Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What has she been doing?

I made 30 of these mittens ornaments for the crafts sale at my mother's long term care residence. I found that tracing them out over Press and Seal made it easier to create an outline on the felt. Once you cut them out, the Press and Seal peels right off, and you have a clean line with no phantom ink on the felt. The pattern is from nanacompany.

I cut out, stitched, and stuffed a Tilda Winter Wonderland polar bear, but I have yet to stitch the legs on. Christmas preparations are taking precedence right now.

Some presents finished. I found the patterns on the Sew magazine (UK) website. The little dog is for my mom. I was at a loss as to what to get her. I think she will like this little guy. The patchwork teacups are both fiddly and time-consuming, but they make for a spectacular finish.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Patchwork pass pocket

My pool pass is not a hardy piece of plastic. It is a little business card, made of paper, and if it gets damp, it will become paper pulp.
 I was going to make a holder using fabric and vinyl. However, if vinyl gets damp, it is impossible to take the pass out. I have to take the pass out to get it initialized each time I take a class. Some time ago, Sandra, my partner in all fabric crimes, shared some cotton/linen scraps with me. I hoarded them away for months...literally months...before I found what I wanted to do with them.
 This little pass pocket has two sections, one for the pass and an larger one for tucking away a note book or some additional notices or other pool related paperwork. The pockets are made from Tilda fabric, also carefully put away until the perfect project came along. The ric rac and the little gnome label were just for fun.
The outside embellishment was inspired by the lovely work of  Elin Pellinkhof and Amy from the nanacompany. I had those little red glass buttons set aside to make cherries for .... something... I just didn't know what until I had the patchwork outside put together. Designing is like that sometimes. I am just glad I had put them aside, but kept them accessible. 
(The rallying cry of makers everywhere!)
I now have a wonderful little pass pocket that tucks securely into my swim bag. I makes me smile every time I get my pass initialed.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Yesterday, once more...

