Monday, December 5, 2011

Color Class Lesson 2- Monochromatic

Hello again!

Well, month three class of Color & Design is just passed. A week ago already actually.... yikes.

Our projects were on Monochromatic. We could use neutrals and one color- but all the shades, tones, and tints of that color too- which gives a surprising amount of variety.

One thing I have really learned is that colors are not what I thought. For instance- olive green is not green at all, but a shade of yellow. Things like that!

Anyway, we were asked to use a color that we don't "know" well, and when I looked through my stash, the violet pile had a measly three pieces of fabric in it. I figured that was a good place to start. Now, what to do with it?

I finally decided to use another book this time around, Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond (Heather was a co-author on this one too). It's a great book for those of us who wish to learn more about adding extras to our fiber art. I highly recommend it.

Violet was my sister Heather's favourite color, and I decided to make a fabric scrapbook about sisters as my project.

I used almost 40 different violet fabrics and embellishments, and I played with the photos in Photoshop Elements, colorizing them violet, then lowering the saturation so they pretty much look black & white.
The photos were printed on TAP (transfer artist paper). What a fabulous product! My photos are old and blurry, so not the best test for this stuff- but I will be using more of it, it's so great!

I learned that making fabric books is NOT nearly as easy as it seems it should be, and also that I need to learn when enough is enough- because now that I look at it again, I see that I went overboard.

But that's what this class is about, right? Learning how to do things, learning new skills, and learning how to stop when you should!

Here is the book- front cover showing with the whole book first, then each page, starting with the inside of the front cover.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Okay, this is downright embarrassing to admit but I will anyway.

I finished a bed quilt yesterday. Guess when I pieced the top? More than FOUR years ago. Yep, that's right. I took Nellie Holmes' class "Pumpkin Pie" way back when I worked at Taylor's Sewing Center in Brockville. That's before I moved here to Colorado. That seems like a whole lifetime ago!

Hubby doesn't like the duvet because he finds it too warm. So we only pull it out in the very coldest nights of the winter. The rest of the time we manage with one quilt and whatever little extra things I can find to throw over myself. That just doesn't cut it. The cold fall and winter nights are just perfect for two quilts, yet I dragged my feet and dragged my feet to finish this one. Why? Who knows.

As I mentioned, taking this Color & Design class has really gotten me into gear about getting things done in my studio. Not only am I enjoying my work more, but I give it more value. I MAKE time to create and do the work that makes me happy in here.

Here it is, finally. On the bed as of yesterday and I am so thrilled! It's toasty and I think it looks great in our room.

We have a queen size bed and this is the perfect size; just enough overhang but not too much.

 I made these two throw pillows from extra blocks I had when I pieced the quilt. THOSE I have had done for four years!

I quilted the top in a simple grid to let the pattern and fabrics take center stage. In the small gold border, I quilted "this band of gold" over and over. And in the large navy border, on all four sides, I "wrote" love song lyrics. That took a LONG time. But it was worth it. It looks like simple stippling from a ways back, but is perfectly readable when you get closer.

When I put my blocks together, I didn't do it the same way as Nellie's sample. The sample was also done in country-type fabrics, which I also love, but as you can see, I chose to do mine in batiks. Batiks are a guilty pleasure of mine!

This was a fairly easy and very versatile pattern to use. If you are interested in purchasing the pattern, I found it here:

Here is what the sample looks like:

Nellie lined up her blocks all facing the same way and I just turned every second one (I think that's how I did it). I love it both ways, in both fabrics. I bet you will love the pattern as much as I do.

Color Class Lesson 1- Neutrals

I just realized that I forgot to post my first project from my Color & Design class! It was a nerve-wracking class- for everyone. Everyone was clamoring to present first and get it out of the way! As a result, my presentation was third from the last of 16 people and we were getting short on time. That meant I didn't have to be up there long, which is good.

To remind you, the project was on Neutrals. Heather prefers that we either design our own project or put our own twist on an existing pattern, and she also prefers that we come to class with our project finished.

I happen to agree strongly with both of those things, as I know Heather is right. It's only by finishing a project that we learn everything it has to teach us. And how am I to learn good design if I never try?

So, without further adieu, here is my project. It was finished, right down to the label on the back, for class :)

This piece is entitled "From the Ashes".

I pieced the cream fabrics in a curved, quilt-as-you-go fashion. The "fabrics" include mostly nontraditional quilt materials: silk, satin, lace, tulle, and even crepe paper. 

