Thursday, December 4, 2014

Father Christmas at our house!

Preparing the applique pieces.
Father Christmas and his tree.
For the past three weeks, I have been creating the Father Christmas from Handmade and Happy, the new Tilda book by Tone Finnanger.
Today, I finally finished him.
I use silk thread to do the applique.
I am very pleased with myself -- and him. This is the first project I have been able to do using Tilda fabrics I was able to purchase in Canada at Evelyn's/The Quilt Store in Newmarket ON. (not quite 25 minutes north of me).
I thought I would share some of the WIP photos, as well as the finished Father Christmas.

This is an excessively labour intensive project, but it's just the sort of thing I like to tackle.

This part doll/part quilt.
It is designed to hang, not sit.
At the moment, he is hanging out on the stairs with the garland and the Van Craig dancing girl ornaments. The jolly old elf seems quite content with the company. I hope Mrs. Claus doesn't get wind of this.

This little bird is so sweet. It took forever!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making friends at the Creativ Festival this weekend

Percy, the pentagon snow person, is getting ready for his close up this weekend
This weekend, I will be back at the Creativ Festival in Toronto. I will be demonstrating how to make things from hexagons and pentagons on Saturday afternoon at A Needle Pulling Thread's booth.
I might also do some if there was any doubt.
Included in my bag of tricks will be this little snow person, created from three different sizes of stuffed balls, which were created by joining pentagons together.
I love doing these English Paper Piecing projects because once I have cut out the cardboard pieces, and trimmed the fabric to match, I can take them along where ever I go.
This particular snow person came together over a weekend at the cottage. It was weird making a snow person while sitting by the lake when the temperature was a balmy 26 degrees, but that's how I roll.
In other exciting news, my copy of Homemade and Happy, the latest Tilda book, is currently winging its way to me from the UK.
Wish me luck this weekend!
I will try to remember to post some photos of the booth, and whatever leaps into my handcrafted shopping bag.

Friday, October 3, 2014

New Russian dolls join my collection

Look! It is a sewing dolly!
Yesterday, I arrived in the town where I work way too early to go to the office.
Fortunately, it is right beside a Value Village.
Hmmm, time on my hands and a thrift store?
I spotted the Russian doll as soon as I got through the door. These dolls have appealed to me ever since I was young kid. I remember visiting the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto and seeing a display of beautiful Russian Nesting Dolls at the Arts and Crafts Building.
I was hooked by the colours and the beautiful faces.
Over the years, I have collected them when I see them. Often, they have cracked with age, or the sets are incomplete. I don't really care. I won't buy a badly cracked one, but it doesn't bother me if the set is missing a doll or two.
When I spied her, I thought the lady had become separated from her set. But, she was so lovely, I decided to buy her. She was $2. Score!
In the very next aisle, I found the tea mug.
This is why I love to haunt thrift stores. It is the true serendipity of it all. My little visit cost me $6, and yes, I arrived at work on time.
After I got home from work, I carefully removed the stickers. Why are the stickers always in such weird and wacky places?
In order to remove the sticker residue, I rubbed a little olive oil over the back of the Russian doll. I noticed there was a tiny gap in the base. I pulled the doll apart to find two little thread spools. In the centre of the spools, there is a place to store needles. Cute, clever, and destined to be for me.
Tonight, Sandra, Amanda and I are getting together to do some chatting and some sewing. Okay, mostly chatting, and I have made Rice Krispie Squares. So, we'll see how much sewing actually goes on.
I hope you are having a great day, and that the weekend ahead is filled with happy surprises and large doses of serendipity.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Happiness is Tilda so close to home

