About Me

My photo
Denman Island, British Columbia, Canada
Jean Cockburn retired from her professional career as an academic librarian in 2008 to become a textile artist living on Denman Island, British Columbia. She draws, quilts, embroiders, knits and crochets, makes wearable art, weaves baskets, dyes fabric, and paints watercolours. Her work has been exhibited locally in juried and group shows on Denman Island, in Courtenay, Comox, and Duncan on Vancouver Island, in West Vancouver, and across Canada with the Surface Design Association.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yoiks, it's snowing outside!

Well this really is a cold spring! It has been cold and wet and miserable all day, but this takes the cake - the late afternoon rain has turned this evening to mixed snow and rain outside. At least it is not officially April yet . . .

So what did I do on this weather challenged day? I was up at 6:30 am knitting on my latest Cookie A. socks, then had French toast and coffee and cantaloupe for breakfast, followed by a visit to the recycling centre and a Globe & Mail newspaper purchase, then quilting on my latest project which is a modification of Kaffe Fassett's  and Liza Prior Lucy's Venetian Tiles quilt, while listening to my latest Audible book download. I made a delicious Saturday night dinner (pork tenderloin baked with prunes, buttermilk mashing potatoes, cauliflower baked in cheese sauce, steamed squash, red wine and chocolate) and am now enjoying the fire, finishing my wine, and saying to J. while he does the dishes- look, it's still snowing out there!

The Mona socks under construction. I bought the fabulous red yarn at Sock Summit in Portland last July. It is Handmaiden Fine Yarn, colour Ruby, in Casbah Sock. The yarn is a mix of wool, nylon and cashmere. It is exceptionally soft, but with the nylon it should work well as a sock yarn.
My third sock this year from Cookie A's book knit. sock. love.

Fabric pieces for Venetian Tile Quilt.

The pattern in the book Glorious Patchwork by Kaffe Fassett and Liza Prior Lucy.


Spring Garden Images

It is still cold for this time of year, just 4C this morning on the thermometer outside the kitchen window. Many of the spring buds and bulbs seem to be hedging their bets and are holding back waiting for more warmth.
Pulmonaria (Lungwort)

Primula  (Primrose)

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer" (The name is deceptive as it used to be forced for Christmas, but it normally blooms in March in this part of the world.)

Rhubarb "Valentine'

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Black Challenge for Quilting Group

Yesterday I finished putting the binding on the Black Challenge quilting project for next Monday's meeting.

My effort is a table mat 12 inches square constructed log cabin style.

Hand quilting with coloured perle cottons.

I used a narrow 1/4 inch binding. Witness the woes of black - every hint of white fluff and fibre shows!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Knits for Grandchildren

I knit this sweater for my grandson for his third birthday. It is from an old undated book of patterns from Pingouin, a French company that sold translated patterns back in the 1990's. The patterns are some of the best and are classic. Pingouin publications are had to find now, but a possible source is Bugg'sBooks.com in Vancouver.

I see from my notes on this pattern that I knit it once before for my nephew who is now 25. The machine washable Berroco Vintage yarn knit up beautifully with a soft hand and lots of loft. I usually prefer 100% wool, but for a child's garment this half wool/acrylic mix with some nylon is the best choice. Note the detailing of the left side shoulder bands. They were knitted separately, lengthwise, one with buttonholes and one without, then sewn on. The shoulder shaping was different on each side to accommodate these bands. At first I thought this was a fiddly detail, but it worked beautifully and is an example of why these Pengouin patterns are superior.


Shoulder band detail

Back view



And then, because I feel that when one child receives a gift, their sibling should get a small gift as well, I quickly made this wee hat for my granddaughter. It came together in an evening, and was a good way to use up some scraps of lovely yarn. The hem/ear band is knit from Rowan Calmer, which is a stretchy cotton yarn. I used the basic hat pattern from Anne Budd's The knitter's handy book of patterns.
The colours are truest in this photo.




Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ergonomic Cutting Surface

It is well known that raising the table height when using a rotary cutting mat will save the user's back. Bed risers are commonly used under table legs. I have another solution to staving off back pain when cutting. Years ago a quilting magazine published a design for an angled wooden rack to slip onto the cutting table. My kind husband made it for me and it works beautifully. I wish that I could remember where the design was published. I had a long time subscription to the Quilters Newsletter, so it might have been there.


