Thursday, December 18, 2014

That Lime Has Got To Go

Today just might be the day that I actually get into the studio to sew something but I'm not sure. I have an appointment this morning and a friend coming over to knit this afternoon and a few errands to run in the middle. Maybe tonight? I'm having symptoms of withdrawal but at least...





... I have been getting things done. Like these doors. When I painted the small tile in the kitchen, it seemed a good idea to paint the pantry doors with the same high gloss, easy wipe, lime paint. Maybe not. I was pretty sure I didn't like them when I left for Oregon but when I walked back into the house, my first thought was that lime has got to go.





The plan was for the doors to blend the green of the entry walls with the kitchen. It didn't work. The doors looked like a blop. The white is - IMHO - more cohesive after all. I have twenty-one sets of doors in my house that need painting. I've painted this set white, blue, fuchsia, turquoise, white, lime, and white. It's time to move on to another set. These ones want to be white.

In a previous home, we had light blue/green walls with white trim and all the doors were a different colour. I loved the look and was trying to recreate it here only in that house, all the doors came off of a long hallway and here, they are around a central "square". It's not the right layout. Instead of interesting, all the colour is too chaotic so all the doors will be white.





Last night, we had our boys, our son's girlfriend, and the friends who just moved back over to decorate the tree. Here's our group picture only - VBG - we should have moved the trunk before taking it. OH well... food and garbage are part of real life. In the past, I was really particular about every ornament that went on the tree. The first year my daughter wasn't here to decorate, I had a melt down and realized that how the tree is decorated is irrelevant. It's about getting together. I wish I had learned that sooner and been more relaxed earlier. The same thing happened...





... the first year the nativity scene didn't move. I would set it up the way I wanted it and my youngest son would move the pieces and then I'd put them back and he'd move them again and it used to irritate me that he wouldn't leave them alone... and then he did... and I ended up in tears. When I mentioned it, he started moving them again and now it's a game between us. Above, one wise man has gone around back, a sheep has wandered away, the other two wise men and the shepherds are squaring off and there's a lamb jumping on poor baby Jesus. I rescued them - VBG. I wonder what they'll do next?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - family and friends

Smiles add value to our face. Love adds value to our heart. Respect adds value to our behaviour and family and friends add value to our life!
- unknown

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Your Favourite Slightly Eccentric Aunt

I spent yesterday helping some friends unpack their kitchen. After ten years of "wandering", they are retiring to Kamloops and have moved into a condo quite close to ours. Kamloops is a transient community. People move away all the time. That's very hard when you're the one always staying behind. It's different... and rather fabulous... to have friends come back. Another friend says she'll be moving back in a few years once she retires. She sews. How fun is that.

That many of my friends are staying in Kamloops and that several are moving back to retire here is one of the factors in why I am staying. At one time, all I wanted to do was leave. I've lived here since I was eight when I moved with my parents and would love to try living somewhere else only when I weigh it all out, staying here is a good choice. I tell myself that moving is most likely one of those grass is greener things and even if it isn't, staying is still a good choice and I can do a lot of visiting from here. I intend to look into artist in residency programs to get small bits of living elsewhere.

Retirement - as in we're both home - is in the next few years. How strange is that? I certainly don't feel old enough to retire although, in reality, I already am semi-retired even if I'm open to working possibilities. From my own experience with leaving the work force, and from watching friends retire, I understand how important it is to actively fill the spaces. You have to have something to retire to otherwise it's quite easy to go crazy. Once again, I am so glad I sew.




Creativity coaching is part of how I am shaping my life. I thought about it for a long time and in September decided to go ahead and it has been exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. This week, my creativity assignment was to create a collage about the woman I am becoming. I spent an hour going through a stack of magazines pulling out quotes and pictures that resonated. There were too many and that's good because having too many forces you to really pick what you put on the poster board and that's important.