The tree was a challenge for me. It started off black, but I found that too stark. I shopped around and just couldn't find a grey fabric that suited me. So I came back home, got out my gel medium, and applied it to the tree with a craft stick, trying to texture it like bark. After it was dry, I rubbed some gray paint on it with my finger, and then I was happy with it! I stitched it onto the the background with a simple straight stitch, applique-style.

The nest is made up of all the stray threads from the project and a few other fibers thrown in. It is held together with a light application of gel medium, and hand stitched onto the project.

I drew the phoenix onto light fabric, backed it with a couple layers of tear away stabilizer, and thread painted it with cream thread for the body and black and gray variegated thread for the wings and head feathers. I really like thread painting and I was satisfied with how the baby phoenix turned out.


We were allowed to use up to 15% of an accent colour, and of course, my phoenix needed some fire!
I considered paint, then thought some kind of fiber would be better. I pulled apart some silk, I tried Angelina- but none of what I had was the right colour. I ended up unraveling a bunch of orange thread around my hand, then cutting it at the top and bottom- it naturally curled and sat like flames! I lightly attached it to some Wonder Under.

Once I had the "fire" where I wanted it, I applied heat to set the Wonder Under, then hand-stitched the phoenix into the nest. 

My last challenge was balancing the piece. I knew, not only from the section in Heather's book, but by looking, that I needed something in the upper right hand corner. I played around with a variety of things, including a metal medallion with inspiring words printed on it, an organza flower (with and without beads), and nothing seemed to click.

I finally decided to use letter beads to spell out words that go with the piece and that's what I went with.
The words are, from top to bottom: joy, courage, patience, comfort, love. I love to use words somehow in my work, and I often "write" with my machine in some way. Heather quilts her name right on her work, and I would love to do that, but I need a little more practice first.

I finished the edges with a technique I learned recently in another of Heather's classes, Edges & Finishes, and I think it suits the piece really well. I attached a label to the back, stating the name, class, and all other pertinent information. My first quilt teacher, Nellie Holmes, told us that attaching a label is SO important, maybe not for now, but for later, when our descendants are trying to figure out what the heck all this stuff is!

The critique I received in class was positive and Heather's main suggestion for improvement was to bring the words a little closer to the bird to show some connectivity. I can see exactly what she means and will definitely do that.

Without any intention on my part, this piece really accompanies a piece that I made a couple of years ago. When I started THAT project, I intended for it to be a triptych, and I had a very specific idea for all three pieces in mind. I only ever finished the first one, and it is still up on my design wall. When I hung this project beside it, all of a sudden it made sense to me! Isn't it funny how things work out sometimes?
I have just a vague idea of what to do for the third one, but I definitely intend to make it during this class at some point. When I have all three done, I will show you the set.

One thing that has really changed for me because of this class is how much I am getting done in my studio. I am not only producing for this class, but have found time to work on and finish other things too! I am more inspired and having so much more fun when I create. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

The latest sewing projects!

A few weeks ago we went to Grand Junction, both to watch the girls compete in a marching band competition and parade, and to see our beautiful little granddaughter (6 months old) because she happens to live there!

I had to bring some things for her that her Nan (me) made for her, of course!

First, a grocery cart seat cover, complete with inside pockets for toys and sippy cups. I made this according to the pattern I bought- and added a couple of purse clips to the back strap, thinking that they could clip to the cart rungs. They will come off easily if this proves to be wrong.

And a teeny tiny little personalized Trick-or-Treat bag! Of course, she is too little to go out this year, but we have to be ready, right? 

And a photo of the little sweetheart herself, waiting in Pops' arms for the parade to start. Isn't she just the sweetest thing? She has a personality to match!

And for good measure, a couple of photos of the girls:

Heidi, 17, with her sousaphone. She is 5'2 1/2 " and weighs 110 lbs soaking wet- which is important to know since the instrument weighs almost half as much as she does! 

And Chloe, 13, with her mellophone- a marching version of the French horn.

The girls attend Columbine Senior High; Heidi is a senior, and Chloe is a freshman. They are both members of the Columbine High School Rebel Marching Band. The band just participated in the state Quarter-finals today, and unfortunately didn't make it to the semi-finals round.

But they have had a really great season and most importantly, had a lot of fun!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"THE" Class

That's right: if you live in Colorado, and you want to make better art, The Language of Color and Design class, created and taught by Heather Thomas, is THE class to take. That is a well-known fact around here!

