Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Swoon, how I have missed you

But I'm back.

Block 6 is done.

And I received the fabric I ordered from Etsy so I could fix Block 2.

I now have more than half the blocks completed!

Block 3 is about half-done and I have the fabric to fix my mistake on that one too so soon I'll be 2/3 finished. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Best Birthday Parcel Ever!

Don't you just love it when you get home from a looong day at work to find an unexpected parcel on your doorstep? Me too!

My Mum sent me the best parcel for my birthday (which is tomorrow). I was so excited when I opened it. I wish I'd taken pictures of the cute wrapping paper, but I was like a little kid ripping into it. No waiting for the actual birthday...

Here are my wonderful gifts:

First of all, the handmade presents. If I ever had doubts about the value of a handmade gift, these quashed them. There is nothing - nothing! - like knowing that someone made something just for you, that they put time and effort into knitting, sewing, quilting, thinking of you with each stitch.

A gorgeous sweater in beautiful, soft grey yarn. I love the pattern, especially the sleeves!

Plus, an adorable hedgehog. I need to think of a name for him.

And, Simple Modern Sewing. Love it! I have already picked out some projects to sew.

Thanks Mum xoxo

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Sewing

Yesterday morning, I went to a "Jumpstart 2012" workshop designed to increase motivation and improve lives. It was okay...full of platitudes and clichés, but since I didn't have to pay for the ticket, I won't complain too much. It gave me something to think about at least. Afterwards, I headed to a nearby quilt shop for their "10 for 20" FQ sale. The pickins were kind of slim, but I managed to find a few yellow/black/grey/white fabrics to help round out my Dresden Plate selection as well as a Dresden ruler.

In the afternoon, I cut about a zillion blades and started to chain sew the tops. But I had to stop and get myself ready for date night with Mr. P. We went out to dinner to celebrate his birthday (which is tomorrow).

Today, after getting to the bottom of my marking pile (of course - it never ends), I got back to those blades and produced my very first ever Dresden Block.

Of course, the block isn't completely finished; it still needs a circle in the centre and it has to be appliquéd onto a background fabric (not sure - white? grey?). This is a pretty time-consuming project. Not that I have an issue with time-consuming. I'm not in a hurry... I wonder how many of these I'd need for a whole quilt.

Every time I think of Dresden Blocks, I think of the beautiful city of Dresden in Germany that was pretty much destroyed by bombs during World War II. I wondered if the two Dresdens were connected...so I did some research and here's what I found (if you're not interested in the mini history lesson, scroll down past it and see what else I did this weekend).

The Dresden Plate quilt block - also known as Grandmother's Sunburst, Friendship Ring, Aster, Dahlia and Sunflower - was one of the most popular blocks of the early 20th century. The Dresden Plate reflects the romance of the Victorian Era with its love of elaborate decoration on household items and décor. Dresden, Germany was a center of the 19th century romanticism movement in art, one that included the fine decoration of porcelain. The plates were embellished with elaborate design using flowers, fruits and foliage. The beautiful plates would surely have been admired by women of the early 20th century. (Information found here.)

Okay, here's what else I did today.

Yes, that is Swoon Block #5.

#2 and #3 are still in pieces on the bed in the spare room but, with this block, I am now 1/3 of the way done!

Never mind that I didn't do any housework this weekend, that Mr. P made himself pizza for supper, and that I wore pajamas all day (clean ones put on after I showered), I finished another block! I only wish I could stay home from work tomorrow and sew #6... But that's not going to happen.

Still, though, my motivation (and courage) is up and I'm determined to Swoon Along.

(Except not this coming weekend as I'm marking exams for the government. Bah.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Swoon: 2, Rachel: 2

Last night during FNSI, I finished Block 4 of Swoon; so with Block 1 completed and Blocks 2 and 3 awaiting fabric orders (so I can fix my mistakes), the score's tied 2-2.

I will not let this quilt get the better of me. I will persevere. I will prevail. I will...

I will stop rambling and show you Block 4.

There it is - directional fabric and all. I think I have mastered the directional fabric conundrum...as long as I pay attention, that is.

Anybody else out there doing Katy's Swoon Along? I'm just wondering how long it takes other people to make each block. For me, 2.5 to 3 hours is about the time-frame. That seems like a long time for one quilt block!

I have a couple of hours this afternoon, but I don't want to rush myself - we all know the consequences of me not focusing fully on what I'm doing - so I'm going to try to make some Dresdens instead using Anne's instructions and my new handy-dandy Dresden ruler.

If all goes well, I'll post pictures tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Resolved to Sew 2012

If you don't live under a rock, you've probably already heard about the Resolved to Sew 2012 giveaway at Very Berry Handmade.

