Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Celebrating holidays and travel

Saying hi to the reader!
Tomorrow I go back to work. As I'm trying to stay positive and zen about the whole thing, I have decided to share some of our travel pictures - for inspiration and to celebrate! I've had a wonderful  holiday and was able to travel to Spain and Paris, as well as take two weeks to rest, read and play. I am very grateful and need to focus on this as I get back into the routine :-)


You will notice that most of the photos are not panoramas of sites, but generally small things, including art, that caught my eye. The photos were either taken by my husband or I.

These first two photos are of a statue in a park that was between La Rambla and our hotel in Barcelona. Almost every day I would walk by and say hi to the girl reading!

Statue of boy playing and girl reading
Just off of La Rambla is a lovely food market. I don't usually take pictures of food, but I couldn't resist this one! Aren't the colours amazing? I'm sorry to say that I didn't eat one of these.
Take out food in the food market - La Rambla

Something that I find fascinating is all of the art everywhere. Since there is little snow in the places we visited, public art is on buildings and fences, in the subway and even the ceramic on the ground.

Art in the Barcelona subway

Fence outside of Gaudi's Park Güell in Barcelona

Art on a fence in Barcelona

Colourful tiles outside of the WC

You've probably heard the old joke of a quilter taking pictures of the tiles in the bathroom? Well, here are some tiles just outside of the washrooms.
Washington Irving stayed at Alhambra
while researching his book,
"Tales of the Alhambra"


I would go back to Granada. We only spent a few hours but I would have loved to visit for a few days. We saw a small part of Alhambra. I also got my husband to take a picture of me in front of the statue of the writer, Washington Irving, since his "Tales of the Alhambra", published in 1832, essentially caused re-interest and eventually the preservation of the Alhambra.
View of Granada from Alhambra

I haven't read the book yet, but it's now on my To Read list.

I love these beautiful narrow streets. Since it was early in the morning, I could stop and take pictures without worrying about traffic. This is probably what I was taking pictures of....

More art on the walls
Taking pictures on the old streets of Granada
Art on the walls of
buildings in Granada


Here is a photo that I should have included in my last post. These are the depressions within which the vines are grown. It was winter, so they are not dead - just dormant!

Growing vines in the volcanic ash in Lanzarote
Alicante, Spain

Alicante has a beautiful waterfront area. Here is a photo of the tiles in one of the plazas. Isn't it a great representation of ocean waves?
Whimsical structures - Alicante
Waves in Alicante

Here is a side street with whimsical art and structures for children.


Finally, after the cruise, we had time before our flight home, so we flew to Paris for three days. Since I'm bilingual, it was easier to get around, even if I had to take out my "good speaking French" (that means no slang and better enunciation!)

My husband is working on his photography skills, so right dropping off our luggage at our hotel, we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. This is my favourite photo.

Eiffel Tower at night
We spent the next morning at the Louvre. It would have been great if my daughter had been with us. After a few huge rooms full of art, I was totally overwhelmed. An Art History student as a guide would have helped a lot 😊

This is one of my favourite area of the Louvre - the apartments of Napoleon III. See how I match the decor? I think that this may be the Grand Salon.

Apartments of Napoleon III
Art on the Ship

On the ship, I attended an art auction. It was a very high pressure event but since I had no money to spend, it was fairly easy to resist. I did, however, find an artist, Donna Sharam, that I really liked. When I first saw her art, I thought that it could have been an art quilt. Once I was home, I googled her and found out that her background is indeed in textiles. What do you think? Isn't her work fabulous? She also has a beautiful series of trees and plants.

Merchandise based on Donna Sharam's art

I couldn't resist finishing my tour with this lovely piece of textile art that was on our bed one day. How fun is that!
Textile Art on the Ship
Quilting during my holidays

In the last week, I decided to work on a few UFOs.

You may recall this quilt top from July 2015 (Ok, maybe not..)
Loosely based on Mary Patterson's Street Art quilt 
It started with a great idea....I was going to make two quilt tops and use this one as the backing. It's an idea that I haven't given up on, but after spending so much time making both quilts, I just didn't have the heart to put both of them together. This quilt is loosely based on Mary Patterson's Street Art quilt from the Quilt Trends magazine, Summer 2014 (see Related Links for more info). I've named it "Not playing the supporting role!".
Not playing the supporting role! quilt
I hadn't quilted this one because I thought that it was too small. Over the last couple of years, I even bought fabric to add to it. When I took out the project box that included this quilt, the magazine, left over and backing fabric as well as the new fabric I purchased, I realised that the quilt was bigger than I though, and was perfectly fine! Bonus!!! No extra work to do except to sandwich it and start quilting. 

