A taste of things to come

An Easter in Tuscany, with egg hunts, chocolate eggs, one poorly child who picks up soon (but misses the long-awaited egg hunt, poor lass), and lots of hearty home-cooked food, some of it in the sun. Log fires in the evening, a touch of heating in the morning.

Barga april 20142Who would have known you could dye quail eggs to get the sweetest mini-Easter-eggs? A happy experiment. These four survived into the evening, after having been happily hunted all morning in a friend’s garden.

Barga april 2014b1We gently settle into the rythme of things, after a couple of days of being tired and rather anxious: this place will, after all, be home for a year from next summer. Will we grow to think of it as our home? Will the children learn Italian in school quickly enough to enjoy it, or will the somewhat traditional-style-bums-on-seats-rote-learning schooling prove rather challenging to two children who began their happy schooling in Montessori heaven? Will the endless summery hot place we know from holidays turn into a damp muddy wintery mountain? We will have time to discover if this is the greatest adventure, or one long strange challenge… But, after a few days of rest, we all feel better about our plans. I think. I hope. Certainly, it will be a change. Meanwhile, we eat chocolate: in my case, the sweetest little sewing-themed set Mr T found for me in Aosta, where we stopped on the way down.

chocciesThe children certainly take easily to being able to tumble out into the garden (“the hillside” probably better describes it…) to go and chase bugs, play games, or just poke about.

Barga april 20145The “Monte Forato” can be seen from the house, an amazing natural stone arch. This is also known as the “Uomo morto” – the dead man. Can you see him lying back, his knees bent up on the right, his face with the ‘hole’ to the left?

Barga april 20143Now, to settle down and do some sewing…

Happy Easter! JJ

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On the other side of the world

A little under a week of being at a scientific conference in Tampa, Florida. I started by sewing in the plane, on the way. A good way to pass a long, long flight, wearing my new necklace (from C&A!). I got three extra for friends because I liked it so much.

Florida4After 8 hours on the plane — not all of them sewing! — I had this set of hexies. The big burly man to my right didn’t give me a single glance as he played car racing on this phone… He may have had fun outracing his imaginary friends, but I was proud to have something to show for my time spent wedged into a tiny space on an airplane.

Floridapp1After the long trip, I had five four intense days at my conference: two presentations for me to give, and lots of time spent attending other sessions, debates, meetings, meals, making new friends and renewing contacts with distant colleagues. It was intense!

The final day, before flying home, I had a wonderful roadtrip with Ms M: Ms E’s wonderful mother, otherwise known as the Quilt Fairy from Patchwork in the Peaks. She was my favourite Ironing Fairy, quietly whisking away my piecing just when I could not face ironing any more and just wanted to sew, sew, sew. It was wonderful to see her here, on the sunny shores of Florida. We put our toes into the Bay of Mexico.

Floridab2Floridab3 Floridab1 Floridab4 Floridab5It was a wonderful full day of chatting, visiting, shopping and sightseeing. Now, happily refreshed, I am packing my case.

Happy travelling… and sewing all the way home? JJ

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Sewing with sheets

To celebrate the arrival of a lovely pile of assorted sheet fat quarters, and to enjoy the first warm day for a while, I emerged from my work overdrive to do a spot of sewing.

Clothes from sheets3 Clothes from sheets2 Fun, quick, and the opportunity to teach them how to draw a large circle using pen and string. The shorts pattern is wonderfully easy: four pieces, elastic at the top. They loved them!

Happy Spring! JJ


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Springtime mystery

Two weeks ago, I tried on a new identity and purpose: pattern tester for the wonderful Ms E. She challenged two of us to try out her pattern for the Mystery Quilt at the upcoming Patchwork in the Peaks retreat, held in Morzine just after next Easter (try to weedle your way into the remaining available space if you possibly can!). It’s a prepare-a-little-bit-in-advance-then-discover-the-pattern-on-the-spot mystery, so obviously I have to be hush hush about it here. Ms D and I gathered one sunny Sunday morning to try out two different sizes of the Mystery.

I had mostly “shopped” from my stash, with two little bits added at the last minute from Ms E’s wonderful stash. I bravely cut into one of my most-favourite prints. I found this  online a couple of years ago, delighted to find the exact same material as my little Miss R’s favourite baby trousers, bought six years ago in a funky little boutique in Geneva by devoted Mr T, my husband. I think it’s designed by Michael Miller.Mystery2We were told to choose a focus fabric, ideally large print, and some matching other bits, with sashing. A repurposed red spotty duvet cover (from that large Swedish store), two scraps of left-over ‘vintage’ yellow sheets (stripy and spotty) from a charity shop, not-quite-enough of a green fat quarter from Japan (so I chose some toning plain green for one extra strip), and a little piece of yellow from Ms E’s scraps. A world made of scraps!

Mystery1White is always my go-to sashing, in this case super-cheapo large Swedish store white, bought by weight. It behaved surprisingly well. So did I, though I say so myself: I almost followed instructions, for once, but only because Ms E kept glaring at me with her “Oh do behave and read the paper, Ms JJ, you are my Official Pattern Tester, remember?”. So I did my best. When I disolved into only wanting cups of tea and biscuits, she even did my ironing, and lent me her best sewing machine. A true friend!

Mystery3Meanwhile, Ms D — the White Witch of Perfect Seams and Skillful Hand Quilting — threw her blocks together in the best bright greens I really, really wanted. We decided that together we just about covered every possible personality trait and skill level that Ms E is likely to meet in her Peaks students: from speedy but scrappy free-spirit to accurate but careful precision-stitcher.

