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Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Twelve Good Thoughts

It's interesting - in that not very amusing way - how many people are dealing with personal pressures right now. Two of my closest friends have significant trauma happening in their lives. I'm not alone. All of us are paddling as hard as we can just to keep our heads above water and it just keeps coming, like waves, overwhelming waves. 

Yesterday morning, I did clean house and I can say with complete confidence that shiny clean and fresh smelling helps. While I was at it, I put away a third of the d├ęcor items. I'm a minimalist. I've been asked before by first time visitors where my things are and even so, there was too much visual clutter. It was sitting on my nerves... agitating. 

After lunch, I went to the studio and accomplished next to nothing. It was a rough day although the steady stitch of the sewing machine and the hiss of the iron were incredibly comforting. If the sun shines today like it's supposed to, I'll be in the yard shoveling more rocks this afternoon and if not, I'll spend the whole day in the studio finishing a bag. I hope I have something to show you on Friday. I'm not making any guarantees. Today, I've got nothing. 

Here are twelve good thoughts, not my own, yet still encouraging. 


Talk soon - Myrna

- behind any cloud, the sun is shining

Monday, 23 May 2022

More Yard Work

Next week has mixed reviews... again. One site says rain and one says nice, sunny, hot weather. I'd prefer the later only the cashier at the nursery told me her boyfriend is a roofer, dependent on the weather, and VERY accurate and he says it's going to rain. Hmm... thankfully Saturday and Sunday were sunny and I got a lot of work done in the back yard. 

One of my neighbours is now working at the nursery and she said her partner was feeling bad watching me shovel rocks. He thought he should help. I asked her to thank him for me and tell him that I actually enjoy doing this kind of work and it's good exercise for me but I'd call if there was something too heavy. I didn't. I called my son instead and traded chocolate cake with whip cream for help moving a BIG rock and a tub of dirt and - of course - a hug.

I don't call him very often. I'd say that I'm saving points for my old age but it wouldn't be true. What is true is that I am very independent and I know what I want and it's much easier to just do it myself than try to explain it to someone else.  That means that when I do call, he knows that I really do need help. 

The only full sun spot in my yard is the far corner of the upper patio so that's where I put the tomato plant. It looks a little sad at the moment. Hopefully, it'll perk up now that it's in a pot. The strawberries are in a great location for me but I'm not sure it's a good one for them. I don't think they'll get enough sun. It was the only spot ready so I'll try them there for this year and see. 

The dirt is... well... dirty so I'm trying to get all of the walkways finished and contain it. The rocks on the stairs will get moved down once I get my next bag of gravel and can put a base layer underneath them. The big rock you see in the left picture at the bottom right of the walkway is the one I needed help with. I called it a rock when I called my son and he said, this is a boulder when he got here. He pulled it up out of the hole it was in and moved it over to where I wanted it and I was able to fussy shuffle it around on my own once he left. I'm okay with big rock.

I'd hoped to grade the walkway from the stairs down to the deck but it's too steep so I've added two steps using some bits I removed from one edge of the existing deck. I like re-fashioning in the yard as well as in the studio and I landscape the same way I create - start, respond to the developing yard, keep going until it says it's finished although it won't be finished this year. I've decided to wait on the wooden deck and hope wood is less expensive next year. 

The picture at left is at the top of the stairs. Once it's all filled in, you won't see the wood and the planter will be even more buried in the gravel. I think I'll put a bleeding heart in it. I have another one further up the walkway and this is the first home I've owned where I can have them; it's always been too hot. The neighbour can see that pot from her deck and she says she also likes them so win-win.

The "fence" is a headboard I'd been keeping in yard-stash. On the other side of it, I created a rock wall with some shrubs that will eventually be visible up top. The far side of the headboard is screwed to a  treated wood post that was left from my contractor building the stairs. It extends into a hole where I put gravel at the bottom and then filled it with an expanding fence post product - cement-ish - that my contractor left for me to do this year. You mix the two parts and then it grows and oozes and fills up the space. As it was doing that, I put more rocks on top so they'd also get cemented in and hold that corner very secure. It doesn't wobble at all when I push on it. 

This section is below the shrubs. You can sort-of see the curved line I've drawn with the hoe. That will get outlined with rocks. Again, I'm waiting for the gravel to fill the base. Once the rocks are in place, I'll plant the hill with shade lovers like Hosta and ferns and create a nice lush green space.

From my last house, I have a battery operated, outdoor, light fixture I want to somehow hang near an outdoor curl-up chair in that space for reading and/or writing. Right now (Sunday afternoon) I'm sitting on the upper patio, feeling the warm sunshine, listening to the creek while I type and it's amazing. Such a gift. 

These pots didn't do very well last year and I discovered why. I forgot to punch out the drainage holes although I'm not sure why they don't just punch them out at the factory. Hopefully, this year they will do better. This location is temporary since geraniums prefer more sunlight. I'll shift them forward once I've finished the walkway possibly right beside the strawberries where there is an ugly air conditioner to hide somehow. I love what it does; I don't like how it looks. These pots may be part of the solution and they'd get more sun there - hopefully enough. 

