A Tidy Housewife

/ Friday 30 October 2009 /
Just to be clear, the title of this post does not refer to me.  In fact, two of my former students posted a link on Facebook that they wanted to bring to my attention.  I won't reproduce the photo here, but it is G-rated, so no fear about following the link.  What can I say?  I resemble that remark!
It's sew-n-tell Friday again - how time flies!  I've not done a passel of quilting this week.  My daughter had H1N1 flu and was home for the best part of a week, and on Wednesday my husband had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean out some bits and pieces that have been bothering him. So I've been wearing my nurse's uniform (not the sexy kind!) and, with writing reference letters for students' scholarship applications and various other work responsibilities, all I've really managed to do is cut my squares for the Values Quiltalong, but at least that is progress.  And I did do a bit of quilting, just a touch, to finish up my housewife.  And there is the reference to the title of this post.
A housewife, or hussif, is just an archaic term for a sewing kit.  I made one from the cross-stitched storks that I showed last week.  I used the basic logic from this tutorial, but chopped and changed as needed.
P.S. Does anyone know why my photos, which I add by pasting in the html from Flickr, are not behaving all of a sudden? They are now cut off on the right hand side, which is not the case in the original (click through to Flickr to see the whole photo). What gives? Fixed!

Happy Birthday to Me

/ Tuesday 27 October 2009 /
It's my birthday, and for my present to myself, I am allowing myself to run headlong into three new projects. The first one is Katie's Values Quiltalong, represented by her photo below, although this is not the one she is working up for this project. I am behind on this, as I just began cutting my fabric last night.  I am finding fabric scraps from every quilt I ever made, going back to 1992!  Not all of them will make it into the quilt, I have no doubt; but it is nice to handle them again, and just cutting them into tidy 5" squares makes it more likely that I will use them at some time.  I am really inspired by the myriad fascinating ways these half-square triangles can be laid out to evoke the dark and light qualities.  To get a sense of the variety, have a look at the photos in the Flickr group dedicated to this quiltalong.

Values Quilt Tutorial, originally uploaded by Willy-Nilly.

The second project is Allyson and Nicole's Snowball Challenge Swap.  We're going to make this quilt.  The original is red and white scrappy, and Allyson is organizing a white fabric swap.  I'm not yet behind on this one, since I think she is still enrolling participants.  I haven't yet committed to the idea of red and white (kind of liking the idea of golds and whites), although as the days close in and the weather gets colder, I'm thinking that a wool batting and flannel back to a cozy red and white quilt couldn't possibly be beat.

Finally, I love the variation on Rail Fence that Cheryl whipped up, and couldn't resist the temptation to join her in making one.  I love the low contrast of her taupe-y greys in her Gratitude quilt shown below.  I'm only slightly behind the curve this week, since I'm supposed to have selected my fabrics already, but with luck will be caught up by the weekend.

So, I've just doubled my WIP pile, but dang it, it's my birthday and I'm entitled!

100th Anniversary

/ Sunday 25 October 2009 /
It's the 100th anniversary of Beth Israel, our synagogue, in 2010.  In honour of this milestone, members of our congregation took on the task of stitching new covers for our six Torahs.  Custom canvases were painted by an artist in Toronto, and the work was farmed out to various community members.  The covers were unveiled on Simchat Torah last week.  Here they are.  Mine is the last one on the right.

Six Torah Covers Beth Israel Congregation
Some intrepid souls stitched an entire canvas themselves, but others did half a canvas.  Like me.  I did the bottom half of this one; a picture of my half is shown below.  It has Jerusalem on the bottom and a tent representing the home, with shabbat candles shining inside.  The full cover shows names of the Matriarchs, Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah, forming an arc above the tent, and Jerusalem on the top.  Paternayan wool was used to stitch everything but the centre motif, which was stitched in perle cotton.  Although it was a standard needlepoint canvas, the cover was worked in cross-stitch, to add stability and longevity to the piece.  I tell myself that's why it took twice as long to do.
Matriarchs Torah cover
Only I wish it had taken merely twice as long!  I am ashamed to say that I had this in my house for four years before I finally completed my half.  My husband was so tired of going to synagogue Board meetings and hearing the Torah covers committee report, where my name was always called out as one of the stitchers who was still working on her canvas.  But all's well that end's well - it was finished just in time for the launch of our anniversary year.

