Friday, June 23, 2017

The Painted Chair

Today, I am escaping the workmen, the dust, and all that noise to go play in my friend Francine's studio. She lives about an hour away. I've packed three small canvasses to - possibly - paint. They're rectangles that originally I was thinking of painting in portrait perspective up until someone mentioned three in a long line. That's an interesting idea. We'll see what develops. Mostly I want a break and to visit with my friend.

Speaking of painting... I bought this chair at the thrift store quite a while ago wanting to recover it and then when I heard about painting upholstery, it seemed like the perfect practice project... that I kept putting off... and finally got to. The fabric is slightly textured like a jacquard and most likely a poly cotton blend. It was clean and smooth with only a few frays along the upper back edge.

After watching several videos, I combined the methods that I thought got the best results based on the detail images shown in the videos. I mixed chalk paint from The Fat Paint Company half and half with water and applied it in thin layers using a kitchen scrub brush. I didn't sand between layers because the scrub brush had a sanding-like effect. In the detail above, there are two layers of paint on the fabric and you can still see the original colours plus the fabric looks very chalky. At this point, I was worried it wasn't going to work out but I continued with four layers of paint. It dries very quickly - in about twenty minutes.


The upholstery has to be well dampened but not soaking wet. I bought this spray bottle when I was cutting hair. When you depress the lever, you get a continuous flow of fine mist without having to pump the lever over and over. Another friend - Barb - is coming to visit tomorrow and we plan to paint fabric. I'm interested to see how the water bottle will work with that.

In several of the videos I watched, the comment was made that you are dyeing your fabric using this method. No, you are not. You are painting it and building up fine layers. Dyeing is a completely different process. Acrylic paint, however, is quite durable especially the longer it cures although the chair is quite usable right now. None of the paint is rubbing off.

The colour I used for the fabric is Skyline. For the wood, I used Raven and then sanded the edges to expose the original surface. Both wood and fabric are finished with a coat of clear wax. Before waxing, I sanded the upholstery with 220 grit paper which turned the fabric from I'm not sure to I love this. I'm feeling confident to paint my couch now. Most of the videos say the finished fabric feels like leather. Since I don't like the feel of leather, that was one of the reasons I procrastinated so long. It feels more like polished cotton to me.

With the workmen in the house, I'm not getting anything done so it seemed the perfect time to continue with the walkway. All the edges are defined with rocks and I've found the level line from the stairs to the grass edge of the walkway and from there out to the rest of the yard where there is a huge dip. I've dug out four inches of dirt from the walkway between the driveway over to the pink peonies and am ready to begin on the next section curving around to the back yard. The dirt...

... simply switched spots and was thrown up on the lawn where it's being raked out to fill in the dip and level the yard. I also moved some decorative bricks from the back yard to the front to create a step up from the walkway to the grass. It looks funny right now because a rock is missing to the left of the stairs that I need help lifting plus everything is all the same dirt colour.

The next task is to add 2" of sand to the walkway and level it out and then use up the pile of bricks stored in the  carport to create a walkable surface that will be filled in-between with pea gravel. I'm hoping to brick from the steps to the driveway although I doubt I'll have enough bricks. They are red on the front and grey on the back so I'm using the back side which is easy and inexpensive to match. The rectangular bricks will be a nice change from all the round river rock. I may explore some larger cement blocks as well to add variety of size and shape. LOL - I see design everywhere.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - floor in the living room and - hopefully - in the kitchen/dining room by the time I get home.

Friday, June 16, 2017


Three hours into the twelve hour job of removing the flooring upstairs, I sprained the middle finger on my right hand - ouch. Continuing with the work wasn't the best choice from a healing point of view but definitely the best choice from a moving along with the renovations one. Progress is being made and it's taking longer than I hoped. One of my contractors failed to tell me he wouldn't be here Thursday or Friday so I failed to arrange for someone else to be. Sigh. That's life.

One of the great things about the Internet is finding images to illustrate what you want. It's so much clearer than trying to describe something. I've always loved a more sophisticated country look, clean not cluttered, and so even though that's trendy now when it's not it'll still be Myrna.

I've been researching how to paint upholstery for the check couch in the living room. I'm done with check but still like the shape and feel of it and it's in excellent condition. I'll practice on a thrift store chair first. Mine will be simple, nothing this complicated, but how fun is that.

