Saturday, July 07, 2012

Moving on . . .

This has been a fun space, that I've enjoyed for the last 6 years and 839 posts. But I don't have the energy to figure out what is causing the malware warnings, after the most obvious solutions failed. So I'm moving on to a new blog. Same sewing, same family, new look and name (and possibly some new features). From now on you can find me at: Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 02, 2012

To change or not to change?

So, my blog is doing strange things. I keep having these malware warnings pop up, but then they go away again. The problem is that I dont' know if there's actually something wrong with my blog or not. After I tried to fix it, and the warning started to pop up again, I started to set up a new blog. But it looks like you're all here and my blog is working again anyway.

What to do? Do I switch to a new blog, or do I stay here? This blog has 6 years of history on it and a few tutorials. But I am in a new place in my life as a stay at home mom again in a new city. Does that require a new blog?

Can you share some opinions, my dear readers? Can you still access the blog? Are you getting malware warnings when you try to view it? Would you move with me to a new blog? What do you think?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where there's a will, there's a way.

That's what my mother used to say. So, while I've been frustrated with my lack of space for a design wall in the living room, I have been mulling over other possibilities and blank wall spaces in my house. And look what I found:
A handy space to hang some quilt batting and mess around with giant star blocks. I have to cut the rest of these out, but this is the start of my bed quilt for my bed.
This is the space between my (messy) desk and the change table. So it doubles as something stimulating for the baby to look at while I'm changing his diaper. Because, you know, there's no stimulation in our house at all. No noise or action to keep him insterested and occupied.

Speaking of the baby, Owen is doing well. He has quite the mop of hair, and it has the funny effect of making him look much older than 2 months. See:

He's also started smiling. If his little smiles are any indication of what is to come, he's going to be a fun little boy.

Monday, June 18, 2012


So, my blog seems to have got hacked into. And after a frantic night of messing around in Webmaster Tools and a night of panicing about what I would do if I had to erase the record of the last 6 years of my life, including all the details and funny stories about my kids. The question, then, is does anyone know how to backup a blog? You know, just to give me something to do in my spare time?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You know you live in Montreal when . . .

the weather man says, "So, if you're planning to go to a festival or go protest tonight, make sure you bring a warm layer".

Friday, June 08, 2012

In Bits and Pieces

I'm trying to sew in bits and pieces. In the midst of the recent 4 child chaos, I do have time to sew, as long as I pace myself. No pics yet, but I sewed a wrap skirt (initially backwards, but that is another story). Tonight, I'm tracing patterns, instead of thinking about which pattern to start sewing. If they are all traced, then I can actually pick one up and cut the fabric the next time I have a few moments to spare.

I think I might get to blog more if I do it in bits and pieces too. As much as, to quote my highschool art teacher, I tend to be "prolific", I feel better if I at least get to write a little bit. Hopefully stay tuned for more short blog posts soon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Crafty comparisons

So, I have had a lot of time to roam around the crafty blogosphere lately, what with all that breastfeeding I've been doing lately. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time cruising Flikr and blogs and quilters blogs linked to Flikr. Not to mention all the regular blogs I follow that keep me up to date on the latest and greatest in quilting.

This is the thing; I have no time to make quilts right now. No. Time. Yet I keep seeing these increasingly complex quilt blocks that would be cool to make, and these wonderful improv quilts that are amazing displays of creativity and careful design. Not only that, but it seems like many of these bloggers produce at least a quilt a week. Seriously. And I think I made two quilts last year.

I've been thinking, for instance, about how much I'd like to make a scrap quilt out of tiny pieces (it will have to be done eventually before my house is taken over with scraps). And I always start with a simple - ish plan (why don't I choose a block and make a scrappy quilt using that block, or make a basic spider web or string quilt). But then I start thinking of all the creative things I could do - a medallion quilt with five or six different kinds of scrappy blocks. A tricky paper piecing something or another. A postage stamp quilt. The Maple Leaf rag with all those tiny pieced centers to the spiderweb blocks . . . and my head starts to spin. And I think "I will never be the quilter I want to be. I don't meet up to the standard. All I do is sew squares together and that is not very creative. I give up."

But the problem with this thinking is the people I am comparing myself to. I forget that a lot of the bloggers I am following are trying to make their living by quilt blogging. They get sent bundles of free fabric, on the condition that they can turn around a quilt top with that fabric in 2 or 3 weeks. Their kids are in school or out of the house or they have help. Or they just devote a lot more time to sewing than I can at the moment.

This is sort of like when I was a kid and teenager. I always felt like I wasn't meeting the standard set by my siblings. But I was ignoring the fact that they were 10 or 15 years older than me, so of course they were more mature / had more experience / were doing more than I was.