Besides the great prizes, like this

and this...

and these lovely polka dots...

this giveaway also gives us an opportunity to really think about what we want to achieve in the sewing room in 2012. 
As opposed to "resolutions" as I am, I do love a good list so here's my list of quilting projects I hope to complete in 2012:

1.  Swoon...of course. I'll have to let it out of prison sometime.

2.  A Ghastlies quilt, shamelessly copied from admiringly inspired by Anna's beauties. I've had the fabrics for a while and the OnlyChild kind of claimed the yet-to-be-started quilt as her own. She might get lucky. Maybe.

3.  Christmas stars quilt - I received some fabric in a giveaway from Crystal and then I got the perfect pattern from my Mum for Christmas so that's going on the list.

4.  Then there are the two ongoing projects - the bow-ties and the strings quilts. I work on them in between other projects or when I need to do something that doesn't required too much prep. I'd at least like to get the tops done this year.

5.  Finally, there are always holiday projects in the works. In fact, I finished one last night:

This was one of the possibilities for FNSI tonight, but I felt like sewing last night and actually finished it. It will hang up on my stand in the front hallway (when I take down Snowdrops at the end of the month - even though winter's nowhere near over).

I've also got a couple of other sewing projects - garments - to make this year. I bought the fabric to make a Paris Jacket from Sew Serendipity. I really wanted a deep, mustard yellow but I couldn't find anything in the right weight (and price range) so I got a goldish-coloured corduroy. Since I haven't cut into it yet, there's still the opportunity to shop for what I want and use this fabric for a skirt or something else. More on that later...

So, there you have it: my Resolved to Sew 2012 list. Go over to Very Berry Handmade and enter their giveaway. I'd love to see what's on your list!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ready for FNSI

Friday Night Sew-In is tomorrow and I'm good and ready to stay inside - where it's warm - and do some therapeutic sewing. (Well, sewing is therapeutic when it doesn't drive me crazy.)

I haven't decided if I'm going to bring Swoon out of exile. I'm already missing it, but there is still fear that I will ruin the quilt once and for all.

"Exile" is the spare bedroom, where the blocks are hidden out of sight.

Alternatively, I could work on some more bow-tie blocks. I have lots of squares cut and ready to sew.

I've been adding to my pile slowly. I now have 126 blocks completed; I was planning to make 208 and have a queen-sized quilt, but I think I might make this one smaller now that I've decided to make Swoon for my bed.
These blocks have been fun to make, especially since I received some wonderful red fabrics from my bloggy friends Jen of Miss Punkie Pie and Julie of My Quilt Diary. This is my no-pressure quilt - there's no deadline for me to finish it.

I might also choose to work on a little Valentine's project using these teeny 1.5" squares.

So, I have lots of choices, all of them exciting to me! 

I hope you will join me in FNSI - you can sign up with Bobbi this month over at Crafty Vegas Mom.

See you tomorrow night!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Zills are little finger cymbals used in belly dancing. I started a new dance class last night (it was awesome!) and we will be using zills in our choreography; I've never used them before so I had to buy a set.

They're very pretty. But here's the bag they came in:

Blah! Boring!

Since Swoon and I still aren't on speaking terms (or I'm too afraid to try again right now), I decided to do a little low-stakes sewing this evening and I made a zills pouch.

I used Anna's Gathered Clutch tutorial and just decreased the width. It's the perfect size to hold the zills and it just makes them that much more special.

In other news, we have entered the deep freeze. We've had surprisingly mild weather this winter with temperatures barely below freezing. That all came to an end on the weekend. We got snow and now we have extreme cold. Tomorrow it's supposed to be -47° Celsius (that's -52.6° F) with the wind chill. Brrrr!

Sounds pretty crappy, eh? I had to think really hard to find an upside to that kind of weather, but I did manage:
1. The dogs don't linger when they go out to do their business so I don't have to stand on the steps begging, pleading, and finally using my stern teacher voice to get them to come in.
2. It's a good excuse to take out the slow cooker. We had beef stew for supper tonight. Mmmm.
3. I have no problem justifying my reluctance to go out in the evenings. I can stay inside and sew!

Stay warm, friends.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The weekend my brain went on vacation

The OnlyChild and I have a long-running joke that we share a brain, because we think so alike and often say the same things at the exact same time.

This weekend, she must have been using the shared brain because it sure as hell hasn't been in my head.

If you read my post yesterday, you'll know what I'm talking about. But here are some additional blunders from the weekend:
- I forgot to put soya sauce in the stir fry last night. Bland.
- I put too much milk in the fudge and it didn't set. Eating it required a spoon.
- I did a load of laundry today, mainly so I could wash my pants for tomorrow night's dance class. And I forgot to put the pants in the wash.

