Monday, April 21, 2014

Block Book 3

If you have been following along with my latest project you will know, this is week three of the Jane Austen Family Album  that I have started in order to create something just a bit different than a sampler quilt.  Barbara Brackman's page is dedicated to a 36 week project to create blocks that follow the theme of Jane Austen and her family and situations, ideas, and well, I guess we will have to wait and see what else Barbara gives us!

This week (somewhat appropriate to Easter) the block is being made to represent Jane's father who was a Reverend of the Church of England.  Go to Barbara's site (see the link in my first paragraph) to learn much about this man, who I think  anyone would be proud to call father!  He sounds like a man any girl would appreciate as a Dad...

The Block is Cross within a Cross and can be a tricky one to put together.  I thought I would pass along a few hints that might make the construction of this block a bit easier and perhaps save some frustration with seam matching and keeping those PESKY BIAS edges under control!

You should refer to Barbara's blog for the details for cutting and the piecing order, so read through my tips, then follow the instructions for the block.

The block is made from the centre out...

One general quilting rule that holds true for this block is "press the seams towards the darker fabric"

The center cross of this block is essentially a nine patch turned on point, but this makes the outside edges all on the bias, so make sure when you press the seams you do not stretch the long edge of the "C" pieces.


Your center section when sewn will look like this.  This is when you trim those corners.  Be careful when you do this because if you trim at an angle, your whole block will be off kilter.  Make sure that you line up the grid of your ruler with the side you will trim and with one or both of the other side edges.  This will ensure that the corners will be correctly squared at 45 degree angles!  It will save you much frustration being methodical in this step.

Next is to make the 4 corners of this block -- another tricky bit, but keep in mind the short edge of the "B" triangle butts up with the square.   Take a moment to place the triangles beside the square so that you can clearly see which edge to sew.


I like to chain piece, even if it is only 4 sections.


Once you have the four pieces done it is easier to see how to sew the other triangle to the square.   Oh, and to make it so that your seam does not take a little JAG at the end, see that little corner tag sticking out?  Snip or Trim it off, even with the edge of the SQUARE...


Just as the above photo shows...


Now this is another little tip, that will help with sewing your block accurately, if not perfectly!  Back to the center part of the block, match up the edges to find the center of that "C" triangle, give it a bit of a press to create a crease.  Do that on each of the four sides.   Then put a pin so that it marks the crease...


Now, as you see the pin marks the center where you will "point" the corner of the square "A" right at the pin.  You can then pin them together or just hold your fabric so that it does not slip as you sew the seams! (make sure that the edges of the fabric line up exactly -- I left the bottom fabric showing in this case so that you can easily see how the corner points to the pin)

You should also note that again when pressing, the seam is pressed to create that point.

When you sew these sections together you also need to keep in mind that both the smaller triangle and the inner "C" triangle is on the bias, so take care that you do not pull your seam as you sew it.  In fact if you actually slightly push on your fabrics they should not stretch out of shape....


And VOILA!  The Cross within a Cross Block for Reverend George Austen.  Be sure to read Barbara Brackman's explanation of his life and his position in life.  I find it quite interesting how the RULES of inheritance worked in those times...

Maybe that is an explanation of why my paternal grandmother Doris Merry Gent had some "uppity" ways about her?  She could have been part of an upper class family but with a father or grandfather who was not in the line of inheritance and who had to make their way depending on the financially better off relatives or to find their own way --- My father did some research on his  English family and discovered that his mother's father and grandfather were police constables in London in Victorian times...

Now, today when I watch shows like Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife it is easy to see how the class system of the time would instill itself in one's very being and even coming to Canada, it would be difficult to throw off those attitudes.  So if you have a Grandma that was maybe "uppity" or perhaps sometimes said things that made her sound harsh -- think now about how she was raised and what was normal in her time.... 




