30 September, 2008

Couch Time

No pictures, no pretty stories of quilts today. Just a day on the couch with DVDs of "Northern Exposure" and maybe some handsewing of a binding or two.

We returned from the funeral. It was a sad but comforting weekend. It is always nice to be with family. Spread around the country as my husband's family is we wish it wasn't just weddings and funerals that brought us together.

I had a terrible cold until about Sunday, and last night my tummy started in knots. Hence the day on the couch. The Monster is in daycare and I will give the babe all the attention she needs, but thankfully she naps a lot!

23 September, 2008

Celebrating Life

There are a lot of baby quilts to be made these days. Even though I've been sick and spending naptime actually napping, I managed to pull some fabrics for a new baby quilt. This one is for my former boss and her soon to arrive second daughter. It will be a pinwheel design with some applique.

In the meantime, we are off for a funeral this week. Hubby's grandfather passed away on the weekend so we are going to Kelowna to celebrate his life with the rest of the family. Babies are so nice to be around when there is sad news. Even being sick my girls'cries sound sweet to me this week.

See you next week.

19 September, 2008

Hugs From Everywhere

I've been trying all week to get a photo up of the completed top for my Inspired Improvisation. When Hubby's been home he's been working, sick, or we've been busy with the girls. With fall upon us it is much harder to get pictures taken in the daylight. As a compromise, I offer this picture. I promise to get a better one soon.

As for work this week, I actually pieced the back of it already. If Hubby was home and up for it I might be able to get out to a shop and get it basted, using their tables. I might just have to clean the kitchen floor and do it there. You see, I am quite anxious to get going on quilting this one. I've decided on a recipient and I want to be able to take it to him as soon as possible.

My boss has been in the hospital since March. After a barrage of tests and treatments he is now waiting for a heart transplant. He is a young guy for this to happen to (early 50s), and has a gorgeous family in his wife and 10 year old daughter. I knew him for a few years before I took my current job and he's always been a source of inspiration for me. He is so committed to what he does and to the people around him. And right now he is going insane in the hospital, complaining that he is fully institutionalized. I hope this quilt can bring him some brightness and comfort.

While working on this quilt I started thinking about all the fabrics that are a part of it. I haven't bought any fabric of late, making everything from stash. In this quilt alone there are fabrics from many other quilts. So I like to think that I am extending the hugs to my boss from all the other recipients of quilts with the same fabric. That means he is getting hugs from my nephew, my sister-in-law's sister and her husband, my brother and sister-in-law's niece, my old boss and her first baby, a quilting friend in the US, and a few more from Hubby, the Monster, and our family.

13 September, 2008

Phew

What I discovered about myself this week: I can make it approximately 3 days on my own without losing my mind with the girls, and I am a wuss for only making it 3 days. It was an exhausting week with Hubby out of town for work.

Then, on Thursday, I ran into a girl that I knew from high school. Turns out she only lives a few blocks from me. And she is a new mom, with an adopted 14 month old. Oh, and her husband is stationed in Afghanistan with the Forces so she is doing the single mom thing - all the time. I am in awe of women (and men) who can handle life alone like that. You definitely need good support systems.

This week, thankfully, my neighbours were home so they were able to come over once and watch the baby while I ran out. If I didn't have them I don't know what I would do! Especially this week when our phone and internet went out and was only fixed today. They were also some friends simply to talk to.

On the plus side, I did take as much time as I could to sew - during naps. Today I finished the top of this quilt. I liked this picture so much that I am posting it first. After no internet for nearly a week I have to play catch up with my posts. And while finishing it today I came up with the name: Inspired Improvisation.

03 September, 2008

Natural Dying - Nanking Cherries

Here is the second round in my natural dying experiment. I picked the nanking cherries off the bush in front of both ours and the neighbour's house. These tiny red Prairie cherries are a staple in my life. We had a bush in our yard growing up. Actually, it is still producing cherries at my parents' house. Usually one of the first things to bloom, the flowers are a tender pink in the spring. By August you have juicy, dime sized cherries with a small pit. Sure, they are a little tart, but they make an excellent jelly. I realized after the fact that I should have taken a picture of the cherries, but you can still check them out.

This time I used an unbleached muslin and a scrap of plain white cotton. The top photo is the before shot. For the dye I used the mash again, mixed with some juice. I made the juice by boiling down about 3 cups of berries with a few cups of water. I ended up with 3 cups of juice, 2 of which went to making some sherbet. The dye was an orange-pink colour.

To prepare the fabric I decided to treat it with a mordant, alum. Alum is toxic, if you eat a tablespoon or more. But considering it is sold in the spice aisle at the grocery store and is approved as a food additive, I decided it fit into my efforts at natural dying. I simmered the fabric in the mordant solution of 2 tablespoons alum to about 6 or 7 cups water. I know, I should measure and give you more precise instructions, but this was done after the girls went to bed. The fabric simmered for an hour while I simmered the dye solution about the same time.

After soaking in the mordant I squeezed out the excess water, but did not rinse the fabric. Then I added it to the dye and simmered for another hour, stirring to make the colour a bit more even. After an hour I turned off the burner and went to bed. This is what it looked like the following afternoon. We decided to go swimming, so I never got to it in the morning.


From that vibrant colour I got this pale pink. This is it after a few rinses with cold water.

This is it when it dried. The unbleached cotton is on the left.

I've decided to try a few more items, sticking to traditional Prairie materials. My next experiment will be with the berries of the mountain ash tree.

02 September, 2008

Dealing With It

I don't know if it's the 3-4 month period after the baby's arrival, or Hubby working late and out of town these days, or my dad's illness, or just the hormones, but it's been a rough few weeks. Despite the baby sleeping well most nights I've not been. Insomnia and anxiety are just hanging over my head. So one night last week, rather than toss and turn, I made some hot milk with honey and attacked my stash.

The Monster was colouring while we were in Kelowna. Her limited supply of highlighters and pens at Great-Grandpa's house brought about the colour scheme. For some reason I kept this picture, when I normally recycle her everyday art at this point. Using this as my inspiration I pulled fabric and started cutting.

First I cut a bunch of squares and strips. Then I slashed the squares and sewed the strips in, randomly of course. After a good press I slashed the squares in the other direction on some, creating a cross in the middle of the square. Some I left with just one strip. In less than an hour I had 14 blocks.

Who knows what this will end up as and who for? But I felt immensely better after that hour and slept well (with expected interuptions) that night. And since Hubby is not home with a paintbrush for the playhouse I will hit the basement and quilt in between loads of laundry.