Friday 29 February 2008

Happy homecoming and lovely mail

Look what I found yesterday when I came home:

My own self-made daughter, here showing me the new program to make my fotos better. She is the technical genius behind this blog, a treasure in more than one sense. (She is aka paperiaarre , which is Finnish for 'paper' and 'treasure'). And then today the mail brought me these:

Inside was this:

And this:

from Karen. The brooch is absolutely beautiful and just what I wanted, and the piece of embroidery will be framed. My own work is so different that they couldn't be combined, and I just want to be able to look at this whenever I want. Thank you Karen!

No more text today, I want to enjoy the company of Kaija. Tomorrow we will go to Helsinki to a handicraft fair! I look forward to it, it will be such fun going there together and comment everything and do some shopping.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Pinwheel Baby Quilt

A few weeks ago I found an interesting blog with a very appealing name: Sew,Mama;Sew! There is a Quilting Month going on in February and I joined a couple of hundreds of quilters. This Monday the last "block of the week" was announced, and it was the Pinwheel. I had never made Pinwheels, although it is a simple block. Then I remembered my stash of baby prints I bought for the premature babies' quilts a couple of years ago. I had lots of 8 cm squares ready cut, so I just cut some more and started sewing.

The blocks turned out to be too small (the extra seam allowances because I made triangles), and so I added sashings and frames.

These detail pictures I took when the sun wasn't shining, so the colours are too blue. But I did manage to get the corners almost perfect.

This picture shows the true colours. I had to take the picture at an awkward angle in order to not block the sun. I didn't feel like going out to take great pictures, because I'm having a flu and cold shivers, sneezes and a red, runny nose. Today is not worse than yesterday, so maybe I'm getting better. I promise to stay on this side of the screen and wash my hands a lot.

The quilt shall now remain a WIP because I don't have the right kind of wadding (thin) to finish it just yet. Lucky me, I still have lots and lots of hand quilting to do in Grandmother's Garden. And if I look carefully, there might be some useful sewing to do as well, like replacing worn-out hang tabs on towels. Which reminds me of 12 hang tabs waiting to be sewn on place on the 12 linen towels I made in the eighties. My godmother gave me the linen just before our wedding, and I was supposed to embroider my initials on them as well. About ten years ago I decided I don't need to embroider the initials because it is not something I enjoy doing (lack of practice). But I still have perfectly good towels from my grandmother and her sister and my other grandmother, and the ones my mother made for me and the ones I made (only one has a hole, it's the one I made at school and it has been used longer). But some day, when I feel like it, I'll make the pretty blue towels ready. Only, the unused linen will be so difficult to mangle crease-free...

Sunday 24 February 2008

Tussilágo fárfara

Yesterday I was working on my new book for more advanced readers. The first picture reminded me of my schooltime herbarium. Coltsfoot, this is, I just checked it in the dictionary. I had never known that before, but for at least 46 years I have known that leskenlehti's Latin name is Tussilágo fárfara.

At my time, we had a really long summer vacation from school, but it included some duties. We had to collect our own herbarium, 120 wild flowers and plants when I was at that age, in three years' time.

Then we had to identify them, write (in ink) the plant's name, its Latin name, the Latin family name and description of the place where we found it, as well as the date. As you can see, I was a very stylish little girl, because I had green ink in my Mont Blanc fountain pen.

In autumn we then had to bring our herbariums to school to be inspected (some naughty pupils used old plants their elder sisters or brothers had collected), and then there was the examination, to show we actually knew our collection and all the names. I still remember lots of them. When I collected mine, we didn't take the plants with their roots, and so our herbariums were smaller than those of my elder sisters and brothers.

I liked learning the names, and when we got married my husband and I started our new herbarium. We got about 80 plants but also three children and less time. But as long as one of us can bend and pick the flowers, we can continue this hobby if we like. When the children were little, I used to teach them the Finnish names of any wild flowers we saw on the roadside on our way to the library or village center. I don't think they minded this, because at least Kaija has continued on this path with her Botanical brooches and journals. For some reason none of my links in the text seem to work, but if you go to paperiaarre through the (working) link on the right, you find the way to her etsy shop and the Botanical series.

