Saturday, September 14, 2019

The End of the first year of Retirement- Part Two

It hardly seems possible that I have started the second year of my Retirement. My that went fast...

 What do you do on the first day of School when you are retired ?
 Some retired friends and I sat and had lunch together on the first day of school this year. It is a yearly luncheon and fondly referred to as "To Hell with the Bells".  Across from our table, sat another group of retired teachers. It just happened that they were teachers from the elementary school our son attended. He had had 3 of the teachers present as his classroom teacher. It was nice to see them and thank them for their contributions to our son's education. I also wished them a very Happy Retirement!

  I am not sure that I really thought what it would mean to be retired- what my life would look like and what things I wanted to do as a retired person. Some people are great planners and organizers- others love to volunteer and get involved in their communities. Still others go traveling to places that they have longed to visit but never had time to do so..
 For me, I wanted to get healthier, more organized at home and try some new things. I didn't set it out as a  specific goal - perhaps in the coming years, I will be more intentional with my plans.

I knew that creating things would be part of my retired life and so it has ..

 In this post I wanted to make a collection of the art pieces that I had created over the past year, starting in the summer of 2018.
 My dear friend, Sheri-lynn, and I went to a couple of paint night classes. They were a great way to spend an evening - Sunflowers are my favorite flower and  I was so happy to play with acrylics. They dry fast and you just paint over them if you don't like them. I have this one hanging in my creative space.

In this second one, Sheri-lynn's husband, Walter joined us. Mine is the top one, Walter's is on the left and Sheri-lynn's is on the right. You can see that each one is unique and beautiful in its own right. If you want to try painting and don't want to invest a lot of money in it- Paint Nites are for you !  Its been awhile since I have done a Paint Nite- I may have to check out their listings again.

In the late summer of 2018, I began to look at local art courses that were being offered in our community.  One of the courses I found, was a series of oil painting classes being held at Hidden Talents Studio here in St. Albert. I had never worked with oil paints and the local studio offered a course for the" Scared Stiff". While I had played with paint at a paint night, or at the occasional all day workshop, I had never taken a course with formal instruction.

Here is my first painting with oils- I call it my Oiler Rose- for our hometown hockey team - The Edmonton Oilers. Our instructor, Laura, is a fabulous locally celebrated painter and an excellent instructor. The course is challenging and I will continue to explore oil painting this coming year.

I had this idea before I started oil painting that you could paint an oil painting faster than you could make quilts. I discovered that is not necessarily so. I also learned that my quilting eye still needed more training to see color value- light medium and dark.  Like other things, it takes practice to develop your eyes. The Oiler Rose painting took most of the first term's lessons. We learned about different paint palettes, and how to underpaint (with white, black and numerous shades of gray). The intent of under painting is to establish the lines as well as to help you better see and produce richer shading of the many different shades. I am still learning how to mix colors and see the gradations of  the light, medium and dark values.  You sometimes need a surprisingly small amount of paint when you are applying it to canvas.  My brush stroke still needs lots of work!

I continued the oil painting course over the winter and spring. 
 Here is my second painting - a sea scape taken from a calendar photo in New Brunswick, Canada. 
It hangs with two other seascapes that were done by Bruce's mother, Betty and his grandfather Jefferson. 
 In November, some friends and I took a workshop with a local artist named Samantha Williams Chapelsky.  We have done some other courses offered by Sam's  and loved each one of them.
 My painting below, is done with various acrylics ( high flow, heavy and medium paint). We also experimented with different pastes, gels, inks and stamps/ stencils. ( I love bead gel and fiber paste- they add such amazing texture and the bead gel is sparkly )
This painting is large about 24 inches square on board. (My oil paintings are all done on canvas). All the painting surfaces are gessoed to help the paint better adhere to the surfaces.
After Christmas, I tried my hand at some mixed media with another local artist named Darlene Madden. My friend ,Sheri-lynn and I made mosaic Mandalas.  I love working with mixed media and have enjoyed  all three courses that I have done with Dar. I am looking forward to our next course together which will be a mosaic landscape on board.
 I am very happy with this mandala - the found objects included glass marbles, cut up bits of pottery, shells, beads, jewelry and a variety of tempered and beach glass. It also had paper napkins at its base. I would like to explore mosaics again. It is a fabulous medium to use. It is amazing to me how many things that you can glue on to fill up the surface. The mandala is 11 inches across- Do you see the flower that is made with the pottery pieces  ?

