Wednesday 30 January 2008

Little joys

Here are the two other rag dolls custom ordered with Malila, the native American. On the left is Sini, she is a Finnish girl of about 10 years of age and likes baking cakes and bread. On the right is the Chinese girl Chu-Hua (=Chrysanthemum). She learns foreign languages easily and she is energetic. She has one long braid of hair. The front hair is too short to stay in place, and I'm not happy with her face either. I'm not good at drawing, and these faces I make with a stencil with textile paints. When I was in third grade we made a rag doll at school. We had to embroider the face, and my poor doll ended up with pig's eyes and a mouth like a hooker's, and two dark red holes for a nose. Nobody can play with a doll like that. That's why I prefer the painted faces. The white doll is made of recycled sheets, the yellow fabric I have bought. All clothes are made of recycled or leftover pieces, including their underwear.

Yesterday was a good day. First, I received my first ever Etsy purchase, hand printed fabrics from Hollabee. Second, the February issue of Quilting Arts magazine was also in the mail. Third, my daughter Kaija found a new apartment she really likes. This is really the most important one of these, but they happened in this order. I'm planning to use my hand printed fabrics for shoulder bags I make for a local handicraft shop. Now is not yet the time, they are more like summer bags when I make them of linen or linen/cotton.

Monday 28 January 2008

Friendship Star

The winter is slowly coming, we had -9 degrees this morning and there have been a few sunny, cold days already. On Friday I was lucky enough to take some photos outside. This quilt is a Friendship Star pattern from the Popular Patchwork magazine 2004. Once again, I have used as many old materials as possible and only bought the plaid for the binding and the backing material. The idea started with the many light blue men's shirts I had from my husband and my father-in-law. I also had received a light blue floral print to make a nightgown I had not used because I prefer jersey nightgowns.

The squares between the stars are mainly leftover pieces from my other projects. I wanted to make this quilt the normal size 150 x 200 cm, but because of the thick wadding it is only 142 x 192 cm. I thought this would look nice with my oldfashioned lace sheets in my old iron bed. The only problem is that the bed is from the time before standards and it seems impossible to get a mattress short and wide enough. Of course there are other beds, and we even have a blue room. Maybe I make another blue quilt for the other bed there.

Sunday 27 January 2008

Hostage buttons are safe and sound

Here are the famous Buttons. As the Observant Reader may already have noticed, this is not really a hostage situation but my chance to have the princess feelings for a short period of time. The wooden (juniper) buttons on the left are made by my father, the ones in the top and bottom row for me for a lovely thick jacket my mother knitted me when I was maybe ten. So those really are mine.

These are all genuine mother-of-pearl buttons. They are really not practical in use, you have to take them off if you want to wash the garment in the machine, and you have to be careful not to break them. But they feel so cool and smooth and they are so shiny and beautiful, like the wings of a dragonfly.

And so are the ones on the left here. In the third row from the left the two bottom ones you all know already, that's where this whole thing started. On the right are black buttons from by grandmother's fur coat and a big black button of glass.

And these are the final three beauties.
Can anyone really blame me for wanting to hold these? I mean, I have known these buttons since the time I started school, but they were not mine. I even know that my mother was most probably only pleased if I (or any one of my three sisters) wanted to look at them and arrange them, but it ist not the same. And I will be happy to see Kaija taking care of this lot, when the time comes. Just not yet. Not today, anyway. She will be the person who best knows how to appreciate the beauty and memories of all these buttons. And I think she will raise the future possible daughter of hers to follow in our footsteps in this question. I will, anyway. And I may even give something wonderful directly to her to keep, in a little over 30 years. When I'm a little older.

