Monday, December 29, 2008

Jenny's Pink Quilt

My first 'follower', Jenny of the terrific blog Jenny and the Princess Peonies requested that I use pink for her prize quilt. I just happened to have a little orphan block that was just waiting for inspiration. I had so much fun stitching this up this afternoon. I'm in love with those pink polka dots I found in my stash, and I can't wait to find another project to use them in. I've been mulling over the idea of doing something in a really fresh white, icicle blue and cherry pink colour combination. Yum.

Enjoy your quiltlet Jenny, and thanks for joining!

For information on the contest check out this post Follow This Blog.

I hate throwing things out. I mean hate it! My poor husband has to live with his slightly less than organized pack rat. In that way our home could not be more different than the one he grew up in. I joke that his mother will throw out your dinner while you're still eating it. In fact I have a gorgeous silver plated water jug and tray that I rescued from the recycling bin at her house on two separate occasions!

One of my big accomplishments of the holidays was sorting and giving away three huge boxes of kids' books. One went to Freecycle, one went to younger cousins and one is earmarked for the libraries at the children's schools. Notice I said 'gave away' not 'threw out'.

I used to save all my scraps to donate to the Art departments at their schools. Unfortunately I think a lot of other Moms had the same idea and a plea went out for no more fabric! I then started shoving snippets into a pillow case with the intention of donating it to an animal shelter for a doggy bed.

Well today I came across this idea for making a Fabric Collage and I remembered yet again why I hold on to everything. I mean come on, check out this new fabric I made! Once I've quilted the heck out of it and cut it up into hearts and other motifs it's going to be perfect for Valentines.

As I was pressing my tiny snippets onto the fusible web I felt like an archaeologist of my own quilting history. Memories of the quilt I made for Ariel before she was born came flooding back as did the image of the gorgeous two year old she has grown into. Which reminds me, I really have to bug her Mum Yael for a picture.

I write this post with new resolve to be proud of how little garbage my studio produces and to continue finding creative ways to "Use It Up".

Friday, December 26, 2008

First Crafty New Year's Resolution

Time to the tackle the next project on my to do list. I'm going to finish matting and framing a number of prints from the family archives. I need to make some decisions about how many pictures to display, and I need to make sure that everyone is represented. The real challenge is going to be finding a suitable wall (or walls) for displaying them.

This project counts as a real UFO. When we helped my parents move from their apartment into a long term care facility I was the one who collected many of the old family photographs. Back in 2004, around the time my mother died, I started going through the pictures and collecting frames and mattes. I first got the idea of what to do with them when I saw what a great job my old friend Kathy Allen had done with all her old family photos. She custom cut all the mattes herself and has them going up a winding staircase in her beautifully restored home. When I first started tackling this project I considered cutting the mattes myself like Kathy did but in the end I got some great deals at Dollar Stores and decided to mold my project to the frames I could easily buy.

Now that 2009 is approaching it is time to attack the next step of this project. I've more or less corralled the pictures, frames and mattes in one place and now I have to frame and hang all the pictures. I tried, without any luck, to find a great photo of a beautifully displayed collection of family photographs to illustrate this post.

Please send me a link if you find any great ideas for how I should hang them when I'm done. And if you've done this yourself I'd love to see a picture of your finished result.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First Night

First night
Originally uploaded by mitzi129
This picture of my daughter Emily, my niece Rachael, and my SIL Kris was taken through the window by the brilliant Mary McIntyre.

I wish the blessing of light and love for you and yours, for all of us, throughout Hannukah and the whole year. Chag Sameach!!

Thank Heavens For "Dear Time"

"Dear Time" or "Drop Everything and Read" is a wonderful concept that both of my children have learned this year in Grade 2. I insisted on Dear Time before Screen Time (the great name that my dear friend Adrian has given to t.v., computer and video game distractions) this morning. They each grabbed books that they received for Hannukah last night and headed under the piano with a cushion to read and relax. Emily was reading Happy Go Lucky and Zach read The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark. It may have only been for half an hour but it was heaven.

Photographic evidence that they really are fraternal twins, as if I need it. After getting them settled with their books I went back to the kitchen to clean up. I was struck by the sight of their almost (but not quite) identical breakfasts. They both had bagels, and even though neither one wants to finish a whole bagel I have to offer two of them because Emily likes poppy seed and Zachary will only eat plain. They both like hazelnut spreads but I have to have both Nutella and Brunette available because Emily likes hers with chocolate, Zachary likes his without. The same thing goes for their milk - one with chocolate, one without. You can probably guess by now who the chocoholic in the family is! But what really struck me as I looked at their plates, a detail that may not be visible in the photograph, is that they both left one bite of their half bagel in the lower right hand quadrant of their plate. Twins!

