Inspirations From The May Garden

May is violet time in my USDA Zone 4 garden, a sesson blessed with my favourites. Heaven might have these views and fragrances, don't you think? Today, meantime, they heal the eyes of body and soul.

First, a look along the flagstone path from under the Corkscrew Hazel, through Husband's forged iron “Peony” sculptures. The green glass flower (lower right) is part of his forged iron candelabra (subject of another post one day on garden sculptures.) Beyond the greenery, you see the Rideau Canal, alongside which lies our garden. It is the Tulip Festival time in Ottawa and my tulips have obliged this year by blooming on time with the violets. The flagstone path is where violets love to grow.

Nature inspires art.

My embroideries of past years have all been especially inspired by the colours and textures of the season in my canal-side garden.

Textured pinks, purples, lavenders, burgundies:

Purple Sandcherry (Prunus cistena) – to embroider as well as to eco-print

Tulips…extravagantly contrasting purple petals and golden stamens

Hardy Rhododendron, acidly mauve. Victorian.

Isabella Preston's “Prestonia” extremely hardy lilacs, developed here in Ottawa at the Experimental Farm of the Government of Canada, during a time when females did the work and males got the credit…(Hmm, you say? ) ….Isabella did get two Ottawa streets named for her eventually. A fine parade of her hybrid lilacs is still grown in the Farm's Ornamental Gardens as well as in gardens all over the city and in the valley around. We can let t the work speak for Isabella in lasting pleasures of fragrance and colour.


Lily of the Valley, fragrant and spotless – no enemies at all thanks to her iron hands in velvet gloves. Well, blessed are such peacemakers in some parts of my garden! But keep her out of the dye pot and the veggie garden – she could hurt you there. Above, she is getting along well with the Forsthythia which will have dropped its blooms by the time the Lily of the Valley is in full flower.

Dandelions, Pis-en-Lits (Pee The Beds) with violets (The pink petals are from the “Purple Passion” hardy apple tree under which they grow.) Our city no longer uses pesticides so the dandelions are free to roam. Love them, always have – that is my harmless, cultural prejudice. Would that all cultural prejudices could be confined to quarrels over what may be termed “weed” or “useful” in the plant world.

The Canada Violet, my all-time-most-loved plant.

See how the violet manages to find a place to grow between the spaces in the flagstones? I love the symbolism of blooming in a tight and arid space…

And here, my favourite Spring tree blossom – the native Serviceberry (Amelanchier family) Pretty soon, the delicious berries will ripen to purple and the birds of the neighbourhood will flock to the tree…in a few days, all the berries will be gone. I snack on a few but leave most to the birds. I do pick Saskatoon berries, though – the birds and squirrels here ignore them. I have some berries in my freezer waiting to be eco printed. No need to make the jam- Saskatoon berry jam, made in Saskatchewan, is available in our supermarkets. It is tasty if seedy…and it is Canada-local! The tree is a member of the Amelanchier family (see plant list pages )

Bleeding Heart does well under the Serviceberry, The pink form is much hardier than white in my garden. I try not to have any plant “pets” so no matter how much I love white Bleeding Heart, if it cannot tolerate the basic conditions in my garden, I cannot have it there. When I began gardening seriously in this environment, I did have all kinds of pets, growing them from seed, even. In time, however, I changed my gardening style to growing drought- native plants and only those Green Immigrants known to adapt well to Zone 4. NO pushing the seaonal envelope in this garden nowadays.

“Le Temps Des Violettes – Violet Time” 2004
In response to these Spring Garden Beloveds, I made an embroidery. It was actually among the first art embroideries I created with free motion stitch on a printed substrate. I designed the colours and shapes in my computer graphics programme, printed it out on Pellon on my inkjet printer, then used all manner of threads in my sewing machine to create textures and colours, aiming to capture the parade of blooms such as you see in the photos above. I embellished the finished embroidery with seed beads and painted Pellon “beads”



Reflections of trees in the canal water are a fascinating source of art inspiration, too. Across from my garden is a magificent old elm tree. I think I have hundreds of photos now showing that tree in every season, year after year. I am planning to make an Artist Book or two about my Elm Friend. Here is the tree on a warm day in May across the canal:

I have made many embroideries of reflections in water. Here is one about the willow tree in my garden as reflected in the Rideau Canal waters:




Until next time with more embroideries about the spring garden and waterside trees, and some eco printed artist books. You can see more of my embroideries on my website





Ooops!!! Lost Post on eco printed Artist Book pages!

Sorry but it seems I have deleted the post I wrote yesterday about my Artist Book and the Clamshell case. Here is ” Local Colour” meantime. I was inspired by arlee's nerine …plus have cabin fever a bit, longing for some green….

