Category Archives: Frankenstitch


I’m spending as much time admiring this, and running my fingers over it, as i am stitching :)  I’ve been trying new angles with the camera, hoping it shows the texture and dimension, as i wish you could see and touch it in person! first rondelle done first rondelle done c I see a few areas where i will add more of the bars too–using photographs gives a more objective view!

These will be the last photos for awhile of this section, because it’s going to have to be covered and protected while i work the other areas. The detached buttonhole bars are strong for their size, but i fear catching them on something as i move the cloth around. I’ve hooked fingernails, pins and needles, needle keeps and assorted other strange things before on “flatter” work, so this could be a nightmare snare if left free!


Stitch Combo Extreme workshop, wrap-up

Intense workshop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My brain is both exhilarated and exhausted upon completion of the three-day workshop taught by Karin Millson and myself. My own machine skills have been tightened and added to, my hand embroidery takes on new meaning, knowledge has been imparted to other artists to carry their take on the subjects, and we are both thrilled that it went so well, for us *and* the participants. Thank you SO much for the faith and trust you put in us, the attentive listening and sharp questioning, and the joy you all brought to the table. You are/were a wonderful, talented, explorative and amazing bunch of artists to work with and to teach!!!!!!!!!!


Where do i start? Our venue was in North Glenmore Park at the Canoe Club, with spectacular views of the park and right over the reservoir, a huge many-windowed room with plenty of elbow and table space. The eleven of us were able to spread out comfortably on large tables, with a separate paint area easily accessible to the kitchen for clean ups.


empty room SCE workshop

not so empty

The only problem we had was that it was COLD, and the light was bad, even with all the windows, because it was grey and miserable outside! We made up for it *inside* though🙂

room with a view

The focus of this dual workshop was technique, not “project”, so Karin started the weekend for us by teaching us how to “abuse” our machines! If you’ve ever really read your machine’s manual, you’ll note there is never anywhere noted that you can circumvent certain controls, especially on the bobbin case. In fact, a lot of times if you tell your tuner-upper/repair guy what you’ve been doing with your machine other than that tidy hem stitch with perfectly matched tensions top and bottom, they will tell you that voids the warranty!!! (Don’t tell them that, tell them a grandchild *may* have touched it😉 )

k worktable

Now, long time readers may remember that i have hated my machine, not so affectionately named Lalage (not mine above, that’s Karin’s trusty Bernina), because she is bluntly put, a Bad machine, lazy, unresponsive, clunky and bitchy. She’s not a top of the line expensive too-many-features Prima Dona, but a reputable “home use” brand with a few extra features (more than half of which i don’t really use or care about). I’ve fought with her for almost 5 years, wanted to throw her out the window, replace her and have barely touched her in the last year and a bit. Really, we’ve been rarely on even semi-polite speaking terms!

Under Karin’s expert guidance, i may come to like her, if not get to the point of loving or admiring her. (The machine i mean, not Karin, whom i have the utmost respect and admiration!)  I must admit too that i have not a lot of photos for this section of the workshop, as i was learning as well! Karin taught the first day and a half, i the second half and third day, with all of us doing a bit of overlap on the machine as people added to fabric to react to. (And Karin learned from me during my teaching portion so it worked well for everyone🙂 )

I won’t go into detail about how we adjusted tensions, as that’s Karin’s purview and she wants to teach this again–as students we have to remember that this is part of a teacher’s lesson plan and earnings, so don’t share “How’s” after a workshop, show your results! Another point to mention is that it is Bad Form to enter something you have made in a workshop in an exhibition–this is simply “not done” if you wish to be respected as an artist who while you have taken the technique lesson, doesn’t mean you have mastered it yet. Make it your own FIRST. Whatever you made in that workshop is the direct influence and under guidance of the teacher–*you* are not an artist yet with the technique! Not being nasty here, just truthful. Also, workshops don’t get listed on CV’s: anyone can take a workshop, (anyone can teach them too!), it does not mean you are good at it, or that it will automatically give you any more cachet, particularly/even if it’s a “name” teacher. I’ve seem examples of this and i shudder—sometimes i want to ask “Really? Then what did you learn, because i don’t see skill or development resulting!” Workshops are about individuality, adding to your skills, not copying the Teach, or taking for granted what you have learned. I say that even as a teacher, and certainly i say it as a student.

Ahem, i digress.

