Monday, December 13, 2010

A very, very simple Christmas this year.

It appears by the amount of crafting I've been getting done these days that I'm not giving many handmade gifts. At present I have one half of a car mat for my nephew made, an idea for a quick gift for my niece and that's about it. I don't even have the calender photos picked out for the grandparents, and my "ships by Christmas" date is fast approaching.

I am having a bit of an inferiority complex these days, reading along with all my favorite crafty mama bloggers. They are showing off their hand-made wreaths and their five sweaters and their delicious baking. I have baked one batch of cookies. I have plans for one or two more, but that's about it. Andrew's teachers and bus driver are getting . . . cookies. The boys are getting legos purchased with money mostly from their grandparents. Dave wants the new U2 cd and will probably get a fun magazine as well. The grandparents will get photos of the grandkids. And I think that's about it. I don't have any decorations up. We will get a tree, but we have a one year old in the house, so its not going to be a beautifully decorated blog-worthy tree because its going to be one of those all-the-breakable-things-at-the-top Christmas tree years. And that's all the Christmas we're doing, folks.

This brings me to a funny thought about Christmas. I am forever reading about how to have a simple Christmas in 49 easy steps outlined in 25 blog posts that you must read over the next two months. But a really simple, essential Christmas around here contains: cookies, tree, presents, turkey, the end.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Snow in the City

We had quite a dump of snow in the last few days. There was 30 cm or more, I'm sure, and it was blowing everywhere. The funny thing about snow in Montreal, as opposed to snow in Melfort, is that there's no place to put it. I had the unenviable task of shovelling us out while Dave was sick in bed, and I found myself wondering where to put the snow. We have our tenant's car in the driveway, our car on a cement pad that would otherwise be our front yard, our basement tenant's door and windows along the sides of the house, and our neighbour needs the path clear to his back fence because they run a home daycare and the kids go in and out the back door.

So, I and all the other neighbours put the snow on the road in front of our houses. This causes problems of its own, since usually the street has cars parked in every available space. This means that people who don't have a driveway are having to park farther away. I would hate to have to park on the road right now because the snow plows are just pushing the snow off the road right now and blocking in the parked cars and everyone's driveways.

The sidewalks are not all cleared yet, either, so when I walked to my tutoring job, I simply walked down the side of the road. I was thinking it would have been a lot faster if I had cross country skis. I could have simply skied along the bike path on the edge of the street.

One of my tutoring students is from Iran, and his brother was grumpy because there was snow and the schools weren't closed. His mother, apparently, said, "Its Canada, why do you think they would close the schools?".

One of the funny things about Canada, is that in every part of the country people are proud of their winters. If you happen to mention that the winter is worse somewhere else, all the locals will argue with you and explain why their winter is worse. "Sure, its not technically as cold, but its a DAMP cold" is the favorite here and in Southern Ontario. In B.C., where there are only about 4 or 5 days of snow except for one big dump every 5 years or so, people say, "Yes, but when it does snow its terrible because no one has snow tires" (which is true. People drive right off the perfectly straight highway when its windy and there's snow). In Saskatchewan they don't need to tell you how bad the winters are. Prairie winters are infamous, and they simply tell you to "Wait until you've been through one."

I must say that I was excited to see the snow. I love the sound dampening effect of snow, especially in the city. No matter where I am in Canada, snow is still snow. The cast of the light reflected off the snowflakes, the quality of sharp, cold damp in the air and the strange mixture of damp and dryness of the snow on my clothes never changes. Wherever I am in Canada, snow still feels like home to me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Emma's B irthday Present

I decided to make a hand made gift for Emma for her birthday. Here it is all together:
She is in that stage where she loves to carry around containers and put things in and out of them, so I thought one of these tidy totes (free tutorial courtesy of JCasa) would be perfect. I modified the original design because i didn't feel like going out to get interfacing, so I used two of my quilt-as-you-go blocks instead. I felt like I was at a dead end with that quilt and didn't really want to make any more blocks, so this was a perfect solution for me. I used a ribbon for the handle, but next time I think I would make a fabric one or find some heavier twill tape.
This is the little doll I was talking about earlier. This is my third one of these, and the dress is still very much a going concern - I don't mind how this one came out, although it took a lot of messing around to get to it.
This is the doll quilt I made, matching the one I made for the church fund raiser (which sadly didn't raise much money). I used some 3" strips from a jelly roll. It made two doll quilts with a front like this:
and a back like this. I think the grey is really too dark for a little girl doll quilt, but I am short on time and brain power these days, so I just went with it.
Its strange when you move to a new place and your surroundings are so radically different. Your whole colour and design asesthetic undergoes this shift. I feel like I'm in the middle of a colour / pattern shift right now, or maybe just overwhelmed with images and colours and experience, so everything I've tried to make lately seems muddled and unclear to me.

