Sunday, 17 March 2019

Spring Cleaning

I had a wonderful/awful urge to do some spring cleaning this weekend. I got myself all out of sorts with the time change and felt the need to tackle more projects. 

I get a bit neglectful when it comes to cleaning my sewing machine so set about taking it apart and giving her a good cleaning and oil job.

I drive a Janome 6600 and maintenance is fairly straightforward. I can't tell you how initimidated I was the first time I dared to take the face plates off! 

Most machines come with small cleaning and tool kits but I find that the big screwdriver from Sean's toolkit works best. I'm kind of a wimp and the screws are in tight! I need the extra leverage to get them loose. 

Best practice is to change your needle with every quilt. I have to say, that like most of you, I'm guilting for going too long between changes. There are many, many microtears that start to form in your fabric if you don't use a sharp needle. While I am very diligent about cleaning and changing needles on my longarm, my poor Jerome the Janome gets a little dirty and neglected. 

A person should really give the bobbin case a brush through after every second bobbin or so to keep lint at bay. I hate to admit the amount of times that I was sewing top speed in a marathon only to have my fabric jam and sew no more. Taking the plate off the bobbin case was a chore as the top was so full of lint and debris the machine just could not move another inch. 

If you are not sewing as smoothly as in the past or your quarter inch seam gets off track, you likely have some lint built up.

This is Jerome flipped on his side. There are five small screws holding the bottom plate on which came off easily. My machine is quite heavy so I needed a hand gently laying him on the table.

This lint build up was not as bad as I thought I would see. I have been seeing pictures popping up on Instragram lately of some machines with real messes. I'm glad I caught this now.

Here's a shot of the mess. Some of you may not like that I clean my machine with Q-tips but if used correctly, they do a great job. I dab a bit of sewing machine oil on the cotton tip and use it to sweep and catch the lint. Your manual will tell you to use a small brush but I struggle to trap the debris when using a brush. I want it up and gone!

The fall back of course, is to follow your manual. Mine, of course, is lost ... hidden within a bookcase of books, baskets and loose patterns. Good thing Mr. Google has everything at your fingertips! It only took a moment to find the appropriate manual for my machine.

These are the little tools that came with Jerome. They're cute, but not overly functional.

Here's a shot of a typical lint buildup for me. Resist the urge to blow! Do not blow at this lint. You will just carry it into the inner workings of your machine and may have real trouble on your hands.

And the top. Again, not as awful as I had pictured but still needed to be tended to. In the past, I had sent my machines into professional shops for servicing. If this is an option available to you, go for it. It may cost you .... I paid $150 the last time I had the service and was without my machine for two weeks. We no longer have local people to do this kind of work so it is more of a pain to take it anywhere. Ah ... the joys of living in the sticks!

This process took me about half an hour top to finish and I saved myself some money in the process! More money for fabric!! I think I'll do another deep clean like this before Christmas.

May your seams run straight and pins stay sharp!


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Happy Birthday

It’s still so hard for me to believe that we have such a wonderful little girl and she is now two! 
Two years ago we got a call at 3:16 am to come for our baby. She would be born any minute. Sean and I were waiting at a nearby hotel for four days. I’ll never forget the brisk, cold walk to St.Boniface Hospital in the dark of night ..... and four days is not the entirety of it ... four days, plus three years waiting to be picked .... but ... that's the plot to another story ... 

I don't have the proper words for the feelings we had when we walked onto the maternity ward into a room to see this ...

I was warned by so many of you that time goes by fast ... to enjoy every minute ... you blink and they are grown ... Sean and I were both in awe at how tiny this little one was. It’s unusual and very, very special for adoption parents to be allowed in the hospitals. Most times, they receive their baby at an agency, lawyers office or other safe place. We are forever grateful to have been there.

And how big and wild she is becoming! We had a small party for Darbs. She loves trolls, Peppa and dinosaurs. Crazy about dinosaurs!

And of course, has this big guy completely wrapped!

I've been practising my icing skills ....

