Tuesday, August 29, 2017

tales of childhood

when i was seven we moved to our newly built house in a completely different area of whitehorse

having lived my whole life in the downtown portion of the city, being out in the country was a new experience... businesses and sidewalks gave way to houses on large lots with loads of trees
the new school was one block away
and no longer would i leave school every noon hour to go to my grand-parent's house for lunch

i loved lunchtime
my grandfather "papa" came home from work, as did my mom - they, my grandmother, and us four kids made for a pretty lively lunch hour... i was going to miss that terribly...

but my mom had a plan and it involved the lady next door

she had three small daughters, and was very young herself... a stay-at-home mom who loved to sing whilst she worked... cooking and cleaning, baking her own bread, washing and ironing... i can never, to this day, do housework without singing "scarborough fair"

we went there for a hot lunch five times a week and again after school until mom and dad came home from work

one day she was hand embroidering on a piece of the softest flannelet... it was the yoke of a nightgown for her middle daughter... three little heads, full of wavy hair, each one different...

as she stitched she sang the poem

"wynken and blynken and nod one night sailed out on a wooden shoe..."

i never forgot it, nor have i forgotten how i felt about what she was doing... a nightgown with an embroidered yoke for a three year old? 
i knew even then that wasn't a commonly thing done, even if it was 1968

devotion - and not just to her daughter, but also to the making

this poem then, for me, is all wrapped up in a beautiful telling of the imaginative workings of a child's mind, and the devotion of a mother, in time and thought in an artful practice
i've long wanted to make something inspired by that most wonderful of poems and now i've finally begun

i'm stitching the story, the poem "wynken, blynken and nod", making a little cloth book, complete with text and illustrations of my own design

 it's taken me a long time to work out the construction details but i finally have a plan that i think (and hope!) will work

one page with the text written out along with a few stitched details

and a facing page that illustrates that portion of the poem

it's a bit of a challenge as there aren't really many "scenes" but i'm making the most of every nuance in the verse

the details are tiny, time consuming, repetitive

but i don't mind

some of the applique is needle turned but much of it is just overcast along the edges

it'll rough up a bit as it's handling but i'm ok with that - i think it will just add to the tactile nature of the book

the pages will be about 6' square so just the right size for little hands to hold and turn

and a nice size for a scene - simple illustrations, fun with the details

i'm not just stitching a story though... i'm stitching a memory

a lasting memory of a very special person who has had a great influence on my life, and even more clearly, on my work


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

a bird in the hand...

 last year i decided to try my hand at weaving and bought myself a "wee weaver"... a tiny weaving loom for weaving swatches and samples

wanting very much to take it with me on our travels to the uk, i made myself a little pouch to carry it about in
 it's made up of a pieced section with embroidered seams and a plain area of light coloured linen on which i embroidered a little wren, taken from a watercolour of edith holden's

and take it i did...

on our journey, we had the amazing good fortune to meet up with the most wonderful couple, spending several days in their company whilst visiting the peaks and their lovely little village of hayfield

they wined and dined us and took us to the most wonderful places... beautiful country drives, a tour of a grand estate, a musical experience we'll forever treasure - the list goes on

we joked about their "typical english life" but they way they welcomed us into their lives for those four days was in no way typical at all

it was magical

the highlight for me was the day christine and i hiked up in the hills above hayfield - up to the moor, to the heather - to wide open spaces i'd dreamt of and read about in the words of charlotte and emily bronte
oh, that wide and windy moor... i loved it

but those were the things i knew of the moor - christine knew of another and she was keen for me to know it too

the curlew, the bird of the english moor, with a cry as distinctive and haunting as the loon of our north american lakes

a bird of place

not long into our hike, there was first a rustle, then the feathered-thrum of a bird in rapid flight and finally the sound of the curlew floated back on the wind, back to where we stood, and straight in to my own heart

i had wanted to take my little loom and weave a bit up there, to put the essence of the place into a small scrap of work, even down to using some of the grasses and plants along the path

but with the threat of rain, it was too cold to linger and so we hiked ourselves back to her cozy and warm house where, with a cup of tea and warming lunch, she played with my loom and i read from her amazing textile book collection

and so passed my favourite day in england...

i wanted to make something for christine that would embody that day, capture that memory, and seeing how much she admired the carry bag i made for my little loom, i resolved to make her one of her own

 a quick sketch from an internet photo

laying in the under feathers

trying for a feathered, not furred, look

not so easy i found out, especially with these markings...

