Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blown up

That's how my brain feels this evening. It was a day of struggling with getting ecommerce to work on a friend's website, writing a grant application in a hurry, dealing with a dog whose tummy is not happy for unknown reasons, getting an urgent request for a final draft of something I volunteered to do (didn't know there was going to be a timeline), thinking about my homework for this week, worrying about what I will teach on the Saturday before the Super Bowl and, finally, working a little on the Ivory Tower project.

The neat thing is that I blew up an image of Photo 51 until it was fourteen inches across. It is a grainy image at best but it is still amazing how much more I understand the photo when I see it large. I was able to extract/abstract the important pieces and create patterns for applique.

Time = 49 min

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I spent a large part of the snow day experimenting with ways to reproduce a photograph. I am working with the critical Photo 51 which was the image that Watson and Crick used to deduce the structure of DNA. I would like to use a direct copy of the picture but it is not in the public domain and has not even been released for non-commercial use. So I need to replicate it in a pleasing way and one which keeps the important elements intact.

I started with some fake dupioni silk from my stash and overpainted several pieces with different combinations of paint and medium to see how the texture was affected. I pinned them all under the dog hair dryer and was able to proceed with the next steps fairly quickly. I wanted to apply a haze of darker specks over the surface. I tried pouncing with Painsticks, flicking with a paintbrush and dabbing with pigment laden medium. Nothing worked to my satisfaction.

I retreated to the computer and read more about the photo. I now have a completely different plan which will require careful applique but won't be subject to the vagaries of 'radnom' paint distribution. It is also a better idea and will convey more meaning in the end. And it lets me justify my weirdly large collection of semi-sheer polyester fabric.

Time = 2 hr, 51 min

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Playing with pattern

A side effect of my homework this week.

I might follow this up someday. It would give me an opportunity to play with colourful fabrics since everything else I do is grey.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I encountered some interesting challenges today.

I became embroiled in an email exchange about an administrative matter which I think has greater ramifications. It took a lot of work to remain somewhat diplomatic. Only time will tell if I was successful.

Then I had to create a two hour playlist for my Sunday Zone 2 cycling classes. Last week I asked the participants to anonymously list their favourite song and their guilty pleasure song. Today I had to track all of the music down on iTunes and eMusic. It required some detective skills. People don't actually know the titles of many songs and even fewer know the artists. Then I had to organize the very diverse list so that it made sense from a training, emotional flow and musical standpoint. Unfortunately the selections only added up to 105 minutes so I had to add my own choices using the same criteria and a good cool-down selection. Last week they played 'name that tune'. This week we will have the added complexity of naming the 'chooser'.

Then it was on to some work in the studio. I had to make the equivalent of doll's clothes. I don't think I ever had a doll with a wardrobe. I have certainly never constructed tiny outfits before. It was easier than I thad anticipated but still challenging. I have to keep in mind the wear and tear on the art quilt if it is selected by the juror. So far I have made a little dress, figured out how to affix it to the figure with some natural "ease" and determined that it is possible to sew the whole thing down to the background. Next step is to figure out how to create a non-hokey double helix.

Then I worked on the homework for the Jane Dunnewold course. The assignment was to break the rules - not difficult at all for me.II knew what I wanted to do but struggled cutting paper. It's done, though.

Time = 1 hr, 11 min

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Back to work

It has been a week of galloping but I have put a lot of responsibilities behind me. I can see the end of one or two others within the week and today is the last day I work with the ringette team. That is another 90 minutes saved every week.

I went back to work on the Ivory Tower piece today. This may not look like much but it is proof of concept and permits me to define the final height of the piece. Two other major steps are dependent on that decision so I am glad to have it done. This also gave me the chance to play with the figures using two different general types and modifying angles etc. I now know what I prefer so that I can draft the final outlines for both the male and female figures. The next step is 'dressing' them and I can use these drafts to play with color and texture.

I did a quick check on colors of Inktense pencils and Neocolor crayons on the Kraft-Tex paper that I will use for the figures. The color never looks the same after water has been applied so it better not to be surprised. I think a combination of two or three of the Neocolor crayons will do the trick for heads, hands and feet.

Time = 2 hr, 43 min

Monday, January 19, 2015

More galloping

My days are consumed by other people's business - an article for the urology nurses' journal, lots of SAQA business and helping with a website. And then there's the course I am taking for myself and the classes I teach, topped off by a two hour class every Sunday night.

