Wednesday 31 March 2010

Season's traditions, and Stash use report

On Sunday the tradition-mixing little witches were on the move again. I told you about this strange newish tradition last year here. It sounds like bringing American Halloween trick-or-treating (pointed witches' hats and outfits made in China seem to replace the more Finnish scarves, mother's aprons and cardigans) to old Finnish pagan times Western Finnish spring witchcraft  and to traditional Eastern Finnish Greek Orthodox Palm Sunday blessing of the members of the family and godparents. There the decorated pussy willow branches were blessed in the church on Saturday, given by the children on Palm Sunday to bless their nearest for the coming year, and kept by the icon until the eve of Holy Thursday, when they were burned. On Easter Sunday the children came to another visit, collecting their pay: an egg, decorated or not, or a coin.

Whether I like these little beggars or not, I prepared for their coming - and for Easter, of course. I changed the faded Erica heathers at the doors to "easter lilies":

And I bought chocolate eggs and other Easter chocolates:

By the afternoon the bowl was almost empty and my vase was full with decorated branches:

The children are supposed to come in the morning - the traditional blessing wiht branches was meant to be given to the person still in bed, as they always were members of the family or close friends. The neighbourhood kids started their rounds after 10.

Yesterday the sweetest little Easter witch arrived by mail:

My sister-in-law has designed and painted this cutie on thin plywood. On the reverse the witch is carrying her black cat under her other arm. She is flying on her broomstick in our kitchen window now, totally in peace with the two angels who guard my cookings every day.

On the crafty front I have been working on the string quilt. I decided to ty it, and that's what I was doing last night and will be doing tonight. The perlé thread is sewn in every corner and middle of the block and sides of the blocks, and I have sewn the binding in place, too, to avoid  getting the little bits of loose fibers all over me from the edges sof the fabrics and batting.

  My stash use this month was not as good as in February. I have used 1.5 m fabrics for the borders (double layer) and binding, 2.2 m flannel for the backing and about 30 cm for the doll's clothes. For the second panel of the wallhanging - nothing to show yet - I used 0.6 m of my fabrics, the grey I bought in February. That makes 4.6 m in total. 

I bought 0.4 m of quilting fabric I couldn't resist, and when I went to see a fabric shop in their new location in Järvenpää, I totally lost control and bought  30 cm pieces of 7 different fabrics, totalling 2.1 m. That makes 2.5 m in total. Still my stash was reduced by 2.1 m in March! I really should sew more. Like before, I don't count the fabrics coming in as donations or gifts. They only count when I use them! Does the small men's shirt bought at a thrifty shop count? I felt I needed it for a coming quilt, and it only cost 1 €.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Revealing secret projects

These two little girls have just arrived in their new homes abroad. They are the newest Unicef dolls I have made, Martha on the left and Dot on the right, and their new mothers are Suzie and Melanie. It is so funny we three have our birthdays within one week.

Both little girls have the Unicef logo in their leg seam, and they carry an identity card from Unicef. This means that two children somewhere in the world can have all vital vaccinations necessary to make a good start in life, provided by Unicef and paid by their adoption fee.

We had so much fun getting the girls ready for their trip! It was hard for me not to be able to show what was going on, but secrets are secrets. Dot used to sit on the windowsill with Raggedy Ann and Andy, watching our birds and squirrels. I think she made notes  for a new novel "The Squirrel Bandit and the Frightened Titmouse". I gave her a new notebook for the trip. She was running around in her blouse and knickers before I finished her skirt and cardigan, but Ann let her use their granny blanket to keep warm. Dot has still a slight fringe problem. Melanie will know how to help her with that.


Martha was more quiet, she was practicing her German by reading my children's books:

Martha has the same hair colour problem as Anne of green Gables, but I think it is just great. The young are so often unsatisfied with their looks, but when they grow older they will notice there is nothing wrong with their looks. I think Suzie will be supportive, and they can do girls' stuff together and leave the men in the family out.

I had made lovely pictures of Dot and Martha sitting on the sofa with Raggedy Ann and Andy, and hugging them goodbye, but I managed to delete them from (Mr. K's) camera before downloading them to the computer. You just have to take my word that the kids made such good friends, and I think they will be sending e-mails to each other.