I also sandwiched my latest Batik Lap Quilt, as well as a baby quilt that I will talk about in a later post. You can read all about my adventure in sandwiching these quilts in the "What I learned" section below.

Life will get back to normal, so I may as well plan my next quilting week and month.

For my OMG, I will free motion quilt (FMQ) my "Not playing the supporting role!" quilt. It's still cold and I want to snuggle under it to read 😊

Since I haven't started my Starry Bright Sky block for January, this is my To-Do Tuesday goal. The post is due February 4th, so I still have a few days. 

What I learned
  • I'm really glad that the "Not playing the supporting role!" quilt is large enough to be a comfortable lap quilt. I put the unused new fabric into my stash and, I'm very proud to say, I actually cut out all of the binding. It's all ready to use and stored in a very obvious place so that I will be able to find it when it's time to use it!
  • I did this for a previous quilt and really hope to keep doing it whenever possible. It's so nice to be able to finish the quilting and then just put the binding on without looking for the matching fabric!
  • I've probably mentioned this, but I really, really dislike sandwiching a quilt. It's my totally least favourite part of the process. I didn't think that I would be able to sandwich 3 quilts in 2 days. I sandwiched the "Not playing the supporting role!" quilt first, using my usual method of pinning. I just dislike the fact that once it's pinned, I have to flip it over, re-pin most of it to get it flat, and do this at least another 3 or 4 times. 
  • As I started sandwiching the Batik lap quilt, I got desperate. Why did I have to pin the quilt when I was only going to have to move all of the pins anyway? Good question! Since I had nothing to loose, I just placed two pins on the quilt and proceeded to flatten it the 4 or 5 times required. I only had to move one pin once, and then when it was to my liking, I pinned it all down. WOW!
  • The thing is that I was never taught how to pin a quilt sandwich down. Maybe what I discoved on my own is what I was supposed to do? When I learned to sandwich a quilt, it was with adhesive spray. I stopped using it because I found that it gummed up the needle and was a real pain to flatten out those 4 or 5 times. Anyway, the baby quilt took me 5 whole minutes to sandwich. Gotta love it!
Related Links
Linking Parties: I will be linking up to February's One Monthy Goal as well as the following link-ups. Let's see what's happening in the quilting universe! To-Do TuesdayMidweek MakersLet's Bee SocialQuilter's MondayLinky TuesdayMain Crush Monday, Needle and Thread Thursday, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop? Finished or Not Friday, 

I am linking this post to Free Motion Mavericks' 300th linking party. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Islas Canarias finished

It's done! This is my travel art quilt of the Canary Islands.
Islas Canarias Art Quilt

I started this project on a cruise to the Canary Islands and other destinations in Spain.

I didn't expect it, but the Islas Canarias stole my heart. 😊 As I mentioned in my last post, the islands are now on my bucket list of places to visit (for at least a few weeks!)

I've had a great time finishing this baby. All of the embroidery represent places on three of the Islas Canarias: Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote. As you'll see, each island is very different.

Gran Canaria
Playa de las Canteras, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

We walked around Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, from the port to the Playa de las Canteras. This is a 3 kilometer beach with a lovely promenade, hotels, stores and cafés. We stopped in a restaurant for café con leche while a quick storm passed through and ended up staying for an amazing homemade pizza.

This is an embroidery of the promenade and the slightly stormy Atlantic Ocean. I also included a palm tree, although the water behind it is calmer.

I added some poinsettias since they were found growing in many parks. I don't think I've ever seen them grow in a garden, especially in January!

Palm tree and calm water

Poinsettia flowers on Las Palmas de Gran Caneria

Parque Nacionale del Teide

Our second stop on the islands was Tenerife. There is so much to see and do, but on this trip, I decided to focus on the natural aspects of the islands. Our tour was to the Parque Nacionale del Teide.

On the way to the park, we drove through the Corona Forestal, a protected forest of Canarian Pines that are endemic to Tenerife. The trees can survive forest fires and volcano eruptions through their fireproof bark. After such a fire, the tree trunk will continue to grow after a few years.

You can read about the red bugloss plant in my previous post (see Related Links).

