuff to pack for Toronto but will my stay be extended so I can help Mom when she is discharged. 5 days or 10 days or more? What can I work on before I leave? Will the windows even arrive? The windows might arrive but will they be installed? I need to spend more time than I like breathing the panic out.

Here's a little non-sequitor. A rouge tomato sprang up in a small pot that had nothing seeded in it. Out of curiosity, I let it grow and brought it in in the fall. It has been in a few sunny spots ripening. The other day I noticed this itty bitty spider roaming around the fruit. The fruit matured at the size of a ping-pong ball. Steve had it with a lunch last week and pronounced it good. Like god is reported to have said once or twice.

Mom's internet connections in Toronto are archaic. Remember the blue cable that connected us all to routers several million years ago? That is what she has. And it is a very short blue cable. I can only use it in her bedroom, on a very uncomfortable chair. I can't even get it to the bed. I might not be here next week. If that happens, send wishes or patience my way, I'll be looking for them.

Monday, November 6, 2017


There aren't a lot of photos to take when one is sitting in a chair reading books. That's what I was doing all last week. I went on a short walk with Steve in the hopes of photographing the last of the seasons dahlias and having some fun autumn images for today's blog. The photos have nothing whatsoever to do with today's content.

Oops, the dahlias are gone.

To begin with, there was (and continues to be) How to Sit by Thich Nhat Hanh. A very little book on slowing down and centering. My hope is to read one page a day (once in a while, let's be realistic) and try to think about that instead of less constructive thoughts. I haven't linked any of the books because I buy from my local book seller, not Amazon or use the local library.

The lane through the cemetery.

 I've read Fishing in Action x Bobbie Kalman. It's all about fly fishing.

I've read Guides of the North Woods by Mike Parker. It's all about men and a couple of women who guided officers from Halifax, American tourists and a few local folks out into the woods to fish, hunt birds, deer and bear. I didn't not like the ones who hunted bears. Just as I was about to toss the book under the chair, I came across Lew Freeman. He was a guide who spent his career on the Medway River, used the boat designed specifically for the Medway River's rocks and rapids and there are a couple of charming anecdotes about him. That little section was written just for me.

A muse with pumpkin and seagull

I also read The Times of African Nova Scotians, Vol. 1. That was a good read. Fairly simple but a much better survey of African Canadian's lives, past times, important events and just regular people. It showed the roots of racism here and I was surprised by the existence of segregation. I had made a huge assumption that while Canada had been unequal in its treatment of all people, we hadn't fallen prey to the nastiness of segregation. Wrong.

Gander drinking
Trams in Halifax was a short but fun little read.

Gander not drinking.

The Nova Scotia Home Coloured Children by Wanda Taylor is a fascinating book. I wanted to know about the lives of black children in Halifax in the early 1900's. Before the Halifax Explosion, there wasn't too much going on to protect children generally, but with the explosion, all of a sudden there was a flood of needy children. It took a while for the first home to be organized and built. It burnt down before it was occupied. The second one had a long list of problems, mostly stemming from the government refusing to properly fund it. The home received one third the amount per child that other homes for children received and that remained true until its closing.  By the book's title, you can see that there was certainly segregation going on in many ways. There was deep poverty there and many abuses by the adults in charge. The book reveals the experiences of several children, ranging from awful to not too bad. Saying that experiences in a home were not too bad is silly, of course it was bad just by virtue of being there. But relatively speaking, some children had less trauma than others. I still don't know about coloured children living a life with a family and community.

Steve noticing that there are now three model ships in the pond.

For a little light reading, I read about Fireflies. Ha ha.

Steve modeling his homemade hat, vest and shirt. He is not allowed to wear the shirt out of the house, there are too many embarrassing mistakes in it. I'm a little concerned about the vest, it has a few too many gaps over the tummy, but if I insist he can't wear it outside of the house, then I'll have to knit another one. I don't have the time right now, so don't tell him.

