Sunday, June 11, 2017

Weekend Splendours

After a very long break from the op shops and markets it was very exciting to go back to the Matamata monthly markets again this weekend.  The number of stalls was limited because it was a rather miserable Waikato morning with a lot of fog which almost felt like a gentle rain, but for a person starved of marketing for a while there was something to be explored on almost every stall.  To make it even more enjoyable I had the companionship of my sister, which was good in many ways but also it has to be said that we can be a bad influence on one another, urging purchases and searching out treasure for each other.  Still, what a lot of fun we had though.  Both of us bought one of these birdy soap dishes.  My sister assured me that hers was the more attractive and that mine had too much eye makeup on, but I suspect they were identical.  

 I was thrilled to buy my first piece of uranium glass (though I forgot to get up in the night to check if it was glowing in the dark.  I have a lot of green depression glass but no other pieces of uranium glass.  

This little dish isn't a very useful size for many things but it served well when I scooped up all the pieces of jewellery which were scattered about the cottage and in danger of being forgotten and left behind when winter deco comes around.  

My sister has had a passion recently for buying old pieces of silver and she was kind enough to  point out this pretty little silver spoon to me. 

It will go nicely with the sugar bowl and creamer she gave me last Christmas and I think the pearly handle sets off the spoon beautifully.  

She also urged me to buy this hydrangea vase, using that old tactic, "If you don't get it, I will", which technique always has an energising effect on dithering shoppers.  

I found one more landscape painting to add to my ever-growing collection.  I do think it would be better if artists left the people out and stuck to the landscapes if painting people isn't their forte, but on the other hand for the outlay of $8 a person can't be too choosy.  I love the way the people who work in opportunity shops work out the pricing on paintings.  There are several ways of doing it, but the way this one was priced was by the shop ladies comparing it with another painting, which they thought was a) nicer, b), larger and c) had a prettier (more opulent looking) frame, and as that one was priced at $20 they felt it was fair to offer mine for $8.  Another charming thing about these people who do such a wonderful job of manning charity stores is the way they feel compelled to pass judgement on your taste.  Fortunately they are approving more often than not but it can be a bit disconcerting when they look askance at your choices and ask you pointedly what on earth you intend doing with your new treasure. Sometimes it's hard to justify just what it is that you like about an object which obviously has no redeeming features in their eyes.  If you are feeling particularly weak that day and not able to explain yourself you can almost feel like saying that on second thoughts you were mad to even consider such a foolish purchase, and put it back on the shelf.  

A large part of the rest of the weekend, I am ashamed to report, was spent on cutting up hundreds more one inch hexagons from the large containers I have full of scraps.  I only got them down from the high cupboard in the hopes of finding a scrap of one particular fabric I had a hankering for, but then I got started cutting just a few hexagons, and before I knew it I had made a terrible mess all over the floor and spent a long time snipping away.  The worst thing is that these tiny hexagons aren't destined for any project in particular, they are only cut up like this as a way of using the tiny scraps left over from other projects.  I tack them onto papers while passing time and I'm sure they will eventually be put to some good purpose.  At least, I fervently hope so because I shudder to think how much time I have spent on them.  It is gratifying to use up the last of a piece of fabric though, and to think that if you live to be about 150 you might one day have no more scraps left. I had been planning to keep them all in the bewitching May Belle Lingerie box given to me by The Duchess of Ringloes but there are so many of them now that I may have to resort to a more utilitarian and much less pretty container.  

I did manage to drag myself out into the garden for a brief weeding session and was surprised to find this shard of pottery in a part of the garden where I have been lavishing compost and coffee grounds for ages.  

It was just below the surface when I stuck my trowel in to remove a particularly obstinate weed and I can't fathom how it came to be there.  I used to find old pieces of pottery at Shoestring Cottage but this piece surely would have bee dug up before, it's as though things gradually work their way to the surface somehow.  

Now that Big Red and Large Blue are out of the way I am going to try to finish the chicken quilt.  Madame Canuck kindly gave me a piece which will be good as part of the backing.  She and I were talking about the strange bits and pieces of fabric we end up with.  This piece is not something she would have chosen for herself because though she likes chickens well enough, not in quilting fabrics, but I was only too happy to accept her kind donation.  Part of the enjoyment for me in creating these projects is looking at the various pieces and remembering where they came from, especially if they have been a gift or a remnant from some favourite sewing project.  