Friday Finish and a Shout Out to the Antique Pattern Library

/ Friday 23 October 2009 /

Storks, originally uploaded by Shadrach Meshach & Abednego.
It's quite a modest finish this time. I'm sharing this little bit of stitchery. It's a small piece that I'm going to turn into a needlebook/housewife, which is something I desperately need. The skein of embroidery floss is there to show scale. I got the pattern from an undated Moderne Stickvorlagen pattern available for download at the Antique Pattern Library.  If you don't know it, go check it out.  It's an amazing resource for embroidery, beading, lacemaking, cross-stitch, knitting, crochet, and other, more arcane, needlework.  It contains scanned copies of original patterns and charts from the 1800s and later.  The quality varies, but most are usable.  Personally, I'm most in love with the amazing art deco charts, but I also liked delving into the 1889 book from Butterick Publishing about using crepe and tissue paper, and the 1945 knitting patterns from the American Red Cross on making important garments for refugees and for wounded soldiers, such as the cap for a bandaged head, and the walking cast toe sock.  Awesome!  And even more awesome: FREE.  Major kudos to those women from the APL who scanned and in many cases redrew damaged charts so that they could be used.

Don't forget to go look at the other Friday Sew-n-Tellers - you can find them at Amy's.  You'll see some beautiful things!

And if you're in the market for a giveaway, go take a gander at True Up; she's giving away some gorgeous Kiyohara prints.  I'm drooling, but firmly expect my "never win" force field to protect me yet again!


/ Wednesday 21 October 2009 /
Since I ran out of background fabric on the Southern Skies quilt I posted about last time, I've been working on this one, Prairie Claw.  This was the second pattern from the Square in a Square workshop I went to at the end of September.  The colours are certainly appropriate for the season!
Here is a photo of the classic square in a square piece that serves as the foundation for so many of the blocks.  In this block, it makes the points of the stars.
Star points
The blocks take FOREVER to assemble!  There are 25 pieces in each block, and that does not include the piecing that goes into making the squares in squares shown above.  The blocks are also huge - they are 12" square.  The dimensions for the quilt on the pattern as written are about 85" x 100".  I like it, but not that much!  I think I'm going to reduce it by about 25%.
The forever plan
The pieced blocks are offset by unpieced solid blocks.  I am afraid of these because they need some fancy, structured quilting in each one.  I am trying to decide if I can do it myself or if I should send it out to the long-armer.  I've always done my own quilting, but it's never really been more than ditch-stitching or various all-over quilting, never following a real pattern.  Never mind, at the rate these blocks get assembled I won't have to make that decision for a long time.  Me and Scarlett O'Hara:  I'll think about that tomorrow; after all, tomorrow is another day!

A Sunday at Home

/ Sunday 18 October 2009 /
What is the name of the law that says whenever you need a plumber in a hurry it will be on a Sunday or a holiday?  *Sigh*

To distract myself from the more pressing and unpleasant issue above, I thought I'd post a photo of what I'm working on now.  This is a quilt that is continuing on from the Square in a Square workshop I attended at the end of September.  We made a couple of blocks in the workshop, and I liked them enough to complete the quilt.
Southern Skies Block WIP
It's a bit more traditional than the other quilts I've made this year.  I do like the traditional blocks as well as the modern quilts.  Although, generally, I don't like so much the fabric prints that go along with those traditional blocks; I seem to have made an exception in this case.  I like the batik used for the block centres and the flying geese; the colour in that is mainly blue, red and purple, but it is so wild that each individual square looks quite different from its neighbour.  I think the batik will keep the quilt from feeling too Little House on the Prairie.  Fingers crossed!

I'm a bit stalled on it at the moment, though.  Even though I thought I massively overbought, due to the poor description of what was required on the materials list from hell, it turns out that I need more background fabric.  Benefits to Square in a Square method for flying geese: the method of constructing the square they are embedded in allows perfect squaring, even though the geese themselves can be untrue.  Drawbacks: a fair amount of fabric wastage (this is true for the S-in-a-S method generally, I find), bloody tedium!

I was reading on someone's blog the other day about how each stage of a quilt is different and reminds them of raising children.  The fabric is lovable and cuddly and can do no wrong, just like babies, and every stage from there brings its own challenges and joys, just like toddlers and teenagers.  (I've forgotten whose blog this was, my apologies, so if it's yours, drop me a comment and I'll make the appropriate link.)  I couldn't agree more.  I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what kind of quilt I'm going to make, and I have big plans and high hopes before I can commit to using the cutter on my fabric.  Almost immediately afterwards, I start to have buyer's remorse, and I look cross-eyed at the blocks as they come together, second-guessing myself like crazy.  As more blocks come together, I start to thaw, and once the top is assembled and I start quilting, I'm in love again.  What about you - do you love your projects the same way at every stage?

Done Like Dinner!

