Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Today I am grateful for technology

After a long weekend of telling so many who love me this news I haven't got another call in me.

In May 2013 I had an ovarian cyst removed. Only, on examination, the pathologist knew it wasn't just a cyst. He knew it was cancer, though not what sort, and it proved to be very difficult to diagnose. Turns out it was a rare bird called FATWO (female adenaxal tumour of Wolffian origin - less than 50 cases in the world wide literature). Several teams of doctors in three countries had been consulted to reach this conclusion. We waited on eggshells almost 5 months for this clarity.

When it finally came in late September 2013, I was told how lucky I was that it had been found as a discreet tumour attached to something I didn't need anyway, since removal was/is the only know treatment. We were clearly told there was no known chemo treatment and that it was known that these tumours do not respond to radiation. The recurrence rate was said to be about 10% (4 people up to that time). Follow up tests showed no sign of further tumours so I was released to get on with my life. Which I did with gusto.

In early November I found a small lump, maybe the size of grape, just below my ribs. Tests have revealed that it is one of five Fatwo tumours that have taken up residence in my abdomen and pelvis. One is already very large. Judging by the speed at which the one I can feel is growing, now the size of a cigar; these tumours are not, as my GP put it, behaving well.

Of course there will be doctor appointments and consultations to come. But based on the current tests and what is known about how this very rare cancer behaves this news is very poor. There may be a debulking surgery - mostly for my comfort I expect. Together with my dearest husband, John, and my fabulous sons, Callum & Ryan, and the teams of doctors who will soon populate our lives we will make informed and considered choices about my care.

I promise you all that I have not lost hope. But what I hope for may not jive with your hopes for me. At the moment I still feel like myself, albeit a bit bloated. I have had one serious bout of pain. A shadow foretelling a future that will become restricted by pain's boundaries at the very least.

My greatest desire is to be in company with those I love and enjoy that love while I still have the capacity. We will be in Vancouver December 26 - January 5 for sure. Possibly longer if the Cancer Clinic calls. We will be reachable by cell phones. John 250-352-5203. Helen 250-505-0789. Once we know more about timelines, surgeries and new developments I hope to make a trip East. (And to any creepers reading this our home will be occupied whenever we are not in it- just sayin')

Sadly, I will not be able to travel beyond Canada's borders for fear of medical bill repercussions if something went awry elsewhere but our guest room awaits any and all who trek to us. (God bless Tommy Douglas and his legacy of universal healthcare in this country!)

I do ask that you not inundate me with research and demands to fight. Instead I ask for your prayers and thoughts of light that will support me through this process what ever it may turn out to be.

Blessings as always as you know me





Sunday, November 02, 2014

SVTG Felts

Yesterday I taught wet felted pictures to 9 enthusiastic women at the Slocan Valley Threads Guild.

Here are two links to the Guild. The website and the Facebook page.

As usual I forgot all about my camera until we were all rushing to pack up and leave. But here are some shots that I did manage. I didn't get them all and none which really capture the sheer beauty of the work these ladies came up with. What an honour to be their mentor for the afternoon.







Peace Felt 2014

This post is really late. Apparently working full time eats into one' stone for other things, like blogging. Who knew?

I received amazing needled images of two family members from Petra Melis in Greece. She used to photos from my personal blog of my jet black Pomeranian, Hiro, unsuccessfully trying to keep my Lynx Point Siamese bully kitten from stealing his doggy mat. Here's is her wonderful work. Look carefully! Two of those photos are the real McCoys!

Check out more of her work at

My own work went to Jo Ann Viola-Manzone


Jo Ann's stunning work can be seen at

The Facebook members page is filled with thoughtful, skilled and caring pieces from around the globe. It was an honour to be involved.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Prayer Offering 2014

As you may know Marie Spaulding has restructured her Peace Felt intiative this year. New and improved the movement can now be found on Face Book!

Sadly one of our members had to withdraw because her 12 year old daughter sustained life threatening injuries in an altercation with a car.

She is expected to spend the best part of the next year in a hospital bed. Marie has asked all the members who feel moved to do so to send some work centered around the heart to send to the child's mother to decorate her room with the intention of wellness.

The small banner I have made sends the wish for a Swift Recovery to little Meg in The Netherlands.

I know it to be true that those who are prayed for have better outcomes - whether they know they are the object of our thoughts or not. I'd be honoured if you would add your thoughts or prayers, if that is your practice, to mine so the banner reaches Meg and her mom infused with healing energy.

