Sunday, February 14, 2016

Stringing Together Wins

It's the middle of Feb. How are my new year's resolutions faring? 
To be honest, I made none this year, not one. It was a calculated decision - and it was quite freeing to think, 'I'm not going to be caught up in that annual attempt to "plan to fail" ', which is how I have come to see the setting down of New Years resolutions, based on my own experience. 
Maybe because I'm currently residing in Malaysia and stimulated by the colour and energy and celebration of a culture in the hype of their Lunar New Year, but, here I am, 46 days into 2016, and the whole concept of stringing together the two words 'new' and 'year', into a banner that proclaims "Begin Again!", is looking at me one more time - it's like an offering of a re-do. 
So this day, 15th of Feb, I've gone ahead and made my list - Resolutions that would be best to keep and progress in. The application of actual resolve in areas where I am found wanting. And I may drop the ball. That's happened before. But I've this notion that it's the stringing together of wins and accomplishments that matters. My wins are indeed interspersed with setbacks and my resolve does wane, but if I pick out all those individual wins, those blips on the radar, one big effort by one, two things happen: I discover an actual lineup of accomplishments and, I see proof that change is possible- it's there in the banner trail! 
Those yearly starts, those mid February kickstarts, those blips of resolve which run interference through the habits and behaviours that are my norm, once strung together, they equal a series of wins. And to win the series, well that's just a great thing! Exciting! Intoxicating! The culmination of goal + achievement equaling the desired outcome! 
February 15 2016 finds me taking heart and ready for another win, and, a longer string.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The How-To's for a Mini Fiesta

No, not the South-of-the-border themed party, but rather, the how-to's for creating the simplest, sweetest baby/toddler quilt going, BirdyStreet style- perfect to celebrate su bebe favorito!
My original "Fiesta" was a full sized quilt made in a riot of party colours, hence the name. I wanted to design something to showcase the large scale motifs of a (long ago now) Jennifer Paganelli range called "Girlfriends". (just an aside - this group of prints was Patchwork@Homespun's first venture into the big beautiful realm of modern, colour-saturated fabrics)
Last year, when Cotton&Steel's debut range arrived in shop, I gathered together all of their animal prints, thinking that a mini version of Fiesta would be the perfect backdrop for them. With a little sewing help from my friends, a scaled down baby sized version was born!
Well that's the preamble, now here's the tutorial, as promised. 
The HowTo's:
"MINI FIESTA" a BirdyStreet Design
Finished Quilt Size 40" x 50"