Thursday 25 March 2010

VTT 10 - Very old pattern sheets and ivory rose

Just this week I was digging in my basement sewing room for some perlé thread for tying the string quilt I'm working on, and at the bottom of that box I found a treasure. Many many years ago my mother gave me a bunch of old pattern sheets and folders from 1895 to 1921. They are not all in very good condition:

The sewing instructions are very short compared to modern day sewing magazines. I noticed this, when I actually used one of these patterns. Why on earth? The schools have a big ball for the "new oldest class" when the graduating class leaves school to make their final exams. The students learn old ballroom dances and dress accordingly. My daughter Kaija was invited to this ball one year early as a dancing partner because the older yearclass had exeptionally a minority of girls. Kaija naturally asked me if I could make her that dress in only six weeks - usually the girls start planning what to wear months if not years before, rent the finest dresses or spend hundreds of euros to have a dress tailor made. Some girls make their own dresses, and some mothers sew dresses too. This is a picture of their dance. It is more like a performance for the other students, for the parents in the evening and for smaller pupils in other schools the next day.


 Sorry about to poor quality of the picture. I don't have a scanner so I had to take a picture of the picture.

I believe this was the pattern we mainly used, but ended up making many alterations.

Aren't these "the puffiest sleeves ever" in the picture below? (I'm watching Anne of Green Gables when I'm ironing.)

Here are some of our patterns, the sleeve in two parts:

We had to leave out the puffy part because the fabric was so heavy and this was difficult enough!

The skirts were usually very very wide, but I think our (we really did it together) pattern was in eight segments.

Do you want to see the result? Here she is, with a crocheted vintage evening pouch in her hand and wearing my ivory rose necklace. The skirt has a little tail and it looked great when she was spinning round dancing.


 I just happen to have a picture of the rose here:


The original ivory chain has broken so I have a golden chain instead. It belnged to Great Auntie Saima, like the lace handkerchiefs under it.

This was all for Vintage Thingies Thursday. Coloradolady Suzanne is hosting a long list of links to other vintage thingies. Thank you for coming!


Tuesday 23 March 2010

Exhibitions in Helsinki

Last Wednesday I had a cultural day with my daughter in Helsinki. We went to see three exhibitions before I had my own programme and Kaija went shopping for some new jeans. Our first address was Design Forum, their exhibition celebrating the 130 years of Suomen Käsityön Ystävät (Friends of Finnish Handicraft) (The link's English version is at the moment under construction). You may remember that I have told about this organization in  some of my VTT posts and when I tried to explain the ryijy rugs. The exhibition was called YSTÄVÄT & ystävät - Friends and friends.


The work exhibited was made by contemporary handicraft artists as a tribute to the traditional skills.
Shadow of a piece constructed like a himmeli.

Textile surface on clocks and stools.

Modern embroidery. I didn't quite understand what this table setting was about.

Our next address was not far, the Päivälehti Museum. There was a Moomin Exhibition, The Great Adventure, celebrating the publishing of the very first Moomin book 65 years ago. There were wall-size pictures from the picture books. This is my super favourite, "the book with holes", where Moomintroll is bringing home milk early in the morning but ends up looking for Little My. The blue part of the picture is in the book on the next page, the yellow path continues on the other side.

To cut the long story short, this is the second last page where they have survived all dangers and see the dear Moominmamma sitting in the garden and cleaning red currants. She is not asking any questions, just happy to see her son and his friends. The milk has gone sour, so there will be juice for everyone.

Kaija opened the door of the tall Moomin house in this picture:

This picture is from another picture book, Who Will Comfort Toffle?

The bat's eyes were holes!


I looked in first and then took a picture for you to see:

This is The Groke. I quote the Wikipedia text for those who don't care about links: "The novelist Alison Lurie has described the Groke, a black, hill-shaped creation with glowing eyes, as a walking manifestation of Nordic gloominess – everyone she touches dies, and the ground freezes everywhere she sits."