Back from the shop and back in the cabinet
Pardon this post. It has a "looking back" sort of feel that people in their middle years start to adopt with alarming frequency.
In August, Miss B said she wants to learn how to sew properly. Little bells rang and choirs of angels sang in the chambers of my soul.
"But, I really only like your old machine," said B. "It doesn't work well though, right?"
The bells stopped and the angels went on about their day.
The Singer 514 Stylist stopped working altogether nine years ago, right after I sewed some pillows when we moved into this house. The feed dogs stopped feeding and the foot pedal was hot enough to cause concern. Up to that point, I had only just started to teach Miss B the ways of the sewing machine.
My mom decided that I should get a new machine, and so, she gave me a new Brother mechanical (not computerized) machine. It came with quilters' package that included an extension table and a walking foot. I was in heaven. Miss B never really took to the new machine. It was too fast, too slick, and too hard to thread -- according to her. She is a lover of the classics.
The new machine was made of plastic -- almost entirely plastic -- and I ended up buying a special mat for it so that it wouldn't slip slide away on the kitchen table. I didn't have a cabinet or a sewing table, so the mat had to to suffice. Last year, it had a major tune up to replace a failing gear. Yep, after nine years of faithful service, a gear was gone. It came back from the shop in tip top shape.
I also had my dearly beloved Bernina 830 Record tuned up. It needed a new belt and some electrodes replaced in the foot pedal. It came back from the shop zippy, zingy and purring like a kitten.
But, my Singer Stylist 514 sat alone and broken in my Grandmother's 1930 cabinet. It was all very wrong, and it made me feel kind of sad.
This particular model has earned the ire and disdain of many sewing machine purists. As vintage machines go, it doesn't have the cache of a Featherweight or a 501, or even any given model of the slant needle variety. It just is kind of lack lustre -- oh, and they gears are made of a nylon-like substance which crumbles and dies over time.
On the plus side, it has six built-in stitches, and an internal belt system which made the stop and start more accurate than previous Singer models in the price range.
My parents, Clarence and Ruth, in 1996
In February 1977, I was about to turn 16, and my parents plotted and schemed to give me the present of my dreams: a new sewing machine.
By the winter of 1976, I had been sewing for nearly four years. I had started in my Aunt Rita's basement sewing room, and by the end of Grade 8's grim home economics sessions, I was making about 50 per cent of my clothing. I was using my Grandmother's back and gold 1920s Singer, which had been converted to electric from a treadle at some point in the 1930s.
That machine could cope with anything from silk to demin. But, you could not sew a zig zag. I had developed a fondness for zig zag stitching for finishing edges and top stitching. Threading black beauty was a good workout too, you had to perform a yoga move to change the bobbin. It was under the machine, which was in the cabinet. During one such maneuver, my right wrist touched the very warm metal lightbulb cover. I sustained a first degree burn and my father vowed to replace the lethal Singer.
They traded in my Grandmother's black beauty for the Singer Stylist 514. My dad cut a notch in the notions drawer to accommodate the thread spindles.
I came home from my part-time job at the pool one Saturday afternoon, and my parents told me to go downstairs and look at the sewing machine. I thought I was in trouble for leaving out my sewing pieces (some things never change), but they had the new machine all set up and ready to go. I could barely believe my eyes. It was the best present I had ever received.
Zigzagged edges!
In the years to come, the 514 and I would sew my suits for my corporate job, my sisters' bridesmaids dresses, the curtains and bed linens for our new baby, a Christening gown, curtains for our house, costumes for two kids' Halloween joy, Christmas presents and any number of repairs. We were a team.
When I was clearing out my mother's papers after she went to live in long-term care, I found the bill for the machine. It was $282.15 with the taxes, and factoring in the $50 trade-in for the black beauty. My father was making just a bit over that weekly. I plugged those numbers into an inflation calculator. Today, that would be $1,053.97
It was not a cheap machine, and it is mostly metal. The faceplate is plastic, as are the stitch dial controls. To make it stitch in reverse, you push in the large metal button in the middle to the stitch dial. The stitch wheel was replaced 20 years ago -- actually, after I finished making the last button hole on the last of my sister's fifth and final bridesmaid's dress...
After Miss B said she wanted to start sewing, I decided to have the 514 repaired, and I took it to the repair shop on the very day I was buying the new Arrow Gidget table for the Bernina. There, on the shelf of the shop, was a fully restored Singer 514 Stylist. The price? $250 --  in 2013. I had my answer: it was still worth it.
The gears were indeed crumbling, and the foot pedal had to be entirely replaced. After a full wash and lube, the machine was back in working order.
Yesterday, I put the machine back in Grandmother's cabinet, and just for the heck of it, reread the owners' manual.
Today, I zigzagged the edges of some remnants I found at the CreativFestival this past weekend. It is still the magical experience it was back on that Saturday afternoon in 1977, when two hard working people helped me continue my creative journey.
My parents were like that, though there was a lot of stuff that made their lives difficult, they did whatever they could reasonably to do for their kids. The money they seemed to conjure from nowhere went to help us find our bliss and develop valuable skills. For me, music lessons, an electric typewriter, and a new sewing machine; for my sister, swim club, travel and tuition for hairdressing school.
To this day, those investments in our skills and interests are still part of our lives, and have in no small way, helped us earn a living. In turn, we have become the same kind of parents to our kids they were to us.
The purists can say what they like about the Singer Stylist 514. True, it does not have the Bernina's purring finesse, nor is is portable and light like the Brother, but I know its grumbling roar and the solid advance of the fabric under the needle. I hope Miss B learns to love spending time with the 514.
It has been priceless and cherished for so many years in our home. Restored and ready, it is about to sail into this century, zigzagging all the way.
There is something wonderful about that.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Ornament issue of A Needle Pulling Thread

The Ornament issue of A Needle Pulling Thread is out right now. I designed these little hoop ornaments for the magazine.I am so pleased with these little guys, and the way they are presented in the magazine is so cool.
I give the editors some really rough drawings, and they turn out some lovely line art. In the final version, my kooky doodles are something that people could actually follow and make.Truly, it makes me so happy and proud of myself.
And, I am grateful for the chance to share my ideas. 
In addition, I was asked to create a couple of ornaments to showcase Stitch-N-Steam,  a new interfacing that creates texture in fabrics. I did a little bird with puffy wings and a ruffled hanging heart. This stuff is really fun to play with, and I have done another project for next summer's issue using it.
More on that another time.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Floating through life in a salt water pool

