November woods: when paper scraps start to appear, I must be getting somewhere.

mixed media acrylic painting of forest

In progress: November woods – April 2014

Another session plodding away on this November woods painting. I sense I’m nearing the end now: I started sticking odd pieces of paper on and scribbling on it with various media, like pastels. It’s a good sign. Added a few evergreen trees to deal with the flatness. Also working on adding light. in various places. Somehow a crimson streak appeared in the sky – you’ll probably see that disappear on the next version.

mixed media painting of forest

Progress detail – April 15, 2014


Progress: November woods painting

By popular demand, here is a progress report on this November woods painting, one of the slowest paintings on record. After the last post where I added some berry bushes with string, I did some work on the foreground to add more depth.

mixed media acrylic painting of forest

November woods painting…still in progress

mixed media acrylic painting

Detail of painting in progress

mixed media acrylic painting detail

Detail of painting in progress – you can still see some of the string work faintly, but I did a lot more scratching in and dribbling on top of that. The next step is yet to be determined.


Blue dress with vintage lace trim

blue dress with vintage lace trim

Blue dress with vintage lace trim

After a couple warm-up sewing projects last weekend, I couldn’t resist putting together one more dress. This time, I applied a few things I learned on the other projects – adding pockets, and leaving a bit more room at the top of the dress.

Step 1 - cutting out the pieces

Step 1 – cutting out the pieces

I wanted to make a plain blue dress with white lace trim, and my daughter liked this floral vintage fabric scrap in our box. We decided it was big enough to use for the pockets. The pockets are inside, so you can’t see them, but it’s something that I think makes a kid happy – knowing that their favourite pattern is peeking out of the pockets.

Since I was actually sewing this during the day, I let my daughter help. She was very keen to learn, so I let her put on a few thimbles (after this picture was taken) and learn to pin.

child learning to sew

Learning to pin

I didn’t have a pattern…as for instructions, I just kind of sewed the edges, sewed the pieces together, tried it on the girl, sewed some more. I’d recommend using a real pattern if you want this to turn out well…it looks cute but there are imperfections, some caused by the aged sewing machine’s quirks. I’ve been reading the Little House series to our kids, and I can’t imagine how much work it was making their clothes before they got the sewing machine in “These Happy Golden Years.”

pieces of a dress ready to be sewn

Pieces in place

But we had fun, and I got to do something creative besides paint. I think it’s cute! I only wish I’d started sewing things when she was two or three.

homemade blue girl's dress with white lace

She is pretty happy with it (and it was really bright outside – we live in B.C. – we have trouble opening our eyes in sunlight).

siblings playing in the yard

Perfect for some backyard pretend play

The “Rectangle Skirt Deluxe”

handmade skirt girl in forest

Perfect outfit for an evening walk in the woods for this adventurous girl.

child wearing handmade skirt

My daughter loves this skirt – she chose the cloth and trim. The waistband and pockets have golden angels on them.

Next up on my sewing streak was a skirt, inspired by the “Rectangle Skirt Deluxe” tutorial that I spotted on pinterest. Look at this little wonder – adorable!

The tutorial had pretty good pictures that I could follow, though the instructions were not in English. I deciphered most of the important points using google translate, except for a couple key points: the pockets and the waistband.

blue cloth and vintage floral rick rack

My daughter’s choice of cloth and trim for the skirt.

I googled another pattern to figure out the pockets, since I couldn’t detect whether it was the front or back side of the cloth when attaching the pockets.

sewing skirt, in progress.

Pockets – in progress – these kind of remind me of elephants. I do a lot of these projects at night, thus the poor lighting.

