Art Lab Studios and Gallery 2023

The show was hung on Friday morning after our two hour drive from Halifax to Parrsboro. I’ve shown in the gallery enough times that knowing what I wanted to hang, where, required little deliberation. I knew I’d brought exactly the right number of pieces to display.

The show consists of eight lap size quilts, accompanied by two panels each with an array of 6×6 pieces – a total of thirty pieces of textile art. A respectable amount of work.

As you enter the gallery space

On your right as you enter the Community Gallery you find the four Drunkard’s Path Blocks quilts: Let the Trumpet’s Sound, Drunkard’s Path #5, Skyline #3, and Planet’s With Moons (from right to left). It doesn’t immediately strike you that all four quilts are built using the same block construction, but if you look closely you see the basic quilt block is the same in each.

The “Modern Flower” Pieces

Turn to your left and you see the “Modern Flower” pieces – a couple of larger raw-edge appliqué works with the 6×6 pieces on a panel in between. On the end wall (on the left) I chose to hang the Asian Strips piece, showcasing the use of the asian print leftovers I used to assemble that quilt.

The “Convergence” Quilts

Again, turning to the left you see the “Flower” 6×6 panel above the horizontal post (three have sold so far!), followed by the Convergence quilts – Convergence Quilt #4, #3, and #2.

It always amazes me to see the quilts and small pieces hung in the gallery – the collection has such a different impact than seeing the art one quilt at a time. The technical work slips into the background as the visual impact takes over.

I spoke to a number of people at the opening during the afternoon, all of whom were interested in the decision-making that goes into each work, whether a lap quilt or a small 6×6 piece. People always want to know how long does it take – it’s an unanswerable question – there’s no way to account for the “thinking about it” time that goes into each textile work. The execution, the cutting out, the piecing, the quilting, the embellishing, the binding are all straightforward aspects of making this art. I can predict reasonably accurately how long each phase will take; but the thinking about it is out of my control – it takes as long as it takes.

The show is hanging in the Art Labs Community Gallery (121 Main Street) in Parrsboro NS until late afternoon on Thursday, June 15. If you happen to live near Halifax, or near Parrsboro, do drop by. In addition to the Community Gallery the four resident artists display their work as well. It’s worth a visit.

If you make it a day trip from Halifax, I’d recommend leaving around 9:00 am, driving straight to Parrsboro, visiting the gallery, then having lunch at the Harbourview Restaurant. After lunch mosey your way back, stop at the Five Islands Lighthouse Park to take in the ocean view. Further down the road visit Lowland Gardens – they always have some unusual plants there. You can’t drive back to Halifax without stopping at Masstown Market – fresh produce, great ice cream, good chili if you’re hungry. Depending on how long you take at each stop you should make it back to town between 6:00 – 7:30. You’ll have enjoyed the day.

PS – all of these pieces are for sale. If you’re interested in knowing more about any of them, email me:



I thought this piece would be easy and straightforward – not so. The first thing I had to do was tone down the reflection both in the flower and on the leaves – I used Derwent Intense watercolour pencils to shade away the white. That gave me better overall colour to work with.

I started thread painting by outlining the leaves and leaf veins. Then onto the flower. Using a strong yellow I stitched the highlights on the petals. Next came the dark red at the throat, then the brighter red of the centre. I wasn’t intending to fill the entire centre area but an edge stitching at the red/pink boundary was jarring and left the red centre very dull so I took it out and reworked the area – filling it in. After that, I added the pink, and stitched the pistil. I needed to create a stitch for the stigma (of the pistil), and another for the stamens, I filled in the style of the pistil in a darker red.

Up close there is more stitching than I’d prefer, but when the piece sits next to the other 7 completed pieces, the flower shading stands out and the piece fits in with the others.

“6 x 6” – Revisited

I’ve had a couple of ideas rattling around in my head for a new series of ten 6″ x 6″ pieces. I can use them at the summer showing at the NovelTea Cafe in July/August and whatever doesn’t sell there (I’m not expecting much will) will be ready for the 2023 Christmas show in Tatamagouche at the Ice House Gallery (I know Brandt is planning on doing 6 x 6 for a second year – last year’s show looked terrific!).