When the sprained finger didn't settle down as fast as I thought it should, I went to see my doctor and she said an extra nine hours of work means a longer healing time... and to rest it... hmm. I can write so I'm still able to journal. I haven't been able to wire wrap. Things are a bit too cluttered for sewing. I have managed to figure out how to knit without hurting it too much. Next week, I'm hoping to work on the yard and escape all that's going on in the house although I'll be careful. I have a friend coming to play in the studio the week after and I definitely want to be in shape.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - dishes back in cupboards

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Opportunity To Edit

The contractor who is doing the next stage of renovation has been sick for the past few days so things are stalled at the moment. Two days lost will mess up all the dates down the line and that's just the way it is. In the end, it will all get done.

On Sunday, a friend is coming to help me pull up the hardwood floor. She's a woodworker and wants the hardwood for projects... that I'll be thrilled to see... but she doesn't want the tile so I started working on that last night. None of the tools that are supposed to do the job have worked so I've been using a hammer and a long screw driver and my skill and speed are picking up. Howard and I both hate tile so we'll be glad to see that go. I'm thankfully it's not the whole floor like one house we bought.

With all this mess, I've been taking every opportunity to eat out with a friend - for the food and the conversation. Tara gave me these flowers at dinner on Wednesday night. They're are an island of pretty in a sea of mess and brighten things up considerably.

Canadian Tire had an excellent sale on these Shaker style cabinets and my family bought them for me for my birthday. Howard intended to put them together but he not only doesn't like that type of work, it was going to be slow and painful for him so for our anniversary (the 36th) I hired someone to do it. It took Steve four hours with previous experience so I'm really glad I did that AND... it meant I could spend my birthday sorting and organizing in my studio.

Renovations and new furniture are always an opportunity to edit. Since I moved here, each time I've sifted and sorted I have less and less to sort out so I must be finding a rhythm between buying and creating. All of my fabric, knitting, surface design, and some of my books fit into the new cabinets. One more would have been just right to get everything and perhaps at some point down the line I'll do that but for now, this is perfect. I am a huge fan of closed storage. I like things behind doors and I like defined "buying" parameters based on space.

Every time I need an idea for the renovations, I check out Pinterest. It certainly is a good source although now that ads are popping up in-between the pictures that's a bit annoying. One gets tired of this constant selling invasion. I'm glad that as I get older accumulation interests me less and less and when I do buy something I want it to either fit my look, be functional, or be interesting and unusual. Clean lines, like this baseboard, are definitely a part of my look. Clutter is not. The light fixture is a great use for tea cups and would probably be fun to put together but it wouldn't work for me at all.

Also on Pinterest, I've been researching my next coaching assignment which is to make a simple t-shirt with a neckline coordinated to a jewelry piece. I don't know who made this rectangular pendant but I love the defined shape, simplicity, and texture of it. I'm debating a rectangular neckline which isn't one I'd normally wear so I'm also debating how I could wear it. AND...

... I've been knitting. The workmen have been in and out of the studio because the water shut off and the electrical panel are in here so it's been virtually impossible to do anything. Instead, I've been knitting socks and debating how wearing hand knit socks could fit into my "look". I was driving a car load of stuff down to the thrift store when it occurred to me that the nylon/acrylic, plain coloured, yarn that I was about to (snobbishly because it wasn't a natural fiber) give away was absolutely perfect for solid coloured socks with textured patterns. I didn't leave that bag - LOL.

My absolutely wonderful tenant gave notice yesterday. He's leaving in a month which means I'll need to do some touch-ups to the suite and then rent it again. One renovation will lead to another - although a smaller, quicker one. He's been here sixteen months and hopefully the next tenant will be equally easy to live with and stay as long or longer.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - slow but steady progress

Friday, June 2, 2017

Tea Towels, Grumpy Skies, and Creative Journeys

The sky grumbled all day yesterday. And it poured down rain like the heavens had completely opened. And that was okay because it was warm and dry in the studio. Right after I got back from my daughter's, I got sick and I've been mostly a lump for the past two weeks with variations on the sick theme. Right now, I have a croaky voice, a dry cough, a headache, and a sty in one eye.

After nearly two weeks, what did I sew? Tea towels... from a tablecloth... which may sound like busy work but it was slow and soothing and I ended up with exactly what I wanted. I could have bought tea towels this colour only they came in sets of four along with one red, one yellow, and one green. I didn't want those. I only wanted teal so I bought the tablecloth instead and got what I wanted for less. This is the gift of sewing - the ability to create what we want.


