Thursday, 23 March 2017

Hello baby!

Do you remember MP Bb’s, or my favourite little persons for whom I loooove to knit? They are expecting a little sister.  OK technically, their mum is expecting… This little one will make me a God-grand-mother or a Grand-god-mother for the third time (happy dance!).  Mum, dad and the kids are living on the other side of the globe, so while we are bracing ourselves for Summer, they are moving toward Fall… and what do you need when you are a tiny baby coming into fall, KNITTED stuff.

This first one is Billy Cardigan by designer Linda Whaley, from the Little Rowan Cherish book, knitted with Rowan Super fine Merino 4 ply.  This yarn is a dream, so soft and have you seen the definition of the stitches.  The cable work is worthwhile with such a yarn.  I’ve done cables before, but these ones were a first for me: they are worked on 6 stitches, over 6 rows, 2 stitches crossing over the next 2 stitches on the first knit row and the over the last 2 stitches on the following knit row (too technical?). 

I heavily modified this little cardigan.  First, I decided to knit in one piece: adding the number of stitches for both fronts, plus the back, removing 4 stitches to take into account that there were no more side seams.  I knitted the sleeves flat.  I had to play a bit with the number of stitches when working on the yoke as I did not like the way the raglan was forming (again not seam), instead I made sure that there was a 2-stitch cable in place of the seam and I love how it looks cleaner.  Honestly, I did a lot of negative knitting trying to figure this out and it took me far longer than necessary to finish.  But the result is worthwhile.

MP's BB

This second one was a super fast finish.  I followed Tikki Knits’ instruction for Gidday Baby (which is a particularly appropriate name considering the family connections with Australia), I’ve used leftovers of Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK.  I’ve made so many projects with this yarn, it’s perfect for baby, it is soft, from natural fibers and the colours are lovely.  Technically, the project worked from the top down with garter and stockinet stitches.  I think what makes this cardi so pretty is the contrasting yarns in the yoke.  See for yourself!

MP's BB1

I can’t wait to see the little model those cardigans.

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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Quiltcon 2017

It’s been more than a week since I got back from Quiltcon 2017, and I should probably share a bit before it get too old.

I had been told that the show was huge.  But my first impression is that it was not so big, I’ve been to Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival in Japan or the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham and those shows were huge.  Quiltcon Savannah was actually a  pretty nice size, not too overwhelming, big enough to feast your eyes, but contained enough so one had enough time to see all the quilts.  I planned my visit so I would look at no more than two rows of quilt at a time.  This way, I hoped I would remember each of them.

Best of show was won by Katherine Jones and you’ve probably seen it everywhere (just in case, here a link to it and to the other winners).  It was stunning, technically breath-taking.  You should also listen to Kat’s interview by Abby Glassenberg for While she naps, she sounds like a very grounded person.

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Two quilts touched me most: Kintsugi, I love the simplicity of the design and the meaning of the snippets of contrasting fabric.  It is interesting that it makes a link with a Japanese technic for repairing ceramic bowls, making what was ‘broken’ a feature in the quilt.

Quilts exhibition

Sunday best is about taking ‘me’ time every Sunday and letting the mood of the day influence to construction of the quilt.  I think the colours attracted me first, then the improv work.  I am fighting with myself over improv: a part of me would like to embrace the challenge of letting go, and still I am so in love with perfect matching points.  I guess the first quilt, Kintsugi, is how I would like to approach improv.

Quilts exhibition1

Should you want to see more, I have create a video of quilts that grabbed my attention.  You can find it here.

Otherwise, I took some classes.  All of them were fantastic in their own way.  Just a few days before Quiltcon, I realised that my focus was mainly on free motion quilting: I had a 6-hour class with Natalia Bonner then another 3-hour with Christina Cameli.  Both of them were great.

At the last minute, I had the chance to go to Elizabeth Harmann’s class: You do the Math, a whole day on calculation and drafting block and planning quilt.  I will come back to this one on a different post as I got far more out of it than expected.

My preferred class of all was with Jacqueline the wonder woman behind Soak on creating a business in the craft industry.  This lady delivered a very powerful, inspirational class.  I just wish I could be her friend and learn more from her.

I also attend to almost all of the Friday lectures -  I loved the panel discussion on Creativity and the almost philosophical talk from Thomas Knauer (check his blog, in addition to interesting quilts and take on life in general).

Finally, I learnt that Quiltcon is all about socialising.  From my Frenchie point of view, my American friends can sometimes be a bit over the top when showing their emotions.  But now I understand better: I had a couple of fan girl moment with people I love and still feel giddy about it.

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I could carry on an speak about the Quilt for Pulse booth, the shopping experience, the great meals with friends, the road trip to Savannah chatting and chatting, the ‘square’ feet after days of walking around… but then this post will never be finished… So I’m just saying “Quiltcon, I’ll be back”.

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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Enjoying simple treasures

A few weeks ago, a few friends and I went to a Sue Spargo’s workshop organised by Red Thread Studio.  And what a treat it was!  Not only the workshop, but the whole trip.  We travelled to Stuart, Florida the night before and got to enjoy a great meal by the water.

