Thursday, November 27, 2014

TTFN....hope to see you again soon

It's done.  Fish Eye Sisters is born!  :-D

Our new site and new blog are both up and running...and you can discover what we are all about.  We still need to set up the shoppe, and Sandra and I have that planned for early in the new year.  In the meantime, please sign up for our newsletter so that you can easily stay in the loop. 

I miss you already, but I hope you will join me at my new home.  Today I shared all of the details on how I made my bed-sized blanket.

Thank you again for all of your support and good wishes,

xxoo Jen

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

blog highlights

I am going to be switching over and start blogging at our new site ( soon, but this blog will stay here indefinitely for people to be able to access.  The only change that I've made recently is that I have decided to remove all of the pictures that I posted from the OHCG Annual and Hooked in the Mountains in Vermont, since I really did not have permission to share all of the photos.  {Truth be told, I have only ever heard from one person who objected....but I think this is the right time (and especially as we live in the age of Pinterest - where it is all too easy to share pictures and images without the appropriate references).  If I have missed any - and you want your work removed - please let me know (new addy: jen (at) fisheyesisters (dot) ca) and I will remove right away.}

Before I leave this place though, I thought it might be fun to take a bit of a walk down memory lane, and highlight some of the best and most popular posts over the past 8 years...enjoy!


Thank you again for all of your support and kind words over the years.
I will be back to let you know when the new site is up and running.... ;-)

Saturday, November 15, 2014


It has sure been quiet around here. I really didn't intend to be gone so long, but 2014 has definitely been filled with lots of big changes for me - some good, some bad, and some kinda ugly. Here are some of the good things that I'd like to catch you up on....

Right after we gathered to celebrate the lives of AJ and UB, I drove to the airport and headed straight down to Georgia to hang with my fibre arts group. Although I arrived a day late, it was just the respite and escape I needed. Four days of making, talking, laughing, and sharing our love of making was too short. Luckily I extended my escape for a few days of exploring in Savannah with Emmy - a place I'd wanted to visit since the summer before I was in grade 13 (and yes, long before I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ;-) ). It did not disappoint. 

The rest of the first half of the year was filled with preparing to move, then moving and settling into my new digs. After my dad died, my mum asked if I would like to move in with her... and so we began the process of sprucing up their house a bit and making room for me and my stuff.  Our weekends and evenings were filled with taking down paintings, removing wallpaper, packing up belongings, moving furniture, patching, sanding, painting, moving furniture, pulling up carpet, scraping off old floor tiles, moving furniture, watching new floors be laid, trying my hand at 'mudding' drywall, more sanding and painting, unpacking belongings, more moving furniture, hanging artwork, and still more moving of furniture. Needless to say, we got really good at moving furniture! ;-)  It was a lot of work, for sure, but the facelift was overdue, and making some changes was good for all of us.

One of the many positive things that came out of the move was that Jumbo finally found a fitting place to be in use and on display...  and has already survived a few doses of dog barf.... ;-)

In the Spring, Elaine came to visit and we tried our hand at another round of indigo. It was great fun and some great learning. I still have another kit that I hope to break out soon.

In April we took a bit of a break from our re-decorating to work on sewing 13 flannel 'camp blankets' for the most regular campers at our family Campsite. Over the 4 days of Easter weekend we completed 312 blocks, arranged and sewed together the tops, and even started tying the quilts!  My sister Sandra, my mum and I worked full time on the project, with some part-time helpers drifting in and out. We had purchased all of the fabric and planned the project for the Christmas holidays, but then with everything that happened with Dad, it got put on the back burner.  It was good to finally get them made, though, and great fun (and super cosy) to have them in our tents - especially with our new foam mattresses and the custom flannel sheets and pillowcases we made to match!

In July I was inspired to recommence my own 'making' when I travelled to Nova Scotia to attend a lecture and take a class with Kaffe Fassett, at Deanne's. I have been a big fan for more than half of my life, so this opportunity was one I just couldn't pass up.  And although taking time off in the summer is practically unheard of for me, I took the Friday off and spent a wonderful 48 hours in Nova Scotia.  I enjoyed the class (especially the part when he chose my piece to discuss with the class), and most of all that I returned home energized about really creating again.

