Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Sometimes I sit in the evening and am totally uninterested in what my husband has chosen to watch on TV, am too tired to go to my studio and get productive, don’t want to go to bed yet because I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, but I need something to do. So, probably like millions of others on this earth, I go blog shopping on my lap top computer. Here are a few of the fun things I found last night:


In this one I like the idea of the New Year’s Resolutions plan with an Infrastructure. I’m trying to figure out how to make it work with my goal of finishing all my UFO’s this year! Thought provoking, but I haven’t drawn mine up yet! Then I pressed “next blog” and got to this one:


This blog is interesting to me because not only is it a textile art blog, but it’s all faces. I like to put faces in my work as well so find this one inspiring and unique. As well, the photos look like a place I’d love to ride my bike! As you read further down, she has changed her blog so if you want to follow her as I will, her new address is:http://talesfrombeyondtheglimpse.blogspot.com/

Again, this is a video about a workshop with Sara Lechner of “Tales From Beyond the Glimpse” mentioned above. It’s worth watching….fascinating stuff she’s doing.

And while there, the video site itself is pretty interesting. http://videosbysusanlenz.blogspot.com/

So now you can waste time and get inspired just as I did!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Memories and Memory Quilts

A couple of years ago my sister, a heart specialist in Children's Hospital, asked me if I would make a memory quilt for the mother of a patient who had passed away.  A 16 year old girl who had Downs Syndrome and a heart condition.  I said I would.  We met at her son's Rugby tournament and she delivered a package of t-shirts that had been worn by the girl.  I just put the package in my suitcase, we visited, watched the Rugby game, went to the needlework and other shops together, and then I came home. 

When I got home I opened the package.  It held 12 t-shirts.  Each and every one was wrapped in pink tissue paper and had a note on top written by the mother.  They said things like "This was her favorite shirt because the cow said Moo."  or "This is the last t-shirt she wore...the holes are from pins holding er IV cords."  I felt sacrilegeous opening the packages. It was put away for several months before I could bring myself to get it out and work on the promised "Memory Quilt".  In the end, my friend Joan helped me by scanning all the notes into the computer and giving me a CD of those files.  I then printed them out on fabric and each T-shirt that I cut to size was backed by fabric printed with the note that her mother had written about that shirt.  It was difficult to cut up those T-shirts and even more difficult to work on that quilt. 

But, when I got going, it seemed to come together nicely.  I sashed each of these blocks in "Reversible Quilting" style as described in Sharon Pedersen's book "Reversible Quilting.  http://ninepatchmedia.com/html/DV01RQ.html  When finished the quilt still looked a little dull so I added appliqued heart-shaped balloons and silk ribbons drifting between the blocks to liven it up.  In the end, it looked great.  I sent it to my sister and she sent me back photographs (not digital) that were pretty rewarding, but heartbreaking at the same time.  The mother was in tears, but thrilled. 

That being my experience with "memory quilts",  I was against doing it again.  But when my friend at work came and asked me if I would do one for her son who had just left for an apprenticeship in another town, I couldn't say no because she is such a special friend!  She gave me all kinds of t-shirts and tidbits that were applicable to her oldest son.  I put this quilt together: 

It is made up of hockey shirts, pyjamas for a little guy, pieces of "Bumpa's" shirt, his ball cap, his crib sheet, his favorite t-shirts, a karate belt and other tidbits from his childhood life.  There is a pocket on the back made out of a crocheted blanket, and it holds a scrap of the wallpaper from his room. 

I couldn't make one of these for my own children because I didn't keep enough to do it with!  What a mistake!  However, my friend did and this is the result.  When I showed her the pieced quilt top, she broke into tears......pretty strong testimony that I did a decent job of it.  She got the backing fabric and the batting and it got quilted and finished. 

But that's not the end of it!  This young man was going to get this quilt for Christmas.  But he announced that he had proposed to his girl (isn't that romantic?) and would be married this coming summer.  So Mum, my friend, felt that the second son should get his quilt for Christmas too.  She apparently spent a week or more pondering how to ask me to rush the second one so they could both get them at Christmas.  When she came and asked me about it, she was pretty close to tears, but I knew it was important to do this thing.  I said I could put the top together so she could present it to him, but would have to quilt and finish it after Christmas.  So she agreed and brought me a bag of goodies for the second son and I put this quilt together:

This one has two pockets on the front.  One from a hockey jacket that is designed to hold the remnants of the original "stuffy" the replacement of which although worn too, is featured top and center.  The "Blue Jays" patch is actually a piece of a shirt that unbuttons and inside there is a cloth book that the boy had.  This one includes a baby sock, his favorite "leather" jacket, sheets from his bed, his grad t-shirt and more.

