Sunday, December 30, 2007


I ordered some fabric from The Glorious Color Shop that arrived just before Christmas, but I was almost too busy to look at it. I have just been casting glances in the direction of that pile during the last week and felt a surge of joy every time - funny that one can react to colour and pattern that way, isn't it! The first one is a Martha Negley design, then there is a Philip Jacobs design in two different colourways - I just couldn't decide which I liked the most... -and then of course, the man himself, Kaffe Fassett, his Verbena and Spots in two colourways. I had no plan whatsoever for these when I ordered them, it was just a case of "I have to have!"

Imagine my joy then, when I picked up my latest order from Amazon, including this great book, and discovered that there are several quilts in there which might work very well with my fabrics. I can't wait to get started now, and thought I'd spend the day sewing. But it was not to be - a friend invited me for lunch, and I couldn't very well turn down the opportunity of spending a pleasant day with friends now, could I? But soon...!
I also ordered these fabrics from a different outlet - a bit late it seems, I had to search all over for them - they were all over the place last year, but didn't tempt me then, but then I saw a great quilt in the latest issue of Quilt Sampler and suddenly felt the urge to make something similar.
It's good to have plans isn't it - now where is that website where you can purchase extra time?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Knitted heart

We've had a very peaceful few days here. For the first time in ages I have the whole week between Christmas and New Year off and it has been wonderful to

relax, spending time with family and friends. The last few days I have been so idle that I was beginning to forget how to get up from the sofa... The mere thought of going into my sewing room to start a new project, or heaven forbid, finish something, was enough to make me feel faint.
I had some knitting wool and a few needles handy, though, and found this pattern via Melody Johnson's blog, and just had to have a go. I might have stuffed the heart a bit too much, and I must say I prefer Melody's version. I only just realized that is because she has knit her squares in stockinette stitch, whereas I followed the pattern slavishly and knit every other row on the back in knit instead of purl. Hers has a much smoother finish, so if I were to try again, I would do that. The pattern claims that once you have tried these hearts you will want to make lots, but I'm afraid not. It was fun to have a go, but with me it's all "been there, done that" so I'm off searching for something new.
The yarn, by the way, is Regia and is a leftover from my first attempt at knitting a pair of socks since my schooldays. The result was disastrous, however, so I'm not going to show them here! I can't be bothered to unravel and reknit, so I have cast on for a new pair - different colourway, different pattern. Maybe I'll have something to show at the end, or maybe not...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Deck the halls

Christmas for me is all about traditions, seeing family and friends and also adding something new every year. These little fellows have been a part of my Christmases for as long as I can remember. They used to grace my grandmother's dinner table all set out on a mirror tile surrounded with cotton wool - a frozen pond surrounded by snow in my imagination.
My dear gran has long since left this world, but I inherited these figurines and feel like I'm greeting old friends every December when it is time to let them out of their little box. They have been joined this year by a sequin tree my cousin's youngest girl made for me last Christmas - a mix of old and new.
I love Christmas and all the hustle and bustle it contains. I thought that this year I had it all down pat, though - no stress, not too many unnecessary tasks. I'd keep it simple, just enough effort to make it a special few days...
But wouldn't you know it - once the Christmas preparation snowball starts rolling it grows, and grows...
You know how it goes: "I'll just make a few homemade presents this year, no stress at the last minute!". Well, I've only just finished the last piece of hand stitched binding on the last present...

And then it is the baking. "I'll just make some ginger bread and buy the rest."
Sure! But I always make brownies, must make some this year too. And now that I'm at it I may as well make those lemony coconut squares. And maybe some candy? Before you know it the tins are full, and your arms are ever so slightly longer from having carried all those shopping bags of ingredients home...
"Well, it will be dark when the guests arrive, I needn't bother too much about that dusting... "
- Yeah, right - a day off from work and seeing the place in sunshine and there's no doubt about it - cloths and dusters to the rescue. Better shine those windows too...
"Well at least I won't spend that much time shopping this year".
Who am I trying to fool - of course I find myself braving the crowds as usual trying to find just the right things for everybody.
And just when you think you are ready, there's always someone you haven't thought of who suddenly pops in with a present, and you have that mad dash to find something, while pretending you had something already prepared...
So why do we bother? 'Cause it's also a lot of fun! Getting your decorations down from the attic. Making your home shine in all it's glory and gathering your friends and loved ones around you - it's a wonderful time of year really! - fa la la la la la la!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting there, slowly, slowly

