26 September, 2014

Friday Favourites - Poppy Barley Flats

Of all the things that could happen with pregnancy the one I feared the most was my feet growing. Shallow and vain, I know. Before I actually became a mother and realized how shallow and vain that was I obsessed over this.

My first pregnancy was a gong show and high risk by the last trimester. My feet were indeed giant puffballs thanks to high blood pressure. But with an unseasonably warm spring and bed rest, I was good in bare feet and flip flips. And when it was all over, my feet went back to their standard size 10. I had better pregnancies the next times around, but no luck with my feet. They did not return to their normal size.

You see, before this shoe shopping was such a treat. It was my reward, my shopping salvation. I knew that no matter how difficult it was to find flattering pants or a shirt with long enough arms, I knew that at the end of the day I could walk into any shoe store, grab a size 10, and leave happy. Shoes were my emotional pick me up. (And yes, I had/have a lot.)

Since babies my shoe collection has been seriously edited. Of my pre-pregnancy shoes I've really only kept my open toed options, and only really purchased a few pairs of boots and a couple of pairs of sandals. Granted, I don't need the wardrobe I used to have when I worked corporately. But I've more or less given up on shoe shopping. No one generally carries shoes larger than a 10, and now they almost never fit. So it isn't worth trying things on or hoping that they'll have another option.

Then my SIL told me about Poppy Barley. Shoes made one at a time, for the customer. You pick the style, the leather, and can even submit custom measurements. Boots too. I waited a few years before taking the plunge - custom isn't cheap! Now? Now I think I will buy every nice shoe I need from Poppy Barley.

I attended a measurement pop-up here in Calgary. You can take your own measurements too, their site has clear directions on that. In doing this I learned that one foot is a full half size larger and the widths are radically different. So I paid an extra $50 for a custom sizing option. Totally worth it. My shoes fit perfectly right out of the box. And if you order boots, you measure around your calf as well, so all of us can finally have tall boots that actually fit a normal woman's calf.

Poppy Barley is based out of Edmonton. I love that I am supporting a Canadian business with my purchase. (Although, their shoes are made in Mexico.) Started by two inspiring young women, they've built their inventory of styles for a wide selection of flats and boots. Their work is gorgeous. On top of this, they are committed to supporting creative entrepreneurs with events, advice, and support.

I will be wearing these limited edition Sunrise Confetti Modern Mary Janes until the snow is sticking to the ground because oh, they are perfect. And saving my pennies for another pair of Poppy Barley shoes. I may never go to the mall again.

23 September, 2014

Sunday Morning Quilt in Solids

Hello New Quilt! Despite my best intention to forge ahead and finish the stack of quilts awaiting binding, quilting, and more, I HAD to start a new quilt. And I'm totally justifying it because I wanted a new sample for a class.

Do the blocks there look familiar? It may be hard to pick out, but these are the same blocks that are in the Sunday Morning pattern from Sunday Morning Quilts. The original quilt is full of low volume goodness, whispering of Sunday morning delights. I think it might be the most made quilt from Sunday Morning Quilts (after slabs). At least, it is the one I see the most online.

I'm teaching Sunday Morning in a upcoming class at My Sewing Room. While I knew I wanted to make a new sample for the class - to show that you can indeed make it without using low volume fabrics - I wasn't entirely sure what fabrics I was going to use. Then I saw Amanda Jean playing with her solid scraps. Now, if you've been here for any length of time you know that I am not naturally drawn to solids. But her play with scraps got me jazzed. I NEEDED to make something with solids.

So I pulled out my leftovers from the preschool teacher's quilt and 'made scraps'. After making 5 blocks I realized I wasn't going to get very far with just my selection of solids. So I put the call out to my Calgary Modern Quilt Guild friends. When I got to the meeting last week I was handed bags and bags of strips and scraps. I don't even know who all shared with me, but I know that I am extremely grateful!

Now I have practically every colour under the rainbow and all in between. I can tell by feel that there are many different manufacturers in this pile. And it all works so well together.

My initial plan was to just make a small quilt, something easily transportable for classes. It goes against my every nature to work small, but I was determined to make it this time. Portability, portability, portability. But plans change.

