Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Hands Of a Maker

My dad is a carpenter, a farmer, a breaker of horses, a dog lover, a mechanic, an artisan, a father. A lasting impression I have of my father is of how large his hands are. Family legend has it, that as a baby and small toddler I could sit in the palm of my father's hand.

When I was a small child, those large hands lifted me up onto my first horse. Years later, when I was a teenager, those large hands drew ball point pen "tattoos" down my arms; snakes wrapped around daggers were my favorite and his specialty. Together we rode horses, lifted hay bales, and attended to the piglets.

I often think of my dad's hands when I am watching my own hands make things. My hands are tiny in comparison, but they bear a resemblance; calloused and worn they are working hands.

This Christmas I knit my dad a pair of fingerless mittens; made from tough Peruvian wool twisted alongside sock yarns, they are mittens that will work as hard as he does.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

No Such Thing

There's no such thing as too much art. I own over 110 pieces of original art that I have traded for, been gifted, and even on occasion, purchased for myself. This doesn't even include my growing collection of artisan mugs. The only thing I have more of in my home are books. The larger pieces of art are hung tastefully throughout my home on larger feature walls (and I ran out of those a long time ago). That left my growing collection of small and tiny art without a lot of space to be hung in. I chose to hang these salon style. Salon style uses clusters of paintings grouped together and can very easily incorporate an eclectic mix of styles and frames. My walls are a constant work in progress, as well as a source of inspiration, as I add new pieces throughout the year.

A grouping of smaller paintings can read as one large one.

Okay. okay, I know. I have over achieved on this one (as usual). I like to think that this wall has transcended salon style into full on "inspiration wall". I do spend an awful lot of time staring at it though, and that is the point.

Don't be afraid to become an avid art collector. Pick a wall and go for it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Something Squidly This Way Comes

"Something Squidly This Way Comes" is an emerging artist mentorship group I created to help showcase the artwork of young adult and teen artists.  These are artists who have been working alongside me in my studio for years. They will be displaying their artwork this weekend as part of the Stinking Fish Fall Show at the Montessori West-Mont school campus (4075 Metchosin Road).

 "The nerds and the squids were one."
Author: Stephen Chbosky

Mason Menzies
Digital 3D

Raine Menzies
Watercolor and ink

Jay Larsen
Art brownies

Elora Fe
Acrylic on canvas

Jenna Davis

We hope to see you there.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tentacles and Little Paws

It was all tentacles and little paws on deck this past month as my West-Mont students and I tackled two large collaborative quilt projects.

Quilting with children on a large scale like this (58 students) is not for the faint of heart. This project is prep heavy, coming in at over 55 hours of personal prep time.

Status: Worth it!

I would like to thank the estate of  Kay Reamsbotham for the generous donation of all the quilting fabrics.

This is truly a collaborative project, with older students pitching in to help with sewing buttons or threading needles and tying knots. Karly even became our resident "whisker expert." Once she learned the stitch technique for making whiskers, she helped teach the other students who needed to make whiskers.

And talk about confidence boosting.When 6 year old Nowa chose the hardest square on the octopus to make he assured me with joyful confidence that this was the square for him.

Here's how the project and prep breaks down:

1. Prime, draw and paint a pattern onto canvas that is the size you want your quilt to be (8 hours prep). 

2. Measure and cut the canvas pattern apart into 6 inch squares (1 hour prep).

3. Prepare fabric scraps by cutting them into 8 inch squares. This is when the students get to choose the pattern square they want, as well as their fabric choices. I always prepare about 10% extra, so that the last students choosing their fabrics still have options (4.5 hours prep).

4. Translating the pattern to fabric; I used tracing paper to create the fabric pieces to be sewn. I chose to do this for the students as it is a complicated and time consuming step. I imagine smaller classes and older students could manage this step for themselves. The prepared squares are then put into embroidery hoops (8 hours prep).

5. We are almost ready to sew now. The last step is to prep the threads. Ordinary thread tangles too easily and embroidery thread is too thick. The solution is to separate the 6 strands of embroidery thread into strands of two. I wind the threads onto card stock, ready for threading. I then thread the needles and coil them into egg cartons to keep them tangle free. This has to be done multiple times before the quilts are done, and is a really nice step for the students to help out with (3 hours prep).

