Thursday, June 30, 2011

Celebrating 144 years of being Canadian, eh!

Square Bear lives in Turks and Caicos now, but he knows his heritage!  
July 1st is Canada Day. It is our country's 144th birthday this year. I know, BABIES in a world filled with much older nations.  We like to politely wave our flag on this day of all days. This year, even Will and Kate will attend the big birthday party on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
In Newfoundland, where much of my family is from, July 1st is also a memorial day to the members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Much of the regiment was killed at Beaumont Hamel during the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
In honour of the holiday, and Newfoundland culture -- full as it is with Celtic music, hospitality and really good food, I offer this recipe from my Aunt Rita.
She is a transplanted-to-Ontario Newfoundlander who taught me to love and care for people using my heart, mind and talents. She calls them Clean Cookies because they aren't crumbly, and stand up well to being packed in lunches and picnic baskets. This recipe makes about four dozen cookies, so it's good for great big national pride gatherings and a nice finish to a "scoff" (a Newfie word meaning a great, big, good meal.)

Aunt Rita's Clean Cookies

1 cup margarine
11/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1-1/2 cups seedless golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment, or grease lightly. Using a hand mixer, blend margarine and sugar together until creamy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon to combine. Add to sugar and margarine mixture, stir until well incorporated. Fold in raisins. Drop by spoonsful onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's all in the wrist

Back in junior high -- my sewing teacher was a strict, grim woman who likely hated children. Well, we didn't like her much either, but I did admire her wrist pin cushion. It was one of those utilitarian affairs -- a red cuff with a hunk of thick felt in the middle, with pins sticking out of it. It kept track of those pins in the same grim manner as our teacher. And nonetheless, I still enjoy sewing...
Now that summer is here and I am sewing a few things outside, I decided to make myself a cute wrist pin cushion. With this little cushion, I won't end up losing a pin in the grass, the deck, or worse, on the cushion of the porch swing.

 Use a large bottle cap. Cut a circle of fabric roughly twice the diameter of the cap. Turn under a scant hem and make a running stitch around the circle. If you use tiny stitches and strong thread, you will get smoother gathers.
Cover the outside of  bottle cap with glue -- including the sides. Let it sit for a minute so it goes a bit tacky. Set the cap into the little cup formed when you pull up the gathering threads in the fabric circle. Press the fabric onto the cap, smoothing with your fingers.
 Iron on some heavy duty interfacing onto a scrap fabric. Cut out a circle that it is slightly smaller than the bottle cap top. Fold this circle in half and cut two small slits in the middle of the circle, slightly apart, but parallel to each other. Set this circle aside for the moment.
 Cut out a petal shape from cardboard. This might be bigger or smaller, based on the diameter of the cap you are using. The base of my petals measured about 3 cm (1-1/4 inches) across the bottom. Fold scrap fabric in half, right sides together, and trace seven (7) petals onto the wrong side. Pin together. Use a small stitch on your machine to sew the petals along the traced line, leaving the bottom open for turning. Cut out, leaving a scant seam allowance, and then carefully turn right side out. Press the petals. Thread a needle with strong thread and run a line of running stitches along the bottom of the first petal. Push this petal down the thread. Add all the petals to the thread.

 Pull the thread to lightly gather the petals into a circle. Tack the ends together to close the circle. At this point, distribute the gathers around the petals so that they aren't bunched up in some areas and hardly visible in others.

Trace a fabric circle roughly four times the diameter of the bottle cap. (I traced a bowl for a nice even circle) Turn under a scant hem and, using strong thread, make small running stitches around the fabric circle. Pull up the gathering threads to create a cup of fabric. Using a handful of polyester filling, stuff the circle. A tip: use small amounts, put first in the middle of the circle and then pushed to the sides all around the circle. As you stuff, you will be also pulling up the threads. Stuff it quite full, you want a serious pillow for the pins.
Pull the gathering threads tightly and knot the end. Don't cut the thread. Instead lace the bottom by using long stitches in one direction and then in the other. This provides a bit more stability for the the cushion. Knot the thread several times and then cut it.
Fire up your glue gun. Attach the petals to the cushion bottom. Press down carefully to make sure you've made maximum contact. (Just remember that hot glue is really hot and it sticks painfully to hands).
 Remember that interfaced fabric circle with the slits? You need it now. Measure your wrist with 13 mm (1/4 inch) elastic. I needed 23cm (about 9  inches) of elastic. Thread the elastic through each of the slits in the circle. Attach the ends and sew them together. Go over the join several times to make sure it is good and strong. Pull the elastic down so that it is flush with the circle back. Spread some PVA glue onto the back of the circle and the back of the fabric covered cap. Adhere the circle to the bottom of the cap. Put a dot of glue on each end of the elastic to tack it to the cap for stability.
 When the elastic has dried onto the cap, run a bead of hot glue around the sides and into the middle of the cap. Place the petaled cushion into the cap and hold firmly until the glue cools and hardens.
Now you have a wrist pin cushion that is both cheerful and useful.
Bonus: your family and friends are spared from accidentally sitting on pin on the front porch swing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer starts today!

