Thursday, January 31, 2008


The chickadees and mourning doves have been visiting our bird feeder this morning. We've put feeders outside of every house we have lived in (many). I did this etching of a rangy old Jack Pine outside of our house in Thunder Bay, on the north shore of Lake Superior. A friend made the two bird houses for me. The background is a fiction - the real view was of houses.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Great Canadian Shop Hop

Tricia Sherman's Great Canadian Shop Hop website has a new episode! Tricia has filmed at Carola's Quilt Shop in Gibson, British Columbia on the Sunshine Coast. Carola Russell, known to many of us from past Quilt Canada conferences has opened up a lovely little quilt shop in one of the most picturesque towns in Canada. To find the episode, click on Video Player then select Show #6.

The quilt designers Lill' Bit and Susan Fletcher demonstrate their favorite techniques, and my friend Nancy Climie is shown giving a workshop. I wish I was there right now!

I was fortunate to be invited to participate in Show #4 at Country Concessions in Cookstown, Ontario a year ago. The owner, Darlene Cooper, has been a huge supporter of Canadian pattern designers for many years. Country Concessions is a gorgeous store and I credit Darlene for helping me to start my career as a pattern designer. When I decided to translate my botanical drawings into quilt patterns, I went to Country Concessions to find the clear bright fabrics I needed for flower quilts. At that time most shops carried very grayed, muddied colours. I knew Darlene would have something different. I spent a bundle and came home with everything I needed to begin my new ideas. Country Concessions carries all my patterns, and I still make the 3 1/2 hour drive to shop there!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dogs Without Jobs

The blog title is a reference to the television show "Dogs With Jobs" about dogs who actually do useful things. Mine do not. Well, that isn't strictly true. The big one has a set of panniers (like saddle bags) where we store the wine that she carries on the portages. So she plays a critical role in our trips. Here's to Golden Retrievers! They are loveable hairy beasties, and I wish I had more. Although 2 in a canoe is more than enough...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma last fall, and it changed the way I think about the meat I eat. We are only two at home now, and we don't eat a lot of meat. But we are still omnivores (actually my husband refers to himself as an opportunivore).

We live in Northeastern Ontario; a cold climate where it is impossible to live only on regionally produced food. That being said, I have been searching for food produced as closely as possible to my community to reduce food miles and carbon footprint.

This morning we drove 150 km to The Burt Farm, Gore Bay, Manitoulin Island (Tel: 705-282-0328). This is a family operation, and the owners Max & Johanna Burt were just wonderful to meet. Max is an Agriculture grad from Guelph University. They raise their own cattle, pigs and turkeys. All animals are raised free from sub-therapeutic antibiotics and growth hormones. The cattle are fed by forage and hay, and grain-finished (mostly barley). Cattle are a Hereford/Charolais/Angus mix, bred by Max using DNA testing, to improve on the taste and tenderness of the meat.

We were invited into the back butchering area. It was spotless. All employees wear hair nets. The smoker (the size of a huge refrigerator) is regulated with a computerized panel.

Max makes his own biodiesel from the animal fats and grains that he produces. The Burts are running a closed-loop system as much as possible. He has little sample jars of the biodiesel in the storefront to show customers.

Unfortunately, at this point Max says that the whole food distribution system is designed to bring food onto Manitoulin Island. Currently there is no way to ship food off the island directly to the closest market, which would be our community. The trucks first go to Toronto, then travel almost all the way back and stop in Sudbury. The Burts apparently sell to a Local Food Buyer's Club so we're going to check that out.

I'm so impressed with these people. Their motto is "From our land to your hand". It was worth the drive, and now I know where my dinner tonight came from.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bead Embroidery

I love bead embroidery. This is a diagram I made to show how I sew the beads onto my quilt tops. I use nylon bead thread like Nymo D, in colours to match the bead colour. The quilt in the last post was beaded using this method.

I also make beaded bugs to add as appliques after completing the quilts. The Beetle/Dragonfly photo shows bugs made with pre-printed fabric that a student gave me. The first photos show bugs that I drew from photographs then beaded. I traced the drawings onto cotton then coloured it with permanent markers. I basted a piece of stabilizer onto the back. I beaded the edges and outlined areas. I filled in the spaces with more beads. Then I glued satin fabric onto the backs and trimmed the edges.