/ Friday 16 October 2009 /
Thanksgiving was this past weekend, and one of the things I was thankful for was time to wrap up the Blue Meanies quilt (the name is explained here).  I've been keeping it for today, Sew-n-Tell Friday.

Blue Meanies on the line

Overall, I was happy with the quilting that I ended up doing.  It was all right angles, rather than the curly quilting I normally do.  And it is very densely quilted - I used up one 500m spool of thread and about half of another one - King Tut cotton in "Baby Blanket", which is variegated blue, yellow and purple, which sounds a bit severe, but actually looks pretty good.

Blue Meanies

As you see, I decided to skip the border and go straight to the binding.  One reason for this was I got it into my head that the blocks in this one made it look too similar to I'll Be Seeing You, and I ditched the notion of borders to make them more distinct.  Now that it's finished, I see how different it is, but I am still totally satisfied with the sans-border decision.


At the last Sew-n-Tell post, when I asked if I should have a border, one of the comments was that I should think about a red border.  That really twigged for me, so I chose this red/orange/purple/blue Kaffe Fassett for the binding.  I absolutely love it!  My daughter was horrified when I showed her what I was planning to use.  "Trust me," I said; fortunately, she was sold when it all came together - now she denies she ever disliked it!

I found it very hard to select fabric for the back.  I had never envisioned it as green, but green is what came out.  I like it 85%.  I had to pin the quilt to the clothesline sideways to keep it from dragging on the ground.  In consequence, this photo makes the pieced pinwheels look crooked, but they really aren't.

Tilt your head sideways
Two Blue Meanies

It's got bamboo/cotton batting.  What a fantastic drape that has!

Both sides now

Too beautiful to eat!

/ Wednesday 14 October 2009 /

I had to share the most amazing thing I've ever seen - check these cookies I saw on Flickr (click through to see more of her amazing edible artwork). I'm drooling!

And what a coincidence relating to those divine cookies - I just found out that it's Sweetest Day!  No, I never heard of it either, but I read about it on Mrs. Schmenkman's blog, where she is giving away the most awesome and delicious set of FQs from Amy Butler's new line, Love.  Head on over and put your name in the hat if you want to, but, just sayin', I'm going to win this one, I've got it all sewn up.  Get it, "all sewn up", ha ha.  Don't you love people who laugh at their own jokes?

And Audrie is giving away a fun table runner to celebrate the anniversary of meeting her husband at a Halloween party.  Got to love those sentimental stories!  Run sign up, but the clock is ticking - eligibility period ends at noon tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

/ Monday 12 October 2009 /
After 26 years in Canada, I've never really gotten used to how early Thanksgiving is celebrated here.  The harvest is earlier because of the weather, so it makes sense.  But often, this time of the year is still quite warm and it lacks the crispness and snap of cool weather that I think of as the hallmark of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving weekend
Not this year, though!  There was frost all over everything this morning, and the heat was on when we got up.  Brrr!  The good news is that I won't be sweltering in the kitchen over the turkey, as I have on more moderate Thanksgivings.
Thanksgiving 2009
My mother-in-law is with us for Thanksgiving, and I gifted her with the Valley of the Dolls quilt.  She liked it very much.
She likes it

I hope to finish the Blue Meanies today.  I have sewn on about 40% of the binding.  Here's a sneak peek.
Blue Meanies detail
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on and be grateful for what we have been given.  I have so many blessings that I can't number them all.  Here are the two for which I am most grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canucks!  I hope you've been able to celebrate your gratitude with your family around you!

Interwebs Quilt Festival Entry!