All the loose ends are almost tidied up. After Wednesday my time will be more my own. I can't wait. Those Structures pieces are haunting me.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Words to think about

I am taking an on-line course with Jane Dunnewold. Our homework for the first week was a writing assignment. I have selected a few words from what I wrote:


Those are interesting to me. I don't know where the course will take us but the act of doing that assignment (and several others this week) has already been helpful,

Friday, January 16, 2015

Is a full time job

I have been doing a lot of galloping. The rewards are intangible so there's not a lot to show.

Enjoy some pictures from my Erie Canal ride in 2013.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I will be using a stylized male and female figure on my Ivory Tower piece for the Structures show.  I did some on-line research on the traditional icons used to indicate gender-specific spaces and activities. I stumbled on something on the Shutterstock site that made my blood boil. I obviously can't reproduce the image here but go look for yourself.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Finished #9 - Sawtelle

I have finished another UFO (except for purchasing three buttons). This one was started to support a friend. Now I think it might become my go-to sweater in spring and fall. It is Sawtelle, a free pattern from Berocco. The yarn is Remix. I don't usually use the specified yarn but chose to do so on this project because my friend was doing the same. I'm glad I did. It is a machine washable yarn made from nylon, silk, linen, cotton and acrylic. It was nice to work with, although somewhat fragile when used for sewing.

Time = 0 (spent too much time learning Wordpress but that will pass soon enough)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Be more thoughtful

Here is some interesting reading. Even if you don't agree with all of the author's points, it is difficult to dispute the general premise. Be. More. Thoughtful.

Time = 43 min

Monday, January 12, 2015

Passing it on

My friend M got a sewing machine for Christmas. She is ten years old (but she tells me that she can skate faster than someone who is thirteen) and her mother doesn't know anything about sewing. M and her mother came to a party at my house a couple of weeks ago and I learned that they had cut out a cape but had stalled when it came to construction.

I spent yesterday morning at their house explaining some of the basics that many of us take for granted. What is a seam allowance. How do you pin effectively and safely. What is the best way to press a seam. How do you make sure that seams intersect when you sew across them. And, of course, most importantly - how do you avoid sewing through your finger and how do you keep your eyes safe. The work was complicated by the fact that there was no obvious right side to the fabric that Santa had brought so they also learned some tips about how to minimize confusion when handling and marking the fabric.

Here are some pictures of M at work. 

It wasn't a straightforward pattern but we created a front and a back. Next time we'll do front facings, shoulder seams and a double layer hood. Finally we'll bind the bottom in a contrast fabric. 

When I left today M, unprompted by her mother, said "We couldn't have done it without you." She was right - there is so much that isn't explained in pattern instructions. Before I went to their house I did some on-line research on good sewing books for kids. This one seems to have promise. I hope M had enough fun today to persuade her mother to purchase the book so she can continue to learn while she makes some of the fun projects.

Time = 1 hr, 7 min

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cleaning up

It is now over a week since I committed to cleaning up my work space each time I quit for the day. I have been diligent in doing so. Everything goes back to its place, even if it doesn't seem to be "in the way" in its last location. I have assigned a basket for the bits and pieces (samples, calculations, fabric) of each current project. I return all relevant material to the baskets even when the temptation is leave them spread out so I can see them.

This practice has made a huge difference to my productivity. I start each day in a fresh space and that carries over to my thinking. I am not burdened by the evidence of ideas gone wrong and when I get on a roll no time is lost to looking for the pins or a ruler or a special marking pen. It won't take long for this extremely valuable behaviour to become a habit.

Time = 0 hr, 0 min

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Picture this

I have been doing some reading and research for an activity I will be leading at a FAB meeting in a couple of weeks. Even though it is not directly related, I was prompted to pick up and re-read my copy of Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang. It is a fascinating exploration of how the structure of a picture affects our emotional response.

I Googled to see if the book is still available. It is, on and among other sellers. I also found a link to a site which has lifted and reproduced much of the book. I assume this was done without permission. I am linking to it here, but only so you can get an idea of the content. The actual book contains much more text and explanation. If you enjoy this material, please respect the author's copyright and purchase the real book or borrow it from your library.

Time = 1 hr, 15 min

Friday, January 9, 2015


A middle-of-the-night brainstorm has sorted out the question about the borders of the mitochondrion quilt. I started to work on it today and immediately realized that I needed to incorporate beads. 

