Sunday, October 29, 2017

you've come a long way baby...


many years ago i took a book-binding course in vancouver

it was a fabulous day, folding paper, making signatures, covering bookboard, working with book cloth, learning how to glue

the result was a lovely little little hard-bound book

the only thing i didn't like about it was the way the book block was cased in - we had to cut slits in the spine and then thread the linen tapes (or ribbon, in this case) through the slits, pulling the book-block firmly against the spine and then tying bows

i hated the look of the bows so after the class i undid them, tied knots and cut the ends short

which proved to be a dumb idea as they keep coming undone


the frayed knots can be seen quite clearly in the photo below...
 

for years i puttered at book-binding, improving my techniques with advice gleaned from here and there but i wasn't satisfied - they weren't as good as i knew they could be...

whilst in london this past spring i was generously taken about the city by a kindred spirit who knew all the best places to go for textiles, ribbons and trims, and paper

first stop was shepherd's book-binding

"oh to be in england in the spring-time"
especially if i could be here...


 the selection of specialty papers is astounding and though i did treat myself to a few, i was really after actual book-binding tools

i did find a few of those and in addition, i treated myself to a very good book of proper book-binding techniques

over the past few weeks i've been working my through the various lessons - not difficult but definitely daunting


i've made a pamphlet book, a single folio (signature) hard bound book and now this


 a hard-covered, rounded-spine cased-in book

and i smocked the spine!


 i've long admired kate bowle's books 

especially her smocked spine ones

they sell almost the minute she posts them so i finally decided i would attempt my own but before doing that i wanted to learn how to make a better book


 first i learned to smock - several amazing tutorials on the internet helped a lot, and after a few trial runs, i got it right


 then on to the book-binding techniques, working my through every stage, patiently waiting the days and hours for glue to dry, papers to press, over and over and over again


and then came the day where i had to glue the spine, round it, cover it and cover it again

breathe deep and jump in



 thrilled is an understatement!

next up is to learn head bands which will be the icing on the cake

i have all sorts of plans for these new skills, the first of which is to make myself a 

"book of trees"

doing that was never on my radar but sometimes things in the universe conspire and if you stop long enough to recognize it, something wonderful might just happen...

the trees across the street from us, many of them 100 years old and more, have started coming down

 the first day was heart-breaking 

the thudding sound as they hit the ground in sections reverberated through the house - i couldn't ignore what was happening if i tried

over and over, one by one, they felled the first four


there's a pause now, until someone buys the wood and hauls it away


 and then the rest will follow



sad doesn't begin to explain how i feel, but they aren't mine and there's no choice in this

that evening i stumbled upon an online course coming up this month on making your own "book of trees" and i thought it might be just the thing to do to capture the memory and perhaps pay my respects

100 years is a long time

standing sentinel on that corner, the land falling away to the lake below

imagining the changes over time, the houses built, the people who walked by, children playing under and in them, climbing from branch to branch

the generations of birds that have sheltered there, year after year

they have stood there, in that same place, for a century and more, strong and silent, bending but never breaking

standing still, yes, and yet what a long way they have come

Thursday, October 26, 2017

plodding along...

a day, a week, a month and then two
i wouldn't have believed it if you'd told me

this month especially has flown by
the leaves are yellow and red, glorious against the bright blue sky, falling at the barest hint of a breeze

winter is not far off...

fall is without doubt my favourite time of the year, especially when it's slightly damp and there's a wooded area to walk through... smoke curling in the sky, peek-a-boo views that have been hidden since spring

i try and get out for a walk every day and though i easily managed that in the summer, this month tells a different tale
it isn't daily right now but it's as often as can be and i love it
i do my best creative thinking when i'm walking outside - just need to start carrying a pen and paper with me so i can jot some of that "brilliance" down - ha!

stitching time has been all about little pieces, tiny bits that are fiddly beyond belief but give very satisfying results

i am making cards these days, to sell at the shop where i work part-time, and have been experimenting with a few different things
below is the first one i did and though i love it, i won't be making them to sell there - for what i'll get paid, this takes way too long to do so i'm working on a simplified version


i do love little houses though, especially those made out of fabric so i'm working on a re-vamp of the design, simplifying it, wanting something equally as charming but a little quicker - maybe one house will do the trick?

I'm also wanting to make some abstract ones, cards that aren't necessarily seasonal or occasion-themed

art cards i guess

that idea is still percolating but has been fueled by something else i made a while back

the piece below is all sorts of tiny scraps of silk and lace, loosely stitched with a simple grid and now cut into three pieces



i've done a bit of stitching on one of the pieces already but am thinking that it might be worth trying out a few ideas on one of the two remaining


i love the colours and all the textures, the looseness of it all
and how fragile they feel in my hand
stitching on them is a huge challenge but i am reluctant to try and stabilize them in any way as I just don't want to detract from that soft fragility

careful experimentation then, with a light hand

i will be back, with more to show, and sooner rather than later...

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

pages...

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

hopeless...

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...
sigh

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