Pentagons

A break from hexagons to make a gift for a baby. It’s useful to have a mathematician husband who tells you, just as you blindly set off the wrong path, that you cannot make a ball with only hexagons… So rather than make a true football (hexagons and pentagons), a quick online search led me to Abby Glassenberg’s useful tutorial, and templates, so I didn’t need to work out Alone that I needed twelve pentagons. A few hours later, a little flannel ball was born. A Kinder egg provided a little plastic container in the middle, with a little bell inside. A very satisfactory tingle!

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Stuffed with polyester, and stitched up!

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That was fun! Now, to make another, while visiting my ‘onions’ quilt.
Happy stitching! JJ

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Onions and squares

I mentioned a few days ago that Ms L so terribly kindly sewed the binding on two quilts that I had finished quilting just before leaving Switzerland last summer (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!). I had so wanted to leave them to my dear mother to use, but didn’t get them done in time, in the madness of our family move south. I was so grateful to my lovely friend for doing this last step. My mother just sent me some photos, taken by phone, but it gives an idea. It look forward to seeing them being used. Both were, if remember correctly, pieced during Peaks.

Japanese squares3They are both back by fabric taken from duvet covers from the usual large Swedish place. The ‘onion’ quilt was a project to learn about using fusible appliqué. We had to layer and cut out several shapes. This slightly thicker batik fabric worked well. I went a bit crazy with the left over bits to make what ended up becoming the centre block.

onions2OnionsThe second quilt was made with fabric from Japan that I brought a few years back at the Tokyo Great Quilt Festival (that infamous time I got ‘flu and got stuck in Japan for ten days in a lonely hotel room, banned by my airline from flying…).

Japanese squares2 Japanese squaresI was hugely relieved to see that the burgundy linen didn’t run in the wash, although apparently it made several paper ‘colour catchers’ very dark in the process. Both quilts were quilted on Ms E‘s longarm in Geneva, as she very kindly let me use it, switching bobbins and generally helping me get the hang of it.

I have discovered there is a quilting group in Pisa (yay!) so hopefully I will meet them soon. My Italian needs stretching to some new sewing terms!

Linking this up to “Finish it up Friday“, because, hey, it’s Friday.

Happy quilting! JJ

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Spinning card trick mini quilt

Oooh, I actually followed a pattern, all by myself! I know that sounds pathetically boringly normal, but for free-sewing Ms Pragmatic Patchwork, it was unusual. I wanted to try out Ms E’s spinning cards (see my last post) that looked fiendishly hard, but actually were great fun to make. Hurray!

It is now finished. I love it, even if it doesn’t all match up terribly perfectly. I did resew two seams, another first, but decided I could live with the resulting not-really-perfect second tries. Hey, one step at a time! It’s a clever pattern, as you only need a 5″ square of each colour, so it is perfect for using up scraps or pretty charm squares.

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Then, when I was in the garden rejoicing that the Spring looked like it had almost sprung in our Tuscan mountains, I had the bright idea of letting the chickens out of their large but by now rather bare pen to enjoy some fresh grass. Ten overexcited fluffy chickens could then be seen tumbling down the terraces, hotly pursued by a small and happy boy. He is clearly recovered from his sicky bug, while Big Sister stayed inside, away from the excited clucking, reading the last of her Christmas books. The chickens pecked around the olive trees, chasing bugs, while I sat and watched them happily. Roll on warmer weather, please!
Linking this up to Crazy Mom’s finish it up Friday.
Go on, you know you too want to use up some scraps with some spinning cards…
Happy spinning! JJ

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Piecing, playing

It looks like the smaller half of the family is coming down with ‘flu, so quickly, quickly, before I have to be full-time Mama Nurse, here is a quick peak of what I have been playing with.

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My lovely friend Ms E has uploaded one of her designs to the Craftsy pattern shop: spinning card trick. I very rarely follow patterns, so I got a real satisfaction making sense of this one. I have used Ms E’s patterns before during her legendary quilting retreats and they are always wonderfully careful and clear. I wanted instant satisfaction, so this will be turned into a little mat.

Go on! Try it! And support an independent designer in the process. Now… How to quilt it?

(oops, too late, while I was writing this the smallest one was sick all over his bed. Well… Probably not the ‘flu, then?)

Happy piecing! Or nursing. JJ.

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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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