If you don't live close by, you can buy a copy of Heather's book, and work the lessons on your own- they are all in there!

There are so many things to LOVE about this book! It's spiral bound so it lays flat and stays open. It's laid out with tips and page reference numbers throughout so that you can go back and cross-reference things or re-read something relevant. It's written and explained in a way that you can go through it on your own, at your own pace, and includes a variety of examples to look at for everything. I guarantee it will be a very valuable resource in your workspace. It's also just a joy to look at. Look at the cover and you will see what I mean!

I have been immersed in my first assignment and I think I am finally starting to pull it all together. Heather said she prefers if we do our own thing to demonstrate our understanding of the lesson, rather than using a pattern. And she prefers it if we do things that are a little out of our comfort zone, choosing to do things in a way we wouldn't normally. That makes sense to me.

From time to time, I have gone a little off the pattern path, and designed something on my own. Most of those times have resulted in me learning a LOT, because I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I am okay with that. There is a saying I like: Fail faster, succeed sooner.

HOWEVER, I have never been in the position that I not only have to make something that shows my grasp of a concept, but I have to show it and explain it in front of everyone in the class. That's a whole different thing!

Heather suggested we might want to take notes or keep a journal along the way, and I decided that is a great idea. I made some rough sketches and jotted down some ideas. And what is appearing in front of me is pretty different than what I first envisioned.

I will show you my finished project and my process after I have taken it to class and received my critique.

If you are interested in learning more about this class, this book, machine quilting, and a host of other things, you really should start following Heather's blog:

That's all for today, but I will be back this week to show you a couple of other things I have made in between.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My first step towards growth

Well, I am back, much later than I meant to be. The fall is such a great, but busy school time around here still and I have to be more careful with my time.

I HAVE been working in my studio, rather more diligently and regularly than I have in the past, but I haven't taken the time to post what's been going on. I will have a number of projects completed soon, and will show you lots of photos!

The reason I am writing now though, is because I have just started on a very exciting, somewhat scary art journey, and in addition to keeping an art journal about it, making my projects, and attending my classes, I thought it would be fun to share my experience with my online artist friends as well.

I finally took the leap and signed up for a class that is very... well, famous around here actually. I personally know many people who have taken this class and have heard them speak in hushed tones about how intense it can be, how challenging, how thought-provoking. These same people have also exclaimed loudly, in no uncertain terms, that this class was a life and art changing experience for them.

According to the teacher, my friend and a fiber artist who is well-known in the art quilting world, Heather Thomas, friendships have been made in this class that have lasted as long as she has taught this class to others: 13 years! That's a lot of pressure going into it!

What is the class? It's a 13 month long journey, called "The Language of Color and Design", and it's very title always sparks discussion around these parts! My first class was this past Monday morning.

I have taken a number of classes with Heather since moving here to Colorado and I love her teaching style. She is witty, funny, intelligent and down-to-earth. She encourages without being condescending and she guides her students honestly with her candid humour. I know that this class is a huge step for anyone wishing to take their work to the next level. I also know that Heather is the only teacher I could imagine taking the leap with!

I have wanted to take this class ever since I heard about it, at least a couple of years ago. That's saying something, since I have only been in Colorado a little over three years. I really had to be ready though. Thanks to Heather's blog where she has generously shared an incredible number of machine quilting tips and tutorials (, and her series of articles in Quilting Arts magazine this year, I feel like I am ready. As ready as I can be, that is!

I have been practicing my machine quilting and working on projects to hang on the still-mostly-bare walls of our home. I have dabbled in this and that, but the first thing I made and hung with intention is in the dining room. I used some design elements from things in the room and used colours that were similar to the paint colours. I used some of the leftover curtain silk. I used symbolism. And I made a LOT of mistakes. It's hanging and will stay there, at least for now. I like this piece for what it is.

But here's the thing. I feel COMPELLED to create. I have so much to say and I want to say it with my work. I want to fill the walls with my original creations. I know that I can do better if I can just manage to grasp some basic concepts of colour and design. At this point, I have no delusions of becoming famous or even being able to sell anything I make. I am not even sure I want to go in that direction.

This is about being able to create pieces that more accurately translate what I am thinking into the end product. I want to gain confidence in my work, I want to feel more capable. I want to display my work in our home with pride and without being nervous that someone will ask me about it.

