Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Want to Believe

I want to believe the hype. I want to believe that I can make this the most memorable Christmas ever if only I buy the right things. My Christmas memories blend in to one long stream of continuous Christmas days and really, I haven’t had a most memorable one yet. What I do remember is the time spent preparing and celebrating with friends. I want to believe, because that would be easier.

My favourite memories are not ones of particular decorations or even presents. I know that there was a pink and black leotard and electronic keyboard somewhere in the eighties but I couldn’t tell you when.

My Gran took the time to polish the silver ware every Christmas and made it out like a treat to be able to help her. It is one of my fondest Christmas memories. Polishing wasn’t to my liking and I never had the heart to tell Gran. What I really enjoyed was the time spent telling the tales of each piece. Together we would get out the Pears Encyclopaedia and look up the hall marks and tell the tales about the relatives they belonged to. Domestic history has appealed to me ever since. It was the time taken with love that stuck in my memory rather than how brightly the silver shone.

Cooking with my mother was also an annual ritual. The highlight was always the afternoon tea where we would eat the left over pastry that had been magically transformed into a jam tart. Of course we couldn’t eat the cooling mince pies as they were for Christmas Day. The hustle and stress of keeping the oven stuffed with baking for an entire morning only served to make the time together afterwards better.

I need to take time while I am plotting Christmas menus, and present shopping in the hopes that these will make it a better than ever Christmas. When I justify buying that third Christmas tree to myself, I need to take time to remember that this is not what makes memories. I will endeavour to take the time to pack the kids off to Grandma’s for some festive baking, especially for the jam tarts. If I forget, and get carried away with the hype, please remind me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Hand Full of Stars for Pike River

The last line of this poem has been in my head for days.

Caliban in the Coal Mines

GOD, we don't like to complain;
We know that the mine is no lark.
But — there's the pools from the rain;
But — there's the cold and the dark.

God, You don't know what it is —
You, in Your well-lighted sky —
Watching the meteors whizz;
Warm, with a sun always by.

God, if You had but the moon
Stuck in Your cap for a lamp,
Even You'd tire of it soon,
Down in the dark and the damp.

Nothing but blackness above
And nothing that moves but the cars …
God, if You wish for our love,
Fling us a handful of stars!

Louis Untermeyer, 1917

It has been a hard week for many people in a small town. The whole nation watched as the story of the 29 Pike River Miners unfolded, everyone holding their breath until the devasting news of a second and surely fatal explosion on Wednesday. We'd like to think that events like this happen in another time or country.

I had read this poem years ago, thinking of an older style of industry, but it reads just as bleak today.

Crafters doing what crafter do are looking for ways to help. One I know of is Shirley Goodwin who is collecting heart blocks to make quilts for the families. I have checked with her and stars would be most welcome too.

She is looking for blocks measuring 6.5", white or cream background, stars or hearts. Her details are at the link above.

I'm sorry, no pictures, not really appropriate to try and liven up the post.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Adult Super Powers for Kids

All adults should be equipped with Super Powers that can impress kids. You don’t have to be a parent to be working on those skills and hell, you don’t need to ask the parents either. Think of it as a wholesome party trick.

My superpower is being able to blow big bubbles using only my hands and shampoo. This super power is very handy for distracting kids and then slathering their enchanted heads with shampoo. I have to share out the shampoo so they can give it a go too.

Not all super powers need to be quite so useful. My brother can hypnotise teddy bears. I’m still baffled as to how this is useful, but my children are delighted to watch.

He has other super powers of which I don’t approve. One in particular, is making snotty noses out of green play dough. Little E has been trying it any chance she gets. For some reason I have been reluctant to make green play dough ever since.

Edit: Just found the perfect Christmas gift for my talented brother.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Black Blanket Hug

I grew more and more attached to this blanket each time I finished it. It was a lesson in taking my time and giving a project some space. I started making it for a friend who was moving into a new house in August 2009. The colours were chosen to fit the new house. Only it was delivered, reluctantly, a year later.

