Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bee [a little bit] Japanese - October Block

For her month in the Bee (a little bit) Japanese Natalie asked for some MONSTER blocks. She was looking for blocks 11inches high and anywhere from 24-36 inches long to make a forest inspired by this.

She sent out a bundle of fabric in green and brown tones and then a huge strip of Quilters Muslin for the background.

With all the moving and things I sat on this bundle for awhile. I think the size was a little off putting when I was looking for a project to do after work, as I really like to make blocks in one sitting. I find it just helps them to flow together better. 

In then end I just started making little improvised trees. The trunks were pieced into the bottom section of the muslin and the treetops raw edge appliqued onto the top. I loved the idea of leaving the edges raw to represent the wispiness of the edge of a tree, even though I am not usually a fan of raw edge applique generally.  
Some smaller trees on the hills off in the distance.
A plantation area where they all in a row.
Paper pieced hexagons and a branch calling out for some tree climbing.
After a while of putting these together I realised I was leaning very heavily to the muted, olive greens in the bundle rather than the bright ones. I mix them in at the end I felt would make them stand out too much so i kept going with my colour theme. After a bit more cutting and stitching I realised the colours, if not the shape of the trees were very Australian.
A fox hiding in the bushes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What I was doing last weekend...

Making some new curtains - 2.6m drop and 7 meters of window.

Fabric is from IKEA. A strong pattern to stand up to the genuine 70's tiling.

I had to laugh when I was describing the house to a friend on the phone.
The conversation went something like this.
Me: And there is a huge room out the back with some interesting 70's tiles.
Her: Green, orange or brown?
Me: All three.

I hope this weekend there is some time for some 'fun sewing'. The list is only getting longer, but the forecast raining, windy conditions in Melbourne this weekend makes great weather for it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What I've been doing this afternoon

Admiring this book that arrived in the mail this afternoon Scandinavian Stitches: 21 Playful Projects with Seasonal Flair (Stash Books)
Getting ready for some Christmas sewing
A long list this week...but I think I'm making progress.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bee Seam Piecing Downunder- October Blocks for Rose

The whole time I was sewing these blocks I had a little tune in by head, sung to the tune of the Farmer in the Dell. It went a little something like this

'A quilting we will go, a quilting we will go, hey ho the dairy-o, a quilting we will go'

Obviously a ran out of inspiration a little when I go to the dairy part but you get the picture. It was only the one verse though and it did get a little repetitive after not very long. The singing was warranted, however, because these blocks were the first sewing I had done with my machine in the new house. I sewed these during last week, on the 20th I think, which makes it 29 days between machine sewn projects and I was glad to get back at it.

Rose requested quilt-as-you-go log cabins using the technique from Sewtakeahike that I am also using for my Blue and White Quilt.

I love the collection of fabric she has sent and the inclusion of the final white strips for the sashing.

The second block was a little wonkier that I had intended, but luckily Rose likes it anyway!

The first one is a little straighter, and I love the grey fabric that is also the centre of the second block.
I can't wait to see it all sewn together!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

do. Good Stitches {a Charity Bee} - October Pinwheel blocks

The two blocks for this month was the second started and completed project in the new sewing room.

These blocks are going towards a quilt to be made for a young boy who has a serious medical condition.

Alicia from Beauty in the Deatils requested blocks in teal/lime-kiwi and orange and yellow combinations.

It was a request I was more than happy to fulfil and seemed a great challenge for my novelty stash and as the blocks were reasonably easy to construct I was happy enough to start them about 10:30pm.

Aside: I seem to spend a heap of time and money shopping for novelty fabric, particularly fabric that would appeal to boys. I know that there is the pervasive opinion that most fabric and craft projects are girl target but I seem to end up buying and completing in an opposite trend. I'm a fan of the underdog so perhaps it is my unconscious way of evening the playing field.  

The first block was the hardest in terms of fabric choices, the colours are so varied when described that way, and even although Alicia had given some direction and examples in terms of what she meant I am still a little nervous and hope I have chosen the right colours. This black makes use of some Kona Solid and Amy Bultler from the Love range.

The second is my favourite, I think. Again it uses a Kona Solid but I was so excited to be able to use the Linework Rockets in orange from the Robots collection by David Walker.

They are winging their way to Alicia now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hotel Sewing...more hexagons

Being back in Sydney this week has meant the third hotel in as many weeks. Perhaps this should be re badged as a travel blog?

Hotels, of course mean more of the Matilda's Own Hotel Hand-sewing project.

The past few weeks being what they have been for me has of course meant the batteries in my camera have gone flat and I can's show you the three I have made this week.

Instead, I have gone searching for the three template sets I am missing from the (now known to be) set of five.