Remember how I was on a fabric diet? The great destash of 2019! Well ... you know how it is when you are on a food diet ... you restrict and count every calorie, every morsel .... maybe you do, maybe you don't ... I've been on so many diets I could wallpaper my bathroom with them! The surest way for me to gain 5 pounds is to go on diet! My fabric hold off was short lived.

In a fog, I somehow found myself in a fabric store last weekend and lo and behold! My girl's favourite things. Hello Peppa ... Hello Trolls! I had a weak moment just like when faced with cinnamon buns on a diet!

I'm thinking of making a couple of chair cushions with the Peppa fabric and a Mahjong throw with Trolls. Mahjong is a quick and easy pattern many of my guild friends made that I haven't actually tackled yet. Sigh ... more plans than time!

Stay tuned for the final product .....


Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Fat Quarter Placemats

I got plenty of feedback from many of you publicly and privately about my recent posts. I can't thank you enough! It's a bit odd to write a blog ... put your life out to the world and not be sure if anyone is listening ... I love the ghost hugs, words of encouragement and love ... kind words about me quitting my job, healing my heart and ... making these stinkin' cute placemats! 

I can't tell you how to upend your life like I did but  thought I would give you a tutorial on the placemats! Seems like a safer lesson .... 

I literally made dozens of these fat quarter placemats. They are one of my favourite stash busting projects and gifts to make. I usually make a set of six to fit our family but will show you here how to construct a set of four. 

You start with four fat quarters. Any colour, any mix or design. I picked out some greens from my stash bin to make a St. Patrick's Day gift for my mom. It's pretty risky for us to eat off of white placemats in my house! 

These sweet little chicks just make me smile! I couldn't wait to stitch up something fun with them.
I tend to looking more at the fabric's value and temperature feel when choosing my blends. 

What the heck am I talking about?! 

I look at the fabric and judge whether feels warm or cool. Colour temperature is something that photographers are very in tune with but quilters should start to pay attention more to. You likely, intuitively gravitate toward a temperature and not be aware of it. 

Cool colours are generally more bluish - blues, greens, violets; where warm colours lean to the reds, oranges and yellows. 

You may have constructed a scrap quilt or block at some point say ... all in greys and one part just stuck out like a sore thumb. One block maybe catches your eye more or just doesn't blend in. It is likely an off 'temperature' from the rest of the quilt. Warm colours generally stand out while cool colours recede. 

At times, you may want a part of your quilt to jump out so you would purposely choose a fabric of different temperature.
Say, you are appliqueing an object .. you may choose a warm orange leaf on a cool blue background. That would make the piece really pop. 

Here is a photographer's colour chart

Don't be afraid of temperature. Honestly. Dump your scrap basket out on the middle of the floor and sort into two piles ... warm and cool. Don't pay attention to colour, style or design. Go with colour feel. 
You may quickly see what you gravitate to. 

I know as a new quilter, I loved warm .. lots of loden green, dark beige, creamy creams and burgundy. 
Now, I head to designers like Cotton & Steel that work with cool hues. I lean to whites, cool greys, light greens and purples. 

Think temperature when choosing fabrics for your next quilt!

The four fabrics I chose for this project all have a cool feel to them. 

I generally pick a large, medium and smaller print when working with placemats or when making anything with a fat quarter mix, actually. The frog print actually reads as a solid. It helps to give the eye a place to rest. If I chose, say, four fabrics all with small dots like the top fabric, the end product would read a bit flat. 

Whatever you choose, be happy with it! I have never seen these turn out terrible! 

Trim up your fabrics to a rectangle. Be mindful of the size of your fat quarters. They are not always the same size! Some fats are cut from a yard, others a meter. It is very often that when you line up fat quarters from different stores or lines, they are different. 

My chicks are much bigger as you see below, but only because this was some yardage that I cut. The chicks are a new wide back fabric that I just got in for my quilting costumers. 

All squared and lined up ... ready to cut. 