With gratitude for all my blessings,

Helen + אילנה = Hi


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

And would you believe it I've finished week 3 as well

That's because I only did two pieces! Two really fun pieces.


This is inclusions under silk gauze. Seed beads (loose, not sewn), sequins, shiny disks (that peeled and deformed - to good effect) and some novelty ribbon yarn. The shine peeling off the disks started with the rubbing but the deformities were acquired in the microwave. You read that right. I use room temperature water for my felting but when I am past the prefelt stage and ready to shock the wool I dip the work into the water and heat the wet piece in the microwave. (I have a studio microwave used only for wool or dying - not for food). I've never done loose beads before. What fun! The one piece is good for the purposes of the class but this is something I know I will return to.

Another passion of mine is making folk art pictures which I then embroider. For this exercise in resist inclusions I decided to make a nursery picture. The resists are cotton from the kit (big flower), boiled wool fabric (stems), silk cocoon halves (tulips), 100% wool craft felt (roof and pathway) and silk habotia over merino prefelt (house). The fine base layer was made from leftover prefelt I made out of short fibre merino bats from New England Felting Supply for a Waldorf School project.

All of that was overlaid with the heavier weight of silk that was in the course kit. The merino background worked it's was through everything except the habotia. I think it would have come through there as well if I hadn't backed the habotia with a fairly thick pice of prefelt.

Time for a massage and a few days of rest work.


Week two completed at last.


The week began with an exercise using slow felting wools to crate dime tigon underneath faster felting wool.


I used the slow felters to make a snake, varying sizes of balls and a flat thick disk. Since the slow felter was white this also was a bit of an exercise in highlighting as well.

The highlighting worked just right on the snake and the disk but not all the balls were not actually sufficiently covered so on two rather than highlighting the cover just got thin.




Next up was bauble inclusions. Here we have silk cocoon halves, marbles and a beautiful lacquered Chinese bead.

I've done lots of this in the past so this was a breeze and really fun to do.

I'm really glad I finally found a home for the big bead. It's been in my collection waiting for a really long time.




Being somewhat pressed for time I decided to use prefelt to facilitate the pockets and tubes exercise. Then perversely chose to introduce fabric manipulation into the centre layer.


The pussy willows are resting in a double pocket with flap. I don't know why I left such a large blank spot above the pockets.


Because of the large fabric inclusion it took a good deal of coaxing to get this piece down to size.




Here we have craters.


I chose to try different shapes as well as different materials. The pods have medium weight silks with fine merino designs on top. The star has a gem in it's belly. The centre crater has A&W shiny synthetic fabric I once used in a haloween costume to make a tutu. The final crater has light weight silk.





I was surprised by how well the painters tape resist stuck to the base layer in this exercise.

Here again I used shadowing as well as a coarser base layer under the showier layer.

The box effect was created by basting the corners until the piece was dry. Wool will hold almost any shape it dries in. Having learned from experience I used hot pink thread so I would be able to find it later to get it out!



I only made 5 week two pieces but could easily make many many more than that. Inclusions and odd resists are one of my favourite things to play with when felting. Fabric manipulation is also a favourite although I would say that I do not always have success with that one.

On to week three........


Monday, April 28, 2014

Week one redo

I know , I know I should have moved on to week two. And I have. But ............ the irony.


I was unhappy with this on more than one level. First and foremost there is the central photo refusing to behave. Then the whole stopping at prefelt stage since clearly things were going from bad to worse.

I have been sticking to the idea of making samples of each technique in the same size. (Though the further behind I get the more tempting it becomes to make larger pieces with multiple ideas on each one) But the idea was to have a sort of set and this piece was a fly in my ointment.

So I decided to remove the photo. Interestingly part of the surrounding silk fabric was so well felted in already that it tore rather than leave the piece. Any road here is the the rework.


That said, I just received a package of ExtravOrganza from Maiwa. The print has to dry overnight before I can try again.

Week four you are somewhere in my distant future! I promise.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Surface design - Week 1

Where Week 1 equals Week 3. That is to say the course is in its third week but I am merrily fininshing up the assignments from week one. I blame the initial delay on the fact that the tailend of snowboarding season coincided with week one. As to the other week. well ........ let's just join in a chorus of this song!

I took a 2 day workshop with the fabulous Fiona Duthie here in Nelson in 2012. The first day was Surface design & dying. The second day was more dying and a project. I loved that class but it was A Lot of surface design to fit into that first day. So I was excited to see this course offered online. I liked the notion that I could work at a snails my own pace and spend more time with each technique. I also opted to buy Fiona's fibre kit - despite the bulging stash in my studio. You can never have tooooo much fibre right?

