Wednesday, 30 November 2016


Some of my best quilts came from a group challenge.
This one is called coffee time. The challenge was -------time. I had made the log cabin blocks previously and didn't know what to do with them. I didn't have enough to make a whole quilt--and didn't want to either--so I used them as a border.

This is a family portrait that I did in response to a challenge in ClothPaperScissors magazine. It's a picture of me and my two daughters. Notice how we all a very tall and slim.

Recently the Fabrigos have been talking about challenging each other to do some work on a theme. We haven't really decided on the theme yet---that's the real challenge. But it would be very interesting to see what we could all come up with within parameters. Our styles are very different. Each of us trodding off into a theme could be a lot of fun.

What do you think?

Saturday, 12 November 2016

How to be an Artist When You Can't Draw a Straight Line

                                                                   USE A RULER!!!

Many times, I  have heard the line--"oh I am not an artist! " and I want to reply--why not, why can't you call yourself an artist? What is about calling oneself an artist that is so hard. Do we think that artists are just born that way and if you hadn't picked up the brush and begun making gallery worth work by the time you were four years old that you could never be amongst the great artists?

So here are a few little things that I have learned along the way.

I have been practicing my little mantra "I am an artist" for a while now. I am ready when someone asks   "  and  what do you do, Karen?"
My answer is this. I am an artist. I work in fibre and make colourful, wall hangings. I sell my work in galleries and I lecture and teach."  WOW!!!

So how do you become an artist??
practice, practice practice!

Yes, some people are born with great artistic skills but most artists will tell you that becoming a good artist takes a lot of work. Skills have to be developed, the work has to be done. Mistakes have to be made and solutions have to be created when mistakes happen. Robynne calls mistakes "Happy accidents"
see other peoples work,

You have to do the work.

Learn from other artists. We have not been born in a vacuum. Study how other people make art, then try to incorporate some of it into your own work. It doesn't hurt to copy famous artists work as a beginning of understanding how they did it. Then go on to make your own work. You don't need to reinvent the wheel.

Take lots of workshops with people you admire. Search out work that you like and find workshops that you can take. We are in a wonderful age where we can really find anything we want electronically. How lucky for us that there is such a wealth of information so easily available. Search out other mediums also. I have always been a sewer and a quilter but it wasn't until I took some painting classes that I was able to add an artistic  look to my work. I also have taken weaving and pottery and even sculpture classes. They have all been absorbed and sometimes I see little things that I have learned in these classes emerge in my work.
At Jo's cottage--just having fun

Search out friends. One of the very best things that has happened to me is joining this little fibre arts group--the Fabrigos. We all have different styles, we all work in different ways but we have developed a tight, close knit friendship that I love.

When people say to me that they would like to join our group, we all reply "This is a closed group. You have to wait for one of us to die before there is an opening. But you can start your own group," We all highly recommend that. It was just a case of all of us joining the local SAQA group and meeting up. Jo stood up at the meeting and said--I want to start a little group--and it went from there.

I hope that a couple of my Fabrigos friends will add to this post. We all have a lot to say about being artists.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Everthing in its Own Time

Hi all, Karen here--even though my post says Michael--don't know how to fix it!!! but Mike approves all of these messages!!!

I have read Al's recent post about making some larger pieces--and I love it--I have seen some very interesting things in his recent work--very innovative and beautifully done. Now I would like to see him use all that practice and turn it into a huge epic work.

Recently, I used the word epic in a little email to Jo. She was just feeling a little overwhelmed with lots of family responsibilities and I told her that a project we were working on didn't have to be epic. It's not the right time for Jo's epic work but it is for Al. He's ready for EPIC.

Al has a wonderful energetic approach to colour--imagine that on a huge scale.!!! wonderful!!! I can't wait to see it.

I have recently been pondering the size of my work, too. I have almost decided that I need to go smaller.

When my children were in their teens, and I had a full time job and a husband who could be a full time job just following him around, I remember having a big meltdown about never having time to devote myself to making quilts. At that time I had visions of a beautiful blue and yellow log cabin quilt--completely finished and on my bed--and I knew that it would never happen.

And that's when my love affair with miniature quilts began.

I have made many mini quilt and many small quilts. And I am feeling the pull of making more quilts in this size. The intricate quilts are not necessarily easier to make--in fact some of them are probably more difficult to put together but they are a lot easier to quilt. Most of the quilting can be done in an evening or two of television watching.
this one was quite a challenge

Short of having a longarm machine, I have been struggling with finishing the quilting on my large pieces. I do all of my quilting on my domestic machine and most of the time I am happy with the result. But it isn't easy. It's heavy work and not easy on my shoulders. I am working on a piece now that I have decided to quilt in segments and  then put the sections together. It worked for me on a couple of other works so I think I will do that again.