The story totem has found objects that Dar had available in her studio. We used polymer clay, found objects, a skeleton key, ceramic and metal pieces. The top of the totem says "Embrace The Journey." The clay pieces are sort of patchwork like and there is a cat earring hanging from the key.
 The story totems are suppose to reflect or tell you a story-  I think it shows the things that I value most in my life :)

I want you to meet Grace - She was produced in an Angel and Icon workshop that was taught by Gwen LaFleur  at Dar's Studio. She has a board base- Her dress is made with some luscious brocade- She is surrounded by filigreed lace and netting. In the background are gossamer leaves- Her face reminded me of my beloved Grandmother, Grace.
 I think that she has her same elegance and classic beauty. Grace makes me smile when I see her hanging on my wall. This past week marked the passing of my gran. It is hard to believe that she left us 16 years ago now. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and sometimes it feels like that my gran has been gone forever.

When I was looking for a third picture to paint I decided to paint something that looked spring like. This piece hangs in my parent's home. I still want to practice mixing the colors more- The monarch is not orange enough in places but I am quite pleased with the background.

My current oil painting is of  Yellow Orchids. It is still in process so you will have to wait for the great unveiling of it later this Fall.

I have continued to work on a variety of other projects besides my paintings over the summer.

I still enjoy playing with beads and I made this little bracelet for a friend. She was having surgery and I wanted to give her some healing wishes as she embarked on her surgery. It is made with some amethyst and fluorite stones as well as two lampwork beads made by Kerry Ann Gibson of Seaside glass designs out of Nova Scotia. I love lamp work beads - there are some amazing artisans out there that are making glass work. I think I might be scary with a torch, so I will leave that to the expert bead makers.

I repaired some bracelets and updated some other ones. I tried my hand at making bowl cozies using a You Tube tutorial. The bowl cozies are to put around bowls to keep the bowl warm as well as to carry them from one place to another. It is important to use all cotton batt in them if you are going to put them in the microwave.

  I did start one other quilt project this summer.  It was inspired by our friends travel to visit Europe in late spring . They saw this Klimt painting in a museum so I decided to pull out the panel and make a quilt with it.  This is one quilt that I did not have the right fabric for the background so I checked out the 3 local quilt stores before I found what I wanted.
 I really like Gustav Klimt's work and this quilt panel of  "The Kiss' is fabulous.
 I found the pattern available through Hancocks of Paducah - Gustav Klimt fabrics by  Robert Kaufman fabrics at
I still have to make the backing for it. I hope to find the backing in my fabric stash but we will see.
I will be machine quilting for a while it seems to complete all of these tops.


 My friend, Carolyn owns a long arm machine . On a recent visit, she offered to take home the Very Busy Carle quilt home and quilt it for me.  Not many days later she returned with the quilt quilted for me. She used a nature pantograph on it! The quilt looks amazing and will be gifted to someone special in the near future!  A long arm machine does such uniformly spectacular designs- I appreciate very much that this quilt is all quilted and read to go!

 I wanted to thank her  in some small way for her generous quilting so I made her a bracelet. These lampwork beads are also Kerry Ann Gibson's pillow beads.  They look lovely on her and I hope that she gets pleasure from wearing them.

Here is the finished Very Busy Carle Quilt. It just needs binding and a label and it will be ready for a special someone!