switching off to the heather now and again for a bit of something easy

at one point i lamented to my son how hard it was to stitch, to get the feathers right, to get the distinction between the wing, body and underbelly

he said at least i could be thankful christine's favourite bird wasn't the peacock...
true enough, but a small mercy!
but i persevered and each stitch brought the image of the curlew to life

i wouldn't say i did her justice, but i do think it's close, and i learned so much - there is an order to thread-painting that i think makes it easier, and whilst there is a very strong desire for "exactness", i am learning that "representational" is often a better way to go

and now there are two

 the curlew and the little wren...

one for each

Saturday, August 5, 2017

little bitty...

like the song, it's alright to be little bitty...

i love it actually - there is a special quality to that which is diminutive

perhaps it's the smallness in size that makes us sit up and take notice of special details...

perhaps "small" lets what's special shine

whatever the attraction, i find these little stitched samples rather entrancing - they draw you in, the loose lower edge is irresistible
they have to be lifted, if only to look from a different angle

eleven weeks now, a daily patch
not always finished daily but i'm working on that - it's an untidy heap, each week's worth, as i stitch on this one and that, ideas building, one to another

 these ones are among my most favourite - tiny bits of fabric, loose, raw edges, embroidery on the surface

i can't tell you why, but the one above with the star stitches is probably my most favourite of all

 though these stacked up ones come a pretty close second

 for the first eight or nine weeks there was no plan - whatever i felt like doing i did

pick a swatch, choose some fabric and thread, think for a minute - go

 then one day i got into the buttons and suddenly, a series was born...

variations on a theme, embroidery surrounding buttons - stitching the buttons themselves down in ways that differ from the ordinary

the little white one on the bottom of the swatch above was a treat to do and joy to look at

 and after that i tried out the same sort of technique with scraps of fabric

 the two above were borne of a hankering to play with my favourite colours and favoured materials... a geometric, scratty lace and embroidery thread

the scraps are used as they come from the bowl - fitting them together, like a jig-saw puzzle

and then i thought of weave... 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

exhibit "a"

must be a holdback from childhood but i find myself drawn to little bits and pieces of this and that...

perhaps it stems from watching my mom and a neighbour lady sewing and stitching and wanting to do a little of that myself - the only materials i had to work with were their cast-offs, the scraps of fabric and thread normally destined for the garbage were given to me instead to do with what i would

some of you may remember the cloth i was making a while back where each day i would stitch on a scrap... i began it in mid-february of last year and finished it in the cotswolds at the end of april this year... i left it in england, in very good hands - my friend christine who saved it from having to be anything but what it was - a piece of muslin with scraps stitched that formed a sort of square... 

coming home, i was at a loss - not for the cloth but for the practice - the daily endeavour... working patiently and slowly, making something substantial out of not very much

letting ideas percolate for a while, i remembered a calendar book i had that had nice large spaces, two for each day
one to write in, one for a stitched sample

and so a new daily practice was begun...

i love that i have space to write - "annotate your samples" mrs. ruane says

and she is right - sometimes i think the annotations are the best part 

some days an idea comes easily - other days it's a struggle

through doing this i am learning a little bit about what i like and lot about what i don't

 texture is huge

lace, especially when it's tattered and torn, "scratty" i like to say

soft faded colours

rumpled fabrics

a bit of stitching

my least favourite are the few that have stitch only

my most favourite are when all three are present

some days it's been a grind - some of these have taken more than an hour - they're usually the ones i like the best though so i recognize the value of the time spent

more than anything though, the pages, as they fill up and accumulate, are a delight to flip through

a true delight...

i've secured the swatches at the top with tiny knots - the bottoms are free so i can lift the swatch and see the underside - it makes them a little more fragile as the pages are turned but for now i'll leave them loose - i don't know about you but there's something wonderful about being able to look at the back of a stitched piece

mrs. ruane would tell you it's "evidence" and she would be right

so here then, is "exhibit a"

Monday, July 17, 2017


thanks so much for your very kind comments on my last post - it's very humbling to know that there are still some of you that come by here now and then to see what i'm up to and say hello

i'm going to set up a bookmark system for your blogs so that i can get to them with some regularity - usually i access them from here but that means when i can't face my blog, i don't get to yours

hopefully it will work better and i should have it done in the next day or two...

summer is always such a busy time for me but i think it's slowing down a bit now - the cherries are off the trees and in the freezer, raspberries are half-done, garden is plodding along, company has come and gone etc. etc.

 the other day i even said i like winter better - i have far more time for creative pursuits and i can make oven dinners!

anyway, enough with the whining and now a little show and tell...

