Tag Archives: birthdays

A birthday, a job, a sewing machine, and a move

A birthday, a job, a sewing machine, and a move
mighty bail of batiks

mighty bail of batiks

Remember these batiks I collected last week? Well, they’re part of my awesome-possom blossoms quilt. It’s definitely my very most expensive and labour intensive quilt top! I have made 90 10″ blocks for this oversized queen. It means an awful lot of applique. Too much applique for me to do in a reasonable way by hand. So. I collected the money I made from selling off some of my homemade jewelry and a quilt that had been commissioned and grabbed my new sewing machine!!

Who wouldn't want to be a quantum stylist?

Who wouldn’t want to be a quantum stylist?

This machine, compared to my old one, can do basically everything except embroidery and all my housework. Otherwise it’s got 800 some stitches and came with 18 new feet! I bought nifty threads for applique and dove in to do really give machine applique a try. I know I’ve bad-mouthed this before, but I’ve seen it done so much and with such killer stitches that would be stronger than decorative hand stitches, so I leaped in. And I must say, with a machine that is nicely engineered and has a few extra niceties like needle down and better tension control, the process hasn’t been nearly so grueling. See, part of my issue before was that I would try the blanket stitch and because there was no speed control or needle down, I couldn’t effectively pivot around curves. It would take forever to get anywhere and the results would be better if I’d done them by hand! Here’s an example:

machines do not always make things easier...

machines do not always make things easier…

Look at that hilarious machine applique! hahaha! I learned that speed control is everything and also, for thinner fabrics like my batiks, tear away stabilizer, mi amigos and amigas! It will def make your life totes better.

The other trick I learned from one of my applique classes was to “window” your fusible web by tracing your design from your template onto the fusible’s paper side. Then cut on the inside of the line by the standard 1/4″.

windowing applique

windowing applique

I know it’s not totally clear on the white fabric, but I gotta work with what I have. The part that is bare fabric is the part that forms the design. The next step is to trim away the remaining fused fabric on the pencil line. Then you fuse it down to your background.

blossoms units

blossoms units

So what’s the big deal about all that? Well, as you can see from the dark batik background, it’s shadowing through the white blossom applique pretty harshly. That’s no good. So the reason it’s “windowed” is because the next step is to sneak in behind the white and trim away the dark stuff! It’s actually a brilliant idea, although a lot of work. But I think it will be worth it!

Oh, check out that hot pink blanket stitch!! I’m so pleased! The machine has a really great feel on the foot pedal so I can tell when it’s going to make a stitch. It also finishes a stitch in the needle down position when I lift my foot, so all I need to do is slightly lift the presser foot (I’m using an open toed satin stitch foot; works like a dream!) and pivot. It doesn’t get much nicer than that!

closeup blanket stitch

closeup blanket stitch

Also, today is my husband’s birthday! So to celebrate we got him an ice cream cake from the Marble Slab. It promises to be delish! It caps off a difficult couple months of job searching. He accepted a job on the mainland. So it’s across the Georgia Strait we go, back to the lower mainland where I spent many of my formative years. The only way we’re going to have any acceptable standard of living over there is because they’re a busy firm and my husband is finally going to be an associate, not just an articled student.

Right now he’s got our daughter in packing mode filling up today’s box. We tend to do one or two boxes a day when moving. That way there’s not a crazed packing binge the week before moving day. We’ll be leaving within the month. I get to drive the moving truck because I’m the only one licensed enough to do it. That will make for some awesome reportage! I promise to take pics of that for sure!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this rattling on. There’s loads going on, lots to do, and it’s all a bit overwhelming. But I’m using it as an excuse to finish all my quilting projects so that I can just slip all my tops into a bag and travel free of little bits and pieces. I will miss my island home.

Have a good week everyone!!







Explore with me

Explore with me





explore sugar block

I think it’s very interesting that this month’s Sugar block (a fun BOM over on Amy Gibson’s sweet little blog) was an elaborate pinwheel which even included some paper piecing.  She called the block “explore.”

Now in her post about this theme she mentions how we all tend to be creatures of habit and want to do the same things. I’m so there! Like she said, I like to eat the same foods, watch the same tv shows, pick Bronwen up, or conversely drop her off at her scheduled places (I am the proud owner of a solar powered key chain that flashes “Mom’s Taxi.”) I just generally go about my day and do the same things.

Yesterday was my birthday. This year was that fun year where I got the terrific birthday gift of needing to renew my driver’s license. That was amusing. But I got a lovely ice cream cake and an enthusiastic daughter who insisted on putting all the candles around it. We had to convince her that daddy would light them, though.

Ice cream cake!!


