I come from a long line of sign writers and am happiest with a brush and some paint! Add
paint to fabric and I get really excited!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Longarm Love

Gradually my longarm and I are becoming fast friends. As I continue to learn, I am gradually finishing up some small baby quilts in-between what I have dubbed my practice pieces. I have started with very basic designs on the quilts, but I go wild and crazy on my practice pieces!! These are full of sunflowers and meandering vines, wacky feathers that no bird would claim ownership of, script, doodles, whatever my heart and hands find themselves creating. Before I purchased this machine, I had a cautious curiosity about pantographs. Right now they hold no more than a passing interest. Time will tell, but I am drawn more and more to freehand design work. Perhaps this is a logical spin-off from my sign writing days.

It is very neat to combine my two loves; the basics of sewing combined with the skills of lettering and brush control. My hubby peered over my shoulder early on and commented that he could see why I was drawn to longarming - it is very similar to sign writing. And he is right! It feels very familiar and comfortable.

And though it is the season of bare feet and cool sandals at best, these are my footwear of choice as I stitch merrily along! These waterproof (yippee! dry toes! woot! woot!) puppies are brand spanking new and my feet need to adjust to them and the socks I have stuffed in there. To be honest, it is tough job as I have never met a pair of clogs I didn’t like (because you can slip them off when no one is looking) and socks never stay long on my feet. But, as long as I am focused on creating designs with my F55, I forget my feet encased in leather and I stitch merrily along.....

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Amherst Shore

The neighbouring province of Nova Scotia has an amazing network of Provincial Parks. This past Friday evening my husband and I made a last minute decision to head out to the one at Amherst Shore and try out a new tent as we prepare for an even bigger adventure in the near future. We arrived with just enough day light to set up our campsite and head down to the beach to watch the sun set over this beautiful area.

The campground was full, but we were able to secure a site in their “overflow” section - which was just perfect for us! We made our home for the night in the old apple orchard where wild raspberry bushes covered the ground, as wild raspberries are apt to do! 

We spent the next day exploring the area on our bikes, partook of some lovely cuisine in Cap Pele and ended our day with a swim in the incredibly warm waters at a favorite little beach nearly. 

All in all a wonderfully refreshing mini vaca!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My mother, myself

I don’t remember exactly when I first learned to sew, but it was my beloved mom who taught me. I watched her sew beautiful pieces of clothing for so many members of our family and for many of her friends. She created brocade gowns with matching hats, sewed silk sheaths, whipped up taffeta dresses by the yard, made numerous figure skating outfits for cousins, created sweet coats, baby clothes, men’s clothes, costumes, pants, aprons - a seemingless end stream of clothes came out of our home, all created by her. I remember a favorite plaid dress with smocked cuffs and yoke, a seersucker bathrobe for my hospital stay when my tonsils had to come out, a terrycloth beach jacket (which we still have...), Barbie clothes (which I have always refused to sew myself), more Barbie clothes and lots of Ken clothes. It was a rare week that my sister and I didn’t come home from school to a new doll outfit lovingly crafted by her.

I know I was using a needle and thread at a very young age and she was the one who inspired me. By the time I was 10, I was creating stuffed toys out of soft flannel for the Red Cross because of her influence. Mom showed me the basics, bought me patterns and fabric and allowed me to work away on her mother’s beautiful Singer sewing machine with the handsome curved wooden cover and by the time I was 12, I was sewing clothes for myself.  When we were ready, it was Mom who showed my sister and me how to take foil cooking wrap and use it to make patterns of favorite blouses and shirts so we could make more of the same. 

I am sure Mom sewed out of necessity as she grew up in a family of 6 girls. Her own mother had sewn clothes for her daughters, many times out of cast off or outgrown clothing, and Mom often mentions matching wool coats she and several of her sisters had that were created this way. But Mom has always had a creative flair and just a wee bit of drama in her....The pieces she created always had that extra something that took it to the next level and made it so much more than a homemade garment.

My mother also made bright fun quilts from the scraps left over from her sewing projects, and often times the tops were pieced over old, worn out quilts that either she had made years before or that my great grandmother Cook had made many years before. I have several of these wonderfully worn quilts, now soft with age and use and whenever I wrap myself up in them, I remember wonderful childhood summers at the family cottages in Rosebank where time seemed endless. 

Creativity was encouraged all the time in our home growing up! Mom would cover the table and floor with clear plastic sheets and let us take over the kitchen with our paint and crayons and sticky glues. I can honestly say she never said no to our desires to make art though I am sure there were days she would have preferred we read or played somewhere else.