I have an interesting collection of seascape photos I’ve taken over the years. I have pulled them from my digital photo collections and stuck them in a folder on my desktop. The idea would be to crop each photo to 6.4″ x 6.4″ (that would allow the print to just come sightly over the edges of a 6 x 6 canvas), print each photo on fabric, back it will fusible interfacing to stabilize it so I can thread paint the image. I haven’t tried that yet – but it’s on my to-do list.

Green Bay, NS

I also have a collection of interesting flower photos. At first I thought I’d try printing those on fabric as well, but the paper print I did the other day wasn’t vibrant enough to stand as a background for thread painting. Instead, I decided to try a single flower image, cropped, from which I could piece a flower on a pale background.

Today I cut a 9″ square from some pale linen I had in my stash. I used a heat erasable pen to mark a 6″ square at the centre. I selected some fabrics, then started cutting. I arranged the pieces of fabric, pinned them in place and began thread painting.

Rudbeckia Flower

This piece took me about five hours to make. I took a couple of shortcuts since I was just playing around. I didn’t bother putting fusible web behind the fabric before cutting it out – a big mistake! I’ve ended up with fraying edges because there is no glue to secure the layers to one another. Next, the leaf at the bottom is in a bad location – I must remember to keep enough space free on the background for a signature. Also, the beige linen background is too “flat,” too “dull.” I definitely want to use to what I have left of the light coloured raw silk I used for the previous 6 x 6 works.

I also want to expand the flower to 7″ – a half inch more on each side so the petals and leaves wrap around the sides of the canvas. In this prototype I cropped the flower and leaves at 6″ – which makes it difficult to get a clean line at the canvas edge. I also need to think about embroideries specific for each flower centre. By the time I got to adding an embroidery here I knew I was just trying out the overall idea and didn’t worry too much about placement. I am going to have to be more precise with whatever I do at the centre of each flower.

I mounted the finished flower on a 6 x 6 canvas, then took the finished piece to show my friend Deb. She thought the idea was definitely worth pursuing. Because I like Rudbeckia flowers I will do another one for the collection.

Nothing on for tomorrow – I intend to do a second prototype taking into account what I learned today.

And Now There Are Ten

I finished the edge stitching, embroidery and leaves/stems on the last of the ten pieces this morning. I removed the excess stabilizer from the back and pressed each block.

Now each needs to be mounted on a 6×6 stretched canvas panel. I still have to decide whether to place batting beneath each before securing the silk to the back of the wooden frame. I’ll cut out a few pieces of batting and see how it looks. I also have to trim the silk panels to remove excess fabric so they’ll attach smoothly to the framing.

That’s for another day.

I survived Hurricane Fiona – the NE winds howled and pounded rain against my windows for a couple of hours. This storm was as severe as Hurricane Juan in 2003 – even though landfall was about 150kms from Halifax (Fiona came ashore at Canso) – in 2003 the city took a direct hit. Nevertheless winds here were strong enough to do significant damage. We were given ample warning – emergency measures folks were concerned about damage from falling trees because they still have all their leaves. They weren’t wrong.

I didn’t suffer a power outage, although a good portion of the city is still without electricity and for some it will take days before repair crews can get to them. A friend came over this morning to shower and do a bit of laundry! She’s hoping to have her power restored before Wednesday (which is her predicted date!).

6×6 – Six Finished

I’ve been procrastinating the past week – no idea why – but today I got back to the two 6×6 pieces I had 1/2 finished and completed them.

There are now six. [The outline is done with a Frixion heat-erasable pen. I’ll remove it when I’m ready to mount the individual pieces on the 6×6 stretched canvas frames.]

6×6 Six Finished

I have another couple of hours this afternoon – there are four 6×6 prepared – I’ll get a start on the edge stitching for a couple of them.

