30 April 2011

I Caught This Morning

Here are my morning minions

De-burring a towel that had fallen in the prickle bushes at the beach and was covered in tiny burrs that  needed to be removed by hand. Preferably tiny little hands...

29 April 2011

Wait a Minute Mr Postman

There has been a lot of letter and card writing in these parts recently.  There was Nina's ongoing correspondence on behalf of and to Miss Snug:

Ruby's lengthy letter to 'Humusonbarly' recounting exploits on the River Nile
Birthday cards for each other:
Nina's card for Ruby
Dear Ruby I hope you love your presents and cards.  Just to tell you my card is these little poeple who love to sing and dancing.  And one day they find a big sign saying Ruby is the Best and another smalla sign that said I Love You and they start Dancing and Singing.
Ruby's card for Nina incorporating within the number 6 the world of the 6 year old - including the bank, cafe, bakery, toy shop.
Never never never have I ever ever ever seen a cleverer 6 year old
And a letter to break the heart of the working mother....

28 April 2011

Recent makings

Two recent birthdays required some sewing.
Ruby's messenger bag
This bag came from this book.  If I'd anticipated my wonky sewing of the bias binding (need a teflon foot for that Mexican Oil cloth I suspect)  I possibly wouldn't have chosen contrasting red thread....

I've heard a lot of good things about Oliver + S patterns and they are rather lovely, with interesting details like side pockets and front flaps.

And places inside to put pens and an address book.  Very well received by my eight (!) year old.

Nina is very keen on letters at the moment so this seemed just right:

Possibly the easiest thing you could ever sew - even if you can't sew, you could sew this.  (from here)

A book of stamps, a special pen and some envelopes completed the gift.  The fabric is Heather Ross from 'Far Far Away II'.  How is that owl?  And that pussycat, trailing its arm in the water and looking, frankly, less than than enamoured.  I guess after a year and a day even a cat might tire of hearing what a beautiful pussy you are you are.

Nina had been asking for a ragdoll.  Because of Little House I knew she'd want one with boots and a bonnet and bloomers and a Victorian dress.

I more or less made up this one up, based on an earlier doll I'd made Ruby years ago.  I borrowed the face embroidery and hair from one of the dolls in this and broke a vow to never make dolls clothes.  These were actually fun to sew and the lace is beautiful Italian lace that Grandpa and Alex brought back from Venice.  In a way this doll is not really my cup of tea but for a six year old it was just perfect.  No surprise that Nina instantly named her Charlotte.

27 April 2011

Six Days and Nights

Was it really only six days and nights?

There was reading;

Knitting - my first foray into circular needles

Lily's swing jacket in malabrigo Bergamota

Lots of eating

Easter Lunch

Hunting and finding

Grace finds the caramel eggs

New things growing

But is it edible?

Firewood being chopped - thanks Pa

Sorry Ginger and Sassy, your New Years Eve tree cubby is no more....

Learning to roller skate


Sand eggs

Playing - a new family favourite 'Jumbling Towers'

Celebrating - two birthdays

Ruby turns Eight

And swimming, always swimming

How fortunate we are to borrow this magical space and how blessed we are to have friends who let us.

20 April 2011

Ruby Red

It's almost too obvious, but of course Ruby's favourite colour is red.   This quilt pattern seemed to lend itself to a red on white quilt. As I'd already done a nine-patch for Lily I thought I'd let it all hang out and do another one, 'crazy' style.  (I do rather like to think that skew-whiff cutting is as crazy as it gets in the quilting world.)

Elizabeth's instructions for cutting the blocks were eye-opening to me.  So much time saved.  And so worth investing in a rotary cutter.
Cutting the blocks
Theoretically each block ends up with nine different fabrics, and each block is unique in the arrangements of those fabrics.  I came acropper somewhere and ended up with half my blocks having a replicated fabric.  I had to think whether this would bother me enough to unpick and redo and decided it wouldn't.  And it hasn't.

Previous quilts had been stitched in the ditch, but that would have looked odd on a crazy nine- patch.  I quilted irregular horizontal lines.  Hard work pushing it through the old Singer.

Quilting it up

The right backing fabric was difficult to find.  I had in mind a particular green floral print which evidently does not exist.  I'm happy with this though.

Backing fabric and binding
Ruby Red:  bright, orderly, and just a little bit crazy.
Crazy nine patch lattice

16 April 2011

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

Ruby and Nina wanted to knit this afternoon.  Lily was happy to stab balls of wool with knitting needles and Grace occupied herself experimenting with a stitch holder and some fluffy pink wool.  I read and helped with dropped stitches.

For a few moments, just a very few moments, all was well with the world.

14 April 2011

Overheard This Morning

Nina's mouse fishes for his breakfast in her breakfast
"And Ross said 'I'll just go fishing in this fishing hole.  I might be able to catch something good, like a ...hair...or something".
Ruby at breakfast
"What's wrong with red hair?  I really like red hair"...  a few pages on "oooohh I think I hate Rachel too, she is a meanie".