Here is a rough sample of my interpretation of the structure of hemoglobin. I need to find a better way to transfer the pattern to the fabric so the stitch lengths are better. And I just picked up the first three bead colors that came to hand. I actually like the green but the brownish ones (nitrogen) don't work. I think I might choose a larger bead for the centre (Fe - iron),

This pattern will be randomly placed all over the four inch borders and will serve to stabilize that portion of the quilt. I am planning to finish each of the sections independently and then assemble the final piece so this will be easy to carry around to appointments and to do in front of the television with a dog in my lap.

Time = 1 hr, 46 min

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Health service

A friend recently told me that she was glad that I was no longer writing about my illness and surgery. This post will break that pattern - sort of.

I had to see the biofeedback nurse today at 11:30 am and then my surgeon at 1:10 pm. The general instructions are to arrive 30 minutes early for appointments. After checking into the system, you are sent to a common waiting room from which you are then called back to your specific clinic. I had to teach two classes this morning so I taught the last in my street clothes and then raced for downtown, hoping that I would find parking. I arrive at about 10:30 am. About two minutes after I sat down in the large waiting room a nurse from the Urology clinic came out to call in two patients. He recognized me and smiled and waved. Five minutes later he called me in, took me to a different room to change because the usual one was in use and I was then shown into the nurse's office. She explained that she was running ahead of schedule because of a cancellation. But she also told me that they had looked at the schedule and realized that it didn't make sense for me to wait to see the surgeon. So he would see me as soon as she was done. She was right - he was ready for me as soon as I was dressed. I ended up leaving the building before my first appointment was scheduled to begin.

This is not an anomaly. The Urology clinic staff have made a conscious decision to run on time or even early. In my fifteen or so visits, they have always been early. When I discuss this with the staff their reaction is always "We have no right to think that our time is more valuable than our patients'." That is just the first in a series of care decisions that can only have a positive impact on health outcomes. Bravo to them.

On the mitochondrion front: a really good solution to muscle and an idea that ditches bone and substitutes hemoglobin. It sounds complicated but is in fact simple and restful.

Time = 52 min

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Amazing performance of dance and technology

I spent the best part of the morning drafting a layout for the mitochondrion piece. I need to find the correct balance for the various elements. It is possible that I have made things too complicated. Now is the time to find out. I also experimented with a variety of non-traditional fabrics to see if I liked them better for the muscle portion. And it has occurred to me that I might want to frame the whole thing in something that references bone. See what I mean - too complicated.

Here's something very complicated yet strikingly simple and wonderful. These are snippets from an hour long dance performance conceived by Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne in collaboration with hio-hop chorepgrapher Cie Kafig. The piece is entitled Pixel and it mixes digital projection mapping techniques with the movement of eleven dancers. Wouldn't you like to see the whole thing?

Pixel - extraits from Adrien M / Claire B on Vimeo.

Time = 2 hr, 29 min

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Today, in my indoor cycling classes, I am teaching a profile I developed last winter on the occasion of the winter Olympics in Sochi. It is called Faster, Higher, Stronger and is meant to be an opportunity for inspiration and reflection. All of the songs have the word Victory in their titles and/or lyrics. One of the things we consider as we ride is the meaning of victory.

During the sixteen minute climb that forms the Higher portion of the class I introduce the concept of a hendiatris.

From my script:

The phrase ‘faster, higher, stronger’ is what is known as a hendiatris [pronunciation guide here]. That’s a fancy term for a three word phrase that expresses one idea. Such phrases are often used as descriptors or mottos - like “sex, drugs and rock’n roll’,‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, ‘truth, justice and the American way’. 
During this long climb I want you to develop your own three word phrase that you can use to describe and/or inspire your effort.  
Here are a few examples: ‘prepare, persevere, perform’, ‘educate, endure, achieve’, ‘strong, certain, sexy”. People often use alliteration in their phrases but that’s not necessary.
I am always delighted by the fact that people take this challenge seriously and come up with some great three word phrases. The fact that they say them aloud at the end of class means that it is likely that they will remember their phrase when they most need it in a period of stress. I am going to teach the same profile to the ringette team on Thursday night and will challenge the girls to come up with a hendiatris for their team to use.

To bring things full circle to the last few days, this class profile was published on the ICA website and I heard of a student whose hendiatris was 'Make More Mitochondria'.  
Time = 37 min

Monday, January 5, 2015


I made good progress on testing a number of things related to the mitochondrion piece. I am almost finished piping the edge and then I will confirm that I can successfully attach it to a background. After that I will dye it and work on ways to highlight various portions.

