Saturday 30 April 2011

Bag Reveal and Spring News

April is almost gone and spring is finally here. This was the last bit of snow in our yard this week:

The aspen are letting their furry tails fly in the fresh spring wind - and soon the lawn will be full of them to be raked away.

The willows are in full bloom, their yellow colour can be seen from far. I hope you are not allergic!

The birch are ready to start spreading their pollen after a few warm days, and the tiny leaves will remain "mouse's ears" only for a short time. You can notice them growing by each day. Heavy rain is falling as I write, and it will make nature greener in no time. The temperature has cooled down to below 10 C (50F) which is normal for this time of the year.

Christmas hyacinths of last winter or the year before; I have thrown the bulbs in our  garden compost heap in the winter and now they surprised me with new flowers.

Chive has survived the winter very well in my vegetable bed.

And so has the parsley.

Today is the day to show the first bag of our little European Bag Club. Melanie, Simone, Suzie and I decided to make a bag from the same pattern for May Day, and we used Lisa Lam's book The Bag Making Bible. This is the pattern on the cover picture, a reversible bucket bag.

I have shown my fabrics earlier, and this is how I used them. I added a plastic hose inside the handle.

To make things easier, I joined the ends before sewing the bias binding on the top edge of the bag. The polka dotty side has a pocket for my train ticket.

This is the checkered side. My button is smaller than in the pattern because a) I couldn't get a 4 cm self-cover button, and b) because for some reason I made the button loop shorter than instructed.


The bag was very easy to make because the instructions were clear and easy to follow. I'm looking forward to the next Bag Club project! Have you visited the other participants already?

Sunday 24 April 2011

Old embroideries and UFOs

This weekend has been amazingly warm, and even with some snow still in the garden, Mr. K. has started working there. He went through his shirts to find a suitable one, and gave me these four he no longer will use because the collars are worn out, the sleeves are too short or the shirt is just simply too uncomfortable (the one on the left). I spent a lovely time in the sun on the verandah cutting up the shirts and folding the pieces to add in my stash.

I have sometimes wondered if UFOs are hereditary. I mean the eagerness to start something and then not being able to finish the project? At least in my family it seems to be the case, as I have several UFOs from my grandmother's generation, some of which I have been able to finish. Recently my mother was sorting her stash and she let me have some of her UFO collection. Many of these look like test bits, never meant to be finished projects. I think I could use this one to practice new stitches:

This is obviously a sampler, with different patterns at both ends of the row:

This small placemat looks like something I could try to finish, if I manage to find some matching thread.

This one looks like mother didn't want to do the difficult part at the ends.

One reason for the many UFOs must be that we are also keepers, we don't like to throw things away. This old tablecloth is a perfect example for that. It has been used a lot, so the embroidery has started to fray, and the hemstitch is torn at many places. Still it has been washed and put in storage, and I saved it once again. Maybe I can use some of the good parts of the embroidery, or maybe my daughter will do so.

Here is a pattern I would like to copy for future use. The stitches are quite simple, and I can see in my mind a detail of a bag or something like that. I could make the daisies smaller, or bigger.

Friday 15 April 2011

Dear friends, gifts, and men in trees

After my birthday several weeks ago I have still received some bulky mail from Melanie. First came this book, The Bayeux Tapestry Embroiderers' Story, because Melanie liked it and I loved the other book by Jan Messent she sent for my real birthday. It is an amazing story.

This was packed in a big biscuit tin: a small bucket bag for my knitting or sewing notions to take to class, some fabric scraps for Unicef dolls' clothes, vintage embroidery silk, a bird brooch made by Melanie, and a pair of Dutch clogs from her recent journey to Amsterdam.

I'm sure you want a better look at the brooch.

This all wasn't obviously not enough for her, because today I got another Walkers biscuit tin, very heavy this time. Melanie enclosed "some of her favourite things" for me. Many sorts of tea and portions of coffee, some Oxford marmalade with ginger to have on toast, and horse radish sauce for roast beef. This all gives me a taste of England, and many hints to our shared reading project of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons are included.


I want to show the owl a little closer. Melanie has told about this Athenian owl in this post on her blog. She has also better pictures of the wall hanging; it is wrinkled now as it was so tightly packed in the tin.

The name on the tin naturally refers to the Walker children, the Swallows, which I'm planning to make as Unicef dolls for myself. Melanie has already received her Amazons, Nancy and Peggy, and the Callun kids Dot and Dick. But Walkers on a biscuit tin sounded distantly familiar, and when we were grocery shopping, I suddenly noticed why:

Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread Rounds are on the shelf right next to the plain cinnamon biscuits I usually buy for my afternoon tea. The Walkers Shortbread rounds taste very nice and buttery, but I will need to keep to the Kaneelkeks or I will soon be as round as the butter shortbread rounds.

This week I saw something funny at the railway station in Järvenpää. Four men were in trees, cutting dry branches. It made me remember a TV series some years ago "Men in Trees", placed in a very small town in Alaska. I didn't see any men in trees in it, just a traffic sign warning about them. - As you see, there is no snow in this picture. The snow in our yard is about half gone.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday 9 April 2011

Nine-patch, and signs of new life

Today I saw the first sign of new life in the garden: the first snowdrops came through the snow:

Do you remember my unlucky binding on the 9-patch?

