Embroidered Graduation Dresses

Well it is that time of year when young girls begin to think about their prom dress. But if they want their mother to do some embroidery, they better have thought about their dress in February. When my daughter Courtney graduated, she wanted me to make her an oriental dress with a gold dragon on the front. After some research, I came up with a design that appealed to her.










This was the first time I had ever tried my hand at couching. I have since learned that the dragon is the symbol for the Chinese Emperor whereas the Empress would have cranes on her gowns.











The year before her high school graduation, Courtney was escorting a friend to his graduation.  She wanted a more fairy tale look that year. Courtney loves Celtic designs so I adapted designs by Courtney Davis . This was the first time I embroidered using metallic thread. I did not much like it. It was difficult to embroider with.

Celtic design at the back of the skirt

A lovely effect!



Needle Painted Eastern Blue Bird

I recently took a three-day needle painting workshop from Tanja Berlin , a graduate of the Royal School of Needlework. I have been wanting to learn this technique for some time but just never took the leap. I am usually pretty good at following instructions from books but for some reason this technique eluded me. Tanja is an excellent teacher. I would  recommend her to anyone wanting to put on a needle painting workshop.

Tanja Berlin's Eastern Blue Bird










She began by having us trace the blue bird pattern onto velum tracing paper using a pencil. Then using a pricking tool, pricked holes along the design. Then we placed the tracing paper onto the fabric. We then rubbed pounce over the pricked tracing paper. Next we drew over the pounce lines using a sharp HB pencil. This process took a half day to do.

Tools of the trade










Below is what I was able to accomplish during the remaining 2 1/2 days.

Eastern Blue Bird in Progress










Stay turned for updates on this project (one among many, I am afraid).

Quilts, Quilts and more Quilts

Since my last posting, I have been on holidays, hence the lack of posts. My husband and I flew down to Las Vegas, NV and from there we rented a car. We traveled approximately 3700 miles/6000 km.  We traveled around Arizona and New Mexico. We saw pueblo ruins and walked some desert trails in Sedona. We visited the Acoma Pueblo in NM also known as Sky City. We also visited the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO designated site. We stayed in Albuquerque and Santa Fe…I love Santa Fe! So many artists…paintings, pottery, weavings…a feast for the eyes. We also visited many museums in both states. I was lucky to see two quilt exhibits in Tuscon. One was at the Arizona State Museum where 20 Hopi quilts were on display. At the Arizona Historical Society Museum 100 quilts were on display for the celebration of Arizona’s 100th Anniversary of Statehood. Below are some of my favorite quilts. They truly are Arizona quilts. Enjoy!

Tuscon: The Heart of Arizona by Karen G. Fisher

Home Sweet Home by Brenda Dickinson & Kris Lovetro

Watermelon man by Sandra Rakow













REA in Arizona by Therese Bliss and Patricia Bliss

Arizona by Sheila Groman

A Cowboy's Prayer by Nancy Arseneault










Morning at Wukoki by Barbara Janson

Loving Mother by Perri Krom

Navajo Wedding by Darlene Schrag










Viva Arizona! by Julie Scott

Viva Arizona! detail

Cactus Fireworks by Vicki L. Bohnhoff

Persian Hand-Painted Garment

A while back, I took a textile surface design class. The theme was Persian motifs. We were to do some research on Persian designs and create some design patterns that we might want to paint onto our silk pieces. While researching, I came across this wonderful little book The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, originally published in 1856. It was reprinted in 2001.

Product Details

When we think of Persian designs, the first things that comes to mind (at least in my mind) are Persian carpets designed with rich dark red and blue silk or wool threads. Most of the students chose Persian carpets as their inspiration. However, I was surprised to discover that the combination of peach, brown and teal/green were also colours found in Persian designs.

Here is a glimpse at a couple of pages from The Grammar of Ornament.

After creating both paper sketches and silk painted samples, the work began on the real pieces that would make up the Persian garment.