- After yesterday's Swoon frustration, I vowed to pay attention to what I was doing. However, I still managed to make a mistake in the third block when I used my #1 fabric for flying geese blocks instead of the white. Now I don't have any 3 1/2 x 6 1/2" rectangles to complete the blocks. Plus, I'm probably going to run out of white fabric. I had to put in yet another fabric order. And this time it was more expensive. So I guess I will be using the money I make marking government exams this month to pay off the Visa.

I have banished Swoon for a while.

It can live in this plastic container until my brain decides to migrate home. 
I'm not armed, but I might be dangerous.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Block that Wouldn't Be

Today was a Swoon Day!

Up at 8:00 am. Breakfast, newspaper, cleaning, laundry, then off to the sewing room.

I finished putting together the first block:

Pretty, eh?

Then came the second block. I'm not even sure I can explain my trials and tribulations with Block 2.

I take full responsibility for any trouble I encountered...

First of all, I mixed up the two fabrics. I was texting with the OnlyChild while I was cutting (never - NEVER - text and cut, people) and while I was supposed to be cutting Colour 1, I was reading the instructions for Colour 2. Ooops.

I had a little panic attack, because the cutting instructions don't really allow for the direction of a pattern (even though that needs to be taken into consideration for a number of the blocks). I was sure I wouldn't have enough fabric to fix my mistake and make it work.

So I went online to find me some more fabric. It's really hard to find a retailer that carries both of these fabrics, since it's not a new line. Plus, for about $10 worth of fabric, I would have been paying $11.95 for shipping. Ridiculous. Finally, though, I found an Etsy shop that had a little FQ bundle with both these fabrics in it. In the meantime, of course, I was sending the OnlyChild angsty texts and emailing Jen to share my woes.

But then, sometime during supper or something, my brilliant mathematical brain (ahem, choke choke) figured out that I COULD fix this mistake with a bit of ingenuity (and that I had just wasted spent $14-something on fabric I didn't actually need).

But, my elation came to a SCREECHING halt when I realized that I had overlooked one tiny, unnecessary error in my sewing and cutting.

Can you see it?

I didn't rotate one of my squares before sewing the HSTs. Sigh. Such a small matter, but it would drive me crazy. And, because of my previous fiddling around, I don't have a 3 7/8" piece of this Sundae in Lime fabric left. I guess I will be waiting on that Etsy order after all.

Tomorrow I'll put together as much of the block as I can then move on to the third one. My goal was to get two blocks completed this weekend so let's hope my brain cooperates this time!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I got a surprise in the mail yesterday!

I actually forgot I'd won a giveaway from Kaari at French General.

Look how pretty! And the postcards too! Oh yes, I'd love to go on the "Chateau Getaway" in the South of France.

Beautifully wrapped. I preserved the tissue paper.

But it was definitely worth it to unwrap!

Green, white and red goodness. This is going into my Christmas Stars quilt! (And the leftovers will be used for the Christmas strings quilt.)
Thank you, Kaari!

I've been Swooning too.

I cut the background fabric and the first two colours and started sewing my very first Swoon block.


This is my first time ever sewing flying geese. I hope I did it right.

I sewed the leftover little triangles together so I can use them in another project. I don't know what yet but they were too cute to throw away.
I can't wait to show you a block, finally. I cut that white background fabric for three evenings before I got to sew anything together! It's time I saw some reward for my hard work ;)
I think I might have some time to sew this weekend. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 09, 2012

Swoon Along

My first project of 2012 is (hopefully) going to be the Swoon quilt. Remember I bought the kit? I decided to join Katy's Swoon Along on I'm a Ginger Monkey to drum up some excitement.


My goal for this week is to start cutting fabrics. Not get all the fabric cut...there's no way that's going to happen now that I'm back at work...but I'd like to get a good start.

This is as far as I got tonight:

I took the bundle out and put it on my desk. Then I unwrapped the fabric and divided the fat quarters into twos. That's all.
I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. I think tonight will be an early bedtime and I don't think I'll let a rotary cutter anywhere near me in this state.

Another project I'd like to begin is Anne's Scrappy Dresden Plate quilt over on Bunny Tales so I've joined the Scrappy Plate Club. This will be something new for me - hand appliqué - but I'm willing to give it a shot. 

I think I'll start with these fat quarters I won from Quilt Dad, John, a while back.

I might not make the full-size quilt, but I'm looking forward to learning a new technique.
I'll keep you posted on how things are going when I actually get started...but right now I need a nap. Zzzzzz.

Friday, January 06, 2012


We're nearly at the end of Christmas vacation - back to work on Monday - and, although this has been a great break from work, it hasn't been much of a "break" at all because I've been so busy. Can't complain, though. I've had some fun. (Well, obviously.)