The pattern is based on the Picnic Blanket in Warm Fuzzies by Betz White. I counted up and there are over 19 different black, white and grey jerseys in there. I had an enjoyable afternoon cutting it all out, sometime in July last year.

The first time I finished it, in November 2009, there was some very careful measuring and squaring up before I attached the blanket ribbon. I have fond memories of blanket ribbon. I’m sure given a chance all children would run the silky edges of blankets through their fingers or along their top lip. Most of my friends had favourite blankets with the ribbon almost worn out. In this case I couldn’t find any black ribbon so settled for French Navy. I convinced myself that you couldn’t tell.

A littler Little E helping out

A few days after sewing it on, I proudly showed my mum who exclaimed “But it’s blue!” That was the prompt end of that finish. There was some unpicking and some muttering under breath before the blanket was left unfinished again. It was just as well as I had some teething problems with sewing the woven edging onto the stretch blanket.

I though about silver grosgrain, but nothing further came of that. In fact, I really didn’t want to go near it again. It was that defeating.

The blanket stayed unfinished for another year, until I spied the tomato ties. I had picked up a roll of merino ribbing at the op shop to tie my tomatoes with. When cleaning up my sewing space I discovered that the ribbing was perfect for stitching too.

I love the way the blanket stretches around you when it wraps you up. I keep finding different textures amongst the soft woollens. It’s like a very large woollen hug. I have been assured that it is at home in its new location. I hope it finds some new people to hug there too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Circus Pinwheels and Roly Poly Kids

With a little help, I have laid out the quilt, pinned, stitched and bound it. The kids thought it was a fantastic game and they rolled over and over wrapped in the pieces. I can see that this process is not quite so simple when little hands are around and I can also now proudly say the Circus Pinwheels Quilt is finished.

For the longest time I have had a block about machine quilting. I just couldn’t enjoy it. I learnt with stitch-in-the-ditch methods and methodically rolled and revealed my quilts as I worked, all the while, wrestling with a long and hefty weight resting over my shoulders. It’s going to take some convincing to get me to go back. The stippling was so much easier and enjoyable. I might yet tackle that pile of un-quilted tops in my sewing space.

I am not one to let a perfect opportunity to have fun piecing a back and so here it is too.

This is an achievement for me considering I started it in July, this year. Accentuated by the fact that the children had not seen me pin a quilt before. Long may the momentum keep up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Winners and the Changes

Thank-you to everyone for their kind words and ideas when entering the giveaway. I have read through them and will give the suggestions some thought. It appears that the kids stay in the blog. Which is just as well, because I have often have very little time for anything else.

Viv has suggested that there be more about the books I’m reading. Viv has seen me regularly turn up to Monday night sewing with a new crafty library book under my arm. The little ones have me trawling through the picture books too. Once I get over my initial “If you haven’t any thing nice to say..” expect to see a little more on the books we are taking home. There are some reserves in my name at all my local libraries. I will even try to include the ones I will not be taking home again with some sort of objectivity.

It has been suggested that I include something about the job I commute for. I am treading this area with caution as I am very aware of the pitfalls. Bear with me as I choose my words carefully on this post. My profession does tend to leave its finger prints on most things I do. It is very important to me and I have had to make some big decisions this year, so expect to see some words on this in the near future, and some very cool links.

In the mean time I will be doing some tidying around here and updating some links. The local love and admiring from afar links need a refresh. Some are staying but some are no-longer active. You can expect some new and exciting blogs to meet there. I will let you know when it has happened so those using reader can stop and have a look around.

Now for the bit you have been waiting for – the winners:

National – Miss Smith

International – notice only two entries there so..
They are both winners , Joanna at Appliqué Today and Jules at Relish

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grandmother's Fan Tutorial

The following tutorial looks at how to make a Grandmother’s Fan quilt block. This is a traditional block that was very popular in the 1930’s and reflects the sunburst motifs of Art Deco. It is much like a Dresden Plate block but allows for a little more tolerance as it is only a quarter circle. This tutorial includes making the templates for a 10" finished block. The applique is done with vliesofix and machine top stitching.