In short order, I began working on a bed-sized blanket. I've used my first one a lot and I've been wanting to knit another one for a few years now, and it was finally time to get started.  It was great to be able to find my post-project notes from last time (and another reminder to myself about why I need to resume and keep blogging! ;-) ) and refresh my memory on what I had done, needle size, etc. After a few trial and error attempts to get started, I finally figured out how to create the rectangular centre (I will give full details in a blog post very soon). After many evenings by the campfire, knitting until it got too dark, and several rain days at home, I finally cast off in mid-August.  The finished blanket is much bigger than its cousin (weighing in at a whopping 7.5lbs), easily covering my double-bed (and will be even bigger when I finally get around to blocking it... LOL!). For now, it's on my bed and quite cosy.

The blanket was barely 'put to bed' (:-D), and I was diving into my drawers of batiks and pulling out colours for a quilt top. To make a long story short, one quilt top turned into four! All sewn in less than a month. I am not saying farewell to rug hooking just yet, but I can't deny that it takes a lot less time to make a quilt than it takes to hook a rug - and there is still all of the fun colour play. Plus, my sister Sandra and I have been working together on most of these projects, with plans for more in the future... better still we are even more productive together - and it's heaps more fun!

In late September we even tried our hand at long arm quilting on a computerized machine. Then at the beginning of October I took a free motion quilting class, and a whole new world of possibilities appeared. I also taught a couple of fun jewellery classes, though I failed to take a single photo. You can see a few on Elizabeth's blog here, though... ;-)

I decided to forgo my tradition of travelling to Vermont for Hooked in the Mountains this year, and instead spent the time and the budget doing some serious work and organization in our studio and storage areas. There was not much idle time over the course of 9 days in October. In addition to more painting (and moving of furniture!) we managed to get all of our supplies completely reorganized, into labelled bins, and neatly stored all together in the storage room. 'Box Mountain' (the massive pile of boxes of "craft stuff" that arrived with me when I moved) was dismantled and downsized - and just in time, since I had quickly become fed up with having to move boxes around and around trying to find what I was looking for.

After this massive reorganization and a marathon trip to Ikea, the conversion of my mum's previous studio space into our new Sewing Room, is pretty much complete. We have given just a small amount of space for storing/displaying fabrics (including a 'working stash' of hooking wools), books, and frequently used tools... with the bulk of the room left as working space. There are 4 work tables that can be configured all sorts of different ways, depending on the project at hand. We have already had a few full working days in the space and I have to say, I think it's going to be awesome for my Mum, Sandra and I to work in. 

To that end we've been brainstorming ideas and have lots of possibilities percolating.  After many years of 'going it on my own' and focused mostly on rug hooking, I am ready to branch out by partnering with my sister and expanding my creativity to include other fibre mediums.  I will be sharing more about this transition to our new and shared Fish Eye Sisters very soon.... ;-)

In the meantime, welcome back! After no less than 6 various unfinished drafts over the last several months, it's great to be home again! I will try harder to get back into the swing of blogging, but I also just started Instagramming, and I think that little 'microblogs' might be a better fit at this stage. You can follow me/us on Instagram @fisheyesisters

Saturday, January 18, 2014

another angel gets her wings...

W. Jean Armstrong
July 30, 1927 - January 15, 2014


My aunt, mentor and friend, Jean Armstrong, passed away, peacefully, on January 15, 2014, surrounded by many, including her children, sisters and favourite niece.

She had been having trouble breathing and was taken by ambulance to the hospital on Monday morning, and seemed to be rallying....but on Wednesday, she announced that she was tired, it was time and she was ‘ready to go and join Bob’.  True to her spirit, she was stubborn, alert and in control right to the end, and even cracked a few jokes in her last moments.

 She will be dearly missed.

Our family will be gathering to celebrate the lives of Bob and Jean this afternoon, and here are the thoughts I hope to share… 

A miserable bitch.  That is what Auntie Jean had to say about herself when we spoke just a few hours before she died (and we both laughed!).  And if your knew her, you’d likely agree…..but then again, if you really knew her, you’d also know that she was a much more complex person than that.  She was definitely more than that to me.

When I was a child, AJ was my aunt with the long braids – and the wigs!  From her job working at Sears, she had drawers full of cosmetics and samples, and she generously shared them with us.  She drove a little silver sports car, very quickly – so fast that we called her Armstrong Airways.  I remember that whenever my family would visit them in Kitchener, we would always eat Chinese food, fish and chips, or Pepe’s pizza…and for us, having take-out was always a treat.