If I am going to choose images that represent my life going forward then I am going to make sure they are images that resonate. I'm very careful to insure that I can live with whatever is in the image - that it means something positive to me. If I can't cut out or see around whatever offends me, the picture doesn't go into my collage no matter how amazingly perfect one aspect might be.




For this collage, I cut the poster-board into long narrow strips because I wanted to hang them between the counter top and overhead cupboards at my desk. I thought two strips would be enough but I ended up with three. LOL - how typical. I had more to say.





The first time I made a collage, I was surprised by how many words showed up. Their presence helped me recognize how important words and writing are to me and now, I just expect them. Below the image of this fun loving, confident, grey-haired woman is the phrase this look might be pretty, but it has a gutsy, witty edge and it definitely doesn't take itself seriously... almost like your favourite slightly eccentric aunt.

When I told Howard the other day that I was working at being more eccentric, he started coughing and laughing. He thinks I'm already quite eccentric... and I am... in relation to the people he knows but he has no idea how normal I am in the realm of eccentricity and individuality. Darn near conservative.

And now... switching topics... I also made butter tarts yesterday. When I looked up the article in Wikipedia that ElleC referred to, I was surprised - and pleased - to learn that butter tarts are one of only a few recipes of genuinely Canadian origin. In a multi-cultural country such as Canada, it is easy to lose - or to not even be aware of - what is uniquely part of my heritage. The recipe has all sorts of variations. Mine is an adaptation of my mother's recipe and I - of course - like it best but so do a LOT of people I know. They are YUMMY.






The filling is a combination of eggs, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, raisins and salt. Above, the chunks of yellow are butter. REAL butter. Not the fake stuff. Fake ruins the flavour. I put the butter in first to start melting and then add the salt and vanilla. Then I mix the eggs and brown sugar together with  washed raisins before adding those to the mix. The tart will have a better taste if you wash the raisins first. I put them in a colander and run them under the hot water tap to soften them and to remove excess sugar. NOTE... it's really important not to crack the eggs into hot butter. You will get fried eggs and fried egg bits do not belong in butter tarts. VBG - ask me how I know.





At first, the mixture will be thick and hard to stir. As the sugar melts and the ingredients mix together, it'll will make a clear syrup.





The tart shells are filled with two tablespoons of the raisin mixture. The first is mostly raisins so they sit nicely on the bottom of the shell and the second is mostly syrup to fill up and around the raisins and to give the tart a creamy taste. This is the ratio I prefer. I have friends who do it the other way around with more raisins. Hmm... NOT.





The tarts are baked until golden brown - about 12-15 minutes. If you like to make pastry, you can make your own tart shells. I buy mine but I'm fussy about the taste so I've done a lot of "taste testing". These tart shells are from Costco and come in boxes of 120.

Here's the recipe: Myrna's Butter Tarts

Melt 1 cup of butter over low heat and add 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Mix together 8 eggs and 5 cups of packed brown sugar. Add 4 cups of washed raisins and mix well. Add the raisin mixture to the melted butter and stir over low heat until the mixture forms a clear syrup. Fill shells and bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes. Makes 60  
I baked only one box box - 120 tarts - yesterday. In the past, I've made three or four boxes because we were giving so many away as gifts. I think I'm done with that or at least I'm taking a break. When traditions become prisons, it's time to change.





Making a change is one reason for making a collage. Collages can clarify situations, answer questions, and bring up new questions that you didn't know you were asking. They are a fabulous form of self exploration. As the images dance around my desk and as time goes on, their meaning will become clearer. When that happens, the choice is mine what I do with that information. It's always interesting when someone you trust looks at your collage and sees things you didn't see and it's fascinating when images on your collage become real in your life. The purple chairs I bought last week were an image in a collage I made about ten years ago. TOO FUN.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - friends moving back

Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. 
- Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Major Mucky Mess

Right after posting yesterday, I decided to paint another layer on the canvas. I was working my way around the edges when I put the paint down on the surface of the island forgetting that the pressing board was underneath and the edge was uneven. The container splashed to the floor leaving a big puddle and splatters everywhere. Luckily, it fell toward the wall side of the island and not the couch side. The island was blocked by my body and the wall was partially blocked by the garbage can. The spill could have been way worse but still, it was a major mucky mess. I will need to repaint one part of the wall where I couldn't get the colour off fast enough. Sigh...