Canarian pine on Tenerife
Red bugloss plant in winter


Lanzarote has a radical landscape because of the volcano eruptions that lasted six years from 1730 to 1736, and then a smaller one in 1824. It's really amazing to see the destructive force of a volcano, as well as the perseverance of the inhabitants of the island. They have adapted and have succeeded in working in this new environment.
El Diablo de Timanfaya

As part of the tour of the Parque Nacionale de Timanfaya, the guide takes you around three stations that highlight the geothermal energy of the dormant volcano. The fire in the quilt depicts one of the stations where straw burns brightly from the underground heat.

The image next to the fire is based on the metal sculpture known as El Diablo de Timanfaya. This scupture was designed by the great Lanzarote artist César Manrique.

César Manrique had a huge influence on his home island. The white buildings that are traditional to the island, are also a part of the government's policies to preserve the original look of the island. On my next visit, I will spend much more time seeing Manrique's creations.

The last two images below illustrate the wine industy of Lanzarote and the lichen covered lava rocks.

Before the devastating volcano eruptions, Lanzarote had a lot of agriculture, including wine production. After the eruptions, it was discovered that the soil underneath the volcano ash was still good for agriculture and that the volcano ash acted as insulation to keep water in the soil.

Because of the wind conditions on the island, they started sheltering their vines in man-made depressions that are partially protected by rocks. In our tour, we visited La Geria winery that makes lovely sweet wine.

I chose to depict lichen on the lava rock because it is the first thing that grows after a volcano eruption. The lava rock that I used comes from a necklace that I purchased. I created lichen to cover it by placing a couple of pieces of wool fibre between 2 small pieces of Sulky Solvy water soluble stabilizer, and then FMQ it with various colours of silk thread.

Wine growing in Lanzarote and lichen covered lava rock
To finish it off, I decided to write the name of the islands (in Spanish) at the top of the quilt. As much as I like the black fabric with yellow polka dots, it needed a little something to liven it up. The letters are cut from fabrics that I had brought on the trip and were then raw-edge appliquéd. I used some of the green olivine gemstones (peridot) found on Lanzarote to add the dot to the "i".

I moved the sun to the top left corner of the piece and then added a little needle felting underneath to separate it from the letters and add a little whimsy. While I was at it, I felted some of the same wool fibers inside the embroidery of the fire.
Top half of the Islas Canarias art quilt
What I learned

Bottom half of the quilt
  • I had an awesome time making this art quilt. It was fun to decide what to put on it to depict the islands and then to figure out how to do it. I used my notes, some of our pictures, the internet, as well as the many postcards that I bought for inspiration.
  • It's the first time that I used the Solvy Sulky water soluble stabilizer. I've been wanting to make something like this for ages. It was super easy and fast to make. I'll be using this technique again!
  • All of the fabrics, except for the backing and the binding, came with me on the trip. I did have to dig into my scrap bags for more polka dot fabric for the binding. 
  • Since I had a finished edge on the top and bottom of the quilt, I decided to create a separate backing and batting piece that is attached to the quilt top through the quilting. I've done this before on my Woven Landscape (see Related Links). 
    • I measured the back of the quilt top, then cut the batting to roughly that size and a backing that was a couple of inches larger on all sides.
    • I then wrapped the backing around the batting edges and sewed around it. I did have to cut and re-stitch one of the sides to adjust the backing/batting piece. 
    • When the backing was the right size and didn't show from the front of the quilt, I pinned the backing to the front and FMQ around the blocks, appliqué and embroidery. Finally, I FMQ over the binding to ensure that everything would stay together.

Related Links

Project Details
Islas Canrias art quilt

Islas Canarias 

11" x 12"

Materials: cotton, wool roving, lava rock, peridot, wool fibre, cotton and silk thread, Sulky Solvy water soluble stabilizer, embroidery floss

Techniques: hand piecing, appliqué, needle felting, embroidery (stem stitch, running stitch, Pekinese stitch) free motion quilting

Monday, January 22, 2018

Inspiration and slow work

Sunset on the Atlantic Ocean
I'm back and hopefully I've missed the coldest part of winter in Ottawa this year! I could really get used to being a snow bird :-) Spain and the Canary Islands were not that warm, but it's all relative. I'll take 15C (59F) over -35C (-31F) any day :-)

As I mentioned in my last post before leaving, I really had a hard time figuring out what to bring with me - sewing/embroidery wise. On a whim, with my embroidery projects, I added a small bag of scraps. That turned out to be brilliant since the embroidery alone wasn't enough for my re-kindled creativity!

Travel Art Quilt

I hand pieced some of the scraps and then started embroidering this flower using it as a practice piece for techniques that I learned from my downloaded Craftsy course, Embroidering Texture & Dimension by Hand with Sue Spargo. I didn't have any wool, but I just used cotton fabrics instead.