I have continued to make table runners from the 10 minute tutorial. This horse one was an anniversary gift for some friends who celebrated their 50th anniversary.
 I need to make some fall ones for myself- I gave them all away last fall to others.
Over the last few months I wondered if I had been productive during my first year of retirement.

 Besides these quilting, beading and painting projects, I have been going to a movement class once a week and more recently, twice a week. 
  As well, I have been working on some other exercises, on a daily basis given to me by a physiotherapist and a restorative chiropractor. 
This fall, I will continue to do those exercises to help strengthen my physical body. 

 I have enjoyed taking some courses through Future Learn and Coursera on the computer-
 It is my way of exercising my brain. They are no cost university courses( unless you are wanting credits for them) on a variety of topics. They vary in length - usually 6 weeks.
Here is a list of ones that I have completed so far: 
  1.   Jane Austen - Myth and Legend
  2.   a Geology course about Rocks.
  3. Rome- Art and Archeology
  4. the History of Royal Fashion ( British).
  5.  I  am currently finishing one about " The Tudors".
 My next one will be about an Earlier Period of English History - the Plantagenet Kings that will give me additional background of the period prior to the Tudors.  
 Sometimes I sign up for courses too fast and then I don't have enough time to get the studies in before the time runs out. Oh well, I will just to have sign up again at another point when they are offered again.

The painting and movement classes have  introduced me to some new friends as well as getting me out and about in my community.
I have been reading more novels, trying new recipes in the slow cooker and cleaning out some spaces in our house. There are always things to do and not enough time.
One has to make choices all the time, even in retirement!

I am not sure what the second year will bring or whether I will have a more focused purpose???

For sure, I know this coming year will include more quilting, with a focus on the quilting part, so I can complete these quilts tops waiting in piles in my quilting space.
 I know I will do some more mixed media art as well as oil painting.
 I hope to explore some combination of art journal writing and perhaps some genealogy. I have been interested in genealogy since I was a teenager . In high school , I did a special project about my father's side of my family. My mother has a wonderful set of books filled with photos and materials she has gathered on many family lines. This photo was taken from one of the genealogy books my mother has created . My great grandmother, Caroline Belle, is the one in the top row on the very right.
 I know I still need to continue to dig around in the boxes in the garage trying to clear out the clutter that remains from moving nearly 3 years ago. Who knows, I might even find some hidden treasures that I have been missing!
 Most of all, the next year will include time spent enjoying the company of my  spouse, family, friends and loved ones. 
 Someone said to me a while back,  what is going to be in your next chapter?
  I am not sure yet, but life has many rich experiences to offer and I am happily continuing to explore my choices in the great smorgasbord of life.  Life is good..

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Do you wonder if I have been quilting during my first year of retirement?

Here I am, on the last day of school June 2018, just outside my classroom door. I had worked in that Room 2 classroom for the past twenty two years. In that time, over 500 kindergarten students had walked through that door and together we learned, laughed, cried (occasionally) and played together. It was hard closing the door for the final time! It felt bittersweet, I had a pretty good idea what it meant to be a teacher. After all, I had spent 40 years of my adult life being an educator. I wasn't sure that I knew what it meant to be retired.

My colleagues held a fabulous garden party at our home to help me celebrate . The cake was amazing and so were all the other things that happened in the last months of my teaching career.

A few days later,  I began to do some work in my quilting space . If you look behind my head, you can see the boxes of fabric that are piled rows high. It was getting harder and harder for me to move the boxes, in order to find fabrics to create new quilts. I have arthritis and I have developed some problems with my mobility. After some discussions with my family, my daughter in law, Rose, helped to design a new storage system for my fabric. They are PAX cupboards by IKEA. They have roll out drawers and shelves. Our son, Kevin, assembled the cupboards. Then, it was my turn to go to work-  the beginning months of my retirement were spent folding fabric(again with Rose's help) and - voila I had a completely different work space.
My quilting space needs a new name with its much improved look. ( I still haven't come up with a name for it- any ideas out there?)
 Even when its messy, its much neater than before. The part I love the most, is that I can find things more easily now.  I also know what fabrics that I have and which draw it might be in. I no longer need my spouse to come and move 4 or 5 boxes so that I can get the potential fabric that I might use. My previous box system was not unorganized (all the fabrics were color coded or theme labeled) but this new system allows me to physically pull out the drawers and actually see what is  in them.
 Do I wish that the quilting space was bigger - sometimes- especially when I am wanting to cut and sew but I have worked in smaller spaces and this one is just great .
You can see that the fabrics are color coded still!  We still could put doors on it but for now we are leaving it this way. I like the accessibility of it and the room is sheltered by large trees and the front portico of the house so I don't get an excess amount of light in my space.