This is my design wall. It is 2 inch foam covered with beige cotton flannel. It leans against the wall and can be stored in the loft when not in use. I have another one, and side by side they allow me to design a queen sized quilt. The article that gave me directions indicated that beige is a more neutral background colour than white, and I this was excellent advice. The flannel is attached on the back with silver electrical tape and woodworking staples.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Singer Sewing Machine


My Singer is serial number #EE906596. It is a 201K class electric machine. The 201K machines were manufactured at the Kilbowie Singer Works factory in Clydebank, Scotland. My machine is dated December 28, 1948. This information was provided to me by the helpful Singer serviceman at the Singer Centre (6190 Kingsway  Burnaby, BC, Canada V5J 1H5, phone 604- 437-1633)
who serviced the machine for me after I bought it about 10 years ago for $60 at a second hand store
in New Westminster.

There is lots of good information on the Singer 201 at the Sewalot.com site. Alex Askaroff says,
"Today there is still no domestic sewing machine made that will stitch better than the Singer 201sewing machine that is in good working order."And later on the same page, he says "The Singer 201 simply represents the very best that Singer's could make and was built to last a lifetime. Even today many professional sewers seek out this elusive model as no new machine can come close to this beauty for reliability and stitch quality."

Isaac Merritt Singer


My wonderful Singer sews like a dream with a beautiful solid straight stitch. I can quilt backwards
across an entire quilt top in reverse, and the reverse stitch is exactly the same length and tension as
the forward stitch. I have added a walking foot which I use for quilting.


This photo shows the entire wooden cabinet, with the machine covered with a cloth cover that I

made, and with both the side worktops extended.

Here is picture of an earlier 201 model from 1939.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Newspaper Quilt

"How are a newspaper and a sunburned zebra similar? They are both black and white and read/red all over . . ."
This past year our quilting group did a "quilt in a box" challenge, whereby twelve quilters each provided two metres of fabric in a box. As each quilter received the box, she made a 12 1/2 inch square using the two fabrics and perhaps adding some of her own. At the end, each participant had 11 squares made by others, so she made one square herself and put it all together into a quilt.
My two fabrics were a white on white print and a grey on grey print. My fellow quilters added other greys, whites and blacks, and wonderfully - reds! When it all came back to me I added more reds and blacks, and used scraps to make small blocks for the sashing corners and for the borders. It all turned out to be so much fun. I machine quilted it and then added quite a bit of hand quilting, particularly in the white sashing and the black frames for the blocks. I finished the last of the hand quilting at last week's retreat, then I did a few fist pumps, danced on the quilt, and finally rolled on it. This morning I washed it in the washing machine and dried it in the dryer to shrink up the cotton batting and give it that lovely home made look. This is the finished work of art - ta da!


Newspaper Quilt from one side ...

... and from the other side.
Corner small scrap block detail.

Block detail.

Hand quilting detail.

Block detail.

Wonderful eggless cake with fruit or nuts

This is the most delicious cake and it is so easy to make all in one bowl. Cream the butter and sugar with a  mixer if you wish, but mix in the flour by hand as that keeps the batter tender (mixing in the flour by machine inevitably works the gluten too much - great for yeast breads but not for cakes or quick breads).

Use a large bowl to make the mixing easy. Cream 1 cup of softened unsalted butter with 2 cups of sugar. Mix in 2 cups of unsweetened fruit or vegetable puree (applesauce, grated zucchini, pumpkin or squash puree, mashed banana, plum sauce, any kind of jam, grated carrot  or sweet potato or rutabaga- they are all good, but if you use jam them reduce the amount of sugar to 1 cup). Add 1 teaspoon each of salt, vanilla, and several spices of your choice - such as cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger, cardamon . . . and 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Add up to 2 cups of chopped fruit and/or nuts - raisins, pecans, walnuts, mixed peel, currants, slivered almonds, prunes, apricots are all possibilities. Lightly mix in 3 cups of flour. Spoon into a large well greased bundt pan and bake at 350 F for an hour. Check with a cake tester after 45 minutes to see if it is cooked in the middle, and if not, give it some more time, up to 1 1/2 hours total. This cake keeps well because of the fruit content.

