Thursday, September 11, 2014

Small Works

Where has the summer gone? Here on the west coast of Canada, we have enjoyed, and are still enjoying, endless days of sunshine and warm breezes. There is now a nip in the air in the early morning, and the Canada geese are practicing their V-formations as they fly overhead - sure signs of fall - but the weather is still glorious, and I for one, have spent much of my time outdoors over the last couple of months. Add to that a mini-family reunion, and visits from friends, and there has been little time left in which to quilt. But I don't want to make excuses, just to take note of there being "a time to be outdoors and a time to quilt". I have worked on a several smaller pieces, however, and thought you might like to see them now that they're completed. I began with sun-dyed fabrics from Langa Lapu in South Africa, and added borders in an improvised manner, facing rather than binding them to finish them. The hand-stitching has become a renewed favorite way to add texture and detail, and I anticipate doing more of this in the future. The other thing I've done recently is to spend three
months as part of Lisa Calls "Greenhouse", for graduates of her Working in a Series workshop. How amazing to be part of a community of fellow art quilters for this time - to take part in a monthly critique session with others, and to have valuable input from Lisa in continuing to produce work that is part of my Tree Series. But now it's time to set that aside for awhile, as I prepare for a last trip to Uganda, departing on October 23rd. (More on that later). So there we are - an update from me after a summer hiatus. Happy quilting to each of you, as we look toward another year of adventure!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tree Bathing on Vancouver Island

This was the view, or part of it, as I sat in my camp chair next to my tent trailer at Little Qualicum Falls for the last three days. I've made it a goal to get out in the woods, to surround myself with the trees, that have been the subject matter of some of my recent work. There's something that happens when I'm in close contact with these trees that is missing when I'm working with photos alone. I need to get back out there and remember why they intrigue me so, and to listen to the stories they have to tell. It doesn't happen when working from images on the internet, or from my own images, or from my sketches. I have to soak in the essence of these trees, to feel them around me, and to be still enough to hear their whispers. I went on walks around the falls and through other forests, in particular visiting Cathedral Grove, but as I drove home, it was these three that I gazed on several times each day that seemed to reach me most deeply. And so tomorrow, when I go back down to my studio and begin to work again, it will be these trees that I'm thinking about.
Not too long ago I discovered that in Japan, going out into the woods is known as tree bathing. And the benefits of this are so widely recognized that tree bathing is often prescribed as an alternative treatment for things such as stress. This delights me. Of course, I thought to myself, of course. Even without this nomenclature, I know in my being that being out in the woods is good for me. And coupled with being in touch with my source material for my tree series, it is a marvellous way to spend a few summer days.
I hope you too are enjoying this summer, wherever you are.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Spring in the North Woods

I mentioned in my last post that I'm now involved in an online workshop for graduates of Lisa Call's Working in a Series workshop, and will be sharing my successes and failures with you on my blog. Affectionately known as "The Greenhouse", this group 14 participants, from places as diverse as Sweden, Thailand and the UK, has each of us working on our own series. Subject matter and the techniques used vary tremendously, as was evident when we had our first group critique session on Sunday. So exciting to see everyone else's work. I was not so happy with my own piece - something too regular about the spacing between the trees and the branch intervals - but am pleased to be back working with trees again. I achieved the depth I wanted, and the feeling of spring, but need to go back to the drawing board for the rest of it. And why I ended up fusing my trees when I had intended at the outset that I would be piecing my work, I do not know. What I do know, is that it's important to keep doing the work. To get up again after falling down (or maybe just bruising my knees), and make another piece. And another and another. As Maya Angelou so wisely said "They're not all going to be masterpieces, but the rest of the time you're just stretching your soul." Happy stretching everyone, and Happy Canada Day too!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How Time Flies . . . !!!

It's true what they say about time speeding up the older you get. Not that I'm "OLD", just a little older than I once was. Somehow this month has been lived and now we're almost at the end of it, and it's been a very good month indeed. Quilt Canada was hugely successful. I had wonderful classes of students, and saw tremendous work being done and on display in the various exhibits, then returned home to the busy-ness of unpacking and preparing for my husband's retirement from ACTS. It was a terrific event - extremely moving - and now it's behind us and the next chapter of our lives in underway.
We began by spending this last week at our cabin on Hornby Island, together with family and friends. Sadly I don't have photos of any of it to show you. All the time I thought I was taking photos it seems my memory card was failing to record them. So I am left with lots of good memories, but no pics to remind me of these last days. And nothing to share with you.
So what comes next? Well I am just beginning a new course with Lisa Call - Working in a Series Community and Greenhouse. I am back to work on my Tree Series, and will post photos (taken with my husband's camera!) of my work as it is created. This is a 6-month largely self-directed course, with monthly goal setting and assignment writing, phone calls with Lisa and critiquing our work in an online classroom-like setting. And there will be lots of sharing amongst us too. I am looking forward to spending time in my studio working in a more focussed way. Other time this summer will be spent camping in various spots on Vancouver Island, and attending arts-related events.
What about you? Care to share what plans you have for your own summer - quilt-related or not? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Quilt Canada - The Countdown in On

