Morning Glory

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Literally!  I looked out my kitchen window yesterday morning and saw blue where there had never been blue before.  Grabbed my camera and rushed out to find my first ever morning glory.  I have faithfully bought seeds each year for many years and never got them planted.  This year I found a plant at a nursery, brought it home, planted it and promptly forgot.  There were a number of times when I just about tore it down as it looked like a weed that commonly twines its way up the same piece of fence.  Then my neighbour weed whacked along his side of the fence and part of the plant died.  I gave up watching so it was with great surprise and joy that I saw the blue flower yesterday.  Only one and no signs of more to come.  I took pictures, although not good as the sun was behind the bloom.
I thought that I could get better ones later.  So why are they called Morning Glories? When I returned later the bloom was wilting and folding up.  I looked carefully again this morning but indeed nothing even close to a bloom opening was evident.  There are several more buds and they look like they are a long way from opening.  So I share the photos I have because I was so delighted with the new addition to my garden.

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Fleeting Moments

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Looking out my kitchen window this morning I was presented with the sight of a beautiful fragile pink Explorer rose with softest yellow centre.  The ruffled edges quivered in the breeze and the the beauty of it took my breath away with. The rose is fragile, delicate and to be enjoyed as the moment will be gone never to be recaptured in just the same way.  Life I have discovered is also like this.

I rushed out with my camera and was beckoned on to other mid summer wonders in my garden. As I drank them in I also took pictures. They inspire me to dye colours to capture their essence in fabric. Replicas of the real thing to be sure but reminders of summer and memories to savour.
When I returned to the house I found an exquisite card in the mailbox. The card depicts a floral composition from a painting called “Pink Shoe”  by a UK painter called Billy Showell. The inscription on the card says “My inspiration comes from the natural world and objects of desire. The beautiful curve of a stem or the twist of fabric in movement can set me thinking of new compositions:  nature and design unite to inspire.”
I can’t think of a better way to say how I feel about probably my most favourite inspiration – flowers and plants.

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Prairie Rose Challenge


Every year the Edmonton and District Quilter’s Guild has a Prairie Rose Challenge.  These pieces are judged, comments are received and beautiful rosettes are made by one of our members Karen.
When we began any quilt of any size was how the challenge went.  Trying to hang these quilts at our banquet was a real problem some years due to space and hanging size limitations.  Over time the challenge has evolved to where we have a theme and now a size.
Some years we choose a fabric.  This year a fabric was chosen from a line of fabric designed by Elaine Quehl for Northcott Fabrics.  The fabric chosen was “Spring Rain” from her 2014 line entitled “Falling Leaves”.  The theme of the piece was “Home” and the size was 12″ X 12″  Each participant purchased a fat quarter and set off into the world of creativity.
For me this was a case of the fabric providing the design inspiration.  I am from Saskatchewan and I could see fields in my piece.  I have always wanted to try an embroidered inset and so this was the opportunity.
Elane’s original piece was pieced to give the effect of the spring colours.  Northcott took the original and turned it into a print.  I took the print and deconstructed it into little squares  and reassembled  it to get the flow of a field and colour sense of a mid spring field. Then I added the embroidery using probably my favourite chain stitch.  I found the repetitive chain stitch picking up the colours in the square I had chosen to be peaceful to do.  Creating this piece provided both challenge and fun and I would like to try the concept again as I now feel that I can take it another step.

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Day Lilies

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Big showy brief blooms – day lilies. These are a weakness of mine and for many years I have been going to nurseries and invariably get stopped by these beauties. Two years ago I put a moratorium on the purchase of them. There is just no more room in the garden for them. For the last couple of weeks they have been their spectacular best, although not all at one time. When one comes out I run out early evening to get the best picture I can.
For many years I taught a Ruth McDowell piecing technique, with her permission, from a publication of hers entitled “Pieced Flowers”.  The piece I chose to teach was the Day Lilies  straight seam quilt with inset corner seams. The neighbours I am sure wondered about the somewhat crazy person going out into the garden again and again, clutching pieces of fabric in her hand and holding them up to whatever day lily was blooming that particular day. While I now have many more cultivars the deep burgundy one with the chartreuse centre called Burgundy Shadow is still my favourite.
This year I have taken some photos out of focus and I see an abstract day lily coming on.