This was a free pattern given to me years ago from a shop. I don't actually have the original anymore as I just eye ball the design. I tend to like a bigger placemat than some and trim them up to around 18" by 12.5" finished ... I cut these rectangles to 14 " X 20 ". 

Stack and line the fabrics together and cut ... I start with the bottom left - that's the first and biggest cut. You could make yourself a paper template if you wish but I just place my ruler over top and slice through the four layers at once.

Move the first section away and cut three more wedges - cut through all four layers. You will now have 16 pieces total on your cutting board. As mentioned, I like to make 6 placemats for set. In doing that, I have 6 fat quarters lined and stacked together. Six is about the maximum you should safely cut through to ensure you aren't slipping too much. Check to make sure your rotary cutter has a sharp blade as well or you may get snags.

Now, you shift the fabrics. One from the top of one section, shifts to the bottom of that pile. Move around the piece making sure you have four different fabrics.

Now, you are ready to sew. I generally start sewing with the last pieces cut which are the bottom right in the picture. Pin in place and sew with a quarter inch foot. Be sure to select an appropriate thread. I used white for this project. In the past, I had wanted to use up some half filled bobbins and would maybe use grey or a different colour. Maybe you are thinking to use green for this ... I would use the lightest colour you have to avoid any ghosting through the fabrics.

There is inevitably some shifting that takes place with these guys. I trim to my smallest placemat. Like I mentioned, I enjoy a bigger placemat for our table and often trim them to 18" X 12.5 "
Here is a picture of the last trim. I use a large square ruler for this process.

And just left to bind .. I love a striped binding ... I think I will play with a few options before I tack anything down. Tradition would say to bind in green but who said I was a traditional girl!

Here's another picture of my February mats I made. We have been giving them lots of wear and tear this past month!

I can't tell you what I nice gift this is to make. Think about handing these over to your next dinner host instead of a bottle of wine. People who don't quilt are mesmerised by these quick fat quarter lovelies. (And yes ... that is an action man laying on my table. He's a boat driver ... tomorrow a troll, maybe Peppa Pig ...)

It's a fast project that really takes only an evening. I usually bind my placemats because I like the look of it and quilt on my longarm, but you can also pillow case the placemats and quilt as desired after. The binding takes a bit more time, but I think its worth it.

Binding and Netflix!


Friday, 15 February 2019


I want to share with you a sweet baby quilt I was commissioned to make for a customer. The family of baby Daisy are real modern Millie's so we thought they needed something more than pink bunnies for their newborn. My client trusted me to pick the fabrics and pattern but had two requests. One, was she wanted the baby's name on the quilt and two, to incorporate music. 

I was happy to oblige on both!

The pattern I used is an old faithful ... over sized hopscotch. I have lots of this True Blue Moda fabric kicking around and it fit really nice. 

I'm sorry my photography skills aren't better. The backing is a thick Shannon cuddle and the colour is called denim. I used quilter's dream batting (my fave!) and So Fine thread in Snow.

The panto is called Mozart and it fit the bill perfectly.  My client was tickled when I delivered her this quilt this week. Our little town has quite a thriving arts community. We have a wonderful community choir that actually performs in New York City if you can imagine! From Flin Flon to New York! My client and the new mom are heavily involved in the choir and local musical scene.

Now ... I'm fairly certain that this quilt has been gifted by now but if not ... shhhh ... don't approach any new baby Daisy's in town and comment on their beautiful blue quilt!

I still have a few yard of this ultra modern fabric. If you want anything stitched up, please contact me before its gone. These pieces are getting harder and harder for me to release!

Until next time ... may your stitches run straight, your pins stay sharp and your heart remains full of love.


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Letting Go ....

I made some sweet place mats for Valentine's Day this weekend. More of my stash busting adventure. I didn't want anything too mushy, too hearts and kisses, more so they would last more than a few weeks. We have a few birthdays to celebrate this month so lots of cake to eat at our large table.

The backing fabric I used is a wide back cotton I have on hand that mimics an old newspaper. The messages that popped out to me this weekend pierced an arrow through my heart. 

