Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking forward to 2017

It's snowing today in my town. The lower par of the province has had huge amounts (for them) of snow this month, but all we've gotten so far was a long spell of cold, nasty weather, which was bad enough. It's not the temperature that's the problem here so much as the winds that lower the temperatures by as much as 10 degrees. Even though it's snowing now, there's very little wind and so the temperature is quite mild.

So I've restocked the bird feeder and put out some fresh apples that the house finches, flickers and blackbirds like. The goldfinches flock to the "sock" filled with nyger seed, and as I type this I an see a downy woodpecker in the tree next door.
My parents were enthusiastic amateur birders. I was never interested in them all that much, even though I grew up within a 90-minute drive of Point Pelee National Park - a birders' paradise. We used to go there often - for family drives, to visit friends in nearby Leamington or on school fieldtrips. As my parents would scan the trees for interesting birds, my oldest brother and I would follow along with our eyes glued to the ground, looking for the beautiful native ephemerals and other unique woodland flowers of southern Ontario.

About 11 years ago a few people began a Christmas Bird Count in this area and I went along to see if there was something I could use in the
newspaper I worked for. It was fun if one could ignore the frozen fingers and toes one suffered while tramping through the snow hunting the elusive birds. Eventually I bought a copy of Sibleys guide to birds and began feeding them, as my parents had. I assured my indoor cats that it was for their own amusement, but I can't deny that I enjoy watching the birds at my feeders as much as they do.

And so on this last day of 2016, the falling snow is picking up speed and the birds are chattering noisily in the front yard as they elbow their way to the feeders. And I should be at my sewing machine, but instead I am sitting at my computer while providing a comfortable lap for Rusty - a common scenario these days.

My last post reminded me of something I had forgotten because I hadn't posted in months - that my new blog interface was a horrible and clunky thing. It may well have been responsible for my absence from my blog this year, so I'm hoping that I'll get better as I use it more. It looks like I may be buying a new computer in the new year since this one seems to be dying... Which is too bad because I like this computer. It's also such a pain in the neck to switch all of your files to another computer, and I can't afford a new computer that's as good as this one, but it's been a good computer for nine years and it doesn't owe me anything. And perhaps a new computer
will offer a better interface for blogging.

So, although I haven't finished anything in two or three weeks, I have finished quite a few wallets and bags over the summer. I've made several more of these little wallets, using my experience with the pattern to fussy cut the fabric in some cases - it's a really nice, attractive, simple little compact wallet that I enjoy making.

I've also wanted to make this little Japanese knot bag for some time now, and once I got started, I couldn't stop. I just love the rounded bottoms that provide so much more space in a bag. There's more to making the handles that these instructions describe, so if you find yourself stumped, just drop me a line and I'll try and help you. These bags are very comfortable to carry and are great for holding a wallet, pair of glasses, keys
and other small items, and they look really sharp!

That's all that I have for today. It's time to start the macaroni and cheese casserole for supper - an old family recipe that's a big favourite for days like today. So, my best wishes to all of you for a happy and healthy 2018! I'll see you next year.

Until next time,


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

 Happy longest night of the year to everyone. Snuggle up! The days get longer from hereon in.

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. So long, perhaps, that I was afraid that I might forget how to do this!
The fact that my computer is dying doesn’t help me. However, we’ll forge ahead.

I may have been absent from my blog, but life hasn’t slowed down. Being retired only means that I no longer have an income. Good thing that I built up my stash while I was working. The above picture is Rusty (of course) making himself a nest in a very small part of my fabric collection – the part that covers the dining room table. I’m very bad, I know. I’m trying to use it up as fast as I can, but it doesn’t seem to make a dent in it.

In my spare time from my retirement activities (which I’ll tell you about one of these days), I’ve been making bags – more bags. I found this pattern from Around the Bobbin for The Annalise Bag over the summer while I was visiting my brother and his wife on Vancouver Island. It looked like it would be fun  to make, and it was! I made a practice bag – the orange one – before I made one for my sister-in-law, and I was very happy with the way they went together. I added a couple of pockets for my SIL’s bag, and included this little zipper pull that used to be an earring. The bags have given me the opportunity to use up lots of heavy duty “upholstery” fabric that I buy as cheap remnants. I used linen for the lining of her bag. I also made my very first yoyo as an embellishment for the front of the bag, and attached it with a metal “brad” – the circle has two metal prongs on the back that split in opposite directions.