Monday, April 14, 2014

Work in Progress -- Block Book 2

Following along with Barbara Brackman's Austen Family Album  is working well for me...  One block a week is not alot to do, and in fact yesterday (Sunday) I was wondering what the block would be for this week!  Anticipation!  It has been awhile since I actually was excited about a project and that feeling of sweet anticipation was very welcome to my psyche!

This week the block is Sister's Choice.  I totally enjoyed Barbara's write up about Cassandra Austen, Jane's older sister.  It makes one wish for such a companion in life, but alas my wish was not granted so I have to imagine what it would have been like!  But, I do have a really wonderful sister-in-law, who lives too far away that I don't get to see as often as I wish...

For me I found this block interesting in that it actually lends itself to being a 10" finished size, but to be consistent Barbara published instructions to make it a 12" block.  Yes, it is easier to make it 10 inches, because the pieces are a more common cut but I went with the 12" block which made me take care with the cutting and the sewing of the triangles and I am quite happy to say that the effort turned out exactly right.


Out of my scrap crate came some bali batiks that have been sitting around for a few years, I had a couple of other batiks, but they were unrelated colours so the three I chose are as close to coordinated as I was able to come...
This is a great block to play with colours, so many variations and colour placement!

Now, during the week, I had some thoughts about how to finish these blocks so started with of course the first one.
I have about 4 meters of unbleached cotton (muslin) on a shelf and decided that this would be a good neutral to use with all the blocks for this 'book'...

Because I suspect all the blocks themselves will be 12" finished, I will even be able to cut ahead!  So, each "page" is going to be 15" x 12", that extra 3 inches allows for a description or information strip beside each block.


So, along with the block itself, I will cut a 3.5 inch x 12.5 inch strip to sew along one side of the block, and a 15.5 inch x 12.5 inch backing piece, both from the unbleached muslin.


Then a layer of batting, to create the "Sandwich".  Now one of the other things about doing these blocks in "Book" form, I am thinking that pieces of batting does not need to be consistent with each 'page'.  I have a rubbermaid tub that is pretty much full of batting scraps, some are 80/20 Hobbs cotton, there are a variety of polyester batting and even a few bits of fusible batting.  I think one advantage to using different battings is that it will give a different look and feel to each block depending on the quilting done.


The side Panel on the face of the page allows room to write down information on the block, and because the backing is also plain muslin any further notes can be written on the back, too.   Will just have to see how that goes.

I do not as yet have a plan for attaching the pages together, there are a few options, including putting metal "ring" holes, or even regular sewn button holes and slipping a ribbon through the pages to hold them together, or to sew the "hinge" side of each block, one to the next...   Again, will see how it goes.
                        ********************************
Lately I have been trying to be nice, even when I don't have to!  To some people that comes naturally, but I have been around sarcasm and thoughtless words for a good portion of my life so it takes a concerted effort to be pleasant, sometimes...
This morning there was a knock on my door, an unexpected knock, and in today's world, there is always that suspicion that uninvited people at the door may not be such a good thing.   Well, I decided to answer the door -- which meant me coming down the stairs and first putting the dog behind me.   I opened the door to an older man, carrying pamphlets -- perhaps you know what they were?  Well, I do not have the same beliefs as he does, but I decided there was no need to tell him to go away and stay away with mean or harsh words.  I nicely said, that it would probably be best if he kept his pamphlet to share with someone who might keep it and read it and when he said to me to have a nice day, I returned the nicety by wishing him a pleasant walk around the neighbourhood and this warm and sunny spring day....

And what is more happy in spring than a dog running in the park?



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jumping off a cliff...

Did you ever ask your Mother if you could do something - way back when you were about 14 years old?  And what did she say after you told her all your friends were going?   Well, my Mother said "if all your friends jump off a cliff would you follow along?"

I bet you answered, No! As did I.

But even though our rational mind tells us not to JUMP along with everybody else, we seem to keep doing it again and again!   We often think we are so smart that of course we wouldn't do such a dumb thing as to follow along because everybody else seems to be doing it.   Well, I suspect Advertisers of any and all products counts on you to follow, just because your friends are doing it!