6. Ready to sew! Here is Nowa's square that he has been sewn and is waiting to have it's buttons added.

7. Piecing the squares together is when the magic happens. Have fun! The fabric can then be quilted with batting and backing and decorative trim (25 hours prep).

It took my students about three art classes each to sew their quilt squares. (Other misc tasks between classes 6 hours prep). 

These beautiful quilts will be on display during the Stinking Fish Studio Fall Show at the West-Mont School.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Up cycle Recycle Dadcycle

I have been stealing my dad's clothes for as long as I can remember.

 I especially love stealing his shirts. This plaid shirt is without a doubt my favorite old squishy, cozy, comfy! But, it was huge on me and very unflattering. I wore it anyways.

Recently I started thinking about ways to up cycle this shirt into something more stylish. I loved the character design of Elphias Doge in the Harry Potter movie The Deathly Hallows. I couldn't get over all those layers!

It isn't exactly practical, so I went for a modest version with two layers.

The first step was to modify shirt #1 by removing the sleeves, narrowing the shoulder yoke, shortening and resetting the sleeves, adding the cuffs and adding waist-shaping. I made sure to keep the integrity of sewing the flat felled seams you usually find in men's shirting.

Now, for shirt #2. I used the pockets, back hem, front button bands and collar. I love all the quirky details of this shirt, which is now a long fitted tunic. My favorite details are the double collar and cuffs!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Autumn old friend.

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” 

Stephen King, Salem's Lot

I knit this sweater last Spring, just as the weather was turning and it was too hot to wear it. I wanted a thick and squishy, flannel lined, Celtic cabled sweater suited for an old man sipping scotch and smoking cigars. I have been waiting all this time to be able to wear it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


"If you tame me, then
we shall need each other."
Le Petite Prince

acrylic and grease pencil on paper mounted board
30" x 30"

Time Lapse Video:
created by Raine Menzies

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Vera's Dress

You know you are getting on in years when you start taking fashion advice from Vera Stanhope. Every week I watch Brenda Blethyn brilliantly portray DCI Vera Stanhope, a well upholstered Geordie woman of a certain age. As she trudges across the Northumberland countryside solving murders, I have come to notice one thing: her shirt dresses. Underneath her floppy fishing hat, shapeless green coat and mass of personality flaws, Vera wears beautiful shirt dresses. Ha! They probably thought no-one would notice. But once I saw her green linen floral dress, I couldn't unsee it. I became obsessed.

But as a 5 foot 3 inch curvy woman with an E Cup bust, I can't exactly buy off the rack. So now that frumpy Vera Stanhope had inspired this tomboy to start wearing dresses, what was I to do? I often sew tunics for myself, but once I sew something big enough to fit the bust, the rest of the garment is too large and sloppy. Enter the FBA, or the full bust adjustment. Had my prayers been answered?  Before I dove into my stash of expensive fabrics, I gave it a go with some muslin.

An FBA goes a little something like this:

Step: Select a pattern size based on the smallest measurements of your torso; your upper bust and waist. Draw the pattern out onto Swedish tracing paper.

Step 2: Cut your pattern piece apart and add in the extra room you will need. You can find many FBA tutorials online that will walk you through this process.

Step 3: Add extra paper and redraw your dart lines.

The size difference between the pattern size I needed and the FBA adjustment pattern was 3 whole sizes! Now add the fact that I needed a pattern size 4 sizes bigger than my waist measurement to fit my...ahem... va-va-va-voom arse, well, no wonder it sucked big time trying to buy ready to wear clothes off the rack.

After sewing a muslin and making several adjustments along the way I was ready to sew up this adorable sleeping fox fabric. And why not knit a little sweater to go with it? I mean, once I decided to walk the ledge of being girly, why not jump right off the Northumberland cliff so to speak.

So, girly fabric and yarn in hand, off I went to knit and sew my very own version of a "Vera" dress.

Fabric: Napping Fox by Tula Pink
Dress Pattern: McCall's 6696
Yarn: Noro Solo in Olive
Sweater Pattern: Miette, found here on Ravelry