While I was making a few blocks the girls sidled into the sewing room. Curiosity and a need for a little snuggle led to a full blown sewing lesson. The week before I'd taught them both how to use the machine all by themselves - with supervision. So when they asked to sew I decided that they could help me make blocks as opposed to starting a new project with them. What began as a selfish desire on my part to not clean up turned into a family project. They are so into making the blocks. They carefully select their next strips, they chain piece and press all by themselves, and yes, they unsew when necessary. There are still some lessons to learn about seam allowance and leaving the iron in the correct position, but we're getting there. 

So now, I don't want to make this just a small quilt. This is well and truly a family quilt and so it must grow to accommodate all five of us. Besides, I think it is getting pretty gorgeous and don't want to stop making.

If you are local and interested in taking the class, call My Sewing Room to register. It runs in the evenings on October 16 and 23. 403-252-3711

21 September, 2014

This and That For Your Weekend

It's a quiet, sunny Sunday here in Calgary. Hubby and I both have a weekend off from work and volunteer obligations. It's been fantastic! I do hope you are also having a great weekend.

Just a few things I wanted to share with you. Maybe they will brighten your weekend with a little treat, or keep you entertained during some precious sewing time.

Craftsy Sale

This weekend is a big Craftsy sale! I know I've posted about these before, but if you've never checked it out I suggest you browse the classes. I have a collection of quilting and cooking classes myself. If you've been inspired by my appliqué work I strongly recommend Big Techniques from Little Scraps with Sarah Fielke and Hand Applique Made Easy with Mimi Dietrich. I've learned a lot through these classes that I think will really take my appliqué enjoyment and skills to a new level.

To access the sale click on this link and check out all the options. You don't have to be a quilter either. Personally, I'm intrigued by the drawing classes. In all my free time, right? But, you can get them this weekend and have lifetime access... Good deal, no?

C&T Publications Sale

If, like me, you have an addiction to books then this is the sale for you. So many good deals here. The new C&T Publishing site is easier to navigate and you can find all sorts of deals in this warehouse sale. I may have picked up a few titles myself, even though I don't really need more books - I'm too busy sewing to read much these days! But, oh, the cuteness...

And if you are a fan of my work specifically, I would be remiss in not pointing out that a few books I'm in are for sale. Like Datekeeper - Modern Quilts, 99 Modern Blocks, and an amazing deal on A Month of Sundays! And so many other great titles and products.

Modern Sewciety

This is a fun podcast hosted weekly by Stephanie Kendron. I had the pleasure of joining her and Carolyn Friedlander for a chat about QuiltCon. It brought back memories and got me very excited for February. Even if you aren't going to QuiltCon it is full of tips for anyone attended classes, workshops, festivals, and retreats. Plus, Jo Packham is also on this episode and I really enjoyed her conversation with Stephanie.

Have a great weekend everyone!

19 September, 2014

Friday Favourites - Alturas Portability

So, making the Alturas blocks was a lot of fun. I completely fell in love with both the portability of the project and the uniqueness of each block. Here and there I would take photos as I was sewing. It was a good reflection of the places Alturas and I went together. And the daily bits of my life. Often, I would Instagram the photos, some I did not.

Follow me, see where we've been.

Sitting on our balcony in Ixtapa, Mexico. One of the first blocks. Little did I know what I was getting into when I started.
(I also took Alturas with me to Turks and Caicos the following month, but due to that camera going swimming in the pool thing I have no proof.)

Snowy afternoons sometimes call for drop-in gymnastics on Fridays. I think I got approximately two stitches and this picture in before I was called to watch yet another bounce on the trampoline.

Sewing while watching The Great British Sewing Bee. Very meta. Very awesome.

Our Telus Spark Science Centre is a pretty great place to spend a day. In the Creative Kids Museum the kidlets are so wholly entertained by all the games, gizmos, water stations, stages, climbing structures, and more that I am completely forgotten. That means Alturas and I play together.

You wouldn't know it from this photo, but during the spring the girls took rhythmic gymnastics. But the old Russian ladies who ran the club wouldn't let parents watch, so I would sit watching the swimmers, remembering my competitive days. That is, on the rare days there was no toddler to entertain too.

I clearly remember that this was a bright, clear, spring day. The girls were at the park and I sewed. Until I was called to monkey bar duty. Seeing the trend? I think I'm going to get to sew, then I have to be a Mama again. That's okay, Alturas always knew I would come back. 