And since I am without a car and working on my finishing up to do list like crazy this has only been on the Internet.

I have found the three missing are,
The Curved Star
 The Whirligig
and The Pinwheel

As it turns out I have had trouble finding them, except on the Matilda's Own site, which does not have a shop function. I have printed out the stockist list of the stores near my new home but I fear they may not have them in stock. Hopefully disproving this fear is a job for this weekend!

Have you seem them? Especially anywhere in the SE suburbs of Melbourne?

* Ok, apparently there are more, a whole new range of sets out for 2010/2011. Obviously some more investigation is needed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Packing up the Sewing Room

I had hoped to have a post ready now about my new sewing space in my new house in my new city. But as with all stages of this move things have not gone according to the time plan that I had in my head.

But late on Sunday night, as I was trying to get the new house in some sort of order before I hopped on a plane back to the old city early on Monday morning for my last week of work here I pondered a lot about the process of packing up the sewing room.

We were lucky enough to have our move paid for, thanks to my partners new employers, and as part of that arrangement we were not allowed to pack anything other than our clothing or it would not be insured. I have been involved in several such moves before, thanks to my work, and my feelings about strangers going packing all my things has always been a little mixed.On the one hand I am thankful I do not have to personally stand over boxes for days on end and get everything in their temporary cardboard homes, instead sit on a chair and watch it all done in a few hours but on the other I hate the invasion of my privacy and I can never help but shake the feeling that the movers and packers are not as careful with my things as they would be with their own.

These old thoughts first came to mind during this move with the completion of The Inventory. This has capital letters for good reason. It is the first, last and only list of your goods provided to the movers and the basis for the insurance. It is not a time for undervaluation. For this move I actually developed several databases, the one for the books took all weekend even with the assistance of a barcode scanner and the great program Collectorz Book Collector.

But how do you value a metre of fabric, sure it's easy enough to say that it was $24 a meter when you bought it two years ago but now it is out of print and hard to get. And that scrap over there? That is actually a Prints Charming panel that is not produced anymore and I'm saving it to make a baby quilt for my child, should I ever have the chance. The Elna machine, it's probably $50 on eBay, if you can find one, but you can't replace the one that my mum chose for me. All the buttons, so many little packets and varied origins. It's not like you can replace them, so what is the point of putting a money value on it? Just pack carefully please, so nothing gets lost.

And then there is the moment that packers walk into the sewing room/study and let out a low whistle of shock/awe/dread. And the mutterings from the room about the amount, range and 'what is this for?' comments as they take almost as long packing everything in that room as they do in the rest of the house. Should I try to explain, no, I don't think they would understand.

But I have got most of it unpacked, and somewhat less of it all organized in the new sewing room.

And because a post is not a post without a picture, here is a 'before' picture. Hopefully it will be finished this weekend and I can show you the 'after' pictures, 'cause I want to sew!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Retro, or just strange? Some more navel gazing

I am a real sucker for judging a book by it’s cover (title too for that matter). On my ‘getting to know my local’ tour of Melbourne I picked up another book, my bibliophile persona showing through again. Sew Retro , by Judi Ketteler, from Dymocks in Elsternwick {I can’t believe how easily I got a park, when I went there and almost everywhere come to think of it, the difficulty parking is one thing I will not miss from Sydney} is a cross between project book and history of home sewing. I got it because I liked the cover and the pictures.

But, as with Weekend Sewing, I grew to like it for completely different reasons, but I still like the cover, and the pictures.

As is probably clear, and as I said explicitly in an earlier post, I like to sew. I really like to sew for others. The satisfaction and joy I get from sewing is only multiplied by knowing I am creating for someone else to enjoy, picturing the thing I am making being used, and in the actual giving. In this enjoyment of sewing and craft in general, among my group of friends I stand alone.

As I said Sew Retro is a history of home sewing, and a well written one at that. Moving from era to era, starting at about the time domestic sewing machines were invented, Judi examines the prevalence of home sewing, purpose the sewing served and the materials these, usually women, had to work with.

These women, most often described as mothers, wives or teen girls (as opposed to career women as I am) had access to more and more equipment as time progressed and the market provided and sold more tools. Without giving away the ending, and generally speaking each of the era’s was concluded to be one in which sewing was a household task (that may have been enjoyable but needed to be completed, enjoyed or not) or one in which the task was completed for enjoyment alone.