Lovely Tilda stuff near my house!
It has been a while since I did a blog post for Heaven is Handmaid. That’s because I have been caught up in doing a lot of work for QUILTsocial. And, working part-time in the evenings four days a week.
Amazingly, it has taken me a good deal of time to learn to do the whole work/life balancing act again. I am pacing myself though. For almost 15 years, I didn’t have a lot to balance outside of home –  the inside the home balancing act was quite enough.
I am slowly developing a routine, a template, a pattern -- if you will. It is much easier to work outside the house when everyone inside the house is capable of caring for themselves.
There’s big Tilda developments in York Region too. The whole Tilda range has become exclusively available at The Quilt’s in Newmarket ON Canada. And, yes, they do mail order.
Last week, the products hit the shelves. I was in heaven. As you can imagine --  I have done a bit of shopping.
In addition, Tone Finnanger’s new Tilda book, Happiness is Handmade, is slated for distribution in English at the end of November. And yes, I have it on pre-order.
A word about Evelyn’s. It is my happy place. And, no, they did not pay to me to write this.
When I first started doing more artful handmade articles, I found lovely remnants there. This allowed me to use a host of beautiful fabrics, without having to buy vast amounts of it. I became adept at remnant bin diving, along with my friend and partner in all fabric crimes, the lovely and talented Sandra of Sandra Sews fame.
Over the course of my visits, returning to the shop has been a lot like coming home. On some really rough days, I allowed myself a little trip there and always found a warm welcome and people who were interested in what I was up to now.
Betty and Boo and the teacup lady in their temporary home
Earlier this summer, I happened to overhear the news that Tilda would soon be moving into to my happy place – making it even happier.
I offered up a loan of my Tilda projects to promote the line. I am determined it must be successful here in Canada, and I must be part of the campaign. 
Currently, Mabel my sewing girl doll, Betty and Boo the Kangaroos, and a teacup lady are part of the display. I have even offered to do a Tilda figure workshop. Thank goodness they knew me ahead of time at the store – otherwise, they might think I was just a bit, you know, obsessed.
Oh wait, I am.
Okay, my lovelies, go follow those links and see what I’m nattering  on about.
Now that fall is almost here, and the cottage season has almost come to a close, I hope to have more time to pay better attention to my creative life, and that includes Heaven Is Handmaid.

Monday, July 7, 2014

I can read this like a book

I had fun with the details

In the past few weeks there have been some changes around here. The biggest one is that I am back at work as a night receptionist at a local counseling centre. It is a great job, and the people are fantastic, so I am feeling very fortunate.
But, my crafty life is suffering just a bit as I adjust to figuring out how to budget my time.
We are also traveling to the cottage on the weekends.
One of my favourite things to do lakeside is to become immersed in a good book. As an early adopter of e-readers, I really enjoy not having to pack up all my books. Electronically, I can cart around a few hundred books at a time.
The front and the hook and loop closure
There is one tiny glitch. It is not possible to read an iPad screen in bright sunshine.
So, I have a new job, so I treated myself to a new Kobo e-reader. It uses paper and ink display technology so that the screen can be read even in bright sunlight.
There were e-reader covers available. But, they were all boring. I figured I could do better.
For the most part, this was entirely true.
I decided to use some of my very precious Cath Kidston scraps, found on eBay a long time ago. I consulted some of the many tutorials available online. Filled with inspiration -- and really -- a lot of hubris, I started putting it all together. I used some graphics from The Graphics Fairy ,as well as a tiny scrap of Tilda fabric for the heart. I even stitched a bit of selvedge from Cath Kidston onto the interior pocket as an homage to my favourite shabby chic designer.
By Friday evening, I was finished. Or, so I thought.
I used the "beta version" of the e-reader cover on the weekend. I didn't like a few things about its construction. As I read through my book, I was also working out how to make revisions on the e-reader cover's original design.
An inside homage to my favourite purveyor of shabby chick
This afternoon, before I left for work, I finished the revisions.
I like the cover better now. It features sturdy interfacing, cotton duck fabric, and an interior pocket to store my library card and/or my Kobo card.
A fortunate find at the thrift store
This way, I can add to my library on the fly or at the lake.
In other news, I stopped by the Value Village near my new work place on the way home last week. I found my particular bliss: vintage buttons and a whole bag of wooden thread spools. And then, I also found a Cath Kidston zippered bag for $2.99.
Just some of the crazy things that make me happy. Hope everything is coming up roses and polka dots in your world too!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Adventures in blogland

What is she up to on QUILTsocial? Tune in to find out.
The QUILTsocial guest blog that will be written by me for this entire week -- June 9 to 13 -- is up and running for your general enjoyment.
Go over and check it out. Please. Pretty please?
There is a give-away from HA Kidd, one of Canada's key distributors of notions and crafty bits and pieces.
In the next couple of days, I will reveal the step-by-step process of creating your very own -- and impossibly cute -- sunglasses case.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Coming soon to a blog near you...