While I was in Calgary, I purchased unfinished, pre-assembled, oak cabinets for my kitchen. After debating the kitchen concerns from every angle for months, this was the option that gave me what I wanted at a price I was willing to pay. The L shape was $1,500 for these unfinished cabinets and $13,000 from the cabinet shop. That's a HUGE difference. For that much money, I am happy to paint and finish them myself which I'll do next week. The cabinets are all in place ready to paint. The counter-top comes today and after that the plumber to put in the sink and tap which will be perfect since I've been without water in the kitchen for ten days. Everything moves slower in a small town so it could take a month or more but I'll post pictures when the space is completely finished along with pictures of what it looked like when I bought the house.

My poor husband didn't realize he had made a mistake when he said "my" house was going to be amazing when it was fully renovated but that he didn't really like it the way it was right now. While I was thrilled he shared his opinion, I was not thrilled that he wasn't feeling completely comfortable here so - of course - I started renovating. I meant to do the kitchen but it's since seeped toward the edges. Now, I plan to finish the kitchen, dining room, living room, and down the hall to our bedroom this summer - all without spending a lot of money.

I'm thrilled that my ability to refashion and re-purpose extends past the studio and into the rest of my life. I hadn't intended to redecorate the bathroom only I found a vanity much like the one pictured above at the thrift store for only $150.00 which is substantially less - and far more interesting - than anything I could have ordered. An affordable vanity was the reason why I wasn't finishing the bathroom so it just may get done now.

The ability to see potential where I couldn't see it before is something that has developed with practice... like whoever decided to combine these watches into a necklace. How fun is that? I did not have that skill before and now I do and it came from learning how to ask my questions differently so that I am open to different answers.

I wanted small corbels to create a shelf for my coffee cups. Corbels are hard to find and typically expensive so instead of asking where can I get inexpensive corbels, I went shopping with the question what can I use to create a coffee shelf and I did find an answer that I'll show you once it's painted and in place. The way we ask the question changes the potential answers. A bucket upside down. A wooden box. A metal plant stand. A diminutive chair. A bread basket. A narrow drawer placed bottom to the wall. There are endless possibilities once we start looking. Are you asking yourself the kinds of questions that will lead you where you want to go? How could changing your questions change your creativity?

Tuesday morning was a coaching session with Diane. One of the things we talked about was what to do with the endless list of possibilities floating through my mind. Twenty years ago, I could never have imagined having this "problem" but once I started to ask different questions and to look beyond the obvious and see with new eyes, the possibilities have become endless both inside and outside the studio. Sometimes I'm not sure what to focus on or how to choose.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I first started working with Diane five years ago on my 50th birthday and I am amazed at how much has changed in my life and in the way I think and create in the past five years. I'm thankful for this tremendous opportunity and benefiting greatly in all areas of life, not just in the studio. Moving to my wonderful home in this small creative community is one outcome from asking what do I want.

Inside the house, I want to slowly work my way through the rooms I mentioned earlier, not to finish every detail because it's important that the rooms I live in evolve as I do but to finish some of the main projects that have been waiting like the quilt for my bed and refinishing the dining room table.

In the yard, I want to finish the front walkway before the winter snow. That sounds ridiculous right now when the sun is barely shining but there's a lot going on and it's a big job so hopefully it's possible. If not, I'll be that much further along next spring.

In the studio, I want to continue developing my wire wrapping skills and layering them with my design skills and I want to continue sewing increasingly creative and wearable, clothing. One of the assignments Diane gave me is to create a neck piece and then to create a simple t-shirt with a neckline shape based on the neck piece. That sounds like fun... and having fun is one of my goals. There's no point not to. As I've said so many times before, I'm warm, dry, safe, fed, clothed, and loved. I don't need another object; I need the journey.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a kitchen with drawers - as in I've had none since I moved in - and a clean, hygienic counter- as in not tile with dirty grout lines

Friday, May 19, 2017

Not Thinking About What Doesn't Need Thinking About

Tonight, I'm having a sleep over with my grandsons while my daughter and her husband celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. I can not believe how much faster time is moving as I age. I'm ten years older than that day I remember so clearly. As I said to a friend earlier this week, I feel a tremendous need to get up earlier, go to bed later, and get to all those ideas that are jumping around in my head.