I will try to recreate the Lost Post – It was a little history of my first eco print and how that printed textile ended up as the covers in an Artist Book.

May I offer you some eye candy meantime? This is a collection of images of leaves I live with:

To remind myself that I like sewing and other kinds of printing: this is a free motion and hand stitched morsel on transfer- printed polyester, mounted on painted canvas, 6″ x 6″. I do wee textiles like this when I need to stitch either when I do not have a Big Idea in mind or when taking a break from the Big Project. It is a great stash buster, too. For this one, I simply patched a few fragments together and stitched on them

Detail of same. I like making the seeding stitch. Julia Caprara and Ilze Aviks have done wonderful pieces with just that one stitch. I challenge myself to stick to one or two things to focus on

Carob tree, started from seed. I am a maniac seed saver and seed starter…it will be 80 years approx before this babe grows a carob pod or locust bean which the fruit of the plant that John the Baptist and the Prodigal Son ate…it reminds to be patient while waiting for the fruit of my labours…Another of my embroidered paintings is on the wall behind the Carob.


The fig tree is finally sprouting. The textile on the wall behind it is by Lorraine Roy, Canadian fibre artist. She often uses trees and leaves as motifs in her work. She cuts up bits of fabric and traps them behind tulle to create a textured surface into which she then stitches.

Below are seedlings of Polygonum tinctorium, Japanese Indigo. I grew the plant from seed in pots last summer but was too busy to make the blue dye when the time was right. So I let them grow on and brought them inside, cutting them back a few weeks ago. They have self seeded in the pot!


These are pet Eucalyptus globulus with a few Silver Wattle (seeds from Richter's).

Slow growing for sure – these plants are almost a year old. Think I wIll get prints from them any time soon?

Hitchhikers…I dug up some red geraniums to bring inside and along with them came hyacinth, Star of Bethlehem and …????Looks like an Easter lily but it is very tall…

The geranium (pelargonium) gave no print at all hardly when I tried it on paper.

Back to the Lost Post!



Needlepoint Retrouvailles

About half of my needlepoint stash – so many years in the closet ! – is in the process of recreation as a chair covering. First Daughter, sister of The Bride with Eco Printed Chuppah, has fallen in love with this kind of handwork, whatever the subject : Portraits, florals, landscapes (especially in Group Of Seven style), forests, Old Country cabins…Here are some of the collection, cut up and fused to muslin, ready to be stitched into chair cushions.



First Daughter and her mama are especially pleased by the placement of two of the pieces – a modern design stitched in Israel, and the other, a traditional cross stitch border in a Palestinian design:

By the way, Daughter and I noted with some satisfaction that the September issue of Vogue is showing needlepointed fashions galore – dresses, bags, even shoes!

Next post: rust and leaf eco printed papers.


Eco prints for wedding guests

Just a few days to go before the wedding …Chuppah Day is May 6!

The Bride is making up little Loot Bags to greet the wedding guests, with fun contributions from sundry friends and family.

For the cause, I am donating my stock of stitched and eco printed greeting cards…about six dozen. This is still the year of stash busting! The cards were fun to make, especially with eco printed watercolour paper, cut to fit a greeting card window. The stitched cards have always been a favourite way to limber up in the studio…no planned designs, just playing with colours and textures using fragments left from finished works to make tiny artwork – see a selection below:

The eco prints below were made Fall 2011:





Fig leaf print

Before leaving for NYC, I had to cut back my indoor fig:


What to do with the fig cuttings? Why, layer them over silk velvet and silk noil them with fermenting (three months) eucalyptus:

On silk velvet:


On silk noil:


The euc gives up its colour right away:

The two were bundled, wrapped in plastic and left outside in a wee portablevgreenhouse to solar dye until I get back. We will see if steaming or immersion dyeing will be needed to develop the colours.

Until next time


Eco Prints for a Midwinter’s Day

Hems that got ripped off in irritation when my stitching went awry (see previous post) are nevertheless not to be wasted. They present a fine  new challenge: components of a  new textile. E.g.  They might be inviting as silken woven nest materials for elegant and princely local  birds and squirrels…

Last eco prints of 2011.

