Friday, 28 January 2011

Psychotic Weather

Last Friday at this time of day, it was doing this ...
Have I told you lately how much I love SNOW ON EVERGREEN TREES?
I do.
I really do.
I'm always trying to catch the PERFECT photo of snow on evergreens.
This isn't it.

This is a skein of your basic acrylic yarn ... 10 inches or so tall when standing on end.
This skein of yarn is standing on end in front of a snow bank.
See that little bit of light in the TOP LEFT CORNER of this photo? That's the snowbank surface.
See the line behind the knitting needles where the fresh clean snow starts above the dirty grubby snow?
That's how much snow fell overnight last Thursday/Friday.
Even more snow fell last weekend.
Then Monday/Tuesday brought above zero temperatures.

Today, the city sidewalks are ICE instead of giant snowbanks 'cuz of that unexpected warm spell and a lot of that snow melted into giant puddles.  Sheesh!  We all know winter is FAR from over yet ... it's only the end of JANUARY!

A piece of important advice:  if it's SHINY, don't try to hurry on it ... it might be ice!  I have some colourful bruises on my hind quarters to show for ignoring my own advice!  Nothing seriously dented.  Except my dignity.

Sorry, short post.  Busy week.  Will do better next week.  Stay warm and safe, y'all!

Monday, 17 January 2011

"Memories" Quilt Block and A Fashion Disaster

Several of you pointed out that I didn't blog about the significance of each quilt block in my "Grateful Heart Sampler" quilt.  Very good point ... y'all are certainly observant!  To remedy that, I will begin by sharing what I wrote in my personal journal about my "Memories" block ...
Saturday, January 01, 2011

First day of a new calendar year.  It's about minus fifteen, snowing very lightly, and quiet.  Our (Miss Boots and I) big endeavour for this day has been the completion of the first block of an ambitious new quilt project called "A Grateful Heart Sampler".  The purpose of each quilt block is to symbolize something important for which we are grateful, and the patterns come from the Winter 2009/10 edition of McCall's "America Makes Quilts" magazine.

The first block is called "Memories".  The pattern author says: "memories help us look back while we live in the present.  We learn from our experiences, remembering our successes and failures.  Sometimes the simplest thing triggers a memory; a smell, a voice, a song, a photo, a dish, etc."

The first part of constructing any quilt block is choosing the fabrics for its components.  I actually chose the fabrics for this block before Christmas.  Perhaps it was the approaching holiday that spurred me to choose the four-inch "fussy cut" centre, a red fabric with tiny white snowflakes around an old-fashioned little Miss wearing a full skirt, white with snowflakes, and carrying beribboned pots of poinsettias.  Reminded me of childhood Christmas concerts.  One year, "J." wore a fancy dress with a flocked design on its wheer white over-skirt.  (I wore a practical blue plaid wool jumper.)  "J." also wore white leotards and black patent leather shoes.  (I wore beige leotards and sensible winter "rubbers" as dress shoes weren't appropriate in snow.)  Naturally, "J." pointed out each of my shortcomings.  She was actually quite cruel compared to other Sunday School age peers.  However, "J.'s" taunts and my beige leotards could not diminish the joys of the annual Christmas concert!

There was music ... oh such music!  Everyone practised and practised for weeks.  I sang solo for the first time at one of those Christmas concerts (O Little Town of Bethlehem) when I was 4 or 5.  It was a magical moment when I realized everyone was listening to me!  There was drama, right from the simple lisped, and usually coaxed and coached, lines by "L.'s" preschoolers and up to complex multi-act skits by young adults.  I wrote and directed the Christmas concert skit when I was 13.  It was about an extra Magi who never managed to get his act together in time to arrive at Bethlehem with the other Magi, and went over well with actors and audience alike.  There were also treats for every child, a brown paper bag with a Mandarin orange and a variety of nuts and hard candies.  Being a lifelong chocoholic, I didn't care much for the candies, but the nuts and oranges were a great treat!  One must remember that our one and only small-town grocery store only carried oranges and nuts briefly in season, not like today's supermarkets.

That one little fabric square certainly launched an avalanche of memories ... good, bad, funny, disappointing, triumphant, bitter ... each recollection stitched into the person I am today.  I chose another red fabric (with musical notes) and a blue fabric (with tiny cupcakes and sandwiches and pizza slices) to compliment my old-fashioned Christmas little Miss, as memories of special occasions throughout my life invariably include both music and food.

When I sorted through fabrics for one more something to complete this block, I envisioned something very plain and neutral, perhaps a subtle white-on-white print.  However, I found a blue-on-white print that reminded me of the Corelle dishes that Joe and I bought our first Christmas together and then added to over the years as we raised our family.  Stood to reason that childhood memories be bridged to my present with symbols of my young adult years and my own offspring.

The completed block is, I think, quite attractive.  With two blues, it has a rather wintery look, particularly from a distance.  The only "rule" I've set out for myself for this project is one blue something per block.  How like me, eh?  Make a rule and promptly break it!  Just call me rebel.  My Dad used to say "begin your year how you plan to spend the rest of it".  Does that mean I'm going to be rebellious all 2011?  Or just a sentimental quilter?


My friend's young daughter, "Little Madam C." came to visit this past weekend.  At one point, I suggested she play with the doll she had left at my place while I got some Saturday chores done.  This suggestion was met with hand on hip and eye rolling and "I don't really play with dolls anymore cuz I'm like in grade one now!"  Eventually, she got so bored that she went and fetched the doll.  Much to her horror, she discovered "Patty Maty" was "totally dressed inappropriately for this weather!"  (I don't think I knew what the word "inappropriately" meant back in grade one.)

