Friday, March 30, 2012

Missing a Design Wall . ..

One thing I miss about my house in Melfort is my sewing space in the basement. Although I have a cute, compact little space here, I miss being able to spread out and leave the mess of a half finished project or three on the floor, the tables and the wall (like in this post here ). I find that I am especially missing my design "wall" (which was really just a piece of batting I would tack to the wall).

Now instead, I have a design board which is about big enough for a doll quilt, or I can spread out a piece of batting somewhere and stick parts to it, then roll it up when little "helpers" arrive to get in on the action. Unfortunately, when I unroll said project, it looks something like this:

 Then I get discouraged, and I don't really have the patience right now to move all the pieces around and figure out what is wrong when bits keep falling onto the floor and wrinkling all up like this. I do know what's wrong: I either need more reds and oranges in the frames, or I need to make it all blue, green and whites. But that requires more cutting and playing around with which blocks belong where. So instead of fixing this quilt (the beginnings of boy #4's quilt) and sewing the blocks together, I got frustrated and pulled them apart.

I briefly contemplated just doing this (only with fabric, of course):
 But in the end, I did this instead:
I think this quilt needs to wait until I either figure out a way to hang some batting on the wall, or have the mobility to use the floor as a design space again (not so easy at 37 weeks pregnant). So instead I'm going to sew some brainless, satisfying smaller projects with happy fabric, and leave quilt piecing until later.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Waiting Game Begins!

These photos are from last Monday when we still had snow. A week later and 5 days of freakishly warm weather means our yard is now full of mud, not snow and ice. And now its back to "regular" March weather.
One month to my due date has come and gone, and spring has sprung in Montreal. While my kids finally get to go outside and enjoy their sandbox, their fort and - soon - their bikes, I am increasingly finding myself inside, sorting and organizing and, mostly, resting.
I feel like the new life in me is a little like my kids in the sandbox these days. They are re-discovering all the joys - wind, sunshine, excercise - and pains - skinned knees, wet mittens, and dirty hands - of the outside world. And I am remembering, and about to rediscover all the joys and pains of that early, intense stage of motherhood that is caring for a newborn.
In the meantime, there is little I can do but wait, prepare, and distract myself from the inevitable change to come. Work is almost finished. Baby clothes are being sorted, emergency bags packed, and the last few re-organization tasks are planned or completed. And then there is just the slow, measured wait. Trying not to panic. Trying to keep busy and distracted while simultaneously doing a lot of nothing but resting and staying calm. Keeping our household operating, while realizing that our rhythm is about to change, and accepting that things are just not getting done as my energy and stamina wanes. Life is slowly, inevitably, briefly, turning inward.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sewing Time!

Well, I finally got a day off where no one was sick and I had a few hours to myself. I decided that aside from sleeping (which I did quite a bit of) and tidying up a little bit (enough to make things sane again), I decided it was time to sew!

I decided that I need to get a few UFOs (unfinished objects) finished, so I can feel more excited about sewing again, and I wanted to start with this quilt:

These blocks were made for me by the ladies of the Threads Together Quilting Bee way back at the beginning of the quilting bee craze. I loved these fabrics, and had been collecting them to make a wonky log cabin quilt for Dave and I's bed. Instead, I decided to hand them over to my quilting bee with no instructions, and see what I got back. A few people flaked out and I ended up with only 12 of the promised 16 blocks. Since I had asked for small blocks - 10 1/2 " - this meant I either had to put huge sashing around them or make a bunch of blocks. Discouraged, I put them in a bag with the leftover fabric and left them. Occasionally over the last few years, I have taken them out and played around with them, but always I have put them away again to work on another project. I still love the colours and fun bee and butterfly and owl fabrics in them, and the blocks I received were really stunning, so I've always felt bad that they were sitting in a bag, unassembled. It seems so disrespectful to the ladies who worked so hard to make them.
So I finally decided to just make one block to replace the one block that just didn't fit with the rest, and sash them together, and make a small quilt. Right now this is about 40 X 50, but I might add a scrappy border to it, which will make it about 46 X 56. I figure we have enough little people in the house that its okay to have some little quilts around that are just the right size for their laps.