We have a road trip planned for the Fabrigos next week. I am so looking forward to it. There will be lots of epic --for sure.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Time to Reflect

Well I am finally winding down from a very busy two months of teaching and trunk shows!
I must say that I have enjoyed every minute of it.
I have had a few days off now and have had time to think about the future of my Fiber art career.
I am fortunate to have three commissions to fill my time in the next two months, but am seriously pondering my next adventure.  I recently saw a few of the pieces that are in World of Threads  and envied the size of some of the pieces!  This is were I want to go next!  I have done a few commission pieces that were quite large, but HUGE is where I need to explore!
Rather than making smaller things so that my trunk shows are constantly changing, I want to produce one very large piece this year for my personal pleasure. I will start by looking through my journals and drawings to see if something there that I have stored for future work will jump out at me. This usually works and I am always amazed when I go through my notes how I find something that is for RIGHT NOW!
My Fabrigos pals have also been re-thinking their future works.  We will soon get together and bombast each other with ideas (the best part of our group)!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Working hard!

Well,  I have put myself on a very strict schedule!  Last month I decided that I had way too many  art quilts and art work hanging around and felt guilty every time I either bought more fabric or started a new piece rather than finish an ongoing piece.  So.....I decided to have an art show and sale at my studio.  I sent out the word and gathered my pieces.  Well.....guess what?  I did not have as many pieces as I thought!  This sent me into panic mode and I began working like crazy.
I started by finishing up my UFO's and then worked on new encaustic paintings and textile art pieces that were small but very intense.
I ended up with 42 works of encaustic paintings and textile pieces.  I also had around twenty art quilts and traditional quilts.
My son who is a carpenter made me 15 beautiful pedestals that were place around the garden which held small pieces of framed paintings and textile art.  The studio was cleared a bit and the art quilts were hung around the room.
Well the day came and it was HOT and RAINING.  The encaustic pieces could not hang in the garden because of the heat and the textile pieces would get wet.
It was decided to move the entire show inside.
The response was terrific!  The day was exciting and a success!
I had friends from the United States plus a friend from Toronto who stayed the weekend. (This friend .....Suzanne...and I even managed to squeeze in some rust dyeing during the weekend)
In the end I sold 22 pieces and even got bookings for private classes!
Now I am busy again creating things to replenish my stash!
Isn't art fun!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Metaphysical Collaberation

When our little fibre arts group formed, we decided that we would do a collaborative piece. We used four common fabrics and were allowed to add  fabric of our own.
We based our work on a flower pattern from a free source and a photo of a reflection that we all liked.

We all went home with these guidelines and promise to get together in a month to put the work together.
We worked to get a cohesive look. We all have different techniques that we like to use. 

one of our guides was to keep the top panel very plain.
Several layouts were tried.
We are so lucky to have master longarm quilter Al Cote in our group. The machine quilting on this piece is outstanding.

We were happy to have this piece accepted in the Fibre Content show in2014.

Friday, 13 May 2016

creativity or fixing a mistake or poor planning

Wow!! you know that feeling you get when you start knitting a new sweater and you think, yes its going to be good. Just a nice little cardigan that you can wear everyday with your jeans. You go through your stash and pick out a few colours that you like--they are ok and I am using only my stash--.
And even when you have to do a little( about thirty rows!!) unknitting when you start the sleeve and realize that it's way too big so you recalculate and keep going. You know the feeling.

So now you have two sleeves and the back done--and that's when you KNOW that there is not enough yarn to make the two front sections. You kind of knew yesterday but you wanted to sleep on it before you went frantically through your stash to see if there wasn't just one more ball of the blue --one that you missed when you started the project.  So after a good sleep and breakfast, you go have a look, ever optimistic that perhaps the yarn fairies have been spinning away all night and its going to be right there on the top of your stash. you know the feeling, I am sure.

And your husband asks what are you going to do today--and you say--oh I want to work on my sweater and get the fronts done. And he says OK. I am going to go out for a while. you know that feeling. you think ok he won't be bothering me today, I have all day to knit away!!

And now you think--well what should I do. You could just throw it all into a bag and put it in the closet--and walk away.You could think about it again for a little while. You could go to the yarn store and get another ball. Or you could just finish it up with a new creative front panel--maybe you can think of something really creative--that will look like that's what you had in mind anyway. You could rip out one sleeve and make a wide stripe with a new yarn- and then use that yarn to make the front so that it looks like that's what you had in mind from the beginning. HMMMM

You wonder if that's why you did the back and sleeves first--maybe you had this in mind all along. So now you are thinking What to do!! What to do You know the feeling!!!
So now your only option is to figure it out and JUST DO IT!!
Have a good day. thanks for stopping by!!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

winter trees

I took this photo a few weeks ago. I was a passenger in a car going about 30 kmh(which is often the case only most of the time the car is going faster). It was just after we had had a surprise- winter- is not -over- yet snowfall and I wanted to have one last try at capturing ice on the trees at Niagara Falls.

