Little boxes, on the hillside

We are packing, packing, packing, off on our sabbatical year in Italy in a few weeks. Of course, because I packed my sewing stuff first, I am now totally incapable of doing anything creative. Bother! The Spring was a whirl of too much work, not enough sewing, and unexpected work responsibilities. Interesting, but exhausting.

Chicken-keeping class booked, kids signed up in local schools for September, and research institution awaiting me for the autumn. But, before then, we have a flat, a chalet and an office to pack up. Boxes, boxes, boxes. Oh joy.

It’s all about the process, we tell ourselves… JJ

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Rainbow world

There is really nothing better than a Birthday party for Small People! T-shirts and socks in a fabulous production line. The children — and the two grown-ups — had a fabulous time.

Socks1It took quite a long time to rinse out the T-shirts! Now they are all drying on the balcony.

TshirtsHappy rainbowing! JJ

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Mystery revealed

If you can’t join ‘em…

I could not go to Patchwork in the Peaks (5!) this time, alas. The timing (this weekend!) just didn’t work out. Nevertheless, I was honoured to be a pattern-tester for Ms E for the Mystery Quilt that was to be made at the retreat. Except that I was a useless tester since I never finished it on time to actually prove it was doable — but by them Ms E had made one, quilted it and bound it, so I didn’t feel so bad…

But, instead of doing it a month ago, fresh back from Tuscany yesterday, I spend a happy day hiding from the children and sewing. I think it needs a border or two to make it a sensible size. I just love those silly spacemen. Bright, it certainly is!

Mystery quiltAs Peaks is taking place now, I can’t wait to see what all the happy campers are making. It is always so fun to see how different fabric choices totally change a pattern. I think slightly less contrasting tones would be rather better, in retrospect. But it’s cheerful.

Unlike what my previous post suggested, I never did get round to doing any sewing when I was in Italy. Too much going on, too much to plan, too much to take in and too much to think about for our year away. The closest I got to actually sewing was simply laying a quilt on what will be my bed for a year, to make it feel like home.

Tuscan bedThe only other thing I did was lay out my hexies, take a photo of my progress, and then pack them away again. Doesn’t really count as sewing, does it? Still, sometimes just patting fabric is therapeutic.

Hexies april 2014Everything takes time in Italy, often in a happy way (Slow food!), but in frustrating episodes too. We learnt, for example, that telling a bank manager who is proving officious and annoyingly sanctimonious that “it works better in Switzerland” mightn’t be the best strategy to get what you want (even if it makes you feel really, really better!) — but waving as many official looking bits of paper covered in various assorted stamps is. Sense of humour essential at all times! Easier when you are rested, and full of Easter chocolate. Or pasta. Or both.

Happy stitching! JJ

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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 thisĀ  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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