And this is the mess. Instead of carting all the tools back to the garage every day and getting dirt everywhere, I've been storing them under the upper patio along with my porch swing which will eventually have a frame and face this space so I'm thinking about how to make the view more attractive and the space still accessible. It was great last year for storing the yard furniture over winter. It's a similar problem to the air conditioner. 

Two things happened inside. I hung up this sculpture in the upstairs hallway and it's visible from the living room below which is double nice. This was the longest UFO I've ever had. I started it in fall 2004 and finished it mid 2019. I like it there.

For the carpet bag-ish fabric, I ended up stitching a 1" grid with dark purple thread. It's subtle like I wanted. I also prepared and cut out the lining and I'm ready to create the pockets. I'd planned to clean house today only I have a coffee date at 11:00 which may have been enough time but - just in case - LOL - I've put it off until tomorrow and I'll play in the studio instead. After all the yard work, that sounds like a great idea. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a beautiful yard

Friday, 20 May 2022

An Old Carpet Bag Look

Does this happen to you? Peripherally, I become aware of some thing that needs doing and at first, it's a little thought, nothing major, easily ignored. Then, I start noticing it more and more frequently and it begins to niggle and irritate. Finally, it reaches a point where I absolutely have to stop and deal with it. That happened yesterday with my pressing surface. 

I take a lot of photos here with the lamp and the natural light from the window and I'd begun to notice that the previous black and white geometric cover was distracting. Occasionally, it just didn't work and I'd fold back the pressing surface and use the white table top below only it's quite scratched and could also be distracting so I'd pull out a roll of white paper. It was getting to be a lot of work.  

When I started taking photos for this post, the nagging reached peak point and I couldn't stand it any longer. I took off the black and white cover, replaced it with beige canvas, stapled the canvas to the back like the black and white fabric had been - which is both quick and easy to do and to undo - and had the new surface done in about five minutes. It's less distracting although I'll be using a lint roller more often. That's okay. It's much better for photos so... why didn't I do it sooner? 

Recently, I discovered a new zipper method  that I wanted to try on a basic boxed corner bag. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I simply folded my existing pattern narrower until it fit on the fabric I had and then cut out the new bag with the squarer shape that... 

... you can see in this image above left. The pattern shows the original angle and the fabric shows the new one. Because it's straighter, I also straightened the lines of the cut out, corner square. 

The shape I'm thinking of is something along this line but boxier. It'll be about 12" across the top and as wide across the bottom as the fabric allowed. I don't actually know the width. I didn't measure it. 

This image shows the layers of paint I talked about in the last post. Before I went any further with paint, pockets, and other details, I wanted to know which handles I'd use and how they would be attached. These two have different ways of attaching but both are shorter in length - hand held. 

This handle has tabs and D rings, basically a combination of the last two, and is also longer with an over the shoulder length. The chalk lines show where the folds will be although the corners will be wrapped around the sides so it's not entirely accurate, just a general idea for adding motifs. 

I began the second painting session with a layer of pink paint that I drew flower shapes into before monoprinting. It created a soft haze but didn't do much else. You can't see the flower shapes. After that, I added large roses in a dark purple and then a cluster of flowers in turquoise. I liked the old carpet bag look the piece was developing but didn't think it was all the way there yet. 

Unfortunately, I don't have a scrap to play with so I'm being very careful going forward. Here I mixed a bright blue with some black paint to get what is actually a dark denim, although it looks green on the fabric, and stenciled leaves in two different sizes. I like this and I still think it needs something more.

I'm debating outlining the flowers with a felt pen and/or adding an all over grid pattern in thread that will bring the elements together. Painting the grid would be too heavy. I want it to be more subtle and the same with the outlining. I wouldn't use black, perhaps copper or silver or both in different areas. I'll try a teeny tiny corner of the seam allowance and see what I think before deciding for sure.  

A post that was very popular in the past and was in the part of the blog that's been lost was called 119 Steps to Refashion a Dress to Sweater (or something along that lines) and outlined the entire creative process of making the cardigan. I've been taking similar notes while I make these handbags to see if I want to include that information in the book... when I get to writing it. 

This week, I had the lucky fortune to reconnect with one of the women from the retreat. I thought she might be able to direct me to some resources and it turned out she was the resource I needed. We talked for well over an hour and I am SO thankful for the conversation and for her willingness to help me. I was doubly thrilled that she is also working on big project that she'd like support, encouragement, and accountability around and we've agreed to help each other. We're going to touch base again in a couple weeks. YES YES! What a gift

One question I asked her advice on was whether to focus on the book, the patterns, or the workshops first and her thoughts echoed what I'd been thinking - the patterns and workshops in tandem. So, develop this pattern and that workshop and then the next pattern and the next workshop so the pattern/workshop are ready at the same time and work together. And after that the book. This feels like the right approach and means I'll definitely have a workshop ready for the fall. I've made a good start on the first set already. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - support, encouragement, accountability

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

And Sometimes More Is Less

Yesterday's weather reports were completely unhelpful. One site said it would be sunny all day and another one said it would be cloudy and overcast until ten in the morning and then rain for the rest of the day. It's supposed to rain for most of the next two weeks and knowing that I needed to move some rocks off the driveway before they upset the neighbours, I went out to the yard first thing and worked for a couple hours before going to the studio. As I'm writing this, it's eleven o'clock (yesterday morning), the sky is overcast, and it's windy but not raining. Hmm... 

