Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So there I was at the magazine rack...

Last weekend, I met one of my many Newfoundland cousins for lunch while she was in Toronto. We had a great visit, but then she had to get to the airport, so I had some time to kill waiting for Mr. Heaven to finish work.
I went to some of my favourite haunts on Queen St. and toured around -- Mokuba Ribbon, Arton Beads, a really funky store called The Outer Layer. 
Eventually, I ended up at the Eaton Centre's Indigo Bookstore. There, I wandered over to the crafts magazine section. I spied A Needle Pulling Thread -- Canada's lone magazine promoting needlework of all kinds.
I knew they had a submission from me in the can, and I knew the editor was planning to run it soon, but hey-ho, there it was! The link is here
There was just one person standing beside me, a sort of fashion photographer type. He was dressed in entirely in black, sporting an arty goatee, and black horned rimmed glasses. He very likely had very little interest in needlework. Still and all, I wanted to shove my page in his face and scream, "Hey! This is me! I did THIS."
But I didn't. I am proud of me for being restrained. And for being a published designer. It's really cool, gotta say ...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When spring hands you snow, make lemon cake

Lemon loaf --  sunny & spring-like -- unlike today

Spring has arrived here in Canada. We know this because the snow is back. In several areas of my neighbourhood, the snow had disappeared. There were just little patches to be seen here and there. And then, this morning arrived. At first, there were just little streamers of snow -- doesn't that sound festive and fun? Streamers of snow...
Then, the streamers morphed into showers, which turned into all out snow. Long story short? It is all back again. Sigh.
When life hands you snow, make lemon loaf, glazed with lemon icing and topped with candied lemon slices. It looks fresh and summery. Unlike outside, which looks cold and discouraging and not at all like spring.

Lemon loaf
1 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream butter or margarine with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly. In a small bowl, combine flour, lemon zest and baking powder. Stir with a small whisk until combined. Add to egg mixture. Beat two to three minutes until combined. Batter will be thick. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.Cool in pan for 15 minutes and then turn onto wire rack to cool thoroughly before glazing.

For the glaze
1/2 cup icing sugar
1-2 tsp milk
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice.
Stir together and drizzle over the cooled loaf

To candy the lemon slices: thinly slice half a lemon. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan. Heat on medium, until sugar dissolves. Add lemon slices and boil for about 5-10 minutes (or until syrupy). Gently remove slices with a spoon and cool on baking parchment. When completely cooled, arrange on top of glazed loaf.

I heart royal tea towels

Cath Kidston's royal wedding tea towel
I have a sad confession to make: I enjoy the kitschy things produced in the UK during times of great royal celebrations.
This one is from Cath Kidston's spring line. Horrifically expensive to ship here, and the base price of C$20 is pretty daunting as well. However, I can admire the graphics from afar.
There is, you see,  the issue of never being able to use it as a tea towel. I don't think I could hang it on the wall, so I would bury it in the kitchen drawer. Then would come the sad Christmas Day when all the tea towels would be sopping wet from doing the after dinner dishes. Someone would pull out the Royal Wedding Tea Towel and before you can say Christmas Cracker, turkey grease all over the Abbey!
No. I cannot run that risk. I will just enjoy the picture.
It comforts me to know that I will soon receive the spring issue of the CK magazine -- they send it free to me. Therein, I will find ideas for creating a Royal Wedding party.
I would consider this, but for the fact the weddings take place in the morning there. This means in order to watch it live, we have to be up at around 4 a.m. to catch all the preamble. I just don't think entertaining at 4 a.m. is my style.
My mom and I watched Princess' Anne's wedding to Mark Phillips in the kitchen with the volume on really low. It was 5 a.m.
Years later, when I was working on my very first job as a summer student reporter at a little Toronto newspaper, I was again parked in front of the telly before dawn to watch Princess Diana marry Prince Charles. This time, we watched in the living room and had tea and scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Never mind the fact that it was 5 a.m., and I had to cover a council later in the day. The meeting lasted until 11 p.m. I still remember how exhausted I was, and how all day long, people kept commenting on the Princess' train. Remember how it was still exiting the carriage while she was nearly halfway up the aisle of the cathedral?
Prince Andrew's wedding to Fergie also saw me up before the sun.
Princess Diana's funeral was a 3 a.m. tear jerker.
For me, these events have been all about the splendor and the circumstance -- watched through gritty, sleep-starved eyes. I love the music, the traditions of the Anglican service, and the hope we have that these two really love each other. It would be nice to witness a true fairy tale at 5 a.m. in the morning. The mugs and the tea towels are just the icing on the wedding cake for the fans.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Berny is a beauty!

