Thursday, 10 April 2014

Stitch Your Way Around The World: West Coast Button Blankets

We continued to Stitch Our Way Around the World, with a stop on the West Coast of North America to take a look at button blankets. Native groups along the west coast from Washington and Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska have made button blankets to wear in a variety of ceremonial events.

The Northern Lights.
Once the Europeans came to North America, natives were able to trade for the materials required to make these button blankets. Red, black or blue fabrics similar to wool felt or melton cloth and two hole mother of pearl buttons are the main supplies required.

It was not easy to find how to make one, but a visit to ShannonThunderbird’s website gave us some great information. The main rules seem to be a rectangle of blue or black bordered on three sides by red with the central clan crest/spirit animal in one of the contrasting colours. 

The crest is often surrounded by the mother of pearl buttons and other abstract or realistic designs are made with buttons on other areas of the blanket.

As our time is limited in our Calgary Public library sessions, we interpreted our own version of the button blanket in the form of a bookmark.

It was interesting to see the variety of ways each person used their buttons and the meaning they gave to their piece.

Most of the participants had not heard of the button blanket and commented that it was fun to learn about a part of our Canadian heritage.

A Spirit Bear
dreams of salmon.

We have two stops left on our stitching journey so stay tuned for those blog posts.

Three interpretations of
Spirit Bear on a journey.

FOG Tuesday – Paste Paper

Spring has finally sprung and the bright sun and Chinook winds on Tuesday helped to fuel our creative juices and we all produced some amazing and colourful pieces of paste paper.
Three different paste recipes all using the
same leaf motif from a roller.
The recipes for the actual paste were varied – 5 in all. Two of us chose to use straight methyl cellulous, one was a generic brand and the other was Elmer's Art Paste™.  One made up a batch using cornstarch and water, and the other two recipes used wheat flour. Extensive reading on the internet uncovered a variety of recipes, though it is interesting to note that the cornstarch/wheat varieties said that they could attract bugs, while the methyl cellulose would not.

Mark making tools cut from a meat tray.
Each of us tried a variety of mark making tools: commercial combs for decorative painting, roller stamps, sponges cut and tied to make interesting impressions, credit cards, the back of a ceramic tile to name a few. Personally, I found that the best mark making tools were the ones I had made from a styrofoam meat tray with the edges cut with decorative scissors.

We used a variety of inexpensive brushes to apply the paste paint and experimented with papers ranging from copy paper, card stock, mixed media paper from Strathmore and some glossy magazine cover paper left over from a print shop

Crayola Finger Paints.
For our paints we used Golden Fluid Acrylic, dollar store acrylic paints, metallic paint, Liquitex Basic Acrylic Paint and Reeves Acrylic Paint™ in tubes. One unexpected find, and a blast from the past, were Crayola Finger Paints™. Crayola would not tell me what the ingredients were, but after using them I'm certain that they must be methyl cellulose based. There are only 4 colours in the box, but the results were great. Almost all of the other paints produced nice results.

Top, mark making with styrofoam tools.
Bottom, mark making with a credit card.

Finally, we had several outcomes from our techniques that are worthy to note:
  • we found that in some cases it helped to size the paper with uncoloured paste before adding the coloured paste
  • that it was helpful to let the paste sit on the paper for a while to dry and then make our marks
  • that in some cases if the page was too wet we could take one or more pulled prints from the wet page, which improved the original page
  • that you need lots of space and drying time
  • and that the resulting pages will be fun to use in upcoming projects.

Right, original print.
Left, pulled print from the original.
Methyl cellulose paste.
Wheat paste.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Travel Journals 2

Ready for Bird Watching
We completed our second Travel Journal session at the Bowness Library last week and had a large and energetic group who got right into the thick of things prepping blank, white journal pages ready for travel photos, vacation and holiday rubber stamps, ephemera and embellishments.

Strathmore Sketchbooks

The Calgary Public Library gave each participant a lovely Strathmore Sketchbooks  for their journal project and I think it’s safe to say that everyone had a great time – the hour and a half went by much too quickly.

Journaling cards ready to use.

Finished pages.

Refer to the February 3 blog post for Tips and Tricks for Travel Journaling.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Alberta Surface Design Association Exhibition

If you're out and about Calgary over the month of April 5 - 29, drop in to Atlantis Framing to see entries into the first Alberta Surface Design Association exhibition.