Once we got the quilting space organized, I found I had some time to actually work on projects that had been on the back burner for a while. This quilt was a retirement gift for my teaching grade partner. We worked together for a dozen years. She had retired in June of 2016.  The fabrics were done by Jackie Robinson (she created a fabulous quilt pattern called Weaver Fever many years ago) I chose these fabrics because the wild flowers had lots of lupins in them. My friend, Doreen grew up on the eastern coast of Canada in Nova Scotia. She loves lupins and  I was thrilled to find this fabric line with a floral border and coordinates that included lupins. The quilt  pattern is Sideliners by Maple Island quilts. (They are known for their BQ patterns. You can find their patterns on line- I have enjoyed making a number of them.
The back of her quilt is almost as interesting as the front of it. I saw the Lupin fabric in a magazine and was able to order the fabric from Hancocks of Paducah By chance, I found the backing for the quilt while checking out their sale section. I ordered enough to back the quilt easily. I pieced the bottom of it so that the flowers could go on and on. Doreen is also fond of the mountains so I knew that she would enjoy having mountains, rocks and the flowers of nature all together. A little farther down you will see some photos of some table runners. If you look carefully in the pile, you will be able to find the table runner I made for her as a Christmas/ birthday gift for her as well.

One of the other projects I  finished last summer, were two wedding quilts . They were a kit that came from Connecting Threads in Vancouver, Washington. The Move Over pattern by Mari Martin came as a kit. It was generous enough that I got both of the quilts out of the one kit.
Both of the quilts have the same fabrics except for one black fabric(my cutting error). The borders are different on each quilt. It was an interesting pattern to make because I don't usually work with such light colors.
 I quilt all of my own quilts - you can see my Babylock quilting machine on my table.The machine has an extended bed on it to make quilting easier.  I have free motion quilted a king sized quilt with this machine, without any problems.

By the time early fall came I  had completed the wedding quilts and Doreen's quilt .  One morning in my email in box, I saw a request  from a lady who was looking for people to pattern test a pattern that she had designed for a quilt.
When we bought our house in 2016, we bought a king sized bed. Most of the quilts that I made in the past, were large queen sized quilts so we no longer had a quilt that was really large enough for our bed. I decided that I should make myself a retirement quilt.
The photo below shows some of the strip sets that made the strippy part of the zig zag for the quilt.

In the end, I made over 600 blocks that were cut into 4 and half inches square. I have no idea how many scrap strips I used but there were a lot of different fabrics - a few were as old as 30+ years old. I got rid of lots of fabrics when we moved house, and again ,when I culled the collection so that I could more easily fit the fabric in the new cupboards. However, I did have a drawer of strips and small chunks of fabrics that I had saved for sentimental reasons. Most of those pieces were left over scrap fabrics from family quilts that included a baby quilt that I had made for our son.
I used 6 yards of background brown /black fabric for the alternate zigzag pattern. I actually ran out of background fabric, so I had to find an alternate fabric for the inset triangles on the border. It was an interesting challenge. This quilt came completely from my fabric stash so that was a very satisfying feeling as well. I have the back of this quilt prepared - Next I will spray baste it and then quilt it on my machine.  It is definitely a king sized quilt  so it will take a while to quilt !                                                            

It will look fabulous when it is completed!
The back fabric  needed some piecing as the fabric was not quite enough for the large quilt. I though a set of blocks that were left over from the front was the perfect solution for quilt back. 