I think I need to give myself the grace to just enjoy making simple quilts. I need to release the inner over-achiever that wants to make something fabulous that will wow the blogosphere. I just don't have the time, and that's not why I quilt in any case.

Instead, I need to remember that this is my HOBBY. I don't want to make money off of it (despite many people's insistence that I should try). I just want to play with colour and pattern and make beautiful things for my family and friends. I have some quilts that don't quite work like I thought they would, yes. But then, I was pushing myself outside of my comfort zone when I made them. And often I really enjoyed the process of making them. So who cares? Is the quilt police going to come and ban me from quilting for lack of productivity? No. Are my quilts going to get confiscated for using slightly clashing colors or unsucessful designs? No. Are the Flikr police going to take away my contacts (and online friends) because I don't meet the mark as far as comments or favorites or admirers? Nope. Nope. Nope.

So why am I so hard on myself? Why do I compare myself to professionals and super popular people? I don't know. I think its time to let it go already. Make things I love with fabric I love and not worry about wether it is what the cool kids are making or doing or using in their quilts. And realize that its okay not to be quilting like crazy with a 3 week old and 3 other kids, when I can barely get sleep and showers in.

I think "Let it go" is actually my new mantra for the next 3 months. Sounds good, no?

Friday, May 04, 2012

{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 soulemama
for all to find and see.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pre- baby finishes!

I did get a few more projects finished while I was waiting anxiously for Owen to show up. First, I finished the second finger and sewed in the tails on my third pair of fingerless gloves:
These ones are made of a cream wool, and more or less match my favorite crochet hat. The second pair of these that I made I gave to my sister-in-law for Christmas, and forgot to take a photo of. This pair is by far the tidiest of the lot, and on the sixth thumb hole, I finally figured out that "pick up two stitches and knit" means to pick up the stitches that are already present on the sides of the glove, rather than to cast on two new stitches.
This means that one of these thumb holes has the distinction of not floating around, held together by stitching in the woven-in tails of the thumb hole, but instead is actually attatched to the body of the glove on all sides.
I forgot to keep the label on the wool, but it is really soft and warm, and it shows up the cables nicely, so I'm happy with how these turned out. I think my next knitting project might be legwarmers. I want to knit something for the baby, but I'm afraid that he'll have grown out of it by the time I'm done. Maybe I'll start on some fall hats in August - I'll start with Andrew and work my way down, that way if they don't fit one child, there is a chance that someone else will grow into them.

The second thing I finished was the bag I was talking about in my last sewing post, the Nikki Tote (pattern from here ). I was a little nervous about this bag because of the pleats, the interfacing and the curved corners. I've never sewn a bag that wasn't of the sew-two-rectangles-together variety, so this one scared me a bit. But with all my experience sewing softies and clothes, I'm not sure why curves and pleats seemed so intimidating, as I've done both in the past.
I was really happy with the results. This bag is giant - just the right size for a laptop and some work files or for swimsuits, towels and lunch at the park. Last year I used my MEC backpack or a reusable Loblaws (Superstore) bag, but they both lacked a certain panache.

The pattern was really simple to follow and the pattern pieces fit together beautifully. As an experienced sewer I could finish it quite quickly - probably without interruptions this would be a half-day to a day long project. I used some of my favorite fabric, which has currently been reprinted - Freshcut by Heather Bailey. These reprints don't quite match the original fabrics, so my idea of using this mum pattern in a quilt with them wasn't going to work. The interior print - this yellow - is by far my favorite print in the line, and so I wanted to use it as a co-ordinate.
One great thing about this pattern is that although it is really clean on the outside, it has big pockets on the inside. These big pockets fit a commuter mug, or a good sized waterbottle, or a power cord (or a tin of pencil crayons). I thought it would be fun, since it will probably hold cup-type things, to pick a fabric that would remind me of the pockets' purpose.
The other side of the bag also has a "small" pocket, just right for my wallet, keys, and cell phone (plus a soother). The top has no closure, but because of the angle of the handles and the top of the bag, it stays securely closed, which is great.
Andrew did me a favor and posed with the bag to show you just how big it is - of course this had to be done with proper drama.