 'And the day came to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom'  ~ Anais Nin. 

Isn't this the truth ...... thank you for the life lesson Mr. Placemat. 

I quit my job this week!

I bet you didn't see that one coming ....

And just like that, I feel free.

Free of an invisible chain.

Now ...dear friends and patients ... I doubt much will change for my physically, but in my heart I am free! I have officially resigned from my position with the health authority. It has become too tight in the bud - more painful to stay than to bloom.

If you didn't know what was happening ... I have been 'on loan' to the local college for the past year and a half. Myself and another nurse were working on secondment to teach a nursing program.  Basically, the hospital loaned us to the college to help prepare a gaggle of new nurses.The college  paid the hospital and the hospital paid us. The greater good comes from going without two staff members in order to train 10 new ones. Pretty good pay off for the hospital, even though at times they ran short. Our nursing program has been very successful and the decision was made to make Flin Flon a permanent home for the nursing program.

I was asked to come on permanently last week and accepted.  This means I had to cut ties with the hospital, which was scary.

I know it was the right decision, but scary all the same. I am taking a very big pay cut and a cut in hours. I was top of the union pole and am now at the whim of my students when I get holidays ...but, I know in my heart this was the best thing for me. For my health, my family. My soul.

I knew my resignation would come 3 years ago when a senior manager waved his hand in my face and told me if I don't like here, they were hiring elsewhere ... I had a very trying day in the clinic with multiple, chronically ill patients who were all taking narcotics and sleeping pills. Every single person I saw that day, had a drug dependence. I was exasperated and sad. Me and another NP were discussing our day in the hall, trying to piece together a plan to help our community when we were stopped cold. We were told to keep writing prescriptions; that if we didn't do it, someone else would. We were told that if if we didn't like it to go somewhere else. She did. I stayed.

I stayed on and went home in tears nearly every day after. To be clear, I was not complaining about my job. I was not actually even speaking to that particular director. "If you don't like it, go somewhere else." Well, then.... OK ....there was more of course. Things I can't speak of here or out loud at all. Things that sting my heart. It is difficult to unbutter toast.

The January before Darby came to us, we were attacked by a patient. We had been terrorised and threatened by this man for months. Yelling, throwing things, threatening more ... Things like this happen, as odd and awful as that sounds. The event rattled me in a way I can't really describe.

 I was afraid to drive home that night. I couldn't sleep until I knew he was arrested.

What rattled me more was the blame. How the bigwigs pointed fingers at all of us ... girls ... women going about their day to day business helping others ...  how they turned the situation around to make it seem like we asked for it, didn't do something right with him to make him snap ... how I dropped the ball with his care.

 Bad people do bad things all the time. There was no blame to anyone but him ... but ....

I was really done then ....

I hope to stay on casual, once a week ... I will still see my patients and collect a paycheck from the clinic, but more on my terms and schedule. The biggest change is the invisible chain that is cut. Since starting at the college,  I have balance. I have time to enjoy my little girl. To quilt, bake bread, read murder mysteries and workout. More time to play with Lucey my long arm.

I have time to sit in the quiet. I have time and energy to breathe .... I have time to spend with my Papa. We were sure we would lose him last month and joyful to be able to celebrate another birthday with him. It was his 85th cake day yesterday.

Don't say yes when your heart says no

I have cut other tethers this month as well. Symbolic chains ... I put my fitbit in a drawer and donated my scale to goodwill. Good riddance. I discontinued all of my subscriptions and unsubscribed from as many newsletter and organisations as I could. I put my WW food tracker away and let go of my quilting planner. Imaginary chains all of them.

What dear friends, does any of this post have to do with quilting?!

Nothing, and everything.

It has taken me a long time to stand up and be honest to say what I 'want' to do, instead of what I 'should' do. I have been afraid to let people down my whole life and it was only me that suffered. I always chose the hardest path, reached for the highest apple and tried to people please everyone along the way.  I made baby quilts for people I didn't know or like because it was 'expected' that I do it ... though it broke my heart with each stitch. I stayed up to all hours of the morning sewing or baking in order to give 'the perfect handmade gift' because God knows that store bought just wouldn't do ...


