Archive for the ‘crafting’ Category

The theme for my birthday this year seems to have been “Everything Old is New Again.” My mother, knowing my new passion for sewing and quilting, gave me this lovely antique silver thimble:


It is made of Chester silver and dates from 1923. My mother bought it this summer when we were in England for my sister’s wedding and she visited Chester with my sister’s new in-laws.

On Saturday, t! and I went to our local flea market to look for a few things, and found this gorgeous treadle sewing machine for $75. It is a “New Williams” machine, built by the Williams Manufacturing Co., in Montreal, sometime around 1906. The factory building it was made in is still standing on the corner of Bourget & St. Jacques streets, in St. Henri.


It is in absolutely excellent condition, it looks for all the world like it was well used, and then taken out of someone’s grandmother’s front room one day in the mid 1950s, carried up to a dry attic, and left there undisturbed for 50 years.


The amazing thing about it, though, and one of the big reasons I bought it, is that in the cabinet drawers were all the original attachments (in the box they came in), a glass vial containing 6 original needles, an old plastic pill bottle containing needles and pins, and two original bobbins (the scrap of cloth they are sitting on was pinned to the arm of the machine to serve as a pincushion):


and the original instruction manual (which I plan to scan to digital format so that I can make a less fragile print-out to refer to as I’m learning):


Oh, and it also has its leather drive belt. All it needs is a thorough (careful) cleaning, and for me to read the manual to learn how to thread it, and then I’ll be able to start sewing with it!

Post edited (on August 25th, 2011) to add: I’ve had so many requests for the PDF of the scan of the instruction booklet, that I have put it up on a separate page of the blog, here: Downloads. Enjoy!

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I resisted for ages and ages and ages…

…a bunch of my friends took up knitting over the last couple of years, but I wanted to start quilting so I did that instead. But those darned knitters my lovely friends who knit finally sucked me in.

My grandmother taught me to knit when I was about 8 years old, and I knit scarves, hats, doll clothes, and mittens as a kid. When I was living in Ottawa in 1995-1997, I picked up knitting again and knit most of a sweater (more about this sweater in another post).


  • spending a crafting weekend in the company of my knitting friends
  • who post regularly about their knitting and spinning and crocheting projects, and
  • the fact that my hand-quilting project has gotten large enough to be slightly unwieldy to take-along as often, and
  • the fact that I can get locally shorn and spun llama and alpaca wool at my farmer’s market
  • and the fact that I wear wool socks all winter…
  • …I’ve started knitting my first pair of socks. Slowly and painfully. I wish I had been interested in knitting socks back when my grandmother was teaching me. I’ve used DPNs before, but the memories of how to start knitting in the round on them came back in fits and starts as I ripped out and re-started the beginning of the first sock several times. But it’s going better now:


    Oh, and I also caved and signed up on Ravelry.

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    On Sunday, despite a being sick with a rotten cold, I went to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum for a few hours to check out their Harvest Fall Festival. I’m so glad I did, it was lots and lots of fun, interesting, and informative.

    I watched a butter-making demonstration by this lady who had 4 milk cows and makes all her own butter, cheese, and yoghurt by hand. I got to help churn the cream into butter:


    And we also got to taste the resulting product. Wow! It was like how a carrot pulled fresh from the garden tastes more “carroty” than the ones you buy from the grocery store, this butter was so very creamy and flavourful. I’ve never had butter that tasted anything like it.


    When someone asked the lady doing the demonstration, “Do you sell butter?” she replied, “No, that would be illegal. But there’s a pile of my business cards with my contact information on the table there.” I love it out here!

    As well as butter-making there were demonstrations by local craftspeople: a blacksmith using the museum’s forge, a harness-maker, a cobbler making shoes, a harness-maker, a tinsmith, a beekeeper, a canoe-maker, and others I’m forgetting.

    There was a horse-power parade with horses pulling antique wagons, ridden by people in period costume.

    There were a trio of re-enactors dressed in authentic Glengarry Highland Regiment uniforms, who had set up a period camp, complete with tents and a campfire, who explained what military life was like in the mid-1800s and demonstrated their muskets.

    There was a petting zoo, and a quilting bee, and a town cryer, and a old-fashioned threshing machine threshing wheat, and lots of people (children included) wandering around in period costume, just for the fun of it.

    Ontario’s oldest continually-licensed bar was open for business and selling beer, but due to the cold (and the fact that I’m still driving on a provisional license) I didn’t have one. Next year.

    There was a native Mi’kmaq man and his wife, who were talking about and demonstrating many aspects of Native life both before and after the settlers arrived. I got part of my right arm painted with authentic Mi’kmak war paint: red and yellow ochre, and coal black, applied with bear grease. Despite having given the dog a bath last night, there’s still a red-tinged patch on my arm!