 I wanted to find a simple Christmas gift for family and friends so I made these 10 minute table runners. ( I also made a few bowl cozies for wrapping a bowl in to keep your food warm.)
All these fabrics came from the fabric stash too! I altered the design a little by making them a little bit bigger than the original dimensions of 9 inch center strip with  18 inch fold over. Most of them are 10 inch centers and 20 inches on the fabric fold overs. I did put batting down the center I also quilted around motifs in almost all of them. You can find tutorials for these table runners  on You tube under 10 minute table runners.
Also the bowl cozies pattern is on You tube!
In the end, I made around thirty of these table runners - I gave them all away to others - so I need to make some more if I want to have one for our table in our living room!

Below you can see Doreen's tablerunner  which is bigger again because I used the border motif for the center of the table runner. I did quilt around all of the flowers in the central panel so it took more than 10 minutes to complete . LOL

Since Christmas I have made 4 quilt tops -
 These quilts are another pair in a series of convergence quilts I have made, using the Ricky Tims Convergence Quilt pattern. You can find the pattern in his book" Convergence Quilts" - my variation uses larger squares for the quilts but the technique is the same. These quilts are about the size of a big throw or twin sized quilt . Unfortunately the light in our great room does not always make for excellent photos.  In each case, I am quite happy with the color combinations. If you look at the top right corner of the one on the left, you will find a bold print with all of the other colors in it. I have used it as a border for the outside of the quilt.
I love the Spring Easter egg colors of this one on the right. The top left corner is a batik with the other three colors in it. The challenge with convergence quilts is always to make sure you get enough color differences so that you don't get mush. I think they are both happy quilts. I have found fabrics for backs and will get the backs made up this week so that I can get quilting on them. 
 I love Sunflowers and this another version of the Sideliners pattern that I used in Doreen's quilt. I have done a few quilt series - using jelly rolls, this Sideliner pattern, a twisted flower design, and the convergence patterns. I love that you can use different fabrics and the quilts all look different The BQ patterns tend to showcase the fabrics so if you have some large fabric prints that you want to show off then BQ patterns are great for that purpose..Some fabrics are better contrasts. Athena the cat gives her cat approval to all my quilts . It is important to test drive a quilt you know :)

You can see the colors better in this photo below and you also can also see the big sunflower border that I added to complete the top on this one.

 I have made many many of these burrito baby wraps. With the first ones that I made, I tied them together rather than quilted them. I used  flannelette  for the one side and cotton for the other side. I first made this pattern from a McCalls Baby book of quilting in 1982.
 This one was the most recent one that I have completed. It was made last fall for a friend's baby. It has a minkee insides but it still looks like a cloverleaf when it is opened. The baby's mom is very fond of squirrels so I was thrilled to find squirrel fabric for it. They work great in a car seat or for wrapping a baby against the weather.

This larger children's quilt is for someone special - a young child that does not yet have a quilt from me. It was a quilt kit that has the Very Busy animal stories of Eric Carle. It is quite a large quilt and will take a little while to quilt . My summer plans appear to include some quilt projects that need to be completed. 

So this is the end of my quilting journey from the past year. I still have many pieces to finish quilting, From this post, it appears that there was some quilting happening in my first year of retirement. Quilting was not the only thing that I did during my first year, but I will post more about my other projects in my next blog post.
When I am not quilting these days, I have been busy taking some on line courses  and attending some movement classes to help me with some mobility issues that have come from having arthritis. I am getting out with friends for lunch or coffee, and trying to find a new rhythm in my retired life.
It is a change of pace- occasionally busy, but I get to have more choices about when and how long  I have to eat lunch etc. I have time to have bathroom breaks too which is great as well.
 Life is simpler and I am learning to take the time to smell the roses. Still, I am not sure what my new purpose or focus in life will be- For now, I am finding  a new way of living as a retired person.
 I hope that you too take the time to enjoy life's daily pleasures. Look around and enjoy, Next time I will share a little more about other projects in my retirement life.  Stay well .
Warmest regards,
Everyone needs a new spring outfit. I bought this one recently at my favorite consignment store.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

It is spring isn't it? or is it?