Berny is still a beauty, more than 
30 years on ...
This morning, I cleaned up my recently acquired vintage Bernina 830. It has been sitting in storage for sometime, so it needed a little sponge bath and some gentle brushing around the bobbin. I was thrilled when I eased it out of its fire engine red hard case. You see, we had met once before long ago.
I loved this machine when it came out when I was in high school -- quite a while ago. I couldn't afford it then.
I remember watching a demo of the built-in stitches at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto and being transfixed. I even got to try it, and when I did, it actually hummed happily along. Amazing!
A few months before that 1977 demo, I had been given a Singer 514 Stylist for my 16th birthday. It amazed me because it could do a zigzag stitch.
To acquire this zigzag wonder, my parents traded in my grandmother's 1935 classic black Singer. I learned to sew on that machine. My grandfather had purchased the kit to motorize it from its previous incarnation as a treadle machine. It was a beautiful machine, but threading the bobbin was something of a nightmare, and changing it meant that you had to almost crawl under it. The light bulb cover got really hot (it was an after-market addition as well). I once sustained a mega burn on my wrist while making a pair of pants. 
The 514 was a workhorse and never burned me. It gave up the ghost about seven years ago, I have it still, but I need to get it in to a technician.
The Christmas the year my machine died, my mom gave me a new Brother machine. It is the one I use now. I like it. It does lots of things, has built in stitches, and it has all the quilting features, including a large quilting bed that snaps into the side. It is light and easily portable in its pink wheelie case. It is also largely made of plastic.

Trying out all those patterns!
But now I have Berny. It hums the way I remember the model did during my demo experience long ago. It does all those cool patterns, and it is completely made of metal. It is heavy.
However, it doesn't bounce all around like my Brother machine. Did I mention the humming?
We are still getting to know each other, but I think we will get along just fine -- as soon as I learn what all nine of those feet do.

FNSI begins with great joy!

Friday Night Sew In (FNSI) began with great joy.
Remember my friend who shared her late aunt's sewing stash? Well, she arrived at the door as I was getting ready to leave for Suddenly's house with more stuff and her aunt's sewing machine. I am not kidding, my heart skipped a beat. While I dinner was finishing in the oven, unwrapped the machine. What I found was a vintage (probably around the early 70s) Bernina -- with all the feet possible, the manual, several bobbins and more than a few accessory cases. I didn't have a chance to fire dear Berny up, but I will do that later on today -- and of course, post all about it.
Soon, I was off to Suddenly's place to do that Friday Night Sew In -- although strictly speaking -- I was sewing out...
I finished up some little lavender hearts, put together the lining for my Cath Kidston strawberry bag (revealed in an earlier post), and finished up the little kokeshi stuffy from here:
I chose this project after I made my donation to the Canadian Red Cross for Japanese relief efforts. I love this little doll's cheerful little face. Especially in these worrisome days for the people of Japan.
Stripey hearts, cheerful doll and bag lining 
In the past few days, I have been thinking about all the people I know who live in Japan. There are a surprising number.
There are the girls we met over the seven years my daughter attended a wonderful choir camp. The girls were from a Tokyo girls' school and they spent the last two weeks in August practicing their English, learning lovely liturgical music, and forming friendships that included cultural exchanges of the summer camp variety. All the girls had so much fun together.
Six years ago, we got to know the members of a film crew that were at our house for a day in late September and again in November. They were part of a production company that produced an English language education course for middle school students. My son plays a character in the series. As part of the production, I cooked a full Christmas dinner for the cast and crew. Again, getting to know these folks was a fun and unique experience.
My cousin and his wife lived in Japan for several years. They were English language teachers. They are also concerned for their friends there.
Even with all these things on my mind, it was great creating with Suddenly in her studio. It was cool to think of all the people who were creating right along with us. It is comforting to think of those involved in peaceful pursuits when the world is an increasingly chaotic place.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sharing the wealth