My mum and I came back to Canada for a visit on our own when I was ten, and I was adopted by AJ and UB for several days.  We took their trailer, their dog Copper, and went off on a camping adventure.  It was great to be the only child for a change, instead of the youngest of three.  They spoiled me, and Uncle Bob and I went fishing at least once every day.  I think that our special bond began on that trip.

When AJ and UB moved north more than 25 years ago, just a year after my family moved to Emsdale, it was the first time we had ever lived so close to relatives and we saw a lot of them.  Uncle Bob and Dad would work together on odd jobs around the Farm, home improvements and other projects in the workshop…and they had a little ‘bromance’, regularly exchanging gifts of fancy tools and gadgets, mostly from Lee Valley.  Mum and Auntie Jean would get to work in the studio, winding and dyeing yarn, and working together on weaving and other ambitious craft projects.  They often stayed for dinner, even though we only went to their place once as a family (we always blamed that on the fact that my sister, Chris (a.k.a. The Breaker), chipped one of her crystal wine glasses that night!).

But we really bonded when I decided that I wanted to learn how to rug hook.  And the whole reason I wanted to learn how to hook in the first place, was in order to keep her hooked Christmas stocking tradition alive for the next generation in my family.  She helped me gather the necessary supplies for my first project (a still un-sewn floor cushion), and Uncle Bob supplied the hook and a simple thumbtack frame.  I am still not sure who was more excited about me starting to hook – AJ or UB…  

I spent a lot of time at their house during that first year….hooking and learning how to dye, and having many sleepovers.  When I was too tired to hook, I would often curl up in their spare room with a collection of rug hooking books, only to awake to more of the same the next day.  I not only learned plenty about rug hooking and dyeing wool….but I also learned that AJ did, in fact, know how to cook more than just her famous Nuts & Bolts.  And she made wonderful comfort food, especially her special mac and cheese and yummy chili.

She advised me on rug hooking teachers and classes.  I consulted her on colours in those first years…and I looked to her for advice on my early original designs.  We went on a great a trip to Vermont together with Shellie and my mum in 2001….but unfortunately our plans to take a couple of classes together the next year was interrupted by her heart attack.  She introduced me to R.U.G. and many talented rug hooking friends, many of whom became friends of mine.  We had several fun hooking weeks at their place with Shellie, Cathy, Dorinda, Marilyn, Jane, Edith, Connie, the two Joans, and others.

While her heyday as a rug hooking teacher was over before mine began, her involvement with the Green Mountain Rug School, Ontario Hooking Craft Guild, Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild, and National Guild of McGown Hookcrafters, influenced many rug hookers across North America.  Even though she was not hooking for most of the new millennium, she maintained a very active interest in the rug hooking community. We always liked to talk about what was happening in rug hooking and freely shared our books and magazines with one another.

It’s only now that I look back, that I can see that AJ was effectively passing her hook to me.  There was really only 2-3 of years overlap when we were both hooking, but I didn’t really see it at the time – she was still so involved with the craft.

A couple of years ago, she said to me “Jen, I don’t think that you are my niece anymore, I think that I am your aunt”…a pretty big compliment, for sure.  But really, I am equally proud of both parts of that sentiment.  I can honestly say that I would not be the rug hooker I am today without my Auntie Jean.

If I were asked to describe her in just five words, they would be creative, curious, generous, intelligent, and annoying.  And don’t think for a second that I wouldn’t have shared this very same list with her!  We spoke several times most weeks for the last fifteen years…and if nothing else, we were pretty upfront and truthful with one another.

We had a unique and special relationship and I will miss her more than I know.

When I come to the end of the road,
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in gloom-filled rooms,
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little--but not too long,
And not with your head bowed low;
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss me--but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take,
And each must go alone.
It's all a part of the Master's plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart,
Go to the friends we know,
And busy your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me - but let me go.
                                 –Betty Miller

Thursday, January 02, 2014


Hugh Charles Manuell  

March 7, 1944 – December 25, 2013 


After a short final battle, Hugh Charles Manuell passed away peacefully at Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, surrounded by his loved ones. Despite his illnesses, he lived a very full life. In typical Hugh Manuell style, he maintained his dignity, composure, and a clear mind. True to form, he died as he lived: on his own terms. 

