big life changes, and more small Samara stitchin’



I looked for as many apple tree photos as i could, the beauty that was a big part of our lives, and yard.

And the apple tree is gone now. As i was writing this, the arborists showed up, and now it looks like this:

It *was* it’s time after all, i guess. Most of the core was rotted far down into the base of the trunk, so maybe this was a mercy in one sense. At least in the last 10 years, it had a lot of loving and attention, graced us with explosions of blossoms and battalions of bees, and organic limited edition coralpink applesauce. It’s kind of the last nail in the coffin for here, for us. I had one of the arborists patting me awkwardly on the shoulder as i howled.

BUT, then i had a clever idea and contacted the Calgary Wood Turner’s Guild about the apple tree chunks and the guys were ECSTATIC about the tree, and very very appreciative. They’re divvying it up at their next meeting, and are positive it’s going to make many many beautiful pieces, bowls, plates, chargers etc. That’s quite a legacy too for the tree, so we are thrilled as well. In a year, after a rough cut bowl has dried more, they will finish it and return to us a piece of that wonderful memory incarnate.

It’s the end of an era, a big chunk of our lives together, and perhaps the Universe giving a nudge. Co-incidental? Maybe, but a Strange Confluence of Events has happened, all in the space of less than a month…..

Guess who said they would never live in MIL’s basement again? Hint: both of us. Truth: we now own the basement (or are in the process at least, ’cause you know how long that takes.) (MIL died the end of August.) Actually, we will hopefully own the whole thing, top to bottom. It was and wasn’t a tough decision to make, but pragmatically we chose future stability, less yardwork (the Back40 here at The Stately Barr Manor is a LOT of work, and this summer we realized we spend more time on yard work than we do enjoying the results…….), something that will be OURS, and well, life changes, doesn’t it? There were more pros than cons in this decision, but we sure as hell will miss the back40, yardwork not withstanding, the location near the river and so much wildlife always passing through our yard, the privacy of a large lot and a landlord who was THE BEST LANDLORD EVER. (Really, he is. He got us, we got him, it was a fantastic relationship. Thank you Y, we’ve loved every minute of living in this 100+ year old house, a lot of memories, including being married under the 90 year old apple tree.)

I’ve had to choose carefully which treasured garden flora will come with us–we are going from an area that is approx 75 by 120 feet (minus where the house sits of course πŸ™‚ ) to about 15 by 15…………………… I can make this work though! Fortunately we are still not far enough into Autumn, that i can convince these perennial plants that they’re just being shuffled around (as i do sometimes) instead of being transported 18K! I won’t have a big dye garden, but i know how and where to forage πŸ™‚ even in the new neighbourhood.

Half of my studio is gone. I mean gone as in i got rid of half, not moved it to new digs: i was in the process of deep clearing anyways, and this situation made me realize there were (too) many things in there that i never looked at, used, needed, wanted anymore, so donations, throw outs and sells have been happening. I’m not missing a bit of it either! That too is why i have a good sale on at the shop–i’d rather art go to good homes, than move it.

Clearing out , packing and moving our stuff AND MIL’s stuff however is exhausting! I have limited amounts of time (and intent, because of the exhaustion!) because our deadline is October 31st. I have small projects in various “go bags” and work on them when i can. I desperately want to work on Samara, and am plugging away on her components, these being the latest parts:

LOVE these velvets, still a few left on the shop in mixed packs πŸ™‚

Wish us luck, buy my art, carry on!


a little Samara somethin’ somethin’

Natural dyeing and hand embroidery are what keep me grounded, sane, functioning. Trying to stay focused while dealing with two sets of family, with two sets of issues that directly affect us, my own health changes, you know, Life (and Death…)……..But i have managed to at least finish the velvet hexes, and will start on the ones they replaced. Dyes are madder, quebracho rojo, osage, indigo, cutch, hexes silk, threads cotton.

Neither of us is getting enough sleep, though i’m trying to make sure we eat properly, especially the Greyman who’s appetite is bad at the best of times……

sometimes a week has a lot of days to deal with


The weight of the apples this year was too much. Picking before this happened would sadly have not prevented this: the big branches are thoroughly rotten inside where they “attached” to the tree…… And of course, this was the best year yet for the fruit. Golfball sized and rosy, they make an astonishingly deep pinkycoral sauce that needs no sweetener–but does necessitate hours of cutting up hundreds of them for a score of 3 litres of sauce.

The whole thing may have to come down, a very sad heartbreak. It’s 90 years old we bet, and if/when it’s gone, there will be no shade, no explosive mass of blossoms and bees, no woodpeckers or porcupines or deer visiting, and another part of this house’s history gone…..