/ Friday 9 October 2009 /
I'm so excited to be able to post my entry to Amy's virtual quilt show.  As soon as I heard about it, I knew which one I would enter.  This is a quilt that I made with my mother.
The finished quilt
As I have said elsewhere in these pages, I have taken a long hiatus from quilting - somewhere in the area of 15 years - and only came back to it this past summer.  But I've never said why.
Centre stars
My mother passed away suddenly in August 2008.  She had a massive stroke one day when she was out to lunch with her husband.  Only 69, she had been in good health and spirits.  It was a devastating blow to all of us.
Can you see the stippled quilting on the border?
My mother was a fiend for sewing and all kinds of needlework.  For many years she had a 40" floor loom. She embroidered and did cross-stitch and quilted.  When I came home for the funeral, there was a cutting table set up in the living room where she had been cutting binding fabric that morning.
Pinning the quilt
I returned home with this quilt top that she had pieced.  I knew that finishing it for her would be a wonderful way to honour her memory.  I didn't get to it for several months.  I had a needlepoint project to finish for the synagogue and things at work were very busy, plus I wasn't looking forward to wrestling with my ancient Singer which was the bottom of the line when I bought it twenty years ago.   But, even more, gradually it became clear to me that I wasn't ready to start working on it.
quilt top
At the beginning of August this year, I went to the local Pfaff dealer and bought a two year old fancy electronic model in perfect knick.  I found the LQS and bought some fabric for backing and binding.  I knew my mother always quilted with polyester batting, but I bought cotton/bamboo.
On the eve of the anniversary of her passing, I pinned the quilt together, and the next day, I set up my new sewing machine on a table in front of an open window and sewed all day long.  I won't lie - there were times I had to take a little break for tears.  But it was a hugely healing thing, spending such a difficult day working for her and with her, thinking about what a wonderfully warm and talented woman she was.  I even had a good laugh when I found one of the background squares in one of the nine-patches was reversed, with the wrong side showing.  She always had a humility block in her quilts - by accident or design she never admitted - but she always pointed it out.
Showing the backing.
So that's the story of this quilt, called I'll Be Seeing You, and why I chose it for the Quilt Festival.  As time has gone by, my mother's husband has sent me various other bits and bobs from my mother's sewing room.  I will have other projects to share with her.  But this one will always be special.

I'm looking forward to ooohing and aahing over the other entries in the Quilt Festival, and I encourage you to do so, as well.  The list of participants will be at the bottom of this post.  And now that you've found me, please come back and visit any time!

In Toronto

/ Thursday 8 October 2009 /
I'm visiting a colleague in Toronto today, and went in early so that I could visit The Quilter's Palette, in Mississauga. It's a small store, but they have a god selection of fabrics. I had three main objectives: (1) to pick up some more of the cinnamon and pink dotted Kaffe Fassett print so that I could make progress on the Prairie Claw quilt, (2) to get a few light FQs for my stash, since I have mainly mediums and darks, and (3) to pick up another roll of Invisigrip, which is a kind of plastic sheeting that clings onto the bottom of old-school quilting rulers so that they grip the cloth better. I'm happy to say that all my objectives were achieved! Here are some photos of what I got - apologies for the quality of the photos - all I have with me is my iPhone.
Lights for stash
These are some lights for my stash - most of them are kind Japanese-y.

I liked these fats to add to my smallish collection of vintage-style prints - I have plans for a Cracker Box quilt when I get a goodly number

I got some yardage of these - love them so much. Must be the time of the year - leaves changing colour.

And with these random fats, I was able to fill up my customer card and get $25 off. Awesome!

My Mother's Christmas Quilt

/ Wednesday 7 October 2009 /
So I thought I might like one of Aunt Tildy's blocks as the backsplash for the blog, but it makes it hard to find a visible font colour for the title and subtitle.  So much of this blog mechanics is beyond me.  For example, I can't figure out why sometimes my text is microscopic and other times it's spaced reasonably, sometimes left justified, sometimes not.  It's all a mystery to me!

In other news, there was a big box waiting for me when I got home, from my late mother's husband, David.  It was full of quilting doo-dahs from my mother’s work table; among other things, there were:
5 rotary cutters, including one with a pinking blade
Fiskars snips, 1 large and 1 small
1 Ott Light
2 Clover mini-irons
12” spinning Olfa cutting mat
12” square ruler
2 pairs machine quilting gloves
2 boxes bent safety pins
Assorted cross-stitch and embroidery fabric
Set of half-square triangle blocks ready for piecing

Also, there was another project that my mom had been working on.  This one was a cute Christmas quilt with penguins, lap-sized, all pieced and pinned together, ready for quilting.  This one will be a snap to quilt up, probably mostly quilting in the ditch.  She assembled it with polyester batting, so there will be a nice high loft to outline the stars.  Personally, I don’t hold with polyester, and I don't celebrate Christmas, but I’m thrilled to be able to quilt this, to finish my mother’s work.   When it's complete, I’ll be sending this quilt back to David.  He misses her so much.  
Penguin Christmas

Monday Night Quilting

/ Monday 5 October 2009 /
Yesterday, I went into my place of work, which happens to be a university.  It was a Sunday afternoon, and no one was around, but me and my pal Lindsay, who is learning to quilt.  We both brought our quilt tops and various other quiltesque accoutrements into an empty classroom that had the most wonderful four by eight foot tables.  We each pushed two of those tables together, so we both had glorious 8 foot square spaces to work on.  In all my years of quilting, this is the first time I have had that much space to spread out, without bending over on the floor.  It was seriously awesome!  It made the whole quilt sandwich construction thing a piece of yummy chocolate cake!  We used the spray basting, but as I am by nature a pessimist, we pinned, as well.  Lindsay was working on a sweet baby quilt from a Denyse Schmidt pattern, and I was assembling the Blue Meanies quilt, with a pieced backing that I'm not prepared to show at the moment.
Machine quilting
Tonight I started quilting it.  I'm trying a sticks-and-boxes kind of effect, quite different from what I've done before.  We'll see how it turns out.  This is the part where I always feel a bit daunted at how much there is to do.  I filled four bobbins to begin, but was appalled to see how little acreage one bobbin's worth is.  Felt like I'd hardly made a dent.  Oh well.  We'll get there.

