ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Facinating People and Chasing the Aurora: Yellowknife, Part 2

I woke to a crisp bright day here in Yellowknife, with temperatures at -29 celsius. This is a good thing as it was unseasonably warm here (-10 yesterday), making for snow and overcast skies. This has meant the cancellation of my aurora tour on Tuesday night, and a tour that produced no aurora last night. I am heading out again tonight between 11 pm and 2 am.

During last night's aurora tour we drove three hours in the wilderness outside Yellowknife. It was snowing and cloudy, but our native guide Joe, who is a Dene Indian, thought the snow and clouds were moving in a certain direction and would clear, but they didnt. We had seven people on the tour last night, including an amazing Chinese family from Toronto .. the wife/mother has been to many locations chasing the aurora (Whitehorse, Yukon and Finland). They brought the whole family this time and although they did see aurora on Sunday and Monday nights, the aurora eluded all of us last night due to cloud cover. You may have heard on the news about the solar storms taking place right now, which would normally make for a stellar aurora experience, but first we have to clear the clouds

Even though we saw no aurora last night, I had quite an education ... what a wild and harsh country this is. I saw the ice roads that the truckers use to get up to the mines. I learned there are 2000 lb buffalos in the Northwest Territories. Who knew? When we came to one of the vantage points on the route we would all get out of the truck and look around, and Joe would have to take a flashlight to check there are no packs of wolves waiting to prey on us! I also heard stories of the many people who have died when the ice gave way while driving on it (no I am NOT going on any ice roads or lakes!). Apparently you can hear it cracking sometimes when you drive on it, even though it is several feet thick. The wildness outside the city is mind boggling!

One thing is clear to me, I (and many Canadians) are and have been completely unaware and ignorant of the North. I have a feeling I will be coming back here again!

Since I didn't make it back from aurora watching until 2 a.m., I missed the dog sledding tour I was to go on today. Oh well. This evening I'm teaching the first half of my "Reflections" class.

On Tuesday evening I delivered my "From Inspiration to Art Quilt" lecture at the Yellowknife Quilters Guild meeting. I met many women who had moved here from all over Canada and love it here!
Since I was flying within Canada I was able to bring a small selection of my hand-dyed fabrics, which were well received. This is Donna MacDonald, the guild's Workshop Coordinator, who handled my sales while I talked to members about my quilts. I took about a dozen quilts with me.

Yesterday I walked around old town wearing nothing but sneakers and wool socs on my feet. At -10 the warm boots I brought with me would have been way too hot. I made a visit to the Gallery of the Midnight Sun. It sells hand-made arts and crafts from Northern Canada.
Then I had a late lunch at the famous Bullocks Bistro.
Known for its rustic appearance, irascible owner (Jane Sassaman had described him as the "fish Nazi" when I met her in Nova Scotia in September, as did many on-line reviews), and very fresh seafood. In fact, I found the owner friendly and helpful. I had the whitefish and it was lovely. When you get there the cook will tell you what fish and game are available that day. It is a strange mix of rustic and gourmet with home-made salad dressings in fancy bottles and a cappucino machine.

In the evening I taught my thread dyeing class. The guild here has access to a wonderful studio space used by the local mixed media group. Everyone seemed to enjoy dyeing thread.
I know readers love seeing eye candy, so here are some of my own spools of hand-dyed thread.
I did a demo of couching, bobbin drawing, and hand stitching with the hand-dyed threads. Facinating people here: one of the ladies in my class has flown here from Inuvik for the week.

Stay tuned for "Yellowknife, Part 3". I hope to have some aurora photos!


  1. You are so right about the fact that most Canadians are unaware of the North. Since joining blogland, my horizons have expanded. Hope you get to see the aurora.

  2. I flew to Yellowknife years ago to teach a retirement planning seminar. It was held in the space shared by two church parishes -- a large multipurpose space. My flip chart and screen for overhead projection were positioned right in front of the altar!

    It was in January, and very cold, clear and crisp. I stayed only one night, and saw no aurora -- but I think that was long before formal tours (it was in the late '80s or early '90s, I think). I remember the Gallery though, and the beautiful sculpture and paintings of the aurora borealis. I couldn't afford to bring any home at the time, alas.

    While I confess that the charm of our North has not cast me under its spell, it is definitely a place that more Canadians should visit.

  3. It sounds like you are having a wonderful trip, Elaine. Hope you get to experience the aurora before you go!

  4. How very exciting, Elaine! It sounds like you are having a real treat. I am sure the Yellowknife Quilters are too:-)I have my fingers crossed for you to see the Aurora! Great scope for quilts and dyeing there I am sure. We will look forward to your next post. Enjoy it all.

  5. I'm really enjoying reading about your trip Elaine. It brings back memories of the time I lived 'across the lake' from Yellowknife in Pine Point. The North really does get to you! One of my first patterns (and one in my first book) were greatly influenced by the time I lived North of 60!

    Hope you see the Aurora tonight.

  6. The Aurora tour sounds like quite an adventure. I don't know if this island girl would have the fortitude to spend that long out in those below freezing temperatures, but I guess a sighting of the Aurora would make it worth it! The North does sound like a beautiful, wild place.


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