    There was a sheep-to-sweater display, which included shearing, carding wool, spinning, and knitting. The shearer demonstrated the use of antique hand cranked clippers for a few minutes, before finishing the job with modern electric clippers. (Yes, that thing that looks like a big wooly sac is actually a live sheep.)


    I got a quick drop-spindle lesson, as well as instructions on how to make one of this lady’s most ingeniously-designed drop-spindles for myself:


    All-in-all a great day out, and next year I shall be sure to announce it well in advance so that folks can come out for it if they’d like.

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    Hi, I’m back. Back from our trip to the UK and back to (hopefully) regular posting. Catch-up from a week away and starting a new part-time job as a copy-editor put posting on the back burner for a bit, but now I have a bunch of catch-up to do, so here goes…

    The trip to the UK was to attend my sister Cynthia’s wedding. We went for a week and had a lovely time. The wedding was gorgeous, everything went perfectly. As my sister said the next morning “I wouldn’t change a single thing – except maybe the time I nearly tripped over my dress.” And that was a very minor trip, too.

    For a wedding gift I made them a throw-sized quilt:


    The pattern is called “Disappearing 9-Patch” because you make a bunch of regular 9-Patch blocks and then you slice & dice them, re-arrange them, and sew them back together again. I did my first pieced back for this quilt (and learned how hard it is to get a pieced back to line up straight).


    I even had time to put a label on this one:


    I chose the fabrics (from the “Bistro” line by Moda) based on what I know of my sister’s tastes, and hopping I guessed right on the colour scheme – I had no idea if it would match any of their decor, so I was very, very pleased when I walked into their house and saw the sofa and curtains in their living room, which the quilt matches quite well. They will be able to curl up under it to watch TV, which is exactly what I made it for.


    We gave it to them on the evening before their wedding day and they really liked it.

    Now I’m working on a whole bunch of other quilting projects, including blocks for a couple of on-line swap groups. I’m also starting to learn some new techniques including English paper-piecing and foundation paper-piecing. More about those when I have something to show!

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    Finally, a quilting post!

    I was hoping to post this on Wednesday, but I got flattened by a nasty case of food poisoning that I am still recovering from. Recovering from food poisoning, however, finally gave me some time to catch up on my quilting, because I couldn’t be out digging the garden.


    These blocks are for two block-exchanges that I take part in. My local quilt guild does a “block of the month,” and so the blocks on the left of the photo are “Card Trick” blocks, which was this month’s pattern. I’ll take the one with the magenta fabric in it to my guild meeting on Monday evening, and it will go into the stack with everyone else’s, then all the names go into a draw and one guild member goes home with a stack of blocks. 

    The blocks on the right are a pattern called “Churn Dash.” The other block exchange I do is run in one of the forums on the Homesteading Today message board. In that exchange, whoever wins the draw chooses a fabric for the next exchange, and sends it out to all the participants. We get to do whatever type of block we want with the fabric we receive and any other fabric. Last time I participated, I chose a very pretty, but much too complicated pattern for my skill level. So this time I a) chose a simpler block, and b) did a practice run. The bottom right block (with the floral fabric) is the one I’m sending back in to the block exchange, and the top right was my practice run.

    Then it occurred to me that if I did a practice run (which is a good plan generally) for the blocks I’m doing for the exchanges, with some co-ordinated fabrics that I already have in my stash, that I will end up with enough blocks for a nice sampler quilt, even if I never win the draws for the exchanges that I’m participating in. 

    (Oh, and if you recognise the pretty bright blue batik fabric, Ailbhe, it was my bathroom curtains for a while in Reading.)


    The next on-going project I’m working on, and was great for doing on the couch in front of the TV while I was recuperating yesterday, was a “just for fun” mini-quilt. My quilt guild has challenged all the members to make a mini-quilt to enter in the Maxville Fair homecraft division. I don’t know if I’ll actually enter this in the fair (assuming I finish it in time – the fair is in about a month!) but it’s a good way to teach myself to hand-quilt. I’m doing it freehand, with no pattern at all, just having fun with it (so yes,he spiral is ‘meant’ to be lopsided). So far I’ve learned that my stitches are way too small, and though my stitch evenness is improving, I need to figure out how to make them a little larger. I had the same problem with my knitting being way too tight when I learned to knit as a child 🙂


    And there is one more quilting project on the go, but no photos because the result (again, assuming I get it done in time) will be a gift. I discovered to my dismay this morning that the walking foot I bought for my sewing machine doesn’t actually fit. Either that or I’m attaching it wrong, but I don’t think so. So now I have to try to quilt this thing without a walking foot. The test piece I did (with a spare block and the same batting and backing as will be in the quilt) went well, so I’m hoping for the best.