Well, at least I have started my Christmas shopping now. The first couple of presents are bought - one is all wrapped up and ready for a special friend - shh, don't tell!
I couldn't resist this tin decorated with vintage photos - such a sweet litte boy! It might become part of a Christmas gift, if I'm able to part with him, that is... Some pressies are in the making as well:

I was tidying up the other day and in a pile of computer printouts I found this little stitchery I made ages ago. I remember scanning it to post a picture, and then I must have forgotten all about it. It didn't even need seeing to with a hot iron - the weight of the paper had made it nice and smooth... (A great way to press one's work for someone who thinks the definition of housework is to sweep the room with a glance...)
I added a border and some quick quilting and voila: a finished present! Sorry about the blurred photo - I never seem to find myself at home during daylight hours these days... I'm also working on a sewing basket for my mother. I have combined a couple of different patterns from some Japanese books. The instructions are well illustrated, but as for the rest you have to read between the lines, so I'm kind of making it up as I go.
It has an inner basket with three compartments, and I'm going to add some stuffed yo-yos inside the bigger basket for the small one to rest on so that you get a big compartment in the bottom. I'm not explaining this very well, but there will be more pictures later! I have also made a lid and there will be zippers...
I'm going to add some more bits and pieces to it - so do come back: all will be revealed!

I have been too busy lately, but I'm going to make some time to relax now and create more of a Christmas mood here. Tomorrow I'll venture up into the attic to see if some of my Santas and snowmen would like to come downstairs, and to look for some stripy fabric for elf stockings: I have every intention of trying my hand at Calamity Kim's Christmas Elf - she is generously providing the pattern to download - go and see for yourself - it's great!

Looking for last year's Christmas decorating post, I realize that I was even later last year, and Christmas did arrive anyway, so according to my personal schedule I'm actually early this year!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

December inspiration

I came across a copy of the latest issue of Marie Claire Idées yesterday. Like many bloggers I have discovered that this magazine is just full of inspiration, and the latest issue is no exception. I have spent a happy afternoon with a cup of tea and a lot of eye candy - there are just so many things to be inspired by, cute angels, stockings, embroidery, baked goods - I haven't really got my head around the fact that Christmas is approching, but this magazine is giving me a kick start. Click on the picture above to go to Flickr for a closer view.
I love this yo-yo throw in silky fabrics and with huge yo-yos (the green ones are made from 21 cm/8" circles!)

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of advent and weather permitting, time for a pre-Christmas market. That should help my Christmas spirit along...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

For a new arrival

I bought some fabric this summer while visiting a quilt shop which wasn't "quite me". All their fabric was pastel coloured wheras I tend to go for more bright colurs . There was one bundle of fabric which called out to me to have another look, though, and I ended up buying it to challenge myself a bit. The idea was to mix the fabric in among the rest of my stash to add some contrast, but the bundle has been lying on my shelf ever since.
When a rather mature friend of mine announced that she was expecting her first baby, I knew I'd make a quilt, but I was superstitious enough to push it off until I knew that everything was all right. Her little baby girl was delivered a forthnight ago and thankfully, all was well.
I really had no idea about what to make, but my eyes came to rest on that little bundle of fabric on my shelf, and I realized they were perfect for a little girl. I chose a very simple pattern of squares and rectangles and quilted with an allover pattern of floral swirls. Nothing original - it is in fact the same pattern and the same quilting as on my Amy Butler quilt, but it lets the fabric show itself in all its glory. It is sweet, but not the usual girly pink one might choose for a baby although one fabric - the white with red flowers that you see on the very left here looks pink when seen from a distance - all the colours are slightly "off" , which is why they never seemed to want to play with anything in my stash.

I chose a salmon pink thread for the quilting and it blends in well with all the other colours. I pieced the back of the remaining strips of fabric, so there is nothing left to go in my stash, but who cares - from my pictures yesterday you know there's quite enough there already, right?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gray day - with lots of colour

The weather today didn't tempt me into venturing outside. The wind has been howling around the corners of the building carrying fistfuls of sleet. I had planned on taking lots of photos today, but the light wasn't really up to it.
I started a project I have been putting off for a while instead: tidying and putting away fabric. The plastic crates I keep them in (mushroom crates, free from the supermarket) were a mess, so I spent some time sorting through them, rediscovering lots of gems and making decisions about new projects. A sewing basket for my mother and a folder for travel documents (like this) are among them.
Even though I probably have enough fabric for a lifetime of projects, that didn't stop me from buying some more. The temptation from Jane's post yesterday was too great, and I just had to order some of this!
Having sorted through all my fabric and put everything back in it's place again, under a wide shelf underneth the window (sorry, the direct light made it difficult to take a good picture, but you get the idea) I spent some time working on this (second picture). It's almost done now! I also finished my table runner and the baby quilt yesterday, so all in all I have been rather industrious lately, haven't I? Pictures tomorrow. And what started out as a gray day became quite colourful after all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Off days