i've been working away on the pages and additions for my artist book

 weaving has captured my interest of late, especially irregular weave and though i bought myself a rigid heddle loom and a small frame loom along with my wee weaver, i haven't really had much time to work with them lately so i've been playing a bit with fabric and lace, adding a little stitch to the mix as well

simple fabric buttons on a strip of lace

 this one i really liked doing - the appliqued circles, stuffed and surrounded with stitch are a delight to do - the one with french knots was a little tedious and though i was worried it wouldn't show well, what with all the background texture, i am very happy with the result

it's what's below that really has me fired up though...

a few years ago i pieced strips of silk and lace to make a background - for what i have no idea - likely nothing, if the truth be told - just an itch i had to scratch

anyway - i cut a piece off which i used on a page shown in my last blog post, and was then left with a fairly good sized remnant

it took a little doing but i rolled it into a tube, secured the side, threaded some gimp through it, threaded beads and a button onto the gimp, made knots and swirls and more knots and sewed it to it's own page

 don't ask me why, but so far, it's my favourite thing in the whole book

i am fickle though, and more often than not, each new thing i do becomes my favourite so we'll see how long this lasts

since i've taken these pictures, a few have changed: stitches and beads, more off-cuts, more cast-offs... the pages are filling up and it won't be long before i can sew the book together, and then it will be time to turn my attention to making a slipcase for it

and on it goes...

Sunday, July 9, 2017


it's hopeless - i'm hopeless...
every time i think "life' will slow down a little and let me back to blogging with some sort of regularity, things get in the way - really, it's me that gets in my own way

i'm lousy at sorting out priorities and tend to focus on the first thing in front of my face, forgetting all else around me...

anyway, i'm here now, melting in our bc heatwave, with trees full of ripe cherries calling out to me... keeping my head down and typing away

very little stitching has taken place these past six weeks but i am slowly carving out a little bit of time to work on a little artist's book filled with little samples of stitching

samples of stitches i like to do, samples of materials i like to use

 stitching on the pages themselves now and again

the one you see pictured above and below is actually the jazzed-up backside of a stitched flower - it was neat enough that a few beads knotted in the centre and a stitched fragment covering the back of a petal that was appliqued were all that was needed to let it be a stand-alone page of it's own

oddly enough, it's one of my favourites in the whole book

an artist's book is an ideas book - something i can look back on over the years whenever i need a healthy dose of inspiration
it can remind me of a favoured technique but also will sometimes strike a spark and set me off in whole new directions

memories in stitch, filled with a promise for tomorrow

sounds like a good read to me

Saturday, May 27, 2017

little girl, little girl... where have you been?

 i've been to london...

london from primrose hill
 my favourite city in all the world
{not that i've been to very many but even if i had i know i would love london best}

i've had trouble transferring photos from ipad to my laptop - i think it will be a long slow go but for now i have a few from the very first days of my time in the uk

in advance of the embroidery workshop with karen ruane on saturday april 1st, three of us went on a little shopping expedition of all things creative in a few of london's most charming of shops

we started at shepherd's bookbinders...


walls and drawers and tables full of amazing papers
i practiced a lot of restraint here, and the khadi paper on the table in the image above being the most foolish of all - i bought just two sheets of it, wishing now i had bought twenty...


one of the most beautifully presented shops i've ever been in, chock-a-block full of inspiration, i came away with a few new tools and supplies which will hopefully help me to improve my book-binding skills and a few lovely sheets of paper to inspire

more shepherd's!

 we wandered through a vintage button shop, a specialty ribbon and trim store, "the cloth house" on berwick street, lace stores and several silk shops in soho

the cloth house

 the windows of the cloth house were entrancing with the little textiles strung across them on  clotheslines

the cloth house

new cloth, old cloth, new buttons, old buttons... lace

i had a budget and i stuck to it though goodness knows how
the cloth house

inspiration at every corner, in every shop, and the kindest people

the best day

that is, until the next day...

saturday was my embroidery class with karen ruane

nine of us gathered in a lovely space in covent garden for a day of stitching, tea, cake and chatter
i'd been waiting for that day for months; the chance to meet karen, see her amazing work in person, meet people i had come to know a little during our online courses - just be there

below is what i worked on during that most wonderful day

my project

 karen made workshop packs for us filled with several surfaces to stitch, tear, stitch, and tear some more

workshop kit

 she gave us graph papers and bits of lace and trims to play with as well

workshop kit

 the metallic lace in my work was a gift from sue, shopping tour guide extraordinaire

i don't have much to show for six hours of stitching but i have a very good reason that - tea, cake, chat, tea, cake chat... look through karen's ledgers, stitch a little and then tea and cake again

we called it the "london cake day"

i've pulled this out a few times since coming home, thinking i should work on it some more - today i decided it will stay as it is and i'll be able to look at it always and say "i made this in london"

latest work

hard to believe it's already a month since we left - the only consolation then is that it's one month less until i get to back again...