Patty Maty is still wearing her Easter dress!  Tiger "L." is more APPROPRIATELY dressed for winter in his black turtleneck and black leather jacket.
And furthermore, Patty Maty has accomplished potty training since last being seen!
"REALLY!  Even my baby brother doesn't wear a diaper any more!"
So the first thing we had to address was appropriate undergarments.  We settled on a nice practical cotton cami and panties set.
Practical but pretty lingerie cuz "every girl should have pretty lingeries!"
The blue ribbons are important cuz "it's the little details that say it's good quality".  (I certainly wasn't aware of good quality when I was in grade 1 ... I got hand-me-downs and was lucky if they fit!)  Then we made a pair of REAL jeans.
Notice the top-stitching ... we're paying attention to those quality details!
And a nice long-sleeved shirt to go with the jeans.  Cuz it's like winter you know.
Patty Maty all dressed appropriately and ready for a ride to school in Tiger "L's" truck!
Since the long-sleeved shirt is for school, we had to make a "chillaxing" outfit.  (I'm darned sure I didn't know the word "chillaxing" when I was in grade 1!)  So we came up with a plain long-sleeved white teeshirt ...
The "chillaxing" teeshirt
... and dressed it up with some lace at the neckline and an appliqued satin "P" (for Patty Maty) on the front.  Of course, we had to come up with "chillaxing" pants too, which we made out of some soft and comfy flannalette.  Little Madam "C" was quite helpful with all this sewing.  Her little hands were quite adept at pinning and cutting, so we had a few basic sewing lessons, including selvage edges, fabric grain, and sewing straight seams.
Chillaxing pants pinned on flannelette.
Notice how the arrow is lined up nice and straight to the selvage edge of the fabric!
Apparently, DRESSING dolls appropriately is not the same as actually PLAYING with dolls.  However, I did notice that Patty Maty was in the kitchen later while we baked cookies, and also tucked under the quilt with Little Madam "C" at bed time!
Patty Maty in her apron, perched on the bread machine while we baked cookies.
Times for me to treasure as Little Madam will all too soon REALLY be too old to dress/play with dolls!  Hopefully, she'll remember the two of us sewing together.

Hey!  There were a couple of cars parked there last Friday!
It was fun getting to work this morning.  We had a 'little bit" of snow over the weekend!  Have a great week, y'all!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Happy 2011!

I've been enjoying a Christmas vacation, one of those stay at home kind of vacations ... what do they call them?  "Staycations"?  My last day of work was Christmas Eve, and I didn't go back to the office until today, January 3rd.  I very purposefully did NOT think about work ... and every time thoughts about work burbled up to surface, I firmly sent them packing!  I didn't even turn on my computer (so I wouldn't be tempted to check work-related email).  In fact, most days, I didn't get out of my jammies.  To tell y'all the truth, I could use another 10 days like that ... eat, nap, read, relax, knit, quilt, relax some more, eat some more, have another nap ... it was great!  And The Boots was thrilled to get pets and snuggles any time of the day!

I had decided on some nice mindless sock-knitting ...

Oh oh!  Broken knitting needle!  What to do?
... but before completing sock #1, one of my favourite double-pointed (bamboo size 2 mm) knitting needles snapped!  Yes, I still had 4 others, but knitting with 4 instead of 5 is just ... WRONG!  So I had to abandon sock knitting (until I can replace the broken bamboo needle).  So I decided to tackle a simple quilting project instead.
"Friendship Star" quilt block using bits of cutesy bright food-related fabrics.
Placemats.  I've had intentions of making a new set for myself for a while now.
Sewing the binding on a placemat.

Miss Boots, Chief Thread Inspector!
They turned out quite nice (I think) ...
Completed placemat on table.

Reverse side ... great foody expressions ... and NOT white (in case of spaghetti sauce)!
However, the placemats just didn't satisfy the "creating with wool" urge, so I dug out a crochet hook and hooked me up a new wool hat ...
Bright red Paton's Classic Wool

Finished hat.  Oops ... taking pix in the bathroom whilst wearing jammies!
... although I didn't need it today as it was only minus 5 degrees.  I'm sure there will be plenty of much colder mornings in the coming months!

So one partial sock, a set of placemats, and a hat took care of the first three days of my Christmas vacation.  Every time I tried to read, I fell asleep, so figured I'd better come up with another project to keep myself awake for the remainder of the week.  I had been contemplating this ...

"A Grateful Heart" sampler quilt (McCall's Quilting magazine, Winter 2009-10)
... and what better time to start?  Each "sample" block is representative of something the quilter is grateful for.  A contemplative way to end 2010, yes?  I completed the following blocks:
"Memories" block

"Grandmother's Fan" block

"Rail Fence" block

"Flower Basket" block ... oh oh!  Something's not right here ...

That's better!  (Note to self:  slow down!  be more patient!)

"Peace and Plenty" block

"Old School House" block
The only "rule" I set out for myself was to incorporate one BLUE fabric somewhere in each block.  I didn't think I had many bits of blue fabrics stashed ... but it's amazing what one finds in one's fabric stash!  As I stitched, I journalled about each block, what the pattern and fabrics made me think of, and what I am grateful for.  It's been a delightful exercise!  (I wish there were other amateur quilters out there who would do the same so we could share thoughts ...)

This is my new favourite quilting tool ...

Can you guess what it is???
All that Thread Inspecting fair wore out Miss Boots ...
"I'll just give this new quilt a trial run for 'nappability'!"
I suppose progress on this quilt will slow right down now that my Christmas break is over as I'm usually too pooped to get creative once I get home from work and get supper over with.

So that's how the holidays were spent in my humble home.  How were YOUR holidays???