I call this The Butterfly Bag because the exterior fabric was taken from an abandoned quilt top that gave the impression of a butterfly's wing. With the original piece, my skills were rusty and it showed and the rustiness carried over into this bag. I didn't like it for most of the project which is probably why it took so incredibly long to finish. It felt less than best and now I think it's quite cute which reminds me to keep going past ugly. 


Here's a trick for satin stitching with a dark thread over a lighter fabric - a felt pen. If you look at the left side of the striped fabric in the left image above, you can see more white in the seam allowance than at right where it's darker. At right, I used a permanent felt pen to colour in the seam allowance before stitching over it with a tighter satin stitch as you see in the right hand picture. Paint works well too. 

As much as I am able, I am using supplies from my stash for these projects. It's financially wise and creatively challenging which are both good. The snap was recycled from a very worn out purse I bought at the thrift store quite a while ago. The only good parts left were the hardware so I'm glad I rescued them. The pearl cotton was from my stash, a small box full with thankfully enough colour choices for this project. I explored different ways of making marks and...

... my favourite is stitches made perpendicular to the satin stitching. The D rings were also recycled. They are silver and the clasp is bronze and I don't think it really matters. They aren't side by side and the clasp isn't even visible most of the time. 

There are several ways to add a flap to a bag. One is with a grown on flap drafted as part of the back pattern piece, another is inserting the flap into the seam allowance between the exterior and the lining fabrics, and the other is sewn on like this one. I liked how it allowed me to add the black and white striped fabric to the back of the bag as well as the front. Looking at it now, I wonder does it need some yellow stripes like...

... the front. My favourite form of balance is tension where there is a focal point and a secondary focal point of almost equal interest. The three yellow stripes do that. They are satin stitched by hand with pearl cotton. In fact, there is quite a lot of handwork on this piece which is not normal for me and is something I want to explore more. As I age, I find that my stitching is slowing down and I want to be with the developing piece longer. 

The lining is striped. I should have bought the entire bolt when I saw this fabric but you never know it's going to be a favourite until later. I did buy enough for a pair of pants and have been using the remnants for all sorts of projects. The pants are now too big for me so they will probably get cut up and refashioned next time I clean my closet.

Inside are the green zipper pocket and the pink double welt pocket that I talked about in an earlier post. I have been researching starting a YouTube channel and one of the topics would be techniques like these. I'm a curious creative, constantly researching different ways to do things, and often my resulting technique is a mix of several others. That would be fun to share. What do you think?

Another topic would be the importance of exploring ideas to see what's possible even if they don't end up happening in that project because no matter what, the learning will go forward. Above, I mixed colours to get the same yellow-orange as the focal button and painted two wooden buttons to match. The colour was perfect only when I sewed them onto the strap ends, they distracted from rather than added to the finished look. Gone!

Things aren't always as they seem. That's certainly true with colour. This is a medium turquoise fabric on a black background that is machine stitched with purple thread. The thread outlining the shape is a bright yellow and the hand stitching is in a bright lime green. This image looks brown and dull. So interesting. 

One thing that's come up with my research into bag making is an attempt by designers to have as few pieces or seams as possible. Another is making it more complicated than necessary to turn the bag right side out by birthing the entire bag through the pocket bag just to avoid a visible seam on the inside lining that wouldn't actually be visible if neatly stitched and hidden under your stuff but it would be far easier to construct and especially to turn. Less can be more... and sometimes more is less... as in more pieces and more seams equals less stress, less difficulty, and less complications.

My favourite type of lining is a drop in lining like the one I used with this bag. It is held in place by binding around the top opening. To complete it, I dropped the lining in place, pinned the layers, and then basted them together by machine. After that, I pinned and stitched the binding in place by machine. Most bag makers would have done this in one go. Next, I turned the folded edge of the binding to the wrong side, pinned it aligned to the stitching line, and slip stitched it in place by hand before top stitching by machine. Most would have eliminated the hand stitching.

I find taking the time to do these steps individually is less stressful, there is less opportunity for mistakes, and the finished product is more professional PLUS... I'm not in a hurry. I'm here for the process, the learning, the experience, and not just to quickly whip up another bag. I need a creative journey far more than another purse. I think that we - the creative community - need a regular dose of the healing nature of less stressful making, of slow stitching - whether it's by hand or by machine - whenever possible. My morning hour is my daily dose. 

There was a moment of sunshine yesterday where I could open the garage doors and paint some canvas. It was beige originally and I'd already dyed it denim blue. Over that, I added white, then green, yellow, and bronze to create layers. Once it dries, I'll set the colours and decide what's next. I'm not sure yet if I'll choose the pattern now and build within that shape or continue painting the fabric first and respond to what's there. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - progress on the book and the bags