There were also originals of the Moomin cartoons, but they could not be photographed. We did listen to the sea in big sea shells like the children in the picture of my link. In the evening I gave Kaija the hole book I used to read to them when they were little. I still have my own from the 50's, and when there some day will be grandchildren, I will buy a new book to read to them. The holes could so easily be torn!

We also walked to the Amos Anderson Museum to see the Dutch mathematician M.C. Escher's Impossible Worlds. All my pictures were out of focus, so if you follow the link you will notice he is the guy who can draw water running uphill and fish turning into birds.

Spring report:

Snow was taken from the streetside so the streets and pavements will not be icy for too many weeks. The nights are cold but days are often sunny so the snow has started to thaw even with temperatures below freezing point. This is a great time to get a facial suntan, with the snow reflecting the sunlight. I will stay indoors sewing, as it is too cold to sit on the verandah at this time of the year. The icy streets don't tempt me for unnecessary walks.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Lucky me!

Yesterday was my birthday. The most exciting one since school days, because I had so many gifts waiting to be opened. Melanie had appointed Raggedy Andy as security guard to see everything was safe and sealed until the actual day. She even bribed him and his sister with new hats:

This is what they kept hidden from me:

Can you feel my excitement, and it is not like I was going to be 30 or 40  or 50, something to be celebrated big way? Just a simple birthday, getting one year older. How lucky I am to have so many friends who think of me! My daughter assisted me in opening everything, and the first one she gave me was from Anne Marie from Norway. She had made me a sewing folder with the most fashionable fabrics:

There are two zippered pockets, two big pockets and a place for pins and needles in the middle:

In one of the pockets were sweet buttons I only found later. She also sent me two lovely Christmas fabrics in red and gold:

I must think of a special Christmas project to use these. Thank you very much, Anne Marie!

The next package was from Washington, USA. Candace sent something for the whole family:

The fly-fishing magazine was of course for Mr. Kotkarankki, and there was a box of chocolates from her new home town the younger generation enjoyed with us. Look what Candace had been working at:

A string block table runner - for Stephanie's No Strings Attached challenge, but most of all for my coffee table to bring a feeling of spring in the middle of this snow. Isn't it pretty? She called it "Ulla's Spring Fling". Candace had also been busy with a summer embroidery:

It is on a towel so pretty I could use as a table cloth when sitting on the verandah and having strawberries with whipped cream. Thank you, Candace! I love the gifts.

At this point Kaija said that it seems like we made friends in the blog world so we could sew all the lovely things we love to sew and don't need ourselves (maybe because we already made one for home), or just know the other person would like to have it. At least I enjoy making the gifts I send to my friends. Somehow it is more fun to make it for someone else.

The next envelope was from Stephanie , also from the USA. She had wrapped everything in this beautiful fabric, "novo blossom" from The Alexander Henry Collection, in my colours.

Notice that she tied it with a flannel string! This is what was inside:

The folded brown flannel with sewing theme is a pillowcase for my warm sewing dreams. Two scented pouches for my linen drawer, a crocheted soft washcloth made by her own hands. Stephanie also included a package of snap-on grommets she recently demonstrated on her blog, and two packages of elegant coffee napkins from her days in Japan. Thank you, Stephanie! So sweet of you to send me all this.

Next we return to Europe and open Suzie's box. The Little Busy Bee from Germany had been busy sewing all this:

On the left is a protective cover for books, most useful for me because I carry a paperback in my handbag for train rides and waiting rooms, and not everyone needs to know that I read children's books in English! On top of the book cover is a pouch for paper hankies (the books sometimes make me a little sentimental). The curved thing on the right is a neck support with lightweight filling. I love the romantic fabric! It looked so cute last night on Mr. K's neck when he tried to stay awake in front of the TV, and it worked: his head didn't hang to either side and he looked like he was awake when he wasn't. Midsomer Murders with Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby have replaced Mr. Monk on Saturday evenings. Equally difficult to stay awake, and it is not even late. There can hardly be a group of villages with more violent deaths in England! - Back to Suzie's gifts, in the middle there is a goat's milk soap with lavender, and a bag full with chocolate Easter eggs. The ladybirds are also chocolate. Yum! Thank you Suzie, the gifts are lovely and beautiful!