Materials for 1 block:
10 ½” Square of background fabric
5 fat eighths or
5 fabric scraps measuring at least 6 ½” x 3”
7” square for centre
Vliesofix (about 10” )
Thread to match centre
Thread to blend in with fan
Template plastic
Point turner

Step 1 – Cut Rectangles
Cut the fabric for your blades into rectangles measuring 6 ½ x 3”. If you are using fat eighths cut a 3’ strip across the fabric, and then cut the rectangles. Square up the left over rectangle and keep for the boarder.

Step 2 – Make Points
Fold each blade in half and stitch ¼” from the end. Clip the inside corner and turn the point. Press the blade to create a 45 degree point. Take care not to break through if you are using scissors to turn the corners. A plastic point turner is very useful here.

Step 3 – Create Template
Using the dimensions below, trace the shape onto some template plastic. The sides are at a 9 degree angle. Score the outlines with a sharp object i.e. compass or edge of scissors, and cut out along the score lines. I found plastic with an imperial grid (inches and ¼ inches) on it to be very useful. A transparent ice-cream container lid would work also.

Step 3 – Trim Blades
Tuck the template into the point of the blade and trim the sides. I mark the sides of the base on the blade and then line up a ruler from hip of the blade to the waist before cutting.

Step 4 – Assemble Fan
Arrange a fan of 5 blades. Alternating light and dark or different colours helps to give each block a balanced look. Starting with a backstitch at the outside and stitching towards the waist, sew the blades together. Press the seams to one side.

Step 5 – Back the Fan
Trace around the fan onto some cardboard and cut out the template. Using this template, trace a fan shape onto vliesofix and cut out. The template is especially handy if you are making more than one block. Iron the vliesofix onto the back of the fan.

Step 6 – Locate Fan
Finger crease the background square to create a diagonal line. Remove the vliesofix backing and Line up the fan with the central point on the crease line. Press the fan into place. Depending on your stitching, the edges of the blades may extend a little beyond the background fabric. This can be trimmed before joining the blocks together.

Step 7 – Fix Fan
With the blending thread, edgestitch the fan into place. In this example I have used cream thread.

Step 8 – Create Inner Circle
Cut a 6” circle out of cardboard or template plastic. Trace circle onto vliesofix and cut out. Iron the circle of vliesofix onto the centre fabric. Cut the circle out with a half inch seam allowance.

Step 9 – Edging Inner Circle
Baste around the circle, ¼” from the edge of the vliesofix. Place the template over the vliesofix and pull the threads tight. Press the circle to give a smooth edge before removing the template.

Step 10 – Quarter Circle
Cut the circle into 4. Leave the vliesofix paper on the back of the quarters.

Step 11 – Trim Up
Remove the vliesofix backing paper from one quarter. Place one quarter over the block. Hold this up to the light to check to see if any of the fans extend beyond the seam allowance of the circle. If needed, trim the inner ends of the blades so that they cannot be seen through the circle.

Step 12 – Finishing
Place the quarter circle in the corner of the block and press into place. Edge stitch, using a thread to match the circle, and you have finished.

Design Tips

This pattern can be adjusted for different size blocks. Drop me a line if you need help with the dimensions.

There are a number of ways the blocks can be set out - on point, all facing one way, radiating out from a point or my favourite - alternating like butterfly wings.

The proportions of blade to centre circle are traditionally 2:1 i.e 6" blade, 3" centre

The finished block size of 10" work well with using the remnant squares (2 1/2" finished) in the border.

Using an odd number of blades in each quarter helps to keep each block balanced. For example, if you are alternating 2 blade colours, each block will start and finish with the same colour.

I would love to know how you get on with your blocks and if there are any parts I can help with drop me a line too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Working on a Tutorial

I have had some requests for instructions on how to make a Grandmother's fan block. As you can see Miss H and I have been working on it together. Grab a cup of tea and meet me back here for it soon.