When I had my own children, I fashioned my own attitudes to having art as part of your daily world after my Mom's. I tried to follow her example and allowed my children free reign with paint and paper, clay and fabric, whatever was of interest that day. And I made clothes for my children out of our old clothes as well as from new fabric, and felt great about up-cycling items. Using these materials made sense. I cut up items we were finished with and resewed them into something useful.

Using my new longarm is interesting for so many reasons. As I work on it, I feel my mother’s influence and love of the process. I have generations of experience in the needle arts behind me and as I guide the machine, I feel these forces coming together to help me create in a manner that is totally new to us all.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The F55 revealed!

I probably should have bought a new car. But, even though my Vibe is 9 years old, I still love it. So much so, that I will continue looking for the perfect second hand Vibe rather than buying a new car. Pontiac, silly Pontiac, doesn’t make these cars anymore so when previously owned come on the market, they are snapped up! 

I have always referred to my Vibe as a “SUV wannabe” - it rides high, the drive is comfortable and I know it drives like a tank through any weather conditions because that is what I have done all these years. Plus the back seat accommodates 6’2” sons and their long legs. Although soon after we received the car (it was on order for 6 long months!), Gabe got his license and rarely drove with us, let alone in the back seat! But, no matter! It is still a great feature!

So, I didn’t buy a car. 

Instead I bought a Millennium longarm....and I am loving it.....

Happy birthday to me!!

With special thanks to my long suffering husband who spent an entire day setting me up and is continuing to suffer through my new-ownership growth pains!

Am joining the The Needle and Thread Network - make sure you take a look and see what creative Canadians do when the weather is hot!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Freedom 55!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain
Stumbling across this quote is rather timely for me. It has pushed me to re-assess exactly how I want to spend my time and consequently I have had many heart to hearts and ultimately made some life altering decisions.

Ok, so what is on the box is the truth, but the shipper guy kind of looked at me strange when he read it because when he dropped it off, I swear my voice was at least 5 octaves higher and I although I didn’t hug him, I was hugging myself!

One of the biggest decisions is now sitting in my living room....I have named it my F55 aka Freedom 55....I am very excited!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Drama Days. And nights....

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.” Bob Thaves

As I chuckled over the absoluteness of that statement, I was immediately lost in visions of dance routines and the tap, tap, tap of tap shoes. I am such a fan of musical theatre, and most especially water ballets! I have watched and re-watched all the Ester Williams movies I have been able to find. I love all things synchronized, and glitter and glitz make my heart race!! When my daughter joined synchronized swimming as a young girl, I was thrilled to be on the sidelines, ready to assist in glueing and sewing sequins and other shiny things. I didn’t do so well on the hair side of things though and after her head had been turned into a solid mass of hair with thickened gelatin, I resorted to glue gunning her bun cover to the back of her hair and making her sleep with it this way for the 2 days of the competition....I have never been good with hair. Or flowers.

My daughter was to spend a lot of time on stage and I was an adoring stage Mom. I learned early on when to interject and when to let her do things her own way. But, by the time she got to grade 8 and her Middle School Drama group produced Romeo and Juliet, I was involved. Her Drama Coach had a vision and allowed me to assist, so much so that I shared a NB Excellence in Costuming Award with her and another parent. Although I produced numerous costumes for that production, my favorites were those for my daughter as I had to develop the patterns myself. My daughter played the Nurse and I created her many layered costume including 2 elaborate head pieces and a “fat” suit based very loosely on the one in Mrs. Doubtfire. 

High school brought numerous roles for her to fill as she met a teacher who was to become one of her strongest mentors. Under his tutelage, she learned so much, and in tandem, so did I. I have lost count of the number of productions produced in her 4 years and also lost count of the hours my entire family spent spent building costumes, constructing and painting sets, lettering stage pieces, organizing the costume storage room and dressing rooms, compiling costume bibles, taking photographs, putting up and striking the sets, and transporting all of the above! 

Her time in Drama was a great training ground for life. And while she was busy learning lines, dance routines, songs, monologues and helping back stage, if I wasn’t painting sets, I was usually found in front of the cutting table or sewing machines building one of many necessary pieces. Probably one of my earliest and biggest accomplishments within this scope of theatre work was constructing 3 genuine corsets for Into the Woods. Each corset took me 21 hours - after I had first figured out how to create them. 