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Adventure in Wool

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Four days this week were spent at the Royal Alberta Museum with Tracey Kuffner, a wet felt artist from Duchess AB.  The first three days were employed in making three- dimensional shapes.  First we made a four-sided shape, that is the little white hershey kiss shape.  This was my first effort at this kind of dimension using a resist.  It was also resist in a new medium, a piece of soft spongy plastic to stop the layers from felting together.  From that sample we proceeded to a six sided figure.  This time much larger.  It could be a sculpture and I do like mine well enough to use it as that but I also have another idea.  That idea needs some mulling over to see it if is worth pursuing.  On the third day we made circles that are basically accordion shaped with a hollow centre.  This piece could become a lamp shade.  Several hours with another workshop participant at Ikea didn’t produce a table lamp of the right height.  However I also gained a couple of ideas for that concept.  A tam or a necklace.   Now just to find some time to work on these concepts..
Sunday, today we made a scarf using silk pieces to create an interesting shape.  This was by far the workshop part I liked best.  I did complete my scarf.  There are several techniques that need to come together in order to create a great scarf.  Mine will benefit from being repeated but it is wearable and I like it.  Tracey showed us how the scarf can be used decoratively and convert with a little arranging to a very practical winter scarf.
Tracey makes these scarves, with a new twist each year and sells them at shows she travels to each year. So keep in touch via her website – The Wool Mine or on Facebook to find a show near you.  She does many different items as well  – mittens, gloves, jackets, slippers and other items besides scarves.
It was a delight to work with Tracey.  She is very knowledgable about different wools, how they work and very experienced in obtaining good results.  She worked with each one of us individually to help solve problems and made creative suggestions so that each scarf was unique to the maker.
Tracey brings in a wet felt artist each year and if you are interested in working with some different artists do keep in contact with her.
This workshop was offered through Focus on Fibre Arts Association.  This is an umbrella group that supports development and education of all the fibre arts and has a bi-annual show.  Check out the website for information on the 2016 show with the theme “My Heritage”.
One last note – a hidden gem – the cafeteria at the Royal Alberta Museum.  Great wraps and sandwiches, sweet potato fries great pastries, generous portions and reasonable prices.  Worth checking out.

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July Firsts

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Today is July 7 and I am excited to share two wonderful events in my garden.  I went out this afternoon to check the raspberry patch.  There are lots of small raspberries hanging from the bushes.  However there didn’t seem to  be anything bright red at all.  A closer look displayed one lone ripe berry.  This is an occasion for me and before I popped it my mouth to savour the flavour I took a picture.  Close as I could come, but think about the taste of a ripe, warm from the sun, fresh from the garden berry on your tongue.

Then there was a second event.  My first sweet pea.  It is white and fragrant and surprising as usually I am lucky if my sweet peas bloom by the end of August.  However this year I really made a concerted effort to plant for the first full moon in April.  So can you picture me out on my knees in the snow before I went to the campaign office one morning pushing the prepared seeds into the ground. The test will be if it happens again next year. It could be that we have had such a hot spring or it could be that I just got it right with the planting time this year. Why are there so many variables to take into account.

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Canada Day 2015

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Happy Canada all!. After a wonderful walk in the valley this morning I am home now and ready for the final preparation for my Canada Day Party. This year is a smaller party but with much the same format. Friends gather in the afternoon to sit on the patio and we work on a craft. This year I have come up with a Canada bookmark. This is much easier than the wool wallhanging from two years ago that took two years to complete. It will be fun, with lots of embellishments to choose from. So a little embroidery, a little sangria, a lot of visiting.

Later some little people will come for a barbecue and some fun. This year I don’t think that any of my friends will stay to walk down to see the fireworks. They should be very good as there will be music synced to the lights on the High Level bridge which should be spectacular followed by the fireworks.

We are so fortunate to live in a democracy where we have a lot of individual freedom and lots of opportunity to help make Canada a better place to live for so many who are not so fortunate. Particularly today I am thinking of the First Nations women who are missing or disappeared. We need to support an inquiry – to look at the root causes in a detailed way and put a plan in place to change the root causes. So not just talk but action to make a difference.

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CQA Certified Judging Workshop