HOWEVER... I did finish mounting the piece - Pick Me - to the canvas. In the past, I've usually textured the background paint. This time, I used a solid tone and while I like the way the turquoise color picks up the teal in the piece, I'm not sure about the solid look. We'll see. If I don't adjust, I'll  figure out how to texture it after the fact.





When I mount a piece like this, there is no binding around the edge. I run a row of stitching 1/4" from the edge and then a row of zigzag over the edge. This finishes the edge but doesn't hide the raw edge of the fabric or the batting so...





... I seal them by patting paint against the edge with a stiff brush. In this case, I used a copper tone chosen for the way it blends with most of the colours although...





... you typically don't see the colour of the edge once it's dry and the piece has been pressed in place.





Here it is on the wall. This picture was taken at ten o'clock last night so it's not as bright as a daytime shot. I'll try and get one of those today in-between baking butter tarts. I only bake them in December so they're a much waited for treat. I'm particular about that - keeping a treat a treat. Even though we can eat butter tarts and drink eggnog throughout the year - or at least earlier than December - I think it's important to make them special by actually saving them for our special occasions like house decorating and tree decorating days. Otherwise, everything becomes homogenized - like shopping - a big box store in one city looks just like a big box store in another. Hate that. Give me the independent shops and private artists any day. And special occasions. And treats.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - all the presents are wrapped and ready

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
- George Bernard Shaw

Monday, December 15, 2014

Working Down The List

This weekend, I started working down the list of things that I want or need to do before the Christmas or the end of the year. I prefer to start the new year with no unfinished projects and to be working on an exciting piece. Deciding which thing on the list to do next is a bit like deciding which project to sew - the one the tickles the loudest gets attention.





I'm not feeling very Christmasy this year and my son was starting to wonder if decorations were ever going to go up. Eventually... but not before I'd cleaned house - which I did on Saturday - and then put together a Christmas bouquet.





It's been a long time since I've made a center piece for the dining room table. It seemed the thing to do when I saw the supplies while out shopping at Home Sense and at Michaels last week. At both places, the various bouquet items were 50% off which is perhaps justification for procrastinating Christmas. The bits and pieces that I picked were quite large so I also bought a larger vase at WalMart but only after...





... looking at Habitat For Humanity's Re-Store first. There was no vase but I did find these FABULOUS purple chairs for the living room. The legs are slightly off in my opinion - more waiting room than living room - so if I can't find some others to replace them with, I'll paint them black BUT... the fabric does not need painting and the colour is perfect and these are staying. I love them already.



 


Instead of rocks, sand, glass beads or some other commonly used filler for the bottom of the vase, I used these silver branches turned upside down. MUCH less expensive and sparkly.





I think this is a lily.  Not being a flower person, I'm not sure but I LOVED the colour and the circular globe in the middle. I intended to build the bouquet around this focal flower and...





... these supporting white poinsettias but as you can see not only did the vase change, so did the flowers. In the end, I used purple poinsettias, a smaller vase, a sparkly lime ribbon made from a strip of fabric in my stash and some additional foliage that incorporates both silver and gold sparkles to blend the other elements.





I'm quite pleased with how the bouquet turned out and I think it brightens the space which is still suffering from recent painting. The lime walls were previously a dark green. They stayed blank because I wanted to hang a different art piece to the right of the door which is why in the studio, I am currently painting a 24" x 48" gallery wrapped canvas so I can center and mount the textile piece below - Pick Me.