Here I tested the book cover: It is adjustable for thick or thin books as long as the height is not too much to fit in the cover pocket.

Finally the last box to be opened. It was from England from Melanie, who had been sending me "not the proper gifts" before this, like black and white wool from Oxford along with chocolate, a book about the locations of the Swallows and Amazons books we both are reading, and a print of Rima's Väinämöinen sings a Ship which came together with the caps for Ann and Andy.
This is what I found in the box:

Let's have a closer look. There was a house for Mr. K and me:


The roof opens, and I can store sewing notions inside, even a small project. This will absolutely make our coffee table tidier!
Melanie also made a scarf for me:

She included the generous scraps of this fabric in the empty corners of the box (she must think my stash must be almost empty after I finish all the projects I have planned!). It is about time to change the winter scarves for lighter ones, even when the thicker coat is still necessary.

There was a collection of sewing notions from toy eyes to pins and needles, angel wings and perle thread:


Samples of pellon (I had never seen before) and Heat and bond  (I use all the time and keep forgetting the name in English). A pattern for a Button Autumn Angel, and fragrant stuffing, a thimble with Oxford escutcheon on it.

There were also pencils and a pen with the text Oxford University on it (how cool is that!), fragrant face wipes, some Body Shop Hemp Hand Protection Cream (my winter favourite), and special tissues for a runny nose - I was having a flu at the time some weeks back when she was putting all this together. Thank you, sweet friend for  all the gifts! I can just imagine Melanie appliqueing the house box and thinking of all the things she could pack in it to make me smile and giggle like her. The two coffee towels you can see in the first picture of this set.

I just love to receive things with a thought of me behind the choice. Every one of my blog world gifts was like that, and I'm happy to have found so many good friends from all over the world. If this net spreads wider, I will end up making gifts all year round!

Because it was a birthday, of course there was a cake. Because Kaija was  staying with us for a couple of days, she offered to bake the cake. Because it was for me, it was a chocolate cake. Raspberry Sacher cake, to be exact, with raspberries from FIL's garden (from our freezer). Because it was in our family, more than half of the cake was gone before I took a picture:


Kaija is a gifted baker: there are four layers in the cake. At her age and  for some years more I had to bake as many cakes as I needed layers! The cake was delicious, so crab a cup of coffee or tea and share the remaining bit with me. I wish some day I could do this for real!

This post was all about other people's doings. I still need to wait about a week to show my secret projects, so the next post will be about my cultural trip to Helsinki with Kaija.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

By George, I've got it!

Big news from the tatting excercises. I think I've got it! The double stitch was like this when I asked my sewing class teacher for help:

My red crochet yarn is the dark green one in the book, so it should be covered by the blue if the stitches were OK. The blue stitches seem to be made by Anne.

This weekend I took the shuttle out again and paid really good attention to the tension of the left hand thread, this time a thinner, white thread I bought with the book. Look:


I would call them perfect little stitches! And making them made me no longer twist and turn and drop the shuttle. At this point Mr. K. said that I seemed to be doing the same moves as he does for his flies. I immediately remembered how I taught him to use two silk threads in different colours, and a small crochet hook, to make his fishing fly have a dark back and light underside. They just have the row of caps on both sides.

My success made me rush to lesson 2 this morning, and like I thought, the next step was not that difficult:

My first attempt to make a ring, and I think I've really got it! It tightened without difficulty, and now I can start learning to follow a pattern, to make picots, make rows of rings ...

Yesterday I had mail from Ireland. Some time ago I won a consolation prize for Heckecty's doggerel poetry challenge, and now the prize arrived.

A big bag of Jelly Babies, a crocheted brooch with a sweet little yo-yo and a flower shaped button, and a bookmark. I was happy to notice that the delicious jelly babies were not sticky at all, so I could have my share of them in spite of the brackets on my teeth. (I'm going to see the orthodontist again today, with no damage to the wires this time.) Thank you, Heather, it was a very nice prize for scribbling a few rhyming lines. The purple of the brooch matches some of my shirts just perfectly.