I loved the chickens in this quilt when I started making it, best be hurrying along now before I fall out of love with them as can sometimes happen.  I am still particularly pleased with the chicken wire fabric used to space out the blocks and I was thrown into a panic when I took the quilt out to work on it and couldn't find any more of it.  That's the problem with these long drawn out projects but in the end the chicken wire hexagons were located, just as well or it would have been a very unusual looking quilt.  Here's hoping your week was a great one with lots of the things which make you happy.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Finish What You Started

As far as my crafting endeavours go, I have to admit to being a great starter but not so good in the finishing department.  There are always so many ideas swirling around in my mind, tempting fabrics, new colour combinations and inspiring images seen in books and magazines, and even in daily life. The time has come to try to finish some of the many things I have started over the years and it has been a very productive year so far, with two new quilts completed.  

The first quilt I tackled was one which was inspired by an issue of Simply Vintage Quilts & Crafts, (Summer 2015, No 15),which included a project entitled Circle of Birds, appliqued on linen and surrounded by a crocheted border.  In modifying the project to suit my own needs I used an old woolen blanket and some woolen fabric which I dyed various shades of blue for the swallows.  I am a complete pushover for anything with birds, especially swallows. 

Of course that was a good start but it needed a little something more, and so it grew and grew into a very large quilt using scraps from other project plus some things I had saved and never been bold enough to cut up because they were so special.  The cotton hexagons frame the centre panel of wool.  

There were some old men's shirts,

 some embroidered doilies,

 some hand printed fabrics I bought years ago in Melbourne at a craft market, and which seemed too precious to cut up for many years,

especially the piece with swallows

 some old pieces from dresses I made for my girls when they were little, 

and even some bits from maternity dresses.    (Waste not want not.) Because of the swallows theme I tried to work in as many hexies with birds as I could lay my hands on

but I also had to squeeze in a pansy or two, of course

and a couple of iris for Mrs Peaceable, since they are her favourite flower.  

Also lots of toile because I find the images so endearing and sometimes downright mysterious.

 (What is the story with this goat, for instance?  It seems to be about to receive a wreath.)

I used to take the pieces to my work and baste the hexagons over papers during my meal break which eventually led to some questions as to when this quilt would ever be completed.  Apparently it was on the go at work for at least a year, so I was very pleased to be able to take photos to my doubting work colleagues and prove it was indeed finished.  The quilt just went on getting bigger and bigger and it is indeed a good sized coverlet now.  I have to say "coverlet" rather than "quilt" because it is all hand pieced and consequently took an inordinate amount of time to finish and though I like the look of heavily quilted work, I have had to admit defeat finally and face the fact that if I was to hand quilt my quilts as well as hand piece them, then I would never finish the ones I have started, never mind being able to move on to any of the others I would like to attempt.  

Having finished that one (which has now been named Large Blue in my head), it was the turn of an even larger challenge, Big Red.  I saw a photo of a similar quilt once in a magazine and thought, "Well, I like the look of that and I'm sure I could make something similar to use up all my red scraps" but as I didn't start out with any particular dimensions in mind Big Red just kept on getting larger and larger, in order to develop a balanced quilt with equal numbers of both sort of row.  It has two distinct types of shaped rows pieced together to achieve the deceptively simple look and so balancing it out meant that it got wider and wider.  

 The hexagon row

and the elongated diamond row make up the components of the quilt.  

The finished coverlet actually reaches down to the floor on both sides of the bed and because the hand piecing wasn't relieved by the woolen centre panel of  Large Blue, it took even longer to finish.  

I  particularly liked the bee images on some of the hexagons in Big Red.

I am very pleased with it and it feels as though it was worth all the feverish activity in the last few weekends, because putting the backing on both quilts became rather fraught as they were so large and too big to spread out easily on the floor at Shoestring Cottage.  I am very pleased with both backings though - it's a bit of a bugbear of mine to see a quilt which is beautiful on the front but has an obviously unsuitable back.  Large blue has an old flanelette sheet for the backing, a perfect shade of blue and all the more cosy and comforting for having been washed a lot, and very good colour match for the front of the quilt. 

 Big Red has a combination of a mattress ticking in beige/red combination

 plus a gorgeous strip of special fabric running down the centre, (French General from Moda Fabrics) so I am well pleased with the back as well as the front of the quilts.  