GATHER together a group of 10 fabrics for the body of the quilt.
You will need 20cm of each print.
Add an additional 3 contrasting prints to the mix for the prairie points. I chose prints that would stand out against the assortment of background fabrics.
You will need 15cm of each print. 
The photo below shows the original Cotton&Steel fabric pull. Notice how the 3 contrasting fabrics for the prairie points, pictured on the left, are different in both colour and pattern. 
For today's tutorial, I have rustled up some fabrics from a limited stash in my KL cupboard. If I had an entire quilt shop handy, I would likely make some substitutions - I'm not convinced it's the perfect palate, but here goes!
CUT one 5 1/2" strip from each of the 10 fabrics. 
From each 5 1/2" strip *crosscut:
-two 5 1/2" x 5 1/2" squares (A)
-two 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" rectangles (B)
-one 5 1/2" x 14" rectangle (C)
*Stay close to the selvedge when cross cutting as these measurements add up to 42", so you'll need nearly all of your fabric width)
This layout is so simple!
The quilt has 10 rows.
FORMULA: Each row has two (A) blocks, two (B) blocks and one (C) block. 
You can distribute these blocks in any order throughout each row. 
ARRANGE THE FABRICS:  The photo below is an example of a possible layout.  I move things around to ensure there is a pleasing arrangement of colours and prints. I try to keep the A's B's and C's separated between rows, but not always. You are looking for a balance of colour and motif, so mix and match, step back occasionally and take a look, rearrange if necessary until it looks "right" to your eye. Enjoy the design process!
When you are happy with the arrangement,
ASSEMBLE the 10 horizontal rows by sewing the A B C blocks together with a 1/4" seam. 
Now for the addition of the Prairie Points. These add a tactile element to the quilt, not to mention a point of difference and a bit of fun!
PREPARE them by cutting 16 to 20 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" squares. 
Fold each square in half along the diagonal. 
Fold in half again to achieve a small triangle with an "open" side. 
I made four sets of prairie points - two with 4 points, one with 5, and one with 3 points. (I only found one fabric that seemed a happy match with my background prints, so rather than three colours I'll only have one.)
To make the sets, lay the triangles next to each other, points down, raw edges up, and open sides all facing right. 
Tuck the triangles into one another by nesting one pointy end into the neighbouring open side. (See photo above). Be generous with the overlap/"tucking in" process. 
Pin in place. 
*Because a child will likely pull on and play with these prairie point inserts, it's important for them to be sturdy and well reinforced. Therefore, sew each set along the raw edge with a scant 1/4" seam. 
ADD these sets of prairie points so that they are scattered around the quilt rows. Again, you are looking for balance in your arrangement. I introduced my sets to the tops of rows 3, 5, 7 and 9. 
Pin into place and reinforce again, sewing the prairie points to the tops of the rows, following the same scant 1/4" seam line. 
HOMESTRETCH is in view!
Sew your rows together. Row 1 to row 2, row 2 to row 3 etc. 
When you reach a set of prairie points, add some reinforcement with a back stitch at either end. 
FINISH by adding a layer of wadding and backing fabric, both at least 2" larger all the way around than your 40"x50" quilt top. It's a manageable size for quilting with either your domestic machine or by hand for that extra bit of tlc!
How easy was that and you now have a beautiful, one of a kind quilt for your little one. 
Thank you for reading and for trying this BirdyStreet design. 
*The photos and text and design are my own - if you'd like to share, please ask your friends to visit my blog rather than making copies. 
This pattern is intended for personal use by home sewers and may not be republished or distributed without my permission. Quilts made with this pattern may only be sold in small quantities. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Welcome To Kuala Lumpur

According to Mr Fitbit, it's 3,211 steps and 29 active minutes from the KL apartment, all downhill, to "Bangsar Village" our suburb's hub of restaurants, cafés, shops, and all manner of modern conveniences. I've only been back in town for 2 days but I knew where I was heading for my morning java - No.20 Jalan Telawi 2 and "Antipodean"...
...a streetside cafe in the heart of the Village, for this, straight from Aceh -
...(and the toast with rosemary marmalade and feta was also part of the plan)
It's 32 degrees at the moment in KL and the air is heavy with humidity and the sky is grey - the rain clouds look a bit threatening. Not ideal conditions for photographs but I wanted to share this morning's walk - it's an interesting place and so different - I hope you enjoy. Thanks for walking with me!
I was fascinated by what I thought was such an unusual bloom just off the footpath. But looking closer, I realised this was actually a cluster of incense sticks, and I was encroaching on someone's temple shrine -
- oops. 
Moving along, the footpath is intermittent at first, but when it's there, it's a pretty patchwork of cobblestones and colour and pattern -
How's this for razor wire security looking as pretty as possible? -

Speaking of security measures, it is imperative to be aware of your surroundings and careful with your valuables - muggings are very real and frequent. (As I exited the subway yesterday I witnessed the ensuing (and futile) chase after a man was pick-pocketed.) Just in case I forget to tuck my bag close and keep it on the side of my body furthest from traffic, the road signs provide a sober reminder -
That is not a good look. 
It's lush and tropical and the scenery is pretty (and I quickly forget about snatch thieves) -

Bangsar Village - 

I walked all over the place searching for Harusame or cellophane noodles made from the mung bean for a Japanese soup I am trying for tonight's dinner. Did I mention the walk was DOWN into Bangsar Village? It follows then that I must head back, uphill. That was a steady-as-she-goes kind of trek. You'll have to forgive me for the photo barrage - these were really just an excuse to stop for a breather so to speak -
An artistic arrangement of some kind of cable. 
Love the red of the Lipstick Palms. 
Someone's coffee drink hanging from the yellow-barked bamboo. 
See that charcoal building with the slanted roof in the distance? I'm heading for that condo - puffing and red-faced and shall we say, glowing. 
Hmmm...were these pics about the orange heliconias or because I liked the blue, yellow and brown coloured irrigation system sitting amongst them? Either way the excuse to stop worked. 
Pretty natives.  Alpinia Pupurata also called ornamental Red Ginger or Ostrich Plume. 
Look! So close! -
Ahhhh! 8,739 steps and 79 active minutes later I have arrived back at the apartment! A bit sopping and a slight spectacle with my flushed red fair skin, but it was a good workout. 
I hope you enjoyed seeing my new surrounds and I'll let you know how the mushroom soup turns out. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Could it be a coincidence that in the thick of the backyard reno and prepping for Anna's 21st Fiesta that I hunkered down last night and made a baby quilt by the same name? Not likely.
Some people eat when they are stressed (how did I think of that one?). Some people worry. Some people seek support. Some find a creative outlet! I think it's safe to say that I engage in all of the above. (And my family could add stuff to my list of stress-behaviours I'm sure, but they don't get to write this blog, thankfully!)