Yesterday, I went shopping with a friend and - hopefully as I'm writing on Tuesday evening but talking as if it's actually happening/happened - wearing my new pants - the denim Trio Pants - which I finished more than once. The first time I sewed them, I took the hems back down and the waistband off, shortened them substantially, lowered the waistband an inch, and re-hemmed them. The next time I sewed them, I took the waist band off and the hems down and took another 1" seam in on each side, restitched the waistband, and re-hemmed them. And then I altered the pattern and stitched a shorter version out of a bright blue/black/white print for the summer that I am counting on coming some time soon.

I love the way the top-stitching looks with the denim thread. It's a thicker turquoise thread combined with a longer stitch length so that it will show up nicely against the fabric. Top-stitching is one of my favourite details whether it's in a coordinating or a contrasting thread. How do you feel about top-stitching? What is your favourite detail?

The taupe pair of pants that I mentioned in the last posting - the ones that I cut out but didn't sew - are in the paint pile. I'm going to add black and other colours and paint the pieces to have an overall colour/tone that I would wear. I think that will be fun.

My all time favourite - most sewn - top pattern is Vogue 8691 by Katherine Tilton although my version is so evolved from the original that Marcy once asked me whose pattern it was. I've shortened the top, removed the frilled hemline, changed the neckline, altered the sleeve length, and sewn it over and over and over again because it's incredibly flattering. I wear a black version all the time only it's gotten so big that I took a 1 1/2 - 3" in total - tuck down center front just to get me through until I can sew some more. AND THEN...

... I altered the pattern and cut out a purple version and everything that could go wrong went wrong from not walking the seam lines to make sure they were accurate and having to add 2 3/4" to the center front to hating the way the fabric stitched up to finishing the wrong side of the fabric for the sleeves because it was too dark to see which side was the right side, and... and... and... It's in muslin mode now. I've pinned and tucked and cut to see what I want to do to finesse the smaller size and I'm ready for that project when I get back to the studio.

The second wire wrapping workshop I've finished is Start Wire Weaving: Cabochon Pendants with Dawn Horner. For the assignment, I practiced with this blue stone bought quite a while ago. The instructions say to separate the two base wires by the depth of the stone only I didn't take into account that my stone was deeper in the middle and narrower on the edges. That was good learning. I'm not going to finish this pendant since it's really rather ugly. Instead, I'll cut out the stone, ball the wire up, and see what it can become however....

... I did use the technique to move on to my second - designed by me - piece. I've been asked several times what the stones are and I have no idea. I bought them on a string at Michaels. The colour of the smaller beads rubbed off when I finished the piece and I repainted them with a metallic acrylic paint before finishing the piece. Originally....

... I designed the pendant to have the curly edges to the top and kept struggling to bring the piece together until I decided to change the orientation. That's one thing I've learned with textile art and painting. That just because you think it's going to be this side up doesn't mean it's going to be this side up. No matter what I'm creating, I've learned that I have to stay flexible and listen to the developing piece and see where it wants to go.

The Craftsy platform has been fabulous for learning this new skill of wire wrapping. I'm on their email list and usually wait until there is a sale before buying a new class so I get more for my money. Some of the ones I've enrolled in haven't been at all what I wanted but most have been and some have been even more than I could have asked for. I'm finding that working through the assignments is helping tremendously. Right now, I'm enrolled in Big & Bold Wire Jewelry by Sharilyn Miller. We're actually making a necklace as the assignment so I'm not sure what I'll do for my "designed by me" piece but we'll see. I want to take the skills in a different direction to make sure I'm thinking independently.

When I get back to my jewelry bench, I'll be working on cutting apart and shaping the jump rings made from a larger gauge wire and then assembling the pieces of the necklace. Whenever I finish work for the day - or go away on a trip - I leave my studio space(s) clean and neat and ready to return to and I make sure that I know what I'm going to do next. That helps me to flow right into the work. With sewing, I'll be working on the painted pants and another top. With knitting, I'll be adding a collar to a baby cardigan. With wire wrapping, I'll be separating the jump rings and assembling the necklace. With learning, I have the next workshop ready to review. I find that knowing what I'm going to do next and having studio routines help me to think less and work more. What systems do you have that support your creativity?