Twenty four SDA members  are showing new works in an exhibition entitled
"What's on the Surface?".

Six of the exhibitors are also members of
the Fibre Optics Group

Leslie Barnes
Siri Djuve
Diane Duncan
Meredith Helgeson
Jan Scruggs
Lynda Williamson

The opening reception at Atlantis
is Friday, April 11 from 6 - 9 PM.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


This month’s collage exercise was based on the first of the Design Principles – FOCAL POINT.

A focal point in an art piece can be created in a number of ways:
Warm Up Collages - Design Principle - FOCAL POINT
  • By the use of a textural contrast to the rest of the surrounding elements
  • By creating open space in the midst of clutter
  • By inserting a realistic element in the middle of abstract objects
  • By providing a vertical element amidst horizontal lines
  • By placing a large element in the midst of several small elements
  • By using colour to draw the eye, for example complimentary colours, an area of red with lots of surrounding green, will create a focal point
  • By changing the style of pattern

It’s interesting to note that most fine art, collage or mixed media pieces have a focal point, but many traditional and modern style quilts do not. Quilts (unless art or landscape quilts, or patterns such as Medallion and Lone Star) are based on a repeat of same style blocks in regular settings.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

FOG Tuesday – The Thrill of the Thermofax™

“Well Maggie Muggins, you’ve had quite a day!”

You might have to be a Canuck (Canadian) and of a certain age to remember this line, but at FOG Tuesday I think that we all had “a Maggie Muggins Day!” Tra la …

Lynda and "The Machine"
The magic of this process is the machine itself – once a constant in every staff room, in every school in the country – the Thermofax. Lynda generously brought her thermofax machine and the Riso™ screen required to burn the screens for screen-printing.

We all made at least 10 screens at a fraction of the cost of purchasing ready-made ones or sending away to have one custom made. The limit in size is the width of the screening, just under 12”, but you could make them as long as you want as it comes on a roll.

A "Lynda W. original"
Hand drawn

We learned a lot about “just the right” amount of carbon required from either a toner based laser printer or toner based copiers (ink jet prints do not work), the types of thickened dyes or screen printing inks to use and the best tools to get a great print. 

One neat thing that we all discovered is that newspaper text works quite well, especially the headlines.

I certainly learned a lot about my laser printer, my copier, Picasa™ and Photostudio™ while I was tweaking images to print. I was very pleased with the results of my photo below.

A "Meredith H. original"
Photo manipulation

Karen brought along her Gocco, a similar process developed in the 1970’s.
Karen’s was the smaller version, and she made multi-screened cards back in the day.

"The Masterpiece"

Lynda brought a huge board covered in canvas and we each did test prints as soon as our screens were burned and were quite giddy when they turned out or made faces when they didn’t.

A Karen B. original in progress

Left to Right: 
Jan S,          Siri D,         Leslie B.
All hand drawn originals
A "Chris T" original
Hand drawn

All of these images were printed with thickened dyes.

Now we just need to get printing!

As with any images you use, be mindful of copyright, especially if you plan to sell your work.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Stitch Your Way Around the World: Turkish Embroidery

Yesterday was the second in the series of embroidery sessions being offered by Jan and me through the Calgary Public Library where we featured the basics of Turkish embroidery.


We had a full house, including our first two men in the many sessions we have taught. In some cultures stitching by men is not unusual and one of our participants yesterday commented that in India boys as well as girls, are taught to sew when they are young.

Couched gold thread
Turkish embroidery is defined by a number of features: gold thread work, couching of threads onto the surface of the work, animal and floral motifs and the recurrence of reds and greens in the colour palette.

Sarma is a type of satin stitch that may be done over a bed of other stitches or over a piece of felt giving the embroidery a raised look.

Gozeme (outlining) stitch
As our time is limited in these sessions we opted to use just the felt and not complete the satin stitch, though some of the stitchers were going to do that at home.

Sarma may be completed with or without the use of the gozeme stitch, which is used for outlining. A common colour for this stitch is a rich dark brown.

Gozeme is a type of running stitch with one thread of the fabric between the stitches not evenly spaced as we are used to seeing a running stitch.

Ready to be frayed

Neatness counts!
The final step was to fuse a piece of iron on interfacing to the back and fray the edges.

Thanks to all of our stitchers and hand models!