We are required to produce a finished project for each lesson, and present it for Show and Tell the following month. This project is ideally supposed to be original and is designed to show our understanding of the lesson. I know everyone in the class probably feels the same way as I do: nervous! 
Making something original and then presenting it feels like nothing less than baring my soul!

I had a time in my life where I had to be brave and really live outside of my comfort zone. I had no choice. What it brought me was a world full of wonderful at the end of all the scary. It was SO worth the terrifying moments along the way.

Since moving here, I realized I have put myself into a comfort zone and have found myself reverting back to my bad old habits of not putting myself out there and making excuses for it. I let myself forget how much reward there can be in stretching yourself, being vulnerable, in taking chances.

So this is me: stretching myself. Being vulnerable. Taking chances. Wish me luck!

Friday, August 12, 2011

How time flies!

Hello friends!

I see that almost a month has gone by since I posted last... and I told myself to sift through my photos and get some posted, so you can see that I have done a FEW things this summer at least! lol

Pajama pants for Ben. He's my only boy (well, he's 20, not really a boy anymore :) and it can be hard to find things that I can make him. But when we were in the fabric store looking for makeup bag fabric for the girls, he found this Batman flannel and was lingering just long enough... I asked if he wanted pjs and he said GREAT! He's a big comic book guy, and am I glad I can still make things he likes once in a while! 

Make up bag for Holly. Day of the Dead is virtually unheard of back in Ontario, and Holly just loved this DOD fabric. Though I am not a skulls fan, I do like the vibrancy of this.

This next bunch of photos is of scarves I have been working on- dyeing- over the past couple of months. My sisters and I each chose a half dozen or so and I put in the order, since I am the one interested in playing in this arena!

We ordered a wide variety between us and it was a lot of fun to see how the different silk blends took the colours. I call them dyes, I actually used Dye-Na-Flo silk paint.

I also got to experiment a little with colour, making custom colours from what was available in the jars. I took a one day crash course on colour theory with Heather Thomas here in Denver a couple of years back and though I know I still have a LOT to learn, that class gave me a good foundation in starting to understand it all. I also used my Color Tool to help me get the colours I was looking for.

Heather is one of the co-authors of "Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond", has a new book of her own coming out about colour theory soon, and is also an extremely talented machine quilter. She has been writing a series of articles this year for Quilting Arts magazine, you should check it out! 

Here is Heather's web site:
I also developed my love for dyeing these scarves from a class I took with Heather :) 
She is a multi-talented lady and a fabulous teacher! If you ever get the chance to take a class with her- JUMP!!!

This first scarf is one I made for myself before our trip to Sweden and Denmark in June. The scarf came with the daisies on it- I just painted the centers yellow and tried to paint black in between, which was mostly successful... the flowers are velvet but the part of the scarf in between them is a very fine mesh and though the dye looks black here, when it was dry, it's more gray than black. But okay. I don't have the rest of mine done yet, but I will post them when I do.

This was a 90" long chiffon scarf that I sewed gathering stitches into to make a shorter, ruffly scarf. This one went to my daughter Holly, when she was here for her visit.

I wish I could tell you what each scarf was, fabric-wise. Most of them are silk or a silk blend, but they were all different weights and had different hands to them. This first bunch is for Becky, who likes neutrals and wanted a variety to match patterned shirts. I am still working on the photography part, some of the photos don't do the colours justice.

Chocolate brown

Champagne, on a pre-patterned scarf

A ruffled pewter

Mossy green on a pre-patterned scarf

Dark red- LOVE this colour

Silver stamping on a black scarf- there are a few kinds that are available in black blanks. Turns out that the stamp ink I used wasn't permanent and I ended up re-doing this one with silver acrylic paint mixed with textile medium. It looks nice, but makes the scarf a little stiffer than I like.

And for Sandy, who wears a lot of black top and bottom, and accessorizes with scarves and jewelry-

Horizontal stripes- red on one side and black on the other, and they kind of bled towards the center, which turned out very cool!

Ruffled baby pink

Jewel-toned- and it looks a lot lighter here than it actually dried in front of me

The only 100% cotton one. This just soaked up the dyes and though it looks similar to the one above, it dried to look almost like worn denim. I had some really light pink in it, but because I dried it outside hanging, the darker colours ran over and into the light ones and that was that... lesson learned! 