First attempt at embroidering on my pieced background
I practiced the Pekinese stitch on the flower petals. It was simple enough although the trick is in the tension. I worked on making it looser and tighter to see the different effects.

Sample of the Pekinese stitch
After I finished the flower, I decided that I wanted to use my pieced fabric to make a little art piece commemorating my trip. So I took the two above pictures and then ripped the petals of the flower out. It was a lot faster to rip out than it was to stitch!
A park in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

As we toured the Canary Islands, I jotted down ideas and made mini sketches of some of the memorable things that I might add to the quilt. For instance, the red flower at the bottom of the piece is a poinsettia. They were growing outside in the city parks in January - you don't see that in Ottawa!

There were also palm trees everywhere. Can you tell that I desperately needed to get out of the great white north?

A little to cold for me to go swimming
On the first stop in the Canary Islands, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, we walked for hours, touring the city and the Playa de las Canteras, a 3km beach at one tip of the city. The Atlantic Ocean was a little too rough for swimming and it was rather cold, but what an amazing city. I even found a little boutique where I bought some more embroidery thread and a little piece of sailing fabric that I used in the applique below.

My husband and I were also excited to visit another type of desert - the type that occurs when the place is full of volcanoes! At Teide National Park on Tenerife Island, we took a tour of El Teide volcano. We weren't able to go on the cable car since they were having ice issues (it was cold!) 
El Teide National Park on Tenerife Island
On the drive, I was intrigued by a long skeletal-like plant. It turns out that it's a red bugloss (Echium wildpretii). The skeletal part is what the plant looks like in the winter, when it has lost most of its blooms. You can see the pink flowers at the bottom of the plant. I bought a few postcards of the plant in full bloom. They are gorgeous.

Red bugloss plant in the winter
I added the red bugloss plant at the bottom right.

Details of my trip art quilt so far
I haven't decided yet what to do with the circle that was the middle of the flower. I think that it might make a nice sun, but I would probably have to move it. 

I'll continue blogging about my trip as I add to my art quilt. See you soon!


I did get a chance to work on my embroidery pieces, but not while lounging in the sun as I had hoped. It was a little too windy and cold for sitting outside for long on the cruise ship.

Embroidered FMQ motifs
 Both pieces are mostly made up of stem stitches, except when I forgot and defaulted to the running stitch.
Étude in Stem Stitching
Today, after taking pictures of these two embroidery, I used a frixion pen and drew a border around both pieces. Now I know how far I can embroider to fill in the design. I have no idea what these will end up as, but it doesn't matter - it's all about the enjoyment of practicing and creating.

Batik Lap Quilt

Since I got back, I've been able to finish the quilt top of the Batik Lap Quilt I started this fall. That's a good sign since it means that I have a little energy. I was wondering if it would ever come back, since the only thing I had done since coming home was sleep and read! I think that my jet lag and post-trip exhaustion are over!

This lap quilt is made of two Los Cobos Batiks charm packs (5 inch squares) by Moda and some blocks from my stash.

I just love the colours - they are even brighter than in the picture!

Batik Lap Quilt Top Finished
 As I mentioned, I will probably use an all-over free motion quilting pattern, with a twist. Come back to see my progress!

What I learned
  • Travelling is a great way to get your creativity back. Everything I saw was inspiring!
  • Travelling is also very tiring. I'm glad that I finally have some energy back since I would really like to do some quilting while I'm still on holidays.
  • This was an amazing trip. I find that it's usually the unexpected that makes the trip. We were not able to go to Casablanca, Morocco because the ocean was too rough. That was disappointing because I had done my homework and was really looking forward to it.
  • I had no expectations of the Canary Islands and was blown away. I would love to go back for a month and just tour the islands. They were so different. The landscape is very diverse, the people wonderful and the food fantastic. I'm looking forward to going back one day :-)
  • Embroidering is enjoyable but it can be a little boring when I'm just following the lines I've already drawn using only a stem stitch. It was great to be able to play with some scraps, hand sew and create something from nothing!
  • I've really missed blogging and reading your posts. I'm looking forward to getting back into it 😊
Related Links
Linking Parties: I'll be getting back into the swing of things by linking up to many link-ups and reading what's going on. Come join me! MOP Monday, Monday Making, Main Crush Monday, Design Wall Monday, Quilter's Monday, Let's Bee Social, Midweek Makers, Needle & Thread Thursday, Off the Wall Friday, Finished or Not Friday, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop?, Slow Sunday Stitching, Oh Scrap!