I am not very familiar with Sue’s work but I had chances to admire work by one of her student.  Mary always praised Sue’s warmth, eagerness to share and I was not disappointed.

We worked on a very manageable project, a needle case.  The cover and the body are from Sue’s wool.  The kit can be found on her website (and btw, you can order it in this new aqua colour). 

Sue Spargo3

Starting with the dots on the back of the cover, we tried our needles on 8 different stitches, Sue taking time for demonstration at each table (4 of us per table).  I’m pretty sure her needle case was almost finished by the end of the day.

Sue Spargo

The front dots were worked on at home.  Changing the size of the stitches, mixing them up, trying different thread colour… It is very addictive, I just wanted to add more and more.

Sue Spargo2Sue Spargo1

If you want to know more about our day, go and visit Rene’s post.  Check her case:  it looks quite different and so cute, I love the hot pink binding she used and the extra row of flowers on the spine of her book.

Other treasures I wanted to share are my last two reads. I am having a good start of the year.  My first book is the latest John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries .  I’ve been in love with John Irving for more than 20 years (my husband knows, he introduced my to him :-).  I’ve said it in the past, but reading a book from John Irving is like meeting with good friends and family, the territory is familiar but different each time.  Same themes and similar characters and still a different story.  It is quite a slow book, not much is happening, it goes from memories of the past to dreams unless it’s the present. 

Reading wise, I also finished reading The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide.  It is a very poetic little book about a couple and the cat visiting them.  Not much is happening, just the husband and wife observing the cat, their garden.  It’s a little windows into Japanese way of life.  I really enjoyed it, and it made me want to go back to Japan.

That’s it for today, now I’m off to bed because I’m at Quiltcon tomorrow.  Getting pretty excited!

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Sunday, 12 February 2017

Trying new things and realising I’m a picky eater

It’s official, I am a picky, snob-ish eater.  Let me explain, I have been receiving offers after offers to try services like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron (no link to their website, I am not here to promote their services).  So I decided to give it a try, and selected Hello Fresh (I think the offer was better than the other service)

The registration process is super easy.  There are 3 meal plans options.  I choose the Classic Plan for 2 (there’s a Veggie plan and a Family plan too).  Once registered, again it is very easy to choose when the plan starts, to put a week on ‘pause’ and to select 3 dishes out of the 5 options.

My first box was delivered last Monday, I was not home so I was a bit anxious about how it will keep fresh (Florida’s winter is not cold).  The packaging is incredible: from the outside it looks like a normal cardboard box, but the inside is padded with thick thermo-lining and there are additional large ice-packs on the top and at the bottom.  Honestly, I think the box can stand a couple of hours outside even in Florida.

Each meal is individually packed in its own compartment and comes with its own recipe card.  The cards are double sided.  One side shows what the meal looks like once cooked, the back side is a pictorial description in 6 steps of the process in pictures.

I started with the Sesame chicken noodle.  The prep was minimal: poaching then slicing the chicken, chopping the onion, crushing the garlic, mixing the ingredients for the sauce and finally cooking the pasta. No cooking skills necessary.

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What we like: the Asian flair.
What could have been better: replacing the linguini by real Asian noddle.  The linguini absorbed lots of moisture and got mushy.  More veggie and some coriander, and we only used half of the chicken,

Day 2, the Chili.  Again, it was very very simple to prepare for a meal ready in less than half an hour.

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What we like: simple, fast and filling, perfect for a busy evening.
What could have been better: not enough vegetables to our taste, and the portions were a bit large for 2 girls eating at night.

Day 3: Parmesan crusted cod, probably our preferred meal of the week.  After the 2 previous experiences, I knew it was going to be lacking on the veggies front so I added 4 carrots to the recipe.

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What we like: fish is always a winner for us.  I fed 3 people on this, the portions with the added carrots worked perfectly.
What could have been better: more veggies, but we fixed that.

Overall, I don’t think pre-packed, pre-thought meals are for me.  I have a large repertoire of meals and I don’t really need  recipes for everyday cooking.  I found that there was far to much packaging: in term of preserving the ingredients it makes sense, but in term of protecting the environment it is pretty annoying.  I have checked with Hello Fresh whether they would pick up and recycle the insulated box: the cardboard is to be put in the recycle bin, the box liners can be sent back to them and they also gave me advise on how to recycle to rest.  Also, I don’t know whether the ingredient are organically grown, I should probably send Hello Fresh an e-mail as they have reply to my previous question very fast.

Hello Fresh claim that ‘Cooking with fresh ingredients helps you stay healthy and beats any type of convenience, frozen, or fast food. Plus, we’ve got a dedicated team of chefs and dietitians creating recipes on a weekly basis to ensure that your dinners are balanced and wholesome.’  I feel that to be truly healthy their meals should have much more vegetables.  Also, frozen ingredients have the same quality as fresh ingredients as long as they were kept frozen until cooking.

Although I don’t think this programme is for me, I am actually getting another box for when I am going away.  I think it will work well for my husband and kids, they won’t have to think about dinner or shop for the ingredients.  If your life is super busy and you don’t have much time or energy for shopping, I think it is a good option.  It is also a good way to build some cooking skills and demystify the ‘cooking from scratch’ concept

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A copycat Zinnia

Hello Friends,

May I come back to some projects I’ve finish last year?  I really want to show you some of the projects I really love making and wearing.