On Monday, April 23rd, after just over 2 hrs of serious labour, our new little boy was born: Owen Caleb. Because of his fast labour, he had a bit of a rough start - he started gagging and had to be whisked away to the nursery for his first night and morning.
Fortunately, while I had to stay in the recovery room, Dave got to hold his finger while all the initial diagnostics were taking place, and then give him a big skin-to-skin snuggle. I got to be there with him while they took blood, and stayed with him, hoping he would get to come back to my room that first night. Un/fortunately, he had to stay overnight. I was sad, and had to wake up every few hours to feed him, but he was really choke-y and needed to have mucous suctioned out several times, so I'm glad he was where he could be taken care of, although he and I were both happy when he got to come back to my room mid-morning the next day.
Wed morning he got to come home with us, and he has been lavished with love whenever he is awake (and woken up whenever he is not in protective arms the rest of the time).
Aaron is super excited - the week before he was born, Aaron complained, "Mom, I've been waiting for this baby almost FOREVER."
Andrew and Emma are also excited, and have been enjoying holding the baby. Every time Emma sees the baby in my arms she wants to "Give Hug! Give Hug!" and if he's awake and not eating, Owen has a little sit on her lap, she looks at his face and his feet and then gives him back. Dave has also been enjoying as much snuggle time as he can get with Owen, but since he is the main child wrangler, feeder and dish washer right now, he doesn't get as many chances as he would like.

And really, can you blame us all for being enamoured? He's pretty cute.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Little Projects

Sewing is a great way to distract yourself while you are waiting for a baby. Today is the baby's due date, but technically I am 41 weeks pregnant, so I have one more week before I get induced. In any case, I thought I would show you guys what I've been stitching to keep myself busy and close to home.

First, more fabric baskets. I love this pattern, courtesy of maya made . I had a couple of fabric baskets in use here, but one was actually originally from the change table, while the other was actually an Easter basket. So I decided I needed some new, kitchen coloured baskets. One side is the grey (courtesy of Ikea) while the flip side is the blue peacock pattern, courtesy of Art Gallery fabrics (don't remember the name, sorry). These are the biggest square baskets I've made so far, and I like the size - I might made some for Emma's toys, now that she's starting to have little - bits toys.
Next up is actually a re-working of something I sewed a while ago. This was originally a soft laundry basket, theoretically for the boys' laundry. However, they never used it. This basket was twice as long, with red canvas and no lining. I basically cut it in half, cut another circle for the bottom, and added some heavy duty fusible interfacing in between the layers.
 I love blocks, because they are open ended and all our kids can play with them at once, despite being 2, 5, and 7. So I wanted them out where the kids could see and use them, instead of in a closed bin, where they were before.
Next up is a pattern I've wanted to try for a while from Lotta Jansdotter's "Simple Sewing for Babies". It is a basic diaper bag. I made the bag as the pattern requires for me, out of blue canvas (this is a medium weight organic canvas - the same as the red in the last post. It is from tonic living . The other is a lined variation I made for our daycare provider, as it is our last week of daycare, and I wanted to make her something to thank her for all her work.
I put the pockets on the inside of the floral bag, as I thought it looked better with a clean outside to display the big print on the fabric.
I didn't add any interfacing to this bag - just a strip of flannel in the bag handle - but the Kona cotton is pretty tough and tightly woven, so hopefully it will stay together.
My version is simpler, with the pockets on the outside. I thought it might be nice to have a fairly gender neutral bag for diapering stuff, so Dave can use it, too. I might get some fabric paint and stencil something on the outside - I haven't decided yet.

Next, I wanted to make a little light stroller / car seat / travel quilt for the new baby. As baby #4 will have to come along with whatever the rest of the family is doing, I thought he should at least get a snuggly blanket for cool days.
This quilt was really quick - I have hoarded two charm packs of Funky Monkey fabric for several years now, and I decided I would use it for something for me.
The back is a 1/2 m of yellow flannel sock monkey fabric that was leftover from a quilt I made for the boys' cousin. I put a border of charm squares along the edges to make it a nice size for baby. The front is charm squares stitched together, and some brown flannel I picked up at Fabricville (the local big box fabric store). I sandwiched it with another layer of flannel, pillowcase flipped it, and tied it with red embroidery floss. The ric-rac ties are handy for tying the quilt to strollers or car seats, so it can't get kicked off. One of the best things about this quilt is that is is heavy enough to keep baby warm, but light enough to roll up and tuck in your bag.
Finally, I finished these change pads. I actually cut these out for Emma, but I didn't ever sew them together.
These are also from "Simple Sewing for Baby". I don't know why I didn't finish them, because they are, well, really simple to make. They roll up and velcro together so that they fit nicely in any bag, and they took me one night to make.
The outside fabric is an Amy Butler Nigella print that I bought on sale a couple of years ago. The inside fabric is something I picked up at the fabric store in Melfort. It is really old-lady ugly, but I love it. In polyester it would be the kind of thing my grandma would have made a house dress out of. There is something about it that makes me smile. I always dream of it being mixed into a quilt with aqua blues and silvery greys, but I've never been able to find enough co-ordinates to make it into something pretty, so here it is in all its ugliness, ready to hide stains instead.