The creative study I'm working through right now is Creative Thursday: Everyday Inspiration to Grow Your Creative Practice. It it, the author writes: Thanks to the Internet, there are now countless opportunities to learn from people all over the world who can inspire and/or challenge us. Exposing yourself to something entirely new will not only increase your skill level and build your knowledge base, but it might open you up to a possibility that you had no idea you would love so much. 

My oldest son and I were talking about productivity the other day. Both of us receive comments all the time about how much we produce and we both think it's because we're organized and efficient. For me, not thinking about what doesn't need thinking about is a huge part of how I work. While I'll alter my routine if needed, I pretty much follow the same schedule every day and when I'm working in the studio, I have other routines I follow like placing pattern pieces here and cut pieces there and working in a specific order and cleaning and sorting at designated stages. These all sound confining and yet they are actually freeing. If I need a pattern piece, it's over there. If I need the fabric part, it's right here. If I need thread or scissors or a zipper or elastic, it is exactly where I think it is and each project starts on a fresh page. It's a positive habit that allows me to maximize my time and creative energy. What habits do you have that work for you; what habits do you have that you'd like to change?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - my hip has healed enough that I can now jump on the mini tramp again without pain... which is good for getting back to my routine of exercising before showering

Friday, May 12, 2017

It's Remnants For This Blouse

... we should be thankful for routine everyday life. There is nothing ordinary about getting up and going to work. There is nothing ordinary about being able to see, having friends or having family. These are gifts from God. You and I should never take for granted what God has given us. If you can see, if you can hear, if you can walk, if you've got good health, family, friends and a good job, learn to appreciate each of these gifts. - Every Day a Friday by Joel Osteen

Last Sunday, I went for a walk along the lake. Over the winter, the city did some work along the shoreline and a large part of the path is now wider and flatter with rocks along the lake edge and more trees. The sky was a gorgeous blue punctuated by clouds. The foliage was the hopeful green of spring. And the bird sanctuary was filled with activity and noise. It's a wonderful space. I'd hoped to get back later in the week except that I spent the only two sunny days working on the front yard and the rest of the time it's been drizzly and wet... which is... of course... perfect studio weather.

I am not a woven blouse person. When I do sew them, they don't get worn and even so, I liked this Burda 6580 top, view B, and thought I'd try it with a drapey rayon. First, I sewed the back and bias cut front together and tried it on and it was tough tugging to get it over my head but before I changed the neckline I wanted to make sure I liked it so I sewed in a sleeve... and it was too tight... so I took it out and sewed in a larger sleeve... and it still feels like a straight jacket. At first, I intended to ball it up and be done with it - do something with the remnants - but after a few days thought, I'm going to remove the sleeve, finish the armholes, and add the side zipper and the pleats, and if I like that, I'll lower the neckline. If I don't... it's remnants for this blouse.

Last night, I cut out The Sewing Workshop's Trio Pants in a medium blue denim. I've sewn these quite successfully a few times and - thankfully - one of the drafted patterns is my current size so I'm hoping to have them sewn for next week when I'm going shopping with a friend. It'd be fun to have a new outfit. But, even this has not smooth sailing. At first, I thought I'd cut them out in a grey only when I looked at the fabric more closely under different lighting it was a taupe... which doesn't go with anything I own... so I'm not sure why it's in my stash... but I put that aside and cut the pattern out again. With my ultra small wardrobe, I'd rather sew something I'll wear.

I've been giving "accept and lean" even more thought over the past week and I've realized that as much as I enjoy sewing labour intensive garments with lots of little touches, I rarely wear them. I've worn each of these coats twice. I reach for garments that may be as "complicated" in structure but will be simpler in terms of detail or contrast - like the trio pants with multiple seams and top stitching or a similarly structure top - in a solid coloured fabric or in one colour with varying textures. As I mentioned in the last posting, my preferred look is a plainer upper garment with a statement necklace which may be why...

... this surprising new love of wire wrapping could be a missing link. Not only am I enjoying putting together the pieces but I am also enjoying wearing them. I showed you the start of this piece in the last posting. The finished size is 3" wide by 3 1/2" high. It's my first free-form, designed by me, piece based on what I learned in the first workshop on weaving bracelets. I'm working on my second free-form, designed by me, piece based on the workshop about cabochons. It works well to watch the workshop, then watch it again and do the assignments, and then create my own piece based on what I learned. My design abilities seems to have transferred from other mediums. My technical abilities need to catch up but WHAT FUN!

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - time with friends