Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dear Grace -

 This is Grace- Grace was a mixed media project that I did last year with Gwen LaFleur at Dar Madden's Studio here in St. Albert. She is beautiful and has lots of shiny beads, lace, rich fabrics and is elegant. She is named for my beloved grandmother, Grace.
 My grandmother went by many names- Gracie, Mrs. Henry, Auntie Grace, Mom, Gran, Grandma and GG . The definition of Grace in the dictionary is "a simple elegance of movement"  or" courteous  goodwill ". Both would aptly describe my grandmother.

  My grandmother, Grace would have celebrated her 103 birthday today.  She became a grandmother  a couple of months before her 40th birthday. I am her oldest grandchild. She lived to know her 7 grand children, her 8 great grand children and one great great grandchild. Family was central to the core of her being.

When I think of my Gran- I think of love. She radiated it- I don't ever remember her speaking harshly to anyone or about anyone. She was kind to all of God's creatures, a woman of faith who loved all of the animal species (well maybe she wasn't too fond of mice in her house πŸ˜€). She lived on a farm where she was surrounded by Nature. She loved the deer and birds and all the creatures that she saw on the land that surrounded her home.  She believed in stewardship of the land and that we all had a responsibility to be Mother Earth's caretakers.

Her parents did not have money - in fact they struggled all their days to get by. Her parents were older when they married and had their children late ( Her mother Evelyn, had her last child when she was 48 and her husband William was 61) .  Grace was the second youngest in her family.
 Grace left home when she was 15 to work out for another farming couple. She was beautiful- tall and lithe and had a great smile and sense of  fun.  My gran could milk cows, ride horses and grow amazing vegetables in her large garden. She enjoyed cooking and could bake like nobody's business.

 Farming on the prairies of the Alberta during the late 30's and 40's was not for the faint of heart. There was not many creature comforts in those old wood houses. My gran was resilient - she developed all the necessary skills to be able to look after herself and her family. Whether the task was to look after the animals outside or to prepare food for the winter, Grandma Grace knew how to do it all. She believed in keeping a tidy house and a tidy yard. Chores always came first, play came later. Her faith in God was infused in all parts of her life.

She met my grandfather, Henry when she was a young girl- and married him when she was 18.  Together they forged a loving relationship that would last for 53 years until my grandfather's passing in 1988.
From the beginning, they were devoted to one another- always loving and demonstrative towards one another. If they ever had harsh words for one another, I don't remember them.
 I remember walking up behind them one day when they had come to town - it was a chance encounter ( I was about 16). They were walking down the street hand in hand like a much younger couple would do. πŸ’•. It makes me smile just thinking about the way they celebrated their love for one another- They always put each other first and gave 100 percent to each other and to their children.

The unconditional love is what I remember the most when I think of them- particularly my grandmother.( I would have been devastated to know that I had done something to disappoint her) but mostly, I just remember her love. She made you feel like you were the most special and important thing around . You knew that she loved you unconditionally. She had high standards of the way one behaves and conducts oneself but her reminders were always done in a gentle loving way.
 Her love  was infused into everything that she did- whether it was the white cake with pink icing on top with sprinkles of coconut that she made to take out to the men working in their fields, or the way that she took care of everyone who came within her circle . 
She had high standards and expectations for herself. Her clothing was always clean and neat and pressed.  There was no excuse to be dirty, untidy or wear torn clothing, just because you didn't have money. She could look elegant dressed in her best dress or wearing her farm clothes and her curlers wrapped up in scarf so she could go out to the hen house to get the eggs. She was particularly fussy about her hair and in later years, would have regular appointments at the hair dressers.

When I was a kid, the family farm still had an out house and a wringer wash machine. The older house had running water in the Kitchen but there was also a hand pump to wash  your hands.  As well, she carried water in pails from the pump house.  They built a second house on their property in the 1970's. It was only then that she had indoor plumbing and an electric washer and dryer.