They even tell us that "all your friends" are buying this, or that celebrities are leading the way in convincing us that this product or idea or fad is wonderful simply because others think it is...

I fall for this gimmick of "BUY THIS" so often that it has started to make me feel quite uncomfortable!  Big things and small things....

Lately I have REALLY been listening to the claims made in TV advertisements... One I noticed is a flagrant copy of another...  There has been an ad -- well actually it is usually a Paid half hour advertisement -- Cindy Crawford's skin creams -- you know the one where the great French doctor has discovered a rare extract from a even more rare melon...  Really how rare could this melon be if they sell this skin cream all over the world?  Do you think that if you ordered this stuff that sometime they might say, we are short of the rare melon extract so we are unable to fill your order?    Well now, we know very well, that is not going to happen!  In fact this idea of a famous doctor and a rare natural ingredient has obviously gone over so well, that now there is another cosmetic product advertisement that claims it contains an extremely rare "stem cell" extract from a sought after unusual apple that is only found in Switzerland by another brilliant doctor!   I am sure that these cosmetic skin and face creams are fine and excellent quality products, but why must they tell us that some ingredient is rare or exotic or unusual....  I suspect that sometime soon, we will be buying something that contains the unnatural red dust of Mars with no real reason except that it is rare and from Mars and some celebrity says it is a miracle!

Influence.   It is so easy to wind its way into the simplest things of our life.

The strangest thing set me off on these thoughts....


I am, as usual watching a show (Doc Zone on CBC) on TV while working on a crochet project.  I actually have about 3 crochet projects on the go, and could easily be working on one of them, but no....  A few days ago I got an email -- yes I subscribe to emails that actually want me to buy stuff, I tell myself it is a way to keep up with new things...  I was fooling myself!   So in this email, the company sent me an email "update" of a kit for a scarf and something about it caught my eye...  It was for a Boteh Scarf and had a really enticing photo....  Something about it tho made me hesitate.  Well, I always hesitate when buying crafty stuff, cause I often can live without it, whereas buying a loaf of bread or a jug of milk never causes me to question what or why I am buying it...

I really liked this scarf!  And it looked like it would be an interesting challenge and something a bit different....  But still, I spent another day thinking about it....  THEN like the proverbial light bulb, I realized I already had this pattern in one of their crochet magazines -- I just had to find it...  After leafing through a dozen or so issues I FOUND IT!   OKAY! no need to buy that pattern... but you know what gets me about it?  NEW.  Yes a NEW KIT is what they are selling, but hey? the pattern is in a magazine from WHAT? SEVEN YEARS AGO!!  Now to sell as an individual pattern along with an expensive yarn and call it a KIT is an excellent marketing ploy...  
For a change tho, I didn't jump off that cliff simply because someone implied that everybody was doing it and it was something new and fun to do!


I think, after alot of years of believing what "they" tell me, I am learning to stop and think about the claims being made about how I would really be missing out if I didn't follow everyone else over the cliff!  Even if maybe there really weren't so many others jumping....

Oh Boy! Now what have I done?  Becoming more thoughtful about the claims of product or idea sellers...  

PS.  The yarn in the kit is a 'sock yarn' so that too was easily on hand in a basket of yarn I had on the shelf and therefore I did not have to take another penny (oh yeah, we don't use pennies in Canada anymore) out of my pocket to satisfy my urge to try out this unusual scarf pattern...

I am developing new eyes to look at some of the 'claims' made on consumer products...


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Work in Progress - Block Book

I did mention in a previous post that I will be following Barbara Brackman's Austen Family Album Quilt .  This is a 36 week project to create a sampler type of quilt based on names of quilt blocks or ideas from Jane Austen's lifetime.  Read Barbara's blog on this project and I am sure you will see how each block she presents to us along the way will tie into Jane's time...