I learned a lot doing these, and had a LOT of fun. I enjoyed it most when I could do it outside, they dry faster and I could add more dye if I needed to to get the results I was looking for. None of them turned out exactly the way I originally thought they would, but most of them are better! The best thing about this kind of project for me is the unpredictability of the end product- drying lines, the colours running into each other, the difference in the concentration of colour, I just love it all. I get permission to have fun and not worry about perfect results.

You should try this!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh boy...

I see I have a LOT of catching up to do! lol

I have been busy in my studio with a variety of things on my own, in addition to the 21 Secrets and the Sketchbook Challenge.

I just haven't had time- nor a dependable computer to do the catching up!

My computer finally had to go in and get a new hard drive- something that has been giving me issues for a few months now.

Our last (known) summer company is coming this weekend, and then we are hoping for some quiet summer time- hubby wants to sit in his swing and read, and I want to get my blogging up to date and work on the half-done projects in my studio.

So I will definitely be back... stay tuned! xo

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Otherwise occupied...

Are you starting to get the feeling, while coming to my blog periodically, that I am not getting a lot of art-time lately? Me too!!! I am seriously in withdrawal! Tomorrow I am dedicating a good portion of my day to letting loose in my studio!

I do have some pretty good reasons, though- the new baby in our family and the trips involved with that, spring- and the work that our lawns and gardens demand, kids (need I say more?), a daughter having oral surgery, and of course the event I have been working towards and preparing for for months:

I became an American citizen yesterday!!!

I am very fortunate that being married to an American meant that my wait was shorter than some others have to go through.

Still, we have been at this since January 2007- four and half years! I have been fingerprinted and photographed (passport-style) more often in that time, than most people are in their entire lifetimes!

Mountains of paperwork, many interviews, lawyer's meetings, and endless submitting documents- it's all done!

And being in the Denver area means that everything is done the same day- I had my test and interview yesterday morning and was sworn in after lunch!

This is a very happy event for my me and my DH- who can now stop worrying that I will be deported.
What he thought I might be deported FOR- well, that's never actually been clear...

I learned a lesson a long time ago from my Grama- and I was thinking of her too, yesterday when I took my Oath of Allegiance to my newly adopted country.

My grandparents emigrated to Canada from Holland in 1952. They had six sons and Europe was still war-torn and struggling to get back on it's feet. They wanted their sons to have opportunities and lives that they knew wouldn't be possible in their home country.

They left all of their family behind, they were not able to speak English, and literally had almost nothing when they arrived in Ontario.

What they did have was love, a desire for a better life, and a determination to learn what it meant to be a Canadian.

Grama said they believed right down to their soul that choosing a different country to live in meant you had to truly love your new country and make it your own- that the "old country" ways were meant for the old country.

Both of my grandparents learned read, write, and speak English in a relatively short time, and they didn't spend any time sitting around saying "things aren't done this way in Holland...".  They became Canadians in every sense of the word.

They were required to renounce their Dutch citizenship to become Canadians and they did. I bet it wasn't easy, but they wanted to be true Canadians and were willing to do whatever it took.

I am fortunate in that I am able to retain both Canadian and US citizenship. On the way to my test and interview yesterday morning, I thought about what I would say if I was asked to give up my Canadian citizenship.

I moved here for a better life- a life filled with love and joy and peace and contentment, shared with the man I want to be with for the rest of our lives.

I have always been proud to be a Canadian girl, and that won't ever change. But I am thrilled to be an American now, to be able to fully enjoy- and give back- to a country has been lovely and welcoming to me since I crossed the border!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day Without Hate

It bears repeating- we need less hate and violence and much more love in our world.

Today is the Day Without Hate here in Littleton, Colorado. The kids are all wearing white t-shirts to show solidarity and remembrance for the victims of school shootings. This is a county-wide project now, started a few years back Standley Lake HS in Westminster, CO, and was then adopted by Columbine HS and the rest of the county.

Here are some past photos, to show you an example of what the high school looks like leading up to today. I am hoping to have a chance to get up to the high school today to take some photos of this year's event.

You can- and should- click on any photo to see it larger- then you can read what it says. This first one is a list of school shootings. There are so many... it just makes me cry.

But the kids and this whole community- and communities across this country and Canada- are all working at stopping this madness. Raising awareness, focusing on being a little kinder to each other- just small changes in everyone's attitude and behaviour can make a huge difference.

So today, why don't we all share a smile, do a random act of kindness for someone, be extra nice to someone who seems to need it.
And while we're at it, why don't we keep this attitude going not only today, but every day.

Let's make EVERY day, a Day Without Hate!