For the past couple of months, I have been struggling through the process of trying to find out why I sometimes ache all over. Many things were neglected during scans, x-rays and examinations, not the least of which was my blog. But, I am back.
Turns out I have arthritis everywhere. This comes as quite a comfort, really. I was starting to think it was all in my head, and fingers, and toes, and elbows and knees.... well, you get the picture.
In addition to medication and a serious attempt to lose tonnage, I am also doing salt water Aquafit. This is a 45-minute work out in a 91 degree therapy pool. So far, I am a fan. It is a great workout, and miracle of miracles, nothing hurts at all as I exercise. Sadly, 45 minutes flies by, I have to get out of the pool.
To keep myself away from the kitchen and the snacks that lurk there, I am spending a lot of time in my sewing room.
Recently, I rehabilitated another dress form, found at Value Village for less than $10. This one is going to be used to hang up my sewing scissors, seam ripper and retractable tape measure.
In its former life, the dress form was dressed in leopard print velvet and red sequins. The effect was regrettable. I could see something better.
I stripped the hideous fabric velvet fabric off the form and replaced it with some linen. I stamped an image on the front and then made a skirt from some green linen leaves. I used some tea dyed crocheted lace from an old pillow case to make the over skirt. The felt roses were just plain fun to do. I cut out a wavy circle of felt and then cut out a wavy spiral patten through to the centre of the circle. Then, I rolled up the spiral, starting at the centre, and secured the rolls using small dots of hot glue. This process proved kind of addictive, and before I knew it, I had made more than 15 roses! I used some pearls and a little charm to further embellish my notions holder.
The neckline sports not only a felt rose, but also some tiny millinery flowers and a crystal heart.
I was kind of sad when I finished this form, but I have many things to get ready for the upcoming CreativFestival in three weeks' time in Toronto. More on that later.
In the meantime, have a wonderful, creative week!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Altered reality

This is the dress form I altered to decorate my bit of the table at A Needle Pulling Thread magazine's booth at the CreativFestival in Toronto this fall.
I used a papier mache dress form from Michaels, covered with paper from a cool paper bag I got when I bought a little gift from a boutique in Bracebridge ON this summer.
The dress form is standing on an really old wooden spool of silk thread and it is attached to an upside down little wooden box I found while thrifting at Value Village. The feet are miniature wooden spools wrapped in tiny Tilda fabric scraps.
The tiny sampler was stitched years ago from a kit. The decorations kind of took off from there. I was reasonably sure I had lost the plot when I made the tiny tomato pincushion, but really, making the polka dot glasses (they look a lot like my stitching glasses) was the final tiny detail.
The whole thing is about 41 cm tall.
Now, I am off to do some sewing on deadline. Such fun!
Have a great week, y'all!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Creating creative space...

The new table
I have been busy organizing and editing my creative space, trying to contain it in a specific area of the house. Let's be precious, totally precious, and call it my studio -- even though it is officially the den.
This is my Spoolie.
This all started because I wanted to get a Gidget sewing table for Bernie, my much loved vintage Bernina 830 Record. I did this. And, then, I moved everything up to the den. This is a bedroom over the garage. It is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. I have a fan and a little heater. I am going to be fine.
The table is facing the large windows and is filled with light when I open the blinds. The window opens and allows a breeze to flow through. I am kind of loving the new digs. It isn't nearly sorted out yet, but I have moved from the dining room.
There is no cutting table space in the new digs, so I will still have to use my giant cutting mat on the dining room table. I think it is a small price to pay.
Because the new space is also the spare room, it has a futon frame for various overnight guests, and a TV for my general entertainment.
It is a luxury to have a place where I can just be on my own. It is also fun to go through some of the stuff I have collected and decide that there are just a few projects that will never get done. I have passed them on to people who might enjoy them.
I have also been working on some projects for A Needle Pulling Thread, including Spoolies. These are my little creations to use up precious scraps and my beloved wooden spools. This is the project I will be demonstrating at the Fall Creative Festival in Toronto this October.
In other news: this month's letters section of Australian Homespun magazine has a photo of my Tilda kangaroos. I am not bragging. 
Mostly, I am justifying having my own sewing space...
In order to use up some fabric I found during my tidy up journey, I also made a few sea urchins from Tilda's Seaside ideas. Still working through the studio organization phase, but I hope to post some more photos of how well I did.
 In the meantime, I am off to get some more recycling bags. I use them to give my donations to Goodwill. I think it is nicer than the garbage bags -- after all -- it is not garbage. It's part of my cherished stash that I am willing to share.