In reading through this book, interspersed with projects inspired by the era, I could not help but reflect in the experiences of women in my family, and my own. My paternal grandmother had six children, many more than average and sewed and knitted for necessity, only heightened by the fact she was raising children on a farm and did not have ready access to the shops in town. Now she doesn’t sew, but knits a little and weaves tapestries and fabric on a loom in her home all for enjoyment. My maternal grandmother, mother to two daughters, seems never to have owned a sewing machine, and now does needlework and knits but does not sew. My mother made all our clothes when we were young , both for enjoyment and need, though I don’t know how she learnt. Now she knits and sews for us for enjoyment, and to show us she cares. I do it because I like it, having being taught by my mother when I was very young. Obviously the family experience I am able to reflect on only covers the last 2-3 eras in the book, the current explosion of an online community and the trend towards young sewers being popularised is only touched on.

I’m not a wife, at least not one with an actual marriage certificate or a stay-at-home homemaker variety, may never be a mother and have not been a teenager for just over a decade. I’m not retro, not in the way the category is described in this book. Yet, despite enjoying a very different pastime to that of my real-life friends and fitting a very different demographic from the mummy bloggers that seem to dominate the authorship of the blogs a read, I don’t think I’m strange.

I am just me and among other things in my life, I like to sew and craft.

When I started becoming involved in the online community almost a year ago I created HandmadeRetro. At the time I wanted to convey the idea that I made things at home, as once-off, because I like them or I am making them for someone or to fulfill a need. In a nutshell, things that are useful, but also aesthetically pleasing. The Handmade part of HandmadeRetro. The Retro was an attempt to convey the idea that I felt a little retro, engaging in crafts that seemed, in my social sphere at least, a product of a bygone era as well as something that was a feature of my own personal history but was making a comeback.

Now? I remember that I know everything old is new again, all the time. That things change but stay remarkably the same. That people have always sewed, and crafted but I understand more that fashion trends have never missed this, with must have equipment, more materials and changing fabric trends. I wonder if in ten or twenty years women will again be sewing for need, rather than recreation.

So I enjoyed Sew Retro as something that offered a me something to think about, as a history of an activity that, by the nature of it, is just an everyday thing. And because of the cover and the pictures.

Now, I think it is time I went back to work or unpacked some boxes and stopped gazing at my navel.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My sewing evolution – Book review with some navel gazing

The past week or so have seen me in Melbourne with not as much to do as I thought I would have on my plate. Don’t get me wrong, I have been busy and there is still a lot to do but we are sort of a bit stuck until it can be arranged to get all our furniture and boxes out of storage and the unpacking and homemaking can begin in earnest. This is the time I thought I would frantically be looking for a place to live and then arranging leases and unpacking but the house and lease part happened almost as soon as I got here and now we are just waiting (somewhat impatiently on my part) for the unpacking.

I’ve kept myself busy though, visiting IKEA looking for storage and furniture ideas for the new sewing room (if anyone knows a good furniture op shop in the St Kilda to Chadstone area please let me know. I need a new sewing table and the kitchen table I used before was great but is still needed in the dining room to eat dinner off…) and finding my new locals, quilt shops, bookshops, Spotlight and shopping centres. That sort of thing.

I picked up a new book for a quilt shop, Amitie in Bentleigh, dangerously close to where we live for my bank balance. Weekend Sewing: More than 40 projects and ideas for inspired stitching by Heather Ross wasn’t an impulse purchase. I saw it one afternoon when I quickly ducked into the store as I had been driving past. Not as strange as it seems, the store was recommended to me and I had a spare few minutes. I didn’t get it then, rather I went back again the next morning, bought some fabric and left without it after some consideration, only to go back again that afternoon to claim it for myself.

I’m not really sure what drew me to it; I think it may have been the large number of projects and the glimpses through the book of many of Heather’s very early fabric designs. It could have been that many of the projects were clothing, I’ve been on a bit of a clothing kick lately but none of those are the reasons I love it so much now.

It really comes down to the two page introduction, which I, somewhat shamefully, admit to reading stopped at successive sets of traffic lights on the way back to the hotel after buying it.

Heather talks about learning to sew knit and craft as a child and how, as she grew to adulthood the time for getting lost in sewing was overtaken by life deadlines and responsibilities. I’m paraphrasing and I hope she doesn’t mind, but this is the message that stuck in my mind. She goes on to explain that the book’s name ‘Weekend Sewing’ is in reference to her idea that some of her sewing time is just for her, for fun and not for commercial interests and in her mind this is called weekend sewing.

And now for the navel gazing. This struck a huge chord for me. I don’t remember learning to sew, or knit though I can do both, knitting less well than sewing. Since I have started to sew a lot more in the last year or so, and since I have started reading blogs and especially since I started writing this one, I have tried to remember when I acquired these skills.

