Saturday, March 31, 2012

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Despite the fact that our snow is all gone and we are anxiously awaiting the first blooms of Spring I just had to share this amazing quilting inspiration with you; a friend of Anne's sent it to her and she has passed it along to me. It was too beautiful not to share.

Artist Simon Beck's love of winter provides an amazing medium for him to work in. Along the frozen lakes of Savoie in France he plods through the snowy countryside in snowshoes, creating sensational art.

Working anywhere from 5 to 9 hours a day, each piece is typically the size of three soccer fields!

His efforts result in stunning designs, sometimes with a three dimensional effect when viewed from higher levels. How long these magnificent geometric forms survive is totally weather dependent. Beck designs and redesigns the patterns as new snow falls, sometimes unable to finish a piece if there is significant overnight accumulation.

Problems with his feet started this creative journey. No longer able to run properly he turned to snowshoeing since plodding about on level ground proved much less painful and still provided him with a way of getting his exercise. Gradually, his interest in photographing these works has become the main reason for his efforts. Spectacular art for the sake of exercise.

I guess the real question for a quilter is, are they one- or two-colour quilts??...M

Friday, March 30, 2012


You know how sometimes you just don't see the obvious? Well, that happened to me lately. I've been trying to figure out how large to make Martha's Star and what to do about borders, if anything. I've decided to make it 5 stars wide by 6 long and not put a border on it because I don't think it needs one, but also because the quilt will be plenty large without a border.

Anyway, I was on a bit of a roll making the red & white Irish Chain blocks when I came to the realization that if I wasn't putting a border on it then it would be best to end the half blocks in the centre of the block rather than two thirds of the way through, like I had been planning (like the two half blocks on the bottom right as compared to the block on the left - like my slippers?). I was bummed out about having to rip out a portion of about 14 blocks, but it was doable, so I undid one just to see how long it would take.

Then I went back to sewing full blocks, which was a good thing, because my brain had time to process things and I realized that rather than rip out what was already sewn I just need to make the existing 2/3 blocks into full blocks and make all new half blocks. No need to rip. Sheeesh! Amazing how your brain works sometimes (or doesn't!), isn't it? Anyway, I'm back at it, and sewing rather than ripping.

And, since it is going to be a big quilt me thinks that I'll need to make more stars before this is all finished too. I do like the way it is filling in though, don't you? Still targeting Easter for completion but that might just be completion of all the blocks and not necessarily having the top sewn together since I've just realized that Easter is NEXT weekend. Yikes!...M

Monday, March 26, 2012

Technical Difficulties and Signs of Spring

It was bound to happen. Just a matter of time. And last week it finally snapped. The ribbon on my scissors, that is. I like to keep a small pair of scissors on a ribbon around my neck when I am hand sewing because they are easier to find. I've had this salmon ribbon for years and loved both the colour and the weight of it. So when the ribbon finally broke (I believe that the initial fray was caused by an accidental snip...), I auditioned a few options that I had on hand but nothing seemed right.

That got me to thinking that maybe I'd go solo for a while and see how I liked it but I have to admit that I was finding it harder to keep track of those little scissors. So, when I was in a paper shop on the weekend it didn't take much to convince me that this gorgeous green and blue ribbon had to come home with me.

It is a little narrower, but isn't it just fabulous? Blue and green are a favourite combination and this ribbon is to die for - definitely the right colours to welcome Spring. I'm hoping that it is tough enough to stand up to a fair bit of handling, but if not, for a few bucks I will have enjoyed the unadulterated pleasure of having been able to use it, even if for just a little while.

And, as luck would have it, my new ironing board cover for the laundry room comes in the same colour combo, and is a lovely match for the wall colour. I broke it in ironing the latest block for the Candied Hexagon quilt, which brings my block count up to 60. Not much has been happening with that one for a while because I need to sit down and cut more diamonds and much of it is fussy cutting so I've been spending much of my time on Martha's Star and the Postage Stamp quilt.

The Gardener's Hand Scrub on the counter is just another sign that Spring is on its way. Soon it will be time to get into the dirt and clean up the beds but it won't be this week. After the incredibly great (but unseasonably warm) weather that we've enjoyed we are very much back to seasonal temperatures. Apparently only for this week though and then things will warm up again....M

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stars In My Eyes

Lately I've been doing daily trips to Ottawa but before I get into the car I try and fit in a bit of this...

And then some of this...

As a result, Martha's Star is really filling in nicely. Happy, happy, happy! (If you want to see a larger photo just click on it.)

I really do need to get a design wall so that I can get a better perspective and take better photos, but for now this will do. My sewing room also happens to be the one room in the house with no natural light so all the pics come up dark. Who did that planning???

I had hoped to have this top finished by the time the snow melted but Mother Nature has pulled a fast one this year and the past week to ten days have been incredibly warm, sunny and beautiful - mid summer weather rather than late winter/early spring - so the snow left us a few days ago. Oh well. Maybe I'll target Easter. Either way I'm really loving the way that this is coming along. I need to do some measurements to see what the final dimensions will be; I suspect that it will be 5 stars wide and 7 long, but we'll see. I have lots of star blocks so I might make up a second small quilt with just blue stars but I want to work on something brighter between then and now...M

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lets Hear It For The Church Ladies

Single Irish Chain
Today my heart is going pit-a-pat. The gals at the quilting group from the church have finished quilting my Single Irish Chain and it is just beautiful. Their work is so clean and precise - I couldn't be happier.

The pictures speak for themselves so I will say little and let you take it all in.