Today, I made a little framed fabric art of my picture.
I printed the picture on fabric transfer paper and ironed that onto the back of my backing fabric. Then I stitched the outlines through the backing, a piece of batting and my chosen fabric which was a grey cotton. Because I was stitching from the back, the bobbin thread was the top. Capishe??I hope you can understand.
Then I printed the pic again onto a white sheer organza that I had basted to a piece of printer paper.
I stapled the quilt sandwich to a small frame, and then loosely stapled the sheer over it but a little off.
I am going to explore this technique a little bit more and will take some pics as I go.
we weren't the only ones checking out the snow!!

Friday, 22 April 2016

P.S. My Tribute to Vivien Maier

Oh the inspiration!

I have come to realize that after almost 50 years of drawing, painting, collage, quilting, textile art and Fiber Art, I still have a lot to explore!
I recently ran my 2nd annual Fiber Art Retreat and while I had an intense programme planned for my students ( all of which had attended the 1st retreat) it soon became clear that what I learned from them was just as exciting and innovative!
From the very first morning they were filled with things that they had discovered while exploring the techniques I had exposed them to last year.  They came with their samples and ideas for new pieces ready to build into even more exciting things.
They truly were a breath of fresh air!
We talked about our life experiences and how without knowing it at the time they WILL  show up in your art.  Each of us could relate to a situation that we depicted in our work.  Sometimes it was therapeutic, other times it was venting anger and often times is was meloncholic.
I tried to relay to them that although it was informative to explore things on the internet such as techniques it could also be very discouraging.  How many times have you looked at an artists work and immediately decided that you could never be that good?  Many times I have been excited about visiting a gallery only to become so intimidated and feeling like my own work was not worth the time I put into it.
You only need to look around, notice the things at your finger tips, the things in your life, your own backyard!  Paint, draw, sew, write for YOURSELF!  You ARE the artist!
It took me years to verbally say out loud that I was an artist.  It wasn't my job. It wasn't because I had the papers to prove it. It was because I felt like an artist! I am an artist!
Yes, appreciate the things you read in books, magazines. Enjoy what you see on You Tube or Pinterest, but use your own knowledge, your own experiences, your own visions.  Don't be afraid to celebrate your talent.  Every piece you make will be a work of art.  Your work of art. You don't need to justify it or even explain it.  Not everything has to scream with a story.  Let the viewer make up their own story.  Every piece should tell two stories......yours and theirs!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Friday, 15 April 2016

Meet Up

The fabrigos had another meeting yesterday. We met at my house with a little bit of a printing project in mind after a photoshoot in Niagara Falls.

The photoshoot got a little bit late in starting-and the afternoon printing projects didn't happen but we had a great time.
I am heading to Kingston next weekend for workshop with Lorraine Roy -artist extraordinaire--and tree hugger.
I am hoping to start a not so little project about the upper river and that's why I took my friends on this photo shoot. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a great time.

We watched the birds.

We talked,
We got a lot of great pics,

                                                                  We channeled Vivian
This is not a machine gun. I think its Jo's tablet.
And we had a great day.

I cannot tell you what fun it is to be in this group. We laugh so much when we are all together. We support and nourish each other. We bring our gifts and willingly share them. I highly recommend that you, dear reader, find you own little group. Well maybe not find--but create. Two years ago, we did not even know each other in any more than a passing acquaintance and now we have all become such good friends.

thanks for stopping by


Step Three Stitching the layers.
I start at the top. I use a straight stitch and just follow the raw edge of the fabric and stitch layer by layer. I usually use the same colour thread. It would be too distracting and annoying to try to change threads. I just choose a colour and go. This time I am using grey.
I try to work for side to side, just moving down the edge and turning back and forth. I don't have a machine that cuts my thread so the less time I spend cutting and moving, the better.
I do work all the way across, even though I know my piece is wider than I need. you will see what happens with the edge scrap when I do the next few cards.
I finish each card as I go. I just move the foregrounds a little bit so that I can get all of the pieces stitched down.
I make sure that it is large enough to fill the photo. I trim off all of the threads. A little pressing now. It's better to make this the last pressing. Once the photo is attached, the iron can damage the photo's plastic finish. Ask me how I know this.

Then place the photo onto the base, with the  picture side inside. You are using the back of the photo for your address and message on the card. Make sure the photo is completely covered and stitch around the edge. I check the placement of the card by holding it up to the light. This is where the wavy lines come in. If you did only straight lines, the placement of the card would be very important. You would have to be very precise in lining up the edges. The wavy lines make placement easier. If you have all straight lines--and put the card back on crooked, it will be disturbing.