Here it is now after one night of unpicking and some hours of new cuts and sewing:

The quilt is all finished now.

There are three nine-patch blocks in different sizes on the backing. A row of the smallest squares goes across the quilt, and a row of three squares just so, joining all the bits of white sheets I used for the backing. Anne Marie's strict rules required all material to be from stash, and so it is. This is my first finish for the Nine-Patch Challenge.

 The label is framed with tiny leftover scraps from the denim shirts I used for the solid squares on the top. This was the first washing I could hang out to dry this year. Until now the snow has been too high under the line. I love the fresh smell of laundry from the washline on a sunny day.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Raggedy News

It can happen to any diet. One day you just can't resist, and end up with cakes, chocolates or pizzas on your hips in no time. Or if you are trying to use your stash of fabrics, you end up buying more. Much more. This is what happened to me (I don't want to speak about the food type of problems here). My trusted fabric shop owner will retire in Summer, and she is selling all her fabrics -30 % of the prices. I bought the red flannel in March, and went to buy a stash of big pieces for backings on the third official Sale day. All her nice coloured solids were gone! I bought two checkered fabrics, one floral print (very lovely, I think), and a blue baby fabric for baby quilts. The heavy white solid is for bags I'm going to print and maybe dye. I forgot the amounts (like one easily does with unpleasant facts) but I will measure them for my statistics later. I think I will just exercise more. More and  longer walks, and more sewing and finished projects. I forgot to take a picture of the finished 9-patch. I'll do it for the next post.

I have already finished one project this month! I had bought this tea towel panel last month for a friend who is moving to France in a few months, and I machine stitched a useful sentence for her to learn. It must be useful because I learned it at school over 40 years ago and still can remember:

Kala ilman juotavaa on myrkkyä. Fish without something to drink is poison.  I gave it to her on her birthday on Monday, so she'll have time to learn French before the big move.  

It's a long time since I last showed you my Raggedy & Friends BOM. Kaaren published the last three blocks at one time in February, and now mine are stitched and the quilt top is finished. Here is block 10:

and number 11

and the last one:

Tonight I'm taking the top with me to class and  I will piece the backing and make the quilt sandwich on the large table in the classroom. Beats kneeling on the floor at home any time! I could finish this quilt for the exhibition on the weekend after next, but there is really no place to hang quilts. Our teacher has asked for smaller projects for the show, like cushions, potholders and such. I will borrow the Ladyfingers bag I made as Christmas present for DS1's girlfriend.

Saturday 2 April 2011

Stash use report for March

This should be the beginning of Spring, and the shops are full of daffodils in yellow pots. They can cope about -10C /+14F, and I planted some to replace the faded Callunas of last Autumn. After their first day we had some new snow again, and then two nights with -15C/+5F. About half of my flowers have frozen to death, but many have survived. I hope the nights will be warmer from now on.

One more birthday present, a rusty brown and red shawl knitted by my sister Maija. I'm wearing it now around my neck with my winter coat, but it will be lovely in Summer on my shoulders too. Kiitos, Maija!

As you can see in the picture, there is quite a lot of snow on the ground and it will take weeks before the first Snowdrops raise their heads through the last snow.
My stash seems to be growing, but there is a perfectly good explanation: My favourite fabric shop will close in the Summer when the owner lady retires, and she started selling everything 30 % off the normal price from the 1st of April. I was looking for some white flannel for baby quilt backings, and as she didn't have any, she sold me some in red, and gave me the special price in advance. As the cotton prices are expected to go up, it is only rational to buy now.

This is the pieced backing of my 9-patch quilt, with some 9-patches in different sizes just for fun. I had to piece the backing as I couldn't buy new fabric for it, to meet Anne Marie's challege rules.

I wondered how stupid a quilter can be. You see, I straightened the edges for the binding and cut exactly at the points of the red sashings, thinking the white points will be sharp anyway. And then I machine stitched the binding on, and spent three nights hand sewing the three edges before I was too annoyed with the cut-off red points.

So the stupid quilter unpicked the binding, ironed it again , cut a bit from all 4 sides of the quilt and started sewing the binding back on. It is almost done now, so I can count the backing and binding to my March fabric use.

This is something else I did in March, after Melanie sent me the adorable book on Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Saxon Embroidery by Jan Messent.  The book is about ancient embroidery and the new use of the stitches and pictures by the author. Beautiful, inspiring pictures of her work. Melanie had sent me some plant-dyed threads earlier, and some perlé threads a year ago, so I thought I would use them to make her a small picture of the Kalevala Jewelry bird I sent her for her birthday. I added some antique silk threads from my Great Auntie Saima. My design and stitches reveal that this is my very first attempt, but I had great fun while making it, and Melanie understands all the hidden meanings important for both of us.

A few weeks ago we had a visitor from Belgium in our sewing class, and to give her a feel of quilting I helped her sew one QAYG block from my strings for the Oz Comfort Quilts. I made one too, and hope to get at sewing some more for a new delivery later this month. Counting all these projects together I have used 4.5 m of fabrics from my stash in March, but also bought 5.5 m new fabris. Increase: 1 m. I need to finish lots of projects in April to make the figures look better!