Tomorrow, my daughter is leaving to be a summer camp counselor with aboriginal children in the north.
She hopes to be a teacher one day, and it both excited and apprehensive about the new adventure.
She will be living and working in the communities, and getting to work with kids everyday, focusing on reading and literacy -- two of her great passions.
During the past couple of weeks, she has been packing based on the final weight of her luggage. She will be working in remote areas, only accessible by bush plane, so she has to travel light.
The agency she is working for sent a packing list and cautioned that 50 pounds is the limit. Her bags weigh 40 pounds in total -- including sleeping bag and backpack.
Since she won't be home for her birthday this year, we had a little celebration on the weekend.
I made her a composition book cover based on a pattern in Pretty Little Mini Quilts. I like this series of books, but I find they are a bit short on templates. So, I made my own and re-sized it to better fit the book cover. I had a lot of fun putting this together. It involved a bit of quilting, hand embroidery, applique, and I printed a quilt label using some antique French post cards from the Graphics Fairy. It's a great website offering free copyright free vintage and antique images. I did the labels in my desktop publishing program and then printed them out on inkjet fabric.
My daughter loved the book and will use it for her lesson plans. We tucked a gift card for some new titles on her e-reader -- about the only way she could bring 150 books on her northern adventure!!! Happy Summer everyone!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Finally finished on Monday morning

Groovy tie dyed sock monkey
What a delightful time I had with Sandra on FNSI. We played around with her new embroidery machine and I got a really cool little sock monkey patch out of it. He looks tie dyed because we didn't have all the colours called for, so we improvised.
My project, the Mary Englebreit fabric tote bag, made according the instructions in Tone Finnanger's Sew Pretty Homestyle was sort of nightmarish. I kept reading the directions, looking at the pictures, but I couldn't figure it out.
Thinking it was me, I got Sandra to read it. She and I agreed what I was doing appeared to be right, but it wasn't working. At all.
Eventually, I struck out on my own and got the bag put together.
Doesn't look light the stuff of nightmares... and yet
However, in the cold light of day, some seams had become hopelessly bound up together in a big lumpy mess. I had to rip them out and start again. Oh, and because I clipped the curves, I had to put the seams back together properly by hand, mending the seam as I went. Arrgh!
After the amendments, and sewing the handles on, I revisited the book.
It seems the illustration I was looking at was all about the bottom of the bag, not the top. Though it must be said, the illustration is oriented to give one the impression it is the top, not the bottom. So, I photocopied the illustration and glued it in correctly -- well, correctly to me at least.
Now, the instructions make sense to me.
Sometimes, FNSI is about skills revision...and a bit of desktop publishing.

Friday, June 17, 2011

FNSI project with vintage handles

These are a few of my favourite things!
Friday Night Sew In is here again.
Before it begins, I will be on a Skype call to my Aunt Alma in Newfoundland. She is turning 80 years young. There's a party at my cousin's house this evening. I wish I could be there, but visiting via video is a miracle in and of itself.
Once I say good bye, I will offer to Sandra's house to check out the new embroidery machine that she found at the quilt store garage sale. I also plan to make a Tilda tote bag, as featured in Sew Pretty Homestyle, using some fun Mary Engelbreit fabric and vintage handles found at Value Village.
They were once $2 and sold at Metropolitan -- a store that disappeared from here years ago.
I think I paid .99 cents for them in their Value Village reincarnation. Bonus! Now that these bags are popular again, the handles are about $18!
I am excited to be using my two favourite things: ME fabrics and Tilda; for one of my favourite activities: FNSI; with one of my favourite people! I am also doing a birthday present for a certain someone, but I can't write about that until later on this month.
What a great day -- even though it is a little drizzly.
I will post the finished product tomorrow. Have a wonderful FNSI everyone!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Garage sale at a quilt shop

The beauty of scraps
In a town just north of me, the whole population holds a giant garage sale over the first weekend of June. This includes the quilt shop.
I received two e-mails from the shop about the sale.
After I got the second one, my firm resolve not to go dissolved. So I called my partner in fabric crimes, Sandra,  and off we went to experience a quilt store garage sale. We were sort of amazed and delighted -- in the way only the truly fabric addicted can be.
There was a pile of patchwork scraps piled high across four trestle tables. The deal was you could fill a Ziplock bag for $6.98 -- as long as it closed -- it was yours! If you neatly folded it all up (and I did), that was quite a lot of fabric.
I scored some Kona quilter's muslin, several charm squares, a nice piece of linen/cotton blend, and a huge piece of pink gingham. I also found several feet for my Brother machine, including a Teflon foot, a cording/piping foot and a roller foot. They were $1 each!
When I got it all home, I discovered there were some uneven edges on the gingham , so I squared it up and used torn off strips to make these little rosette gift ties, as featured in the current issue of Somerset Life.
These rosette things are popping up all over the place lately. They are decorating cushions, duvet covers, lampshades and tote bags. They are really simple to do. You basically twist up a strip of fabric, and start winding it into the flower shape, dotting with a glue gun along the way to hold the spiral together. In the magazine, they featured a permanent bridal bouquet in various colours of silk. It is pretty, arty and a clever way to make a lasting keepsake of a special day.
The rosettes I made have green raffia loopy leaves glued to the back, with hemp chord added for a tie.
These were fun and easy, and pretty darned affordable, since they started as quilt store garage sale scraps!
Sometimes you just gotta break out the glue gun