I have taken some days off from work, looking forward to days of pottering about at home, shopping for Christmas and visiting friends, but wouldn't you know it: I woke up on Monday with a runny nose, and thigs hab beed gedding steadily worse since then. My mother called a little while ago and thought she had gotten the wrong number, she didn't recognise my voice.
Needless to say, there has been little shopping and visiting so far, but a lot of pottering about...
Yesterday evening was spent curled up under a quilt watching old Seinfeld shows. I had several projects within reach, but couldn't be bothered to do a stitch in either knitting, quilting or embroidery project - I'm usually unable to just sit and do nothing with my hands, but for once it was just what I needed: Some quiet time, doing nothing.

Apart from the stuffy nose I'm more energized today, and have been quilting on a little something for a new arrival. I finished the top during the weekend, and cleaned and prepared my sewing machine yesterday, making it ready for a serious quilting session. Or so I thought. I had found the perfect salmon pink rayon thread to go with all the colours in the quilt, but within the first inch of stitching it snapped. I rethreaded the machine and tried again. Same result. I tried quilting on a quilt sandwich I keep by the machine for testing tension and stitches and it worked all right. Back to the quilt. The thread snapped. "Oh, well it was an old spool, maybe it's too old, I'll try another one." I found a pale yellow that might work - not as well as the salmon one, but still... Same result.
I thought I had cleaned the machine thoroughly yesterday, but I removed thread, needle, spool and all and used a can of compressed air to blow behind the spoolhouse and lo and behold, a small clot of dust and grime popped out. Everything was put back together again, and the quilting was just fine, salmon thread and all! There has been a lot of discussion in my guild about using compressed air to clean sewing machines. Some say that it may be harmful to the machine, pushing dust into areas where you can't get at it, but I don't know, I have found it helpful at more than one occasion, so I guess I will continue using it...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Trientalis europaea

I have been struggling with some crazy log cabin flower blocks lately. It took a while to get my head around the concept - starting with an uneven triangle and stitching wedges and uneven strips around it in a haphazard log cabin fashion, having to discard a lot of offcuts, seemed to go very much against the grain (pardon the pun!) of my early lessons in quilting where following the grain of the fabric, cutting precisely and making good use of even the tiniest scrap of fabric has been the most important rules of all. After a while I got into the spirit of it all and it became a lot easier and more fun along the way, so here they are, my three flowers stitched together to form a table-runner.
It started out as a christmassy thing with the flowers being white poinsettias, but I couldn't resist adding some blues and teals, and in my mind the flowers have now become Arctic starflowers, making the runner suitable for all year usage. Never mind that the real ones have six petals and mine only have four - I'm allowed some artistic freedom, right? ;-)

I was going to crop the picture, but why not leave some hints around the edges of what is going around outside my quilting realm. A bit of laundry waiting to be dealt with, some wine wanting to be drunk (although some of the bottles are empty already...) and my craft box of paints and brushes waiting under the table for when inspiration strikes. A wider angle would have revealed a lot more mess, but I'm slowly, slowly bringing my home into some semblance of order - throwing out stuff I never use and pairing down to get more room for the things I really want to spend time on. I have some great projects in mind that will bring that box up on the table soon, but first I'llhave to deal with some of this domestic mess that seems to accumulate out of nowhere... I am going to spend some time quilting my flowers first, though. I have added some french knots to the centers, but it looks like it needs something more, maybe some beads? I'll

do the quilting first, and see what it tells me.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kaffe knits again

-and so do I! I have been inspired by Kaffe Fassett since I came across his first knitting book and always loved his way with colours. Here at last was somone who didn't frown at using all kinds of bright colours together - the more the merrier. My sense of colour has never been of the subdued "tasteful" variety, and it was a relief to find someone who said it was OK to use bold colour and even said so In A Book! (And we all know that if a book says so, it's true, right?) Not only did the guy knit, but he alsa made the most wonderful tapestries. My bookshelves have gradually been filled with new books by this wonderful designer over the years. My interest in knitting waned for a while after I got a new passion: quilting. These days I consider myself a quilter more than anything else, but slowly, slowly knitting has been sneaking up on me again. Inspired by numerous blogs I decided to try my hand at a pair of toe-up socks with short row heels. I'm always up for a challenge, and this way of going about it just had to be tested. I found the perfect yarn for it - Regia self striping in a colourway designed by none other than Kaffe Fassett - who could resist it?
I tried several patterns and the toe was knitted and unravelled three times before I got a shape I liked. This formula at Knitty helped a great deal. My knitting doesn't seem as even as it used to be, but I suppose practise will make better, if not perfect. It took a while to get the heel right, but I think I have mastered it at last, and my first sock is almost done. I will make an effort to finish the other one as well ;-)
Today's arrival may slow me down a bit, though - this exciting book arrived today, and I'm looking forward to spending some time curled up under a quilt with it.