As for me, my breakfast was sheer Ambrosia. Another heavenly reference! My darling sister Judy makes my mother's (or is it from The Joy of Cooking?) liver pate recipe every year to share with her guests at her epic latke flipping party. I am always the lucky recipient of a special ramekin of my mother's that she fills with a portion just for me to take home! Unfortunately I have to return the ramekin when I've finished my pate, but I always know that I will get it back for a few days the next year. As I ate my exquisite breakfast I asked the kids to think about how they were going to remind each other of their family's love for each other when they grew up. I suggested that maybe they would each always have the other one's favorite hazelnut spread on hand, and maybe the right kind of bagel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Once you've lost your temper where do you find it again?

We have chosen to stay home to celebrate the holidays this year instead of heading South as we usually do. The weather is co-operating perfectly. It's cold and clear with lots and lots of snow. The children are old enough to look after themselves for much of the day. They drift from game to game, play on the wii for a while, listen to their iPods. They ask if they can play on the computer or watch t.v. or have some more wii time. The only thing that mars this happy portrait of domestic bliss is their mother's temper. "Eat more, eat at the table, eat something healthy, play something that doesn't require batteries or to be plugged in." All these requests seem perfectly reasonable to me and yet they often fall upon deaf ears.

The snow is starting again and tomorrow will be a ski day. I hope that by breaking the monotony of too many pajama days in a row we'll all start getting along better. Of course we'll just have different battles to fight once we're on the ski hill. There will be the complaints of I'm too cold, I'm too scared.

Why is there always so much resistance before the fun starts?

Oh ya, I remember, a body at rest tends to stay at rest. And a body with a nice warm house will resist being subjected to snow and cold and gravity. And worst of all, a body in possession of any type of computer game will long to play with it to the exclusion of all else. Just ask we about my addiction to Webkinz, Freecell and Bridge. But not while I'm playing because I won't hear you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Getting a Head Start on the Eight Days of Hannukah

The snow continues and so do pajama days. Yesterday we enjoyed a few runs on the toboggan hill and later today we'll go skiing at Uplands, the cute little hill where we all learnt to ski. It's a great place to start the season before we tackle the bigger hills of Collingwood.

Later this morning the boys will be headed to the basement to watch soccer on the big screen t.v.

And right now the kids are enjoying an early present. Yes, believe it or not, we gave in and gave Emily a Nano. She spends hours with Daddy choosing just the music and videos she wants to upload. I love it when she switches from headphones to earbuds so that Zachary can listen with her.

Speaking of music, I love listening to all the Christmas music on the radio. I sing along. Yesterday I asked the kids to challenge me by asking me to sing the third or fourth verse of any carol of their choosing. I spent years as a professional Victorian Caroler at parties and shopping malls and prided myself on never needing to look at my book. Zachary wants to know why there aren't as many Hannukah songs as there are Christmas songs. I tell him he'll have to be a composer when he grows up and write some songs. Come to think of it, there's no reason he shouldn't start writing songs now. In the meantime I'll leave you with this gem from Adam Sandler.

Happy Hannukah!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Follow this blog!

Oooo, I receive such kind emails complimenting me on my blog. Now why won't these friendly folk leave comments or decide to follow my little blog? I may have to go the prize route. Okay, that's it! I'm announcing a prize!

The first 'follower' will receive a special gift from me - a customized 18 inch quilt!

Okay, let's ramp things up a bit!

The first five followers will receive a quilt and the second five a fibre art thank you postcard.

Prize rules:

1. Join this blog as a follower and comment on posts.
2. Blog about Third Girl from the Right if you have a blog.
3. Consider donating your quilt to your local NICU or other worthy recipient, or making a donation to a charity of your choice.

And even if you feel that you're just not a follower, please leave me a comment to let me know you've been through and if anything has struck your fancy along the way.

By the way, today is a perfect day to start on all these little quilts. The whole family is home in our slippers and pajamas and the snow is flying!!

Just let me know what colours and design you want. You can check out my preemie flickr photo stream for some ideas.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It snowed!!!

Fresh Mommy: Sunday Citar I discovered Fresh Mommy this morning and was particularly taken by this post. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

I have had so many wonderful distractions today from women in my life who have been such inspirations to me.

First I received a shout out from my cousin Nomi in Israel who wanted to let me know she had mentioned me in her blog.

1. I didn't know she had a blog. 2. Can you believe how similar our profile pictures are? We both like to represent ourselves to the world with a great big smile. (My picture was taken by 7 year old son Zachary and, even though Eyal and Emily want me to change it, I like it and it's going to stay for a while!) 3. What a coincidence that we are both blogging about the family name.

As you will be able to tell if you spend any time at all at her blog Nomi is a poet and joyous spirit who not only finds beauty in all she surveys but adds beauty to the lives of those who are lucky enough to encounter her.

Second I've had Eyal's iTunes blasting at me all day. So far I have had the pleasure of listening to Sephardic Romance, Adele who rocked the house and who I thought was Amy Winehouse, and the awesome Adrianne Pieczonka with whom I was lucky enough to be in Undergrad at University of Western Ontario. What a morning of music!!