Monochromatic Study

Monochromatic Study

It is hard to believe that it has been a month since my last post.  When I reflect on all that has occurred in that month I am amazed.  However today is to continue on with that I said in my last post with the benefit of what I experienced and learned in the workshop in Lethbridge.
Part of the reason that I attended was I wanted to learn how to make objective critiques.  A clear focus was on doing just that.  When one comes onto the judging floor the entire focus is on the quilts in front of you.  There is simply no time to wonder who made them. The judge(s) look at each quilt first from a design standpoint, then workmanship and lastly construction and finishing.  Design is the biggest.  All need to come together to be a prize winner, especially in a juried show like Canadian Quilters Association (CQA) National Juried Show.
The biggest part of the judge’s work is to make positive, helpful critiques for the quilt maker. These critiques most often include a constructive way that the quilt could be strengthened or improved. This constructive feedback is what most quilters are looking for. For example –  is there something that I could have done better or differently to make my quilt better or stronger visually.
Most of our work in the class was becoming familiar with the process and especially how to word critiques so that they are objective and constructive. This was augmented by homework that gave us more time to practice analyzing quilts and making critiques.  Making these critiques objectively depends on knowing what the design elements and principles are.
The process is made a little easier by not  knowing who made the quilt.  Of course if you do recognize the quilt maker as a judge you must ignore that and follow the process.  Easier said than done when you recognize the maker and she is in the room.  That scenario happened to me at the judging workshop.  Luckily I was judging with another judge who did not know and so I was able (without revealing what I knew) to defer to her opinion.
That leads me to something else that I have become conscious of.  A quilt competition entrant will submit her best work and in a juried show only the very best work will reach the judging floor.  Many Canadian shows are not juried for various good reasons.  Each quilt must be treated with the respect you would want your quilt to be afforded.  Further if you are the judge then you must word your comments to display respect as well as objectivity.  Additionally the maker of any given quilt may be in the room as the judging is taking place. The pool of quilters submitting to a show are likely the same pool of volunteers who stage the quilt show.
Another role of a quilt judge is to select the ribbon winners.  I confess to often feeling let down about my outcomes in a quilt show when I know that I have submitted my best work and that I think it is outstanding.  So my personal learning is that I have blinders about my own work.  Hence the need for constructive critiques.  My biggest revelation was that how well my quilt does, (if design and workmanship are equal) depends on who is in the same category on any given day.  So in one show my quilt might not win but in another it might. This puts entering quilts into a show into perspective for me.  I now feel that I can list entry of a piece into a juried show as an accomplishment in its own right.
The workshop was the first step.  Then prospective judges mustwrite critiques for a certain number of  quilts and be evaluated to complete Part II.  If they are successful then they are examined by mock judging a number of quilts from CQA’s National Juried Show. The outcome for me of doing the prep work, attending the workshop and doing the work is that now I have passed Part I and am a CQA Apprentice Judge ready to undertake Part II.

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Well yet again my blog is late.  Good reason I think.  I just spent an intensive four days doing the exercises in Color and Compostion by Katy Pasquini Masopust.  Why? It is required reading for the Canadian Quilters Association Judging Certification Part I.  I had a lot of fun doing the exercises and it brought back to consciousness things I learned in University and have used in an intuitive way for years now.

If I am going to be the kind of judge I want to be it is necessary to be conscious about things like colour schemes, composition,  the elements that comprise a given quilt and the principles of design.  Again why do I need to be conscious of this?  So that I can provide quality objective feedback to the quilt maker whose work I am judging,

Why do individuals enter quilt competitions?  I can speak for my self as I have long entered quilt competitions.  I enter my local show to help make it a show with enough quilts so that it will present an enjoyable exhibition for those who come to see it.  Exhibited quilts aways draw people and we want to make something that will create a wonderful memory for them.   So much effort goes into this by all the volunteers and very quilt shown makes a contribution to this.

So why would I enter a competition to be judged.  I is rewarding to have a quilt accepted into a show.  It is rewarding to have it recognized by a ribbon.  I have discovered that is matters not whether we are very experienced or a relative beginner to receive that recognition.  Another reason is that I appreciate objective feedback on my work and some constructive criticism about how I might improve my quilt.  An example of what I mean comes from a show I judged a year ago.  In my feedback I noted that there were two elements in the quilt that didn’t seem to have any relation to the other.  I was shown the same quilt recently and the quilt maker had found a way to add something to her quilt that created a relationship between those two elements and in the process her quilt became a more arresting quilt to view.  To me as a judge that was very rewarding.

I  have been judging quilts for over 30 years.  So why undertake certification.  Judging has changed over time, systems vary and  criteria has evolved.  I believe that I will get the best, most up to date and objective information about judging available.  I believe that I owe it to other quilters.  Many times I have entered a show and my quilt is not an award winner and when I look at the feedback I get phrases that reflect a judges subjective opinion on my quilt.  I often get a constructive criticism that really doesn’t help me improve the quilt.  I  feel hurt and that the judge didn’t understand.  I feel strongly that those submitting their quilts for judging are entitled to comments that are objective and useful.  So I am undertaking the certification process so that I can use my education in a way that would benefit quilters  and improve my judging skills. I want to be able to provide fellow quilters with that useful objective feedback that they deserve when they submit their quilts to a judging process.  The curriculum, the pre-course work, the teachers indicate that this is will be an in-depth quality learning experience.
I highly recommend the exercises in “Color and Composition to all quilters.  It stretches and inspires creativity.  For me it has also taught me that in the words of a quilter in our guild – “just start”.  I was amazed at what I found within me.