Within sight of this lovely cushion - it's far too new and precious to be used
yet! I bought the kit at Ehrman's in London years ago. It's designed by Elian McGrady who apparently worked with mr. Fassett before she started making her own designs. You can see the influence, but she creates lovely work in her own right. The kit had been languishing on my shelf for ages before my mother came to the rescue a year ago, and last week she had finished it! It looks just wonderful, doesn't it? Thank you mum!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

To the Lighthouse

No, sorry, this is not a post about Virginia Wolf. I have just finished her novel "Mrs. Dalloway" after Cherry suggested we do a book club sort of thing. To my relief I wasn't the only one who found it heavy going, but I did finish it eventually, stubborn being my middle name. "To the Lighthouse" would have been more in keeping with my latest quilt, although it's much more lighthearted than poor Ms. Wolf ever was. Not fair to drag her into this blog post at all, I suppose, but there you go... This quilt was a BOM (Block of the Month) at my local quilt shop, and I decided to go for it because it was funny and quirky, but remind me not to do that sort of thing again! I find it harder and harder to stick to a pattern, and as this came with fabric too, all the choices were made for me. Much to boring! I was fed up with the thing before I was halfway through, but I'm proud to say that I persevered, and finally it is done!
I made some changes, of course - where would the fun have been otherwise? Some of the pieces were simplified and some fabric replaced. The kit had purple and green fabric for the borders, but that wasn't P's thing at all, so they had to go. I'm much happier with the sand and sea substitutes. P is my three best friends' father and he and his wife have always been there for me when I have needed help - he has painted, laid flooring, moved my stuff more times than I can remember and it was about time he got his own quilt. His wife and daughters and grandchildren all have got theirs, so for his 70th birthday it was time to do something special for him as well.The family have a holiday cottage on a small island and he loves nothing more than pottering about in his boat and with his cronies on the dock there, so the maritime feel of this quilt seem right. The way he beamed when he received it told me that I had made the right choice, and made the whole thing worthwhile.

My next project is not made from a pattern, though.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I is for inspiration

The last few weeks have been hell.
No, don't worry - there's nothing serious going on - nobody died, I've still got my home, my job and whatever. But there has been so much to do that I haven't had any time to be creative (and hence, I've had nothing to blog about) and that is too frustrating.
To a non-crafting person my feelings would be difficult to understand, I suppose, but we crafters are a different species, aren't we? The crafts that I do are very important to me - I relieve tension and gain lots of positive energy from them.
I have, however, found time to read about and listen to the reactions to Jane at Yarnstorm's new book "The Gentle Art of Domesticity" and I have come to realize that there are a lot of people out there that just don't get it. Spending time doing crafts is something I do because I want to and because it gives me something important – the fulfilment of creating beautiful things for myself and my loved ones is so meaningful to me that I really can’t see how it should be a threat towards feminism. I am a feminist and I have a demanding job, but I also need time to myself, and crafting gives me just that.
Enough said, I’ll get down from that soap-box and share some new acquisitions that have given me lots of inspiration lately. There is a pile of new books waiting for me to find time for them – Jane’s book is one of them, then there is a lovely Japanese craft book and some eye candy in the form of photos from India and Italy. I’m really looking forward to things slowing down next week so that I might get some time to make something - not because I have to, but because I want to.
If only it would stop raining so that I could take some decent photos!
Rain doesn't have to be all bad though: I have an inspirational folder on my computer, and browsing through it I found these lovely drawings from a Japanese book of copy-free patterns (with accompanying CD) I borrowed from the library. There might be some quilts in my future inspired by these…

Sunday, September 09, 2007

H is for houses

house (
a building in which people live; residence for human beings.

–verb (used with object)
to give shelter to; harbor; lodge
to remove from exposure; put in a safe place.

keep house, to maintain a home; manage a household.