And lastly I received this beautiful card from my amazingly talented SIL (sister in law) Jackie. This is a woman who plans ahead. She had all her handmade cards ready to go before leaving for a sabbatical year in Europe last September! I imagine it's the view from her cottage. I wonder if next year's card will be the view from her home away from home in Provence? Thank you for this perfect addition to my Holiday display.

Greetings to and from my far flung family at this holiday season. I miss you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Genesis of My Name

Cathy Perlmutter of the fabulous Judaiquilt asked me about the 'Genesis' of my name. Well, in the beginning...

When my Zaidy, Wolf Wolbromski, came to Canada from Poland in the twenties (my 91 year old Dad, Roy/Uncle Izzy, Israel, would be able to tell you the exact date, but that's another story) he was encouraged to change his name to William Wolfe.

My parents named me Miriam but always called me by one of a series of nicknames, especially Bitsy. When I was starting preschool I encouraged my mother to come up with a name that was a little more mature than Bitsy and a little less intimidating than Miriam. Together we chose Mitzi. That's way more mature sounding, don't you think?

My in-laws, Alis Levy and Amnon Zilberboim, were still living in Israel when they decided to get married. Together they chose the name Zohar (Hebrew: זהר "Splendor, radiance") to celebrate the creation of their new family.

When Eyal asked me to marry him (Thank You sweetie) I chose to take his last name even though he kept assuring me I didn't have to. I think he finds having a wife with the same last name as his terribly old fashioned and anti-feminist.

Thank you Cathy. By encouraging me to tell the story of my name you've helped me to realize that what I've always thought of as a rather silly and fully made up name was actually created to honour a series of happy new beginnings.

XO Mitzi Wolfe Zohar

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Waste Not Want Not

In the spirit of waste not want not I have figured out a way to make two Chai quilts from two 10 inch cuts of contrasting fabric and one half yard of flannel! I was so determined to work this out that I had to include the selvage of one end in my calculations, but don't worry, the selvage won't make it into your finished quilt.


Press your contrasting fabrics open and layer them right sides up on your cutting table. Remove the selvage from one end, being careful to cut off as little of the fabric as possible. Cut the fabric down the middle making two layered five inch strips.

*Make a 2.5 inch cut including the selvage from one of your five inch strips.*
From this piece cut two 2.5 inch squares (Since you are layering your two fabrics you will have 4 contrasting 2.5 inch squares at this point). Cut eight 5 inch squares from the rest of this strip, fudging slightly if you do not have a full 40 inches to work with.

Cut one five inch square from the second strip. Cut the rest of the strip lengthwise down the middle to make two 2.5 inch strips. Cut two 18 inch pieces, two 14 inch pieces and four 2.5 inch squares from these strips.

Cut the half yard of flannel into two 18 inch squares.

You now have all the pieces needed to make two Chai Quilts - one 'positive' and one 'negative'.

Piece and layer your Chai Quilts in the same manner as on the instruction page, being careful to place the selvage edge of the 2.5 inch squares towards the outside of the block where it will be trimmed off before pressing. Unfortunately the measurements of the quilts will be 18 inches 'unfinished' but it's the thought that counts!

Let me know how this works for you.

When you post pictures you might want to add a picture of the minimal amount of fabric you have left over!

Star of David Quilt Instructions

Materials needed to make this easy Jewish Preemie Quilt.

one fat quarter of light fabric
one fat quarter of medium fabric
one 18.5 inch square of flannel
sewing machine or hand sewing materials

from one fat quarter cut 9 5 inch squares
from the other fat quarter cut 2 18.5 inch by 3 inch strips, 2 14 by 3 inch strips, and 6 2.5 inch squares

Sew the 2.5 inch squares to one corner of four of the blocks, stitching on the diagonal. Sew two 2.5 inch blocks to kitty corners of one of the block. Trim and press these blocks to the darker fabric.

Piece your nine patch to make a Magen David and add the borders using a scant quarter inch seam. You've made an 18.5 inch block!

Layer the two 18.5 inch blocks right sides together and sew all around the edges with a quarter inch seam, leaving two or three inches for turning. Trim the corners, turn your pillowcase, turn the edges under where you left it open to turn, and sew another quarter inch seam all the way around the outside.

Minimal quilting is required. Just outline the star or stitch in the ditch around the border.

Congratulations! You've made an 18 inch preemie quilt. Mazel Tov! Now all you need to do is donate it to your nearest NICU!

Please let me know if you use this pattern and if you run into any difficulties. I'm new at this pattern writing game.

You can post pictures of your finished quilts at Flickr.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Granny's Afghan

I'm about to mark off one item on my to-do list! This quilt, which I've named "Granny's Afghan", was inspired by Kaffe Fassett's "Leafy Rosy" quilt. It is pieced and back from the quilter. The binding has been machine sewn onto the front and all that is left to do is to hand sew the binding to the back and add a label. Why is it that these last two steps can sometimes feel like they take the longest. Or, in the case of labels, just never get done!

