Monday, February 28, 2011

And it just keeps coming

We now interrupt the regularly-scheduled blizard to bring you....

Colours that stimulate the Root Chakra

Spring! Oh, how I wish! Happy last day of February. Everyone else has gotten one (or more) this winter, we were wondering where our blizzard was (not really). Well, we woke up to it this morning. Good thing I had nowhere to go until this afternoon. Maybe somebody will come by and clean up this mess before then. The snow isn't bad, but the 50 kph gusting winds are quite unpleasant. I have snow stuck to the windows on both the east and west side of my house.
We normally have dry winters here in BC's "desert". I have to shovel snow three, maybe four times over a winter. But this winter? Seven times already and that doesn't look like the end of it.
The more dismal the weather, the more we crave bright colours. Most coastal towns have brightly coloured houses and shops near the waterfront where it tends to be the gloomiest with fog and rain. Too bad my pictures of St. John's, Newfoundland are all on paper - there were no digital cameras back then - or I would show you the neat colours of the buildings down on Gower St. near the harbour.

On days like this our Crown Chakra (top of head) isn't getting sufficient nourishment of prana - energy from the sun - and that contributes to the general malaise of endless overcast days and bad weather. At this time, many of us are working from our Root Chakra (base of the spine) - our survival, base instinct kicks in whether we recognize it or not. We hunker down and conserve our energy, eat all the chocolate we can find and do our best to wait out the storm. It takes something invigorating to get us moving, like drumming or bagpipes - martial sounds that really appeal to our "base" natures.
Tamarind soup with lentils and carrots
Doesn't just looking at warm, rich colours cheer you and warm you up suddenly? Colours associated with the Root Chakra include dark reds, browns and black, like the Indian Blanket flowers above. And like this tamarind and lentil soup I made for myself last night.

A little information on the Root Chakra. If you're feeling a bit of Cabin Fever, it may help to explore and celebrate this chakra.

Techniques to open the Root Chakra
Using the body makes you more aware of it. The Root chakra, being the first chakra, is the most physical one. This means that any activity that makes one more aware of the body, will strengthen this chakra. This particularly goes for physical activity. One can do sports, martial arts, walking, yoga, Tai Chi, it all helps. But also house cleaning. Or just stomping your feet upon the ground, marching, and doing squats.
This chakra is also known as a storehouse for a fiery energy that, if awakened, rises up the spine, illuminating all the chakras. In the Hindu tradition, this dormant energy is known as the "kundalini" or "serpent fire." This spiritual flame within can be rekindled by drumming, thereby igniting the Rainbow Fire of a fully activated chakra system. With the rising of the kundalini and the activation of succeeding chakras, an individual becomes more highly conscious and spiritually transformed.

The Root chakra is particularly about connecting to the ground. When your Root chakra is closed too far, you may actually feel that your feet don't seem to really touch the ground. This is an exercise to strengthen this connection to the ground. Stay in this position for several minutes:
Stand up straight and relaxed.

Waiting for Spring

Put your feet shoulder width apart.
Slightly bend your knees.
Put your pelvis somewhat forward.

Keep your body balanced, so that your weight is evenly distributed over the soles of your feet.
Sink your weight downward.

Feeding Your Root Chakra
- Root vegetables: carrots, potatoes, parsnips, radishes, beets, onions, garlic, etc.
- Protein-rich foods: eggs, meats, beans, tofu, soy products, peanut butter
- Spices: horseradish, hot paprika, chives, cayenne, pepper

Back to stitching up that binding.

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tension wars

I was supposed to post this last Monday, but after I ripped the stitches out of my lastest project for the third time, I decided to look through my little collection of quilting magazines for an interesting article I'd read on how to cover up mistakes you can't correct... Not that it had anything to do with my problem. I haven't found that article yet, but I did reread many more very good articles, including one that talked about the right thread for the right job. The light went on with such a dazzling display! - I didn't know I had that much voltage left in there. I was using a cute little silk-finish cotton thread that I'd bought for the project. The article suggested that such thread would be better off used with daintier material than what I was using.