Friday, August 9, 2013

To everything turn, turn, turn ...

Recently, I was tearing apart my messy craft space,  looking for narrow elastic to fix some pajama bottoms. During my search, I found Cath Kidston cotton duck fabric scraps. I acquired them a while ago in stellar ebay auction from a very nice seller in the UK.
About four years ago, I made a couple of string blocks with the narrowest strips. But, then I got busy with other things. And put them carefully aside, to be buried in the layers of carefully put aside things. I found the elastic to do the pajama fix, but I also decided to put my scrap bag and string experiment where I could contemplate it again.
Let me say this: I think organization is highly overrated. I admire it so much in others, but despite my best efforts, I am never completely organized.
So, I deal with an organizational system that makes sense only to me. This method often makes my crafting life surprising and delightful.
Co-incidentally, I was also making some things that needed to be turned right side out. I reached for my much loved turning tools, stored in their unattractive, but effective plastic bag.
That's when the AHA! moment occurred.
I made a fabric tuner tube base from the string blocks.
It is sturdy because I backed it with heavy weight iron on interfacing. It is lined with blue dot flannel, because I love my turning tools, and I want them to be comfy cozy when I am not using them. I created channels so that each tool has a place of its own. The whole thing is bound with binding, and some of it is stitched down by hand. I used hook and loop tape to close it , and one of my treasured, old buttons decorates the front. Despite the weight of all the layers, dear Berni whipped through the whole thing like the dear old girl she is.
Good bye plastic bag. Hello turner tool pouch.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Back to our regularly scheduled program -- eventually, maybe

We were on vacation. I didn't do much of anything truly creative.
I sat by the lake and read book after book from my iPad. A total of 10 in all. It was my definition of bliss!
No doilies or tennis sweaters
Since we returned, I confess I seem to have left my creative mojo somewhere. I blame the heat. Last week, it was brutal. Even in the air conditioned comfort of my house, there was little will to do something creative. Sad, huh?
This week it is lovely and cool. I had some medical appointments to deal with, and once I was finally released on my own recognizance, I treated myself to a little troll through the local thrift shop.
I found a bag of old sewing notions, and in it, a little flower loom. These were popular in the early 1950s and again in the 1970s. This little treasure I found was in its pristine yellow box and the instructions were still crisply folded inside. I am looking forward to trying it out with more than just yarn. I am thinking pearl cotton and even rattan.
I will not be making doilies, or that interesting tennis sweater. I promise.
This week, in anticipation of actually feeling like making something, I managed to prepare some pattern templates to make some Tilda whales and the sailing girl from the new Tone Finnanger book, Seaside Ideas.
See that little polar bear????
Just as I was coming to grips with that, I found some more images from the upcoming book for Christmas 2013. Among the fun and fab projects to come will be a polar bear that is balancing a ball made of hexagons on the tip of his nose. I will be making him for sure.
And, let's not forget the fact I have yet to finish the blanket band for Miss B. Sigh. However, I did manage to finish the wall hanging for A Needle Pulling Thread. I can't show this one though, I have to wait until next Spring to reveal it.
Until I get my creative spark ignited, I will just have to envy the productivity all around me.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sneaky peeks of WIPs and some Christmas Tilda news