When I was really little, I stayed with her while my mother was going to school and my father was away working. My mom's younger sister was in charge of me and the cooking, while my grandmother did the outside chores.  My gran would tease me and say that they ate more burnt food that winter when I was with them, because my aunt would forget to watch the meat while she was playing with me.
The photo on the left is their wedding picture and the photo on the right is 50 years later.  They made a handsome couple didn't they!
 My grandmother was forever changed by my grandfather's passing. It was like she was missing one half of herself. Some winters as a younger couple, my grandfather would go away to work so that they could financially manage. They wrote many loving letters to one another that reflected how hard it was to be apart and how much they missed each other. It was  also in those years that my grandmother learned how to be the independent responsible person that she was.

 In the very last years of her life, I would phone her often and we often would have many interesting conversations. A couple of times, she would say-" I could go out on dates you know" - I have no doubt that she could have dated and remarried if she would have been interested in doing so.  I am sure that there was more than one man that would have loved to have had her as their spouse. For her, there was only one man- her Henry! She remained devoted to my grandfather's memory and forged her own way for the last 15 years of her life. She lived on the same farm property for 67 years - it was her home until her death. She continued to drive and grow a garden and maintain the property for all those years- She was a woman of independence ! ( The family farm was adjacent to the original homestead- our family roots were there for 90 +years and she was the last remaining person of the family name in the area) Her children would sometimes come out to help her with the bigger jobs on the farm but they needed to get there quickly or she would start doing the tasks without them
( washing windows, mowing lawns, trimming trees) .

For her 85th birthday, I made her this quilt- I called it Gran's Garden. It is a watercolor quilt with a central colorwash Iris that is surrounded by an machine appliqued flower border.  She loved flowers and was especially fond of Irises and Pansies. This quilt lives with me now, and has, since her sudden passing from a car accident in September of 2003. 

Today I think of her in vignettes- of her singing her favorite country music songs or Rodger's and Hammerstein musicals. She and my grandfather sang often and both had lovely voices. They sang at many of the local events held in the old one roomed school or community hall.
I have a coverlet that she made with the local woman's group over a few years. It is embroidered squares done on bleached feed sacks or muslin. It is not quilted but it is her and other ladies of the community's handiwork. I also have the treadle sewing machine that she and my great grandmother Evelyn owned. It was used to make clothing and mend jeans.
 I close my eyes and can smell her stove top country fried chicken. It is the best  that I have ever eaten.  There is no way to replicate the recipe- it was not fancy but it makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
 In my mind's eye,  I look to her sideboard where the Author's card game is kept and the bridge mix candy is sitting waiting for people to enjoy in a pretty glass dish.
 My grandmother loved pretty things- dishes, and beads particularly. I love those things too.  She was always generous and I often came back from the farm with a pretty bowl for treats or a strand of beads to wear. I have a number of her brooches and beads that reside in my jewelry box.
My grandparents took me to see two of my first movies - "Mary Poppins" and "My Fair Lady." I still love those movies and the music from them.
 Gran loved books and fostered a love of reading. I continue to love books to this day. She did not have a television for many years . The TV viewing was limited in the country but books were plentiful and encouraged. Family time was spent singing songs, playing games or enjoying conversation with one another.
My favorite ice cream is still soft vanilla cones that may or may not be dipped in chocolate. When I was a child we often had cones picked up a local Dairy Mart for 10 cents a cone. They were part of the treat of going to town.
 My favorite cookies were her ice box fruit sliced cookies or commercial Fig Newtons. The bread man would come and she would buy fig newton cookies from him ( sometimes he had jam filled doughnuts too) πŸ’“
There are lots of jobs to be done on farms- we weeded gardens, shucked fresh peas and picked berries - saskatoons, raspberries and wild strawberries mostly.  There is nothing better than fresh berries and farm cream. It was the standard dessert during the summer months.