It hasn't all been stitching though.  In between times Mr Shoestring and I had a delightful trip to the South Island and trawled through the op shops on the way.  The Southern Ladies in Invercargill treated us to a night of wonderful hospitality and we dined in royal fashion on the wonderful repast prepared by Sandra.  It was made all the more special for being served on the most pretty china with beautiful table settings and in her home with original art deco features including some wonderful lead glass windows.  Heavenly.  They went with us to a fair in Arrowtown where Mr Shoestring treated me to a  birthday present which will be going to winter deco, a handbag which includes the most adorable little built in purse.  I was a very happy birthday girl that day.  

From the same vendor we bought the beautiful little brooch (bird themed of course) to embellish art deco collars this July.

I also spotted this black fabric handbag which needs a little restoration but will be perfect for winter deco, though these bags are miniscule and it's obvious deco ladies only carried the bare necessities.  My handbags are usually very heavy and it would force a person to be more disciplined if she used these bags on a daily basis. 

 Mr Shoestring found himself a plate to add to his terrier collection
and I added greatly to my collection of gloves for deco also.  

The Dancing Queen remembered my envy at seeing her beautiful green glass deco measuring jug and managed to track down an identical one for me, what a great birthday present and how much it relieves the tedium of cooking at Shoestring Cottage on days when inspiration is lacking

My sister also treated me on my birthday and I love the book she found by P G Wodehouse (yes, he of Jeeves and Wooster fame)

but the best thing about this book is the plate inside which celebrates the rather mediocre achievements of the person who received it as a prize "For Regular Attendance and Good Behaviour".  Somehow I feel that this is the kind of prize I would be likely to receive; nothing much to think of when wracking the brains for positive attributes but at least turned up on time and didn't get into any fist fights.  

Also a lovely cup, saucer and plate to add to my violet china collection, hoorah!

The Lady Canuck gave me a delightful little gift also, which really charmed me.  It is made from matchboxes and old Christmas cards and the matchboxes are all attached together and completed with little beads for opening them.  (You can see a little green bead at the bottom left.)   I think a child would have made it for a Christmas gift, and somebody has kept it for all this time as a memento. 

Now that Large Blue and Big Red are finally completed I'm determined not to rest on my laurels and I am moving onto two other quilts as the next "must do" projects. 

This one is a "quilt as you go" affair so it will be lightly quilted, and the clever thing about it is that I have figured out a way to make the reverse side in a different colour combination, so in effect there will be two quilts for the labour of one, very exciting.  

We have had a dreadfully wet but warm season so far, and it is very strange to have camellias and roses blooming at the same time.  Nice in theory but somehow wrong, just plain wrong!  

I can't help but feel that we will have to pay for it next summer, because the aphids and other pests will be loving this warm winter.  Maybe we will have a couple of good hard frosts before the season is out though, it's only the beginning of winter now after all.  

This must be the most picture heavy blog post I have ever posted, but there was lots to report and now lots to do, keeping up with the quilt finishing off project!  Apart from the one pictured above there is a chicken themed one, which I am very much enjoying.  Happy days to you wherever you may be, hoping that you are having time to do the things which you enjoy and especially wishing you joy in creating.

PS:  I really must give my heartfelt and sincere thanks to Mrs Peaceable and the Lady Canuck for helping me take out all those wretched papers in Big Red and Large Blue, I don't think I ever would have finished them without your help.  After the scissors gave me a swollen and red thumb I was quite despondent and having your company and assistance made me persevere.  Also Madame Aviatrice who contributed and made it into a more enjoyable experience on the evening when three of us were all toiling away together.  XXOO

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Silver Linings and Frenemies

Sometimes things which appear disastrous turn out to have hidden rewards, and those we take to be our friends are actually not so benevolent; this has been my recent experience at least. 

The fire which almost destroyed Shoestring Cottage seemed to be a bad setback, and a large part of the garden was destroyed, but now that there is more light being let in after destruction of most of the cherry tree, things which never would have grown there are thriving.  To begin with I plonked in a lot of colourful and bulky annuals, and how well they have rewarded my faith in them!  

The cleomes, those odd looking, old fashioned spidery flowered plants, have romped away and they are in such pretty purple, pink and white shades that they have added a whole new range of colours to the garden.  (So much for that long ago concocted plan of having a white garden but the more colour the better at present.)  The other annuals which have risen to the challenge are the mallows, also in pinks and with the odd white one thrown in for good measure.