Silicone thimbles are so comfortable
I am doing something new!
For the next week, starting on June 9,  I will be the guest blogger on a new e-zine/blog called QUILTsocial. 
I will be doing a tutorial to make sunglasses case embellished with a folded flower. It is lined with soft flannel to prevent the glasses from getting scratched. It is pretty cute, if I do say so myself.
Here is the link. Please subscribe. It is free and quite beautifully presented by the publishers of A Needle Pulling Thread, which is a Canadian needle work magazine.
One of the things I was able to do was visit a company that distributes just about every needle, pin, button, seam ripper, rotary cutter, ruler -- etc. to stores in Canada.
What an experience! I was able to pick a few products to try out and play around with.
Kid, meet candy store. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine someone would take me over to A WALL OF THREADS and say, "Just pick what you would like to try."
Yikes! It was an overwhelming experience. But, I managed to overcome the shock and pick some candy coloured sewing threads, some beautiful silk threads for hand applique, and surprisingly, threads that have been made from recycled PET bottles. I haven't tried those yet, but I will be doing so soon.
I hope you enjoy visiting QUILTsocial. This week's posts are by quilting instructor Elaine Theriault. She has been checking out a new Husqvarna sewing machine that is lightweight and ready to travel, but features all kinds of high end quilting machine bells and whistles. She is going to be a tough act to follow.
I will be the guest blogger on the second week of each month for a while.
Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

These are a few of of my favourite internet things

At last weekend's CreativFestival, participants in my workshop received a handout about a few of my favourite web sites. These sites both inform and inspire my creative life.
I only printed enough copies for workshop participants, but I promised to post a digital version.
So, here it is!  
These are the places I go to again and again to get ideas, and find out what's going on in the hearts and minds of other creative souls.
My Pintrest board.
free patterns, free sign up
many tutorials, some free patterns
a great lunch tote, and there are other free tutorials on this site         
exceptionally pretty, and there are often free patterns on this site
lots of inspiration and tutorials, especially for hexi and pentagon projects
These little birds are adorable and the pattern is free.
a really good tutorial about paper piecing hexagons -- lots of photos
a Canadian needlework magazine offering inspiration and resources by Canadian designers, using materials available in Canada

Monday, April 21, 2014

A hoppy and warm Easter!

Happy Easter!
Finally, some nice weather has arrived in my part of the world.
The Easter weekend was very joyous because we could finally sit outside for pre-dinner drinks for a while before the wind turned chilly and sent us back inside.
I made a little bunny for my mom. I also made  seven tiny rabbits for my family and friends. Some of the mini bunnies were tucked into mini terracotta pots with Easter grass, others were nestled into Easter eggs, tucked into egg cups.
Now, I am busy getting ready for my workshop on having fun with scraps at the CreativFestival in Toronto next Saturday.
We are making a little pincushion which will perch on a golf tee. The tee can be set into a thread spool for a portable pin perch.

Next week, I will post a tutorial and some photos.
I will be making up little kits over the next couple of days, and getting my show and tell items packed up and ready for my presentation at the International Centre on Airport Road.
Have a wonderful Spring, now that spring is here.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Park your pins and needles here

Park your pins here...
I was trolling around Michaels recently, and I found these very cute frames in the $1.50 bins near the front of the store.
 I think they are meant to be used as party favours or place card holders for weddings and other fancy events.
A while ago, I found a pin on Pintrest by a crafter named Natalie, who is over at Doodlecrafts.
She created some pincushions using these kinds of frames. But, she used cork board and I didn't have any.
Also, I am a bit obsessed about having tidy backs of things (it's a bit of an issue left over from when I did a lot of cross stitch. I am trying to relax about it now, but not with this project).
Anyway, inspired by Doodlecrafts' creation, I did a little bit of tweaking to the original idea.
These pin parks are great for sewing needles. I find they get lost in the pincushions I use. These are shallow enough to corral the needles, and they can't get lost. Unless you don't make one and use it. So, here is a little photo essay about  what I did:

Pop the plastic from the frame. Trace the opening onto card stock.