Thursday 24 January 2008


This is the new quilted shopping bag. The lining is the same green flower print as the middle part of the handles. The button is a wooden vintage button I have admired in my mother's button box since childhood. She gave them last autumn to me to give to my daughter. I didn't, but kept them myself, because I had liked them a lot longer. I let her pick the ones she wanted the most, and she will get the rest later.
I think I will give this bag to my mother next time I go visit her. She lives alone now since my father died a little over two years ago, so there is not too much shopping to be done. On the inside the bag has a zippered pocket for her purse and keys so that she only needs this bag to take care of. She is 91 years old now, and her memory is razor sharp. She is of course a little fragile and needs a walking support with wheels, but she can do her own shopping and "mind her own business". Last week when I phoned her she told me that she had been thinking of the hypothenuse. Why on earth that, I thought. Well, she needed to cross a square in town so she thought that the hypothenuse is always shorter than the sum of the sides of the right angle, so she decided to save some steps and walk from corner to the opposite corner for the taxi station. And then she needed to know which language this funny word comes from, and she checked it at home from her books. It's Greek. This little bag is also full of hypothenuses, I hope she enjoys them as well. And the beautiful button I have dared to use.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Finished at last

This is what my little rug looked like when I finished sewing. And this is what it turned into in the washing machine

The stripes have vanished. I have made other rugs with big plaids on the topmost layer and they look very nice, the pattern becomes a little blurred and beautiful.

I finished the quilted shopping bag as well. Using thick quilting thread caused problems, I had to pick up the top edge because of loops on the reverse. It reminded me of my unfortunate 4th grade apron sewing at school. The school's sewing machines were old fashioned, non-electric monsters which you had to treadle. I still have absolutely no sense of rythm, and that machine was quite impossible for me to use. I treadled and cried and picked up and treadled and so on. I was about 9 years old and had been happily sewing doll's clothes at home with my mother's beautiful green electric Elna for ages. Today I didn't cry, I'm used to picking up already. The loops just looked the same.

Tuesday 22 January 2008


Last night it started to snow, and finally it looks wintery again. I took some pictures outside, and my fingers got real stiff and cold. The weather is really a question of proper dressing, and if I had worn gloves, there wouldn't have been any problem. But most people are like that, they like to complain rather than change their own behavior.

Because my project is not yet ready, I will show you one I finished over six years ago. This little quilt is a birthday present for my younger son. This pattern was on the cover of Rosemary Wilkinson's "The Quilter's handbook" and I immediately knew I wanted to try it. All top materials are recycled or leftover pieces. My favourite is the dark blue of some of the houses, it was my husband's shirt he used to wear for work in summer. Finally it was showing the white interlining of the collar so I could put my hands and scissors on it (and my roll cutter).

The tile coloured material I dyed myself with Dylon for this project, for some of the roofs and for the binding.

It was a little windy outside so the quilt refused to hang still. The edge is really straight and not curvy. When I put the quilt back on the bed I saw some stains, but if I don't tell where to look, you may not notice them. I will wash it someday.

Monday 21 January 2008

Little progress report

Today I finished sewing and cutting my chenille piece. Next I shall bind the edges and it will be ready for the final touch by my washing machine.

Today's picture is another Unicef doll custom made for my sister. This one is called Harri and his shirt is made of my son's old T-shirt and the trousers are a leftover piece of his anorak. The rag dolls are about 45 cm tall, just fine for small children to carry and hold. The idea is to make useful items at low cost, because the person who makes the doll will not be paid anything. The whole adoption fee goes to Unicef. The maker will receive from the buyer the postcard attached to the doll, so she or he will know where the doll has found a home. Usually the dolls are sold to strangers in Unicef campaigns or other occasions.

Saturday 19 January 2008

Räntää or wet snow falling

Today is what the Finnish winter should not be: temperature above zero, wet snow is falling and the ground remains green or muddy. Last night it was raining all night long. This shouldn't be happening to me, I recycle and sort everything and my globe should not be warming like this. The worms in my compost are wriggling happily when I bring them potato peels and tea leaves. Normally the compost works as a waste freezer at this time of the year and warms up to working order again at the end of March. On the other hand, enormous sums of money will be saved in heating expenses, snow ploughing etc. And the pavements are not slippery.

This lousy weather means also that I can't make nice pictures, so I just show another rag doll I made for Unicef. By now I have made 41 of them, and I'm planning to reach 50 this year. That will make 1,000 euro for Unicef in total and 50 vaccinated children out there. Just trying to do my share and enjoying it.