Hugh will be dearly missed by his wife Mary and three daughters Christine, Sandra and Jennifer, sons-in-law James Hermiston and Devin Stetler, grandchildren Sean, Hannah, Michael, Claire, Wyatt and Sienna, and new great granddaughter Stella. 

Hugh will also be missed by a large and close extended family including his sister Marg Attridge, sisters-in-law Betty Soth and Jean Armstrong, brothers-in-law Ron Attridge and Randy Soth. Uncle Hugh was very special to all of his nieces and nephews, and especially Lorrie, Laura, the two Marks, Nancy and their families. 

There will be a private family service. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Huntsville Hospital Foundation are appreciated. Any donations will be earmarked for the Critical Care Unit.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

latest quilting adventures

For weeks now, all I have really wanted to do was to make another quilt (or two, or three....LOL!)  With my first jewellery class put to bed a couple of weeks ago, I put off putting everything away* and starting going through my batiks, plucking out some possible contenders for my first project.

If you're interested in a bit of the how and why, read on....but I will warn you, it's not really all that interesting, unless you are interested!  No one will know if you just scroll through the pictures.... ;-)

Inspired by this, I knew that I wanted to start with squares of fabric as my base.  Since I already had a bunch of 10" squares (including those I won on Debbie's blog giveaway eons ago - thanks again Debbie! <3 i="">, it was a easy choice to go with a match (and use 10" squares for my starting point).  To make a quilt large enough for a Queen bed, I quickly determined that I needed 110 squares (later revised to 121 because I initially only factored in half of the seam allowance loss...sometimes it doesn't pay to rush through the math!).   I was determined that they would all be different fabrics, so I had to make several passes through my fabrics and broaden my range a little to include a few greyish greens and some lighter values than I would have otherwise chosen....

All of the fabrics lined along the back and in the first 2 rows in front (above) were pre-cut squares - the rest needed a quick pressing and a square cut.  This process took a couple of evenings....but by the Friday night, I was ready to start making little groupings of fabrics I would 'stack 'n' whack' (essentially stacking 5 different fabrics in one pile, then taking even cuts off of two sides and repeating a second time....then shuffling the pieces from the first pair of cut to reveal the fabric in 3rd place, and the pieces from the second pair of cuts to reveal the fabric in 2nd place).  But first I decided that I should loosely sort my final fabrics into lights, mediums and darks....

About half of my stacks of 5 pieces were lights + mediums and the other half were more mediums + darks.  I tried to make sure that I didn't pick two pieces that were too similar one after the other....but I later discovered that when a bigger piece is cut, it can almost look like the parts came from different pieces of fabric (since there is sometimes a lot of variation in both colour and value across the surface of a single batik, esp. in a 10" square piece) when some of my blocks were sewn together, there was a bit less definition (= more blending) than I would have liked to see.  All in all, I was pretty pleased with how it all came together. 

So on the Friday evening I started making sets of five fabrics and cut four of the stacks and sewed them back together again (=20 completed blocks).  Each set of 5 squares received a different set of cuts, so essentially there are really only 5 blocks with the exact same shape dimensions within the block (just look at the corner squares in the above picture and see the range....then look at other blocks with the same corner-square size, but likely different framing widths around it). 

For my attention span, I need to work with a system and it's especially important that I trim as I I would work on sewing two sets of blocks at one time (=10), chain sewing the first piece and then pressing (for all 10 squares), then attaching the 2nd piece to all 10 squares, etc.  Once each set of 10 blocks was completely sewn and pressed, I would trim (to 8 7/8" square) and then stack in a pile of either 'dark' or 'light'.

On the Saturday I was able to sew the rest of the blocks (= 101 or 121 in total), and I finished off my evening by starting to lay them out on the floor.  But before I did that, I did 'deal' my lights into five different piles, in an attempt to spread the fabrics around a bit (each fabric appears only 3 times - so I didn't want to have to worry too much about clustering them all together).   I was only able to fit about 4-5 rows at a time in my open I alternated between light and dark squares (on the diagonal), and then adjusted as necessary.   Once I was happy with the arrangement, I stacked up each row and kept the pairs/squares in order. 

Sunday morning I started working on sewing the blocks into rows and then joining the rows together.  By lunchtime the quilt top was all sewn together, save the centre seam (I really want to give it a good pressing first, and the smaller pieces will be a bit easier to handle).