Aunt Tildy

/ Saturday 3 October 2009 /
One of the things that really resonates with me about quilting is the way I feel connected to a long tradition of women's craft and work with fabric.   I'm not a super religious person, but I do like the poem written by King Solomon, called Aishet Chayil, traditionally recited by the husband to the wife on Friday night before shabbat dinner.  You probably know of it - it begins "A woman of valour, who can find her?  Her worth is far beyond rubies" and it goes on to set out the many characteristics of a virtuous woman.  So many of them have to do with making and sewing cloth; here are some examples:
She fears not for her household because of snow, because her whole household is warmly dressed.  
She makes covers for herself, her cloth is fine linen and purple.  
She seeks wool and flax, and works with her hands willingly.
In the spirit of Aishet Chayil, I thought I'd share a couple of quilts made by my great-aunt, Matilda (Tildy) Galbraith.  My grandmother was raised by her sister, Tildy, when their mother died in 1921.  My grandmother was six, Tildy was 22, already married with two daughters.  Aunt Tildy's husband, Tom, ran the company store in Closplint, a little coal mining town in Harlan Co., Kentucky.  Here is a quilt that Aunt Tildy made in the 30s.  It is hand-pieced and hand-quilted.  I bet it aggravated her no end when she realized she didn't have enough light blue fabric to complete the sashing.
Aunt Tildy's '30s spiderweb
I feel so lucky to have this quilt. We used it up until about two years ago, when it was retired. Aunt Tildy was a prodigious quilter and seamstress. She taught my grandmother to sew, and my grandmother taught my mother, who taught me. She also froze fresh peaches in season, and served them throughout the year with angel food cake.
Aunt Tildy's string pieced quilt
Don't you love the vintage fabric in the blocks? I only put a couple of pictures of blocks here. If you want to see more of them, click through to my Flickr page.
'30s block
'30s block
Aunt Tildy quilted all her life; she passed away in 1985. Here is a quilt that she made near the end of her life. The blocks are much bigger, and the quilt is pieced and quilted by machine.  
Aunt Tildy's '70s quilt
The seams are not terribly straight. But the quilt is big! It is meant to be used, for two people to sleep under, and it is on our bed now. Aunt Tildy was still making sure we had everything we needed at the end. Thanks for everything, Aunt Tildy. Many women have done worthily, but you surpass them all. Proverbs, 31:10-13.

It's Friday and I'm Finished!

/ Friday 2 October 2009 /
I'm finished just in time for Friday Sew-N-Tell!  That is to say, I've finished one step in the long cloth-to-quilt process.  The Whirligigs quilt top is pieced, and in the process named itself after the villains in the Beatles' Yellow Submarine movie.  Introducing the Blue Meanies!  See the resemblance?

Blue Meanies quilt top
I think it's interesting how the immediate dramatic element is those light hourglasses, rather than the pinwheels. It's one of the exciting parts of quilting - seeing what unexpected effects emerge from the block pattern and initial design. Now, I have to tell you that my points are not perfect, but I plead guilty with an explanation. You may notice that half the pinwheels spin one way and the others go the other way (see lame joke about Australia in a previous post). I pieced all the thisaway blocks a couple of weeks ago, with my regular, devil-may-care seam allowance. Then last weekend, I attended the Square in a Square workshop, with her military insistence on scant quarter-inch seam allowances (and they do look nice, so no complaints). But when I came back to sew up all the thataway blocks, even though I reminded myself to ease up on the seam allowance to match the other ones, I found that the second set of blocks measured, in some cases, a full half-inch bigger than the first set. I was as careful as I could be through the trimming and truing process to size the blocks so that the seams would match up, but it wasn't perfect. Drat. Consider this entire quilt one whole humility block!

Blue MeaniesTrying to decide if I want a border or not. What do you think?

A Commitment

/ Thursday 1 October 2009 /
I just put Amy's Sew-n-Tell button on the sidebar, which means a commitment to finishing something every Friday (gulp).  Given what's currently on my docket, I guess that means I'll be sewing up those whirlygigs.  Looks like take-out from Pat's Thai tonight, folks!

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