My favourite catalogue arrived and that took me into a deep dark cave of lust and yearning. The Persephone Biannually (here) comes twice a year. It features mostly women writers from days gone by that were either overlooked over time, or who were pretty darn good but currently not on the bestsellers list. I yum this catalogue. Besides the obvious list of offerings, there are lovely art images relevant to the author or the time period of the new releases, there is usually an extract from one or more of the featured authors, there are book reviews from fellow Persephone weenies and best of all, I get to use a coloured magic marker and make incomprehensible notes to myself through the entire catalogue. I circle author's names that they reference, or book titles that are referenced, or if I like a piece of art, I give it a good circle too. It takes me a couple of readings to fully enjoy this, along with a bit of chocolate and some scotch. The autumn one is best because a fire and blanket can be included.
Gander drinking yet again.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Show and Tell

Phoebe was here over the weekend, and we were able to finish three of the four garments I made for her.
Ta Dah! The hedgehog shirt.

The green t-shirt.

The over shirt with polka dots.

But not the skirt. According to the pattern pieces and her measurements, I needed to use a size 14. Surprised, I measured and thought this might end up being too small. I cut it out a tiny bit bigger than a 14, inserted the zipper and darts and basted the sides together. She tried it on and it is huge. I think the pattern pieces are just wrong. We turned the skirt inside out, drew the seam lines and new darts on with a pencil crayon and I will start again.

In the painting show and tell category, I plod along. Two free hand images meaning draw without looking too much at the paper.

small bottle with water and a pin cushion

This is a favourite technique of mine, as is drawing with my left hand.

tea cup with tea bag

Both of these are drawn with my right hand. The excellent smaller graphics are collaged on.

 I was staring around to find a new subject to draw and I saw a stitched piece taped to the wall. Why not draw my own art? Self-referencing at it's best. The piece is a yellow linen with green squares and a small section of scrap with orange stitches pinned on. The funny face was unintentional.

I did it again without drawing lines first and let the paint bleed into itself. I drew the small squares, some detail lines and the sewing needle with a  black pen. I bow low to the roaring crowd.

In other exciting news, I freed the space heater from the dark closet and plugged it in.

Now we are experiencing high temperatures and the room is very comfortable without it. I'm back from an orientation meeting for the homeless shelter I volunteer at. All the shelters in Halifax are already at full capacity and we haven't had a frost yet. We've also been told to expect a snowy winter. It's when I hear this sort of thing that I remind myself how lucky I am to have an extra room to put a heater in so I can spread out.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A little chilly

Some artists are good at doing art and nothing else. Others find the will power to attend to the matters of self promotion and follow through. I am working on the skill required to find the space heater, plug it in and keep it from blowing out a fuse or two. I read the header on my blog by Henry van Dyke, "The woods would be very silent if only those birds sang that sang best". I take this to mean it a good thing that I work on the skill of heating the studio, first by dragging the heater out of the closet.

I was a little excited and distracted this week. (Phoebe, stop reading now). My daughter Phoebe foolishly made a comment that she needed to upgrade her wardrobe a bit for her new job. After about 4 years of age, Phoebe only reluctantly let me sew cloths for her. It there was a picture of Dalmation dogs or other dogs, or maybe horses then I might be given the royal nod to make a dress. Otherwise, "No thanks Mama"

Without asking permission or checking out colour choices, I ran to the fabric shop with a plan. My cunning plan involved a skirt made of ultra suede, a knit t-shirt and possibly, an over shirt or blouse. I started with a stunning purple fabric but none of the other fabrics really went well. She would have looked like a grape Popsicle. I settled on a lovely green ultra suede (the photo does not do the colour justice at all) and found a deep green knit for the shirt and a fun polka dot multi coloured poly-rayon for a sheer over top.

I've made the skirt a size too large because I don't trust the pattern's specifications. When Phoebe gets here this weekend, she will have to try on everything for a final fitting. The skirt needs the side seams, hem and waistband finished off.

The green top is all done except for the cuffs. I thought a little ruffle might be nice, but have my suspicions that they will not be wanted. I await the royal wave.