The Challenge – Part 2

Two more 6″ x 6″ blocks completed.

It’s taking about three hours to do each block what with the edge stitching on each piece of fabric, free motion stitching in the stems, stitching the leaves (which are decorative stitches) and embroidering the centres (which is taking way more time than I expected – for some reason my top thread is fraying when I’m embroidering so I get stops where I have to clean up the mess, backtrack the embroidery, then continue stitching.

So far, the signature is stitching out without breaking the thread! After I’ve pressed the block, I’ve redrawn the 6″ outline with a Frixion (heat-erasable) pen so I know where my edges are.

Three more left of the original six I prepared. When those are finished (in about a week or so) I’ll layout the remaining four.

Making Progress

Blue Socks Added To Stash

Finished this pair of socks on Friday and began a new pair that I think I might keep. The stash keeps growing – I will definitely have plenty of socks to share for Christmas. Last week I contacted the gal who wanted 4 pairs of socks from me two weeks before last Christmas – I told her this was the time to place her order. She said no socks this year. Do I really believe her? When she asked last year I just squeezed her order through – I had to take one pair, remove the toes, lengthen the foot by an inch, reknit the toes – she was lucky I had enough time to do that. I’ve already put aside a couple of pairs with someone’s name on them. I’ll just keep knitting as usual.

The Christmas Show Challenge

I finally made a decision regarding the 6″x6″ blocks – to use the textured raw silk for the background, to fuse batik circles of various sizes to the background to simulate “modern flowers”. I cut out ten 10″ blocks from the raw silk I have on hand, backed it with sewer’s dream to stabilize it, marked 6″ squares in the middle (using a heat erasable pen). Next, I added fusible web to a pile of batik scraps and cut out a lot of circles. I have started arranging and fusing circles to the raw silk.

Six Blocks Laid Out (but not yet fused)

Because all ten blocks will be shown next to one another, I’ve worked to vary placement, even cropping some of the flowers so the appearance of the blocks is different. I have to edge stitch the cropped edge so there are no raw edges at the edge of a piece.

I’ve completed one of the blocks

First finished 6″ Block

The slight wobble at the bottom of the block will be eased out when I mount the fabric over the stretched canvas.

Looks like each block will take me between 2 and 3 hours to embellish. It doesn’t look like a humungous amount of stitching but it takes more time than you think to edge stitch each bit of batik, then to add stems and leaves, and signature. The stems are free motion. The leaves are decorative stitches each requiring careful placement. The flower centres are embroideries which want precise positioning and often involve thread changes. It all takes time.

I’ve got another block sitting on my machine waiting to worked on tomorrow.

Another Idea

Appliqué on Raw Silk

In my stash, I have several metres of raw silk – I bought it in Toronto in 2008 to do wall art. I cut a strip, backed it with sewer’s dream – light weight woven fusible interfacing – to stabilize the weave of the silk and to eliminate some fraying at the edges, then cut the strip into 7 1/2″ blocks. I also had some fabric with these roses which I thought might work as appliqués – I backed a piece of the fabric with Pellon 805 fusible web, fussy cut these two flowers, fused them to the silk, thread painted them, added a signature, trimmed the block to 6 1/4″, bordered it, finally I mounted it.

Again, those corners are driving me crazy! Adding the black silk border adds quite a bit of bulk at that critical location and makes it nearly impossible to get a tight, square fold at the corner so while the fold look OK when you look at it from the side you can see the “pointy” bit sticking out when you look at the block face on.

I’m not sure how I feel about the raw silk – I think it has a bit too much texture compared to the woven silk I used on the other flower piece:

Also, I think I prefer the whimsy of the “Modern Flowers”.

I can’t source anything close to this woven silk here in Halifax; I’ve ordered several different types of silk from two different suppliers. Until it arrives (10 days/2 weeks?) I’ll keep playing with the raw silk squares, making more Modern Flowers arrangements. I think that’s where I’ve landed. Because I’ve cut the raw silk at just 7 1/2″ (8 1/4″ is what I need for wrapping around the stretched canvas) I’m going to have to trim and border the blocks but I want to explore different leaf types and lots of different appliqué placement.