Another problem, possibly lost in translation, was that the skirt’s ample fullness ends right below what appears to be a non-elasticized waistband. The one I cut was too snug for elastic to make any difference, and my daughter could barely pull the skirt on, so I ended up cutting it and adding a zipper at the back.

blue rectangle skirt

Finished product

So while the final outcome was a little bit botched, I have a happy client who eagerly wore the skirt to school the next day, and our evening stroll that followed:



handmade rectangle skirt with pockets

Skirt in action on the schoolyard

children's fashion skirt in forest

Wandering in the enchanted forest

Children by stream

I love how imaginative our kids are, and I want these clothes to get played in (though it is a very muddy time of year!) My son chose this walk after having seen the trail head last week. He navigated us driving back to it tonight. It was a good pick!

mossy fern covered tree

Another tall mossy ferny tree

mossy old tree with licorice ferns

Beautiful licorice-fern and moss coated branches above my head.

siblings making nature boats

This picture captures the essence of our family at this stage! The kids were making boats out of sticks and racing them in the stream.

Sewing streak

I was inspired to do some sewing by this cute dress that I saw on instagram by lemonadeamsterdam. Within 24 hours, I sewed two dresses (the first two I’ve ever made) and a skirt for my six-year-old daughter. It’s great having an eager little model who likes wearing dresses.

handmade child's dress

Red dress with vintage floral band

I started with this red one, because I had a big piece of red cloth. (By the way, this is not a tutorial…I am not a very precise person, so there are probably thousands of better instructional posts out there if you are attempting to sew a dress). I’m fortunate to have a box of cloth scraps, as well as a functional sewing machine, borrowed from my mother-in-law. There are a few great pieces of vintage fabric in the collection, like the blue daisy fabric along the bottom of this dress.

tracing a dress as a pattern

Not a great photo, but this is the only one I took while making this dress. This was the dress I traced to get the general size for the dress.

I traced one of my daughter’s existing dresses, leaving extra inches all over. Then I basically did a lot of stitching wherever there was a rough edge. We put a long zipper in at the back. The difficult part (where a pattern would’ve been nice) was the shape around the arms and neck. It turned out a bit snug at the top, but it fits well without extra shirts underneath. Stay tuned for a few more spontaneous sewing projects.

red dress window

handmade child's dress

And of course, a silly pose.




String painting at school

string painting

Step 1: black acrylic drawings

This week, I had the opportunity to help lead the string paintingĀ  project in my daughter’s Gr. 1 & 2 French Immersion class. The teacher was able to find everything we needed in the art supply room. We used an almost-empty bottle of black acrylic paint, which I watered down and shook up. We gave each student a small dixie cup of the paint, a string, and a paint brush. I explained the activity in French to the students, and showed them four examples that we had so they could see the different patterns they could make using more or less lines.

The children enjoyed being able to play with the string, dragging it across the paper and trying different curves and lines. My four-year-old came along, and he eagerly helped wash all the paintbrushes while the class waited on the carpet for the paint to dry (they did show-and-tell in the meantime).

string painting project

Step 2: After the black dries, paint in the colours

The kids had to go run around the school a few times to collect themselves, and came back in eager to add colour to their creations. The paint available was tempera cake paint, which created very vibrant colours. The teacher and I found ourselves running a bucket brigade, though, replacing the students’ water as it became muddy.

children painting

Each child had creative and colourful ideas for his or her painting

Look at the beautiful variety of paintings the kids came up with, even though they didn’t have tons of time (there was even a fire drill during the time we intended to start!). This was the biggest group I’ve ever led an art project with; I’m quite used to managing my own two kids. But it went well and was fun!

children's string paintings

Finished Grade 1 & 2 students’ artwork

Sometimes I pick up pods

found pods arranged in starburstI am–and have always been–the person picking up pods from the corner of the playground while others race around or jump rope. I am the mom arranging stones on the riverside while the other adults are…well…not knee deep in mud. One of the down sides of being creative is being conspicuous. I remember a friend I went to see one time in Toronto telling me to “quit picking” as I scoured the beach.

The other day, I was waiting while the children played on a playground, and I spotted a big piece of styrofoam. All around it were these. These pods. I was impressed by the diverse patterns and colours present in the wood, all from one tree. Teal, black freckles, gray lines, brown patches. The insides of pods that had been fermenting there all winter. I had to bring them home. I had to explain to a new acquaintance why I was carrying a pail of musty pods.

podsIt’s because I’m an artist. Sometimes I pick up pods.