Now, even tho I am somewhat of a fan of Pride and Predjudice, and Sense and Sensibility I must admit I was introduced to those stories not so long ago by great productions of those stories along with Emma as MOVIES...  I have not ever actually read any of the Jane Austen books except for Northanger Abbey, which I think must be her least known novel.



Really, the idea of the blocks that Barbara Brackman plans to tie into Jane's life seemed to me a great way of learning some details of Jane's life and to work on a favourite pastime, all at the same time...

I am not planning to make a quilt of these blocks, nor do I plan to use retro or vintage fabrics or fabrics that will co ordinate all the blocks into one large quilt. Barbara does speak of the kind of fabrics that would be appropriate for the TIME of this quilt in the first post she did to announce this project.

I am thinking of creating a BOOK of Blocks.   I do have in mind a method to create each page of the book, using the blocks.  I have not as yet confirmed exactly how I plan to do this BOOK, but as I progress with the blocks, I plan to do a tutorial of how I put the pages together -- each page I am hoping will be a small finished quilt with top, batting, backing and binding...

In the meantime  I dug into my "milk" carton where I keep scrap and leftover fabrics from previous projects...

The first block, posted on Barbara's site is called BRIGHT STAR and she explains how this block references Jane Austen -- Barbara says that this block was published in the Chicago Tribune in 1934.  When you read about Jane Austen for yourself, the Bright Star block seems quite appropriate to start this project.

A few tips if you make this block:


Barbara does not supply sewing details other than the pieces and size and shape of pieces to cut and sew...

If you want to make this block, because it is entirely made up of 1/2 square triangles, careful and accurate piecing is imperative!

I use a method of sewing triangles together that you can easily learn from this tutorial at Connecting Threads .  The tutorial shows two methods of sewing 1/2 square triangles and the writer says that the second method is their favorite.  Mine Too!


Another 'trick' to remember when sewing the sections of this block is that the squared side of the larger triangle should line up with the squared edge of the strip of pieced triangles -- you will find that once sewn, the long edge will then line up nicely even tho it looks like it is too big...


When you get the square pieced, it is a good idea to "square up" before sewing the 4 sections together.  Ideally use a 6.5 inch square ruler if you have one, as this section should measure 6.5 inches on every side.  Place the diagonal line of the ruler exactly along the longest diagonal seam, hold it still and with your rotary cutter trim the bits that fall outside the edge of the ruler...  Perfection!


Voila!  Bright Star!

And, Well, Spring has arrived here on the West Coast! 


My first year on the West Coast was 1986 and the blooms on the ornamental cherry trees was something that my eyes have adored every single spring since then!

Linking up today with The Needle and Thread Network


Monday, March 31, 2014

Works in Progress, end of March part one....

I have been busy this month, with so many different things!  I never really stop sewing or quilting so today's update is a bit eclectic...

Amigurumi... I don't even know how to pronounce it!  Many Many years ago, I made two crocheted teddy bears for my sons, they were a couple of the first such projects in crochet that I completed -- that was like 35 years ago...  I have not made any such thing since then.  Afghans, Scarfs, Mitts, even a sweater or two and shawls or ponchos, Til now...  I have been seeing so many creative creatures on various blogs, that I am impelled to make one!  I decided, even though I am a well experience crocheter, perhaps starting with something easy would be a good idea...

After much searching and checking out tutorials, I came upon this link http://baghisblog.blogspot.ca/2010/08/free-amigurumi-pattern-moko-cat.html
as a starting point...

Now, I am not sure if it is because I just need to put my own 'touches' onto anything that I do or if I just HAVE to do it my way, but I am making changes along the way.... Besides, I have about 40 skeins of "Rug Yarn" each skein is I think 15 yards, so not alot of each skein!  Rug Yarn is almost as fine as Sock Yarn, but without the nylon and is definitely a rougher wool, but if I recall I did get the skeins at a second hand shop for about 2 bucks!