The other thing I wanted to start on today was a baby quilt for the new baby. I decided I'm going to do really simple square - in - square blocks in these lovely bright colours. Some are from a couple of fabric bundles I picked up at, and the Pezzy prints are from a yummy bundle of pezzy prints I picked up at Pink Chalk Fabrics (also online). I wanted to get the cutting done while I had no little fingers around.
Since Emma stays up so late, my old quilting routine of cutting and ironing at night when everyone is sleeping, and then sewing during the day when I have a few moments hasn't worked, so I was glad to get these all done today. I was really happy because I figured out a way to get all the fabric I'll need from two 2 1/2" strips and one 4 1/2". This means I have enough fabric left from these plus the other fabrics I ordered as "potential" fabrics to make a nice log cabin picnic quilt later this year (I want to make a second go at the quilt-as-you-go method in "Patchwork Style").

Emma came home while I was sorting out and spreading out the fabric for the last photo. I gave her the leftover bits and pieces and she had fun playing with them until supper time. Soon she'll be a great quilting apprentice to have around the house.
Here is some of the leftovers from my original stack, although since I cut them in pairs and then folded quickly, you can only see half the fabrics here . . . I am really excited about this baby quilt. It should be super fun.

Fab Little Quilt Swap Conclusion . . .

Well, the Fab Little Quilt Swap is now at the point where all the quilts have been sent out, and everyone is checking their mailboxes for their quilts to come! Since the swap is mostly out of the US, I am considered "international" and have to mail early. So my part in the quilt swap has come to its happy conclusion.

Here is my finished quilt. My partner was ruthiequilts , the queen of all things bitty (she is one of the members of the truly amazing bitty block committee). She likes some order and structure in her quilts, and had just photographed some quilts with all 3" churn dashes that she loved, and she had lots of pics of tea cups and tea pots in her photo stream.
So I put all that together to make her this little quilt, which I called "Catmint Tea". She loves it, and I'm glad it made her happy - I had a lot of fun making it.

In return, I got an amazing quilt from Angela / Twee Cut to Pieces. She read through my blog when she was looking for quilt ideas, and must have read my post on my ambivalence about staying home again after being back at work. She put that together with this amazing illustration to create this masterpiece for me:

As soon as I got it, the pretty quilt found its place on my quilt wall in the kitchen, to remind me to enjoy all the things I love, and relish this time I'm going to have at home with my little ones.

Angela actually won a blogger competition with this quilt, too, so it is very cool that its now mine! I really and truly love it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Inspiration Overload

So, now that I am done my Fab Little Quilt (no time to down load pics and do a proper post on that today, so it will have to wait until later in the week - if that is too much of a tease, just check my Flikr stream), I am trying to finish up some WIP's and think of what I want to make for a baby quilt, and for Emma's big bed quilt.

The problem is that I have too many ideas and choices. I've gathered some awesome fabrics for both quilts, and part of me wants to just do simple one-patch quilts of some variety. But I know I could do so much more, and I sort of want to stretch myself a little bit, so I never actually cut into the fabric. Instead I just toodle around on Flikr thinking, "oh, or I could do that. or maybe that. oh, that's nice too . . ." without actually choosing an idea, or thinking about how short my time frame is before the baby is actually here.

And every time I do settle on a plan, life gets in the way and I have to wait a little longer to start working on it. This week I thought that I would finally get some solid sewing time in, because Thurs. and Fri. are half days at school. But Emma picked up Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease and she is highly infectious, so she has to stay home from daycare all week. So there go my free days - AGAIN.

I think I just need to acknowledge that as much as I'd like to be making more complex and challenging quilts right now, my actual sewing time is short. So I need to think simple, stop trying to over-complicate my own life (one of my favorite pastimes) and just make something relatively quick, that  I will still be happy with. I will have years when my kids are older to make Dresden quilts and Postage stamp quilts and carefully crafted and balanced Improv quilts and Wonky neighborhood quilts. Right now I just need to think lovely, simple, comforting quilts in happy colours to brighten our rooms and warm our hearts. Right? Right.

So maybe I should spend that extra 15 min. I have here and there sewing instead of popping in to Flikr, overloading my brain with MORE inspiration. Well, okay, once my Fab Little Quilt arrives at its recipient's doorstep, anyway. Then I will cut into that yummy stack of baby boy fabric. Promise.  

Friday, March 09, 2012

Bye, bye hair!

Well, my hair has been pre-Raphelite-ing again, and had become pretty unmanageable. I was mostly just throwing it up in a messy bun or braid, until Emma got a hold of it and pulled it all down and apart. Since I have no immediate plans to swoon in rowboats or languish on the edge of city ramparts or otherwise take advantage of my long, unruly hair, I decided it was time for it to go.