But that, my dears, is all you are allowed to see, just in case you are going to Peaks yourself. I am gutted that, for the first time, I am not able to. But this pattern-testing made me feel part of the party too, in my own small way. I do so look forward to seeing what others make for this Mystery. It is always so instructive to see how fabric choice totally changes how patterns actually look.

Two weeks later, I have now put half the blocks together (for Step II), and I totally LOVE the result. This is going to be such a sweet, cheerful quilt. Hurray! Thank you, Ms E, for perpetually challenging me.

Happy mystering! JJ

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Squirrels finished! As these were part of my Finish-Along pledge, I am particularly pleased. Since this started out as a sort of joke quick-quilt with fabric that was hopelessly ill suited to being a jelly roll (headless reindeer, anyone?), I am particulary surprised it was ever finished. It is now on the little-bed-small-people-sleep-in-from-the-middle-of-the-night-when-they-really-need-mama.

Squirrels finished1Very very snuggly minky on the back (sort of artificial furry hairy stuff, to use a technical term). I am not convinced this makes a very sensible back, but it washed ok. I quilted this on Ms E’s wonderful longarm, and I had such fun just going for it on a Sunday afternoon.

Squirrels finished3Fuzzy pictures, but at least you can see where I got the inspiration for the chalet.

Squirrels finished2Squirrels “raw edge appliquéed on” which is the technical term for: quick and dirty. Hurray for my first finish of the year, even without very nice pictures.

xx Happy squirelling, JJ


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Hexie and embroidered coat progress

Slowly, slowly, while chatting to the ladies on Monday, I made some progress. It was a welcome break in what is proving to be a mad beginning of academic term.

I feel like singing “I’m still standing, yeah yeah yeah…” as my fellow professors all disappear. One to become Dean, one on sabbatical, one to a horrid ski accident last weekend. Still standing? Just about… At least a measure of sanity is conserved through thinking about something completely different, like slowly slowly piecing fabric together by hand — in this case using recycled sheets.

PICT0295The top two corner ones still need attaching, perhaps tonight. On I go…

Then, in a stolen hour, I went back to my charity-shop wool coat, armed with a bundle of exciting metallic threads Ms E leant me. Turns out that my machine, while charmingly German and all, really is totally picky about what sort of thread it plays with. In the end, I managed to use some in the thread bobbin (but then try adding those while stitching blind upside down…), but then I got hopelessly frustrated. I returned to my golden thread, with a ‘topstitch’ needle, and super low tension. That seemed to help.

As my lovely friend Ms E ever-so-tactfully commented that the jacket currently draws attention to the widest part of my backside, I am now focussing on taking the decorations northwards! True friends will tell you such things kindly! Circles are now slowly climbing up my back… Anyone have tips for sewing with metallic threads? I’m willing to try anything to be able to play with the bag of goodies I have, including some gorgeous variegated greeny-redy one.

PICT0293Linking up to the weekly Life Under Quilts linky party, and Work in Progress Wednesday… Then I can go and visit a whole lot of other people’s project, get happily sucked into Blogland, and emerge refreshed… but having not stitched at all. Oh well. Fun too!

Screen shot 2014-01-20 at 11.14.37 AM

Incidentally, Ms E has two unexpected cancellations on her hugely successful Alpine quilting retreat that has been booked up for months, so snap them up for 24-27 April 2014. You’ll meet the most wonderful bunch of people at Patchwork in the Peaks, faithful and new — and all incredibly welcoming! For the first time ever since these started, I cannot go. I am gutted.


Happy stitching! JJ

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Hexie coat progress

After a long weekend in the mountains, we popped in to my lovely parents-in-law to return a left-behind scarf on Sunday afternoon. Then, scatty-brained that I am, after watching some Olympic wrapping-up (we don’t have a TV…), I managed to leave behind my own coat. Daft! So this seemed like a good excuse to see if I could start or even — gasp — finish my coat project. There were so many kind comments to my last post, that this seems like a fun thing to be attempting.

Well, it’s certainly not yet finished, nor is it anywhere near wearable, but I had a few hours of fun (and some frustration!) playing with it. So hopefully tomorrow isn’t going to be too cold in Geneva, because otherwise I have nothing to wear…

I decided I really wanted this as an excuse to practice some freemotion stitching, as well as appliquéing some silk hexagons. I really went with the improvising here, not planning a thing. After all, this second-hand-coat didn’t cost me much from a local charity shop, even if it’s nice wool felt. I unpicked the bottom seam, and the lining, so that when I am finished I can stitch it back together neatly (I am assuming…). This is how far I got so far, aiming only to do a sort of improv assymetrical border around the bottom:

Coat2Well, it mightn’t look like much yet, but it’s fun to do! I like the ‘painting’ effect of the free-motion quilting. The circles were an afterthought, but I really like them. More, perhaps, than the hexagons, so we’ll see where this is heading. A total jumble, most probably!

I had a frightful time with the gold thread. My Pfaff does not like anything other than Aurifil, but I really wanted to try since the colour was rather appropriate. Then, when I finally gave up in desperation and shifted to the red it was so easy, smooth, happy. I’m not so happy with the effect the red gives, and am searching for another colour to add. Or does Aurifil do some sort of metallic thread? Ms E?

Coat1We’ll see if this turns into something remotely wearable. Perhaps not — but then who cares? I can just play up the excentric mad academic persona a little more…

Happy improvising! JJ

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