I trim of the edges and I have one postcard finished.  I save all of the trimmings because I use them in the next three or four cards of this series.
 These little trimmings become the mountains in the next three or four cards that I make. They are already sewn together. I just layer the cards in the same manner, Start at the top with the sky and work my way down.
These cards have a new level of complexity that the first three do not have. The small snippets will make non strip sewers wonder how much patience and skill you have as a quilter.

Keep going with the same method and you will have a great series of landscape postcards.
I timed myself to see how long it took me to do these cards. I started just after two o'clock and  was finished 7 cards by three thirty. This included taking the photos and waiting for a few minutes for battery recharging--which if I had been smarter, I should have done that before I started. It took me longer to write about it, than to do it.
I made seven postcards in an hour and fifteen minutes. not bad. If you make some cards, mail me one. I love getting mail. if you send me one, I will return the favour.
happy card making. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016


Step two. Layout the cards.
l like to start with three cards. I lay the bases out on my table. When working in landscape, there are five elements to consider.

Big or small, these elements are necessary for a good picture.

Lets consider each element.

HORIZON  Choose the horizon line first. As a general rule, dividing the canvas in thirds and placing the horizon line at one of the thirds makes the most pleasing picture. Some artists choose very low horizons to give a large view of the sky. Think of Turners very beautiful skyscapes.  A horizon line at exactly half is a little bit disruptive. For these pieces, my horizon line is going to be quite high--just because that's what I have decided.

SKY For this series, I have chosen plain black and dark purple for my sky. Starting at the top I lay a strip of each on the base. I have cut the strips the same length as my base and cut horizontally with a wavy edge. This gives me two strips. I overlap the strips on all three bases. I vary the placement.

BACKGROUND I want mountains in my background. I am using a lighter colour than the sky and have cut just large, curved pieces of fabric. I alternate the layers from side to side. I make sure that all of the base is covered but I don't really worry about edge to edge coverage. I just cut another mountain to cover gaps.  Just make sure that all of the base is covered.
Generally speaking, the background colour is greyer because there is that much more atmosphere between the viewer and the object. Because it is farther away, it is less defined. The edges are smoother and there are fewer details.

MIDGROUND The midground is going to be a water element. In the photo you can see that the strips have already be stitched down .I had to recharge my camera battery as I was half way through so I missed a few shots. If you want to put in a few defining waves, do that now. Just stitch a lie or two.

FOREGROUND There should be one larger element in the foreground. This is where you see all of the detail. I like the large hill covering the water. I like it so much that I think I will add maybe one or two more, overlapping them.
When I have three of these little  landscapes done, I take them to my sewing machine.

Thanks for stopping by

Monday, 11 April 2016


Gather material

I like to make several postcards on the same theme especially when I am doing landscapes. Just like all those famous quilters who work in series, I find that making several postcards at a time, makes each one stronger. The general rules are that each one must be strong in its own, but that together, they make each other stronger. I sell my cards in a gallery and sometimes buyers buy two or more to make a little group.
I select about five different fabrics from my stash. I cut off one or two strips of each one. No ruler, just my rotary cutter and each strip is about three inches wide. I just have a vague idea of colour and design so I just choose randomly. I do like solids and I like black for background. I like to use at least one or two prints, too.

 For the back of the postcard, (the part where you write your message) I use old photo that either didn't turn out or that I don't really want to keep. They are the right size for postcards. If you don't have a stash of photos, you can buy blanks at the local dollar store. I have a few boxes full and my friends save some misprints for me--that way they know they will get a card in the mail!
 I use a non woven interfacing for the base of my card. It can be just paper, or purchased non woven or even an old sheet. I also use up those little pieces of batting cut off from the edges of my big quilts. No trash in my house, I try to recycle everything.  I cut the base slightly larger than 4 x 6.

thanks for stopping by

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Post Cards from the Edge

Hi all, Karen here.
One of my favourite little projects is making fabric postcards.

I have been making them for a couple of years. I sit down every once is a while and make up a dozen or so. Then I send them out to friends and family when something nice happens or I am thinking of them.

These are a few of my landscape postcards.
and these are some of the postcards that I made yesterday.

They are easy to make, take little time, and people who receive them are happy to get them.
I send one or two to my daughter who loves Alice in Wonderland. There are all kinds of messages from Alice that are easy to make.

 Yes, the post office delivers them. I never put my return address on them, but I hear quite frequently from someone who has received one. I just put one stamp on them.

One of my friends has framed one that I sent her recently.
For the next week, I will post instructions on how to make a landscape postcard. Have a look and if you send me a card that you made from my instructions, I will send you one back.

Thanks for stopping by.