Little women, in stitches

My current work schedule leaves me only a few precious hours for personal pursuits, especially the large projects like my weaving or fine needlepoint. I miss the feeling of satisfaction that comes from making a big idea into a big finished work. So in the evenings after work I am focusing on smaller projects to give myself the boost that only comes from seeing a finished project. I’ve been doing some quick embroidery sketches.

Just as in my family painting series (four of which are languishing neglected on my easel), I like to try to give my images in fibre bold lines or exaggerated traits. I’ve started a series of women quickly sketched in black lace-weight thread. Then with each woman I target one thing about her to highlight.

Women are defined narrowly in popular culture. By our beauty, our hair, our lips, our eyes , or our clothes. I decided to run with that and define each of the sketches by one of those things.

The series is below. I’m enjoying not only the more immediate sense of accomplishment that come with the speed of the work, but also the textures I can create. Whereas in painting I can add only line and colour, in fibre I’ve begun working on textures like hair in addition to colour and line. It’s pretty to test stitches and thread weights.

I’ll be working on this series for a while yet because it makes me happy, and because it’s helping me improve my embroidery skills. I consider this training up to tackle some really big ideas kicking around my head.

                            

                          

 

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A room of my own

dotingI am blessed with a doting husband. When we looked for our current house he never hesitated to add ‘art room’ to the list of spaces our home must have.

For the past five years I have made ever expanding use of this a glorious room of my own. It has windows on three sides, a fireplace, and view of my garden.

I right away installed a gallery art hanging system on the 11 foot wall so I could display what I created.

I have stainless steel tables for playing with clay, and ink, and paint, which also serve as my desk.

I have cabinets for my stuff.

I have a big easel in a corner.

I have a an old door made into a table for my loom, for which I will eventually get a glass top cut for so I can use it to keep weaving samples on display.

I have my grandmother’s old vanity holding my painting supplies.

I have a spot for my laptop and a iPod player.

I have a brand new sewing machine which has a table and window all to itself.

And I have a fireplace to keep me toasty warm.

The room was almost perfect, except that the walls were an uninspired dingy cream.

So I decided to make it perfect. Choosing colours came first.

I chose a colour that is somewhere between Tiffany blue and Birks blue. You could call it robin’s egg blue. I call it gorgeous.

It took me five days to get it all painted, then one more to put the room back together. It is a huge improvement on the shabby beige it used to be. My time spent here was always fine, but now the time spent in this room of my own will be sublime.

(Take a little tour here)

This winter we’re taking advantage of a forced remodel of the basement due to a spring flood to make my hubby a room of his own. I’ve offered to paint it any colour he chooses. I hope his happy space turns out as well as mine.

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Three scarves and a five year plan

I’ve always sought new ways to express myself artistically. Who doesn’t, right? A consistent ingredient of my creative obsession has always been a love of clothing and fabric. In my 20s and 30s I only had time to be a clothes horse. Times change. The absolute best part of aging is getting my life back as the kids grow up. 

No surprise then that I’ve taken up weaving as my boys grow up and leave me free time. That adds weaving to my other cloth related ventures – needlepoint, embroidery, and sewing.

Since my doting husband gave me a beautiful 32″ rigid heddle loom for my 48th birthday I’ve been working at becoming competent. I can make my edges pretty straight, the weaving is even, and I’ve learned to finish my edges. I am now onto learning techniques that expand my ability to create patterns, combine more colours, and add texture in a piece of cloth.

To that end, I just finished three scarves.

The first is a simple plaid, a combination of purples and black and grey threads.

 

The second is a check pattern in brown and orange, but I threw in some floating weft stitches to put little shapes into the orange spaces.

 

The third is a purple and grey scarf with a wavy centre line made using a clasped weft technique that I really like and will most certainly use again.

 

 

Six months in to my new weaving adventure I can see my improvement. The five year plan(hope) is that I improve enough to keep this up as a minor source of income and major source of enjoyment in my retirement years.

 

More garden art – a conspiracy of ravens

I’ve always kept an artistic garden. I’m not a personal fan of plastic garden gnomes or concrete replicas of the Easter Island Moai. As with everything else, I have this stubborn desire to make things myself.

I have been slowly filling my yard with home made garden art since my husband and I first got this house.

 

We started with my husband carving two stumps with our names, which were decorations for our outdoor wedding, but now sit on each side of the house.

 

For our first summer I made a short fence as a tribute to our new blended family life. I made a caricature of each of us, including our dog and her squirrel nemesis.

 

The next summer I made a small fence cut like the silhouette of two deer. I placed it to give a bit more privacy to the garden in a spot under some large spruces where the hedge was thinner. 

 

Next I made a moose to keep the deer company. Both the moose and the deer are a hat-tip to my husband’s love of the outdoors. It also covers a thin spot in the garden hedge.