The many summers of my childhood are infused with memories of activities on the farm - some work activities like hanging laundry, picking berries  and weeding gardens. She cooked using traditional homegrown food- whatever was available from her garden or from her farm. Gran canned and pickled and froze vegetables for the winter. She could make amazing meals from food raised by her own hands.
As children, when our chores were done, we spent our time playing out of doors in the playhouse with items we had retrieved from the garbage pit( there was always interesting Avon bottles and Watkins spice containers to make our potions and such😁) We made our own entertainment and my grandparents were always interested in listening to our made up songs and plays. We created our own puppets and cut out dolls from Sears and Eaton catalogues. We created houses using pictures of furniture from those same catalogues.  We spent a great deal of time outside- running in the grass, smelling her flowers or  walking down to get the mail. Sometimes we would go with her to the fields to help bring in the cows. Always she would encourage us to pay attention to all the beauty that abounds on this place we call Mother Earth.
Grace was a woman of faith. She lived her life caring and supporting others needs before her own. She was generous and loving and used her large sturdy hands to work, play and demonstrate her love.  She lived her life devoted to God, always compassionate, respectful and kind towards others. She believed in having purpose and sharing with friends and loved ones. My gran could be counted on to help and contribute to the greater community- no matter what the circumstances. She did not differentiate between close friends or acquaintances in times of need. If someone needed help , she willingly pitched in. Her home always welcomed newcomers. She carried herself with dignity, integrity and always with Grace!

Happy Birthday to my beloved Grandmother!  I miss you, and will all the days of my life- Your loving heart and values continue to live on in my heart and shape my life .  Grace touched many lives and was mourned by many when she passed.

And because I think some of you might enjoy having one of her recipes , I thought I might include a recipe that she made often. My mother continues to make this recipe- it is one of my Mom's staple desserts that she takes to a potluck or other family gatherings.

Oh Henry Bars 

Line a buttered 9X13 inch pan with graham wafer crackers

In a pot place : 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
                         3/4 cup of margarine and
                         3/4cup of milk
Bring these 3 ingredients to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add into this boiling mixture the following:
3 cups of graham wafer crumbs
1 and 1/2 cups of medium shredded coconut
Add 1 cup of nuts ( walnuts) if desired

Pour the brown sugar mixture over the lined graham wafer crackers and let cool. When cool ice the top of it with a butter icing or cream cheese icing.

To make a butter icing you use soft margarine, icing sugar and a bit of milk  to get the smooth consistency to ice this square.
Cut in squares.

 On another note- I have begun a new project - Kathryn Kerr's 365 quilt block challenge. If you go to her website, perhaps you will want to join in too. It is not too late.There is no cost for the challenge -only your time and fabric scraps !
 More about that next time.
Warmest regards,

Sunday, January 12, 2020

2020- A New Year - Winter has arrived- Some January reflections and past projects

This is my happy place - a place where I write ( very occasionally, it appears if you check out the date of my last blog posting 😁 ) ! It is where I create with fabric, beads, paint and other materials. Some day I need to think of a name for this creative space!

This fall flew by and I am not sure exactly where it has gone but  life has been busy enough it seems... The Christmas season came and went quietly - mostly spent with our own family and a trip to my parents.

The winter season has arrived here in Alberta and the temperatures have dropped down into the negative double digits. My spouse, Bruce, continues to walk daily about 4 or 5 kilometers on the trails in the St. Albert area. He is dressed in many layers of garments but is determined to keep up his walking habit. He feels better for the exercise and has taken some fantastic photos of the local fauna and flora during his walks.
Here are a couple of photos from his recent walks. The temperature had been reasonably comfortable for walking during the fall and early winter, until this weekend where the temperatures have dropped  considerably. Still, Bruce plans to keep walking daily - not going quite as far but  keeping up with his daily routine. He is well bundled up for the seasonal winter conditions. 
Early in December, while walking in a nature area near our city, Bruce saw this fine pair of moose. It was a mama moose and her young one. They made quite the handsome pair. He often sees birds and other interesting animals like beavers and muskrat on  the Sturgeon river. Sometimes, he sends me pictures of local sculptures and other interesting local phenomena.  Earlier in the year, he saw lots of ducks and geese before they disappeared south to get out of this cold weather country.

In November , my good friend ,Sheri-lynn, and I took a mosaic landscape course from a local mixed media artist Darlene Madden. In my previous post, I shared some of the other projects that we have done in her studio. This project was larger than the others, and was created over a three day period. My piece is created with  a variety of materials that include stained glass, pottery, ceramics, rocks, beads and shells on board. We gessoed the board first. The over all design was taken from a photograph that I had chosen. It was interesting to try and keep the design simple enough but still create interest in something that represents Alberta's big prairie skies. I found it was a challenging piece to create but I  am very happy with the finished product. After all the pieces were glued on the board, then we added grouting to sections of the piece. I really like the distressed look of the frame that was built by Darlene's husband. I still have to find the perfect spot to hang it in our house, but for now, it is resting on the fireplace mantle.