In any case, we also had our first real snow on Saturday. This:
led to this:
The snow man is on scale with the size of our yard.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Emma!

I think the pictures say it all for this one. We had a simple celebration -- cake and presents for Emma after supper. The boys picked the bought presents, and helped decorate the cake. I made the doll and blanket. Emma, as you can see, was delighted. What more can you ask for at a one year old birthday?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So, my camera and my computer apparently need a cord to mediate between them now -- but they did agree to download some photos. These are my four quilt-as-you-go blocks so far. My original plan was to do one more black and red one and then four with red in the middle and then white on the outside.
But as I started making these I ended up using these prints with a lot of white for the outside of the square.
So now I'm toying with either doing a series of smaller log cabins in between these four blocks in alternating white and black,
or making the other blocks with white on the inside and darker blues on the outside. Hmmmm . . any thoughts?
I had a birthday about a month ago, and my presents finally showed up in the mail. Apparently I'm really into gray these days. These ones came from Pink Chalk Fabrics (an awesome online store for funky fabrics with fast shipping to Canada), along with two nice organic solids - one brown, one gray.
Aren't they pretty? Can I ever have too much orange? I don't think so.
These ones are from Sewing Geek, who was having a destash sale (go check out her fabric stream, she's got some awesome quilts in there). I wasn't a big fan of Hope Valley when it first came out, but the subtlety of shade and the small prints in these fabrics is quite a refreshing change from the big, bold, bright fabrics I'm usually drawn to. I think it might become part of the bed quilt I'm eventually planning for my bed.

I also picked up a few prints from Anna Maria's latest line, Innocent Crush (isn't it funny being a fan of a micro celebrity and feeling like you can call her by her first name because you read her blog?), which is lovely in person, and a few prints from Gypsy, which I think is a highly under-rated fabric line. I sort of wish I'd got fat quarters of the whole collection (because, you know, I need more brown fabric. I don't think I have enough . . . ), but I'm really happy with the blues and greens I chose .

I sent away the little doll and quilt for the fund raiser without snapping a photo. It was cloudy when I finished her and the doll was cute, but the quilt left a lot to be desired. I hope they can auction it off for something anyway.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sewing Therapy

Well, I've been engaging in some sewing therapy. My log cabin quilt now has four blocks, and my four little dolls are shaping up nicely as well. No photos today because my computer and my camera are apparently not talking to each other today.

I had a fun experience when I was substitute teaching today. I brought Emma's doll so I could stitch the face on when I had a spare moment, and I ended up sitting at a desk doing hall duty (basically keeping the junior kids on their lunch out of the hallways where the seniors where in classes). I decided to pull out my little doll, and started stitching. I amazed me how many teenagers came up to me to chat about my sewing. They all wanted to know what I was doing, and some stayed to chat about sewing and crafts with me. One boy made oragami boats to go on the hands of the doll (he didn't have a big enough piece of paper to make a hat) and another girl showed me her bracelet. It opened up a whole new venue for chatting with the students about their grandmothers and relatives who had sewed things for them.

It is amazing how much hand stitched items become part of the family heritage. And how much interest these grade 7 and 8 kids had in making things with their hands. It makes me kind of sad that most schools have cut their home ec programs, and so these kids don't even get that basic introduction to sewing anymore. When I was in B.C., a crafty teacher friend and I talked about starting a lunch time textile club where we taught the kids to sew, knit, crochet, embroider, etc. I still think that would be a fun idea. How great would it be for these urban kids to have the tactile experience of working with their hands? Not to mention how great it would be for me to mesh my passion for sewing with my passion for encouraging and mentoring teenagers.

I think that's going to be something to add to my life list . . . start a sewing / textile club in a highschool somewhere.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Sorry for my absence from this space, friends. We have had two wonderful visits in the last two weeks from out of town friends, and a large stack of unfinished seat work arrived home in the homework folder this Thursday, and we're trying to sort out child care for our younger two for January. This means I'm confronting the reality that yes, I actually am going to put my children in day care and no, this is not something I ever thought I would do. There is nothing like hitting that wall where you are about to do something that clashes with your high ideals of parenthood and draws out some of your greatest fears about your children being damaged by other people all at once. Conversely, I am asking myself if my children wouldn't be better off being parented by someone else. Maybe that way they won't have huge stacks of unfinished work sent home from school with them, as they will actually be able to follow instructions and work within an organized system like school.

There is nothing like a huge dose of mommy guilt to keep you blue.