This quilt reminds me so much of an afghan that my Granny knitted. I wonder who has it now, or if it just disintegrated from years of loving use? Isn't that the fate that we wish for so many of our quilts? Not the ones with the hundreds of hours of painstaking applique or the thousands of pieces. No, the scrap quilts that we imagine people cuddling under with a box of tissues and the t.v. controller!

I finished two more preemie quilts today. I'm up to ten or so, plenty enough to warrant a trip to the NICU. I called Mount Sinai to double check if they wanted donations and if I needed to wash the blankets first. The duty nurse told me to just bring them on down and thanks very much. I'll make another couple of them tomorrow and make a detour to the Hospital on my way to Emily's school on Friday, which is shaping up to be a busy day: dropping off quilts at the NICU, serving lunch at Emily's school, singing at a Hannukah party at Zachary's school, bringing a friend of Emily's home for a sleepover and making Friday night dinner for sixteen! I guess I won't be getting too much quilting done.

Monday, December 8, 2008

SITsmas is causing way too much fun, way too much surfing to terrific sites and the craving of way too many terrific prizes like this one and this one. We're talking adorable baby leggings from Boogs Baby Booteek and an amazing Handmade Scrapbook Album from Jenny and the Princess Peonies.

Thank you to the girls at the Secret is in the Sauce for coming up with this great way to generate traffic and comments and to all the bloggers for creating such fun and informative sites. And now could you all please take a break so that I could get some work done? Or maybe post a comment or two on my blog on your way by?

More Jewish Holiday Bling

This quilt is so quick and easy to make. Just sew contrasting 2.5 inch squares on the diagonal to two kitty corners of a 5 inch charm. Trim the points off of the sewn corners and press to the darker fabric. Repeat as many times as you want for the size quilt you want. Arrange the blocks so that the points form a Star of David if you want it to have a Jewish feel. Add a couple of pretty borders and quilt it with stars and spinning dreidels. Actually I make that part sound so easy, but I had Deb do it for me!

Oh and by the way, if you do the math you will realize that you can do this with any size square or charm. Just divide it in half! Sew two 3 inch squares on the diagonal to two kitty corners of a six inch charm. Get it?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holiday Ornaments

Growing up we celebrated all the Hallmark Holidays - Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentines Day, Birthdays, New Years and, of course, Christmas. We vaguely knew we were Jewish from the occasional trips to our relatives in Hamilton for Passover or Shabbat. We even lit Hannukah candles at their home once or twice. Even though we owned a menorah it was never lit and I only vaguely knew what it was for.

All of that changed when as an adult I decided to convert to Judaism and left behind the Christmas and Easter celebrations of my youth. I still attend other people's Christmas parties and Easter egg hunts with pleasure. My roots show when it comes to seasonal decorations though. I put blue lights on my back porch (just because I don't have a plug out front) and decorate the mantel in silver and blue.

A trip to Inspiration Ali inspired me to make some Holiday Ornaments of my own. I started by following her suggestion to go to this site to print a house template. Along the way I found myself visiting another of her suggested blogs - Scrappy Jessi where I got the idea for these cookie cutters.
Thanks girls for the inspiration for a fun way to spend a morning!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Scenecaster gets some fresh Voice Talent

Well, I'm pleased to say that the family business finally put me to some good work today. Up until now the voice of Scenecaster has been beautifully provided by Farrah, one of the company's staff members. It was decided that for the voice over of the "Virtual Stores" promotion it would be better to use a "more mature" voice.

I had a blast hanging out in the offices this morning. I recorded a number of takes of each sentence into a laptop based recorder and then worked with Michael the creative director to try to get just the inflection he was after. I'm really impressed by how he has timed each sentence to correspond to the Scenecaster Virtual Stores movie.

A whole new career? Somehow I doubt it. But it's a total pleasure to be able to use my experience in acting, singing and news reading to help the company.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Keep It Clean

I admit it, I'm addicted to ChickLit, preferably British. At the moment I'm enjoying Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella. In it our heroine suffers from amnesia after a series of accidents and has no recollection of the neat, organized, elegantly turned out woman that she has become in adulthood.

Somehow the description of her home and dressing room must have hit home. When I went to my basement studio this afternoon to get some work done on "Completely Dotty" I was overcome by the need to clean and organize my workspace. I spent at least half an hour scurrying about putting things away and throwing stuff out before allowing myself to give in and sit down at the sewing machine.

I've added a new goal to my list. And this one needs to be a permanent one (as I write this I just know I won't stick to it). Maybe I should say it's an early New Year's resolution. It is "Keep It Clean". I just know that if I stuck to the old chestnut "A place for everything and everything in its place" I'd be more productive. It's just that my constant fear is that "out of sight is out of mind". If I put projects away that I'm not working on maybe I won't be inspired to get them done. Hence the lengthy WIP/UFO list.

What to do?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What do yoga and quilting have in common?

I've been meaning to write a post about this for the longest time. It's the thought that passes through my mind at least twice a week as I tear myself away from my sewing to "hit the mat".

