Thursday, 31 March 2011

Retreat Report 1

I had quite a productive time on my little retreat and will share some photos in the next post.  Today I'm up to my eyes in catching up (washing etc, groan) but I did have a wander around the estate and found a very brave asparagus spear poking about 2" through the soil, just the one but such promise of delicious things to come (I wonder if there'll be enough for a starter when you get here Teresa?)  The tulips are looking lovely and the blossom on all the trees around is just stunning this year, I think that chilly winter did everything good.  A delivery of seeds arrived a couple of days ago so I'm hoping for a warm few days to get things going.
Tomorrow I've also got to get things together for my next jolly.  I'm going to the Quilters' Guild AGM/Conference in Exeter next weekend and will be doing a class with Lynne Edwards among other delights.  This means I need to go to the LQS to get the class requirements!  Fortunately Doughty's are having a roadshow nearby on Saturday so I'm going there with DD (who I believe has another project for me, in purple!)
Okay, back to the river to get on with the washing, more tomorrow and photos, I promise.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Quilt Retreat

As the quilting retreat I was involved in planning for later this year is not now happening I thought I'd have a little retreat of my own.  I've gathered a bag of quilting and a box of quilting, my sewing machine and a pile of books and magazines.  Hopefully there'll be a lot of progress and even a finish or two to report when I get back online.  Wonder if DH will cope?!  Last weekend we had a lazy eating two days as he was helping to fit SiL's kitchen and I was celebrating IQD.  We bought ready made food (we don't usually), bags of salad, a tiramisu in a plastic container, Thai fishcakes in a plastic container, pizza in a box etc etc.  I was staggered at how much I spent on food for just two days and by how much rubbish it produced.  Roll on the veggies growing!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Friday Night Sew-In: Saturday Morning Report, March 2011 and a Giveaway

Happy International Quilt Day
Last night it was FNSI time again and also Comic Relief night here in the UK.  If some of my stitching is wobbly I can blame it on laughing at the acts, sketches, songs etc that were on BBC all evening; but if some of my work is soggy I can blame it on weeping at the desperate situation of people going blind in Africa for the sake of a simple operation that takes twenty minutes and costs £17.  It was amazing to see the reactions of people as their bandages were removed and they realised they could see, a real miracle.
I didn't do all these blocks last night, I started a couple of days ago, but this is all I can do for the moment as I've run out of the main fabric, Nara Gardens from Hoffman.  Very, very fortunately when I phoned my LQS yesterday there was 3.5m left on the bolt and Barbara is saving it for me.  It's more than I need but I'm not risking running out again and it won't be difficult to find a use for this wonderful fabric.  The quilt is the same design as the Round and Round le Jardin (scroll down on the right) but is to be a quilt for my guest bed.
Thank you to Heidi and Bobbi for hosting FNSI again, it was sew lovely to be stitching away with people all over the world, especially with today being InterNational Quilt Day (click on that link for more information
and a great free Log Cabin quilt pattern).
DH is spending his day helping SiL install a new kitchen, sounds as if I've got the whole of today to sew, hooray :)
Susan is having a great NQD giveaway on her blog, the Quixotic Crafter, so pop over there and please tell her Lis at Online Quilting sent you, thank you.
And while you're blog-hopping, please go over to two posts on my sashiko blog, one about help for Japan and one an amazing letter from a lady in Sendai that will change your day.

Friday, 18 March 2011

A Letter from Sendai

This is another forwarded message that I read on Facebook and just had to share with you.  I found it utterly inspiring and such a reflection of the different ways it is possible to view events and what it is possible to take from them.  
 Hello My Lovely Friends,  
First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.   Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend's home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.  During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets. Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, "Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another."  Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often.   We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not. No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.  There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun. People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time. Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled. The mountains are Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently.  And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.   They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others.  Last night my friend's husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.  Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don't. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent. Thank you again for your care and Love of me,   
With Love in return, to you all, Anne.                 

Quilt Appeal for Japan

I received this forwarded appeal this morning and am copying it here for anyone who can help:

It means a considerable investment in postage if you want to help - but it is a lovely idea and we all know how well it works.