So, i have always been afraid to mess with the tension on my machine(s). Yes, i knew you could do it, but without actual physical-right-there help, i didn’t want to mess up things and not be able to take it back to regular settings. What if i broke something? What if i snarled things so badly the machine never worked “properly” again? What if i let all the smoke out and couldn’t get it back in???? Karin knew i was afraid of doing this–she’s heard me bitch about it often- but under her expert guidance and compassionate listening to my whining, encouraged me to try. So i did. HA! I spit now on my fear!

my machine sampling

my machine sampling b

my machine sampling c

my machine sampling d

my machine sampling e

These above are samplings of the technique, nothing exotic or awe inspiring (except for those last two!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but very very very Useful. You can’t see what i see in them🙂

Already i’ve had a epiphany and since i have been wanting to get back to a bit of machine work, i know how and where it will work for me. Plans afoot! Future work! Part of my issue with hand embroidery THOUGH I LOVE IT DEARLY< TREASURE IT< AM PROUD OF IT< I WANT TO MARRY IT, is the time issue. My goal in learning from Karin was learning to use my machine in a more organic fashion, emulating but not imitating the freeness, gestural qualities and texture that hand embroidery has. And it IS possible. More practice is needed, but i know what, how and why now–the machined can be the base i work from. As purist as i may be sometimes, it’s a tool that does speed things up. Adding machine work back to my arsenal is not a compromise, but another level of communication and depth.


Part of the combined experience in this workshop was doing some wet work on cloth, creating designs that the students could then respond to, by machine and by hand, and by combining them as well.


paint2Nothing like a bunch of grown women playing “Vroom-vroom” on a table!

I think i converted a few to hand embroidery as being as (or more, bias speaking here, chortle) important, as technique and translation/expression of intent in textile work. I showed them samples, demonstrated some basic stitches and away we went. I had the pleasure of teaching a few who had minimal to no hand embroidery skills, and then admiring stitching done by more experienced participants. First i had them try the stitches on a piece.

paint and stitch k

paint and stitch wk

paint and stitch wp

paint and stitch c


Since part of this part of the workshop was about “dimension” with the hand technique, i had them do a series of circles, that when done, would be attached together.

paint and stitch d

paint and stitch circles v

At the end of the class, we had a wide range of looks and interpretations, using the painted cloth, and hand and machine embroidery.

the gamut

circle a

circle c

circle d

circle j

circle v

circle wk

circle wp

circles vn

circles k

(Note: though all photos are taken myself hence the copyright, not all is *my* work, but no names attached as though i had permission to share the results, i will not name students for privacy reasons.)

From the feedback we got at the end while everyone showed their samples, it was a resounding success, speaking both as teacher and as student!!!!!!!!!!!!! I look forward to seeing more work from these students, and from myself🙂



Calgary stitch class

Karin and i are working hard on getting the information together as fast as we can, as the date chosen is March 20-22, inclusive, in Calgary, Alberta. We realize this doesn’t give a lot of lead time for planning, but hope you will be able to join us for a fast paced and fun workshop using extreme machine and hand embroidery on fabrics you’ll be creating yourself.

We will be sending the more detailed info as to venue ( we have two choices so far that we are looking into) and the costs and supplies as soon as possible.

If you would like to sign up, please email me at arlee dot ar at gmail dot com. This is NOT an online class, but a physical “you must be there” one🙂

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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Frankenstitch by Hand, Frankenstitch by Machine, media experiments, not so ordinaries, Workshops


sail away

What jogs a memory?

colsk1sm  Our smallest cat, Miss Piggy Minoux, is quite sick, thin and getting frail. She’s now having seizures as well, at least 8 of them in the past three days…  and a tumour on her neck, reminding me of my Selena, who died a few years ago with much the same problem.  I called Selena “my little feather” in the last month of her life as she wasted and was reduced to nothing but cuddling on my bed all day long, barely eating, barely moving but purring with unreserved love and appreciation every time i spoke to her or touched her. Selena was 17 when she died, a large part of my life, and Miss Piggy has been with my dear Greyman for 12 years, a tiny “perma kitten” rescued from a wheel well in the coldest part of an Edmonton winter, and loved greatly by her “daddy”. The man is a grumbly curmudgeon with no patience for 99.9% of the world, but a total sap and sucker for animals, a major reason i love him, and he’s going to crumble when the poor puss floats away over the bridge…..

I digress, but not really. Feathers, sailing, floating, blowing in the wind, wafting away in the ether. Yes, a common thread to many, an element of design that catches us all, makes us hold our breath with their beauty and transient life. We tuck them into picture and mirror frames, encapsulate them with thread, suspend them from jewellry, paint, stitch, sketch, poetry them.



And while not floaty, the background for the UPP progresses, slow going at the moment as the day job increases the closer we get to the merry day! I’m not going to have a lot of time after either as there are weddings to attend to as well.

dec12 smThe flower pieces are not attached yet, but putting them there every once in awhile reminds me there are expanses i do not have to work!



Murder averted…..

june 29 pan Cthree quarters to go……18 pieces more….


still seeing red

red bubbles june 10 C


red cars go faster

And so does red stitching when you finally get the foot on the pedal properly🙂

two done C

two detail 1 C

two detail 2 CAnd all are actually upside down, but that’s ok!