I tried a number of styles of stitching in the background and am happiest with the texture at 12:00. I also learned what not to do in terms of creating some subtle "fingers" of texture. I tried to incorporate some organelles but they got swamped by the background so I now know how to make them stand out. The mitochondrion is 19" x 8"; there was surprisingly little shrinkage. I will be aiming for something about 24" long for the final piece so this scale is definitely proof of concept.

Time = 2 hr, 47 min

Sunday, January 4, 2015

More like it

It was a snowy day and I accomplished a lot. Samples for the mitochondrion piece worked out well. I will be able to use some of my favourite materials and techniques to great effect. And I did some hand stitching experiments using very stiff upholstery thread that was originally purchased to warp my beading loom. The hand stitching will form the matrix of the 'cell' so it needs to give an overall texture with some variation.

I also did research on texture for the accompanying 'muscle tissue'. At last I have a reason to really study The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff. I have learned that I like shirring over a tightly held cord over the more traditional gathering thread technique. All the samples are made with Kaufman PFD fabric so I can do some dye experiments later.

Time = 1 hr, 47 min

Saturday, January 3, 2015

So not me

I had an idea for a second piece for the Structures show. It was based on some enjoyable experiences I had in a class many years ago and was also somewhat influenced by the work of a quilt artist whose work I have only seen on-line. What appealed to me about my idea was that it would let me use colour and that I would be intrigued and entertained by the construction process. I really love piecing and the puzzle of constructing multi-layered pieces with appliqué. As soon as I finished the first sample I knew this was not me. I will finish it in an attempt to make it more mine - principally by getting a lot of physical texture on the surface. But I won't pursue this path. Part of finding out who I am is finding out who I am not.

I went back to the drawing board. I have some ideas about mitochondria with texture in whites and greys. This concept kept me awake last night with thoughts about how to sample to create the effect I have in mind. I will get to play with cording and also some hand stitching. It might also be time to finally do some discharging.

I will also give some thought to other ways in which in I can indulge my love of piecing and my genuine interest in colour. What I really need is a group of open-minded friends who would welcome odd baby quilts.

Time = 2 hr, 17 min

Edited to add:

The sample is now complete and hidden away in the closet with the pile of other unsatisfactory experiment. I learned a lot, though, and got this really neat texture in one place. Photo to follow - camera won't let me download right now.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Finished #7 - Shell Tank and Finished #8 - Lost in the Mists of Time

I finished two UFOs yesterday.

The first is the Shell Tank from Norah Gaughan's wonderful book Knitting Nature. Here is the Ravelry link. I loved knitting this. I'm not sure why I didn't finish it - likely it was the fact that the back is (deliberately) shorter than the front. That doesn't bother me now. I can't wait until summer to wear it. Note: The colour in the detail photo is most accurate.

The other project looks dreadful on the hanger but I tried it on this morning and it is surprisingly flattering. I like that the sleeves come down over the backs of my hands. I knit it from some fairly cheap wool so that I could wear it around the house and not worry about pilling on the surface. That's all I remember about this project. I can't locate the pattern so am calling it Lost in the Mists of Time. I will post a photo in a Ravelry forum and see if someone can help me dredge up the original name. Note: the sleeves are the same length - this is just a lousy photo.

Time = 1 hr, 33 min

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Productive day

The day did not start well. Early on I ran out of yarn on my current knitting project. I turned my yarn supply upside down and then found the notes I had made when I placed my order for the project. I figured out that I had mixed up two colours so I have too much of one and not enough of another. I went on-line and ordered what I needed. I will tell the story of this project when it is complete but it is enough for now to say that I am struggling against the inclination to let it be a UFO.

That struggle turned my thoughts to other UFOs so I did a complete inventory today. I found two sweaters that just needed the ends woven in. That was done by 10:30 am and I am now waiting for them to dry after the wet blocking process. Pictures tomorrow.

I found four incomplete sweaters which no longer appeal to me. So I have ripped those back and will spend the next few weeks thinking about more suitable uses for the yarn.

I also picked up a sweater which just needs one and a half sleeves. It was something that I was doing along with a friend who was learning to knit. I remember why I stopped working on this one. I got to the point where I had to pick up stitches for the sleeves and knit down from the shoulder. I was using two long circular needles and they were driving me crazy. In addition, I was annoyed by having to turn the whole sweater in my lap several times each round. My friend didn't even get as far as the sleeves before she ran out of steam so I didn't have any incentive to keep working.

Today I put the sleeve stitches on one short circular needle and will only switch to two when absolutely necessary. I also wove in all the loose ends so they wouldn't catch on the working yarn. I will now finish up in a day or so. Beth - do you want to pick up yours again?