A tiny peek at my wall hanging project
Quite possibly, my favourite book block
 I am a big fan of Ayumi Takahashi of Pink Penguin fame. She creates sweet and useful projects, using fabrics that I appeal to my over-riding sense of fun and whimsy, combined with my deep and abiding adoration of linen and linen blends.
I pre-ordered her book, Patchwork Please, months before it came out in April.
As soon as I saw these paper pieced books, I knew I found my Miss B's graduation present. I am not making the full quilt, but a blanket band. I have been collecting book themed fat quarters for a while now, and I settled on a few that more or less represent her book interests -- which are wide and varied. She has been a voracious reader since early childhood, and so these book blocks were tailor-made for her.
I am a beginner paper-piecer, and it was a slow go for me, despite the book's clear instructions with many photos. Patience would be a valuable asset. However, I don't have it, and so I make mistakes. Also, a lot of mess!
None of that was Ayumi's fault.
No, I did not keep the mistakes to take photos of them.
I swore some, then threw the mess away.
That's just how I roll...
After TWO unfortunate trimming accidents, and countless unpicking of the A section, I finally turned out sufficient blocks to do the blanket band I have planned. Try to ignore all those hanging threads, I haven't tidied them yet.
In a few weeks' time, I will also be posting a tutorial on doing quilted blanket bands. They are a nice alternative to making a full sized quilt, and are usually quick to finish -- as long as you are not doing a thousand other things at once.
Remember doodling on your notebooks?

Kind of love this one too!

This is the very first book Miss B loved

Remember reading Dick and Jane?
I have also pre-ordered Tone Finanger's upcoming book, Tilda's Sweet Shop. It will be mine in about 150 days. Yeah, I have no patience when paper piecing, but I can wait 150 days for a book. I don't get it either.
There are not many places to get any idea at all of what's in the book, but I did find one image. The book is a small one, just 48 pages, but it uses my very favourite colour palette, off white, green-blue and pinks. The focus is on old fashioned cakes and sweets and old world Santas and angels. Just yummy on so many levels.
Yummy new Tilda book November 2013

Under wraps...

I am currently working on a project for next Spring's issue of A Needle Pulling Thread. Sadly, I can't share anything about it.
Okay, I can say it is a wall hanging for a baby or small child's room. It is pretty involved, and has a lot of hand work. Therefore, it is just my kind of project.
I will be back with some photos of other things I've been doing very soon. Watch this space ...
In other news,  my very talented Miss B graduated from teacher's college recently.
She is getting a special present, just as soon as I get the sashing done on the paper pieced blocks.
Oh yes, cue the circus music, I am entering the distracted crafter season, where summer tries to lure me away from my creative space and out into the big, wide world. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spam is driving me batty

The demonstration piece
I must first apologize for some changes I've had to make to the comments section of Heaven Is Handmaid.
Sadly, you will now have to prove you are not a robot, a spammer, or a very badly behaved person trying to sell me a number of things not at all related to the gentle art of handmade.
For the past week, I have been perplexed and confounded by the weird spam comments that have landed in my email box. There have been no less than 40 useless, tasteless  -- and some very annoying -- "comments" in the past 10 days
The verification will stay on for the foreseeable future. I understand if you would rather not deal with the verification process. But, I just can't deal with this stuff anymore.
When I started with little venture, I wanted to share the things I do, and see what other people do. I have enjoyed "talking" with so many of you over the years. The fact that this is a bad patch will not deter me from keeping the blog going. It might make you unwilling to "visit" with a comment, and while that makes me sad, I understand completely. I just can't cope with the spam clogging up my inbox. End of rant. Sorry.
Please just bear with me until the spammers go away.
Work in progress at the booth
 On to other things: some photos from the CreativFestival on the last weekend of April in Toronto.
I had a great deal of fun talking to people, and showing them how to frame their embroideries in second hand embroidery and quilting hoops.
It was so surprising to see so many young people there -- men and women. I chatted and demonstrated for a couple of hours, and did a little fabric shopping, but not too much. I was home and exhausted before dinner.
Altered mannequin shared the table

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tip-toe through the tulips with me...