To be honest, I did not pay much attention to the Zinnia skirt when it was first launched, I found it a bit ‘déjà vu’, a bit too casual… I don’t know really, it was never under my radar.  Until I saw this version made with Cotton + Steel canvas.  I just wanted this outfit, plain and simple.

Zinnia skirt1
(Sorry for the creepy Santa Claus)

Now what can I say about the skirt?

First, the pattern: it’s from Colette Patterns and it has their vintage feel signature.  The construction is straight forward, even making the pleats was quite easy.  I think this was partly because the canvas holds very well and partly because I did not rush the process.  Another nice detail, it has pockets.  My only challenge was to match the pattern at the back, I think it doesn’t look bad at all.  I really like working with Colette Patterns as their sizing works well with my body, and therefore no alteration’s needed.

Zinnia skirt

Now the fabric.  If I hadn’t seen Colette’s sample, I don’t think I would have ever pick this print for a garment and even less for a skirt.  It’s mid-weight, it’s quite crisp for a linen, and even better it does not crease much even after having been sitting on it for a couple of hours.  Another bonus, the fabric does not fray, I did a simple zigzag to finish the seams and it is still very clean after a couple of washes.  All of this makes for a very enjoyable sewing experience.

The weight of the fabric combines to the shape of the skirt make it looks like a skirt from the 50s.  If I was a little girl I could almost turn and turn to make it swirls (I did try it, it was fun).

My conclusion: keep a creative opened mind when it comes to choosing patterns and fabric!

Edit: I've forgotten to link to Colette's excellent article on sewing with canvas linen.  Here it is! https://blog.colettehq.com/tutorials/cs-x-colette-cottonlinen-canvas

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Not so ordinary week-end

Don’t you love a long week-end?  Ours was great, we went for New York and we made it extra long by fitting some College visits (one needs to make to most of her last kid going to college pretty soon).

It was cold, it was sunny, it was snowy too, it was energizing (and I caught a lots of new Pokémons too :o).  Here we are, overload of pictures.

2017 01 New York
Brooklyn bridge



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Night views from and around our hotel

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Scrolling around with my teen

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Mod Podge for the win

Hello Friends,

I don’t know about you, but I have a slow-ish time, almost no momentum.  Let’s say it’s the after math of traveling for the holidays, jet lag, and the kids were here too.  So I spent very little time in my sewing room, and btw I could hardly see the sewing table or the floor of the room.

In order to be gentle with myself, I started this year with a little easy project: pattern weights.  Here how it goes.  You need an even number of flat washers (I don’t know what people use these for, I got mine from the hardware store – $3/10), scraps of fabric (I used selvage) and some Mod Podge.

Cutting weights

The rest is easy: wrap the fabric around 2 rings (I first secured the fabric between the rings), then once not more metal shows, I saturated the fabric on one side with the glue, let it dry, cut the excess fabric, and dab more glue on the other side.

Cutting weights1

Once the Mod Podge has dried, it gives the fabric a bit of shine.  Aren’t they pretty?  And I really like the feel of them in my hand, perfect size (2 inches).

Cutting weights2

As much as I am proud of my first little finish for 2017, I know it is not an original idea, there are plenty of similar projects around.  Go and make yourself some!

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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Reading list

Hello Friends,

I was about to start like this : ‘2016 has not been great in term of reading… blah blah blah…’  But you know what, 2016 is gone and there’s no point in dwelling on what it has or has not been.

So off we go, here is my line up of books for now.  I’m sure more will be added over the year.

Reading list

Zadie Smith, On Beauty – because I loved White Teeth and NW (and if you don’t feel like reading these last two, you should still watch the mini series White Teeth, or the TV drama NW)
Global Mom – this one was gifted by my neighbour, she has spent most of her life away from home too, I can relate to that;
Denis Johnson, Train Dreams and Takashi Hiraide, The guest cat – I picked those two when I was in London in November, I can’t remember why, hopefully they’ll be nice surprises.

Reading list1

Those are my Christmas presents:
China through the looking glass – I wish I could have seen the exhibition at the Met, the book is so so beautiful, illustrations, paper, biding… and you should really watch the documentary on the exhibition: The first Monday in May.
V&A Gallery of Fashion: fashion though history, what is there not to love?
In the company of women – the sub-title says it all “Inspiration and advice from over 100 Makers, Artists and Entrepreneurs”
Un couteau, une cocotte, un plat (a knife, a pot, a dish) – yes another cookbook, but with a super simple concept: one pot + all the ingredients = one meal.  The recipes are just a couple of steps, the pictures are clean and appetizing.

Reading list2

The quilt block cookbook by Amy Gibson (aka Stitcherydickory) because I want to follow (very loosely) the Quilt along (#cookbookquiltalong), and also because I love a sampler quilt.
The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood because I want to push away from my comfort zone and tip my toes into improv.

So that’s it for the moment.  I record my fictional reading on my Goodreads, should you be interested to see more.  What are you reading?