This cake pictured here was made with squash puree and a cup each of mixed peel and currants. I used 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and mace, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and 1/8 teaspoon of cardamon. I baked it for 1 hour total, but the batter was warm when I started because I had to defrost the frozen squash puree which was actually hot when I added it to the butter and sugar mix. This probably shortened the baking time.

Quilting Retreat

We got home from our Thetis Island quilting retreat yesterday afternoon. It was intense, it was fun, it was unseasonably cold, and I ate too much - what's not to like?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Getting ready for Thetis

I spend the day getting ready for my upcoming Monday to Friday on Thetis Island for our annual quilting retreat. I have lots of projects to work on:

  • 4 placemats of hand pieced hexagons that I found in my unfinished projects box, that I have basted with batting and backing ready to hand quilt;
  • ditto that blue flower centre piece that I cannot bear to discard even though it seems a little too precious for my taste now, basted to batting and backing and ready to hand quilt;
  • ditto the Kaffe Fasset quilt pattern for marble mosaics that I started years ago, hand piecing, with all the fabrics and sandpaper templates to carry on;
  • and most inspiring, my Japanese Orinuno quilt project, with circles and squares and batting all cut out and ready to hand piece.
I have packed the car and included my sewing machine just in case I decide I need it, but I also brought my tall Ott light for good lighting for all the hand sewing that I plan to do.

I made Leek and Potato Soup so J. would have it to eat, and I downloaded some more audiobooks for quiet knitting time in the evenings.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dinner tonight

Dinner this evening was so delicious. Ham steak lightly pan fried on the grill pan, whipped yellow flesh potatoes (with butter and cream), steamed broccoli, and mango salsa, made thusly:

1 mango diced
3 spears of red papaya, diced
2 mini cucumbers, diced
1 tomato, diced
4 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice (lime would be better if I had it ...)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garam marsala

We opened a chilled bottle of Gray Monk Pinot Gris that we had bought at the winery in Vernon last month, and ended the meal with squares of dark chocolate.

Orinuno Quilt plans

Orinuno, I have learned, is the name for Japanese fabric folding, akin to origami. I have my fabric circles and smaller squares, and squares of wool batting, all cut out for my planned Orinuno Quilt. I have done one block as a test piece. The rest I will take to Thetis Island with me for our quilting retreat.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hedera socks finished

I bought Cookie A.'s book Knit. Sock. Love. at Sock Summit 2011 in Portland, Oregon last July. My goal for this year is to knit each of the 19 sock patterns in the book. I finished the Monkey socks last month, and last evening I finished Hedera (pattern originally published in Knitty in 2006 and available online here http://knitty.com/ISSUEspring06/PATThedera.html .
I knit Hedera from a lovely yarn that I bought at Sock Summit called Skinny Bugga (all the yarns in this line are named for insects, my colour way is called Golden Orb Weaver) from a company called The Sanguine Gryphon, which has now divided into two separate companies.




This is the photo from the book. Can you see my socks at the top of the picture? The book was on my lap.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I just love hand sewing . . .

I just love hand sewing. Even though I have taken to machine piecing some of my quilts lately, and have even done some machine quilting, my heart is in my hands. I am going back to what I love and I have four (that is only 4 - one needs variety, eh) hand piecing and quilting projects that I plan to take to Thetis Island for our quilting retreat. I will pack my machine just in case, but I don't know if I will take it out of the car. I really plan to just hand sew happily.
Here is a table mat that I just finished that I love. It is from a Japanese Reversible Quilting book (at least that is my interpretation of the title, it is all in Japanese) that I bought in San Francisco in September 2011. You cut a big square and fold it in, mitring the corners. That you add a square of batting and appliqué another square on top. You tack the corners, and after quilting inside the square (I used perle cotton in lovely colours that I bought at Lacis in Berkeley, also during that September visit) you do a nifty joining stitch to put all the squares together. See the detail pics below. This has been a trial piece, and now I have a bigger quilt sized piece planned as one of my four - more on that in a subsequent post.






Monday, March 12, 2012

Wind and rain

Lots of high winds and rain overnight and this morning. Mount Washington had lots of new snow, but the road up was closed and so were the lifts because of the wind. And then the power was out most of the morning in Comox and Courtenay.
Herman's boat rides out the storm.

A rainbow with Mount Washington on Vancouver Island in the background.