The last new eco prints of 2011 are for my “Silk Roads” collection of long shawls (100″ x 25″). Silk Roads 3 and Silk Roads 4 were printed with rust, safflower petals (dried, AKA “False Saffron”, cheap, from the local mid-east grocery), Darjeeling loose tea (Twinings, not that cheap), and enough red cabbage (not cheap either – from California) to mingle with the safflower to give a hint of chartreusey green-yellow as well as  some light blue-greys. Not quite a 100-mile dye  series in the Ottawa winter. So to allude to the travelling, the series is entitled “Silk Roads”

I wanted “midwinter” Ottawa colours: Soft ice blues (so not so much red cabbage), dead-leaf browns (less-is-more with the dried tea leaves), cloud greys (blues and browns poetically mingling), ochre-yellow sandstone  yellows (yellow safflower petals consorting with black tea ); weather-beaten iron-rust claiming dye and print rights over all…  

Silk Roads 3

Silk Roads 4

Another view of Silk Roads 4

Detail 1:

Detail 2:
Winter dye sources

 The dye stuffs for the “Silk Roads” series of ecoprinted shawls come from my kitchen:  cabbage, tea, false saffron and a rusty iron corn stick pan. Such will be the most reliable sources of dye colours for several months yet, for I have decided not to “import” dye stuffs grown elsewhere (as far as possible – we do have a lot of snow here…) but to at least stick with what I can buy at the grocery store, or have saved from my garden and environs.

The last greeneries amd blooms from my garden (outdoors but some from indoors, too) produced these prints on long silk (100″ x 25″) shawls:

Fall Bouquet:

The bright red-oranges are from faded dahlia blooms,  blues from (winter) Ice Pansies, yellows from dead tagetes, dark green-greys from rose leaves, bright greens from perennial geranium leaves, purple-greys from prunus cistena (Purple Sandcherry). Sigh.

Fig and Oak

Sounds like a good name for a corner pub as well as for a silk shawl.  Oak leaves blown in from a nearby tree, fig leaves (ficus carica) from my indoor plant; some cotinus coggygria, too, to avoid predictability. The blue cotinus print overlapped with the fig yellows.

Maybe “Oak and Fif” instead of “Fig and Oak”? Not sure about the linguistic protocols for the naming of pubs – perhaps some linguist out there would know… Anyway, here is the large oak leaf (variety not known) print in detail:

While the dried fall oak leaf printed with precise brown dots in outlines, the fresh indoor fig leaf splurged its juicy green everywhere.

Next posts:

New Year Surprises…

1. I do have to update several of my  other pages about dye plants, stitching vintage textiles etc…

2. The City of Ottawa has also purchased some of my art this year for its permanent collection…I am beginning a new series “Forest Floor” for a show at The Trinity, a public (city) gallery here in Ottawa next July. It will be my first opportunity to show all my eco and rust printed and stitched work  in one place, vintage and otherwise.  I am planning to document the collection here. I am interested in working on the concept of “disruptive patterning”, (AKA camouflage) with which eco printed textiles have much in common in my opinion. 

“Camouflage” references: 

This first book accompanied a  most interesting textile and camouflage media exhibit at the Canadian War Museum (Ottawa) a couple of years ago:

And this second book  is a classic on the topic of camouflage patterns on cloth and anywhere else:

A happy and blessed holiday season to all who happen by this blog and a happy and blessed new year, too.  Thank you for reading  and sharing.



Stitching Eco Printed Textiles: Studio Notes 1

I have been preparing some of my silk and silk- blend textiles as shawls and scarves for my shows this December. But  my carpal tunnel and arthritis is acting up, thus sewing by hand will be torture for a while until it flares down again… Some of my solutions meantime:

1. Dharma Trading pre-rolled hem on silk-wool blend…but I wondered (too late, I admit )about the age of the stitchers and the thought made me uneasy…

2.  Hmm. So I rolled my own on another silk-wool blend, cut yardage this time:

3. When the handwork gave much stress on my wrist, I elected to use (for the first time) the blind hemmer attachment that came with my sewing machine …But said an incantation, lit a candle and did a dance around the studio first:

4. The above ritual worked about 70% of the time but not well at the corners – though often  better if I slipped some watersoluble paper under the foot when I started stitching…The hardest textile to sew was the 8mm or 10,, silk habotai.

5. So next I tried  running stitch by hand, CTS be damned (using variegated rayon thread):

6. Then I gave the wrist a rest again, skipped the blind hemmer for a turned hem and tried simple straight stitching along raw edges instead for an “edgy” look:

7. I did two rows of stitching in variegated rayon thread to suggest embroidery; then for another type of finish, some zig-zagging along raw edges:

8. Finally, some creative repair when I snipped the eco bundle strings with scissors instead of unwinding them by hand (no patience that day…) and cut into the silk:



9. Solvy and free motion embroidery to the rescue:

I will repeat the machine stitching over the surface  -might have to forego the hand embroidery for a while!

Next post: Last eco prints of 2011!

Christmas blessings to all.