I do remember getting by first pair of knitting needles (they are a fat purple pair, about 15cm long and came in a pack with an equally fat crochet needle); I just don’t remember how old I was. Certainly less than eight. I also remember helping to sew my school uniforms (by actually sewing seams), one in particular I wore in year one, which I started when I was five. I remember tracing out multi size patterns for Mum and cutting fabric for clothes for me, my younger brother and sister for her to sew later. I know I made dolls clothes, first for my dolls and later for an antique doll that was my great aunts, then my mum’s and now mine. I distinctly remember this one because I did it, taking over from Mum when I got frustrated she was taking so long. This is the first quilt I made, sometime when I was at uni, for my dog when she was still a puppy, I didn’t realise then that it was a quilt though.

I took sewing at high school but I stopped after the second year, everyone else was still learning to thread the machine and finish a seam when I had finished the whole garment. I didn’t feel challenged.

But as I went to uni, and then when I started working I stopped sewing. There was the odd project, some curtains for a friend, a costume for my parents wedding anniversary party but for the most part the machine was packed away in it’s own case and stored away in the spare room.

Then last year my friend announced she was pregnant and I sewed up a storm. It happened to coincide with a purchase of a new machine. This might seem a strange purchase given what I have just said but my mum bought herself a new machine, gave her used, but not old one, to my sister who live a short drive away and gave me some money specifically to buy a new machine. And so, with a purpose for sewing and a new machine that was not so loud you wondered if there was a whole room of machines sewing at once I had means and a motive. It could have stopped there but then my partner told me about Etsy and then I found blogs and flickr. The motive stayed and I discovered a community spirit, but most of all I had rediscovered the enjoyment that creating something gives me, and the sense of calm and wellbeing I get while sewing and on finishing a project.

I don’t think it is a feeling I could describe well to others, especially others that don’t sew or craft. In fact I’m sure it isn’t, because I’ve tried. I work long hours, often 10 full on hours a day but a few seams, a finished quilt block, a look or email of gratitude, refreshes me in a way that sleep, watching TV or doing some other stationary traditionally considered ‘rest’ activity can’t.

But that is my weekend sewing moments, after work, on the weekend, in the evening and even once or twice very early in the morning. It’s obviously not all, or even the only thing, I find re-energizing and invigorating. I is, however, one of them, an important one, and I hope I can continue to find the time to ‘weekend sew’ and not forget the enjoyment it gives me again.

So I thank Heather, and her book for echoing my thoughts so well in her introduction, for 40 projects and much inspiration. I’m planning a shirt for some lucky little boy

Pair of slippers for each of our Christmas time guests

A zippered bag, just cause you can never have too many of them

And a pair of garden gloves, just because they are cool, and because I have a great new garden.
Do you think if a made a pair for my partner as well he would garden for the second time in 10 years and help me out?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

An Oliver + S transformation

One Oliver + S size 5-12 Ice cream dress pattern


6.5m of sew in interfacing, several hours, a pen and a pair of scissors


A complete set (view A, B and C) in each size traced and ready to cut out.

Now I just need my machine and fabric out of the boxes!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Handsewing in the Hotel - Hexagons

I'm nothing if not a girl of contradictions. After not long ao declaring I didn't enjoy hand sewing now I've started a whole hand sewn project!

Generally, I’ve been busy the last week or so, the house was finally packed up and loaded on the truck, cleaned and then my Dad and I drove down to Melbourne with my dog to join my partner. Since we got here we have been looking for a house and signed a lease on Saturday for a house with room for a dedicated sewing space, I’m so excited!

Remember that ‘no new fabric until I’ve moved’ pledge? Well I almost kept it. As soon as the movers left I went down to the Remnant Warehouse sale. I justified it by needing something to do while I didn’t have access to my machine. I got some precuts and two different packs of Matilda’s Own Hexagon templates. I have since discovered there are a series of these (and am on the lookout for them) that each make 8.5inch hexagons across the widest point. They are designed to be used for machine or hand piecing but I have used them to make some English Paper Piecing templates and constructed them so far.

All of the pieces for each of the blocks will fit on a sheet of A4 cardstock and I have been cutting them form sheets of Whimsy layer cake I got in the sale. From 3 sheets I can get 2-3 blocks.

I completed this one first, I need to do another two of these with each of the colours in different positions but all the tiny triangles and diamonds are difficult to do and I can only get the point ‘pointy’ enough with the hair straightener method, but the tiny sixe leads to some burnt fingers!

These two were made with the same teamplate set but the templates offer two variations. Where as the first block took a week of short sessions these two came together in an evening. The bigger peieces certainly make the blocks go together more quickly but it is much harder to keep the pieces flat while basing when the edges are so long.

The plan is to keep these as a short hand sewing project, use up the layer cake and then see if I have enough blocks for a lap quilt.