 

This spring I made my greenman to lend a little visual interest to the patio side of the yard. He fills an empty spot on the fence that was once covered by a diseased Mayday that had to be taken out. 

 

This year’s last project is on the garden side again, and spruces up an ordinary garden pergola. 

These guys are an homage to our neighbourhood raven, who I’ve named Igor Ravinsky. He has a crippled wing so he hops around and takes short flights in our mature, tree filled neighbourhood. Our yard is particularly blessed with trees and he spends a good amount of time hanging out with us. I’d love to see him join this wooden conspiracy of ravens one day, and hope to snap a picture. 

 

I have plenty of other ideas. I’ll have the plans for a roof line project for our garden shed done over the next few months, but it won’t get started until next spring. I’ve been carving an old tree limb and have an idea to follow up on that. In the early fall I’ll head out to my parent’s land to select a tree to cut down and into sections and dry over the next year so I can use it. That gives me the rest of the fall to practice carving and the winter months to make a plan with the idea percolating through my brain. 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen limericks

We hosted a play in our house in June. It was a site specific play, so small groups of audience members followed cast members through the house from scene to scene. I knew they’d be paying attention to the scripted action but I wondered if they’d notice the house. I don’t know if I’m an attention hog or what, but I felt I had to put a wee bit of myself into the drama.

I decided my kitchen chalk board was the perfect tool to do just that. So I sat down and composed a few kitchen themed limericks. I had meant to change them up more often, but I had too much on my mind and missed most of the days. I managed to get three done, and may just use the other ones some other time for fun if I can squeeze it into spare minutes between my summer plans.

      

 

My garden greenman

Last year I decided my garden needed a a bit more pizzazz. We have been putting in shade plants for the past few years to liven up what was a very sparse yard. The greenery is coming along, and the space cried out for some decoration to compliment the new life. 

I decided on a greenman.

I spent all winter imaging and planning something to hang on the fence on the shady patio side of the house. As soon as I could be comfortably out in the garage this spring I began working with some cedar fence boards. Sketches in hand, I pulled out the band saw and got to work. 

                    

It took some work to get everything to line up but I am pretty happy with the result.

 

Weaving cloth

My youngest son says I have loom madness. I think I’ve just found my calling.

Since getting my 36″ rigid heddle loom for Christmas I have been weaving non-stop.

I signed myself up for some very helpful classes on Craftsy.com to help me master the craft more quickly. The first couple months I got a feel for some basics; warping the loom, making the edges even, and finishing the top and bottom ends off neatly.

I must say though, my favourite part is playing with colour and texture. I have woven some really nice plaids and stripes. My next project will be a check or a log cabin pattern.

I only have one reed and it is fairly large, so I initially only worked with number 4 yarn. It turned out nice but the resulting cloth is a heavier weight. I did some small placemets, then moved on to some larger pieces of the heavy cloth.

My husband calls this the camo plaid.

I made three pieces of it.

My hope is I can turn it into a cape style coat like another coat I have, but with a slightly different collar. I’ll be fiddling with making a pattern from that coat over the summer. No rush for a coat right now, after all.

 

I also made 165cm long piece of blue plaid. Initially I though it could be a table runner, but the number 4 yarn is too coarse.

I have a good amount of this yarn left so I may weave more and make myself another jacket. I found a pattern for this one. It’s a flapper style and I think it would look good with this fabric.

 

Then I decided I needed to branch out from the heavier cloths. In one of my craftsy videos the instructor mentioned that she doubles the warp thread for some cloth. So I bought a gorgeous number 1 yarn and doubled the warp threads.

This was my first doubled thread cloth made from the finer yarn. It is incredibly soft and it drapes beautifully.

I intended it to be a table runner, but it almost a shame to use it that way. At 36″ my loom makes cloth just barely wide enough to make a wrap.

This is for my mom, so she can decide.

 

This is the same yarn, different colours.

Again, made with a table linen in mind but certainly soft enough and just wide enough that is would make a nice wrap.

This one is for my mother-in-law’s 75th birthday.

I’m on a one week weaving hiatus right now, but I don’t expect it to last long. I have a large wicker basket full of yarn calling my name.

I have a gorgeous number 2 charcoal yarn I want to weave with, and some lovely pastel pink and blue number 4 cotton yarn I want to make a checkered fabric with. I have several balls of burgandy and cream number 4 yarn. I have orange. Navy. Taupe. Mustard. Light brown. Dark green. Bright red.

So many options!

I am going to watch the video for the log cabin pattern one or two times more then try some different weaving patterns, finger weaving, wrapping, and adding beads.

And I’m pretty sure I’m getting some add-ons for the loom this Christmas so it won’t end there.