This morning I was rushing to get the 'C' blocks for my Black, White and Blue "Completely Dotty" quilt done before running out to class. I was congratulating myself for the flexible approach I was taking to the paper piecing. After all the pattern does enjoin you to vary the angles and widths a bit. As it turned out I gave myself too much leeway and ended up with 15 or so ugly blocks! And then I had to leave.

At the beginning of yoga class there is an opportunity to get calmed and centred. It's a time to open yourself up to the work you are about to do and to empty your mind of the stresses you brought into class with you.

Within moments of taking the starting relaxation position this morning a clear voice in my head said "When you get home rip out what you fudged this morning and redo the blocks."

David Foster
was quoted in the paper the other day "there's a saying people use all the time in the studio that I don't allow. 'It doesn't bother me.'" He strives for excellence every moment that he is in the studio, I can strive for excellence every moment I'm in my sewing studio.

My teacher Marlene Mawhinney tells us that her guru B.K.S. Iyengar is particularly tough on the students who show tremendous flexibility. Sometimes we can achieve the most in yoga by binding ourselves. By limiting the flexibility of our bodies we can gain perfect alignment.

By sewing a perfect scant quarter inch seam, by following a pattern correctly the first time, by limiting the opportunities I give myself to live with my mistakes maybe I can let my imagination take flight and make quilts I can be proud of.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My unconventional approach to making Dear Jane blocks.

I have a feeling that I am going to end up making a Baby Jane with the fewest number of pieces in history! Through trial and error I have discovered that my favorite method of constructing these tiny blocks is reverse needle turn applique.

I have two ways of doing it depending on how much white there is in the block. If there is lots of white I trace the pattern directly onto my 5 inch square of white on white fabric using a blue water soluble pen. I then pin the WOW on top of a five inch charm in my chosen colour. I put lots of tiny applique pins through the parts of the block that are going to remain white. Using sharp pointed applique scissors I cut away the white from the coloured sections leaving a scant quarter inch to turn under and applique in place. When the block is finished I simply spray the block with a little bit of water to erase the pen marks.

For blocks that are mainly not background fabric I trace my pattern onto the dull side of freezer paper. Using my sharp pointed scissors I carefully cut away the paper over the white parts of the block. After the freezer paper pattern has been pressed onto the coloured charm I pin the two fabrics together through the parts that will not remain white. I cut the coloured fabric out of the holes left in the paper leaving my scant quarter inch to turn under.

The variety in stitching techniques is really pleasurable. Sometimes I have the hard paper to push my needle against. But then I have the feeling of crumpling paper in my hands as I work the block.

I imagine that these blocks have a crisper finished look that goes with the crispness of the paper. And sometimes I have just the softness of the fabric in my hands. The patterns on these blocks have fuzzier edges. Evidence of the give of the fabric without the freezer paper holding it in place.

I feel some guilt that my finished quilt will not have been pieced in the manner of Jane Stickle. I won't have cut and pieced thousands of tiny pieces into my blocks. But I will have spent the hundreds of hours, sitting quietly with my needle and thread as I stitch block after block.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Etsy Newbie

The good news is I've made my first sale on Etsy. The bad news is I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing!

How much should I charge for my craft? How do I know how much to charge to ship things? What should I make to put in my store? This is a whole new part of the craft world that I know nothing about.

I've always known that I wouldn't want to have a booth at a place like the One of a Kind Show. My feeling is that to be successful there you need to make one small thing really well, and make it over and over, and over again. That is anathema to me. I like to try my hand at different things all the time. I play with different colours, patterns and fabrics. My focus shifts from fabric to paper to paint. I've been doing a lot of quilt-making lately but I can go for months doing nothing but make photo collages or cards.

This is why Etsy appeals to me. There seems to be more of an opportunity to put whatever extra work you have lying around in your store and see what sells.

But for how much? That is the question.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pulling Fabrics

I recently joined The Black and White Challenge Quilt blog. I've been looking for an inspiration (kick in the pants) to get me working through my black and white stash. I didn't even realize how well this group ties in with my guild's Spring challenge until I started pulling fabrics this morning.

Originally I was thinking of doing "Completely Dotty" in Black and White and Green/Turquoise/Blue. I was going to call it "Green Revolution". I got to thinking about how our world has changed completely over the last few years and how if we keep going 'green' we'll be able to keep our skies blue! That led me to trying to incorporate my guild challenge fabrics into my stack of fabrics. The theme for this year's Guild Challenge is "Like Night and Day" and we received three great fabrics in our packages: two black and whites and one blue, black and white fabric (Califon Mark Lapinski’s Home Collection # 3003, # 3005 and Mark Lapinski’s Krakow Collection 3014).
I'm so pleased to be using fabrics from Mark Lapinski's collection. I have got to figure out how to join his posse! In the photo the B/Ws have already been incorporated into the stash and the blue is the second one from the bottom.

