Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Serendipitous Opportunities For Creativity

Recently on our evening news there was a short story about a local charitable organization called Art à la Carte which has been operating in Calgary for 20 years. Their mandate is to “bring art, conversation, and joy to long-term patients by transforming sterile hospital rooms and treatment areas into places of greater comfort and hope.” (From the Art à la Carte website.)

A very few short days later we were contacted by one of their coordinators asking if the Fibre Optics Group would be interested in providing some backless hospital gowns to be used as table décor for their annual fundraising event in September. It was a serendipitous moment that had to be acted upon.

I suppose that I must have made clothes for my dolls growing up but it was my mom who provided my sisters and me with wonderful hand knit sweaters and hand sewn clothes for our dolls. Later in her life she rescued, cleaned, repaired and clothed dolls each year to donate to the Kelowna Firemen’s charity to be given to children at Christmas.

Hospital Couture

Making the hospital gowns for the Gowns without Bounds event in September was a neat way to remember that significant detail about my mom and her life.

Jan and I tied the last bow today and they are ready for delivery.

Visit Art à la Carte’s website to learn more about their programs, how you can donate or volunteer.

Monday, 21 July 2014

“Must have” gadgets for the fibre artist in your life

Just before Christmas I did a blog posting about two neat tools for mixed media projects and promised that I would do a subsequent post on my favourite tools for fibre related projects. While I don’t fancy myself as a gadget kind of gal I do have a few “must have” gadgets on my Chatelaine that are very useful for quilting, surface design and fibre related projects.

What is a Chatelaine you ask? Historically it was a grouping of small items that a housekeeper or lady of the house (a chatelaine) would have attached at her waist or neck with keys, scissors, hanky or other items useful to her every day needs.  Over the years these have morphed into use as a sewing tool complete with scissors, needle cases etc. Some were made of silver and very elaborate, some quite plain as mine strung on a piece of soutache cord, but never the less just as useful. Google Sewing Chatelaine images and you’ll see quite a variety of them. On a similar note, a Housewife or Hussif were small sewing kits often carried by soldiers in the field to mend their uniforms or sew on loose buttons.

Sliver Gripper Tweezer™ 
The first “must have” comes from my favourite Canadian store Lee Valley ToolsThe tool is the Sliver Gripper Tweezer™ that comes with its own handy clip so that it can be attached to your Chatelaine.

They are invaluable to those who paper piece to get rid of those tiny pieces of paper that just won’t give way; for taking out teeny tiny machine quilting stitches; and if you were my dad, removing slivers. These are modestly priced, well made, and from the US.

Gingher Snips™
My second “must have” are my Gingher Snips™, well worth what I paid for them many years ago ($8), but are still worth the price at $12 - $27 depending on where you live or if you have a coupon.  Just 4” long, sharp and light weight; they have a loop on the top so that they can be strung onto your Chatelaine. I also like that they have no thumb hole and are easy to pull out and return to their topper with one hand.

LoRan Needle Theader™
Lastly is the LoRan Needle Theader™ by Dritz. This threader is much more robust than those with the tiny piece of wire that always pulls out with one good tug. It is not useful for small eyed needles, but great for threading embroidery floss/perle cottons onto a larger eyed needle for hand stitching. Once again, this handy tool can be strung onto your Chatelaine for easy access. These are reasonably priced at about $2.

There is no affiliation to any of these companies – I’m just pleased to share with you the tools of the trade that I find very useful.

What’s your favourite sewing tool of all time for quilting, hand stitching, surface design or fibre arts and why?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Lost Art of Ribbon Work

Project and close up shots of leaves, bud and flower.
Jan and I just completed the spring session with the Calgary Public Library and presented “The Lost Art of Ribbon Work”. Each participant received a kit, complete with wired ribbon, linen backing and a frame and learned to stitch a simple boat leaf and Jewel Weed flower and put it all together in the frame.

Ribbon flowers have been around for a long time and along with other artistic pursuits, was a skill learned by young women.  In France, one centre of fashion, women could earn a living making these flowers, leaves, rosettes and other ribbon trims sold to design houses and women to embellish hats, gloves, lingerie and headbands.

The 1920’s saw quite a resurgence of the use of these types of decorations.

Republished by Dover Publications in 1986.
Along with this came an interest in The Language of Flowers, where each flower or colour of flower had a particular meaning related to love, death, sorrow or happiness.

We showcased a sample board of other flowers and leaves, which surprisingly are very easy to make, many only requiring a few inches of ribbon and a few stitches to shape and hold them together. The Calgary Public Library has many books in their collection and videos and on line tutorials for making ribbon flowers abound on the internet.

Sample board of ribbon leaves and flowers.
We will be teaching again with the Calgary Public Library this fall, presenting two new projects at 13 libraries throughout the city. 

Registration for these sessions will begin towards the end of August so watch for the new program guide. We hope to see you there.                                                   Jan and Meredith

Thursday, 12 June 2014

FOG Tuesday - Collage Exercise

This month’s collage exercise was based on the Design Principle – Motion/Movement.

This is not referring to kinesthetic art, which is actually movable art such as clothing, or a mobile, but it refers to the techniques that imply movement, or art work that illustrates movement.

Movement or Motion:
Warm Up Collages
Design Principle - Motion/Movement
  • can be made with lines and streaks around a figure or shape
  • can be implied through blurring the outlines of an element
  • can be achieved by the blending of colours at the edges
For example:
  • a figure of a runner leaning forward, or a tree bent at an angle may indicate wind.
  • a variation in the size of elements, moving from small to large, similar a bouncing ball
  • by overlapping elements, like a time lapse photograph, movement is implied

Movement can also refer to the way a viewer’s eye moves around the art piece. This is created by the artist arranging the elements to encourage the eye to move around the entire art work. This can be enhanced by using curved forms that keep the eye moving in a circular direction.