One week from today I will be winging my way east from Vancouver Island to Southern Ontario. I am delighted to have been invited to teach at Quilt Canada, being held this year in St. Catharines in the Niagara Region. My suitcases are already bulging with fabric kits and class handouts, and I'm not quite sure how my clothing is going to fit in too. Good thing it's summer and time to dress for warm weather!
I will be teaching three different classes - The Joys of Improvisation, African Sunshine, and The Gratitude Tree. Very different classes in many ways, but each giving participants the opportunity to express themselves creatively, to play with some of the gorgeous fabrics available, and even more importantly, to meet up with other quilters from across the country.
I first taught The Joys of Improvisation in Prince Rupert, and thought you might enjoy seeing a few of their creations from this class. What an amazing group of women - full of spunk and daring - the perfect combination for a class in which there are only guidelines, and no rules. Diane and Lou and Jenny - Debra and Dolly - all of you - I will remember you for a very long time to come. Thanks for agreeing to let me post your work here on my blog - just to give the students in St. Catharines a taste of what's in store for them.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Trees, and Improvisational Quilting

Over the last year or so, I have been looking over the work I have done and thinking a lot about what works best for me. And the conclusion I've come to is that improvisational piecing is the technique that fits where I'm at right now, and what I want to develop further in the next couple of years. I have had the opportunity to be in so many wonderful classes, and been exposed to many possibilities in terms of my quilting. It's very tempting to sign up for yet one more class. But instead I am choosing to narrow my options and improve as much as I can, in working with in this one area.
You will also notice that I've decided to pursue my love of trees. Vancouver Island is such a marvelous place to be to study them. I've bought a little tent trailer so that I can get out and meet more of them in person, and to expand my collection of photos

from which to work. Douglas fir trees are what captivates me right now, and are the basis for both these recent pieces. The first is called "In the North Woods". These are near my home, and where I can be found most days walking my yellow lab, Charlie. The second is called "Windows on My World", and is a reflection on how important these trees are to me.
In coming weeks I will be working on several new pieces - the fabrics are already being gathered for two of these - and invite you to visit my blog, where I'll share how they develop. Basically improvisational piecing means making it up as you go along. When I start, I really have no idea where I'm going to end up. I just begin with sewing little strips together, and take it from there. But more of this in future blogs.
And in case you're wondering, I am still very much involved with the Bitengye Designers in Uganda, and will continue to use this blog for updates on them too.
Talk to you again soon.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

African Attire for Traditionally Built Women

Not long ago, I told you about the workshop that the Bitengye Designers had with Alice, learning how to make dresses as well as jackets, aprons and yoga mat bags. The shipment containing all these items arrived this week, and some friends offered to model some of them for you. The dresses are either a straight cut with short sleeves and rounded neck, or "butterfly design", in which the sleeves are fashioned from fabric at the side of the garment. Joyanne and Hennie (photos 1 and 2) model the straight cut design, while Anne (photo 3) models the "butterfly dress". Nerissa and Jessie are our models for the jackets, based on a Japanese "Happi coat" design. Lastly there is Anne, modeling one of the very popular aprons.
This weekend the Comox Valley Schoolhouse Quilt Guild is holding a Quilt Show in Cumberland, and yes, we have a booth there. In addition to dresses and jackets and aprons, we're selling many of the other items made by the Bitengye Designers. And this is our challenge. We need to find ways to get the amazing times they make out there where the public can see them (and buy
them). Business acumen and marketing are not my strengths, but I feel confident that the product these women now make is of a quality good enough to be of appeal to the general public. The challenge is how to reach them.
Another thing I'm not very good at is modern communications media. (I can barely manage to write a blog with any regularity!) But with a bit of perseverance and lots of determination (read, stubbornness and bloody mindedness), I hope to have items such as these up on Etsy before too long too.
If anyone out there knows of individuals who might be willing to offer their skills and their time to get this ball rolling, I would be most grateful to be put in touch with them. Just email me at
What I would really like you to notice, is how striking and how universally appealing these garments are. Just the sort of thing to change into at the end of a long day taking in a Quilt Show. Cool and comfy - put your feet up, and sip on a glass of wine, while reviewing your impressions and your purchases. Doesn't get
 much better than that!