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Alberta – An Experience in Democracy

My last post was a month ago. I have been participating in the Alberta election campaign 2015. It has been 28 days of a most intense experience. Before the 28 days there was getting ready, not knowing for sure whether or when an election might be called but anticipating it and getting ready based on that speculation. When there isn’t a fixed election date then the opposition parties can only guess and take a chance. If you are wrong then it is an expensive misstep for contributors and even if not sure you try reading signals and guessing correctly and preparing while trying to be careful with the resources available to a constituency. This post is a tale of one Alberta constituency’s journey through an election campaign from the point of view of me – who served my MLA’s campaign office manager.
This was a lot of work. However the work fits the following definition of happiness Charles Murray named four criteria as necessary for happiness in his “Happiness of the People” speech. To be the source of deep satisfaction a human activity must be: important – not trivial, require effort – doesn’t come easily, hold you responsible for the consequences – give your your very best effort, and stretch your abilities – pull you to a higher achievement. So at the end I am happy with my participation and contribution.
An election campaign for an individual MLA begins right after the last one ends with fundraising so that one can do it again. My constituency works hard at this, and this time we had a year less to do it than we expected. About a year ahead, in this case 88 days out our association transforms into a planning committee. We plan to start calling constituents asking them to volunteer, we find a location for our campaign. This is a space that will house the volunteers and the staff as they undertake their work which will culminate, you hope in the election of your candidate. As you are doing that you search for staff and volunteers to fill the various positions needed. The party I support if fuelled mainly by volunteers. I call this grassroots community development with individuals coming together as a team to live the values they hold and to help translate those ideals into the election of a person who can support them in the legislature.
Once an office is found then you go shopping. Shopping consists of finding and borrowing what is needed to set up an office. I find this a great fun project because it challenges my ingenuity and creativeness. Most things are second hand or if new must be very inexpensive. Out of this must come a functional space that is welcoming. One delightful addition to our office this time was some Fiestaware dishes a constituency exec member and I found at the Army and Navy in our party’s colours. This provided amusement for all who used them. We even managed to find a place to store them for next time, although I don’t think our MLA knows that we are going to use the loft in her garage this way.
In the days leading up to the election computers, photocopiers and phones are installed. Forms are developed and photocopied; phoning for volunteers increases to a fever pitch. The campaign manager and voter contact staff start to work out strategies to contact voters and get their commitment to support our candidate.
The writ is dropped! Volunteers start to appear to put up signs, to person the phone banks, to door knock, to do office tasks, to answer calls coming into the office and to greet people who walk in, to to make meals, to keep the office clean. The office is a cross between an office and a home for a brief time. In our constituency there is a history of feeding both staff and volunteers. It helps keep people healthy during very long days and it creates a welcoming atmosphere where volunteers can chat, discuss ideas and meet like minded folk. People come from all walks of life, every person is valued for their contribution to the team no matter how big or small, whether the contribution istime or money. What is held in common is a commitment to a goal. Work is found for everyone who comes to volunteer and each is recognized for what they do. This common purpose develops a sense of camaraderie. There is fun and laughter and progress is noted in the number of signs in the community and the number of people committing to support our candidate. We gave certificates for making the most buttons in a day and for dedication to data entry. One constituent wrote a poem. There are unexpected treats that come through the door, a chocolate cake, some awesome banana chocolate muffins, ice cream, homemade chocolate chip cookies. Food is a good fuel along with lots of coffee and tea. The homemade treats disappear. Creative recipes for a crowd and made in a crockpot are sought after. Then one waits and hopes that these experiments will be enjoyed. I can see what a chef might feel like as they wait for the outcome of their efforts.
This election campaign was unique for our constituency as our candidate was also leader of the party. Calls came to our number and our e-mail from all over the province. People wanted signs all over the province. People called to say that they were changing party allegiance, there were questions on policy and advice on how to get elected. It was a bustling office where we all worked hard and had good fun. Fun included going to rallies and one of the best was standing outside Global studios before the debate to welcome our leader. Indeed members from the various parties stood together waving their signs. For me this was one of the best displays of democracy I have ever seen. Each person’s right to their views and to support whom ever they wish respected. Coffee was brought by one party and shared with all the participants regardless of party affiliation.
On election night we tallied the reports from our inside scrutineers. We were confident that our MLA would be re-elected. There was a bonus this election – my effort as part of a much larger team helped achieve an outcome that many of us had only dreamed of. In my case for a lifetime. 53 MLA’s were elected and our MLA became Premier of Alberta. Five days later I still feel shivers running up and down my spine with the excitement of this moment. History was made last Tuesday in Alberta and it is being made as each day passes. A number of factors have come together to elect a pragmatic, analytical, down-to-earth, warm caring woman who can see clearly the big picture as well as attend to details. Here’s to Rachel Notley a leader who is up for the monumental task along with her MLA’s of helping Albertans become their potential in empowering ways.
I don’t usually include photographs of others in my blog however as this picture appeared on Facebook I am making an exception. This photograph includes the staff and some of the volunteers from Edmonton Strathcona with our new Premier elect Rachel Notley.

Notley's Edmonton Strathcona Crue

Notley’s Edmonton Strathcona Crue



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