Last evening I had two of my good friends over. We enjoyed sundowners on a partially finished deck. We admired what has been accomplished and couldn't ignore what's still ahead on the reno to-do list. 100 invites have been extended for a party in 7 days time and the venue looks like this:

Brewing this past week during all this hubbub, has been a hankering to sew. The shop is well stocked with my current favourite fabric collection "Cotton and Steel" (go Jacqui, you are the ultimate fabric-picker-outer, range-buyer-extraordinaire!). And I knew that if I asked, Janette and Jacqui would help me out during this extra busy, stressful time with sewing support while I accomplished my sewing fix!
So we settled into a Friday sewing bee. Likely there are not many who think this could be fun. You will have to take my word for it! 
I pulled all of the prints from the C&S range featuring animals - wild mustangs, gazells, lions and tiger striped cats, some cotton, others linen, and all in a modern palate of aqua, navy, coral and mustard. 
Recently, Janette re-sized my original Fiesta quilt pattern to make a gorgeous baby blanket for a friend's newborn. The pattern is a straightforward lineup of squares and rectangles with some prairie points randomly strung between rows. I think these 3-D triangle inserts are a nice tactile addition to a baby quilt.

In no time at all our collaborative sewing efforts produced a finished little top, ready for quilting. Presto, our shop has a darling new sample showcasing these new prints. Now (well not exactly 'now' but after Anna's fiesta) I must get busy and update this version of my 'Fiesta' pattern using Janette's new math. I feel much better for having spent the evening creating with friends - a welcome diversion from the tension of renovations and their finish dates.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Good thing you always have great hair!"

...Which was my friend's response when I texted her that "things are going to get hairy around here".
And it makes me think, that a good laugh and an injection of a light hearted, no-worries-mate attitude is helpful to add into the mix of important decisions, worrisome timelines, and the dust, debris and chaos of a gutted backyard and full desert-redo.
You see, the Big Backyard Retaining Project is a WRAP! Completed! Paid for! A house built on shifting sand is no longer our problem. Quite literally, we are not moving anywhere. And this is! You have to be Rob or me, or maybe our kids, to really appreciate what a relief this is to have BEHIND US! 

Here are the two new walls. The end result doesn't look like much really, does it?

And though all's right with our world when it comes to retaining and we are sitting tight, we are definitely not sitting pretty!
But we have a plan! A lovely down-the-track-promise of things to come. An "all will be revealed in the fullness of time" end result to anticipate!

But meanwhile and 'midst-while', let's face it, things ARE getting hairy around here! It's all about early mornings and noisy machinery, dust and sand. 

There are a myriad of decisions to make, things to organise and people to co-ordinate. There are contracts to mull over and feel concerned about, disclosure statements to decipher. There are design and colour choices to HAVE FUN MAKING! There is this "get it right we only do this once" pressure or sense of responsibility. There is the excitement at day's end to have a good look round and see what has progressed. 
The dog is filthy, as is the cat, but they are having a blast with all the activity and new folks round about. 
But the biggest hairy deal is a looming timeline, a big birthday party held HERE in our backyard to celebrate Anna's 21st on... the 21st of February (ta da!). It will be done (I tell myself). All WILL be revealed (before 21/02/15). And Anna and everyone else in the family will have a backyard space to enjoy the company of friends and family from here on in, 'here on' being 23 days from now 😱.

But just between you and I- I have a trip to the salon booked for this coming Friday - cut AND colour - just in case I really do need great hair to get through this!