Friday, 1 July 2011

Welcome to Canada! Bienvenue au Canada!

Parliament Building OttawaIt's Canada Day here so in it's honour, I'm going to welcome you and show you around Ottawa, where I live, and show you a bit of the quilting scene here (well, what I know of it). Ottawa is the capital city of Canada so, as you can imagine, Canada Day is a big deal here. Very. Big. Deal. The downtown streets around our Parliament Buildings are closed to traffic, but are packed with pedestrians.

It's a huge party with red and white everywhere you look!

My boys on Canada Day 2010 - We're normally in shorts and t-shirts, but that was an odd weather day - hot/cool/hot. 
I have to say that I'm even more excited for Canada Day this year because we're having a BBQ with some friends later today (with fireworks - the whole shebang! Sorry, bad pun.). I'm also excited about it this year because the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are here! There is no way I'm going downtown today to brave those crowds so I packed up the munchkins and went with a friend to Rideau Hall to see the Duke and Duchess yesterday. So fun! Both were so gracious with the crowd. The Duke gave a brief speech and I must say that I was quite impressed with his French. Bien fait, votre majesté! Of course, I took tons of pictures. As Murphy's Law would have it, his head is cut off of all the ones where he is right in front of me! Gah! Oh well, here are a few of the best.

Prince William's Canadian Flag
 Speaking of French, one of the reasons I love Ottawa is that it is a truly bilingual city, where you'll hear both languages, plus many others, everywhere you go. It feels like being with my extended Charbonneau family all the time; people switching back and forth between French and English throughout their conversations. It's a little weird, but fun if you know both languages.

The City of Ottawa has around 800,000 residents, but the National Capital Region (includes the suburbs and Gatineau across the river in Quebec) is more like 1.4 million. It's a beautiful city with a lot of green space, it's easy to navigate and the people are pretty darn nice, if I may say so.

My husband and I (and Patrick) moved here about 5 1/2 years ago and find that there is always something to do. It's a city that encourages you to be outside all year round, whether is 30 degrees Celsius or - 30 degrees Celsius. Festivals, community gatherings, wonderful bike and walking/hiking paths in the summer, great skiing (downhill and cross country) and fabulous skating on the Canal in the winter.

Our ice rink

Part of what I love about winter here is that the snow stays in the winter and stays white, because it's cold. Very cold. And as long as you are dressed for the cold, it's awesome.

Neighbour's slide

I have at least two coats for the winter -- the balmy up-to-minus-10 degree Celsius coat and what I call the "Ottawa Ladies Coat" (a big, long parka-like coat that has a faux fur ruff on the hood) for those bone-shillingly cold days. It ain't pretty, but it's so wonderfully warm! In the winter, we (my husband) make an ice rink in our backyard and a friend up the street makes an awesome slide for the kids. It's a winter wonderland for my munchkins.

I find the quilting scene here is pretty inspiring. There is quite a variety of styles. This will not be a comprehensive tour of the Ottawa quilting scene (that would take way too long!), but I'll share with you what I know about it.

There are two big quilt (200+ member) guilds here: Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild and the Common Thread Quilt Guild. I used to be a member of both (I just couldn't get enough!), but I started volunteering as a Beaver Leader for my son's Beaver Colony this past year so I couldn't make the Common Thread Guild meetings. :(
The home page of the OVQG has a slide show of some of our members' work and of our House Tour last fall that it worth checking out. Our guild did the house tour to raise money for Rogers House, a "home away from home" for children with life-limiting illnesses and their families who need to be near the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). The idea was radical; to have quilts shown in their natural habitat -- the home! We had five houses with five themes (Animals, Art, Children, Men, and Seasons). It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. More importantly, we raised ~$3,000 for Rogers House! My house hosted the Children's quilts - no surprise there -- so you'll see my house in the photos with the children's quilts.