FOG Tuesday - On Your “Marker”, Get Set and Colour!

For the final FOG Tuesday, before we resume in September, we experimented with dyeing on silk with Sharpie™ Markers and rubbing alcohol.  The silk scarves were purchased from Dharma Trading and are a nice quality scarf with hand rolled hems, though apparently those will soon be long gone replaced with machine sewn hems.

I digress – it started out as a Sharpie marker event, but the Bic Mark It® markers were on sale at Staples for $5 per pack of 12, so several tried those along with Copic™ Markers, Prismacolor™ Markers and several more that I can’t remember. Each had its own properties that seemed to work better for different effects. Some colours seemed to work more effectively with some brands and some markers like the Copic have a wider range of colours. Broad tip, medium tip and fine tip markers each had their uses on the projects. However, the most important similarity was that they are all alcohol based markers.

Now the rubbing alcohol. Who knew that rubbing alcohol had an expiry date? Hands up. I certainly did not. Rubbing alcohol comes in a variety of strengths depending on the manufacturer – 70%, 90% and 99%. The higher concentrations seemed to work better in most cases and it did seem that the fresher the rubbing alcohol the better. We used it both in spray bottles and in eye droppers for different effects.

Tim Holtz Blending Solution
on raw silk.
The Tim Holtz Blending Solution® also worked very well, but would be very expensive to use for larger pieces or for a classroom project. 

We didn’t limit our experimentation to the silk scarves, but tried all types of paper – Sumi paper, handmade papers, coffee filters;  fabric – cotton, raw silk, this strange man made polypropylene fabric I had just picked up, polyester ribbon and cotton quilt batting; ceramic tiles and some other odds and sods.

Most of the techniques we tried were direct application of the marker to the paper or fabric and the two main methods of application of the alcohol were direct spraying and a targeted drop with an eye dropper.

Rubber Stamp Impression
Dots on that strange
man made fibre.

One neat method of application was to colour a rubber stamp with the marker, spray it with alcohol and then apply to the paper/fabric. You could also get a second ghost print from the same application.

Another method was to put marker dots in a circle (one or more circles of dots) and a larger dot in the centre and then apply the alcohol to the centre dot with an eye dropper.

Once your project is dry you should heat set the silk and cotton with an iron.

Siri and her scarf,
before and after
We’re saying Good Bye to one of our FOG members. Siri has been in Calgary for a couple of years and is now returning home. Here she is with her silk scarf, before and after. We have enjoyed having her in the group and hope she stays in touch.

Top L. Detail of scarf, Top Middle and R, before and after.
Bottom L, after spraying, Middle and R. before and after
Just a safety note, we did have good ventilation in the room we were in and were not overly bothered by the smell of the alcohol markers or alcohol, however, that may be a consideration for your experiments at home or in a large group.

Finer weave, high thread count, white cotton.
Medium weight unbleached muslin.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

FOG Tuesday - FOG Gets Heated Up

Our May session of FOG started off as usual with our warm up collage exercise - materials supplied and only a 1/2 hour to complete it. This month we created collages based upon the design principle of Scale and Proportion.

Our collages
Scale refers to the relationship between two or more objects, one that has a commonly known size (usually compared to our own human scale). Proportion has a subtle distinction to scale. It refers to the relative size and scale of the various elements in a design. The issue is the relationship between objects, or parts, of a whole. (How wide it is compared to how tall it is.)

Next we moved on to using our heat guns to melt and distress Tyvek®Tyvek® fabric, chip bags that had foil linings, Evolon, Organza, Lutradur (a spunbond web material manufactured by Pellon), other spunbond fabrics and various miscellaneous materials people brought to try. Some of us were very meticulous in making notes on their results, while others of us just winged it and trusted their memories.  We even had some Tyvek® beads being made, although we have posted on these previously when we did our bead making day last year.
Tyvek - one side painted

Tyvek with soldering iron craters
One of the really interesting things about Tyvek is that the bubbling occurs on the opposite side to the side being heated. So, painting it green on one side and then heating that side results in some white bubbling with green background. If you then take a soldering iron to the bubbles, you create some interesting craters. Combining the Tyvek and organza also produced an interesting result.

Tyvek beads
Lutradur (face) and Evolon
Tyvek with Organza
Mystery material

As you will see there were lots of marvellous results.  It was a wonderful day, and the weather co-operated so that we could do our heating fear of causing the fire/smoke alarm to go off.  We have done that a few too many times!!

Chip bag inked with alcohol
inks,plus the reverse
of the Tyvek with craters
Another mystery
Several examples, including chip bags
Look at these notes!!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Final Session "Stitch Your Way Around the World"

Jan and I completed the final “Stitch Your Way Around the World” project for this session of the Calgary Public Library with a return visit to the Ukraine.

Participants could choose from two different Ukrainian cross stitch patterns and learn about aida cloth and counted cross stitch and there was a great amount of concentration as they carefully counted the rows on the cloth in preparation for stitching. Several people commented that they felt very relaxed while they stitched.

Stitch your stress away. Author Unknown
While we were stitching up on the second floor of the Fish Creek Library Branch, the 5th Annual Fibre Arts Fair was being hosted on the main floor with several fibre arts groups giving demos on rug hooking, quilting and other fibre related crafts.

We took the opportunity to have a table with information on the Fibre Optics Group (FOG) available to those who were interested.

Registration is now open for the May-August library programs. We will be doing a framed project at each session of “The Lost Art of Ribbon Work”.