I think I will bind it with blue. What a great way to celebrate the first day of Spring!...M

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Postscript to the Postage Stamp Quilt

I meant to include a note about stamps at the end of my last post about the Postage Stamp quilt but forgot, so here we go.

At St. Patrick’s Basillica in Ottawa, where Jane often goes to mass, they collect used postage stamps to sell to stamp dealers and then send the proceeds to the missions. Apparently one stamp gives a child lunch, so we've been saving our stamps for her to help out the cause. I know that with email we tend not to send or receive as much personal mail by post as we used to but if you are able/interested feel free to send yours to me periodically and I will pass them along to Jane - it seems a waste to trash them when they are valuable to someone else. I just keep a zip lock bag in a drawer and keep tossing them in until it's full. If you need my mailing address just send me an email and I'll get it to you.

Postage Stamp
Here's another pic of the quilt.

There's lots more blocks cut and waiting to be added... In honour of International Quilt Day, which was celebrated yesterday, I think I'll put a few more blocks together.

I followed mom's lead and fill a plastic berry container with a selection of squares and then periodically refill it as needed. It's easy to toss in your bag and go, it doesn't take up a lot of space, and the lid is hinged so it always stays in place.

Well, it is a spectacular spring day here so I'll sign off and get out for a walk. Hope you are enjoying sunshine as well....M

Friday, March 16, 2012

You've Got Mail!

Postage Stamp
One of my strongest quilting memories is from a road trip through the Hudson River Valley to visit my brother and his wife in Connecticut a few summers ago. We were driving through the mountains near Lake Placid with mom and my neice Julia in the back seat and mom was happily stitching her way through a pile of Postage Stamp blocks. She was one of the most resourceful people I know and didn't like to waste anything so she had been accumulating 2-inch blocks from remnants of quilts that she and her friends from the guild had and was randomly sewing them together.

She had laid out 2-inch blocks 5 wide by 5 high on pieces of newspaper the size of the final block and stacked them into a tin which ensured that she could stitch her way to our final destination.

I inherited a good number of those 2-inch blocks after she passed away and have been continuing the tradition, adding my scrap cuts to the selection and picking it up between projects when I don't want to think too much, often for road trips.

Border design fabrics
Despite liking the randomness of a Postage Stamp quilt I did want to have some design element to create some interest so I've incorporated two open diamond borders. With my sister Dori's help I found lovely border prints at The Workroom on Queen Street in Toronto - the pink is a Kaffe Fassett and the plum by Bernadette Wallace.

According to my calculations there will be about 5,715 pieces in this one and, after about 5 years of work I am about half finished. Here's a sketch that I'm working from - the highlighted area represents the section that is now together. I've been working on it for so long that the graph paper is fading big time!

The plum border is showing up much stronger than the pink/orange print, partly because the pink includes some chartreuse and those blocks tend to break up the line of colour, so I have started setting aside any blocks that are predominantly green and will use them in another project. It's still pretty subtle but I think as more of the top is completed the pink/orange will be more apparent.
The larger it gets the more I like it. That said, I cannot help but see the irony in the fact that I have yards and yards of fabric in my stash and I spend much of my time putting together the scrappy bits. With such a huge selection of prints it will be a great quilt to fall asleep under.
Anne spent some time with me this week as she was off for March Break and was looking for something to do with her hands so she will sew a few blocks for me and bring them back at Easter....M

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Pocket Posh

Yesterday I received the loveliest parcel from my friends Dawn and Nancy in Toronto; where to start? Included in the goodies were two great pocket-sized books - these two gals really know me (or else they have been reading my blog!). Pocket Posh Tips For Quilters is filled with info on everything from organizing your stash to applique instructions and quilt storage suggestions. Love it!

And Cooking Notes will let me keep track of recipes that I like; it's even organized by category which will make finding things that much easier.

The box was filled with lots of goodies and as I dug into the last bit I discovered a real treasure. Dawn, who is a wonderful knitter (actually, they both are) has knit me this spectacular variegated cowl to go with my coats. It is absolutely beautifully done and the colour is a rich, deep turquoise. Talk about reading my mind - I've been coveting cowls from afar lately and now I have one to call my own.

And yes, those are chocolate hazelnut bon bons in the bottom left corner, thrown in just because a gal can never have too much chocolate. Yum!

They also included beautiful soap and bath salts - not only is the packaging fabulous, they smell delicious!  Don't you think that the Kimono Rose bath salts package could be a quilt block? Thank you both so much - this made my week.

Amid all of the excitement there's also been a little quilting going on too. I have been spending much of my time quilting on Confetti and machine piecing blocks for Martha's Star so there hasn't been much hand piecing done, but I do have 5 more Candied Hexagons finished that can be added to the pile, bringing the total to 59...

...with one more half finished. I think it's soon time to start laying these puppies out to see what they look like together. I'm a little concerned that the blue used in these last few hexagons is a bit deep compared to the other colours in the quilt but we'll see - it might just need the contrast...M

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Finding My Rhythm

I have to say that now that I have picked up my needle and thread again at the quilting hoop I am quite enjoying it - and making some good progress to boot! Here's a few pics that will hopefully give you a better idea of what the quilting looks like on Confetti - still not the best but hopefully you can make out that I'm staying very close to the seams just to highlight the pattern and the fabrics.

My hoop is relatively new to me and it has taken some time for me to get comfortable with it/find a comfortable position to work in and actually stay with the quilting once I start, or pick it up readily when I sit down in front of it, but I think that I have finally cracked the code. Having reruns of Downton Abbey to watch doesn't hurt either.
And nothing says progress like being able to rip out basting threads.
There are such gorgeous prints in this fabric collection that it's hard not to enjoy the process. Maybe there is hope for me yet...M