"This morning I received an email from Naomi Ichikawa, Editor of Patchwork Quilt Tsushin Magazine. Naomi lives in Tokyo and her mother and brother survived the tsunami in Sendai.

Naomi asked me to please spread the word about the plea for comfort quilts.

Here is Naomi's request:

Dear Valerie
It is still bad situation now in Japan.
We are still nervous about shaking and radiation,but no way to escape.

I start to announce to the quilters to send us comfort quilts for the
people who are suffered.I would like to do it to the world quilters.
We will deliver the comfort quilts to the people who are very difficult
Could you please help to announce it to the quilters?

We accept any size of quilts(baby to adult).new or unused.
The deadline would be the end of May or later.

Send the quilts to:
(until the middle of April)
Naomi Ichikawa,Editor of Patchwork Quilt tsushin
Patchwork Tsushin Co.,Ltd
Japan zip:113-0033

(after the middle of April)
Naomi Ichikawa
Patchwork Tsushin Co.,Ltd
Japan zip:113-0034

I will appreciate if you help me.


Monday, 14 March 2011

Non-Fabric Loveliness

I went on a bit of a spending spree today but in the local garden centre and also the big orange warehouse place rather than in the LQS.  This is what I came home with
all that promise and the excitement of creation and things to come, not dissimilar from buying fabric really.

On the quilting front I had a long session with the rotary cutter yesterday, starting to cut for my "Round and Round Nara Gardens" (working title) quilt and then discovered to my dismay that I have insufficient of the Nara Gardens fabric.  Derrr!  Better go to the LQS after all :)  Does anyone else find that however carefully they do the fabric calculations there's always either something short or a lot leftover?  Maybe I'm buying in metres and calculating in feet or something! 
On the positive side I did use a new rotary blade and a new machine needle when I started piecing, bliss.  This is my rather late new year resolution, to always use a new blade and needle for a new project, it was like the proverbial knife through butter.  Oh, sadness, I've given up butter for Lent and now I've thought about it and could just eat a fat slice of hot buttered toast!  Okay, time to stop rambling and draw a plan of where those lovely flowers are going to burst into life in my garden.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Fabric Postcards for Spring

It's a beautiful day in the Lincolnshire Fens today, the sun is shining and the thermometer reads 15.5C, very spring-like indeed.
I've finished the fabric postcards for the latest BQL swap and here they are.
Can you see the lovely embroidered butterflies I used?
While I was finishing off the decoration on the cards I was listening to the news and to stories of all the tragic things that are happening in our world at the moment.  It seemed a good idea to add a "yellow ribbon" to the last two cards I made.
I then discovered I've made one too many cards for the swap (again!) so somebody is going to be getting a little surprise in the post.  Enjoy.
Oh, by the way, did anyone see Griff Rhys Jones in India on BBC2 last night?  The programme was all about textiles and was very interesting (although I would have liked a closer look at some of the pieces he was talking about!)  It's worth catching it on iplayer if you have the chance, the link is and this is what the BBC website says about the programme:  "In his quest to find out if traditional art still thrives among the indigenous people of the world, Griff Rhys Jones goes to India in search of exquisite textiles. Can he solve the mystery of an extraordinary Indian floor cloth kept in Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire for over 300 years? Who made it and does the skill that produced such a work still exist?
Griff travels to Gujarat in India, famed throughout history for its beautiful handmade textiles. He goes off the beaten tracks to the towns and villages of the north-west plains and discovers how centuries-old printing, dyeing and embroidery techniques are still the cornerstones to a way of life.
Finally, he travels to the heart of one of the most reclusive and fiercely traditional societies in India, the Rabari, who are famed for their toughness and their astonishing embroidery. Here, women spend years sewing dowry gifts - but can the custom survive in the 21st century?"

