Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Smoothing Out the Wrinkles

These may look like ordinary paper pieced hexies but they have medicinal qualities and have been working their magic of late.

I am, by nature, a list maker, particularly at busy times of the year like Christmas. For weeks now I've been working my list and feeling that I might be in control. Then I was scheduled for a last minute medical procedure on December 22. Not great timing, but I could adjust.

Then, due to a change in travel plans, I had to have several gift tins of cookies ready for this past Sunday rather than for New Years so Saturday found me baking and packing cookies like a madwoman. Not how I like to bake, but I did it.

Sunday it was time to finish decorating the tree that has been up for a week. Lights and garlands were on it but none of the decos. I plugged in the lights only to discover that one of the strings had blown. Aaaghh! This was going to be a pain because I hang lots of garlands and they are hung after the lights, which meant that the new lights had to fit in behind the garlands. I unplugged everything and left the room.

Yesterday, I plucked up the wherewithal to tackle the lights and, after half an hour of rolling around on the floor (it was the bottom string that blew), I had all of the lights working again but patience was in short supply. So, when the bushiness of the tree started impeding my progress I took matters into my own hands.

I finally prevailed and by last evening the tree was finished.

By the end of it all the tree had worked its magic and I was starting to feel Christmasy again so I sat down to enjoy it as I added a few hexies to Anna Levens. Thank heaven for needle and thread - I highly recommend them for removing the wrinkles from a furrowed brow....M

Friday, December 08, 2017

Snow White

My quilting productivity always takes a hit this time of year, superseded by Christmas prep - shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping. You know the drill. But, in keeping with the fresh dusting of snow that we just received I have progress of Betty's white quilt to share with you; consider it an early Christmas gift.

She seems to be flying through these blocks and already has a number of them together.

Those stunning blocks look even more magical when they all come together.

I just love those little snippets of embroidered colour that pop out of heavy lace.

And she is going to work in these two mementos from her daughter Julia's recent wedding - the hankie that she received and the little heart that Julia gave to her dad; it reads: 'Dad, I loved you first'. How sweet.

In addition to being stunning this project is a testament to how quickly a hand stitched quilt can come together. I'm so looking forward to seeing it grow....M

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Gift of Friendship

Saturday's annual Cookie Bakeoff went off without a hitch, despite initial fears that Jen and the girls wouldn't be able to make it. But make it they did, much to the delight of everyone.

It always starts out the same. A few days before the big event favourite recipes (along with a few new ones) are pulled out and the selection begins.

Christmas tunes were the order of the day and the butter was out in full force.

And Betty started us off with champagne and orange juice, just to see what it might do for productivity.

The gals in 'shipping and receiving' were on their game and channeling John Lennon (we got smart this year and had everyone bring their tins with 4 or 5 waxed paper liners already cut - it saved tons of prep time)...

and decorators were hard at it...

... til early evening. Those quilting lamps come in handy!

It always amazes us how much we can get done in a day with just one oven.

Drumroll please...this was the tally for 2017 - 153 dozen cookies! Not our personal best, but right up there.

And, by the end of the day - despite close quarters and lots of jockeying for the oven - everyone was still smiling and happy to have goodies for their freezer. Sharing the day together, enjoying the chatter, the laughter and the singing made me realize that the real gift of this get together is a wonderful string of friendships.

As an extra little treat, everyone went home with a handful of stars for their tree.

I have it on very good authority that sampling has already begun in certain quarters (including with the Official Cookie Tester) and the results are more than favourable. I'm already looking forward to next year!....M

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Great Little Stocking Stuffer

If you have a quilter on your Christmas list (or if someone is looking for a great little stocking stuffer for you) you might want to consider a recent find that I just love. I tend to have several spools near my machine and almost as many bobbins, switching them up as I go, but when several weights of white all start looking the same it's a bit of a guessing game as to which bobbin belongs with which spool. These little gizmos have taken all of the guesswork out of it for me.

They are called bobbini, and they easily keep your bobbin matched up with the correct spool of thread.

This was a system that I had tried for a while - just using an elastic to keep the two together, but the bobbinis are even easier.

They are pliable and rubbery so when you push the wide end into the centre of the spool it collapses and stays in place.

Then just slip the bobbin over the nub on the top. I like to slide the end of the thread into the hole in the bobbin as I do this so that there aren't loose threads flying about. Easy peasy, and no more playing 'match game'. I got mine from Connecting Threads but I suspect that Santa might know of other shops where they are available too. Happy shopping!...M

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

It's That Time...

When I start crawling into bed with my Christmas cookie mags you know that the Christmas Cookie Bakeoff can't be far off. We're getting together on Saturday to bake to our hearts' content and start filling our freezers with goodies, so I'm making a list and checking it twice.

I found this recipe for a Cream Cheese Gingerbread Thumbprint which looks very tasty and would be sweet on a plate, but I'm not sure that I could nail the piped frosting. Nothing to lose in trying though, is there?

And while I've been pouring over mags and recipe books Stephanie introduced me to a gorgeous one that I had not seen before called Bake From Scratch. It's produced in the States and she has picked up four editions so far, so there is lots of eye candy for me to drool over.