The sheer over top can be worn with either side facing front. The pleats are closely spaced on the back or widely spaced on the front. The neckline is symmetrical to either facing so a tiny bit of playing around can happen. This needs some threads secured and snipped and it is ready to wear.

One of the reasons I chose the green is so that it can go with the hedgehog shirt I just made or a previous shirt with frolicking foals. All the girl needs now are some kick-ass shoes and a pair of pants to get through 5 days of work. What happens on the other days of the months is up to her. But I have a wonderful blue floral knit just dying to be made into a dress.

I'm kind of hoping she won't like it so I can make something for myself.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Some other bits

I'm finishing a bad cold that involved a lot of coughing. Fine intricate sewing is difficult with a heaving chest and watering eyes. Instead, I focused on things that supported the studio and a new sketch book course with Jane LaFazio.

I'm not sure I love this course. It has very specific outcomes, which is pretty contrary to Karen Ruane's way of teaching. I've been spoiled by her lack of banging us over the head about an outcome.

I spent a good hour talking with a dear friend about being artists, having a huge stack of work in the closet and few opportunities for exhibiting work. She has two very close artist friends, one of whom has won Governor General Awards for his art, and they have sheds and supply rooms filled with art that hasn't seen the light of day since created. I wasn't so concerned about the exhibiting piece, I had made up my mind several years ago that those kind of opportunities would be like parties where I get to wear a ball gown. They happen, or they don't, but either way, I have a "ball gown" closet filled with choice items.

I was more concerned with how to stay focused. If work isn't exhibited beyond a show and tell of fellow artists, how do I (or you) know if it's any good. There is the most important benchmark that I, or you, know that it is expressing what I had intended, it is well executed and it is good in my own terms. It's not about the medium, or the gestures or the colours, or even the message. It's about what thrills an artist when they sit down and get to work. I was having some struggles with my thrill factor.

Usually fabric, thread, colour and a gesture towards a garden or flower or water is enough to keep me interested. I know I don't like to include text and I know I don't like to include a discernible image. If the work is about foxes, there isn't a fox to be seen. No, it was more that little voice that was saying, "What the fuck?" Not terribly articulate but pretty accurate.

My friend, who really knows her art history, her contemporary art scene from Germany to Spain and the US, has a motto. "Paint (work) like you have a dick."

A light bulb went off. Of course, that was the problem, I was looking to the future work as if I had no spine, as if, somehow, I needed to worry about what I wanted to say. I was looking for affirmation. "Sucks to you, Piggy." I decided. I am going to just go for it and not worry that I love, and am besotted with gardens and flowers and streams and their colours. So what if no one else likes it? Bah to them, I'm going to have a riot of thread surrounding me and love it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Bingo & Damp stretching

I managed to do all the things in one week that I want to get done in one week. Does that make a routine or a lucky week? So bingo to me.

Writing and studio time were a major factor last week. In the world of writing, I had some research to do on Canadian life-styles 1900-1925, fireflies, fly-fishing, and radio. That was fun. For instance, did you know that the female firefly lights her bioluminescence lights at ground level, while the males light theirs higher up in the grass and bushes. There are South Asian fireflies that can coordinate their lights so that the entire group flash at the same time. What a sight that must be. Ka-flash-hold-and-out. I also learned that the first radios, while able to find hardly any sound because there were few radio stations, still cost as much as a car. The other cool fact was that an earlier radio had multiple earphone jacks for the entire family. The family sat around the dining table listening to the same program, but each person heard something slightly different because the tuning was so imprecise. I wonder what an I-phone family event would look like if we all plugged into the same jacks?

On the studio side of things,

I damp stretched my two 3 foot long pillow case edges. I am creeping up on joining them with the handmade lace you saw last week.

Each piece tends to curve gently in one direction or another, none are straight.

I think I will have to do a lot of basting to make sure each piece lies flat against the other.

I like to do clothes sewing on the weekend when possible.

I like to add a splash of colour on the inside of the collar. It is a lovely brushed cotton.