This piece - along with several others - have been in storage since we moved in March 2012. I'm still figuring out what I want where which is the longest move in I've ever experienced. Perhaps this is more shuffle than move-in. The delay with this piece was the canvas. Although it's been years since I started using them, I'm still thrilled with what a difference using canvasses made to my textile art. It gives them more presence and form and dimension plus a canvas is recognizable. A hammer, two nails, and hang. Using canvasses made the difference between my work being seen as "quilt" and as art. When I have the piece in place, I'll take another picture so you can see.





AND... I finished up some knitting including the edges on a few scarves that were knit recently. I started this teal one at the drop-in in Diane's studio back in September and finished the main body of it a few days later. It is an easy garter stitch project, perfect for talking and knitting with friends only...





... the edges are quite plain so I added a picot edge using crochet. Funny how something so simple can make such a tremendous difference. I'm glad I added it.

On Saturday, I made a stir fry for dinner and added this and that until the flavour was just right. When I talked to a friend who is incredibly passionate about food, he said he uses that same put together, taste, add, taste, add, taste routine to develop his dishes and approved of the selection I'd made. He said I'd intuitively created the balance of flavours from some particular area - I think it was the West Indies but I'm not sure. It struck me that that's the same step-by-step approach I use for creating textile art... and wearable art... and bouquets... and finishing rooms... it's an everywhere in everything approach. I like that.





Yesterday was very damp and cold. The temperature wasn't that bad but the damp seemed to go right for the bones so Miss Chloe and I didn't go for the long walk. Instead, we curled up by the fire - her quite literally - and spent a quiet afternoon. She stays on the hearth until she's warm enough, sometimes turning around to warm up the other side, and then moves to the carpet still quite close to the fire. It's a gas fire. I imagine if it was wood she wouldn't like the sound of it. LOL - such the life.

Last night, I intended to write out my thoughts for my current creativity coaching assignment only we had some friends drop by for coffee - a lovely treat - so I need to finish that project this morning instead. It's tickling the loudest. Tonight, Howard and I are wrapping Christmas presents and getting the package for our daughter and her family sent off. Once that's done, there's only our tree decorating party on Wednesday and our Christmas day and dinner to organize and everything else is in order. I'm glad. I dislike stressful Decembers.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - We've incorporated my weight goals into my creativity coaching sessions. I weigh and measure myself ever two weeks and send the information to Diane along with my assignment. In the past six weeks, I have lost twelve pounds - almost all of the medical weight. YES YES. This protocol is working well for me.

Success is not a race, be patient. Success leads to success. Success is always a work in progress. Success doesn't come to you, you go to it. Success is a journey, not a destination. Focus on the process. Some people dream about success, others wake up and work hard at it. Success is achieved and maintained by those who try and keep trying. Every day is a good day to succeed. If at first you don't succeed, try again. 
- unknown

Friday, December 12, 2014

Details Of The Dress Plus

I've been moving slow these past two days, catching up on sleep and adrenaline from the spectacular ending to my fabulous holiday while gently getting back into the flow of things. I have several tasks to complete by Monday and then things will slow down in terms of have-to's. Tomorrow, I want to clean house so that next week everything is fresh and clean and I can get back to a more normal schedule and maximize studio time.





There have been several requests for more details of the dress. The pattern is Vogue 1410 and the fabric is Sunny Day In Seattle from The Smuggler's Daughter. It's a novelty knit with slits in the blue-gray fabric that reveal black behind. Because it's a four-way stretch, I was able to turn the fabric the other way and have the slits running vertically instead of horizontally. MUCH more flattering I think.





I combined the novelty knit with a black ribbed knit from my stash and re-drafted the pattern to have a black strip down center front. I was aiming for more of an hour-glass insert that what developed but I still like the way it turned out. The neckline is bound with the same black knit.





The side, shoulder, and sleeve seams were stitched to the outside using a serger and then top stitched in place. The two seams running down center front were stitched to the outside and only top stitched at the shoulder and...





... at the bust line to keep the seam turned where it needed to be turned but still free in other sections especially at the bottom where the hemlines needed to point inward.