There’s a new “baby” who has joined the family.

This is Sally, as sweet as her name. From the face, you’d think she was a grey tabby, but stretched out full, she’s a “torty” with tab markings. Sally belonged to my departed MIL, and it’s a good thing we rescued her when we did, the night before MIL passed away (Aug 30), because apparently after a death, only the executor of the estate is allowed to enter the home until everything has been inventoried. (We know they would have fed her, BUT they are still in a foreign country far away, and not back until Sunday night of this coming weekend! Try changing a whole family’s tickets for an early return–3times the price of the original airfare return!!!!!!!!!! She’s have been one very hungry and dehydrated kitty!)

We have wanted this girl for a long time. She lived under MIL’s bed for the most part as she was petrified anytime someone came in the house. We figured cleaning staff may be responsible for this and are so pleased, that while still skittish, she makes herself at home every night on my bed, with plenty of purrs, head butts and long luxurious stretches. She is HOME. Slapshot and Nessie are really not interested, except for the extra “Fud” being doled out πŸ™‚ The family will blend well once again.

I am still trying to decide which natural dye i will use to transform the white swiss dotted cotton to the body of a dress.

I did two little tests (to the right) with quebracho rojo “leftovers”, the paler almost brown an exhausted bath, the pinker an alcohol extraction, less used. I’m leaning towards them with an overdye of tansy, to get the coral i want, but may slip some madder dips on some areas for a slight ombre effect.

I’ve also been working when i can on the new hexes for Samara.

They’ll replace the original ones cut from the background, which will also be embroidered this way and re-attached.

We’re just taking each day as it comes, slow, doing what we can as we can.






progress on second Suzani, and more importantly, Samara too!

I’m trying to spend less time on line, and more in the studio….ha.

Samara’s body is almost done. Her wings are pretty much done, if not in execution, but in idea. (You know that one: in your mind it’s done because you know what you are going to do to finish that section, and can “see” it done πŸ™‚ ). I decided to change up the hexes along the right side though: the recent naturally dyed velvets are perfect to tie in with the areas around the wings. I’ll still use the cotton “solids” that were originally slated for there, and treat the stitching the same way.

I added another greenblue thread as well:

Same type of stitch in think as “Original Truths” was done with; i do like that organic root/branch/path idea:

I was looking at older work photo files again, puzzling over how to treat that big area of red background, and found progress shots of “Strange Soul Take Flight” (2013), a continuation and expansion of the root idea:

I need more threads in the blue/green range as that is what’s going to tie it all together. I may combine some cutch or quebracho rojo with the tansy and indigo: i don’t want this idea to fight with the hexes.


Now known as “Harlequin”, i could also jog the suzani part into ‘soupzani”……… I threw a bit too much at it, but i’m just going to go with it. It’s joyful, it’s fun to work on, and what the hell: whose rules anyways?


I know already that the edges will be bound with indigo, whether in silk velvet or cotton, solid or eyelet (?)


And the dress fabric from the previous post is now being mordanted πŸ™‚

Samara mock up, oh bugger

“Autumn after all is not just a time of endings, but of rich harvests and warm gatherings.” October 2017

So, now she is all colour, not rust and neutrals.

BUT. OH-OH. *NOW* we think of stay-stitching ALL edges????? Lesson apparently not learned well enough very long ago: bias stretches. Bias stretches a LOT. A LOT of LOT. Especially when it gets washed, dyed, washed, overdyed and hung to dry……

There’s a hell of a lot more space between edges now than i had envisioned. (This is a loose pin job, but even if i wonked her in there “correctly”, there’s still more space than originally “planned”……..) Shrug. More embroidery to add. (Oh darn.) I’ll also have to slightly, daintily, delicately manipulate by slight dainty delicate gathering to fit sides together, especially at the leg area.

However, we are happy to be working with each other again.





Samara, Samara, will you ever be?

I don’t know WHAT it is about this piece that keeps stalling work. I LOVE the idea, the form, the work so far (with a few minor colour quibbles), but she’s been pinned to the design wall again for 6 months with no more stitching done.

She started like this, created during my ACAD residency in 2016:

In August of 2017, she had this much (little!) work done on her:

Rolled up and stuffed away, until i got ruthless in October of 2018 and cut her into pieces:

She got this treatment also in October of 2018: body dyed in osage, wings in madder (the iron on this really purpled it!), and the background tossed in a weak indigo vat. (The iron of course affected the osage as well, browning it, which is okay because a bright yellow body would be NFWay πŸ™‚ )

In November, i start stitching the wings and the thread colours really livened up that dark purple:

And the finished wing (mocked in crudely) had ZING when backed with some of my naturally dyed silk velvet:

Like this:

The second wing was done in November also, but is STILL not attached to the velvet backing. SIGH.