The beaded bugs make a great focal point for garden and landscape wall quilts. Two books that I highly recommend: Bead Creative Art Quilts by Nancy Eha and The Beading Buddy by Mary Stori.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Japanese Fans Quilt

A University professor friend of mine spent some time in Japan a number of years ago, and brought back a pile of wonderful Japanese silks, ikats, shibori, obi and other fabrics for me. I created this simple little Japanese Fans Quilt to showcase the fabrics, then I added bead embroidery to all the seams to jazz it up. I made the tassels from buttons and more beads.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Protection/Healing Quilt

Carrying on my blue theme, this is a wall quilt I made for my sister. My friend Judy Martin made a beautiful Protection Heart block for me several years ago, and it inspired me to make this quilt for my sister. I used colours that symbolize her element (air) and metal (gold). I included a Protection Heart, a Healing Hand, and Life Spiral images.

I also included buttons from 3 generations of family button boxes, a length of old hand-crocheted lace that was passed down to me, many symbolic embellishments including Roman Catholic religious medals, and a collection of lace hankerchiefs that belonged to our Great Aunt Muriel Rice. She graduated from the Waltham Training School for Nurses in 1925, and these hankies were part of her nursing uniform. Muriel worked as a healer all her life, and I wanted to include her power in the quilt.

I stencilled the back of the quilt with words that describe my sister, and used one of Muriel's fancy dress hankies as the label.

This quilt is collaged, pieced, hand-embroidered, stamped and stencilled.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


... water world. My hon Sid on our kayaking trip to Johnstone Strait, British Columbia, July 2007

... sky after the storm. My backyard, this morning.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Killarney Provincial Park

We are in the middle of a snow storm today. To cheer myself up, I am sharing photos that I took in Killarney Provincial Park , Ontario in September 2007. Killarney is gorgeous, and one of our favorite canoeing places. The fall colours are intense, the lakes are lovely, and the quartzite cliffs glow in the sun.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


This is an ink & watercolour sketch I did of Chicory, a lovely wildflower that grows in my region. True blue flowers are unusual in the plant world.

I've been thinking about creating a quilt pattern series of wildflowers. Manitoulin Island, one of the most amazing wildflower areas of this part of Canada, is only an hour away from my home. I plan to get more sketching time in this year, and there will be new quilts as a result.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Moosejaw Mountaineering & Marketing

I just love the way Moosejaw Mountaineering uses humour in every aspect of their marketing. Their website is a hoot, and even their mailed packages make me laugh.

We ordered titanium pots (much lighter to carry!) for our canoeing trips and this is what the box looked like.

These people are brilliant! Their pots are great too...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quilt Fabric Stash

Lately on the Quilt Designers List people have been discussing their definition of "Stash". This is a coloured pencil drawing of my stash cupboard, done on white cotton ironed to freezer paper for stability. It includes a lovely little Amish miniature quilt made by my friend Carol McLean.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

La Maison and Tourtiere

My husband asked me last night what television programs I watched as a child. I remember "Chez Helene" and other French Canadian programs, as I was being raised in both English and French Canadian cultures. I began in a French Catholic school. My father (English) decided soon after that I would not continue there. He came to my school one day, removed me from class, and enrolled me the same day in an English public school.

Eventually I lost most of my French. The quilt above is titled La Maison, which deals with the feelings I had during the change from French to English. I created the centre collage panel of this quilt in 2003, and completed the quilt in 2005. The red embroidery above the chimney is the Red Lion of Wales, and there are blue Fleur de Lis in the sky.

To celebrate my French Canadian culture on this snowy Sunday, my husband and I spent the day making Tourtiere (meat pie) and I've included my recipe here:

1/2 lb ground pork
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 stalk chopped celery
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 Yukon Gold potato, cooked and mashed
1 tsp. each of salt, dried thyme, and dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
Optional: minced garlic cloves
1 recipe of pastry for a 9" double crust pie (I use the Tenderflake Lark recipe)

Brown ground pork and beef in frying pan (add garlic if desired). Remove meat from pan and set aside to cool. Add onion, celery and pepper to pan. Saute until cooked but not too soft. Mix the cooked vegetable, meat, potato and spices together. Completely cool in fridge.

Spoon cooled mixture into pie shell. Cover with top crust. Flute the edge and cut vent holes in top. Bake at 425 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until brown.