In other news, it has somehow got around my church already that I sew, and they are looking for some hand made goods to auction off for a good cause. I have very carefully agreed to make a little something without over committing myself. Unfortunately I should have known what would happen when I started making two little dolls, one for Emma and one for auction. Word would get around that dolls were being made and then I would have three . . . and then four dolls to make. Ah well. They give me something to do besides be paralyzed with worry and guilt.

We did have two lovely visits, though. I am so happy to be in a place where we feel like we have a great space to invite people to (even if they may have to sleep on the kitchen floor). I do love entertaining, so I am happy to be able to have people over more.

Well, I must go off and play "in" to the container, "out" of the container for the 100th time while I still have the time.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Time to play

Sometimes, I get a little too serious about my hobby. I feel the need to be too "creative" and feel like I need to reinvent the whole quilting wheel. Other times, I get stressed out because there are so many things I want to do and so little time.
One thing I've wanted to do for a while is make a quilt with these polka dots and Japaneese prints. I've been storing them in this vintage suitcase I found a while ago at a garage sale. They were supposed to be a baby quilt that looked like a comic strip, but that didn't happen. Then I felt the need to do something "special" and improvisational with them. The thing about little picture quilts is that they take a lot of thought and concentration, and I don't have a lot of creative time and space without little ones talking in my ear or climbing under foot.

So I've decided to give myself a break and so quilts with regular "blocks". After all, the thing that attracted me to quilting was that I could cut the fabric when the kids were asleep, and then sew them together without much thought when the kids were awake. Sometimes I forget this, or think it doesn't have as much creative "value" somehow as my more improvisational quilts.
I've been wanting to make some of these "quilt as you go" blocks for a while now, so I thought that rather than committing to a whole big quilt of them, I would just do 9 and make a little quilt for the kids. Fun. Simple. Freeing.

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments here for all to find and see.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Oh, Curtians, how you mock me.

So, apparently home decor sewing is not my strong point. Its all the measuring and precision that kills me, I think. I wanted to make something cool and airy for the windows in our living room, something that would let in the light but not the neighbours eyes. So I thought I would make some fabric panels with a linen / cotton mix on the top and some burnt orange home decor fabric on the bottom, inspired by Lotta Jansdotter. But when I got to the local fabric store, I found that they just had enough for me to make them with a tiny seam allowance leftover.

Until, that is, I realized that my boys climb up here all the time, so I was going to have to wash the white curtains, or suffer the constant indignity of fingerprints. So I washed said linen / cotton blend and it shrunk, and warped  little bit. So I had to trim the edges to straighten the fabric.  As you can see, this resulted in not enough fabric to cover the windows. And these, my friends, have not even been finished on the edges yet. I decided to hang them and see if they were going to work before I finished the egdges. Dave's response, "They look like you took a bedsheet, ripped it in half and hung it up."  Well, yes, because they're not finished.

So now I must rip them all apart and find something to make  a third fabric panel. Either another solid, or, as pictured below, another block of this fab Joel Dewberry print.
What do you think, friends? Any solutions to my sewing tradgedy?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Men at Patchwork in Montreal

In one of my favorite books, "The Gentle Art of Domesticity", Jane Brocket talks about allotments, and how they remind her of quilts. She calls them an example of "men at patchwork". The part of Montreal where I live is mostly populated by brick homes and duplexes.
Most of them are somewhere between 70 and 100 years old, with newer homes mixed in. Almost all of the houses are made of red brick. The newer homes tend to maintain the red brick and the same shape as the older homes, though, and even many of the apartment blocks are built with red bricks.

It seems that when you are a bricklayer, and you are building hundreds of houses that have the same basic shape and size, you feel the need to do something decorative, to make the homes distinctive. So, many of the homes in my neighbourhood have these wonderful little brick patchworks decorating the space between the windows of the top floor and the roof.
Okay, so this one is actually the new stone path at the rec center, but still, a great quilt-y idea
I love finding these surprising little brick quilts everywhere I go. Although I have to remind myself only to look at them when I am walking. I don't know what the insurance company would think if I rear ended a car because I was distracted by decorative brickwork.

I can tell this city is going to inspire many, many rectangle quilts.
We took a detour on our way home from the park so we could get these photos along a street with a really good variety of patterns. I don't know what the neighbours thought of me photographing right above their windows . . . ah well. The things I do for you, dear readers.
Maybe the rectangle is the new square?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

For my birthday, I got lots of greetings of Facebook, flowers, take out food, and a walking baby:

A few days later, I had a new friend teach me how to cast on, so I could actually start knitting with the wool and needles I bought for my birthday last year. It has already been totally unravelled by an unsuspecting 3 yr old (after all, who could resist such perfect swords?), but I'm hoping it won't happen again.
I already learnt how to knit when I was about 8 -- my grandmother taught me. It came back without Valerie showing me a single stitch. I just looked at the row of loops and my body remembered what to do. Our muscle memory is truly amazing, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You know you're in a City when . . .

