Another day, another stitch – 365 days of embroidery

Ashleigh's first day.
Ashleigh’s first day.

I have been cross stitching for years, but I have never sat down and really mastered the related art of embroidery. So when I came across a blog recently about a person who had stitched every day for 365 days I decided this would be just the project for me.

I shared my crafty plans on Facebook and a young woman who is friends with my son said she’s like to stitch along with me.

I have everything we need. I have two unused embroidery hoops. I have a large scrap of cloth that would work well for embroidering on. I have plenty of colourful bits and bobs of

Darcy's first day.
Darcy’s first day.

embroidery yarn from past projects. And best of all, I have an accomplice.

I’ve looked up the various stitches. I cut the fabric to fit the two hoops. Beyond that I have no plan. The plan is not to plan, just to do. Chaos lives in poorly thought out plans, but creativity lives in well thought out spontaneity, right?

Here we go, Jan 1, 2017. Day number one of 365.



See below for some stitching guidance if you want to try this yourself.…/library-embroidery-stitches/…/2014/…/hand-embroidery-stitches/

Now playing – Shakespeare on vinyl

2012-12-19-17-34-29This is not about one of my projects, but it is about an add-on to the first home project my husband and I undertook in our house – our library.

We’re both bibliophiles, we both brought boxes of books with us, and we had purposefully bought a house with a room that could be converted to a library.

But in addition to my love of the printed word, I am a fan of theatre and music. My portion of the library includes several plays; and yes it does include the complete works of Shakespeare.

place-to-be-libraryWhen we had the carpenter build our library I made sure that one section was set aside for my stereo, turntable and record collection.

My music, literature and theatre had one home.

I have just acquired a finishing detail quite by accident.

A few weeks ago I got a message from an old friend. She had spotted something at a fundraiser that she believed would appeal to me. Among a lot of items donated to a fundraising rummage sale was a boxed set of LPs with complete readings of Shakespeare’s plays by actors like Richard Burton, Vivian Leigh, Peter Finch, Peter O’Toole, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, and Maggie Smith.

She was right about this being up my alley.

They are a fabulous find. They are in good shape. The sound is good, the boxes look worn in a stately way.

I’ve given them a home beside the treatable and above the leather bound set of Shakespeare’s plays that I bought in my early 20’s. I think this spot is their destiny.



Imagine Mr. Tumnus

The first year we moved into this house I began an ambitious clay project.

Illustration by Pauline Baynes, from my 1978 Penguin Books copy of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Illustration by Pauline Baynes, from my 1978 Penguin Books copy of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

In the yard, out our front window there is a light-post under the boughs of a spruce tree. The spot reminded me of one of my favourite childhood novels, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, and of the character of Mr. Tumnus specifically.

He’s been done for some time. He’s definitely dry. I have toyed with the idea of having him fired, but because he’s made of thick slabs of clay joined together I am afraid he contains a bubble that will ruin him in a kiln.

I think I have figured out how to make a mould of him so I can cast a copy for firing.

When I start that I will document my process, but for now here’s a timeline of the birth of my Mr. Tumnus.

I bought myself a box of clay from Plainsman Pottery. This project used the entire box of clay.

I decided that I was not at all confident in my ability to make a free standing Tumnus, so settled on a Tumnus seated on a stump (waiting for Lucy of course).

I made the centre hollow to cut back on the weight so that it would be easier for me to move around as I worked on all sides.

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Mr. Tumnus has been sitting in my art room since the winter of 2012.

Hopefully this winter I manage to get a good mould of him, cast his likeness, fire that casting, and set him out in the yard where I originally envisioned him.








I had a little cedar, I made a little moose

pretty-ghettoMy kitchen, back hall and front entrance are out-of-bounds as the floor is being ripped out and new tile is being installed. I’ve been pushed out of my usual in-house activities.

My art room is the temporary home of all my refugee kitchen items and pantry staples so painting or sculpting are out of the question. Same goes for sewing – the sewing table is in the art room and the microwave is where the sewing machine should be. I have two needlepoint projects on the go, but I do them in the evening on the couch next to my husband so I already get enough of that.

I don’t do nothing very well. I had to come up with a project outdoors. I didn’t want to give up completely on the garden quite yet and had done all the yard work that our short season would allow until I’m ready to put the garden to bed for the winter.

1001552_10151869114209715_53356817_nPuttering around the garden in quiet desperation 11745435_10153500895664715_3784684250315692719_nI noted a thin spot in the hedge around our yard. I have, in the past few years, already filled two other thin spots in the hedge with whimsical fences – the family fence and the deer fence. Obviously, to be consistent, the other gaps needed to be fence-filled. Right?

So while tradesmen ripped my kitchen apart, I bought some cedar and pulled out the band saw. I made a moose.


My husband also suggested two more wood projects and I came up with one as well, so I have a couple more years of cedar fence art keeping me occupied.

Here’s a little number

I’ve been distracted by a kitchen renovation. A lot of my time has been taken up by moving my pantry and dishes to a temporary home and dealing with the insanity that comes from not being entirely able to organize my life or clean properly.

I have managed to complete one little project that has been in the back of my mind for a old house numberswhile now. New house numbers.

When guests look for our house they usually drive by a couple times before they are sure they’re at the right address. We’re a corner lot surrounded by a tall hedge and old spruce trees. The driveway is a car and a half long for the house numbers are relatively far from the curb. All that can be seen from the road is our garage IMG_20160823_191050door and the brick surrounding it. The house number is next to that garage door in very small inconspicuous brass on that brick.

