Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Little Gifts Made to Order

Some special people I am closely related to by birth were offered the chance to pick out a fabric - ANY fabric - and chose a small item to be made for them. They recognised this for the unique opportunity it was, as I typically have quite a - how shall I say this? - hands-off approach to my fabric :)

Our budding chef asked for a pot-holder from lemon fabric with asparagus on the back, which I bound with blueberries. If we get hungry enough waiting for the food to be ready, I reckon we can eat the pot-holder...

Someone was totally swayed by this gorgeous fabric and wanted a slim scarf, to which I added a rose pin...

And a pencil case out of the perfect fabric for someone who loves art AND the environment. Plus some ribbon detailing too!

It feels good to start and finish projects the same week - not usual for me at all! Here's to a fruitful week ahead!

Linking up with Fabric Tuesday , Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Live a Colorful Life!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Bringing Light

The season of Chanukah lasts a week and a day, and marks the victory of the weak over the strong, the few over the many, the light of faith over the darkness of tyranny.

Today is the last day of Chanukah. I would like to extend my prayers that the light of our candles help bring peace and comfort to all of us who are reeling from the news in Connecticut. We are all sad and overwhelmed.

May our families and communities strengthen their vows to care for each and every member of society: to reach out and care for the the lost and the lonely; to be a source of strength for the weak, to bring light to darkness, and fight bravely against tyranny.

Let us gather with our family and loved ones to light candles, hold hands, and cry; let us, at least, feel sad and overwhelmed together.

(Photo credit: http://www.freeimageslive.co.uk/free_stock_image/xmas-candles-jpg)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

O Lemon Tree, O Lemon Tree!

(to be sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum :)

In the home I grew up in, in Europe, we had many fruit trees. It sounds grand, but mostly involved stepping gingerly, to avoid the soft, fallen fruit. The apple trees produced delicious baking apples, though, and we had enormous unkempt bramble bushes at the end of the garden, where blackberries grew. We'd be sent out to collect fruit in the afternoon, and there'd be apple-berry crumble for dessert that night. Served hot with fresh cream. Mmmm.

I live in Israel now, a country with almost no rainfall, unless you measure it in thimblefuls. There is no lush grass, no ducking your head against the elements as you brave the path from your front door to your car, no out-of-control, over-blown roses from too much rain.

We have lemons.

And with our second harvest, we eked out some blood oranges too.

Also, I did some sewing.
But I did have to share the bounty, first.

I couldn't stay away from the purples so I started piecing a zippy bag. But now I'm looking at the front-and-back of a bag (about 10" x 15") and I'm thinking, improv blocks! Let's make a top!

What do you think? Am I imagining it? Would this be better as a bag?

And then, there's this attempt at brown.
Now, I don't use brown much, as a rule. But it's worthy of some loving, doncha think?
I pieced this little thing, and it is just sitting there as forlorn as could be.
And while in my head I'm thinking "Espresso! Café au lait! Cream!", my heart is saying "bleugh".

I have decided to jazz up this Charlie Brown of a thing and make it... well, make it a singing Charlie Brown. Watch this space. And while you're watching, let me know your surface design ideas on face-lifts for fabric. Mine involve a hera marker and careful measurements, a walking foot and some coloured thread. Surely you can think of something funner. Right?

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced and Live a Colorful Life and Confessions of a Fabric Addict - go check out the fun!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

It's a Purple Hot Mat Trivet Thingy

First things first. I want to thank everyone who read my last post, and I want to hug everyone who left a message. It meant so, so much to me, to feel heard, understood, and not alone. Thank you.

Now back to the purple love: my friend saw some pot holders I made, and said "I want me some of that purple goodness!" and I was commissioned (commissioned!) to sew a hot mat. Or whatever it's called. 

I got to try out not one, not two, but THREE whole new skills with this one!  Check me out, earning my quilting stripes!

Skill #1: I pieced the binding. Okay, not so much of a skill, as a design element. I used two different purples around the edge, and I'm in big love with that little chunk o' Chicopee.

Skill #2: machine binding. It was a fun challenge, even though it probably took me as much time to pin as it would have to hands-sew! This baby has 2 layers of batting inside - insul-bright and cotton - so there was more tugging to get it to fit, if you know what I mean!

Skill #3: feather quilting. I enjoyed this too. Even though it's, ahem, invisible.

Luckily, we have a back...

Here she is, in all her finished goodness.

A word about the fabrics. That amazing woven plaid is from Liberty, circa 1988. I went to the Liberty sale when I was about 17 or 18 years old, just for fun. And bought a ton of fabric. I didn't know how to use a sewing machine, but I figured, one day I would.

I put the Chicopee on the binding because she was blending in too well (ha!) with the Cocoon. Hurray for Free Spirit fabrics, making different lines be friends like that! And look at this: a coordinating Moda, of all things, from the Domestic Bliss line.