The pressing board
One of my beading buddies brought a huge bag of sewing stash to me last week. An elderly aunt, who died recently, had been a dedicated needlewoman. She had amassed a vast stash -- like every crafter known to have ever lived.
My friend didn't know what to do with many of the notions and buttons left behind, but then she remembered me. Which was a lovely thing. 
Her aunt also created gorgeous pieces of needle lace in her lifetime. Some of her pieces have also come to me.
This stuff is labour intensive.
Handmade needle lace!
First, the heavy cording is laid down on paper or parchment in pattern. Then, the cord is joined together with a series of tiny, tiny button hole stitches.
It is so pretty. I want to use it for something. I'm thinking it will have to be something I can easily hand wash.

As I went through the bag, I found zippers, elastics, seam binding and a ton of lovely vintage buttons.
There was also an awesome pressing board. You can see the wonders of this board here: 
I have a notion to share the wealth
Once I was finished going through everything, I also had a bag of zippers, etc. to share with some sewing buddies.
As I was going through the bag, it struck me that some day, like 50 years from now (hopefully) someone younger than me will be going through my stash and sharing it out.
Vintage glass buttons
Boy, that will be a task! I'd best do some editing as I go along, or start apologizing now...

Monday, March 7, 2011

The busy work of catching up

Thrift and quilt store treasures
On Friday night, the girls were out and about to celebrate my 50th birthday, with shopping and a wonderful dinner of chicken souvlaki.
I am just a little dumbfounded about becoming 50. I remember back when that sounded impossibly, um, mature.
Now that I am chronologically 50, I have to admit I haven't really matured all that much. And neither have my friends. Thank heavens!
We always have a good time, some laughs, and much joy scouting out little thrifted treasures.
First stop -- the quilt shop. I found some yummy Amy Butler fat quarters, along with some from Fig Tree and Co. I also got a metre from the Basic Grey range, and .8 (all that was left on the bolt) of a cute Riley Blake stripe.
Then, it was off to thrift store row -- there are three of them all next to each other.
I scored a linen shirt to cut up and make a pillow back (you leave the buttons and the pocket on so that it forms a tidy way to remove the pillow form for washing). Kajsa Wikman uses the technique in her book Scandinavian Stitches
The shirt was reasonably priced at $2.99, so I was able to add to my collection of little china flower pins, for equally good prices.
The last stop was very exciting because the store was holding a 50 per cent sale. So, I found another shirt-to-pillow conversion candidate -- this time for $2. I love the blue and white ticking. It's a designer cotton shirt, so the fabric is a bit thicker than usual, but it has been well cared for, so it is wonderfully soft.
The pre-pillow conversion 
Today, I did the busy work involved in preparing them for their conversions. After they are washed and dried, I cut up the front, starting at the side seams and going right up to the collar button. Then, across and down the other side.
The arms removed next and sliced open (you get some good pieces for little embroidery projects) The back is usually a nice open canvass -- and if there is a pleat in the back, even more fabric.
Linen doesn't come cheap in our part of the world, and worn in, good quality cotton is so nice to work with and turn into other things.
Once I do the hack and slash thing, I use my quilting ruler and rotary cutter to square everything up. I also tack the top and bottom shirt plackets together so they are not flopping around when I'm doing the pillow construction. But it wasn't all deconstruction today, I also managed to put things together. I did
another infinity scarf -- this one for me.
Shoe bag (detail)
I also did a pair of new cuffs for a pair of jeans that I love, but they had become ragged at the bottom of the legs. A little bit of corduroy later and they are back in the wardrobe lineup -- and looking rather swish.
Lastly, I finished up with a shoe bag for my mother to cart her shoes to her elder day care program. I'd already done two, but both have been misplaced. I'm hoping third time is the charm!