So I removed all evidence of it from my sewing area, popped in a brand new spool of bright red Aurifil 50 wt., and voila! I finished sewing my borders. It's not beautiful sewing, but it's not overwhelmingly ugly, either. I'll take it. One of these days I may actually be able to sew a round circle, among other things.
It's comforting to read other blog writers talk about their mistakes, pulling out stitches, fighting with their tension. It's also good to hear how they've "covered up" the mistakes that can't be fixed without taking the entire piece apart. No one likes to show off their mistakes; we only show our successes, and so whether on purpose or not, we may give the impression that our work came together flawlessly without any problems.
I no longer look for perfection, just improvement. I'm getting there.
His Royal Highness
Until next time,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fibre Arts Week in Sorrento

Kathy Kinsella's fibre art landscape of Shuswap Lake
I've been asked to post a little note about the upcoming Fibre Art Week in Sorrento, BC - a lovely little community on Shuswap Lake: Sorrento Centre will be offering three separate workshops in April to encourage quilters and fibre artists alike to stretch their boundaries and explore some wonderful possibilities.

Exploring Curves in Quilt Designs will be taught by Dianne Jansson, an internationally recognized quilt instructor from Pritchard, BC. Dianne will teach various methods to successfully sew curves in your quilts.

Kathy Kinsella will offer a workshop on fibre art landscapes. This course will help the participants to construct a landscape art quilt from fabric, and use a variety of surface design techniques to provide added interest in the features. The artwork included in this post was created by Kathy and is a view of Shuswap Lake from her home in Blind Bay. Her blog is here where she has some lovely items for sale.

Marg Janick-Grayston is a United Church minister and a facilitator of silk painting retreats in Saskatchewan, and she will combine both meditation and the creative process of silk painting in this course.

Fibre Art Week will be held April 11-17 in Sorrento Centre where accommodation and meals are also available for registrants who would like to retreat into the world of fibre art. Call 250-675-2421 for more information or registration.

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Creativity aided by technology

Yesterday I was printing a photo for my nieghbour, friend and quilting partner, Judy, so I tried something I'd read about a few months ago: printing on cloth.

I printed one photo and one graphic on my inkjet

I got the idea from a designer's blog who said she ran a swatch off the computer and printed her own sample cloth so she could display it at a trade show. Using something like linen, you iron it to a page-sized piece of freezer paper - for stability, and print you picture or whatever to the cloth. It's still a little floppy as it's waiting to go through the printer, so you may have to find a way to prop it upright so it will feed through properly.
An old Japanese woodcut, now on fabric

Prior to this, I've been using Avery printable fabric for my quilt labels. This works the same, except it's way cheaper and you have more choice in fabric. For printing, I use an Epson Stylus Photo 2880. It uses Ultra Chrome ink which is supposed to be smudge resistant, water resistant and fade resistant. I let it set for 24 hours and then washed it by hand. No smudging, no running. I don't know how it would stand up to frequent machine washing, but it looks good so far.

Ginger sez, What's next, mom?

There's a Full Moon at 29 Leo coming up late Feb. 17/early Feb. 18 depending on where you live. Full Moons always occur when the Sun and Moon are opposite each other in the sky. Therefore, they will always be in opposite zodiac signs. Thus, the Sun will be at 29 Aquarius at the same time, and joined by Neptune, Mars and Mercury which are also travelling through the constellation of Aquarius. Let inspiration guide you for the next four weeks. Be on guard againt lots of idle chatter with fixed opinions but probably little work. What work there is will likely be either disorganized and disappointing, or of a spiritual nature. Play and experiment with your projects and don't take it seriously if you don't get the results you were hoping for. They may turn out even better than expected.

Until next time,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Furry Purry One

My dear Miao Yin was The Best Quilt Inspector ever. She left this stage of her existence behind one year ago today, but she still lives in my heart.

She took her job quite seriously, examining my projects quite closely at each step. She never clawed or ate my fabric, or batted spools around the floor, or held up production by sitting on my sewing machine. I can't say that about Rusty or Ginger. Too bad Miao didn't pass the rules on to the brats before she left.

We rescued the brats from a farm to provide some companionship for Miao, who was, herself, adopted from the Fort St. John (BC) animal shelter as a stray, somewhere around 1995-96. For over a dozen years we were a family of two humans and four cats, but in 2008 we lost three of our dear friends to unrelated problems, including her best buddy, Monkey. Sadly, Miao didn't have very much time left to get to know the kittens, who arrived on Christmas Eve, 2009. We didn't realize how sick she was until it was too late.