Now I just need to piece together the back (yes it will be pieced, but more simply)....and then deliver it off to Sue to work her magic and make it into a quilt!  Hopefully I can get it put to bed (tee hee!) before I head off to Vermont in 10 days...

* in the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that for more than a week following the class, the wonky piles of baskets and bins from class were still cluttering up my mud room.  Right where I unloaded them upon arriving home.  Once again, it's a good thing that I live alone and get very little company.... ;-)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

cool beans

I received a v. interesting email yesterday from The Textile Museum about an upcoming event/workshop/project and wanted to share with those who might be interested.....

"We’ve partnered with Creative Matters (a Toronto based rug design firm) to host a display, a series of workshops and a lecture about rug design and production. The workshops are 2 hours each and invite participants into our exhibitions to design artwork for a rug design. The designs will be judged and the wining rug will be hand-woven by fair trade artists in Nepal."

You can learn more about it here.  Unfortunately I will just be flying back from Nova Scotia that day, so can't attend myself....but I would love to hear from anyone who attends about the experience... ;-)

+    +     +     +     +     +     +

I am so behind in my blogging lately, I might never catch up.....projects without photos, photos without posts, and a desperate need for an assistant!  Sadly, nobody wants to work for free, but maybe I could convince someone to work for wool...?  ;-)  The good news is that I am back in the habit of making AND feeling like blogging again (finally!), just need to make the time...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

yesterday at the Textile Museum of Canada

I am freshly back from a little whirlwind trip to the city, where I met up with Elaine and we went and took in the "Artistry and Ancestry: Maya Textiles from Guatemala" show at the Textile Museum and then returned for a hands-on, behind the scenes seminar to look at more items in the collection.

In short, it was amazing.  I would imagine that there isn't a rug hooker around who wouldn't leave the exhibit and not feel the urge to rush home and hook a simple geometric rug, be inspired to be more random in their colour placements, or just plain old use more colours in their work.  Yes, it is that inspiring and wonderful....and I am very confident that you won't regret going.  And the show has been extended to January 12, 2014, so you have time to plan a trip.

I took a few snaps - just with my phone, so not the greatest....

Here is a little tease about the rugs - but if you want to see them, you will have to go and see the show for yourself... ;-)

P.S.  If you do go, you should try to view the show in a clockwise direction from the elevator. or stairs - this way you will save the hooked rugs for last... ;-)

P.P.S.  There is also a great catalogue available at the gift shop.... ;-)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Coldwater is hot stuff!

A bit of a cheesy title, I'll admit.....but also v. true!  Needless to say, I had a wonderful couple of days in teaching at the Purple Sock in Coldwater, and everyone was very warm and welcoming.  And, I am sure you will agree that their projects are pretty awesome, too.

I was so excited to see everyone using my basic methods, but coming up with finished pieces that didn't look like I made them.  They were uniquely theirs – and that is a great thing!   Nothing pleases me more than people making things their very own....from choosing their own colours, to freely modifying techniques and putting their own spin on ideas to suit, and ending up with a finished product that reflects themselves.

On Monday, people started with a fairly simple first project, creating a smaller 'gem' and turning it into a pin or necklace.  The ladies made spectacular progress and most everyone left with their jewellery finished.  I think almost everyone come to class on the second day wearing their necklace or pin they made the day before.

On Tuesday, people worked on a more complex piece....and pretty much just ran with their own ideas for filling in their frames.  It was great!  Of course there was the familiar chatter and sharing of ideas all day long.  Some of us were a bit better at focusing on the project at hand than others....but as long as everyone has fun, it's really all that matters.  Plus those with a little left do finish can accomplish that quite quickly at home. 

Watching everyone's projects come to life over the last couple of days in Coldwater has just made me more excited about the workshops to come where I can share more of my ideas on making hooked jewellery....
October 31 to November 3rd   • Hooked in the Mountains held this year in Stowe, Vermont
November 15 to 17  •  Deanne Fitzpatrick Rug Hooking Studio in Amherst, Nova Scotia

I really must recommend Lynn's shop, The Purple Sock, to anyone within easy driving distance - she has a great selection of wool, lots of project ideas, delicious teas, unique products, and such a cosy atmosphere in her shop, that you will want to stay all day.  She also blogs here about upcoming events, new products, etc.  I know that both Wendie and I enjoyed shopping there this week... ;-) Just don't arrive on a Monday or Tuesday...she's usually closed at the beginning of the week.