you have to run "Lockdown Drills" while substitute teaching, instead of "Fire Drills"

a car drives into the side window of your local grocery store and it doesn't make the news

you start to recognize the tags of your local graffiti artists

its a surprise to bump into anyone you know on the street

if you can walk there in under 15 minutes, its faster to walk than to drive

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A New Toy and Cake

I got a new toy this week that has helped me just about "finish" my little creative space in the living room. As you can see, I have my teeny tiny design wall and inspiration board hung up (two Ikea magnet boards, one covered with batting), a little clothes line for postcard and photos and such and the upper squares a little more sorted. But check out that sloppy ironing board! Since my original, blue ironing board cover got trashed (when I absent mindedly rotary cut a block on top of it and it became a victim of late night sewing mania), I have been trying to decide what to do with my ironing board. I had it wrapped up in this fabric with some batting underneath for a while, then I had it bare for a while, then I put a well folded old sheet under this fabric and wrapped it up again. The problem is that its not really portable this way. And since this fabric is the same stuff I used on Emma's nursing pillow, Emma got hungry and cranky every time I went to sew because it reminded her of lunch. I finally decided that action had to be taken.
One of the things I love about the city is the ability to just go out and get things. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but when you have lived in a town where you have to check the three local hard ware stores for everything, only to find that none of them stock the product you are looking for and that it will have to be added to the list of "Things for Dave to Get Next Time He's In the City ", it is very exciting. So, I packed the children up into the car, headed down to Reno Depot and found this little darling. Yes, a simple staple gun.
This staple gun has been a very satisfying purchase. For 15.00, I now have the technology. The ironing board is re-covered in this cute orange and yellow Joel Dewberry print that I like, but have never been able to figure out a use for. The orange will match my ridiculous sewing machine cover, should it ever be completed, as well as my soon to come curtains. Hooray.

In other news, I baked a really yummy cake. We were supposed to have guests over for dinner, so I made a nice meal. The guests forgot to show up, but the cake sure is tasty. I used coffee instead of milk in the icing. It kept the kids up late last night (oops) but it is really good. And with no one to share it with, we could have it for breakfast, too.
As you can see, I iced it with my usual style and attention to detail. I baked it too late, so it was still warm, and thus wobbled mid - icing. In other news, the mocha frosting matches my paint, which is definitely to be desired in cake, don't you think? I'll have to see if I can keep up a trend of stylish deserts in the future.

Friday, October 22, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments at for all to find and see.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fancy Pants, Take One

So, when I saw these Quick Change Trousers from Anna Maria Horner's book Handmade Beginnings start popping up around the internet, I knew I had to make some. I bought the book, and  I even bought fabric specifically to make them out of. Then I got distracted (ahem). I decided that fall is the perfect time for these pants, since they have two layers, and so I just didn't buy Emma any fall pants. This has meant that for the last week or so Dave keeps asking me, "Where are all Emma's pants?" whenever he has to change her. I have been sidestepping the question, rather than answering, "I haven't made her any yet." We all know the eye rolling that would cause. So, here is the first pair of several of these ridiculously cute pants.
The main fabric on this side is a print from Joel Dewberry's Modern Meadow (I think) collection. It is ridiculously cute, and I had planned to use it as a flower field in a quilt, but I really couldn't resist making it into girl's clothes. I can always cut them apart later when they don't fit her and make them into a quilt after all. So here are more photos than you want to see of Emma doing typical 10 month old baby things in her new pants.

Playing Peek a Boo:
Having a temper tantrum (do all girls start this young, or am I in trouble?):
Practicing her walking:
Oh, did you catch that? These are the same pants, but now they're green. That's because these little darlings are reversible. That's right -- now when Miss Messy decides to crawl through the mud on the way to church or chow down on raspberries just before picture time, I can just flip her pants inside out. How do you know these were designed by a mother of six?
This side is Amy Butler's famous Full Moon Polkadots. I've been hoarding them for about 5 years now, but I've called off all fabric hoarding and my new sewing mantra is, "I did not buy fabric to stay folded up on a shelf". (Not having the income for new fabric helps, too).
I used the helpful cloth diapered bum modification worked out by Meg over at Sew Liberated and it worked beautifully.
This pair is all quilting cotton, and now that its getting cooler I'm planning some corduroy pairs to keep Ems warm when she's walking her big brother to school in the morning.

I conclusion, let me add that it is impossible to just photograph Emma these days. Others want to get into the photos, making silly poses and then demanding that I stop my photo shoot to show them EVERY photo I take of them immediately. I kept asking them to pose, but Aaron kept moving and dancing, so this is the closest we got to what they were imagining their photo should look like.