They say it is spring time here in Alberta  but Mother Nature has other things to say about it , and while the calendar says its the first  week of May, we have continued to have had snow arrive on and off the past few days. I, probably should not complain ,as other parts of Canada and the US, have had to deal with serious flooding.  Each day when I go out , I wonder do I still need a heavier coat etc but I know that this too shall pass..  In the meantime, the trees look beautiful  but we are tired of Winter and really do want spring.
 Bruce has been out walking on the trails in the St. Albert area these days. He often sends me photos of the beautiful things that he sees. My arthritic body is not up to walking the distances he is walking so I appreciate him sharing the natural habitat and animals that he comes across on his daily treks. My daily treks involve exercises and movement classes that are making me more mobile - at least on most days. The whole point is to keep moving in what ever way one can . Some of these photos are ones that I am collecting in a file to perhaps paint one day. I especially love these ducks and the branches beside them  and I intend to paint them one day soon.

Below is a photo of my most recent completed painting of a flower and butterfly. It is my second oil painting of choice. It is a very different medium than acrylics or watercolor (watercolor is a little too intimidating for me right now)  I have been taking an oil painting class all winter . I am starting to  make some progress in my ability to see shapes and value. It is different than quilting but somewhat the same. You do need to be able to see light , medium and dark  values in both. It is interesting to train your eyes in other ways. Perspective is particularly challenging.

  I have just begun a new floral piece with orchids.It is probably hard to see but I have started the under- painting. It is drawn using  a grid and then all the details are shaded in, by under painting the piece.  You have black and white and get to mix all the shades of grey.- and there are many shades of  grey.
 For me, the drawing is still very painstaking and I find myself continuing to add additional lines as I start to see the values. I thought that painting would be less time consuming that quilting but that is definitely not so. Both of these pieces are done on canvas that has been gessoed and measure 16X20 inches . Learning brush control is another interesting challenge.

 Just in case, you thought perhaps I had abandoned quilting , I thought I would post my newest top that has been completed. It still needs a backing made and to be spray basted together so that I can quilt it. It is a Maple Islanders Quilt Pattern called Sideliners . All the BQ( big quilt blocks) patterns showcase the fabrics so nicely.  I have made others of this pattern but am particularly pleased with this one- Sunflowers are my favorite flower and this one was partially cut out. Athena the cat is generally a fan of all the quilts. Below you can see the additional borders that were added to complete the top.
  Earlier this year, a couple of friends and I attended another Mixed media workshop ( the Instructor Darlene , was the same lady that taught us how to make the mandala in one of  earlier posts) . My piece is the one on the right .
 I used a variety of found materials  in my piece including a skeleton key, a cat earring , clay, a wood sign that says "Embrace the Journey", and a metal sign with the word" Family".  The baked clay has quilt like imprints with a lettering piece on top that has the word Love . The story totems are intended to reflect things that might be important to the individual.
 My friend did a beautiful  intricate heart where she added some detail painting using wax paints and special inks on it. There are so many ways to express one's self through different artist mediums.
My hope is that you take the time to find ways to express yourself through an art form.

I have started another convergence quilt so I will share that with you next time. A friend posted some convergence quilts from a recent workshop, and it gave me the urge to try another. I have the luxury in retirement of trying different things and  sometimes, it is fun to return to old ideas and make them new. Each of these projects feed my creative spirit..
Spring is coming isn't it- hopefully we soon will see some green grass and spring flowers blooming . Stay warm and dry wherever you live. Until next time, be well. .. Warmest regards, Anna