When building stage pieces, you need to consider so much more than when you are simply sewing garments. They need to be made so that they will accommodate a variety of sizes of actors, be strong enough for multiple costume changes and performances, allow for ease of movement, allow the dressers to get actors in and out of them easily during quick changes, and maintain a fresh look. There are many times you have to look outside the fabric store box to find exactly what would fulfill these needs. 

In order to keep the corsets shape intact and to help make sure they in turn kept all the body parts where they should be, I ended up using stripped electrical wire for the boning. It was difficult enough to use, but in doing so, I also had to make sure each piece was the perfect length so that the actor wearing it wouldn’t be stabbed during a performance if she happened to move a way that made the boning shift! For some of the first performances, I sat ready with my wire clippers so I could quickly adjust the lengths when one of the girls came off stage! 

When I was looking at photos from my daughter’s drama years, I realized she had worn one of the corsets again in her final year of high school in a production her Drama Coach wrote for her and that yielded her a NB Provincial DramaFest Outstanding Actor Award. That was the wonderful thing about building pieces for the Moncton High School Drama program - all pieces became resource pieces for other schools and theatre groups and many were integrated into other MHS productions. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


You never know what you will get with a Maritime summer. I remember hot, muggy summers of past, but I also remember some very cool, rainy months that were no comfort once winter arrived. I have been known to hit the beaches no matter what the conditions, but I admit, I love it best when the water is warm, the wind is slight and the sun is shining! The past two weekends have been perfect beach weather and I have managed to visit a number of beaches both in NB and on PEI.

My favorite beach is the one I grew up on in Cumberland, PEI. The sandbars stretch for miles and the water is some of the warmest north of Florida. When I was young it seemed like I lived on that beach! I remember eating my lunch sandwich in the water because I just couldn’t bear to get out of it for very long. When my children were small, we spent all the time we could here swimming, playing maze on the sandbars, beach combing, building sandcastles. And we were excited to introduce yet another generation to this magical place with my niece's 2 children during our Christmas in June celebration. 

This weekend I joined my husband in Tracadie-Sheila in the northern part of NB and we walked the almost deserted Val-Comeau beach. Such a beautiful stretch of sand that reaches from one village to the next!

On Saturday we drove to his hometown of Beresford, NB and visited two lovely beaches where we have swum many times over the years. We stopped at Youghall Beach- where we have been known to take midnight dips - although today it simply provided a spot to eat lunch. 

We also visited with some cousins at Beresford Beach, another area we have spent much time swimming and fishing and laughing with family over the years.

The sound of waves crashing on the shore, the smell of the salt air, the feel of sand, the sometimes gentle, sometimes wild winds....ah, bliss......

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Stamping again!

My current employment situation is affording me the most time I have had in 12 summers to really stop and enjoy the beauty of this season. I am outdoors as much as I can without totally ignoring some of the more basic household duties. Since my two children went off to university, I have become a very lazy cook, so I eat lots of raw and basic when my hubby is not available to cater to my every culinary whim. Today was a day of iced tea by the potful and I am thinking popcorn would be a finish to my salad. That is as much cooking as I will do.

Everyone should have offspring who buy them a lovely tea infuser and keep them supplied with tea bags!
When my son came home for Christmas in June, he brought with him two large sheets of Safety Kut that I had asked him to pick up at Curry’s Art Supplies. This material is so soft and easy to use and I was itching to try it out. Today was just the day for it and I carved two simple designs and tried them out on some dyed fabric. I can see there are some modifications that need to be made to the hat, but the large open area will allow me to paint in the color of brim I want. Am really enjoying my stylized snail. 
I am an Island girl without her island so all things ocean/beach are in my blood

I also did some sketching and even pulled out my travel watercolor set and painted a bit. Must be summer!

I love berries so much that I actually have a handmade pottery bowl that I only use for eating berries! Raspberries are my all time favorite with blueberries running a tight second.

I am not used to so much free time so I am not settled into a schedule or routine as yet. I am enjoying rediscovering projects and ideas and just looking over my sketch books is getting me inspired. I also have so many quilting and drawing related books I want to read that I have a hard time making myself put them down at bedtime! I have no clear idea yet of one specific project to work on but am enjoying working piecemeal on odds and ends.

Today I am hooking up to the The Needle and Thread Network and wishing all my fellow Canadian quilters a belated Happy Canada Day!

Monday, July 2, 2012

For a variety of reasons, my family has chosen to celebrate Christmas in June this year! Turns out this is an especially good idea when your family lives on the beach and the weather cooperates 110%! We kept it simple, travelling was easy and it was a blast! We agreed unanimously to continue with this new tradition and we all came away rested and relaxed.....how many people can say that after the Christmas holiday?