Friday 22 February 2008

Learning to know my limits

The quilting by hand in small portions is a delight. It will take longer but I will be able to do it, if I remember not to try to quilt more than my hands can take. There are no new pictures yet, because it still looks pretty much the same as last week. It is strange how at a more mature age most people will notice that their best by -date has expired a while ago and the guarantee for almost any body part has ended by the 50th birthday. The first sign of this are the sounds I started to make when I pick up something from the floor or put my shoes on. Or reach something from the top shelf. They are not to be found in any dictionary, they don't exist in literature and I have no comics in English, but I trust you have heard (if not made yourself) these sounds and know what I mean. "Ähh" is my favourite in Finnish, and "huh huh" after I climb from the cellar to computer, about 35 steps. Then came the time when I started rubbing my hip or knee in the evenings when watching TV. Now I'm at the point when I have to control the use of my hands; if there has been many household chores, I must choose reading instead of sewing. I'm glad I still have the freedom of choice. And because I got my glasses at the age of 20 to help me stop the right bus instead of every bus, I now can still read and sew without glasses.

To cheer up this ageing whine I'll show you two pictures of one of my favourite techniques nowadays. Here you see the fabric I used as the top layer:
And this is how it looks when stitched and slashed and made to a chenille surface:

The plaid pattern nearly disappears when the bottom layers become visible too. The dark areas especially noticeable on the little rug on the right (once across and the other a curved line from the bottom right corner up to the left corner) show where the pieces of a red cardigan don't meet. When the thick red layer is missing, the dark brown and plum coloured layers are more visible. These two I stitched with a chevron pattern, on the left the points are up and on the right they are down. I just wanted to see if they look the same with different pile directions. I enjoy making chenille pieces, because I never can tell what it will look like after I have finished with the cutting and washing.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Hand quilting

Last Thursday I finally started stitching the quilt for Kaija. It was such fun that I continued of Friday for a couple of hours, and on Saturday maybe four hours, and on Sunday a little more than two hours. The quilt is rather big (about 160 x 210 cm) and heavy (vintage top, cotton wadding and back) . Sunday evening I noticed a rush on my right arm and hand, exactly there where the quilting loop touched it when I put my hand under the quilt for the next stitch, a couple of times apparently. If I try to quilt with my right hand on top of the quilt all the time, I don't catch the bottom layer at all. And that is not called quilting. So, I just put the needle in on top and draw it under the quilt and push up again from below. Stitch by stitch.

I think this looks about the way it should. My technique may be elementary, but I am in fact left-handed, I just use tools with my right hand. My crocheting looks funniest of all, since I just hold the hook in my right hand and push and pull, and the left hand does all the wriggling with the yarn.

Anyway, the rush was easily taken care of with some hand cream. Monday morning was a surprise. My wrists (both) were swollen, and so were the knuckles. The were hurting and aching, and I could hardly bend my wrists. I had obviously overdone it in my enthusiasm. Now I think the break has been long enough, as all swelling is gone and the movements are painless. Today I will enjoy a little bit of quilting, maybe two times half an hour. If all goes well, tomorrow a little more.

I had to change my original plan of quilting across and in the length four hexagons apart, because there are 63 hexagons across and the length is also divisible by three but not four. Now I'm making it three apart. I'm making it for a long time. But now that I finally got it started, I know it will be ready one day. Nobody can tell when, but I'll keep you posted!

Monday 18 February 2008

Melka Twins series

Today I had some photos made on CD so that I can show you my special project of recycling something very valuable. This is a series of three quilts made of my late father's old shirts. He died at the age of 90 in 2005. I asked if I could keep the shirts I had taken home to be washed and ironed, and my mother gave me the rest of them as well.

The shirts still had a scent of my father left, the very fragile touch of him. After a while I started thinking about the text on some shirt pockets: Twin. There were some Melka Twin shirts. I have a sister and brother who are twins, and they had their 60th birthday last summer. I wanted to make them both a quilt with such a piece included.