It is a truly beautiful magazine, from the recipes (which do not look overly complicated) to the paper stock. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

It's not all cookies - there's baking of every kind - but there are definitely cookies to tempt me.

I've always wanted to try making Madeleines. Apparently they are best just out of the oven, so they won't make the cookie tins, but some day soon the Official Cookie Tester is in for a treat...

So, I'm prepping my tins and trying to pick my top four recipes. Somehow I always end up with a baking list that is much longer than four recipes but things always turn out - time determines how many of them will get baked. Christmas karma....M

Friday, November 24, 2017

Vintage Pleasures

As we arrived at Bridget's quilting bee (see my last post) we were greeted with this beautiful vintage Friendship Star draped over the back of her car (another version of a Trunk Show!) leaving no doubt that we were in the right place.

Made by one of her great grandmothers, it has stood the test of time beautifully. We weren't three steps out of the car before we were all admiring it up close.

The backing is gorgeous

And it is signed by the maker.

There was also this one, which is made with the same pattern and uses the same beautiful turquoise for the sashing.

Such treasures, and they are both in wonderful condition...M

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Have Quilt, Will Travel

Bridget, a wonderful childhood family friend who spent several years abroad, recently returned to Canada and was keen to show her girls what a quilting bee is all about, so a few weekends ago her sister Trish and a couple of my sisters joined her at their lovely home in the Gatineau Hills, which she affectionately calls 'Chateau des Cerfs'.

I didn't see the following note until I arrived back home, but she sent it out to everyone in advance of our weekend. It explains much more perfectly the quilt's history and her wishes for the weekend than I could, so I will let her beautiful words do the talking as you scroll through pics of our fun together.

'As I’ve just managed to drop and break a gifted perfume bottle from Qatar, I thought I’d give a little background on this quilt that has followed my path around the world for over 25 years; it started in the Middle East and it looks like we’ll be finishing it with a hint of those unmistakable oils in the air.

1992:  On an isolated military hospital compound, in the desert region of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, hundreds of international healthcare professionals lived and worked in a 5-km walled ‘city’ ... 15 kms inland from the Persian Gulf.

Men's and women's living quarters were separated by gated 15-foot high cement barriers, manned by armed military guards at three separate check points.

Ten pm curfews, no TV or internet (or alcohol 😳)  ... not to mention gender segregation ...  turned out to be the perfect boredom busting combination. This imposed state of stillness sprouted so many new and interesting hobby/interest groups; we shared our knowledge, passions and talents.

One such opportunity was gifted by an Australian woman, who offered to give classes on hand piecing quilts. Off we went (this international group of ladies - Flemish, English, Scottish, Australian and Canadian) to the Souk to buy material for our blocks, meeting in the segregated women’s quarters weekly.

Soft pink with flowers contrasted with dusty blue, these little triangles were carefully sewn together, moving from pin to pin, following the 1/4" guideline. As I journeyed, the quilt tagged along to Scotland, France, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Malaysia, Thailand, and finally, to Canada.

As we can all relate through our growing years, the exposure to the sometimes year(s) long process from choosing the pattern to the penultimate quilting bees, the talent, camaraderie and lightheartedness between the women closest to us was contagious and exhibited nothing short of artistic and technical excellence.

The closeness and connection I felt with my Mother, my extended family (Grannie Afelskie and her five sisters from Eganville and Wilno, Auntie Barb Hoffman, Aunt Marcella Pecoskie) and of course, close family friends ... including your mother Martha Burchat, Edna Kilby, Norma Boyle, Lois Marshall ... left a lasting impression on me. The laughter that emanated across the garden from Grannie's house late in the afternoon drew us children like bears to the beehive to see what the ruckus was all about (of course conversation was entirely Kashub but it didn’t matter ... we loved it). History repeated itself as my mother’s bees soon took on the same flavour and, as previously shared, I distinctly remember a certain talented quilter sewing her shirt to the masterpiece 😉.

To watch all these matriarchs, whose work ethic was undisputed, let down their hair and come together in the world of quilting was so much more than fabric and thread.

It’s by no mistake that I have asked each of you specifically to this, my first Quilting Bee. All of you have had an incredible impact on my life and as I’ve often mentioned to Frannie, the Burchat girls were - and still are - true role models, legendary in our minds. Returning to Canada, I could never have dreamed the re-connection I feel with you Trish; I cannot imagine life without you.

I feel honoured to have such an incredible collection of talented, artistic and strong women from my past influencing my gutsy and graceful daughters in this wonderful tradition that our ancestors participated in.

Welcome ... ❤️ ... and may the fun begin!'

Needless to say, we had a wonderful reunion and both Munro and Kenzie are naturals - they took to the process like ducks to water. As quilters are known to do, we shared delicious meals and lots of great laughs and some great new tunes (you are going to want to crank it!). We also celebrated two recent birthdays...

each with their own cake (nothing beats birthday cake!).

And this is how we left our hostess, happily stitching this beautiful quilt that has followed her around the world for a large part of her life. She is enjoying these long November evenings stitching to her heart's content. It's going to be a beauty....M

p.s. Your eyes did not deceive you. In the fifth photo Betty is indeed using an often under estimated quilting tool - the hand saw! Once the quilt was stretched and rolled to a narrower width we cut the end pieces shorter so that it could be moved around easier.