When I got back from Paris, I faced the chore of taking down the tree and all the decorations. I just couldn't make myself do it on Monday or Tuesday so I procrastinated until Wednesday morning.

Our tree this year was beautiful and it looked so sad out in the back yard, stripped of all its splendour. It looks even sadder out in the back alley next to the garbage cans. I actually feel a little guilty about sending such a gorgeous tree to the chipper.

And then, of course, there was the debris to deal with - needles and branches, presents that were left in the living room, the stand to clean, and the tree skirt and stockings to put away.

All the ornaments were packed away carefully.

And I brought out the new-old tablecloth that my friend Patt found in a thrift store. I love yellow!

We also had visitors! My bestest-ever best friend, Cheryl, and her husband were visiting all the way from the other side of the country.

Their son and the OnlyChild have been friends almost since they were born. Really - they met when he was 10 1/2 months old and she was 5 months old!

We spent a day at the Telus World of Science...we mainly went for the special Titanic exhibit, but had a look at the permanent exhibits too. It's kind of a tradition in our family to take photos any time we seen one of these stick-your-head-in-the-hole things:

Cheryl and I enjoyed some Marie Antoinette tea from Ladurée in Paris in our new Titanic tea cups (she bought one for each of us).

But now the vacation is essentially over. Cheryl is staying with her daughter and another friend for the next couple of days and I will be taking the OnlyChild back to university tomorrow.

Sigh...all good things must come to an end, I guess. Getting back into a routine will be good and I'm looking forward to having some sewing time but, honestly, I need another vacation already!

P.S. I missed my own blogiversary...again. I never remember it. But three years ago, on January 4, I started Not-so-Plain Jane. Thanks for sticking with me for the journey!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Paris in December

Like I said in my previous post, I didn't take a lot of pictures while we were in Paris, but I'll show you a few. Before I show them, though, let me just say a couple of things.

First of all, the trip was TOO SHORT. There are no words to describe how much I love this city and three days there was nothing but a tease. I NEED to go back. Yes I do.

Secondly, don't get the idea that I am super-spoiled or rich or something. This trip was free. Yes, free. It was a "training tour" for the trip I am taking to Italy with 33 students. So, I only had to foot the bill for a few meals and spending money. Can't get better than that, right? (Well, better would be more time in Paris...)

Thirdly, there are too many places in the world that I want to see. Just too many. I wish the world would quit being so interesting so I would be content to stay home. Ha!

Okay, here are some pics...

Our hotel room at Noisy le Grand (on the outskirts of the city). It was nice and new, just renovated. It was also very close to the Métro, which made getting around very easy.

 We went to the Louvre (for a couple of hours - definitely not enough time). While everyone else crowded around, trying to snap a photo of the Mona Lisa (been there, done that), the OnlyChild and I thought it would be more fun to take photos of people taking photos of the painting.

 Obligatory photo by the pyramid inside the carrousel de Louvre.

 Behind the Louvre

 Three of my favourite things in this window - globes, pigs and books!

 We had supper here the first night. I forgot to take a picture of my meal - bœuf bourguignon.

 The restaurant was right up the street from the Folies Bergere.

 Artsy photo taken by the OnlyChild.

 Love locks on the Pont des Artes.

 Ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde.

 The OnlyChild and me! At the Eiffel Tower!

 Those little cabins on the sides were part of a Christmas market. I went down to take a look but didn't have enough time to really see anything.

 French Derby (his Derbelganger?)

And for comparison, the real DerbyDog.

 I did remember to take a photo of my lunch at Versailles - Croc provençal.

 The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. It almost looks like we were there alone. Not even close.

 Marie Antoinette's bedchamber.

 The gardens at Versailles, looking kind of dismal without the flowers and with all the statues covered.

 Might as well get a photo here.

I took the OnlyChild to my old stompin' grounds in the Latin Quarter. Here she is eating her Nutella, banana and coconut crêpe (it scored a 5 out of 5 on the rating scale) in front of the door to "my" apartment. I can't believe someone painted graffiti on the door! Horrors!

I also took the OnlyChild to Shakespeare and Company because it was one of my very favourite places to hang out. Wow, it was busy inside that night!

Beautiful Notre-Dame.

 We went to Galleries Lafayette (just so I could show the OnlyChild the stained glass - too expensive to shop there).

 My new friend, Penny. This was right before we headed back to the hotel to ring in the new year. I would have liked to stay in Paris (even though fireworks were cancelled) but the OnlyChild had gone back to the hotel earlier because her broken foot was hurting and I couldn't stand to not be with her when the clock struck midnight!
So, that in a nutshell was our whirlwind trip to Paris. Like I said, it was too short, too hurried, but wonderful nonetheless. How could I complain? I was in Paris!

Gotta go back!