I had been looking through my quilting books and one of Kaffe Fasset's quilts inspired by strips of wallpaper inspired me. I cut all the shirts in long strips about 11 cm wide, taking care to include the Twin pocket. Then I sorted the strips in "boy's colours" (blues) and "girl's colours" (yellows and reds), and neutrals (white, grey and beige). First I made the one for my brother, he is born 20 minutes earlier. I cut the strips in random lengths and made long rows, which I then put together.

For my sister I used the neutral rests of the first quilt, plus the pinks and yellows, making them all same length this time, twice the width of the strips. The perspective on the photo makes tricks.

For both quilts I made a label on the reverse. My brother's quilt is "Isän tuoksu", or "The Scent of Father", and my sister's is "Nokkaunet Isän kanssa", or "A Nap with Father". They both are called Melka Twins twin quilts.

Later I used the remaining pieces for a quilt for my mother for her 91st birthday. The photo is very dark, but it is the only one I made. The colours should be the same as in the twin quilts. Her quilt is called "Vielä melkein sylikkäin", or "Still almost in his Arms". They were teenager sweethearts and married for almost 64 years.

In this series of quilts I have felt a warm closeness with my father and hope that the twins and our mother will keep feeling that too. In these quilts the pieces of shirts somehow still remained shirts, partly because of the pockets I included (if the twins need to take a snack with them when they have a nap ;) ).
P.S. Today I learned to click and drag when I phoned my daughter after desperately having tried for half an hour to save the new pictures from the CD to my computer. She talked me through the operation like the Airport Tower guides the beautiful stewardess to land an airplane with 238 passengers after the pilot has had a heart attack and the co-pilot has lost his nerve.

Saturday 16 February 2008

Not exactly a world literature classic

Yesterday when my husband came home, I told him I finally finished the book. He asked me how it was. I was a little puzzled, but then I told him the truth: there was hardly a plot, but there was a certain depth in the main character. Easy to read.

Why did it take you so many weeks then, he asked. At that point I had to admit I wasn't talking about my Christmas present, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss.

I explained it was this book I had been making all over our dining table and living room and downstairs in our "Hobby Hall" where my sewing machine and his fly-tying bench are. He looked rather pleased, because he obviously thought it ment clearing the table at least.

But he didn't know I just only started the other book with more pages ;)
Kiran Desai will be ready after 90 pages.
Today was the first day for the sun to rise before eight o'clock. The day is nearly three and a half hours longer now than it was just before Christmas. It is a promise there will be spring and summer too. That is the theme of my other book as well.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Accordeon book

Today I have been working on the book project. This was what I had in the morning:

And before lunch it was this far:

And in the afternoon I had finished attaching the pictures to the pages.

This is going to be an accordeon book for the really small readers. I'm making another one with 8 pages for a little older ones, also without text. Both will be soft and washable. The red ball on the green page has a nice surface with round little chunks, and the teddy bear (still waiting for his face) has a stuffed belly. All edges are sewn with satin stitch and they are raised a little so the child can follow the lines with her finger. These things are important, when a person can not see very well or has difficulties with the use of her sight. Others can just take them as a bonus. I hope to have the first book ready tomorrow.

Tuesday 12 February 2008

New project in progress

Today I have been busy with these:

and these:

They are the result of my Sunday's thinking and now on their way to be a little book or two. The bigger pieces will be the pages and the little rests will make the pictures. I keep my fingers crossed that my sewing machine will perform the satin stitches nicely ( in Finnish we actually say we keep the thumbs up, either way is very unconvenient when you have to hold the fabric at the same time) ;) . The machine is normally as obedient as anyone can wish for, but when I have a deadline, it often gets nervous and starts making jump stitches.

One example of the not very good cooperation of my Pfaff and me is this little quilt I intended for Nuppupeitto, a charity project for premature babies. They get a mini sized quilt or blanket from the hospital to keep as a memento of the time they spent at the hospital just growing and getting some strength before going home. Since both my sons were born prematurely, this project touched me more closely than many others I have participated. Anyway, this quilt ended up being my first attempt of free machine quilting:

It is far too stiff for a tiny little baby, and so I never took it to the hospital with the other ones I quilted more lightly. And then I have another one still waiting to be taken to the babies:

This one was at the exhibition of my sewing group when I donated the others. I always wanted to try this pattern, and the baby quilt was a suitably small project to be sewn by hand (by this time Kaija's quilt was taking a rest). The quilt is bound at the corners of the blocks only, and it is my favourite of all Nuppupeitto quilts I have made so far.