Fibre Jewels

A collection of some of the fibre jewels made from stuff in my stash: When I was first trying free motion machine embroidery, I did small projects with mini “canvases” to find out how tension, thread weights, colours, bobbin thread, etc.  worked . I made little bags, pins, neckpieces, cuffs and cards,  too. I found these projects  a convenient way of trying various fibre art techniques, like needle felting, nuno felting, transfer printing – anything and everything you have ever read about in Quilting Arts… I did not buy anything new but used up stuff from my stash, especially silk and wool fragments, jewelry findings and vintage trims and buttons, etc. Making a small item like a 2″ pin meant that  I did not end up with millions of boxes of huge  UFOs! (Only thousands… ) I often made these fun and frivolous pieces whenever I got “stuck” on a major art piece or when I just felt like playing and trying new things.  

Here are some of those little fibre jewels:
I designed my version of a  Chanel cuff in silk with a “medallion” in classic Chanel jewelry colours,  stitched the medallion on pellon, cut it out and appliqued it to the silk cuff. Some of the other stitched medallions (above) were also later stitched to silk cuffs.

Next, some pins and neckpieces:
  A pin-necklace combo. Needle and wet felting, dyed cheesecloth, free motion embroidery and a chunky-funky abalone button from The Stash. More:

A lovely little mother-of-pearl vintage button for that one.  Next:

More trim with abalone for this one. Next:

Pin-necklace. Wet felted and handstitched, trimmed with a vintage gilt and jet button.

Pin-necklace; wet felted, free motion stitched, dyed cheesecloth, vintage jet button trim.

Pin-necklace. Wet felted, free motion stitched, dyed cheesecloth, abalone button trim.

“Flora” pin-necklace. Painted and embroidered in layers. Trimmed with vintage Japanese printed cloth button.

“Abstract 1”. Pin, 2″ x 2″ approx. Free motion embroidery on silk.  This was practice for using thick threads in the bobbin and working from the back of the piece.

Next time:

Some more eco prints with fall leaves that I put in the freezer to see if they would release good colour after freezing. They do! At least, on water colour paper, they do. (Not so good for prints on my embossed handmade papers…)I am hoping that means I can freeze leaves instead of saying “Goodbye until next spring”. TBD…

Following the Mark: Stitching an Eco Printed Vintage Refectory Cloth

When a local monastery moved away last year, the sisters had a garage sale. I collected some of their old kitchen and refectory linens,  woven by nuns of the order elsewhere in the world. Each linen  cloth is embroidered in a corner with inventory letters worked in tiny cross stitch, like this:  ( the red running stitch is mine):

I admire these  humble “slow” cloths, so carefully created and preserved, so respectfully employed in the service of community. And since many of them are stained by that  daily service,  as we are by life, I was inspired  to work through that idea: To stain and mark the cloths further, but with the beauty of natural dyes from my own garden plants and with embroidery, just following the marks. It was a way to honour daily tasks, their life-giving dignity not always registering as we carry them out.  So I  have made my own registrations ( printing with plants, marking with threads, staining with dyes) on this first refectory cloth using rose leaves from my garden, not only to recall the rosaries the sisters recite but to let me share somehow in the stories in the prayer cloth.  

So when my  linen bundles emerged from the steam pot,  the old stains on the cloth  re-emerged but in new colours under the eco prints, and I set out to follow all those marks. 

This is how the whole textile looks at this stage ( work in progress!) Don’t forget, you can enlarge the image by clicking on it and then again with the taskbar Google “magnifier”. It’s cool. And useful. I can see a lot more stuff that way than with my glasses.

Then there are some lovely surface details that bring to mind  the original worker- like the beautifully darned area here ( with an unvintage hole  emerging…):










I free- motion stitched around the darned area to highlight it and to protect it from too much embellishment.  I am using  straight hand stitches for the first layers of embroidery: running, cross stitch, cross hatching, seeding, etc. Straight stitch  seems appropriate for the simplicity of the cloth’s origins even though the surface design is becoming quite elaborate (deliberately so). I am inspired by the handwork of Julia Caprara and Ilze Aviks whose simple straight stitching is far from shallow.  Some of my attempts:



Other areas:

And another:

And the last one:

A note on the  threads: They are from my stash, too. They are vintage threads from the 1930’s:  Beldings’, a Canadian thread company (samples of the thread are in the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilisation in Ottawa) made rayon and silk thread for embroidery. I found them at local vintage textile sale.

Honour Roll for this post:

Julia Caprara (now sadly deceased). Julia’s wisdom: “Trust your beginnings.” Colour, texture, handwork and design were all strengths but her love of her students, her sincerity in teaching and her devotion to her art were her greatest gifts.

Ilze Aviks works wonders with the humble seeding stitch. I have her books on embroidering marks with seed stitches – they are fabulous.

Next post: Off topic. Some stuff I have been turning up from the stash as I clean out the stufio. Fibre jewels and accessories – all frivolity and fun! While waiting for the silk and wool panels to mordant.

Sorry again about the formatting. Don;t know how to fix it yet.