I was happy with the first two I made, so I did two more. That was, as you can see from the photos, over the summer. Since then I’ve wandered on to some different   bag patterns. I was hoping to move onto some baby quilts and other “flat” pieces by now, but finding the time to commit to them is still hard to come by. In the past three weeks alone, I organized one indoor market and one Christmas concert, was involved in three more concerts, and spent today tromping around town looking for birds for our annual Christmas Bird Count. That was in addition to several other activities I was involved in as a town councillor, as I was elected to the municipal council back in June.

Like I said, life hasn’t slowed down any. And I don’t really want it to, either. It’s slowed down enough that Rusty and Ginger get a lot more lap time, and I have a bit more time to work in the yard in the summer. I actually got my vegetables planted on time this year, and planted flowers as well! It was a nice feeling. I’m hoping that I’ll get back into the habit of blogging as well. It’s not like I have nothing to blog about! Just as long as my computer keeps working.

Until next time,

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The real stars

These are my colours, aren't they?
I've been spending most of my time outside for the past week because the weather's been so nice. My 500+ tomato seedlings have been enjoying a bit of sunshine each day, but I have to drag them back into the house at night. Today it's been raining and cold. At one point I thought it might do the unthinkable and drop something very unspringlike on us, but it didn't. But I'm sure it made the local Easter Egg Hunts a little uncomfortable. Still, where free candy is concerned, children will bear some lousy weather.

I was hoping to get some time at my sewing machine, but I've been spending the day cleaning up. It'll take another year or two of cleaning to get this house straightened up! Or longer when you have
Sunshine AND quilt blocks!
helpers like Rusty and Ginger.

I was working on a square to go with the sawtooth stars that I made some time ago. The stars were for a quilt for Mr. ZQ's father, who unfortunately passed away unexpectedly before I finished it (Hell could freeze over before I finish ANYTHING!). That happened around this time last year. His mother gave me some of his father's dress shirts to include in the quilt, which I am now making for her.

Anyhow, I made the points for this square and it looked so similar to the stars I'd already made that I stopped and rethank my plans. Then I tossed the pieces I'd already made down with the stars and new ideas started coming. So did Ginger and Rusty. I'm not sure whether the ideas
How could you be mad at a face like this?
are workable, but I'll give them a shot.

How do cats know that you're about to focus on an object when they're in a separate room?

The weather gnomes say the rest of the week is going to be absolutely beautiful, so I'm not sure how much sewing (or cleaning) I'm going to get done in the next little while, but there's always tomorrow.

Our local outdoor farmer and flea market starts up in May - hence the 500+ tomato seedlings and about 100 pepper plants. But I sell other stuff there as well over the course of the summer, much of it things that I've sewn - so I can't spend all of my time playing in the dirt, much as I'd like to. The summers here are usually long and hot - made for being outside. I'd drag my sewing machine out onto the deck if I could. (Well, I could, but then I'd have to drag it back inside every night also.)
Layout possibility
Until next time,

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lots of ideas

I want my Live Writer back! My blog looks so awkward without it. But no use in whining when there's nothing to be done about it. Onward!

There was a New Moon on Tuesday, and that means Action! It's also a good time to get your butt in gear, whether you want to or not. And boy, there seems to be a lot more action associated with this New Moon than most. It occurred in Pisces at around 19 degrees. All of you Pisces will be feeling it, but so will you Virgo, Pisces' opposite in the Zodiac. Pisces should be feeling comfortably motivated for the next month while Virgos may be feeling more restless than anything. This month's New Moon was directly opposite Jupiter in Virgo and square Saturn in Sagittarius. Pisces are normally quiet and contemplative while Virgos are quiet but analytical. Sagittarians are talkative and idealistic. The ruler of the New Moon chart is Mercury, so ideas and communication are going to be high on the list until
the next New Moon on April 7 (in Aries). Fast and furious the ideas come, and just as quickly they'll disappear. Whether you agree with them or not, it will make for an oddly enjoyable and satisfying month.