The numbers were basically camouflaged.

housenumbersinstalledI wanted bigger and better. I looked around but found nothing I liked. Nothing
significantly bigger. Nothing simple.

So I made my own out of a discarded piece of oak. I painted them white, which is way more visible from the street, particularly at night. They’re three feet tall, and easy to read from a distance.

I also think they suit the house and us. One small project off the big project list.



Folk art – Folk festival

I think it was 1986 when I first went to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. I went with my high school sweetheart, Danny. The festival was young, and so were we.

After that it was over a decade until I went again. Not because I didn’t love the festival and the music, but because it took years until I found my way back to the kind of people who shared my love of this music.

up the hill

I first went back with a woman I met while working for the Alberta Media Production Industries Association. I joined her for a few years but didn’t set down my own roots –

I blocked out the plan on the tarp.
I blocked out the plan on the tarp.

folk festers call this tarp squatting because the hill is lined with tarps

East is a cyclops all-seeing sun.
East is a cyclops all-seeing sun.

that people put down to reserve their seating in front of the main stage.

A few years later it was one of my most cherished friends from yet another workplace that I tagged along with. Not only did Lisa give me a seat on a tarp – and this is important because the tarp is the folk fest family home and the whole reason I am writing this blog – but her friends embraced me.

West is reaching tree branches.
West is reaching tree branches.

I don’t ‘tarp-squat’ anymore. I feel like a fully fledged member of a folk fest family.

South is Alberta fields of wheat.
South is Alberta fields of wheat.

Three years ago I decided I needed to find a way to make how I feel about this festival and these people into a piece of folk art. I knew it had to involve a tarp.

I finished the project last fall, and two days ago my husband sprayed it with waterproofing to make it weather resistant. It was a labour of love from start to finish.

NORTH old man winter sketch.
NORTH old man winter sketch.

I began by sewing the tarp to the official festival tarp specifications, and only then laid out the positive and negative space.

Next I sketched some ideas on paper. I then transferred the ideas onto the tarp in pencil, and inked over the outlines. Getting the lines dark enough took three coats. Then I inked in the colours on each of the images, finishing with the background.

In each corner is one of the Four Strong
– significant because this is the song everyone on the hill sings  in unison, candles in hand, on the last night of the festival.

Below is the finished product hanging the beautiful Edmonton sunshine between two spruce trees in my yard.

blowing in the wind

On the last two days of Folk Fest this tarp will be our home base. If it holds up well, and the whole folk fest family likes it, I’ll bring it back next year.

Stitches and time

My husband thinks I am obsessed. He may be right.

Almost every night I sit on the couch for two, often three hours working on my latest cross stitch project with half an eye on the TV. I completely lose track of time.
I reignited my off-again-on-again passion for this hobby when I decided to clean out the basement. I lugged a dusty file box upstairs and discovered a forgotten store of fabric crafts I had done when my son was young. Most notable among the box contents were three things.

pillow seatA pillow with a Beatrix Potter poem embroidered on it. That is now sitting on my chair in my library.

IMG_20160130_235437-COLLAGEA cross stitch made from my own sketch of two canaries perched on a vine. I had it framed, and hung it in my bedroom.

A partially complete
Celtic inspired cross stitch of a boar which I finished up on a recent road trip to and from northern Saskatchewan.

boar cross stitch doneFinishing the boar just reminded me why I had taken stitching up. I am not a sitter. I even have difficulty sitting through a movie because it just feels so unproductive. I need something to do with my hands. Lastly, and pretty significantly, it gave me the perfect way to spend a long, dark, cold winter night with my husband. He watches a lot of TV. I could be sitting happily next to him. I figure that’s a perfect way to transition into our old age.

IMG_20160131_121056I started a new, and very ambitious ‘ten year’ project. When it’s done it will be a table runner about 9 feet long. I originally thought this would be something I’d only do during the winter, but it is summer already and I’ve yet to put it down.

From November to April I worked out a design and then stitched to secure the edges and seams in the fabric – it’s made of three, three-foot lengths. That mid-winter effort wasn’t really something I could point to as an obvious accomplishment, so I kept going because I wanted to see some of the vision begin to show.

I have been working on the spruce trees since May.

tree cross stitch 1x workingtree cross stitch 1x almost doneThey sit on the seams and anchor the project so were a good place to start.

The most difficult part was the seam because the fabric didn’t line up 100% so I wasn’t just sliding the needle through a hole, but pushing it through two tough layers of fabric.

I stitched the tree design free-hand, based on my drawings. I tried to make each tree look similar, but didn’t try to make them match exactly. Have you ever seen a forest full of matching trees? Neither have I.

done treesfirst tree cross stitch 2x startedI’m done the trees now. I think my next step will be to ring them with one complete row of the background colour, and then start on the moose to the right of each tree.

It’s July now. It’s warm and the sun doesn’t go down until nearly 11 p.m. so I have less reason to sit on the couch.

My pace may slow as I spend more evening hours outdoors. I have a dog to walk. I want to make some time for painting. I have two dresses cut and waiting to be sewn. I have a plain denim dress I am hoping to embroider. I found a product to make a mould from my old clay statues.

I have a lot of projects on the go, but this is the only one that really allows me to sit and relax so I don’t think I will really put it away.