 I made up a tutorial for this basket of tulips I am taking to the CreativFestival in Toronto tomorrow.
But, I am also sharing it here, adding some (hopefully helpful) photos. 
These are a nice project to do with kids. They are not hard to do, use up fabric scraps, don't take forever, and introduce some cool sewing concepts.
I can see a nice bouquet for Mom or Grandma for Mother's Day. You can download the patterns from here:
The patterns should print out in actual size. Make sure your printer is set to "no scaling."

Gathered at the bottom
Fabric for the blooms
Fabric for leaves
Small dowels or wooden skewers
Embroidery floss
Fiber fill
Paint to match leaves
Paint brush

How to:
Fold the material for the leaves in half, right sides together. Place a piece of thin batting, underneath the leaf fabric. Trace the leaf pattern on the top of this fabric sandwich. Pin all the layers together. Using a small stitch length, sew along the traced outline. Cut out, adding ¼ inch seam around the stitching. Clip all curves, turn right side out. Press.
Using embroidery floss, sew a line of running stitches up the centre of each leaf. Pull gently to create a natural looking curve, but do not gather the leaves tightly.
Paint skewers to match the green leaves. Allow to dry.

Glue in the skewer
For the tulip buds, cut out petal shapes from the pattern provided, adding a ¼ inch seam allowance. Sew three petals together, starting at the point indicated. Clip curves, turn right side out. Turn under a ¼ inch hem, press. Run a line of gathering stitches at the hem. Fill bud with fiber fill, pull up gathering stitches, but do not knot. Dab the end of skewer in glue and insert into bottom of the bud. Now, pull gathers tightly. Allow the glue to dry slightly and pull the gathers tightly against the skewer. Tie off. Allow the glue to dry.

For tulip blooms, cut out the rectangle pattern, adding ¼ seam allowance. Turn under ¼ inch hem along the long sides. Press.
With right sides together, join the short ends, using a ¼ inch seam allowance.
Turn right side out.
Run a line of gathering stitches along the bottom of the bloom hem. Dab the end of skewer in glue and insert into bottom of the bud. Now, pull gathers tightly. Allow the glue to dry slightly and pull the gathers tightly against the skewer. Tie off. Allow the glue to dry.
Tack tops together
Fill with fiber fill. You want plump blooms that have body, but don't make them too firm. It's harder to finish the flower if you do.
Tack one long side the adjacent side, pulling tightly. Add a few tacking stitches. On the opposite side, repeat the  tacking stitches, pushing down the fiber fill if necessary. Finger press to form neat points. 
Run a line of glue along the skewer, attach the leaves by folding them in half over the skewer. Use a clothes pin to keep the leaf folded around the skewer if necessary. Allow to dry.

The tulips can be displayed in a basket, a vase or even a re-purposed canning jar. I did a mixture of buds and blooms -- just to make the bouquet interesting. Mine are displayed in a small basket with a bit of dry floral oasis hot glued to the bottom.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finishing up before the Festival

Finished roos!
I have managed to finish a number of things in the past couple of weeks. The kangaroos are finished, faces blushing, eyes painted on and the baby's hair bow and heart in place
Then, I made a basket of fabric tulips. I found a tutorial on how to make them, but it is not in English, and though fairly straight forward, I elected to re-draft the patterns to make them easier. I also added a few touches of my own -- I do that with alarming frequency.
This basket of flowers will be coming with me to the CreativFestival this weekend in Toronto, where I will be showing folks how to do a piece of wall art framed in a fabric hoop.
Last weekend, I went to Ottawa to visit my cousins. I made them some little change purses. They got rave reviews, and made me appear terribly clever. I made them small because they are all hikers and walkers. These little purses are small enough to slip into a pocket and could contain enough cash to pay for a little treat like a coffee or an ice cream cone -- a reward for putting in the time to hike.
Now, I am off to finish packing up for the festival. Photos to come!
Have a great week, y'all!
Sewing the tulip blossoms in a chain

Fabric tulip in a basket to welcome Spring

Purses for the cousins' coins