Before painting the design on silk I had to dye the silk with a background colour (this only works if your colour is light). Then the silk was stretched on a frame. Using “gutta resist” I traced the design by placing the design pattern under the silk. Then, using a clean paint brush, I applied water to each part of the design to ensure that the gutta was well applying. All it takes is a hairline and the dye will bleed out of your design. This did happen to me once where I had to rethink the design. This is what artists call an anomally…It  was more like “PANIC!” to me. But once I had it under control I realized I would have to replicate the mistake elsewhere to make it appear like it was done on purpose. It made for an interesting design element that I had not anticipated.

Once the silk has been painted and dried, it must be steamed for about three hours. The following website gives a very good explanation of how this is done and how you can make your own steamer http://www.barbwired.com/barbweb/silkpaint/steamer/steamer.html .

After many, many hours of designing, painting, steaming and sewing my Persian garment was complete.


I really enjoyed the process. I think I would like to do it again when time permits.

An Embroidered Coat – Inspired by Tibetan Rugs

A number of years ago I decided to make myself a spring coat. I had watched the movie Seven Years in Tibet, a movie about an Austrian mountain climber who befriends the Dalai Lama. I was quite fascinated with the garments and decided that I would make myself a modern day version. I chose a border design from the book Of Wool and Loom: The Tradition of Tibetan Rugs by Trinley Chodrak and Kesang Tashi.

Of Wool And Loom: Tradition Of Tibetan Rugs

I chose a rug border for the border of my coat that has the yungdrung symbol. This symbol is over 18 thousand years old and means “eternal” and “everlasting”.

Tibetan Rug with yungdrung border

Tibetan Saddle Rug

The colours chosen for the coat reflect the colours of the robes worn by Buddhist monks. Red is considered a sacred colour and yellow is the colour of humility.

Details of my Tibetan Coat

I knew that I had succeeded when a Buddhist monk approached me one day and told me that my coat represented symbols important to Tibetan Buddhist monks. That was the highest praise I could ever receive.

Winter White – My 1912 Skirt

One of my simple pleasures is the arrival of the Victoria Magazine’s January issue. This is the issue where, every year, all-things-white is the theme. There is something to be said about the serenity of a room decorated in white.

Some of my January issues of the Victoria magazine including this month's issue.

I also love the look of white garments. However, the only time it is ever practical to wear anything white is in a photo spread of the Victoria magazine. White isn’t even practical on your wedding day. I, myself, wear black and grey as my staples with an accent of red or fuchsia. But in keeping with today’s theme  of “all-things-white”,  I thought I would share a winter white 1912 skirt I made. It is a replica of a suit that is part of the Clothing and Textiles Collection at the University of Alberta. The skirts during the Edwardian period were often embellished with soutache and/or embroidery.

1912 Suit

1912 Skirt

1912 Skirt

The embroidery on this suit used very thick floss. I prefer more refined embroidery. But the overall look is very appealing.

Embellishment detail

The following images are of the skirt I made.

My replica of the 1912 skirt.

The soutache trim was hand-stitched in place.

Soutache detail

Embroidery detail

I have enough silk material to make the suit jacket. I am not sure if I will ever get around to it. We will see.

Hand-Appliqué Winter Coat

About ten years ago I made a coat for my, then, twelve year old daughter Chelsea-Lyne. I was inspired by an article in a winter publication of the Victoria Magazine with a photo-spread of Scandinavian coats.

Photographer Toshi Otsuki
I used red and black stroud that I had in my stash of fabrics from when I lived in the Northwest Territories. I made my own version of the design you see in the photo above. I spent many hours hand-appliquéing each piece. Once completed she wore it everyday for two winter seasons. What was I thinking! She rolled in the snow, went skating and tobogganing. To my surprise it held up very well.

Unfortunately, when she outgrew the coat it was just a little too small for me to wear. I always thought that I should make a coat for myself since I would definitely get more wear out of it.

This photo was taken after the coat had been worn for two seasons.





  I decided that the time has finally come for me to make my own coat. I already had a Vogue pattern for a coat that I liked. Here is one of my many projects in progress.  The appliqué for the two-piece collar is almost complete. The appliqué pieces are designs taken from Michele Hill’s William Morris in Applique.  I am thinking of outlining each appliqué piece with jade coloured beads. Nothing like adding more hours of work to a project. 

I am making the shorter version of this coat.


Completed collar


Semi-completed collar

Stay tuned for updates on this project in progress.