Of course once I added these new fabrics to my pile my colour changed completely from green to blue. Now I need a new title lol! And maybe even a new design. Back to the old drawing board.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quilting Rules

I learned again, and let's hope for the last time, that you really do need to start in the middle and work outwards when you are quilting. I started out turning an orphan block into a preemie quilt. It got too big, and too pretty, so I thought I would make it into a wall hanging or table topper. Despite my recent frustrations I've been having some success with straight line quilting so I got to work on adding some stitching in the ditch and outline quilting. I started in the middle and everything was going beautifully. But then I got the great idea to stitch around the borders before completely finishing the quilting I was going to do in the middle. There was puckering, there was pooching, there was ripping out of stitches, there was the intention to just throw the whole thing on the floor for the dog to lie on...

But no, I will persevere. I will rip out what I have to and use this as a great opportunity to learn from my mistake and never make the same one again!

So what are the rules?

1. Always use a 1/4 inch seam.

2. Press to the dark fabric.

3. Quilt from the centre out.

4. Make the backing and batting about 4 inches bigger than the top on all sides.

5. Only use quilt shop quality 100% cotton.

6. To prewash or not to prewash?

I'd love to hear your comments. Are there any more hard and fast rules that I didn't mention? Do you ever break any of these rules to great success?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

To Do Lists

The great thing about having a To Do List is that even if you don't get the things on your list done you get other stuff done that you're doing in order to procrastinate from working on your To Do List. Are you with me?

I've made several more preemie quilts, created a Flickr Group for people to post photographs of their own preemie quilts, joined Etsy and listed my first quilt for sale.

The store room in the basement is getting cleaned out. I finally gave an old computer that we've been toting around for years to our handyman/computer repairman Rob Kelly. When we first stopped using it I couldn't just get rid of it because I was positive that there was stuff on there that we just couldn't part with. Rob has promised to shove anything that looks personal or important on to a disc to give to us. I'm thinking that some of our first emails that Eyal and I wrote to each other may turn up on that disc.

Now that I'm making preemie quilts I had an excuse to drop in on the 2nd Anniversary Sale at Cock-A-Doodle Quilts to stock up on flannel. I'm glad I didn't get too carried away because my discount balloon only had a 20% coupon in it.

I was thinking today that making preemie quilts is a great way to "stir the pot", or get the creative juices flowing. I'm getting such a kick out of making these tiny quilts. They are so light and soft, come together so quickly, are such a great way to use up blocks that I've had squirreled away for years, and are destined to be used by such innocent and deserving little people. What could be more fun?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I hate quilting!

Oh, don't get me wrong. I love choosing fabrics, planning designs, cutting, piecing, binding, giving the quilts away, wrapping myself up in a quilt, just about every part of the process except Quilting! After all these years I just can't get the hang of moving the quilt smoothly through the machine without breaking threads. And needles. And thread again. Thank heavens there are wonderful women like Sandy, Deb and Karen to do my quilting for me!!

Can you tell I've had a frustrating afternoon?

But I've also had a wonderful afternoon re-purposing an orphan block as a real preemie quilt!

It is so easy and so satisfying!

1. Grab an extra block. Add co-ordinating borders to bring it to 18 inches square.

2. Layer it on a 20 inch square of flannel.

3. Do some really simple quilting (even I managed this step!).

4. Trim the quilted square to 19 square inches.

5. Turn the flannel edges half way to the quilt top and press.

6. Turn again and top stitch all the way, mitring your corners as you go.

Voila! A completed preemie quilt!

Preemie Quilts

One of the great pleasures of making quilts is giving them away. I imagine the recipient all curled up on the couch watching t.v. or drinking a cup of tea. If I make wall hangings, table runners, postcards or basket/bowls I dream of these objects being appreciated and finding a place in someone's home and heart.

In the past I've made charity quilts with both of my guilds. Sometimes these quilts are given to people in need and sometimes they are given to groups to auction off in a fundraiser. With this type of gift I somehow feel removed from the act of giving the quilt since it is given by the guild to an organization for them to choose how to distribute.

I've been starting to make preemie and baby quilts. These quilts are quick and easy to make, don't take a lot of fabric and are a great way to try out new patterns or design your own. Sandy Lindal was kind enough to quilt my first one pro bono. I got it back from her last night and I have to say "Quilting really does make the quilt"! Thank you so much Sandy!

Unfortunately I started making my preemie quilts before looking at the terrific information available on the web. Now I know I need to use a flannel backing, no batting and use minimal quilting.

I'll take a few of them to a local hospital with a NICU. I feel a direct connection with any Mom who has to visit her newborn child in the NICU, having had my twins there for just five days after being born four weeks early. I remember a kind nurse telling me "Nothing hurts more than having your child in the NICU". But as I think about it I'm not sure I would have wanted someone to make my baby a quilt. I did not feel "needy". I had my friends and family looking after me and I was just focused on getting my babies home safe and sound.

No, I think it would be better to direct my gifts to a local shelter. With the cold winter coming and the downturn in the economy there are going to be far too many people in need of a warm hug and a warm blanket.