Sunday 10 February 2008

Cloudy days are best used for planning

Today the weather is really nothing like this, our little bit of snow is once again almost gone and there is water on the icy parts of the road. Slippery, grey and wet.

This was taken a little over a week ago, and this is how I would like it to be.
My sewing projects are not proceeding during weekends, but I have been thinking of many nice things I could do. For example, tactile books for little children, with fabric pages and clear images. Just pictures of forms for the very little ones, and for the bigger ones 8-page stories. A few years ago I took part in a contest for such books for the Celia library for the visually disabled. It took me nearly a month to make that book, and I woudn't have finished it without Kaija's professional help. She taught me how to bind the pages to a book that opens well although the pages were thick. It was worth it, I won the second price in the series Salaisuuksien kirja, or A Book of Secrets, for children up to 12 years. The price was a Kalevala Koru silver necklace. The books I'm now thinking about would be soft ones, machine washable and all. But there is still a lot of thinking to do, and to help that thinking I'm going to put the kettle on and have some tea to cheer me up.

Friday 8 February 2008

Awards and aprons

As a very new blogger I'm astonished at the honour that is pouring all over me. Before I had time to react to the You make my day award I received from Kaija, I this afternoon noticed I had another one from Karen. Thank you, ladies!

The award rules:

1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs (or 10 according to some) that make your day

2. Acknowledge the post of the award giver.

3. Tell the award winners that they've won by commenting on their blogs.

After careful consideration I give this award forward to the following blogs I have found enjoyable:

Karen - contemporary embroidery for encouraging me to start my blog and helping me with my problems

Meet me at Mikes for the Hearts for Mirabel idea

Nikki Shell for the delightful Brown Owls

Fia Lotta Jansson for the joy of feeling so familiar and finding out she is from Finland

Bianca of Hollabee for giving a face to the fabrics I bought

I combine the two awards because I really don't read so many blogs yet. The one that really makes my day is the blog of Kaija, but since she just had two of these awards and has had it earlier too, I give her this instead:

This is the apron I finished a little while ago and it was meant for her coming birthday, but now I will make another one for that day, something prettier I hope.

Thursday 7 February 2008

My almost eternal project in Grandmother's Garden

Today I'm taking my biggest ever quilt project to the sewing group to once again start with the quilting part of it. This is a single bed size quilt (about 160 cm x 230 cm at the moment, with the framing not cut to the final size) for my daughter. We started on it together in summer 1993 when spending a week at my parents' home. She really was a little girl then, but she sewed some of the hexagons together and basted many of them on the paper templates. We used leftover pieces from my mother's stash to begin with, and at home my own. (See "Never throw anything away".) Over the years I continued on this project, mainly during the summers, and in just ten years I had put together the 2,191 little hexagons. Then I made the framing of dark blue fabric, sandwiched the top with cotton wadding and a blue extra wide bedsheet for backing with nearly a hundred safety pins and started quilting. By hand. Inside the seamline, meaning through double top layer, the cotton wadding and the thick and solid backing. No way. Not in a million years would that be possible. So I put the project to rest, again, to wait for better days to come. It only took five years.

Around new year I started thinking about the quilt again. I knew I needed a thinner backing and started looking for a suitable one. Kaija didn't want flowery patterns, I knew I didn't want plaid or stripes to emphasize how not straight the backing may end up. On Monday I decided it will be stars, and bought this:

And tonight I will take advantage of the big big tables of the school and sandwich all layers again, and maybe baste them this time. After that, I will try to use my three hours every Thursday evening in the group quilting. I made this public so I can not so easily find excuses to postpone the unevitable. I need to finish this quilt someday. I will report occasionally on the progress, if any.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Adult toys

Look what I have bought:

My old vacuum cleaner stopped working and I needed a new one. For a while I borrowed the one I use at my father-in-law's home, but naturally I needed one of my own. I think this is the hottest new invention in the cleaning department. The Dyson doesn't use a bag for the dust, it shows the reward for my efforts in the see-through dust container. It also looks so funny I almost keep smiling when vacuuming. I think a man has invented this cleaner and has designed it to be interesting for men as well, very technical. It came with seven (7) different brushes and tools ;).