I found I enjoyed doing these two memory quilts.  I don't know if it was because the mother, my friend, was so pleased, or if it was because the boys are alive and progressing with their life plans and it's all pleasant memories.  It is difficult to work with cotton, stretch, polyester, nylon and fake leather ....and have it all come out square, but I did enjoy working on"" them.

I thought "Mom" should keep the quilts for herself and cuddle in them when she's missing the boys, but  she's going to go through with her plan and give them to the kids for Christmas! 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Old Crock and Koi Fish

Koi Fish are so intriquing.  They are actually trainable and become quite the pet.  They get used to a routine, they know who's coming to feed them and will go to the bottom of the pool if it's someone they are unsure of....like over active children....or a heron!  In the last place my husband and I lived, we did a lot of landscaping.  It's a form of art I wish I'd discovered as a young person.....an aptitude test at school said I should be a forest ranger!  In those days nobody had heard of landscaping......at least not in my family circle! 

But I moved to Vancouver Island and with the combination of milder weather and different plants, I discovered that I love to turn my yard into a piece of art work.  Every place we've lived, we did all kinds of decorative work in the yard and mainly just maintenance in the house!  But our magnum opus was the house where we had the koi pond, stream, water fall and lots of specimin plants and hidden areas of the garden for contemplation.  When we moved from this home, we took the biggest fish, breeding stock, to a friend in the country who had a very deep pond for them to "go wild" in and meet other koi living there.  We left only the smaller ones for the new owners.  These two fish were our favorites.  The pictures do not do them justice....they were taken when were transporting them and they were in plastic tubs that were big...two fit side by side in the back of the van to give you an idea what size the fish were!

Today we don't have a pond.  My husband is happy as he worried about the pump and the water levels and all those practical things. The biggest problem was the heron.  They were hard to keep away, illegal to kill, but stole our oldest fish and a lot of his offspring.  I used to think herons were artistic looking the way they stand on one leg and are so still.  Now I see them with a target on their breast!

But as for the pond, I miss it terribly.  I miss the running water, the birds bathing in it on a hot sunny day, the pet fish and even the frogs that made it their home and sang in the evening. 

But, not to be deterred, at this house I have an old crock.  It's an antique one and rather than make sauerkraut in it, I have it on the patio with two water plants and three goldfish.  Today I have to empty it, store the plants in a safe place, and put the goldfish in a big bowl for winter.  I do this to prevent the crock freezing and breaking over winter.  The fish would be fine in our milder winters, and just go to the bottom whee there is still water rather than ice.  But the crock won't survive so I have to clean it out and bring it inside. 

So, with fish on my mind, I've added a "Feed the Fish" gadget to play with in the side column.  I found it to be fun when I tried it out so there it is for you to try as well.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Baking ....or avoiding Baking?

Thankfully our rain and floods have stopped. Now we have it very cold. Not arctic style cold, and not unbearably cold, but a lovely change from howling winds and rains. No snow, beautiful sunrise and sunset, the beach is gorgeous, the mountains look cold and ready for the Olympic games….and it’s time to bake bread and stay home being cozy.

I’m getting out one of my favorite recipe and making it. It’s called comfort food I believe! Here’s the link to the recipe. http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/seeded_multigrain_boule.html

This is a great site to visit for really good and healthy recipes. I’m not a cooking person, in fact the only cooking I truly like doing is baking bread and cookies. And I've just realized I should have been started on the Christmas baking by now....and haven't.  I'm trying to put it off as long as possible since the sooner I bake it the sooner I'll eat it and then have to bake them again!  Inside this woman is a 300 lb. cookie monster with blue fur trying to get out! 

I wrote to my parents last week and told them about discovering this bread recipe and the experiments I went through with my containers and my oven.  My sister, who also likes to bake bread, came to visit and she read my letter.  Her comment at the end was "Well she went on about this great bread and didn't even send the recipe!"  I've sent it to her now too!  So enjoy!  Baking is an art form too! 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making Tiny Cloth Hands

My friend Joan and I have started on the tome page patterns designed by Patti Culea http://www.pmcdesigns.com/tomes.htm. I know .....I’ve mentioned this before. But we are still on Page ONE!!! This page features three women representing friends. You can just follow the pattern of course, but Joan and I have chosen to change it according to our theme embellish accordingly. 

My front page has a secretary, a farm girl, and a grandma since I chose to make my theme about all the stages in my life. So being the sort who likes to jump in at the top and then slide downwards to my level, I decided to have three dimensional hands so that they can hold miniature props… a stenographer’s notebook, a milk pail and my knitting.

I've photographed them on my cutting mat so that you can see what size they are in actuality.