"Dreams relating to a house often refer to various aspects of the Self. When trying to analyse the house in your dream, consider also how the house is kept and the condition of it. The rooms in the house relates to facets of your personality". (

I have always had a thing about houses. I don’t know what it is about them that attract me so. A house is not just a place to live. There’s the general design of the thing; walls, windows, roof, all the different styles and colours houses can be. The idea of having a house of my own where I can do whatever I like has always been attractive to me. Ever since I was in my early teens I have been buying home decorating magazines, and even magazines with blueprints for building houses, and I have spent hours studying the floor plans and mulling over what I would have done differently, how I would have decorated them and so on. I have always had an idea that I could be an interior decorator, and sometimes I have even dared think I might be an architect, but I have never taken it further than sewing houses.

I’m always attracted to quilting and embroidery patterns with houses in them, and I keep collecting houses in different shapes and forms.

These tins for tea and spaghetti, for instance, and

this cookie jar are among my favourite things. I have lots of little house tins for tea and spices and the like. Then there’s a little village from Latvia meant for candles. And once the Christmas decorations come out there will be several more. I seem to get an underwater quality to all my pictures today, so I'll have to wait for a clearer day to take more pictures.

Then there is this recent acquisition of a tin house. I don't know where to put it yet, and what to do with it (put a houseplant in it, a candle, display something...), but I just had to have it! I'll find a nice spot on a wall somwhere and think about it some more.

Recently I bought this picture by Michael Powell of a lovely Welsh village. He seems to have a thing about houses too - and they are such lovely colourful quirky ones! I might have to do a wee bit of shopping at that site soon...

Among my work there’s this cross-stitch,

my little night time village,

my red and white schoolhouses,

this 3D one, and

this more stylised rendition. Two houses for what I have intended to make into an entire town are hanging on my notice board and I have at least three more quilts planned that will contain houses, in some shape or form…

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sorting threads

It's amazing how a few days away and getting out of the habit of doing something can make you stray off path completely. I was really getting into this alphabet thing, and had even prepared a post to be posted when I was away to keep it going, and then all sorts of other things interfered with my plans. It started with trying to take some pictures for my next post, but because it has been raining heavily for what seems like weeks, I couldn't get any photos worth posting - I get the feeling of being under water lately what with the constant sound of the rain and the gloomy light. Quite cosy if you want to stay indoors and create, but not the best light for taking pictures.

I've been sorting and tidying all my "stuff" these last couple of weeks - the redecorating of my living room (pictures will follow...) brought a lot of clutter to the surface that need to be sorted - in heaps of "for keeps", "pending" and "going out". There seems to be a lot of this going on in blogs lately - maybe it's something to do with getting our "nests" ready for winter hibernation ;-) I also sorted through some of my threads, and since Alicia posted the question of how we deal with those tangle-prone cottons, I thought I'd show what I do with mine, even if my photos have that sub aqua-feel... Since I have a lots of DMC cotton floss - I have been doing cross-stitch for years and I'm for ever adding to my stash - I have made some plain cardboard strips with punched holes along one side. I cut the skeins in same size lengths and loop them through the holes in numerical order. If I use only two strands of a length, I can loop the remaining strands into the same hole and have them ready for the next project.

I keep all the cards in a tin box so that the threads are coiled underneath and all the cards rest upright on top - quite the archivist, oh yes I am! :-D Because I started this system years ago, and it has been growing little by little, adding to it doesn't take a lot of effort, but I doubt I would do it this way if I suddenly found myself with hundreds of skeins that needed sorting - I'm not tidy enough to keep it up for that long!
I also have some special threads, like perle cotton, this beautiful silk noil, some linen etc., and have been doing what Alicia did - pulling out one length at a time from the skein and getting them into a terrible tangle. A friend of mine showed me a trick that works perfectly for these, and I am sorting through them in front of the TV these last couple of evenings. What you do is to open the skein, which is kind of twisted around itself so you have one big loop of thread. Then you cut through it all at one point (preferably where the ends are) so you end up with a bunch of single threads. Loop the bunch around the index finger of the hand you don't work with (I'm left-handed, so I use the finger on my right hand) bringing all the ends together at the opposite end. Split the bunch into three smaller bunches and start braiding them from your index finger. After braiding a few times, you can lift it off your finger and continue braiding with both hands. I just braid as far as I can and leave it like it is. If you feel the need for a very neat finish you could tie a piece of thread or something around the end, I suppose, but I find that it isn't really necessarry - the thread stays braided well enough. If you need to keep the label, you can fasten it throug the loop end of the braid. When a length of thread is needed, just pull it out from the loop end. You'll find that you can easily do this while keeping the braid intact. Works beautifully!