This doll is a native American and her name is Malila, "a salmon going fast upstream". I chose that name because my husband is a flyfisherman.The shirt is made of chamois leather, and I made a tiny woven pearl necklace for her. Normally they should not have any details which could be dangerous to little children, but this doll was another custom order for a woman in Germany. She wanted a collection of black, red, yellow and white dolls.

Thursday 17 January 2008

When you have too much material

Yesterday I finally can began my projects again after Christmas. My 'sewing group' started , so I had to unpack what I cleaned away from the living room tables, chairs and floor, just to find something to take with me there. I decided to finish a quilted shopping bag there, it needed just to be put together, and the lining with a zipper pocket, and the handles. This means I had done the fun part already, the quilted sides and bottom. I had it almost done, but the school's sewing machines are not too sophisticated so I wanted to fasten the zipper at home. The picture shows what was made before Christmas.

My big problem is storaging everything so that I can a) remember b) find what I have. It would be easy enough to pile up neat little folded pieces of cloth on shelves, sorted by color or purpose of use. But my pieces are not usually square but irregular, and they have a tendency to heap up and fall over. There are so many recycled pieces which I never bother to iron unless I choose to use them, and they are impossible to store neatly. I'm the second youngest of six children, and so I'm used to getting handovers. Everyone knows I quilt, and so they ask if I'm interested in some pieces they want to get rid of when clearing their closets. This way they don't need to throw anything away, because of course I take it, and so I have some more material to sort, store, remember, find use for. And I have no way to clear my closets, because I need to use what I have. And usually I have no time or energy.

Last autumn I remembered again a very useful technique to get rid of lots of material, even the ugly ones. It's called chenille or slash cut . I make 5-6 different layers of old shirts, jerseys, bedsheets, whatever, on a bottom layer I have sewn together from old jeans or other heavy material.

Then I paste the layers together. After that I draw some guide lines along the bias for stitching. The whole thing will be stitched in parallel lines about 1,5 - 2 cm apart, an easy way to get rid of useless rests of sewing thread.

Finally all top layers are cut between the stitched lines, the edges finished and the whole thing washed in the machine.

This is how far I made it yesterday. More pictures after the weekend when I have more time to finish this little bedside rug.

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Never throw anything away

This is my first attempt to write a blog. I'm inspired by some beautiful blogs I have been reading in the last months and wanted to share some of my own doings with likeminded people. My mother taught me not to throw anything away because it can be used for something. My husband went through the same school at his home, our parents have started their families during the war. So now I'm stuck with enormous amounts of leftover pieces of materials from my own, my mother's and even my grandmother's sewing and unfinished projects. Luckily we have never moved house and the house is rather big. My idea was to show all kinds of stuff I have made, mainly by recycling but also of new materials which are so hard to resist. This first picture is a doll I made for Unicef to be adopted by anyone willing to pay the adoption fee of 20 euro, the price of vital vaccinations for one child. In Finland these are called Anna and Toivo dolls, the words in Finnish mean "give" and "hope". School classes, mothers, anyone can make a doll with the Unicef pattern and label and give it an identification card from Unicef. The other half of this card is a postcard which the adoptive mother can send to the one who made the doll, informing that the doll now has a family. This particular one is called Ulla and it is a custom order for my sister. The doll's skirt is made of a skirt my sister and I and my little sister have worn when we were little.

The name of this blog comes from my childhood memories, when listenig to the radio was an essential part of the day. There were weather forecasts and announcements to seafarers, including information on sea water levels all along the coast. One (perhaps the first?) location was the town Kotka, and the measuring point was on Rankki island. They could say "Kotka, Rankki: minus 30 centimeters, ...". To a child'd ear this sounded like kotkarankki, kotka meaning eagle in Finnish and the rest being a mystery. My mother had a beautiful wooden box for Gütermann sewing threads, almost black, shiny lacquered and with a picture of a big bird on the cover. We started calling the box kotkarankki. If I can locate the box again, I will show you a picture of it. The threads were so beautiful, in all colours - think of a child being given a box of 78 crayons to arrange any way she pleases. The box must be somewhere, naturally.