I just wanted to tell this before I go clean the living room.

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Hearts, and memories of snow

Last Friday when I was strolling around in the blogworld, I bumped into hearts. This is almost like making rag dolls for Unicef, and naturally I took the challenge. Over the weekend I took some time and made two hearts for Mirabel, and yesterday I mailed them to Australia. If you are interested, there is still some time to participate.

The first heart was really easily made. It is of vintage mattress cover, a piece of string and some polyester wadding. The second one took me some more time. It is of red linen. The one side is cut open, the opening covered with golden fabric and sewn back together with big stitches of green, the colour of hope. This one is, in a way, a heart of gold.

On the other side I embroidered with romantic pink the text broken hearts can be mended. It takes time, but with hope it is possible.

The pictures are once again of a cloudy day quality, and I have already sent the hearts away so I coudn't wait for better weather conditions. This time of the year I begin to notice how the days are getting longer. The snow we have been getting regularly for several days now has made even the cloudy days lighter, and when the sun peeks out it really looks like diamonds on the snow. I live on the countryside and it is very clean here, the snow remains white. It reminds me of the childhood winters when, naturally, the snow covered the country from December to March, skiing was fun, and when the temperatures were -15 to -37 degrees which was really cold and I could take the bus to school instead of walking 2 km. If it was warmer, it was so close to zero that we could make snowballs and snowmen and snowcastles. The snow formed little lumps in our mittens (knitted by Grandmother), and we used to tear them off with our teeth and eat them (the lumps of snow, not the mittens). They were all hairy from the wool, but being outdoors we could of course spit the extras on the ground. I could also take some snow just for eating it. We never got sick from eating snow, and nobody knew anything about pollution. Of course we didn't eat any yellow snow from the roadside, but freshly fallen, soft, flaky, wonderful snow. It was also fun to try to catch big snowflakes directly from the sky on my tongue. And the woollen mittens: they gradually shaped to the from of our hands, the palm side all felted tight and only the top remained stretchy. It sure was a sight to see our boiler room after a day of winter holiday when we all were kids: six times four pairs of mittens, two pairs of socks, overalls or anoraks and thick trousers, felt boots, skiing shoes, skates, scarfs and caps drying on the lines and floors and the rest on radiators in the entrance. When it was "skiing holiday", a week's break from school in February, it really meant skiing, skating and playing outdoors for a week. We had a crate of oranges (10 kg I think) from the shop for the week, and Mother used to make us hot cocoa for afternoon coffee. I hated the film that formed on top if I allowed the cocoa to cool a little, so I usually drank it too hot and burned my tongue. The snowflakes cooled this off.

Friday 1 February 2008

After Work

Yesterday was my busy day in a nice way. In the evening I had my sewing class/group, a quiet one this week because we were just 4 and the teacher. I finished the apron I started a week ago for my daughter, and I made some doll's clothes for a Unicef rag doll. The apron may not become Kaija's favourite in spite of the tool pocket, because the fabric seems to be that awful clingy kind that forms a knot in your lap when you walk. It looked OK, thick and soft and dark brown, just waiting for hands to be wiped clean. I'll try rinsing it with fabric softener.

I have had two favourite aprons my mother has made for me of dark, thick cotton fabrics. Both have been worn until there were holes in the pockets and the strings were just a collection of threads. After having dutifully served they ended up in this:

I called this quilt Töiden jälkeen, or After Work, because it is made of men's old flannel shirts and other heavy, dark shirts they have worn to work, and of my old working clothes, the aprons. There are some bits of children's clothes as well, including our old skirt I have shown with my very first Unicef rag doll shown here. The yellow frame is the same fabric I used for Chu-Hua, the Chinese Unicef doll. The backing is new plaid flannel in beige and red. I used to sleep in a recling chair under this quilt many, many nights when my shoulder was newly operated and I couldn't find a painless position in my bed. This is my comfort quilt, and it gave me the idea of a series of other quilts I made in 2006.