The canna lilies took the fire as an encouragement to prosper and show off all their wild colours, so there is a rather odd contrast between the oranges, reds and yellows of these subtropicals and the pinks, purples and whites of the newcomers, and though it’s not a colour combination anybody would have planned out for the garden, at least it has stopped the weeds from taking over while the earth was bare.  

The bees and butterflies are having a field day and everybody is happy.

I can’t remember planting this moon flower but I have tried them before with not much success, and this time seem to have hit the jackpot, no doubt because of more warmth and light with the boughs of the old cherry tree being removed.  Or maybe this is one I planted before the fire, which has recovered despite its singeing.  

Because I lavished the scorched earth with compost and coffee grounds (my cure for whatever ails the garden), a few unexpected things have popped up, such as this tomato seedling which I have left alone and am surprised to see has survived and now has a little crop of fruit, even though it might be a bit late in the season. 

On the down side though my former friends in the garden, the thrush family, upon whom I lavished so much affection, have rewarded me by raising a clutch of motley and speckled young who are intent upon shredding the coconut fibre liners in all my hanging baskets and whom I also suspect of being the culprits in wrenching all my lavender seedlings out of the earth.  I find it hard to smile upon them in their new incarnation and these frenemies also seem to have stopped eating the snails.  I am wondering if they have turned their attention to my grape vine, which has its first ever crop of fruit, but I could be unjustly blaming the thrushes here, it might be the entire group of avian frenemies, starlings, sparrows, thrushes and mynah birds who are feasting on the grapes as soon as they ripen.

Another wonderful Art Deco Weekend has passed and as per usual it seemed to be the best ever.  The weather for once did not smile on us and we had a weekend with rain and not much sun, but it was fine on the first evening when we went for a walk and saw a beautiful sunset, and also when the Gatsby Picnic was on.  Because it wasn’t as hot as it usually is, we were able to wear our furs comfortably and the balls, dances and dinners were all wonderful.  We met some new friends who come from Australia and have their very own deco names just for when they are attending, and we thought that was a splendid idea, so now just have to settle on our own names for future years.  On the way to Napier Lord and Lady Raglan were very patient as we scoured every op shop along the way, and then of course when we revisited on the way back to pick up things we had been uncertain about at the first visit.  My best buy wasn’t from an op shop, I found it in the antiques and collectibles fair, and I think it will be a standby for winter deco and future years.  To be honest the gauntlet gloves are so much on the snug side that I may have to carry them about with me rather than wear them, but they will look most stylish all the same.  And the handbag has the most clever clasp which is two acorns pressing together. 

Also I picked up two wonderful works of art to add to the walls at Shoestring Cottage. (I hesitated to tell Mr Shoestring that there are 19 of them on the walls of one room alone now, as he struggled to reach high enough to add the latest additions.) 

They march all the way up the wall and there isn’t much space left, so I have begun to try to give some away to obliging family members, with some success.  That’s only the less colourful ones you understand, not my personal favourites which are full of unlikely depictions of the natural world with emerald green grass, azure skies and sparkling sapphire waters.  One of the new additions had a bridge (I didn’t think of this to begin with, but it fits in with the bridges theme of one grouping), and who would have thought in the beginning that there would be so many of them?  These two paintings were actually a bargain because Mr Shoestring charmed the op shop lady into giving him a discount, almost two for the price of one!

Now that art deco weekend is over for the year we have turned our attention to more fun things to cheer ourselves up until winter deco, and have hit upon the idea of A Day At The Races party.  The local racing club will be the venue and we are going to take an old fashioned boot picnic with tasty dishes  such as asparagus rolls, bacon and egg pie and maybe lamingtons as well.  Ladies to wear their prettiest “frocks” and hats, gentlemen their country squire jackets.  Plaid blankets to sit on, wicker baskets to hold our picnics, and a mixture of pretty china to serve the dainties.  Therefore this plate was a must.

Luckily we can hire a gazebo in case of inclement weather and some bunting will be a nice addition.  The personalised invitations have been sent out, so let planning commence.  When I saw Mrs Peaceable and tried to bully her into making her delicious bacon and egg pie, of which Mr Shoestring is inordinately fond, she seemed to take it in good spirits so I have high hopes for a delicious repast.  Maybe sangria or pretty fruity punch.  Mr Shoestring is already on the lookout for a shooting stick to sit on, but I had to forbid Mr Peaceable from wearing jeans.  Standards must be maintained, after all! Happy days, happy days!