Happy Valentine's Day to a healing heart.


Saturday, 2 February 2019

To Guild or Not to Guild?

Are you part of a quilt guild? Do you meet formally or informally with others? Some people think that guilds aren't for them. Hesitation to join them comes in different forms. They may think "I'm too new ... I don't know enough ..." others don't know what to expect from them or what kind of time and energy commitment is required. Some people may be shy to share their work, others physically unable to get out. Many communities don't have guilds anymore or the guilds that exist speak only to subspecialties such as modern guilds which may not be the right 'fit' for everyone.

What is a quilt guild?

A guild is an organised group of people with similar interests. In this case, fibre arts, or quilting. Most guilds meet regularly for formal meetings. My guild meets once a month for a formal meeting and sewing day and informally at least once a month. There is often a formal meeting with a collection of officers ... president, treasurer, secretary etc.

Meetings generally feature a presentation such as a lesson on a particular block or technique. There may be guest speakers. There is most definitely a show and tell portion to each guild meeting (my favourite part!) Guilds offer inspiration, workshops, fun events and shows. A good number of guild members are experienced quilters but there are also good numbers of newbies. To think guilds are only made up of elderly women is a myth. There is a real emergence of younger people turning traditional fabrics and blocks on their heads (I hope I'm one of them!)

How do you know if you are a right fit?

The best way is to try one out ... meet some members, attend meetings as a guest and ask lots of questions.

There are great benefits to belonging to a guild. I can't think of a better gang to be part of! (Hear that Hell's Angels!) Guild members may enjoy discounts to stores, subscriptions or events. Being part of a guild makes you part of your community and usually, you are extended membership to national organisations. By belonging to a guild, you play a part in preserving quilting heritage. You get to give back to your community and promote quilting for the future. Guild members have access to pattern and ruler libraries, can participate in skills and unique events and can enter quilts into shows.

I think the best reason to join a quilt guild though, is for friendship. I know, I wouldn't be quilting today if it weren't for my guild. Looking back at my personal setbacks and successes ... when I think of the people that were by my side, they were my quilting friends. My friends from guild were the guests at my wedding. It was guild ladies that lined up to be my first patients when I became a nurse practitioner, bringing their husbands along. They were the ones that quietly dried my tears as I struggled to stitch baby quilts for everyone else but me. They were the ones to throw their arms around me with joy when we adopted Darby and were the ones to throw me a baby shower. Our love and respect for one another goes far beyond quarter inch stitches. I was actually at a quilting retreat weekend when we received the call from the adoption agency to tell us that we were finally 'picked' ...

I will forever link the news that I would be a mother to that quilt shop and the ladies that were there ... I will never forget how the hum of sewing machines fell silent as I frantically took the phone to find out what the 'emergency' was to call home ... "My dad is dead ...." its all I could think ....   something dreadful must have happened! It was my quilting friends that kept me together that weekend and have celebrated our family since!

A guild friend is in need of a hug these days. One of the ongoing projects in quilt guild is to create what we call 'Hug Me Quilts'. These are specially made quilts for our members who need a special hug for whatever reason.

One of our founding members is having some health issues and has been undergoing chemotherapy. A guild hug is in order!  As I write this, the temperature outside is -34 C ... with a windchill, its around -44 C  The cold will break soon and with that, our longer northern days emerge.

There is no title for this piece yet, but I have been calling is Sunny Joy. I think some sunny joy is in order for our dear friend.

The ladies gave me the top and told me to have fun. They left the backing and quilting up to me on this one so I thought, if anyone needs some early sunshine, its our friend. Isn't this a cheery, fun quilt?
I backed the quilt with a sunshine yellow in lush cuddle. The panto is called Echo Blossoms, and as usual, I used So Fine thread in Snow.

Thanks for being part of my little quilting world!