Now you really do need to know that turning hands for a cloth doll is a practice in patience at the best of times, but making them this small is really designed to test your determination – especially if you haven’t done it in a while!

Well… I’ve mastered it…this said after no small amount of time, perseverance, flat-out cursing. Here is the result of my labour! Now, to attach them to the page and incorporate the embellishments. …..

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Survival Quilting

This quilt is NOT my normal style, but it’s got a good story to go along with it. In fact, I considered doing the quilting by writing the story with the sewing machine in the wide blue strips. (I don’t even like blue!) However, the opening in my machine would not allow scrunching the entire quilt in there to write the story lengthwise so I’ve opted to just quilt it fairly normally and then print the story on fabric and appliqué it to the back. This is me holding it up, partially quilted.

In the spring of 2007, we sold our house and bought a new one. The only problem was that we had a six week gap between leaving our home and taking possession of our new one. For that period of time we put most of our things in storage, taking just what we needed for the duration with us to our temporary home. There were piles of boxes to go to Goodwill, stuff to go to the storage unit, and other stuff to go where we were going to be staying.

Luckily, my husband only made one mistake on deliveries of these boxes, and that turned out to be a good one. The place we stayed was with an in-law, who was working in camp and had two tenants looking after his place but he was good enough to give his room to stay in while he was gone and we were transient. However, the different “mentality” of the tenants, their visitors and the living conditions turned out to be quite stressful for both of us. There were oil drums stacked in the driveway. They popped loudly every morning when the sun came up and again every evening when it cooled off again. Our poor cat hid in the bedroom for most of the full six weeks. Our dog was adventurous enough to enjoy the nearby bush, but for me….the tenants were heavy drinkers and were quite often extremely talkative but not sensible. The washing machine made horrendous noises and drained under the trailer. I got yelled at for leaving a teabag in the sink. They didn’t like my alarm going off in the morning so that I would get up for work! They complained about the meals my husband cooked, at our expense, because they were not ready on time for them to go to the pub. There’s more, but I’m sure by now you get the idea.  If it hadn't been for my friend Ang living nearby, and walking with me regularly, I doubt I'd have come out sane!  It was certainly an education in how quickly the human spirit can lose hope of ever having a better life.  I knew I had my new house to go to.....and still I began to doubt it was ever going to happen!

But....luckily I had my sewing machine with me (I always do!) And by now I’d found this box of fabric strips that had been meant for Goodwill and landed with us instead. So I set myself up in a tiny little room at the end of the hallway – little more than a closet actually – and I escaped to that cubbyhole and sewed strips together. I sewed every evening without thought of what I was creating, it was just therapeutic to sew. I just reached into the box, took out the next strip and stitched it to the next. By the time we moved into our home, these chunks of stripped piecing were many and colorful, but I had no idea what to do with them.

This picture is of the squares "in the making" where I had cut and sewed them back together, and was trying out different widths of sashing.  I had taken the big squares to one of our retreats. At “Show & Tell” I told the story and showed them the pieces I had put together rather mindlessly. Everyone enjoyed hearing how sewing had been my therapy, and one girl there came over with a terrific idea; she showed me how to cut the pieces I’d strip pieced and then reassemble them so that they made this pattern. It was great fun because it didn’t require accuracy, just cutting, turning and more sewing! In the end I put it together with other fabric I didn’t ever intend to use in a “serious” project, and a backing of fabric I likely never would have used either. So it’s truly a “use up what you’ve got” kind of quilt!

So now I have the quilt….”Surviving the Summer of 2007”, colorful to the point of garish, but will be cozy as can be and a great one to take on a picnic or put on the floor when the grandchildren are over. Not a piece of art, but a reminder of how much simple sewing can do for one’s mental stability in times of stress, or any other time for that matter. I’ve been eternally grateful to Bob for making that “mistake” in delivering my box of scraps to the wrong place!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Today is my Dad’s 94th birthday. I can’t even imagine what he’s seen in his lifetime, but I have to say, he is very healthy, and his mind is 10 times what mine has ever been! But a tribute to my Dad....a great father, a wonderful Grampa, a huge influence in my life from day one. A supportive and modern thinker, he encouraged us to be all we could be. I know how privileged I am to have my father still a part of my life, albeit it from a distance. I called him early this morning to say “Happy Birthday and I’ll call again this evening” and he said “You sound a little hoarse. Are you feeling ok?” He laughed when I said “I’m fine....I just haven’t talked much and have only had one cup of tea so far....we’re an hour behind you Dad.” He is a morning person and I am definitely not so we got a chuckle out of that. Here’s a photo of him when he met my mother in Belgium, during WWII.