Still experimenting!


Three 6″ x 6″ Stretched pieces

My order of a dozen 6″ square stretched canvases arrived day before yesterday. I tried stretching some of the panels I’d made to see how it went. I first tried the crazy quilt block – I had already added a white cotton border to it so I darkened that with a black permanent marker (just to see what it looked like) then folded the fabric over the stretched canvas. Very difficult to get the corners tidy!

I next tried the beans – I didn’t bother trimming and making borders I was primarily interested in folding the corners. Again, they didn’t turn out as smoothly as I wanted. So I took both apart. I removed the canvas from the frame with the crazy quilt block – I wanted to use the canvas piece as a template to shape the bordered block. I trimmed both the crazy quilt and the beans blocks. Then I used double sided tape on the back of the frame so when I brought the border fabric around the sides and to the back it would stay where I put it without having to use a gazillion staples. I centred the crazy quilt block (trimming the corner from the batting underneath to eliminate some of the bulk in the corners) then folded the edges in the same way the canvas had been folded (which gave a flatter corner) and stapled the corners. I redid the beans piece the same way – the edges looked better.

I decided I should try adding a black border to the flowers – I have a large piece of woven silk shantung which my sister had brought me from Thailand at least 15 years ago. I’d made a pair of silk dress pants from half of it but I still have at least 2 metres so I decided I’d give it a try. The silk provides a nice matte edge but in order to sew it without a lot of fraying I will have to back it with sewer’s dream interfacing to give it some stability. The second challenge is to mark the 6″ square as accurately as possible, then add a line 1/4″ from that, so I can align the border silk and stitch an accurate 1/4″ seam. I did an adequate job on the flower piece but I have to become more precise because the light/dark join is obvious and has to be well done!

Back to making more 6″ square blocks.

Crazy Quilt 6″x6″ Sample

Experiment – Crazy Quilt 6″ x 6″

A quick try at “crazy quilt”. I learned several things with this experiment:

  • Leave out the batting, it isn’t necessary
  • Use light tear-away stabilizer instead
  • Be sure to save modified stitches as I go along so I don’t have to recreate them
  • The centre element should have a more irregular pentagonal shape
  • Cover area with fewer fabrics
  • Use brighter/lighter fabrics
  • Decorative stitch each strip as I go (much easier to make starts and stops exact)

In fact, I need to do another experiment – this time creating the entire block in the embroidery hoop! I’ve never done that but I have several block possibilities that create crazy quilt blocks as embroideries.

In any case, this is another possibility for the set of 6″x 6″ blocks!

With this block, I trimmed it to 6.5″ square, then added 2.5″ muslin strips to the sides to frame it. That will work. As soon as the 6″ mounted canvas arrives, I will try trimming and adding border strips in some colour or other so the sides of the pieces are uniform – that might be where the black comes in – the sides of the pieces could be finished in black fabric.


Crazy Quilt – Created In-The-Hoop

This block I created in the embroidery hoop using an embroidery design I had in my collection of embroideries. I like the shape of the central pentagon better – as I carry on – if I carry on – to create a series of these, I need to begin with an irregular central shape.

However, doing this in the hoop isn’t straightforward – the embroidery is set up to work with raw edges – the built in basting secures each piece but doesn’t take into account that the first basting seam needs to stop, the fabric turned, then the tacking to continue. In addition, I had to enlarge the embroidery in order to get a 6″ finished block – this resulted in the embroideries being larger than they want to be. Finally, the decorative stitching wasn’t done as the block developed but after all the fabric had been basted.

So, I don’t intend to carry on in the hoop – but this exercise was useful since I learned about

  • working in a clockwise order
  • trimming my fabric after each addition
  • leaving out the batting, using tear away interfacing instead, works well for the neatness of the stitches
  • and I still want to do decorative stitching as each fabric piece is added