Run a bead of white glue around the opening. Close the back.
Cut a bit of quilt batting to match the card stock.
Use a bit of glue stick to make the card stock a bit tacky.

Pick a cute scrap. You know you've been saving them...

Put the batting onto the fabric, and bit of fiber fill onto the card.

Press this sandwich down flat. Run a bead of glue around the card.

Tuck the corners, and then the sides, of the fabric around the card.

Some filling might try to escape. Poke it back down. Seal up the last side.

Put a puddle of white glue into the frame. Pop the little cushion into the space.

Park your pins. Make them for your quilt-y friends. Have one everywhere you sew.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brownie points

I was reminded recently that as much as healthy eating and living is a goal for everyone who expects to live a long and happy life, it is important to have a few rest stops and treats along the way. The end of life will come to us all, for all our good works and intentions at the stove, dinner table and gym.
For me, the rest stop with treat involves a chocolate brownie sundae and Grey's Anatomy or a Dr. Who marathon.
Having come clean with my guilty (oh so guilty) treat, I now feel somewhat compelled to share it.
First, the ice cream. Chocolate mint chip ice cream is the best of all ice creams in my opinion because it is doubly cool -- it's the mint, you see.
The brownie component is always made from this recipe, published about 22 years ago in the Toronto Star. It is from a book called Best of New Wave Cooking (you know it was a while ago because microwave cooking was still considered relatively "new").
This brownie recipe is perfect for those days when you want a little something sweet that is not dessert flavoured Greek yogurt. (Which is also very good. I love the lime and the coconut. Sometimes, I do "shake it all up" into one dessert flavoured Greek yogurt.)

Microwave Brownies

1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional, but using white chocolate chips is awesome)

Blend margarine with sugar. Mix well.  Add eggs and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Add to egg mixture. Stir together until well mixed. This is a thick mixture. Spoon it into a lightly grease 8 x 8 microwaveable baking dish. Microwave for 8 to 10 minutes AT 60 per cent POWER. ( Bold and capitalized because it is very important). Do not over zap. The top will look a bit soft, but that's okay. Cool and then cut into 12 squares.
Top a small (ish) square with chocolate mint chip ice cream and a bit of chocolate sauce. Then, go watch your favourite TV show.
Enjoy your break. The celery sticks will be in the fridge, waiting your return tomorrow. I promise.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hoppy Spring?!

It is International Happiness Day. I remember happiness -- there was green grass and sunshine there. As I write this, our area is under "A Special Weather Statement". There are warnings for rain, freezing, and snow.
First full day of Spring? Now, I ask you, who did Canada annoy?
So disappointing.
Last night, there was a chill in the house. We put the gas fireplace on to take it away.
And, I wrapped up in a blanket. I think by now I might be permanently chilled.
By this point in our climate, we are usually enjoying warmish days and cooler nights. That's what the trees need to make maple syrup.
Not wind chill warnings, freezing rain and more snow.
Hop on over to Tilda's World where these bunnies await

But, over in Norway, there is still snow. Also, Easter bunnies.
This is a new Tilda blog post that comes with a free pattern and instructions to make a sweet little bunny perched in an eggshell. How cute is that? Really, really, cute. I might make some  little arms so the bunny can hold something too.
When you are working with egg shells, it is really important to wash them out with a mild bleach solution.
This takes care of any lurking nasty bugs that might cause a food borne illness.
Allow the shell to dry thoroughly, and then brush some some water based varnish inside and outside of the shell. This will both preserve and strengthen it.
I am really enjoying the new Tilda blog. I wish I could leave a comment, but I can't. Instead, I will just share how much I am loving the regular posts -- and now a free project.
Maybe if we all make an Easter Bunny winter will see fit to leave.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Waving a banner of hope

