Big and small, and two far away

Finally, I found time / energy / enthusiasm to sew, partly during a week off work for all sorts of odd health reasons. The red quilt is finished and in daily use. Hurray! It is some sort of lap size, and cosy for snuggling under by the fire. Winters feel cold in an old stone house (especially once you got your first gas bill of the winter season and gasped…). So a quilt and a log on the fire help nicely in different ways.

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Perhaps after that long haul project, I had a flurry of making instant- gratification mini quilts for use on tables. Endless teacups around here need resting places — as does the occasional gin and tonic.

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One afternoon I has a Small Person sick at home, so in the afternoon we did some gentle sewing. He pieced a little mat in strips, and I quilted and bound it following his design. The next day a Small but Slightly Older Person pieced and quilter her own, and I bound it. Table mats for three! Now only Papa needs one. I suspect I will make that?

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Meanwhile, far away in Switzerland, the irreplaceable Ms L put the binding on two quilts I had quilted on the indomitable Ms E’s longarm just before leaving the country. My mother was eager to use them, but I just didn’t find the time to finish them in the madness of those last days of moving to Italy. I am so blessed to have amazing friends who step in when I fail. I am incredibly grateful. Much as I love our life here in Tuscany, a gaggle of quilty girlfriends is really still missing! My dear mother sent a photo of the two quilts but I haven’t quite managed to upload the photos here yet. Some technical glitch to fix.

Off to rescue the potatoes from the oven. Hurray, we can eat on our new placemats!

Happy eating! JJ

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Piecing progress

Happily snatching time here and there to stitch in the evening, even if my sewing room is freezing. I’ve made some progress on two cushions made with fabric from Ms L. I ‘just’ need to appliqué the shapes and actually made the pillow cases.

And the red quilt is almost done, save for a bit more quilting and the binding. Fun, fun! The back is quite a heavy linen, but it seemed to quilt ok.

Happy finishing? JJ

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Epiphany in the cold

Epiphany is a holiday here in Tuscany, so we have been gently easing back into life on our hillside after a short week of exploring. The Befana seems to have replaced Wise Men around here as the main focus: an old lady who hands gifts to children, occasionally in stockings, apparently, in a strange act of cultural fusion. We decided we’d stick to Father Christmas, but we did enjoy the wonderful Befana biscuits baked by our kind neighbour, sitting on the terrace in the sun. Our very own flesh and blood Befana, I suppose, who appeared just as tea was brewing. Magic indeed.
While friends minded our beloved chickens, we had two nights in Bologna, and three in Venice. The grown-ups knew both, but it was wonderful to gear the experience to a 5 and 8 year-old. Bologna offered beautiful inspiration to a quilter, with warm light shining on endless red bricks. People dress beautifully too, despite the freezing cold. Rarely have I seen so many real fur coats, worn by young and old, without any apparent fuss. Italians do cold weather with style!
In Bologna, we mostly just walked and walked, and sheltered in cafés for hot chocolate and biscottis. Of the few monuments we did visit, I was most taken by the walls of one old church, part of the extraordinary Basilica di Santo Stefano.

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It is difficult to take bad photos of Venice but the thing I really wanted to photograph was the amazing mosaic floor of St Mark, but despite others shooting away, I obediently followed the signs telling me not to. Amazing, if totally daunting, inspiration for a quilter. No doubt pictures are available somewhere online, such as here (st marks floor. ) Instead, here are two random ones that I took with the iPad… We were so lucky with sun all day every day, despite the cold. No flooding, either. Was I perhaps secretly disappointed about that?

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Having got home, I picked up a long-abandoned project and finally got round to attaching the hand-pieced hexies to the background.
I’ve got enough scrappy red and white four-patches for another border. I’ve squared up half of them already. But real life picks up again tomorrow, or at least real life as experienced during research leave in this most beautiful location. I will link this up to Jessica’s Monday Morning motivation party.

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During my travels, I carried the iPad in my nifty little pouch made from fabric from the gorgeous Ms L. Such technology is a bit of a curse really, as it means you never really get away from life… So it might as well be in something pretty! I sewed this quickly one evening of December before a trip to Paris to examine a PhD. It makes me smile every time I unzip it.