Friday, 11 March 2011

Good Haul

I just wanted to share these lovely finds with you all.  I don't often buy old linens as they are quite pricey here now but I couldn't resist these two tablecloths that I found in Norfolk.  For the work the price was nothing really and I'm going to use them as cloths rather than cut them up to use in other projects.  I have a great friend who sends me wonderful packages of embroidered napkins, hankies etc that she finds in her local charity shops in Australia.  I like to use them in fabric postcards such as the one I made for a Global Piecers swap.  You can see it here.
I was also unable to resist this gorgeous silver needle case.  It's had a hard life and has a few dents but it was made in the nineteenth century so it's no wonder really.  It needs a bit of polish and some tlc but I adore it and, like the cloths, I'm going to use it.
Isn't it strange how some trips to charity, bric a brac and antique shops are wonderfully successful but some trips result in nothing at all?  I've recently discovered Oxfam online, like going to a charity shop but without that smell!  Last night I browsed the bric a brac and was tempted by one or two things but resisted, and then I started looking through the vintage silk scarves.  Oh dear, far too easy!!  Have a great weekend whatever you do.

Earthquake in Japan

I was so shocked to wake to the news of a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan this morning.  My thoughts and prayers are with everybody affected.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Final Pictures from Malta

Here are a final few photographs from my trip to the Maltese Islands and then normal, stitching, service will be resumed.
I've been making some fabric postcards today which I'll be able to share once they are delivered and I did some sewing while I was in Malta which I'm going to work on tomorrow.
It's been so lovely to see the sunshine even though it's not been very warm.  I've ventured into the garden and was delighted to see how many flowers were braving the chill:  snowdrops (which have been wonderful this year), crocii, daffodils, lots of different blossom and lots of lush green shoots pushing up through the soil promising wonderful things to come.
These buses are a feature of Malta's roads, used by locals and tourists alike and held together with faith and string.  Sadly they are being replaced this summer when Arriva take over the bus system.

Monday, 7 March 2011

More Maltese Craft

Here's another photo heavy post about my recent holiday in Malta. 
We visited a lovely little folklore museum on the island of Gozo and I took a lot of photos of the textile-related artefacts (surprise, surprise).  It amazes me that some of these things have survived the years and they were wonderful to see. 
As well as spinning, weaving and lacemaking other crafts were represented in the museum including those of the blacksmith, the carpenter and the potter.  I was fascinated by these fishing baskets, so fragile-looking and beautiful.
Fishing baskets

Winders for cotton and wool
Bobbin winder
Bobbin spinning wheel
Spinning wheel
Scales for cotton
Cotton in the scales' basket
Cotton gin
Weaving loom
Fabric woven on the loom
Lace pillow
Bobbin lace on the pillow

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Crafts in Malta

I'm just back from a wonderful holiday in Malta and have just a few photos to share with you over the next few posts.  Although there seems to be no evidence of patchwork and quilting in Malta they do have other talents and traditions in crafts.
Of course I had to track down some real lace (a lot of what is available is machine made, or even imported).  On the island of Gozo I visited Bastion Lace where all the lace is handmade bobbin lace, so beautiful. (Teresa and Carol, this is where your lace pieces came from)

We watched this gentleman patiently gilding, applying the finest gold leaf to pieces for a processional statue in Mdina.
Later we chatted to a jeweller who makes the traditional Maltese filigree work.
 I couldn't resist this beautiful silver thimble he made.  I think it will be to admire rather than use although it does fit me perfectly.
I made a visit to this lovely haberdashery shop in Valletta and spent ages choosing while DH waited very patiently, bless him, although he was more than ready for a coffee by the time I'd finished.  (Teresa and Carol this is where your ribbons and pieces came from).
And I did do some sewing myself, here I am enjoying the sunshine and making a fabric postcard for a Global Piecers swap.

Japanese Malta

I'm just back from a holiday in Malta and managed to have a couple of Japanese experiences while I was there.
DH and I enjoyed two meals in a wonderful Japanese restaurant, one of which was at the teppanyaki table where the chef amazed us with knife juggling, tricks with eggs, onion volcanoes and flambes as well as delicious food.

We had a fantastic selection of foods for our second meal in Hibiki, starting with miso soup (I'm sure I could live on that), continuing with a great selection of sushi, maki and sashimi, then prawns in chilli and coriander and finally green tea ice cream and green tea pannecotta, all very delicious.

We practised our (very limited) Japanese on the waitresses in the restaurant and they were very kind to us!