Grace needs new pyjamas
"And look my knee comes right through , see? see ?"

Lily and the smiley shoes
"oooze, ooooze, arrgh"

11 April 2011

Rainbow Girl

Nina is my rainbow girl.  She veers toward the multi-coloured.
Nina's quilt close up

I wanted hers to be a rainbow quilt, but just the idea conjured horrible images in my mind.  Whilst rainbows themselves are fabulous, rainbow things can tend towards the cliched, the twee.  Or look like a spectrum chart.  Keeping the design simple seemed key.

Choosing fabric was an indulgence. Seventy in total, ten in each colour. Many, many happy hours.

Nina's quilt backing
I hoped white sashing between the blocks would avert colour overload.  An old white doona cover sufficed.  
I quilted unevenly spaced perpendicular lines.  This was all done on my dear old Singer, so no fancy pants free-motion quilting.  I like the lines though, especially with so much else going on in this quilt.
Craig convinced me to bind it in white.  He leans to the simple, the plain, the unembellished.  He was right.
On the bed

08 April 2011


Nina's lovely teacher is departing for Italy for the rest of the year. Half her luck.

Bag of goodies

Nina made a selection of Italian goodies for her - gelato, pizza, a card with her portrait and the colours of the flag and a little packet of apple seeds (?) and a little bag to hold them all.  See that embroidered name? That's the Bernina.

06 April 2011

Grace's Quilt

(warning  - unless you give a damn about quilting you'll probably want to skip this post)
Grace's quilt - the stash buster.
No new fabric, (aside from a half metre for binding) was bought.
I based the pattern on 'small frames' from Elizabeth Hartman's book 'The Practical Guide to Patchwork'.   
The pattern calls for alternate frames of solids and patterns, but, as I didn't have enough of any one solid in my stash I used the leftover linen from the girl's Christmas dresses, and a couple of other solid neutrals I had. Without the consistency of each alternate block being framed in the same fabric, the quilt loses a lot of the 'patterned' look, but I ended up pretty happy about this.
Playing House
Grace is definitely the most girly of my girls - or perhaps it is just that she is four, and I've forgotten what four was like for the older two.  I wanted to reflect her personality, without making an unbearably fussy quilt.  I wanted it to look completely right on a four year old's bed, but also on a fourteen year old's.
Boars and mushrooms
Red riding hood
I had a few special pieces of Japanese fabric I wanted to feature, and I also wanted to incorporate at least one of each of the fabrics I'd used in the other girls' quilts (Natalie gave me this idea when I started Lily's quilt).
I know some quilters have a picture in their mind before they start but I really have only a bit of a feel, a bit of an idea, and a hope that it will come together in the end.  I chose a group of fabrics that I thought would work together, including a few that seemed a bit out of place - like the red stripes in the blocks below.  I don't like things too matchy matchy.
Working out the placement
Once I'd sewn the blocks I jigged them around quite a few times.  Digital cameras are great for this process - somehow a photo allows you to get a perspective.  Helpful friends with good eyes are also invaluable.  Thank you Daniela for showing me that I needed to 'anchor' the corners with strong blocks.  Once I'd done that, the rest fell into place.
And then.......

I was given my Bernina.  Have I mentioned my Bernina?  I love my Bernina.
The BSR in action
A new world of quilting options was opened to me.  Previously it was straight lines and in-the-ditch.  The old Singer had no way to lower the feed-dogs (essential for free-motion quilting) and the Bernina not only came with that ability but a nifty little device called a 'BSR'.
The 'Bernina Stitch Regulator' regulates the length of the stitch whilst sewing free motion - keeping them pretty much the same, even when you are twisting and turning the fabric all over the place. 

Free motion quilting close up
This means you can get really acceptable results even as a beginner.  Without a BSR I don't know that I'd attempt free motion quilting as my handling of the fabric under the machine is just not consistent enough.  I'd end up with a mess and because some of the aesthetic is in the actual quilting, you notice it more than in straight line quilting.
The quilting itself was quite a joy and that left only the binding.  One thing I have learned is that the binding can completely change a quilt.  Using pink binding on this quilt would have shifted the balance of colours and it would have become a pink quilt.  If I'd used a bright colour it would have picked up the brighter blocks and made them stand out much more, significantly changing the look of the quilt.
Again Daniela steered me in the right direction, identifying the colours in the quilt I needed to pick up with the binding.  Natalie, Cath and others confirmed blue binding over grey.
I'm generally not a great one for handstitching (or hand washing) but surprisingly I like stitching binding.  It takes less time than you expect, and you get to sit with the quilt over you whilst you do it which feels kind of olde worlde.
Many many blogs devote countless posts to the importance of mindfulness in life and parenting.  I'm never entirely sure what that actually means, but, when binding quilts, I think maybe I'm experiencing it anyway. 
Grace's quilt finished

So finally, after weeks and months of Grace asking when her quilt would be done, it was.

On the clothesline