But, looking at her last week, the background still seems both dark and weak at the same time. So, i got brave again–because it took some teeth gritting and hoofie crossing when i cut her into pieces the first time—pulled the background off its stabilizer, mordanted the cotton with tannin and alum because even though gawdz knows there’s already a lot of iron on it, cellulose fibres do better taking up dye with these premordants, and threw it in a fresh pot of the 34 year old madder.

And so:

Wow, the hexes shrank.

This has been scoured, rusted, washed, dyed, washed, mordanted, and overdyed again, so why now? Ah well, just means more beautiful fabrics behind the hexes, peeking out.

And of course, part of me is incredulous that all the rust and cream coloured fabric is now “gone”, but that’s how it goes. Because you know what? She has a sister! (I did TWO pieces like this during the 2016 session.)

I’m thinking too, her body is much like a husk at the moment, but husks hide secrets that are revealed through peeling away layers. Things escape husks as well, corn silk, seeds, errant old petals. We’ll go with that and see how she evolves there:

(Something else i realized too: if and when she is ever finished, this will be the first big piece i have done with all natural dyes, from fabric to threads.)

Bets on when she actually soars?

OOOOyeah, and shop update

After auditioning fabrics for the areas behind the wings, i was inspired enough to finish the second one in two days. Admittedly smaller, but the idea of the velvet really got me going! The first one is finished and attached to its backing.

OMG i love this.

Because the velvet itself is so tactile, and the colouring from the osage and quebracho rojo so gorgeous, i decided to keep the stitch there as simple as possible. No point in hiding all that beauty! This velvet, though lush as silk velvet is, was easy enough to do without having to lay any stabilizer to stitch over, but the stitches still had to be solid enough not to sink in, so i stuck to a whipped backstitch–i love the line effect of this on any fabric.

And Borgles. Gotta have Borgles, one of the FrankenStitch mainstays. Picking one out to redo though, and have to add one more small one.

Thought i’d share my results too with the Quebracho Rojo: obviously not a winner for saturation on cotton (cellulose), but it sure is on silk (protein)!Β  The description on the website is a bit confusing, i think: “Quebracho is suitable for dyeing cellulose fibers and also performs well on silks and wool, and yields a lovely pinkish peach to brown rose color.” It’s obvious that the silk is INCREDIBLE, and look at those distinctly explicitly PINK shades! Wasn’t impressed with the uptake on the wool (first photo left top), but perhaps it was the pomegranate it had been premordanted with…. However, some post modifying, and some overdyeing with osage did give me a wonderful range of colours.

Do i know what i’m doing with natural dyes? I do, confidently, correctly from first step to last.

And i am willing to share the current silk velvet bounty πŸ™‚ Small packs in the shop! You’ll LOVE Making with it, stitching on it, fondling it!

winging it

Because this is a large work, it’s a bit problematic sometimes to work AS a large piece: you have to shuffle around the whole thing, pinning it into folds so you can have access to the area you’re working on, making sure you don’t stitch one section to another, or to your pants, dragging cat and dog hair into the mix, and having room to manouevre it. On the other hand, cut up like this (because i wanted different effects with the natural dyes for each area), it flops around loosely, and the tension is hard to maintain.

This means both wings and the figure have to be finished, and then attached to the backing fabric they’re going on, and then *that* has to be attached to the rest of the floppy piece. I auditioned several fabrics to be the backing fabric, and because none are big enough for the whole area behind the wings and the figure–and i didn’t want all the sections that show to be the same anyways, i’ll have to do more stitching on those thin visible slices as well, to “blend” the joins. EDIT: i just realized i can back the wings and figure as one piece, work the “background” large area, THEN attach all the parts together.

I auditioned several fabrics: Indigo–WHOA, lovely but too bright–and i don’t have enough for both wings, even pieced behind where you can’t see the joins. It also wastes this indigo piece, as most of the patterning on it would be hidden. If i was going to use indigo then, i would have chosen a more solid dye job.


“Filler” cloth, deliberately designed for backgrounds orΒ  for “fussy cutting”. Nope. Motifs too small, too scattered, too much white.

Rust, maybe too “linear”, too “white”.

Velvets naturally dyed in the last week. Too much?

Nope, as in NOT “too much”, YES as in WOW. Admittedly since dyeing these velvets, i’ve been aching to use them, but honestly i do think this really warms up the whole piece.

Though this is very haphazardly pinned on my design wall, i can really see where she’s going now. Warmer coloured threads for the paler surround are now a possibility also.

It’s been worth the 2+ years to get her going!!!!!!