Just to save you the trouble of counting the candles, I am 33 years old now. I have lived longer than many friends ever thought possible. This is one of the things me and the psych talk about all the time–living as long as I have is an accomplishment.  At least, to him it is. For me, not really. Like eating the same foods or taking the same route home from work, I’ve tried to get people to understand how it bothers me that life is so much like one of those punch card machines in a workplace. Wake up. Punch in. Have lunch. Punch out. Back to work. Punch in. Go to bed. Punch out. What’s truly depressing about this analogy is that even my doctor who sits and listens to this often agrees with me. He’s admitted to me that he feels like that a lot too. Well that’s no good! It feels like I’m preaching to the choir!

So okay. I keep myself busy. But I try to find different ways of quilting that teach me new techniques and keep my hands busy. Just last week I finished a mystery quilt that was a terrific Kimberly Einmo design called chain of stars:

Chain of stars quilt top


I did it all in batik fabrics that were on sale at the Cloth Castle. I’ve never worked solely with batiks like this before. I consider this a bit of a stretch for me–it’s a traditional, yet modified block placement of a Jacob’s ladder quilt. I don’t do a ton of traditional stuff, so making this was interesting. (Although I did end up ordering her flying geese ruler and jelly roll ruler because they look like they’re pretty awesome and I think I will be making more flying geese.) Now to do this quilt required some planning. I had to number the fabrics and make sure they all coordinated just so. I think it turned out great!

But sometimes it’s just as fun and gives the same feeling of accomplishment when one gets to just play at the machine. So I found another pattern I liked that was in Jenny Doan’s “Quilting Quickly 2” class on Craftsy that was a prism quilt made of two jelly rolls (I used one jelly roll called “flirt” and extra yardage but you get the idea). Straight line sewing, and minimal crucial match points. I even had enough left over to make an oversized saw tooth border:

Flirt prism quilt


The next truly traditional quilt I’m going to tackle (after I’m done all the other things I long to make, haha!) is the double wedding ring. The class is available finally on Craftsy. If you’re an addict like me, it is a very helpful class. But I digress.

Quilting makes me feel warm, both literally and figuratively. The iron and sitting under a quilt sandwich while stitching it does work up a sweat on hot days. Figuratively it makes my heart feel like I’m connected to my Auntie (in Italian, Zia) over in Italy who had to be the best with an iron that I’ve ever seen. She introduced me to the power of a pressure steam iron. I have a Rowenta just like her old one now and I wouldn’t trade it for any other wimpy iron! I think of her all the time when I’m pressing.

I think of my grand mother (in Italian, Nonna) who lives in Canada but in the Kootenays, which is far enough away from me that I only see her once or twice a year. She is an avid crocheter, knitter, and can make her 1960s Singer, well, sing! She’s one of those lucky people who can see an image on a pattern or walk up to any doily and figure out how it was made and replicate it. She and I are quite alike. She has always lived her life on her terms (although we suspect that she and my grand father, who is almost 11 years older, were arranged to be married. She won’t admit to this.) and I think she’s fairly satisfied with what she was delivered. She’s recently suffered a stroke which has shaken her sense of mortality loose a bit.

I remember when she had her first mastectomy about 12 years ago. We went to visit because we were worried for her and wanted to be there. I remember leaning in to give her a hug and kind of making it a side-lean so that I wouldn’t brush up against her prosthetic. I was afraid of it. A part of my unbreakable Nonna had been cut away, just like any other mortal. But she took my other side and pulled it in tightly, saying “You’re not going to break me!” in her typical irreverent tone. She had kicked cancer’s ass by going full boar and having the breast removed when she didn’t have to. Removal of the tumor and radiation was an option but she didn’t want the suffering just to save her boob. I admired that then and still do.

My iron wielding Zia in Italy passed away from cancer about three years ago. I saw her last in 1995. She too lived as she wanted, but within the parameters of her generation’s tolerance. Meaning, she had an elementary school education only; she was a wife and mother. That was her lot and she accepted that. However she had the loudest voice at the table and was large and in charge. Man she fought her illness. But I never had the money to get over to her in time before it killed her. Something invisible to the naked eye killed her. It was an impossibility to me. I was in the hospital after a suicide attempt when she died. I had to borrow the common area phone and talk with Nonna, numb the both of us, saying how hard she fought.

And that’s what life seems to be for people like me. Sure, I am not ill with cancer or some other horrible affliction. But I do have a host of psychiatric problems that date back almost 20 years. Just like me, each morning they’re there to greet me. Punch in. Punch out. The best I can do is keep stitching and keep one foot in front of the other, just like everyone else.

Brownen's embroidered feet