Left to right, Chicopee, Cocoon, Domestic Bliss

I'm planning a triangle quilt based around these... what should my solid be? Suggestions welcomed here!

Linking up with Live a Colorful Life and Confessions of a Fabric Addict !

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Searching In, Reaching Out

Behold, The Pile: the squares go with the chevron, the girly quilt is awaiting quilting, the shades-of-sand will be a gift for my sister, and see the start of a Summersville top?

Now, let me tell you why my energy is otherwise engaged, and why my pile Keeps Not Shrinking.

I hope and pray you will accept this in the spirit that I am sharing it.

I live in Israel. We chose to move here, because we believe it is the best place for our family to be, to grow, to give, to connect, to live.

Right now, today, we are at war. It is more devastating than I can describe.

This week I have been thinking, praying, and connecting to just a few people about my overwhelming feelings of loss. While the war has been pounding down on both sides of the border, I am trying to find my voice, and be brave, and true. 

Here are my not-so-grand conclusions: that there can be no "us" and "them"; there can only be "we", we humans, each of us set down on this green earth for one brief and precious season.

And that I will not achieve peace, nor help spread it, with gentle thoughts. I have to seek it actively and create it mindfully in my own life.

I would like to reach out and beg a favour from each of you: to add something to your life that increases your peace or peace in the world, or that reaches out to others in peace.

Here are a few ideas:
Learn to meditate.
Pray for our leaders to seek peace in their hearts.
Read "Whoever You Are" by Mem Fox to your children.
Create a family peace ritual.
This week, or next, visit someone in hospital, volunteer in a soup kitchen, sit with a friend.
Join an organisation or support a charity that is encouraging positive change in the world.
Read "Knitting into the Mystery" by Jorgensen and Izard, and start a meditative stitching circle.
Keep a gratitude journal.

Cultivate peace. Put it front and centre. Tell us how you did it.
I thank you, sincerely, and with my whole heart.

Linking up with Freshly Pieced.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Work In Progress - AAAGH!

Remember that wonderful day in your life when someone posted about a quilt-a-long you actually qualified for? And you were filled with joy and wow-I'm-all-that?

April 6th, 2012. My Precious QAL.
I bet you remember where you were when you read about it.

Kelly used words like "fabric in your stash you are reluctant to use" and "the most relaxed QAL ever" and "the stack you occasionally bring out to pet"... that's me! She was speaking to me!

Well, I pulled out my precious stash and I made piles. I made plans. I was excited and determined.

I even made a top. The whole thing!
Okay, a baby quilt, but still.

Here it is: being pinned today, only - ahem - 7 months later...

A brief aside to wax poetic about how much I hate sandwiching and pinning: Hate 'em. A lot.

This is mostly related to my resistance to crawling around on my hands and knees on the floor, so today I brilliantly decided to sandwich and pin at my dining-room table. I know! Brilliant, right?! Joy was mine.

Then you know how it is. You've got this easy-peasy GRID of a pattern to follow, a wonderfully functional walking foot, a single piece of fabric for the back... what could go wrong?

Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha!

First you iron a little crease out and discover some sticky residue that had been hiding on your iron, but is not hiding At All in all its burnt brown glory, right in the middle of your quilt. After the hyperventilating passes, you do some nifty stuff with a new toothbrush and some water, and the stain, she is gone. Breathe.

Then, halfway across a lovely line of stitching, you discover a teeny tiny problem: not every single corner of your simple patchwork meets perfectly. Heart sinking moment as you realise that human error had not been taken into account when planning perfect straight lines. Breathe. Unstitch. Create new solution for non-meeting corners.

Then - that's right, folks, the story ain't over yet - then, you do some perfectly lovely straight line quilting, a la Red Pepper Quilts, except that Rita doesn't seem to get that 1/4" bunched-up effect on her quilt backs. Now, I can be reasonable. I can overlook a little squished fabric.

Sarah Jane, Children At Play, Dolls Cream Fabric - 1 Yard

But my quilt back consists of little girls playing, and this little girl's face was, well let's just say, contorted. I'm being kind here. It was going to give some little quilt owner nightmares one day. Breathe. Unstitch. Watch a dumb movie.

I have every plan to get back to this simple little quilt one day soon. Maybe even tomorrow. Just as soon as I've recovered. (Maybe it's time to raid the Emergency Chocolate Cabinet...)

Linking up with Freshly Pieced, Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Live a Colorful Life - go check 'em out!

Friday, 9 November 2012

How To Fill A Rice Bag Out Of This Funny Empty Bag Thingy That Your So-Called Friend Sent You

(This is a for those insanely lucky people who received a rice bag described here!)

Here is what your rice-bag-to-be might look like: most of it is closed, but there is an opening at one end.

Pour some rice into a large cup.