Road trip! The best drive in the world - The Icefield's Parkway. It was actually rather difficult to sew while on this road. First, there is the view. Then there are all the twists and turns and ups and downs. Don't be fooled by this picture.

Sometimes, we parked, and then I could sew more. While moving all of this had to stay contained in my handy pouch.

A truly loverly weekend in Jasper with all of my immediate family. All of us in one luxurious cabin. It did have this deck, with a view of marmots, elk, pika, chipmunks, and golfers.

My birthday weekend. A quiet affair and was treated to a quiet morning with leftover birthday cake for breakfast and time to sew one whole block from start to finish.

On our way to a wedding here. We were in Ontario and I sewed up quite a few blocks during the endless Toronto area driving. Alturas got dressed up too. I made that belt AND a block from that yellow fabric.

Had said goodbye to my family and The Workroom after a day of teaching. Then I was headed down to the Niagara region for what turned out to be a transformative teaching experience for me at Quilt Canada. This was on the shuttle. Then I stopped sewing to watch the sunset.

So we went to Jasper again for the Canada Day long weekend. Part of my packing included another handful of prepped Alturas blocks. We got there and the kids started to explore and play and make new friends. We saw a mama bear and her cub walk through the campsite. As we adults settled into conversation and an early campfire I got frantic. I couldn't find my little sewing pouch. NO!!!! I forgot Alturas. I was totally distraught. I felt like a part of me was missing. You mean I would have to just sit, and do nothing with my hands? Felt so strange. Then I found the pouch, buried in the car and I started to breathe again.

It was Jasper in the mountains at the end of June. So when the rest of our group went on a hike and a boat ride, we and another family stayed at the campsite to veg, paint rocks, and chill out. As it was rather chilly the men obsessed with a fire in the wood stove of the cook shelter. And I snuck in a little sewing between bear lookouts.

Le Tour!!! I think I made at least a dozen blocks during the 2014 Le Tour. Every night we sat together, chatting, watching, and me sewing. And life was good. 

A weekend in Revelstoke to hit the Skytrek Adventure Park. I spent the first few hours in the car with a little guy napping. More Alturas for me!

On the way home with Alturas and my bruises. Worth every second and every bruise

Ah, summer. Kids in bathing suits on the front lawn. Alturas put aside for water fights and lemonade refills. (And I would be remiss in pointing out the primary colours here, The Monster would totally catch that.)

The day I tried to sew at the beach. Bad idea. At least the little guy wouldn't go in the water, but the girls did and so Alturas had to take a backseat to safety.

My brother is a doctor, so here Alturas waited with me while he took The Monster on a little behind the scenes tour at his hospital. I drank tea and chatted with this lady a little bit.

 Another glorious weekend morning with all the things I love. Okay, not all of them. How about the inanimate objects that I love? Alturas and Peaches and Magazines!

 That time I sewed my finger to Alturas.

True story: I finished this block while recording a podcast with Carolyn Friedlander. Pretty cool. And you can check out the podcast on Modern Sewciety. It's all about the QuiltCon experience. 

The very last Alturas being done, in the wild. If you count a meeting of our community playground committee the wild. I think I was distracted because I signed up for the sponsorship sub-committee. Oh, the power of Alturas.

18 September, 2014

Alturas Quilt Top Done!

My Alturas quilt top is done! That means I am also done with hand appliqué for 72 of these blocks. I won't lie, I'm a bit sad about that. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE this quilt top and am thrilled with the way it turned out. The thing is, I really enjoyed making these blocks and I'm not sure what to do with myself now that is done. (More on that aspect tomorrow.)

You will notice that there is something you could call a border on this quilt. For long time followers and fans this must be tremendously shocking. I understand, I'm pretty shocked myself. These blocks absolutely needed something to set them apart though. Once sewn together the appliqué is more or less only 1/4'' apart. I wanted the appliqué to really stand out, so a border was needed.

Instead of following the original Alturas pattern I added more width (and another row of blocks from the pattern) to the border by using additional charm squares as the border. This was another way to showcase the fabrics I used as the background for the appliqué, quite a nice treat considering you don't see much of it under the appliqué.

And, shock of all shocks, I made the quilt rectangular. I adore square quilts but something about this begged to be a rectangle to me. That's why I added that extra row of appliqué. And a third row to the border on the bottom. That last part is totally inspired by Carolyn Friedlander (she who wrote the pattern) because she often has one side wider than another on her borders.