 Lest you think that I have given up quilting altogether, here are a few quilting bits that I created for Christmas gifts . I made bowl cozies - in the end 33 of them for family and friends . I also made a few more of the 10 minute table runners. It is fun picking out fabrics from the stash, putting them together and creating something that is functional and reasonably quick to make. A note to self, is to start creating next year's Christmas projects sooner and spread the project time through out the year.

 Do you have any small projects that you like to create for others as small gifts to celebrate friendship in the Christmas season?  I am thinking about mug rugs or star ornaments or oven mitts..
 Other ideas??

I took two art courses this fall- my oil painting class was a continuation from last year.  This is painting number four and it is of orchids.  I continue to learn lots about value, shading and how light works.
Have you ever had a preconceived idea about making things ?
 I had this mistaken idea that one could paint more quickly than one could quilt but my oil painting class has shown me otherwise. This painting has over 30 hours of time in it.
The mask on the left is from an expressive arts course that I also participated in this fall. It was a very interesting class, as we played with various mediums while reflecting and exploring in a writing journal.  I hope to explore more of those ideas in the upcoming year. I enjoyed getting to know some new friends while taking the expressive arts 8 week course. We plan to get together in the coming months. It has been a fun way to increase my retired social circle of friends.
2020 has arrived and with it, some new courses and new instructors. I continue to participate in a movement class( a girl has to keep moving any way she can) 😁
 As well, I am trying my hand at watercolors. It is a very different medium than oils- needing new brushes, special paper and paints and some other skills to master.

As for some goals that I have for 2020 ...

Well,   I want to get quilting again and hope to get the 5 quilt tops in the box all quilted before the end of 2020.  I need to get them spray basted before I can quilt them so that needs to wait for some warmer weather.  Perhaps I will finish up a couple of UFO's that have been hanging around in my closet as well.
 I have downloaded the blocks from Kathryn Kerr's 365 Block challenge and need to get started on the blocks. I just need to start cutting some fabrics - it may end up pretty scrappy unless I figure out  a more systematic way to do it. There is some good advice on her website and the project does not cost anything but your time and materials.. This girl needs to continue to use her fabric stash πŸ˜‰

I will probably take a few more courses on Future Learn or Coursera to keep my mind challenged and learning new things.  I have enjoyed the ones that I have completed in the past year. There is always so many things to learn about in this big world of ours..

 I will continue to take a movement class.  It keeps me moving and able to do the other things I want to be able to do in my life. It is important to balance all the aspects of life - mind, body and spirit!
 A very sad thing happened in late November when the fellow, Bill, that taught our movement class passed away suddenly in a car accident. He was the same age as myself. I had taken his class for 18 months - more than half that time I attended his class twice a week.  It was a great shock for everyone. The local senior center has found a new instructor for the class but it will be an adjustment to begin a new.  Bill will be greatly missed by the many people whose lives that he touched.  He taught classes to 20 different classes of seniors each week. He left an indelible mark on many people's lives. Life can be stilled so suddenly..

I am not someone who sets New Year resolutions. Instead, I like to stop and reflect about the richness of life.  I count myself fortunate and feel much gratitude about my current life circumstances. We all face life challenges and deal with the loss of friends and loved ones. Some of those losses are more profound than others. Often as we age, those losses become all too frequent events.
  In 2019, My parents each lost a brother, as well as a couple of close family friends. These losses make one pause and think about the fragility of life. It also reminds one to appreciate our loved ones and not take for granted life's gifts. 
 I feel fortunate to have reasonable health, a strong network of good friends and a wonderful supportive spouse and family.  I had many wonderful creative opportunities this past year and look forward to new experiences in 2020.  Life is indeed rich these days..

 My wish for you and yours is that 2020 is filled with good health, happiness, prosperity and  all the things that bring joy to your life .  Be happy and well!  Happy creating dear friends,

Warmest regards, Anna

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.