Miao and Monkey

Sizing up my first denim quilt

She couldn't help me fix this early project

Always quietly helpful

Miao had exquisite taste

The above quilt was from a free pattern I found at Marcie's blog a couple of years ago. It's called Christmas Punch .

by Madeleine Leslie-Smith

Tell me, oh furry purry one
What thoughts are in your head?
Of food or mice or contests won,
As you curl up on my bed.

Silly! I have no need for thought,
There is no need for that!
I'll be myself, just as I ought
A wild and wilful cat.

For I can climb and leap and chase
Dry leaves on the daisied grass,
And try to catch, with feline grace,
Cloud shadows as they pass.

Upon my bed for warmth is set
Electric heating mat;
A special towel, should I get wet,
Marked D.O.G.  -  that's cat.

What need for thought, howe'er sublime?
With human beings in thrall,
Thinking would be a waste of time.
For me to BE is all.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

S(n)ew Day

Sometimes, posting to my blog is like paddling a canoe into the wind, against the tide, and uphill! Right now I"m typing this one-handed while supporting two post-breakfast cats on my lap, but that's nothing compared to finding time away from work these days. The precious little time I have is divided between loved ones and my sewing machine - no, my sewing machine is not a loved one.

Fresh snow Monday afternoon on our street

"Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards." - Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales

And that's what happens when you have cats on your lap. They wake up, step on the keyboard and delete the entire paragraph you just finished writing. But I was just whining about the four and a half inches of snow we got on Sunday/Monday, so I suppose you really aren't missing anything. At least the sun came out afterwards and melted a little bit of it (so it could be nice and icy the next day).

I'm still working on my hearts wallhanging. I had a day off work on Monday, my s(n)ew day, so I spent it stitching together a bunch of small scraps and appliqued my name over top. I tried different ways of forming the letters. Finally, I just found a nice thick font and made it about 120 points and traced my name onto freezer paper, cut and stitched. In green, of course. Oddly, I realized at this point that I although I have lots of green fabric, I don't have much in the way of green scraps. Apparently my collection of greens is for admiring, not using! LOL!

One-quarter of a paper-pieced star
 On Tuesday nights I run next door, sewing machine in hand, to my neighbour's house and we quilt for a couple of hours. Sometimes I show her a trick or two, sometimes she shows me. Last night Judy showed me how to paper piece. We worked on a Carol Doak star pattern. Wow, did the time ever fly by! We had a great time, and I couldn't believe the results! It's such an odd experience, just sewing along a line on a piece of paper, trimming and adding more fabric to the back of it, wondering all along what it's going to look like once it's finished and if you'll like it or hate it. Well, I liked it. I can't wait to finish it and work on some more paper piecing projects.

And lastly, another gratuitious cat picture because I love them, despite their frequent faux paws.

Rusty says: "Get that camera out of my face!"

Until next time,

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hearts and stitches

Fabric by Debbie Mumm
I've been working on heart wallhanging. Drew the design onto freezer paper and ironed the fabric to it. Peeled the fabric off, trimmed away the seam allowance and with the help of the perfect homemade starch found at Tinkerfrog's blog, folded over the seam allowance and ironed it. The starch worked beautifully. No white residue left over from the cornstarch and it held the edges firmly even after I pried off the freezer paper. 
I was going to blind stitch them, but I didn't have a hoop the right size to place the square in to stabilize the pattern while I stitched. Besides, it hurts my fingers and I suck at hand stitching.

Fusions by Robert Kaufman

So I fiddled around with the stitches on my basic sewing machine. I read an article in January's American Quilter a couple of weeks ago and was inspired to experiment. The article was called: Altered Stitches - Creating surface design with your sewing machine's built-in stitches by Karen Linduska. "Any stitch can be used to create machine embroidery if you look at it in a variety of altered ways," she says. "We will start at the default setting and work from there, going up or down in width and up or down in length..." I always find  lots of good articles (and pictures) in American Quilter.