The weather where I live has been typical for March. After no snow at all in February, we got hit with the white stuff on March 1 and 2. It melted by the afternoon on both days. Yesterday morning started off so nicely that I grabbed my camera and took a long walk down by the Thompson River, one of my favourite places to walk. This is what the country around here looks like. I think it's beautiful. By the afternoon, just moments after I went outside to do some yard work, the wind whipped up and it turned cold. Today is beautiful but still windy, and just now I look out my window and see some Canada Geese being
blown out of formation by the wind. Not that anything stops them for long, especially when they're heading for water.

I made another wallet last week with some bright flutterbyes on it. Love this Blank Quilting fabric. It's from a few years back. For the inside I picked a lightweight fabric with huge butterflies on it. I have no idea where this one came from - must have been a remnant that I bought at some stage. Hope I didn't pay too much for it. Anyway, go big or go home, right? It certainly makes me stare at it each time I look at it. If I truly hated it, I wouldn't be using it in a wallet.

I would be using it to experiment with - to make new blocks that I was unsure about. Earlier this week I was at Quilter's Cache looking for a block to go with some sawtooth stars I have and I found this one . I'm putting it together using junky scraps so I can get an idea of the size and how it would fit. I like paper piecing, especially when I can't decide what I want to do. You can't really improvise when you're paper piecing. You just follow the instructions and add one piece after the other until it's done.

Until next time,

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leaps and bounds

I could get used to this retirement thing! Getting a decent night's sleep, eating well, taking long walks. And sewing. It's all on the schedule I made up for myself.
Yes, I made myself a schedule. That's me. People told me that I'd lose track of time after I retired, and there are so many things I want to do with my time now that I have some for myself that I don't want to waste it. Only thing is, blogging isn't on my schedule.
Guess I'd better add it somewhere, but I'm not spending very much time at my computer these days. That's all I did at work.
My friend and next door neighbour challenged me last week to get some sewing done. Up until then I'd been staring at my machine, moving things around on the table and not getting much else done. It's awesome what a challenge will do!
I started making these little bags again. I made four of them. In one week. Along with music practice, lunch with the gals, house work, yard work, walks, visits and everything else. I made these half an inch narrower than the first ones. You can still fit a cell phone in the outer pockets or a Canadian passport (or money or keys or glasses or...) in the zippered pocket.
Have I mentioned how much I love Laurel Burch fabrics? Probably once or twice. I made up one for myself and had to stop and think about what I would really like on my own bag. Well, cats, of course. I have a not too shabby
collection of cat fabric, and a nice selection of Laurel Burch cats. It wasn't too hard to find some bits that went together nicely.
I'll probably make more of these little bags in the future, but for now I'm off on another project. After that I'll get back to finishing the "bingo bags" that I started well before Christmas.
And after that, I'd like to get back to making quilts. Before that, though, there's going to be a garden to work up and plant. It's going to be fun!
Until next time,

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Word of the Week - Retirement!

As of last Friday, I am retired from my career of almost 40 years! My time is my own now and I almost don't know what to do with it. Almost. I know that I need to retain a bit of structure, but I'm giving myself a week off before I start making lists and plans.

It's hard. My mind is going off in all directions at breakneck speed. Thirty-seven-plus years as a weekly (and daily) newspaper editor made me think in terms of daily story lists and more deadlines than you might believe possible. People used to ask me how I found time for quilting: I told them I squeezed in a little bit here, a little bit there. But even that has become increasingly harder in the past year as company cutbacks and policies have pretty much claimed the last of my free time.

I've been cleaning up around my sewing table and cutting fabric for some more of these little bags. This is a late Christmas present for my music partner. Can you tell? (Hint - music staves and piano keyboards!). I also picked up a cold from a co-worker on my last day of work and on Monday I slept for 18 out of 24 hours. Guess I
needed it. Needless to say, my kitties were very pleased. But that's why I haven't done much at the sewing machine - too fuzzy headed from this cold. I cut some fabric, decide I don't want to use it and look around for something else to cut. I'm going to end up with a pile of tiny pieces and another project if I keep doing that.