So, off to the hairdresser I went. She asked if I wanted most of it cut off in a ponytail so I could donate it to a wig-making for cancer patients charity. I said yes, of course. How fantastic would that be to have my hair, which is just irritating me, used for something so wonderful? And since my hair is such an unusual colour, it really is perfect. Rather charmingly, when I brought home and dried out the ponytail, Dave asked if we could keep it next time in case I died, so he could remember my red hair. I told him he was being very Victorian and that the ponytail was going in the mail.

In any case, here is the hair that was cut off, and here is my new haircut:

I was hoping for something a little longer, but my hair grows. Fast. So this is good for now - light, easy to clean, hard to spit up in or pull, and polished and professional for the next month while I'm still at work.
So, if I was in my "Earth Mother" phase back in the day in Saskatchewan (see my pre-Raphelite post), what would I be in now? My "Urban Working Mom" phase? My "I'm Too Busy to Construct an Identity" phase? Any thoughts?

Friday, March 02, 2012

Stage Two of Nesting Complete - Paint!

As I mentioned on Monday, I have been in that particular stage of pregnancy insanity where you must throw your entire household into upheaval and get everything ready for the baby. I beleive with Emma we got new wardrobes and I sewed everything in sight - wipes, change pads, baskets, wall organizers, quilts . . . I was a mad sewing demon. This time it appears to be painting and re-organizing.

I think I might have mentioned that we are switching all the bedrooms around. Since we were moving all the furniture anyway, and two of the bedrooms did not get painted when we moved in, and the third has been liberally sprinkled with Aaron's idea of wall art, I decided that there was no time like the present to paint. My long suffering husband agreed to wash walls and move furniture and peel tape, and gave me free reign to choose colours and paint walls.

Since I finished these rooms it has been snowing, and there is only pale, filtered light to see the new colours in, but I had to show them off in any case because I love them. When we were in Saskatchewan, I was always trying to pick paint colours that would liven things up and make our space more stimulating. In Montreal, I find that I am chosing colours that feel calm and happy as a foil to all the chaos and crowding (not to mention all that red brick).

Our room, formerly the boys' room, is at the front of the house, facing the street. It is this lovely moss-y, pine-y green. Dave and I both love it, and it feels so soothing to be in this room now.
And look, I even sort of made the bed for you (the duvet cover is in the laundry right now, and what with all the painting, the laundry is sadly neglected, so pardon all that white. I think I'm going to finally pull out my Freshcut fabric and make a wall quilt and possibly a bed quilt with it. And the fact that it has been re-issued and I could get more of a few prints I was missing or had used for other things helps, too.

Emma's room (formerly our shared room) was a neutral-y white colour with lots of handprints and wall art fromt he previous owner's kids. Yuk. Frankly, it has been driving me crazy for the last year and a half, and I have been itching to paint it, so I was happy to finally get the chance.

This room has no windows, just a sliding door joining it to the boys' room and the main door leading to the living room. It is pretty dark, and when I started applying this yellow-green paint I discovered that part of the reason for its sad, cavern-like feeling was that the former owners had painted it a neutral with a purple undertone. I totally do not get why you would put a cool, dark undertone in the paint of a dark room. In any case, this meant I had to add a second coat of paint, since there was this strange pink glow emmanating through the seemingly flourecent yellow at the end of my first coat.

The end result is a pretty, soft green that will be great to match with pink for now, but will have staying power for when Emma moves on from the pink thing. There was nothing in this roome except a giant, ugly, cheap Ikea wardrobe when I went to take this picture, so I thought I would show off the baby bump. Because this room has so little natural light, it is hard to photograph. The colour of the back wall is pretty accurate, but it is a little more yellow in real life.

The boys have been moved into the former study at the back of our bedrooms. They seem to have really taken to this room, and play in it a lot more than they did their former room. I think they maybe feel more secure because they are in the middle of the house rather than slightly isolate at the front of the house. They are still on their futon mattress, although plans are brewing to build them loft beds in the spring or summer.
The boys initially really wanted a similar colour to their old room, and this is pretty close. It is a little bit lighter, because there is less natural light at the back of our house (thanks, hill covered in tri-plexes on the other side of our back yard). Aaron decided once we had already bought the paint that he wanted grey instead, and then of course Andrew decided he would like red. We compromised and told them they could each pick a colour for their bed when Dave builds them.

Now that the painting is complete, we have started sorting and moving. Hopefully I'll be able to show you that next week, along with my finished Fab Doll Quilt, which has to be mailed in a week or so.

Hope you have a lovely weekend, and if you are in our area, find a way to enjoy the snow!