Blue and silver metallic thread

Anyway, I played with the 12 stitch selection on the machine, lengthened and shortened them, and finally came up with one that I liked as an applique stitch. The yellow thread in the photos is Mettler polysheen. I love its glossy look, but the magpie in me couldn't resist a little sparkle - I've been looking for an opportunity to use a little of the Sulky metallic thread I bought on sale after Christmas. Blue on blue is pretty tame, but it'll give off a little twinkle when you least expect it. Maybe next time I'll be more adventurous. I didn't have any tension problems that people say to expect with metallic thread, but I was only straight stitching this time.

The King of Hearts with that imperious look of his that says:
 "Why aren't you paying attention to me, woman!"

Back to sewing. Until next time,

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is that a wood chuck or a rock chuck?

Ashcroft Alice, happily hibernating still
This is what passes for a groundhog in these parts. We call them marmots - a yellow-bellied marmot to be more exact (Marmota flaviventris), or Ashcroft Alice if you prefer the whimsical. Close cousin to the groundhog (Marmota monax). I went looking for one today, because marmots are plentiful around here. Didn't see any, but I didn't really expect to, either. These guys ain't stoopid. They know it's still winter up top, and the eagles are very hungry this time of year. We don't usually see them until early Spring when the sun warms up their rocks. Who cares whether they see their shadow or not? It will be Spring when they emerge from their dens. Here's hoping that we see them soon.

Until next time,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Never trust a groundhog

Spring seems to have come and gone since my last post. Well, it's that time of year. I'll have to put up with cold fingers and runny noses for a few more weeks. Depending on what our venerable groundhogs tell us tomorrow. They always see their shadows, don't they? I think they just see the crowd of people watching them and scurry back into their dens.

Here's a teaser with a bit of colour in it - to take our minds off the ice and snow and just plain cold here in Canada and the US. Besides, it's February and time for everyone to be wearing their hearts on their sleeves. This is part of my latest and "simple" project.

Why isn't anything simple? I settled an argument with my sewing machine the other day. It kept chewing at a corner of a square I was trying to sew. It had multiple seams, but that's never been a problem before. Finally, after a long and tense negotiation that culminated in the liberal application of oil to almost all of its moving parts, I put the walking foot on. Problem solved and we're on speaking terms again for the time being. 

During the "negotiations", I removed the hook race to oil behind it. I oil my sewing machine often that I was surprised to hear anything squeaking. But I don't pay as much attention to that area as I should because once I take it apart, it takes me forever to put it back together - two smooth and slippery pieces of metal to be placed exactly so inside a tiny little nest of more smooth metal, with my butterfingers. So a few drops of oil took care of the squeaking. I also cleaned out the frightening accumulation of fuzz built up inside it. Then spent half an hour getting it put back together. That was 20 minutes of pure frustration, a 10 minute time-out, 30 seconds of looking at the sewing machine manual, and another 30 seconds to follow the instructions and put everything back in the proper place. Geeez. The manual. Who would've thunk?
It still didn't solve the chewing problem. But the walking foot did.

Marilyn, one of my local quilting friends, asked me recently what I liked in fabric. The short answer is that I like anything that I can't resist buying! But it made me think about it and put words to my preferences: rich colours, metallics, small prints, swirly lines and patterns, flowing shapes from nature, and cats!

I have more than enough fabric to keep me going for the next year or two. So why is it that I'm often faced with the fact that my stash is lacking in certain areas? From what I hear and read, it's a problem that all quilters have. Light, silvery grays and mauve/lilac shades are among the missing among my collection. Must remedy this soon.

Make play while the sun shines. Look at all those nose prints on the window!
 Tomorrow night's New Moon is at 13 Aquarius 54 - almost 14 Aquarius. The Sun and Moon will be joined by Mars in Aquarius, electrifying the usual New Moon effects. If it weren't for the steadying influence of Saturn which they all trine, Mars might throw sudden heated and impulsive behaviour to the mix. But that shouldn't be the case this time. Look for inspiration through quilting groups and friends, lots of excitement and new ideas, trying new techniques. This would be a good month to work on quilts you plan to donate to humanitarian causes. Keep a pen and paper handy as ideas will be flowing quickly and soon forgotten. Aquarian colours include electric blue, light gray and white.

Until next time,