Canada Sews, a non profit organization that encourages Canadians to start and keep sewing, is behind a new initiative to encourage people going through times of personal stress. It's called Banners of Hope, and it is designed to get creative Canadians to make small banners -- sort of like Tibetan prayer flags -- to hang in places like waiting rooms doctors' and health care centres across the country.
Samples of the flags will be on display at the Spring 2014 CreativFestival in Toronto.
This is one I made, using some of my giant collection of scraps.
The bird is an off cut from one of my friend Amanda's latest upholstery fabrics. I created an applique using the cheater trick for needle turn applique.
The template for the banners is here.  Some ideas for quotes about hope are here. (My leaves have strayed off the edge, so that might be a problem according to the stated design criteria. Not a huge surprise. I also had trouble colouring inside the lines when I was in primary school.) Nonethless, I am pleased with my banner.
Throughout the year, the plan is to encourage quilt guilds, crafting groups and fabric shops to promote the banner project, and even to offer banner making workshops. Sample banners will be on display at various Canadian creative shows and events.
I like the idea. The banners are accessible to all levels and abilities of fiber artists and they are something that people of all ages can create. Once completed, these banners could also be used as silent auction donations or raffle prizes to  benefit organizations that help promote hope and healing in communities.
This was a lot of fun to do, and it's nice to think about creativity inspiring hope.
The world needs  a lot of both.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Surprises from across the pond

Birthday goodies from across the pond
Yesterday, it was my birthday. (Let's not discuss the  numbers.) But, boy! Was I ever spoiled by my family.
On Friday, I made my way to the post box to find a very special birthday present from Miss B.
She sent some lovely surprises from the UK, including a Tilda charm pack, some yardage, and a package of angel wings to make the Vintage Angel from Tilda's Winter Wonderland.
She also tucked in a folding Cath Kidston shopping bag and the sweetest little needle case, shaped like a holiday caravan.
My son was equally generous. He gave me a gift card to go Etsy shopping.
I feel pretty blessed and loved. They know me so well.
To round out the birthday treats, my husband took me to Sunday brunch, and gave me tickets to the Stratford Festival to see The Man of La Mancha when it opens this spring.
(Should spring ever arrive.)
It has been so continually cold, I have been working on several crafty projects instead of getting out and about. My creative space was starting to look way too lived in, so I decided to tidy up. There were little scraps sitting in pile on my sewing machine table, along with a embroidery hoop.
Well, one thing lead to another and before I knew it, I had made a little wall decoration featuring a polar bear tucked into a quilt made from the little scraps of my precious (and some might say obsessively hoarded) Tilda stash. This decoration is framed in an embroidery hoop and is one of the really sweet ideas in Pretty In Patchwork Holidays.
I opted to make it less Christmas-y, so it can stay on the wall of my sewing room all year long.
Polar bear tucked in for the rest of this long, long winter
Surprise, surprise, my studio is only slightly less messy than it was before I made the polar bear.
Sigh. Such is the creative life.

Friday, February 28, 2014

A new Tilda website on the www!

My sewing angel sitting in the garden
Sew Pretty Homestyle tablemats

Teaspoon lady and a bug
Tilda's World has a new presence on the World Wide Web. It is really pretty.
This is a new web site which is being created and maintained by the Tilda design team. 
The web site is as beautiful as the books. There is also a blog section. 
I am looking forward to seeing what they'll be posting. 
The opening post is pure eye candy, and just the thing to chase away the winter blahs.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another day, another polar vortex

I get it, this winter of ours is simply not interested in leaving. It has it too good around here.
I haven't been baking much lately. But today, as a blizzard swirled around the kitchen window, I decided I needed to smell the delicious aroma created by the union of apples and cinnamon. Also, having the oven on helps take the chill off the kitchen. That's nice when it is -26 C outside.
This is not an overly sweet tea loaf, but the streusel topping makes for a sweet finish. You can omit it if you like, but it takes a lot away from the olfactory experience.
Serve with a hot cup of tea, and pretend spring is just around the corner -- not cowering in fear under a log while winter rages on forever. 

 Apple Cinnamon Streusel Loaf
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 apple, peeled and chopped


1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp rolled oats

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan.
2.      Combine apples, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
3.      Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter together until light and creamy.
4.      Add eggs, one at a time. Beating until mixed well. Add vanilla.
5.      In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir together. Gradually add to egg mixture, alternating with sour cream in two additions, beginning and ending with flour. Beat for two minutes.
6.      Place half the batter in the pan, covering with half the apple and brown sugar mixture. Top with the rest of the batter and add the remaining apple and brown sugar mixture.
7.      Mix the topping ingredients until they resemble large crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the loaf.
8.      Bake for 1 hour. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Turn out of the pan and cool completely.