I wanted to piece the sleeve in order to better merge the black with the rest of the garment. Although it looks much larger, the top section is the same width as the bottom one and the section in the middle is about half the size. In retrospect, I may have preferred one larger section at the hem and two or three smaller ones above. That's something to know for next time.





At the back, I folded under the tucks and top stitched them in place instead of having them stick out free form as per the instructions. Sticking out is not typically flattering on me. I look much better in garments that are closer to the body.



 


At left is the finished dress on Millicent who is currently smaller than me... BUT I am shrinking down to match her... and at right is me wearing the dress at the get-together I just attended at my friend Ute's in Ashland. The angle of the photograph is nicely maximizing my bust and minimizing my hips but I realize it's not straight on and doesn't provide as much information as you might like. Hopefully the details above will help. The dress feels ever so slightly snug which I think is a fabric factor since the same pattern in a different fabric feels much looser. Not a problem. As I said, I'm working my way down... to it feeling loose.





The pattern on the left is the 1931 Parisienne Coat by Decades of Style. At Fabric of Vision in Ashland, they had a model of the pattern sewn up and - once again - a model will sell both fabric and patterns. I don't know why more stores don't sew more models. The sizing was too small for me to do much more than pull it over one arm but Sheri - who has the same figure type as me and is smaller - was able to try it on and it is GORGEOUS. The tuck details are amazing and I love the flippy hemline. The fabric was already sold out and that's okay. I have a few potential pieces in my stash.

The pattern on the right is Diane Ericson's new Ventana Jacket and Vest. It is FABULOUS. While we were at the get-together several women of different shapes and sizes tried it on and it was flattering on all of us. The jacket is softer and more shaped than many of Diane's design. If you haven't been able to wear her styles in the past, I would bet this one is different. Give it a try. Her blog posting from November 26, 2014 - Celebrating with Metallics: Holiday Sparkle gives some great examples of how to use the pattern. For some reason I don't understand I can't link directly to the posting but here's a link to her blog and you can find it by the date.





Now that I've seen the Ventana jacket in several different variations, I'm debating which direction to develop my own jacket in and am considering combining knitting with sewing which is why I picked up four skeins of Boboli by Berroco from Websters... on sale... 50% off... in their bargain center... because you know how I love a bargain. I also love...





... a challenge. After my coaching session with Diane, we walked down to Fabric of Vision to meet Sheri. I asked them both to pick half a yard of a fabric that they thought "looked" like me - the top two fabrics in the image above. The black with gold stripe was Sheri's pick and it's a tissue knit. The green with with architectural motifs is cotton and was Diane's choice. The fabric below is a heavier weight cotton and was my choice. It's reversible. I'm thinking about how to combine all of these into a garment.





It's rare for me to wear a metallic fabric or a brown tone and so it surprised me that Sheri picked two very similar fabrics for me. The one on the right is a silk dupioni remnant from her studio that she tucked into my suitcase. I absolutely LOVE silk dupioni so I'm intrigued to see where I use this.





The tape with colored circles is also from Fabric of Vision. The dyed ribbon is from the Eugene Textile Center. It was hanging on a hanger with many many strands of ribbon and labelled OOPS $2.00. I took that to mean two dollars for all of it and not two dollars for each strand and I thought the oops was in the dyeing and not in the cutting. Apparently the oops was that each ribbon was only 2 yards long instead of 3 yards long. Hmm... that was probably my cue to put it back only I didn't. I bought three strands - 6 yards - and we'll see what happens. It may or may not go with the other fabrics. Either way, it's another challenge.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - challenges, gifts of fabric

Have you taken personal responsibility for the opportunities give to you? The reason we need to adapt is because we don't get to choose the starting point. Unless you learn how to adapt to your environment, to your circumstances, to your challenges, you will continue to use them as an excuse, claiming they are the obstacles that stop you from living the life of your dreams. 
- Erwin Raphael McManus, Wide Awake