(This grey fabric is from my very first quilt. Can you believe that?! This is officially the last scrap of it that can be used.)

In the end I'm quite happy with my decision to add a few bits of yellow to the quilt. I'm not sure what it adds, other than a shot of sunshine, but it feels right. The grey/coral/navy/teal combo is pretty awesome all on its own. Yellow just amps it up a bit more. With winter just around the corner (thank goodness last week's snow is gone) this highlight will be well received.

I'm also happy that I made a few blocks with quite low contrast. I realize that, from a distance, they kind of disappear. That's okay. I think that this fact, along with the yellow, keeps your eye moving. Instead of just seeing all the appliqué, all the time.

There are so many old and new fabrics in here. Some I bought just for the project. Some that awesome readers sent in or local friends shared. Some, like I mentioned above, that are 16 years old! There are civil war prints, organic fabrics, modern prints, shirting, and even solids. Just missing batiks and novelty prints. Each block is unique and no appliqué fabric is repeated.

I've already got the backing fabric (more Botanics from Carolyn Friedlander), plus some Cotton and Steel for the binding. I even know how I'm going to quilt it. Now, who is going to baste it for me?

16 September, 2014

Y2K Charms as Leaders and Enders

My oldest UFO is finally turning into something! Serious progress here, folks.

These are the the Y2K swap charms I found in the garage this summer. I spent a lovely day - in between snack making, diaper changing, water balloons, and policing - getting these sorted. I decided to go for a simpler version than my original sketch. In part, because I knew I would never get it done if I got all fancy. And, in part, because the light/dark distinctions became pretty obvious.

There are certainly some special fabrics in the group! Predominantly calicos because that's what we did and what was available even in the 90s. Some novelty prints too. And a few special Australian fabrics in the mix. Anything goes.

That is how I am approaching the quilt making too. Simply sorted by value, that's all. I found a box lid that fits all the charms. It sits on my sewing table, at the ready. As I sew on other projects I grab from the box, as needed, to start and finish a seam. These have become my leaders and enders. So, instead of cutting threads at the end of the seam I feed a set of charms under the presser foot. Then I snip the growing chain off every time I finish another seam and add a charm. I prefer to make whole rows this way, rather than simply sewing pairs. It helps me keep track of the length and nothing is likely to get lost.

Each row will have 40 charms. Somewhere around 25 I switch from darks to light. That's because I have about two thirds dark and one third lights. I change it up and don't worry too much about the exact number. In total there will be 50 rows. That will finish out at an 80'' by 100'' quilt. Pretty big!

I have no idea how long it will take me to get to all 50 rows. I'll just keep at it. That is the good thing about a leaders and enders project, you end up making most of a quilt top without really thinking about it. I can say that these Round and Round blocks end up with me making progress on a row because there is a lot of stopping and starting with each strip added individually. As I make those blocks one at a time (although you could certainly chain piece them) I use the leaders and enders a lot.

Just keep sewing.

12 September, 2014

Friday Favourites - Henley Teapot

This is the best teapot ever. It doesn't drip, the tea stays hot, and it cleans up nicely.

We found this teapot about 12 years ago. My FIL was a big tea drinker, he had a pot at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He was forever frustrated by teapots that dripped so Hubby and I went on a mission to find him a better teapot. Store after kitchen store led us to an out of the way tea shop. Back when there really were no out of the way tea shops.

After he tried it I became convinced. I had a pot for home and one for the office. My MIL still has and uses the original pot we bought. When I would go on mat leave at the office it was a bit of a contest to see who would get my teapot while I was away.

The Henley teapot comes in multiple sizes and even different enamel colours. I like mine big and stainless. Many online tea stores have them now. Even the big A does too. Prices vary, so double check the size you are buying and shop around.

To be totally honest, it isn't perfect. If you don't keep it clean by rinsing or washing after each pot of tea the seal for the spout starts leaking. And it gets very hot on the outside with the tea on the inside. (When making loose tea I have to leave the lid off while brewing or it becomes impossibly hot on that little ball.) I can forgive it these faults completely because I don't have tea drips everywhere. And I can put it on the table without a hot mat below it. Plus, it looks pretty snazzy.