Light application of silk fibre on merino roving.

Both fibres were in the kit. I got more than 50% shrinkage on this piece because I underweighed the fibre. It's a mere 5 gr compared to 8 - 10 in all the other pieces.

Full layer of silk on merino batt

The merino batt was rust short fibre merino from the kit. On top I used a space dyed silk top roving from my stash.

The effect came out quite well but I lost the sheen of the silk. I use room temperature water to felt so it wasn't about the heat. Maybe the soap I use is too harsh? Dr. Bonner's pure castile soap. Organic and rose scented. My hands and my senses love this stuff but maybe the silk not so much?



Full layer of mohair on merino batt

Both fibres were in the kit. The mohair retained it lovely sheen as well as the crimp. The hand of this piece is very soft and pliable.


Exotic fibres on Merino

The background fibre is pink merino roving(kit). On top we have white Yak fibre (kit) dark brown Qiviuk and light brown baby Camel (both from my stash.

The Qiviuk btw cost $14.50 for .01 of a gram. You read that right, point zero one of a gram compared to about $12 for 28 grams of baby Camel fibre.

I would have prefered sharper edges but overall I like the effect. The softness of the camel fibre is amazing.



The next exercise was shadowing. I made three samples in the end.

In this first one all the fibres were from the kit. The B&W are coarser fibres, Icelandic I believe. The coloured fibres were all fine merino rovings. The black fibre came through the front so strongly that until I shaved the piece you could barely see the colours. The white also came through but the effect is much more muted.


I decided to make another piece using the circle design from the exotic fibre exercise to see if I could obtain a sample that would really showcase the light and dark from behind effect.





So here we have the second try at shadowing. All the fibres were in the kit but this time I used grey on the shadow side as well.

Because I hadn't liked the rough edges of this pattern on the exotic fibres piece I chose to first needle the backing fibres to water soluble stabilizer. This is a favourite technique of mine for controlling fibre migration. In addition to creating a bit of a prefelt, the stabilizer has a momentary gluing effect just before it disolves entirely. For this reason I placed the needled piece stabilizer side up before adding the rust merino batt.


I like the result a lot as a visual but still felt that the shadowing effect was not featured as I would like. The black is again predominant with the grey barely making an entrance.

So being behind already I decided to carry on working with the shadow technique.

'Cuz late is late right?




So this time rather use the stabilizer I decided to just make needled prefelt from the black, white and grey and then cut out my shapes with scissors. I am lucky to own a felt-o-matic so this is another techniqe I often employ to control fibre migration.

As you can see from the reverse this should have worked out great.


On the front though the black migrated in some very unexpected ways giving a muddy disjointed circle. The grey stripe made more of an impact and you do get the overall effect of light and dark better under this yellow merino.

At this point Fiona posted Week 3's schedule. And I realized I must move out of the land of shadows and on to the last 3 assignments of week 1!





This is nuno quilting. All of the fabrics (kit) were cotton with fairly tight weaves. The two yellow bits at the bottom were a bit recalcitrant but in the end they did felt in rather nicely.


The fine merino roving is very willing to move through fabric.






This a sample of fabric manipulaton. There are 2 weights of silk - they weren't labelled in the kit so I'm not sure of the mome.

This worked like a dream. Very fun.







The sample above worked so well and so easily that I threw caution and time to the wind and attempted rosettes. I watched the video through twice but could not catch the trick for pleating the fabric just so to acheive petals. I also felt that the centres needed reinforcment. I pulled some wisps of short fibre merino from colours in my stash for the centres. The silk for the flowers came from the kit but all the other silks were stash volunteers. Part way through I dispaired of every getting the flowers to stick but in the end we all managed even if we did look a bit ragged. Its hard to see in the photo but all the leaves used the pleating technnique from the previous sample - I just chose not to lift them up. At the bottom is 4 layers of various silk laid flat on top of each other. The merino pulled them in so tight they look like one sheet.

And last -- though certainly not least - we have the fabric transfer piece. Which, sadly, I'm not very happy with. Irony, you are my shadow.

I've had to stop at the prefelt stage. Some of the transfers, which don't shrink,, are just too large for the amount of shinking that has happened already. The photo of the person in a field under the rainbow is just losing it's power - Here's another piece begging to be redone.

The concept of the piece and the colours are just what I wanted. The background was a piece of prefelt I dyed with Fiona 2 years ago. I used some tonally resonant wisps of short fibre merino from my stash as stitching.



So there you have it. Week One Done!!