Every Mother's Day weekend in May, there's a big quilt show here. The two biggest guilds alternate hosting it each year. The quilt show this past year was run by the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild. Next year, it's the Common Thread Quilt Guild. Each year, I walk away from the show inspired anew. Also, did I mention the great vendors? Let's just say that I have a great Mother's Day each year! The show is also on during the Tulip Festival so there's a lot going on around the rest of the city too (millions of tulips, of course, but also concerts and other events). Have I convinced you to visit Ottawa in person yet?

There are also a number of smaller guilds and groups around too, like the Arnprior Quilters' Guild and the Richmond Area Quilters Guild. Most don't have sites though. One very cool group that does have a site is the Out of the Box Fibre Artists, whose members do stunning work. They've put some of their members' work on the site so click on a name and you'll see some examples of their work. There's some great eye candy on that site!

Now on to the blogs! Did you know that the Quilting Gallery Blog that has the Quilting Bloggers list is based in Ottawa? Yes, Michele Foster runs such a great site and a great blog of her own! I've just started following her blog, but so far I'm a big fan of her weekly themed quilt contests. What a great idea! 

One of my favourite blogs is Elaine Quehl's blog. Not only do I find her work gorgeous (check out her foliage series - wow!), but I also find her posts about being an artist and the creative journey very thoughtful and interesting. I've taken a class with her too and it was eye opening. I learned how to piece freeform curves - love that Reflections technique. And her hand dyed fabrics, which are available for sale, are luscious (I don't use that word lightly!).

Cherry Tree Quilts - Barb Gillespie is a wonderful longarm machine quilter who recently moved to BC from Ottawa. We're sad to see her go! Even though it's summer and not a speck of snow to be seen here (in Ottawa anyway ;)), I had to share Barb's snow dyeing with you. Very cool! I'm going to have to try that sometime.

Other Ottawa-based blogs to check out:
  • The Running Stitch - A great store and blog. I don't get there as often as I'd like because it's on the other side of the city from me (probably a good thing for our bank account), but it's where I bought the Kaffe Fassett fabric for Project Y and my fantabulous-bestest-ever-sewing-machine-in-the-world.
  • Juanita Sauvé is also a member of the Out of the Box Fibre Artists. I've just recently found her blog, but am enjoying it immensely.
  • Mad About Patchwork - yummy online quilt store and blog!
  • The Saturday Quilter - I love the New York Beauty that she posted for last year's Bloggers' Quilt Festival.
Some Quilt Artist sites worth a visit:
Mary Pal is a wonderful friend of mine and does such beautiful work! You will be seeing her in the next series of Quilting Arts TV demonstrating her cheesecloth technique. Her portrait of Jane Goodall is one of my favourites. Poplars is another. Mary gave a fabulous 10BX class where we got to experiment with ten different fibre art processes using a leaf theme (paintstiks, seta colour, foil). It was so much fun and felt like it was a 'playdate' for grownups. I also took her Painstiks course -- again, I learned so much from her. She has so many tips and ideas that I always walk away very inspired.

Other great sites to check out:
A visit to Ottawa would not be complete without some fabric shopping, n'est-ce pas? Some of my favourite local fabric and quilt shops are:

On my way home last night, I spotted a new store that is opening near my house called Paula's Sewing Basket. I'm giddy -- could it be a quilt shop? I couldn't tell from the outside, but I will certainly investigate it next week. :)

Thanks for coming by and I hoped you liked your virtual visit to Ottawa. If you liked this visit, check out my other trips Around the Quilting Blogosphere.

Now I've got to go get ready for the BBQ...

Happy Canada Day! Joyeuse Fête du Canada!


  1. Great post M-R. Thanks so much for including me. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Canada Day. I'm just heading up to the Hill to take in the craziness. I live close enough that I can run home quickly! LOL

  2. What a wonderful post! As you know, I grew up on the Quebec side of Ottawa and fondly remember Canada Day in the Nation's capital with my best friend.

    I'm so glad to have found you and yor blog, will add you to my favorites when I get home from the cottage.




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