Next up (barring baby actually deciding to show up) is a big pleated hobo-style bag. For some reason, it makes me really nervous and I've been putting off making it. I've never made a "real" bag with interfacing and pleats and really nice fabric, so I'm kind of anxious about messing it up. It is all cut out, so I just have to not mess up sewing it together (and hope I cut it properly). Wish me luck with both the bag and the baby!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter and the Like

The rest of our Easter Weekend was more peaceful than the start. Saturday I spent the day (and late into the night) stitching up some Easter Basket softies. In order to be somewhat awake on Sunday, they remained faceless until Sunday afternoon.
Here they are ready to be found in the morning, in the baskets I made last year . And here they are today, fully embroidered and embellished:
The ninjas are from a Melly and Me Pattern, "Little Ninjas". They would have been really fast to sew if I hadn't sewn their head bands wrong three times. Sometimes when you are used to making things up yourself, it is harder to follow a pattern than it really should be. The kitty is from the original Wee Wonderfuls Put Together Book, by Hillary Liang. She was also a quick, fun sew. Eventually I might make a pair of felt Mary Janes for her, but for now she's bare foot.

In other exciting news, I received the rest of my blocks from Melissa, my partner in sarah and molly's free peicing study, today. Neither of us finished all the blocks, but since they were supposed to be done in November or so, I emailed Melissa and asked if we could just call it done. She agreed that she was kind of burnt out on making the blocks too, although they were fun, and we are just sending each other what we have done. I think my blocks are hers are lovely together. I left my blocks all odd sizes so I could fill in bits and pieces in the colours I needed to. I think I will also make a "Mel" block, just so both our names appear on the quilt. But I love the bright, fun look of all the blocks together, and I think this will be a fun project to stitch together in the fall sometime (when baby is bigger and I have two boys in school).
In family news, it appears that Emma has picked up her mother's creative layering style. This is how she went to church on Easter Sunday. No cute little poofy dresses (or even cream tights to tone things down a little) for this girl:
On Monday, Dave bought Aaron a bunch of these little ATV's that you pull back to wind and then let go. They have been a huge hit, and we've spent a lot of time racing them across the living room floor in the last few days. Andrew won our first after-supper-series, and he was sorely disappointed when we told him that the prize for winning was that you got to be the winner and take a bath. So he build some trophies, which the boys took turns modelling the next night:

I love this shot. Its another one for the mini-pops indy band cd cover series.

Friday, April 06, 2012

A Different Good Friday Than Expected

Today was a little bit of a different day than expected. Not because of a new baby, no. Because we had a plan for a family outing. There is a joint ANiC Good Friday service in the town of Lennoxville on the South Shore (of the St. Lawrence River - we are on an island in the middle of the river). Because it is an hour's drive and it starts at 5, we decided that we needed a plan.
So instead of leaving at 3:30 or 4, we decided to leave around one, find a park, play for a while, find a McDonalds as a special treat for supper, then go to the service with kids who would be pretty mellow and not hyper and cranky after an hour long car ride.
Well, first of all, we started out in the wrong direction. Then, when Dave got off the highway to get turned around in Lachine, the car started vibrating. Dave stopped to see what was wrong with the tire, and couldn't see a problem. Then 2 min. down the road, the car stopped moving. The axle was broken. So we weren't driving to Lennoxville after all.
Instead we had a completely different kind of adventure. One involving a tow truck. And kids riding in the back of a taxi. Then realizing that Dad had the keys with him, in the tow truck, on his way to Canadian Tire. And breaking into our own house through the kitchen window (no, I didn't climb in myself, I boosted Andrew - I have my limits when I'm 9 mos pregnant).
Well, climbing through the window was so cool and exciting that everyone needed a turn. Aaron followed Andrew. Andrew unlocked the door and Emma and I went in. And Emma and I had a discussion that went something like this:

"Car wheel broke!"
"Yes, that's right, the tire broke on the car and we had to stop. The tow truck came to carry our car away to get fixed."
"High up."
"Yes, the tow truck was lifting our car up very high."
"No Macdonalds."
"Nope, instead we came home in a taxi."
"Yes, we climbed through the window."
"Emma's turn."
"You wanted a turn climbing through the window?"
So, we put a chair by the window on the inside, went outside and opened it up again, and I boosted Emma in through the window.

A lot of people say they feel sorry for Emma, as she is the only girl in our family. It seems to me sometimes that she gets the best of both worlds. All the cute clothes and softies and doll quilts to herself. Plus all the rough and tumble play she could want. Even climbing through the window to do her part in rescuing us.

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.