Take a fancy stainless steel professional-grade funnel - or roll up a piece of paper as I did - and place the narrow end in your bag opening. This might be surprisingly tricky to juggle in one hand; luckily, you are gifted and talented and will figure it out.

Pour your rice through the funnel, and into the bag. We found this easier when the bag was sitting right on the table top.

Your bag will now look a little more than half-full, like this:

 Now pin your bag to keep the rice out of the way...

... and sew along those neat little pencil lines to close the bag.

You can use a needle-and-thread, or a sewing machine. If you are hand-stitching, I recommend 2 lines of straight stitch, 1 line in one direction and then just sew right back over it to where you began. Start and finish with secure knots so the thread doesn't quit and go on vacation.

If you want to achieve sew-y neatness, you can pull the knot between the layers (see below) and then trim the end so that it doesn't show. If your knots are big and bad and on display for the whole wide world to see, that works too. The Knot Police are very cool with this.

 Making a knot, burying the end between the layers...

... remove the pins, and ta-dah! A rice bag!

And you can slip it neatly into your rice bag cover for utter rice bag gorgeousness!! Woo-hoo!!

Heat this in your microwave for 1 minute, toss it around, and repeat for 30 second increments. It will be good and hot by about 3 minutes.

Alternatively, store it in the freezer, and use as an ice pack. It is truly all good.

How To Mail A Bag Of Rice

I bet you've spent many a night pondering this very question.
"Hmm," you've thought, "what if my sister on another continent were in dire need of some rice? How would I send it to her?"

Well, friends, I am here to put you out of your misery: the secret is to send an empty bag. And let them fill it with rice.

I know. It's like I totally deserve the Nobel Prize for Pure Genius.

See, I have this sister who lives in a land far, far away. I miss her. (Though the land she lives in is Melbourne, so I miss her and am utterly jealous of her proximity to so much quiltyness.)

I wanted to send my sister something light, but good.
Rice bags! Are so handy! And can be so pretty!

 Thank you, "Sew, Mama, Sew!" for your awesome tutorial!

And by the way, are you loving how the polka-dotty bag matches my banner?! (I am.)

Snuck inside of each bag is a little cloth bag-gette, that will one day hold the rice. See the neat pencil stitching lines? I've got some directions all written out, and I enclosed a sweet little needle-book to hold the hardware.

Here's a link to some instructions for your non-sewist giftee - you can just direct them here when you send them their beautiful / funky / cool / football-team-covered rice bag.

Where are you sending your rice bags? These babies just traveled 7,600 miles! How many miles could our rice bags clock up together?!

Linking up with Live a Colorful Life and Confessions of a Fabric Addict - check them out!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

On Pins and Needles (plus: a Non-Tutorial)

So. You know how you get a pin-cushion and you use it for pretty much everything?

And then, you discover all these sharp things sticking out the bottom... but they have no top?
And you learn why they are called PIN-cushions?

Well, a little while back I went digging for gold: I squeezed my pin-cushion again and again to extract all the lost needles, and discovered - you will not believe this - over 30 (THIRTY!) needles hiding inside! Thirty. No kidding.

It was time for a Needle Revolution.
I ♥ my needlebook!
And so did my quilty friends. So I made some more...
And just this week, I made one for someone far, far away, and decided to share the genius behind the needle-book.

I know. Your hearts are all a pitter-patter.

But let's just say this. This isn't a tutorial. These are pattern directions. For 5 rectangles. Ready?

1. Take 2 pieces of fabric (for the front and the lining) AND 1 piece of batting and cut them to the same size. One or both of these can be pieced, up-cycled, or anything else you fancy.
 2. Stack them precisely on top of each other to make a "sandwich":  first the batting, then the book "cover" (face up), finally the book "lining" (face down). Stitch around 3 1/2 of the sides, leaving an opening to turn them right-side-out.
 3. Trim corners (cut off little triangles without cutting through stitching), and turn package right-side-out. Finger-press the seam allowances neatly inside the cover, press the edges around the whole cover, then stitch the opening closed by hand.

4. Fold in half and admire your nearly finished needle-book. (I know. That was tricky.)
 5. For the next step you will need 2 pieces of batting, each one slightly smaller than the book. You can measure if you really want to. Or just eyeball it. Pin the batting to the inside of your book, and score a line where the stitching will go. If you don't have a hera marker, try any not-too-sharp object - maybe the outside edge of a closed pair of scissors.
 6. Take your embroidery thread, and tie a knot at the end. Enter the needle along the outside spine of the book, and pull the needle through to the inside, until the knot pops through the top layer of fabric.

7. Sew down the spine using a large straight stitch, finishing inside the book, between the cover and the pages.
8. Make a knot.
9. Bury the thread by sewing it right next to the knot, under the lining fabric and taking one huge stitch up the inside of the spine...
... and trimming the thread.
10. Rejoice.
For thine needle-book is done.
And ready to serve you.