To Do List Update:

1.The first preemie quilt is finished - ready for a label and to be given away!

2. The Kaffe Fassett is at the quilter. I did not purchase one new piece of fabric or batting to make this quilt!! Even the back is pieced together from scraps I had on hand.

3. I purchased two metres of purple fabric on sale at Sew Sisters to back the Laurel Burch mermaid panel and kaleidoscope. Sandy is going to quilt it and get it back to me in time for me to work on it at the beading workshop with Pam Woodward in January.

And the projects I've added to my list:

1. Blue and white baby quilts like Benjamin's quilt to give away or sell on Etsy.

2. Choose a project to make with the gorgeous stack of about 100 lights, medium and darks I pulled from my stash.

3. More baby and preemie quilts in time for the Holidays.

Onward and upward!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do or Do Without

Ya, like I'm going to live by that one! I have been on a bit of a fabric diet lately though. I haven't started any projects that require new fabric for the last few weeks. And I'm finding that I'm actually being pretty productive.

I'm taking a beautiful top that came out of this resolution to Sandy Lindal to quilt today. I made a split nine-patch using mainly batiks and fossil ferns from my stash. I did give in and buy a gorgeous batik to back it in from Sew Sisters. I will post a picture as soon as I get the quilt back from Sandy.

Working through my stack of UFOs I have a couple more quilts that I can give to Sandy to quilt:

1. a Laurel Burch panel that I surrounded with One Block Wonder hexagons - I'm going to buy another back from Sew Sisters today (tsk tsk)

2. my interpretation of Kaffe Fassett's leafy rosy quilt that I might be able to finish piecing today (if I ever get off the computer)

I also have a couple that are in the middle of being quilted or are ready to quilt:

3. a bright, pretty baby blanket that's half quilted

4. an applique table runner/wall-hanging that's layered but that I've been nervous to start quilting

I found some items that are further from completion:

5. an octagonal One Block Wonder that I started cutting and piecing without fully reading and understanding the instructions. Not recommended, and very frustrating to recover from. I'm not convinced that all the time and effort will turn out to have been worth it. But I do intend to get it pieced and quilted, and show the picture to prove it!

6. a pretty pink lone star that I decided to start making without ever reading a pattern. We'll see how that one turns out lol

7. the finished applique from the Renske Helmuth workshop I took. I need to finish the moss and decide if I'm going to add the sashiko border that she taught us how to do.
And even further from completion:

8. A bunch of triangles and circles that I've been coming back to for years in hopes of making a Circle Play quilt.

And I'm starting to design:

9. a wall hanging for my cousin's son Shlomo in honour of his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.

Okay, that's my to-do list for the rest of 2008!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tiny Riders

I got to accompany Emily's class to the Royal Winter Fair today. It was such a pleasure to revisit the same cheesy, or should I say "buttery" favorites that I've been returning to for as long as I can remember.

The high point for Emily was finding out that there are stables in the Toronto area that will take eager riders as young as seven! Up until now she thought she wouldn't be able to start lessons until she turns nine (the youngest age you can start at Sunnybrook or the Horse Palace).

Emily is as bad as her mother when it comes to taking on a new interest. She wants to find out all about it and experience it now!! I've already signed her and Zachary up for lessons starting this Sunday. Believe me, I would have heard about it from her if I had put it off for a minute longer.

She is so aware of her petite stature that she immediately began wondering whether she would be able to get boots and breeches in her size. Cue a research/shopping trip to Greenhawk and Repeat Rider. Success!! Not only did they have her sizes, they had them on sale!!

What a difference a few years makes. The twins are still tiny for their age, but it's nothing compared to when they first started skating lessons. Their feet were so small that we had to put slippers on them before they put on their Size 8 skates (the smallest on the market). I sure wish we had taken pictures!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Baby Quilts

For some reason I have always found baby quilts the hardest to make. Usually when I am making a quilt as a gift for a friend or family member I spend days, weeks, or months thinking about them as I design and stitch their quilt. We draw closer with every stitch in a very meditative and intimate process. When I present the finished quilt I am also giving the gift of my attention.

Maybe my thoughts careen around too much when making a quilt for a baby. I am thinking about the whole life of the child, from conception through some time in the distant future when they might share their quilt with their own child. I also think I am stuck on the platonic ideal of what a baby quilt should be. Perfectly airy and light, yet warm and comforting. Soft colours, yet bright and cheerful. A quilt that will be immediately appreciated by the soon to be parents, yet treasured forever by the as yet unborn child.

My most successful baby quilt so far was for my great nephew Tycho. By sheer coincidence I began cutting the fabric for his quilt almost at the moment of his birth. The joy of his parents and grandparents suffuses this quilt and gave my thoughts a focus as I cut, sewed and planned.