Unless I get a surge of energy in the next couple of days, there probably won't be any sewing until next week - but I guarantee, there will be by then.

Until next time,

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Neck purses

Wow - last day of January already. It's been a busy month at work, which translates into not much time for sewing. But that will change very soon!
I made these last December as Christmas presents for co-workers. We always exchange handmade gifts and for the past three years I've been giving them bags. This year I chose these badge holders, although I call them neck wallets because I replace the clear plastic badge holder with another fabric pocket. Above is a picture of the front and below is the back.

It took me a while to figure out these free instructions found here, and I had to look at other badge holder patterns but, of course, when you see how it goes together it all makes sense. Let me know if you need help in deciphering the pattern.
Because I've sewn things for my co-workers over the years, I always use a little bit of the same fabric on everything I make for them - either for continuity or to satisfy my obsessive-compulsive nature. Depending on how tall (or short) they are, I make the neck strap 24 inches and then add or subtract two inches or so.
Of all the patterns I've looked at for badge holders, I like this one the best because of the pockets, and it really is simple to make. Pockets on the front and back and a zipper pocket to put small things that you don't want to lose, or maybe a passport that you want to keep safe. I could even fit the neck joint of my soprano recorder in there to keep it warm before a concert. The rear pocket is great for a cellphone.
I'm working on more of these at the moment. As you can see, they make great little gifts. They don't use much fabric and they're great for fussy cutting.
Until next time,

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Slow holidays

It's hard getting back into the work routine after the holidays. I should be back in the office today, but I'm not. I could be sewing right now, but I'm not. Instead I'm sitting around, emailing friends and family members to see how their holidays are and to show them my lovely Moeck "Rottenburgh" recorder (the pale one on the right) that I bought used and got a great deal on. (The darker recorder is a Hans Coolsma "Solo" - no pun intended - which I bought a few months ago, also for a good deal.)
Hopefully I'll get to the sewing machine after this. It's one of my New Year's intentions - more quilting. And more music. And more gardening! Last night I finally got around to (my favourite phrase) soaking and cooking the black beans that I grew in my garden last year and dried. After I cooked them, I measured them into separate bags, with two cups of beans each in them, and put them in the freezer. All set to use now, in chilis, casseroles or what have you.

Back to the fabric wallets that I showed you last week (by the way, there's a link to the free pattern on the right side of my page under "My Favourite Tutorials" called Fabric Wallet with Strap). One of my co-workers wanted me to make one for her in her favourite colours - black and silver. No problem. She wanted it bigger than the others that I'd made.

That silvery fabric inside was a pain to work with. It was from an unknown remnant that I bought, and I knew that it wasn't cotton, but it was pretty. It was a pain to work with, but it looked nice once the wallet was finished.

I was really happy with the way it turned out, and that's saying a lot!

She liked it, but it wasn't big enough. She wanted it bigger. This particular pattern isn't really made to be bigger. It's designed to be what it is - a little clutch that you can throw your keys and glasses and some change in and go. But, she wanted bigger. The magnetic clasp was already not really working for the upsized version, so I decided to use a twist clasp. I had a couple on hand but I'd never used one before. Took me some time to feel comfortable cutting in to good fabric to insert one. I measured and measured and measured and finally I had no more excuses not to do it.

Crooked! Don't you hate that? Cutting out that little oval of fabric to accommodate the clasp was a real bugger and hard to keep straight because I was cutting through three layers of fabric and batting. Oh well.

I had also run out of that cool fabric with the wavy lines. And I wasn't going to struggle with that nice silvery whatever fabric again.

But I did manage to give up some of my copious amount of Laurel Burch cat fabric for the pocket because my co-worker loves her kitties as much as I love mine. Well, she loved her wallet - and not just because of the cats. So, my first attempt at a twisty clasp - Fail, but the world didn't end. I'll be making another attempt in the near future.

Until next time,