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Happy exploring in the New Year! JJ

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Cosy, cosy, cosy

The new stove is glowing, the snow is melting, friends arrive tonight to mind the house, and we leave to explore Italy for a few days before our school and work terms start up again. Joy.

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Shall I pack some hand stitching?
Happy End of Year! JJ

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Winter cold, and the promise of new heat

It is suddenly, violently winter in our Tuscan mountains. Billowing snow, and – a first for me – then a real snow thunderstorm. Flashes of lightening, great peals of thunder, and snowflakes. I had always associated thunderstorms with the heat of summer, but the landscape here constantly surprises. Needless to say, the chickens, most of whom were born in September, were most alarmed at the ground turning white.

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Today brought the promise of real heat, as our new stove wood is currently being installed. One man has completely disappeared up the chimney. We hope this will allow us to use all our wood to heat the house, rather than only cook pizzas outside in the bread oven. The old fireplace just filled up the house with smoke.

I certainly look forward to snuggling by the fire, under my nice new rather smallish wintery lap quilt that is just freshly washed. I finished it last night. Ok, it’s really a cot-sized thingy but hey, that was all the Japanese plaid I had! Very raw-edged appliqué, but this time properly fixed in place with Vlieseline before quilting. Great fun to do, particularly with a Small Helper telling me where to place each bit. I put two layers of batting to make it puffy (and also, really, because I just pieced together random small bits and this seemed like a good way of bridging them…) so it was a real struggle to navigate it under the machine. There would probably have been a clever way of raising the foot, but I didn’t take time to work this out…

Happy snuggling, awaiting the Spring, JJ

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Boxing Day under quilts

As the sun came up on our glorious Tuscan mountains, I grabbed a moment this morning to finally sew the binding on my latest quilt. It was pieced in the early Spring, before our move to Italy, as a pattern testing exercise for the incomparable Ms E, before her quilting retreat in the French Alps, as a Mystery Quilt. As a control freak, it was good for me (but painful, oh so painful!) to submit to the surprise element of following instructions (bad enough at the best of times…) while not knowing what the final result would look like. In the end, I absolutely love the pattern, made with very clever quick(ish) piecing.

I was very proud to use up only material that I had stashed away, including the little space people. I stumbled onto those once while looking guiltily at the Fat Quarter Shop website. I think I must have squealed with delight and surprise! Mr T bought a little pair of trousers in a boutique in Geneva for our daughter a few years back. We both thought the pattern was totally fab at the time. How fun to unwittingly track it down! Obviously, I had to make him a quilt with it.

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I also finished making my first ever Panettone. That was less of a success! It is supposed to be all light and fluffy. Hmmmm…

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This is what the view from our house looked like a couple of days ago. I never tire of it.
I’m linking this up to Crazy mom’s Finish it up Friday. What fun to see what others have been making.
Happy Boxing Day! JJ

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Autumn sun

A break from rain rain rain (there is a reason these Tuscan mountains are green…), with lunch on the terrace, time playing outside for all the family, and gardening. We finally planted those bulbs, although the weather people are threatening frost for Wednesday. Today was a day off school for the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or her Immaculate Conception, or something. Whatever the reason, we were all pleased for a break from school and work routines to enjoy the gorgeous weather.

IMG_0998.JPG Our mad chickens have finished moulting, and have finally stopped looking embarrassed about loosing feathers all over the garden, and are now looking happily ruffled again, though inevitably rather muddy. The days are so short that only one brave one is still laying. Oh dear, I will actually have to buy eggs. Not the same as fresh ones. In the afternoon, with chicken coops and guinea pig cage cleaned out, I even had time to get back to my sewing. It was bliss! My good friend Ms L gave me the sweetest little sewing pouch last week when I made a mad dash back to Switzerland for a workshop. I started sewing on the way home, fired up. It probably doesn’t help my long list of unfinished projects, but it was so lovely to have such sweet fabric to play with. I have no idea what this will turn into. I’m just enjoying the process for once.

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IMG_0927.JPG I’ll link this up to the Monday monday morningMorning Star Count. A great virtual group of creative people. Happy sewing! JJ

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