In the interim, the grandmother's fan block is much like a Dresden plate, so I will leave you with some links for this eye catching block:

Oh Fransson! @ Sew Mama Sew
Amy @ Bad Skirt
John'aLee @ Scrap Apple Yard

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Know Where Odd Socks Go

There are ancient mysteries that lurk in our collective memories and modern ones that are small but mightily irritating. Odd socks are one of those small mysteries. I now know where odd socks go, and so do my kids. I still have to work out where mine went, but at least our smaller family members are sorted.

My mother used to have a paper bag hidden in the bottom of the hot water cupboard. It was a hidden secret that was only sorted when we ran out of socks or especially tidy relatives were due to visit. What Aunty Pat was going to do with our odd socks was beyond me, but mum lived in fear of her looking for a clean tea towel and coming out with mismatched underwear.

My odd socks are an equally sorry state, a plastic bag tucked down the side of my dresser. Matching and mismatching pairs of subtly different black knee highs is a complex task. I leave it for when I’m really desperate. If you see me coming with one opaque and one fishnet, you’ll know I’m having a bad day.

Rather than heralding the arrival of a man in a red suit, Little E’s socks are waiting for their friends to come home. Little E and I have lengthy conversations about laundry, friendless socks and take delight in reuniting long lost buddies. This collection is added to and updated every time washing is put away. It also makes me wish my socks were a little less black.

Miss H sees her sock collection as a challenge. I foolishly hung her ribbon over the change table. She covets socks while her nappies are changed. By the time she is ready for her socks, she will tell you, with some determination, exactly what odd socks she has chosen. Otherwise, she will just pluck them straight from the line and make her get away. For her, mismatched socks are a sign of victory rather than defeat.

More for the Give-Away

I've been keeping my eyes open for potential goodies. Today I'm adding some Japanese Christmas fabric to the international bundle and a tractor hottie cover for the National one. I haven't stopped looking for more things to add so watch this space.

There is still time to enter the give away here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Last to Know - Inspire Co.

I might be the last to know about this brilliant E-Zine. But just in case I'm not - pop along to see the latest issue of Inspired Ideas. There are instructions about viewing and downloading here and it's free.

I'm off to make my self a hot chocolate and peruse the pages while imagining myself in a Northern Hemisphere Winter. It shouldn't take too much imagining considering the cold snap we are having. I can't believe we've had our fire on since 4 this afternoon and it's November. Maybe I'll fill up the hot water bottles while I'm up too.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Let Me Know What You Think - A Giveaway

I’m a few months short of 3 years writing here. A number of things have changed at home over this time – returning to work, the arrival of Miss H, birthdays, returning to work again. I have been thinking about making some changes to this space too.

Before I do, I thought I should ask what changes you would like to see. Let me know what you like or dislike about Seven-Stitches, what makes you come back and what makes you run for the hills. It could be as simple as “Amy, enough about the children, show us the sewing”, “Hey what about a giveaway, maybe a Ferrari” or “Honey, It’s your Mother here and I want more pictures of the grandchildren”. Incidentally, you don’t need to sign in to comment so Mum, you can join in too. While I can’t promise action on every suggestion, I will at least give it some thought. If you like, let me know how you found out about Seven-Stitches too.

Now for the bit you might have been waiting for - the give away. There are two categories-

National –
A vintage embroidered throw, a fat eighth of a random floral I have*, a tomato tomato sauce bottle (every kiwi home needs one) and a cosmic racer (not a ferarri, but very fast and fun).

International –
A vintage teacosie cover and some more of that fabric.

I am adding to the piles as I find more things that will go in the post. There might even be some Christmas decorations, but to show them would ruin another surprise.

As for those who would like to see more tutorials, keep watching, I have one coming up later this week.

The giveaway will stay open until November 15.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

* Yep that is some flea market fancy fabric there.

Edit ** Fixing the typos might also be a good start. I think I might have got them all this time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's a Tomato

Little E and my dearest disappeared to the community store to get some milk and came back with a new tomato sauce bottle and a cosmic racer.

“It’s for tomato sauce and it’s a tomato!!” exclaimed Little E as if explaining the punchline to a joke she was very proud of understanding. I just had to get a photo of her delight.

As for the cosmic racer, I think everyone needs a balloon powered racing car. So much so, that your chance to win your very own is coming soon.