Phoebe and I don't like cuffs much. I shortened the sleeve slightly and added a lining to the inside of the sleeve. It has a very small peek out when folded flat, but when turned back, the accent colour shows again.

A small colour hit on the back of the shirt where the back is slightly pleated.

A little bit of yellow button sewing and this shirt is finished for Phoebe. It is the Sewaholic Pattern 1501 by Granville. I really like the outcome but the instructions are not great. I made a slight modification to the shirt. It should have a flare out over the hips, but the previous shirt flared out too much for Phoebe's taste and I straightened it. It won't be until the end of October until I know if it fits. (Insert nail biting here)

Last winter I wanted a simple black wool skirt. I bought what I thought was a black wool blend, but it turned out to be a deep brown.

I'm trying again, but this fabric still reads brown to me, although multiple people walking past the sewing machine assure me it is black. The pattern is Selene by Colette Patterns, 1035.

On the horizon is a shirt of this lovely cream/green flannel for Steve.OK, today is Monday. Upstairs vacuumed, check; blog done, check; bathroom cleaned, no check; gym? On my way.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Watercolour stash

Many little items are almost complete.

I love that tulip motif. Now I have to figure out if it can be used anywhere logically.

 This last one needs better photography.It is full of little details. I am smitten with it.

It is time to build up a bit of a stash of items I use. I went to Michael's and picked up some paper I can't get at the Japanese Paper Place.

A nice floral and leaf combination on top and a spiral leaf below.

These are embossed and add lovely detail without having to be stitched. It is always possible, but I haven't found the need yet.

This is a semi-opaque almost vinyl feeling paper. I haven't fooled around with it yet. I don't think it will tear well. It might be interesting as inserts behind holes.

I thought a bit of fake marble might be fun somewhere, someday.

I have been stitching this piece of machine free embroidery forever. It is meant for a specific piece, and will look fabulous once added. I have watched many TV shows while doing this. Sometimes I felt guilty, but my brain needs some sort of engagement while stitching. Documentaries would be better. The latest offerings are about murderers and rock stars. A co-incidence I am sure but neither interests me, and a person can only watch so many baby wild animals in a day.

The real fun has been with the watercolour.

I started this at the camp, but as frequently happens when I'm not in my studio, I forget what my intentions are. The paper is pretty large and I wanted to make sweeping swaps of watercolour, have them bleed into one another and be a masterpiece of spiraling colour. I forgot all about that and started making huge flowers. Boo...hiss.

I also made a huge mistake thinking the red was red like coke red but it isn't. It's more like a terra cotta red. I let it dry and brought it home. I don't mind that there are folds, because it will be torn up and the folds act as pools for colour collection.

This time, I wet the entire sheet before I began.

Then I slopped watercolours that I knew I liked over it, avoided the reds and lifted edges and corners to get some bleeding happen.

I ended up doing this in sections so that the bleeds ran only part way across the page. I decided to this mostly because the sheets are so large that the bleeds began to turn muddy and I wanted crisp colours.

The last piece of paper is a product called Swedish tracing paper.

Only a first layer of wet colour is on here.

Super duper expensive and it has to be shipped in from somewhere, not Canada. (add taxes and shipping and lately taxes on shipping but try to get that fixed, hahha) I can't imagine that this is a good product for sewing with. It tears super easy, folds just as easily and if it is used to trace a pattern, the marker bleeds all over the place. Therefore, it is perfect for an artist's needs. Enter the bleeds of colour. Again, water up the sections, add colour and water soluble markers and kaching. Because it tears so wonderfully, it can make odd shapes, be folded any which way and the only caution is in the final attachment. If it is the last item to be attached to work, a bit of stabilizer at the point of attachment might be in order, otherwise the thread might cut through. But if it is part of a background collage, no problems. Other bits will anchor it down. I am going to go over the tracing paper again with more water and strong coloured water soluble markers to liven it up a bit. The stash is ready. Ready for what you ask. Don't ask, I haven't figured that out yet.