So if you take a look at the link above, you will see that I am making a 'ginger' tabby cat, somewhat different that the original pattern and I have already shortened the arm length that is called for in the free pattern--it just seems weird to have arms longer than a body--imho-- anyway...
More on "MOKO" as this amigurumi cat progresses...

Another very long term project I have is the sprouting, planting, and carefully watching it grow, of a grocery store Avocado seed!
I am not sure what exactly possessed me to begin this but it has been immensely satisfying.  I suspect it is the satisfaction that many gardeners experience with many plants that are a challenge!  I definately am not a gardener, tho I plant geraniums and tomatoes and a few herbs on my backyard patio each year...


And my last Work in Progress for March is an experiment!  Now, you know, this has been a long hard cold winter in many parts of both Canada and the USA...  One of the things that has always affected me is dry skin.  Dry skin from head to toe and of course it is always worse in winter.  When I was a kid, my mom would try everything to help me because sometimes it was so bad the skin on my hands would split and leave awfully tender open wounds... She would have me use Vaseline, sometimes I could just slip and slide where ever i wanted to go!  She would put mayonaise in my hair because my hair was like a horse's tail, thick and brittle and strawlike!  Nothing seemed to work, even into adulthood i had problems with dry skin, hair, nails, feet, everything!  One very helpful cure was to move from Winnipeg, Manitoba to where I am now, near Vancouver, BC on the west coast of Canada...  but still winters test my skin for dry  patches...

Praise to the internet and random searching for a new "organic" skin cream!  In the past year or so I have been getting a 'reaction' to a few different face creams that I have bought that even say hypoallergenic!  I put on the product and my eyes and nose start watering -- no actual skin reaction or blotches or pimples, more like whatever evaporates off the skin cream affects my air intake.... weird.

So in an effort to find something that doesn't cause that type of reaction, I landed upon the idea of Coconut Oil!


I am sure there are other brands and other sizes, but this is my first jar -- a pint (US measure) that I bought at Winco Foods in Bellingham, WA for 6.49.  When it comes to a DEAL, this is it!  Where can you buy a good quality face or skin cream for that price?   This is GREAT!  Anyway, I have been using this on my skin for a month now and am very impressed and pleased with the results... My hands are definately loosing some of the wrinkledy feel, every toe and my heels on my feet are softened.  And no more watery eyes or nose when I use it on my face!  My new face cream!  And you can even cook with this stuff!  I suspect more people cook with it than use it on their skin tho...  but I am a convert to coconut oil on the skin!

What a varied mish mash of updates and works in progress!  What little projects do you have that surprise or satisfy you?

In a day or two, a few more updates...
I am beginning to think that most everything we do is a Work in Progress!



Friday, March 21, 2014

Work Today

That title might be a bit deceptive...  I don't actually go anywhere to work, but like more and more people I do like to think that I 'work' from home -- but not much...

I sort of follow the motto  "I'd rather be poor than work!"  which is close, but not exactly true.  I don't think I would purposely let myself fall into homelessness if a job would save me or even to social services support...

I am lucky, I have a husband who will work and work hard unlike me, who lets him!

Anyway, back to actually working...

I have spent a good part of the day today, adding to my Etsy shop.  Thing slow greatly in my shop after Christmas and I admit, I have been letting it slide.  I have not renewed or updated anything for about a month.

Most of my "products" are Vintage sewing related goods.  Buttons at the top of the list and you can see my banner at the top of my blog proudly proclaims that!


So I have added Buttons today, some pretty image buttons that would be SO cute on a little girl's Easter dress, hmmmm?


Or maybe a conglomerate of odd metallic buttons, maybe for jewelry making...


and even, dozens of what looks to me like school uniform buttons -- would you believe I have 200 of them!

Tomorrow, too, I shall be doing some more updating of my little store...  If you are interested, check out the link to my shop on the left hand side of this page...

Thanks!