Thank you Tycho for teaching me how to make a baby quilt!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A quilt for Christie's niece

Ok, now I'm intimidated. I was chatting with Christie Blatchford at my sister Judy's election night party about the crafts she was in the process of commissioning from our mutual friends Mary McIntyre and Don Taylor. When I told her that she should commission a quilt from me, she said "Hey, that might be a great wedding present for my niece". I did not realize at the time quite the emotional attachment she has to the young lady. Check out the piece she wrote about her in yesterday's Globe.

I'm even more honoured to have this as a possible commission now.

I haven't made many quilts on commission but those I have done have stretched my creativity in ways that the quilts I make for myself don't. "Rachel's Beauty", the other quilt I showed at the YHQG show this weekend was made as a wedding gift for Eyal's cousin Don and his wife Rachel. When I told them I was going to make them a quilt they asked me to use earth tones, a colour way that I had never worked in before. I thought about the fact that they were from Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of NYC. They were moving to Florida right after the wedding. I decided that a small quilt that they could take with them was more likely not to end up in storage than a full size one would be. This gave me the opportunity to do a challenging pattern based on a traditional quilt block called New York Beauty. I don't think I ever would have finished it if I had tried to do a bed size quilt.

Don and Rachel are happily settled back in Staten Island now with their new son Benjamin. I hope that when they looked at this quilt when they were living in Florida that the spikes reminded them of their New York roots. I can't wait to go to NYC to meet the newest addition to our family and to give him his quilt. And of course to return "Rachel's Beauty" to the lovely Rachel and Don.

I'm looking forward to the next time I begin the process of exploration, questioning and inspiration that comes with any new project. Maybe it will even be for Christie's niece the "gorgeous" Jen and her "great, and very funny fiance".

Friday, November 7, 2008

EZ Roast Vegetables

Tonight will be the first Zohar family cook-off in years and the apron has passed to the children. The ingredients they were given to work with were Sweet Potatoes (Yams) and Pasta. This was a great opportunity to show Emily how a couple of her favorite foods are cooked.

We threw a few beets in a microwave bag for three minutes on high, peeled them and the sweet potatoes and cut them in one inch cubes (more or less). The soup pumpkin Emily was given on her class trip to the farm was cut into reasonable size chunks and thrown into the roasting dish (we'll take the pumpkin out and peel it before serving the children's creation). A couple of handfuls of shallots were peeled and thrown into the roasting dish. All of it was tossed with pepper, salt, fresh thyme and three tablespoons of olive oil. We'll throw the pan into the oven for half an hour at 425 once we get to Saba and Safta's house, cook the pasta and toss it all together, adding grated parmesan and some parsley from the garden at the last minute.

When Emily was asked what she would say about her dish when she presents it to the judges she said that cutting up the vegetables is a lot of work! Maybe she won't be making this dish herself any time soon but it's great for the kids to learn how food is prepared.

I wanted to get a picture of the chefs at work but Emily insisted on taking a bird's eye view photograph of the finished product.

Expanded Snail's Trail

This quilt is hanging at the YHQG show this weekend. I got such a kick out of walking into the show and seeing the great way in which the volunteers had hung it.

I wonder if anyone else has ever had the idea of expanding the Snail's Trail block into a full size quilt before? Or if it's an original design? If not I wonder if I can or should copyright it?

I made this quilt top years ago. It started out as a simple Snail's Trail block. Then I wondered what would happen if I just kept going. And going. Deb Kopeschny did a great job of quilting it for me. I added a cute little appliqued and beeded snail that can be pinned anywhere on the quilt depending on how her journey is going. I wanted to come up with a more exciting name "Snail's Great Adventure", "Snail's Voyage" "Snail Discovers the Universe" but decided that for its first time out a more descriptive name might be just what was in order. So it's "Snail's Trail Expanded". This is also the first quilt which I've listed for sale. Please contact me if you're interested in purchasing it!

In the Beginning

Can you believe "Third Girl From the Left" was taken!? All these years of thinking about having a production company (or any kind of company) called "Third Girl From the Left" and now it's taken!

I've always loved the idea of the girl from Iowa telling her folks "When you see the Rockettes, look for the third girl from the left at the beginning of the second song". That's how I see my life in the arts. I'm there, I'm working it, but I don't expect anyone but my nearest and dearest to notice.

I've spent a lot of time in my studio this week. I spent all day Tuesday making a "Waiting for the Polls to Close" quilt. Lots of thought, and love, and trepidation went into the quilted version of Obama's logo. I found red fabric with Hibiscus in my stash - perfect for the fields, and the binding fabric reminds me of hanging chads!

On other days this week I've been re-purposing fabric originally quilted and cut for a wearable art jacket. It has been cut up to become several wall hangings, a book cover, coffee sleeves and motifs for greeting cards, so far.

The recent financial meltdown has inspired me to use up fabric in my stash before adding to it. I've pieced a pretty nine patch out of lots of batiks that have been piling up for the longest time.

I'm not inspired to use my traditional calicos at the moment. Maybe I'll make a scrappy log cabin like the one I saw today at the York Heritage Quilt Guild's biannual show.