    Oh, and t! and I went to see the Quilt of Belonging on exhibit in Cornwall last weekend, and it was (literally) awesome!

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    April drawing

    This month I’ve been taking part in Karine’s April Drawing Challenge, and using it as a impetus to practice my watercolour painting. I really like watercolours, but it’s not an easy medium to master. Here are a few of my favourite paintings from the month so far (click the thumbnails for full size view):

    Painted from a photograph I took somewhere on the south coast of the UK in 2001:


    A very impressionistic rendering of the view out my kitchen window on the night of April 8th:


    Pussy willows from the garden in a green glass inkwell vase:


    And two painting exercises from one of the books I’m using, Watercolor Painting for Dummies,




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    Awe and wonder

    There’s no way I can do this justice in a blog post, but I’m going to try anyway: yesterday evening I attended a presentation about an amazing art project.

    Esther Bryan is a local (Williamstown, near Lancaster) artist, painter, musician, piano teacher. 10 years ago she had an incredible creative vision of a work of textile art that would celebrate Canada’s Native and International cultural heritage, and so Invitation: The Quilt of Belonging was born. This photo, from its launch at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, gives you some idea of the huge size and scope of the work:

    This quilt is 120 feet long by 10.5 feet high, and made up of 263 11-inch blocks: one for each native tribe/group in Canada, and one for each country of the world – because as of the 2000 Canadian census, there is someone from every nation on the globe who calls Canada home. And Esther and her volunteers spent six years tracking down someone from each and every tribe or native group, and each and every country, and had them create (and/or design, and/or contribute fabric or other textiles or materials for) a quilt block to represent their culture. She worked with Muslim women and native carvers and eastern European great-grandmothers and a young man from a tiny atoll in the south pacific. Some of the blocks are ‘traditional,’ like this delicately embroidered block representing Estonia. And some are beautiful works of modern art using traditional materials, or techniques. For example this “contemporary abstract design” made of white, tufted deer hair by an Abenaki native woman.

    All the individual blocks, each with an amazing story (and Esther only had time to tell us three or four of those amazing stories last night – she could have talked all night and we would have sat transfixed, listening), was then pieced and quilted and the whole thing assembled by local volunteers:

    Last night she told us the stories of the project’s conception, the challenges and triumphs of it’s creation, and the incredible reception it has had around the country, as it has travelled from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Iqualuit, Nunavut Territory, and showed us the pictures of its journey and its creators.

    I’ll get to see it “in person” in May when it will be on display in Cornwall. After that it will be going to the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver.

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    Crafty Meme

    I resisted doing this meme while many of my crafty friends were posting it, but I can resist no longer!

    I will send a handmade gift to the first 5 people who leave a comment here. The gift could be anything (and since if you know me, you know I work with everything from old CDs to watercolour paints to needle-and-thread, so anything really means anything) but it will be something newly made especially for you, and you will receive it this year.

    If you ask for a gift, and haven’t already posted this meme in your online journal, you must do so.

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    Awesome Holiday Gift!

    I am now the proud owner of The World’s Ugliest Doily better know as an awesome crocheted string grocery bag.

    Thank you Ceri! When I saw the pictures in your blog & on Flikr, my first thought was “Wow, I should learn to crochet so that I can make myself one of those…” Now I don’t have to!

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    Needle and thread

    On Tuesday I came home from my regular visit to my father in the nursing home with a half-dozen of his shirts. He hardly has any mobility left, so the nurses/aides have to dress and undress him. I’ve been asked to modify his shirts to make this easier on everyone involved. So I spent a good part of this afternoon slitting the shirts (long-sleeved cotton sweatshirts and polo-style shirts) up the back, stitching a couple of rows of zigzag stitch to reinforce the newly cut edge, and fixing velcro fasteners to the new opening. I also zigzag across the top of the slit, to stop it ripping further. The result looks like this:


    The back opening makes it much easier to feed my father’s long arms into the shirt first, before they pull it over his head. I hope my alterations survive the wash, for a while at least.

    I also had some adventures with my window quilts today, and learned a couple of new ways not to accomplish what I was trying to do. Further updates soon.

    In other news, t! took this gorgeous picture of the sunrise yesterday morning:


    And in still other news, we’re meeting another rescue dog this weekend, on Saturday after market. He’s currently being fostered by a couple in Ottawa who have very kindly offered to bring out to our place, so that we can see how he reacts to our cats, and how they react to him. Fingers crossed.

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