I received an amazing present yesterday- a big box filled to the brim with old linens and crocheted lace and ribbons. It arrived from Julie who lives Up North. Thank you so much! I am going to have a lot of fun playing around with them. I wanted to make a thank-you gift for Julie, something lace-related. Not sure what that will be yet, but I did make some postcards, inspired by the lace and crocheted pieces. They're just simple little drawings in white paint on brown cardstock, following the crochet designs. They're actually quite therapeutic to make- I recommend it as a relaxing Friday-afternoon activity.
Even though it's a cold winter, there are so many lovely things growing in the garden, here at our friends' house. After a little bit of weeding in the garden, I came in to make these embroidered wool brooches. Cyclamen and ferns.
I was given a piece of stripy fabric from my friend Amelia a couple of weeks ago, and I knew it would be just right for a little dress with patch pockets. The colours are a bit like cream and caramel- it's lovely. So I made this little 'day-dress' and lined the bodice and pockets with a piece of Liberty lawn I was saving- it's cream with tiny little people drawn on it, standing in rows. I re-opened my online shop today- and included the dress in my first update. As well as some other little things. I'm so happy to be a part of etsy again- I've missed it!
I finished the purple and black quilt. At first, I basted together the quilt layers gingerly, conscious that I should have asked Mum for help, and feeling rather worried that the whole thing was a disaster. But then I realised it was actually quite enjoyable to work on something so big for a change- and I really liked being able to spread it out on the floor and walk around it to work. (Thank you, lovely big house.) The front of the quilt features mostly fabrics from my scrap-suitcase, in creams and purples. The backing is a block-printed panel from East Africa. I loved the print so much, I wanted to use it all in one piece. I used another of these panels to make my sister a dress at the beginning of the year, so there were a few remnants left from that project. I used a couple of pieces in the patchwork, including some hand-applique and quilting on one patch. What I loved about using that printed panel, was that it encouraged me to try using different colours from what I normally might. I need to be more free with my use of colour, I think.
I made Keira this patchwork blanket when I was pregnant with her- and she still takes that to bed with her each night. But on our way back to NZ last month, something sad happened. We stayed overnight at a hotel in Oslo, because our flight to London left early in the morning. We were in quite a hurry to get to the airport the next morning, and didn't look inside the children's beds before we left the hotel. Just as we were about to board the plane on our 45-hour journey, Keira asked for Pinky, her teddy, and her blanket. And that's when we realised we'd left them behind. Luckily, she was brave about it and settled for a polar bear from the Oslo airport gift shop and the promise of a new 'blankie' from me upon our return. But then just as I had finished making this quilt top, we received a parcel from the hotel containing Pinky and the fern quilt. Thank you, Thon Hotel! Now she is a well-quilted child.
Black coffee and cookies today for morning tea- my favourite. I made a big batch of these biscuits 'Blue Heron Chocolate Chip Cookies' from my new cookbook, and I am feeling quite satisfied that there will be plenty for the school lunchboxes this week. The cookies have small pieces of bittersweet chocolate inside, but also oats, wholewheat flour, coconut and lime peel (I coudn't find a lemon). So they're delicious and quite healthy and filling. I'm really enjoying this book- it was sent to me by the author, Nadia Natali, and just might be what I need to get re-inspired to cook for my family again. (I usually find many excuses NOT to cook.) The recipes are healthy and the kind of thing I usually like to make and eat anyway, with a focus on simplicity and no crazy-fancy ingredients. But there's a definite balance here, with lots of lovely treat foods too, like puddings and cakes, so I can see myself turning to this book often. And the recipes are interspersed with both beautiful illustrations (done by Nadia's daughter, Marica) and stories about living in California's Los Padres National Forest and running a Zen retreat center there. Tonight, I'm going to try making enchiladas for the first time.
I made this little cardigan for Keira this week- it's pretty chilly these days and she started kindergarten yesterday! So I think I'll try and make her a few new items of clothing in dark colours that she can freely get paint and glue all over if she likes. My kind friend Amelia gave me the brown coffee-bean print cotton that I used for the bindings, as well as the dark green woman's sweater that I used to make the cardigan itself. It didn't fit either of us, but I noticed it was made from pure Shetland wool, and I couldn't let that go to waste. So I cut into it, using another cardigan of Keira's for a size guide, and added a couple of little pintucks at the neckline to add a bit of shape. In the end I hand-embroidered the buttonholes because I didn't trust myself to machine-sew them nicely. And Keira chose the little wooden buttons for it: 'it's a forest-cardigan, mama.' The forest above is a piece of native bush in the Marlborough Sounds- I love those lush greens.
I wa lucky enough to be given a bunch of wintersweet branches from my Mum's tree the other day, along with the buddleia flowers from yesterday's post. This wintersweet is a bit like the European spring plant 'forsythia' but the flowers are a paler yellow and they smell really beautiful. (I mistakenly wrote once that some forsythia I found in Norway was wintersweet.) These flowers are nearly on their way out, so I thought I should capture them while they were still on the kitchen table, with this little embroidery. It's free-form, on grey Japanese linen. I think wintersweet must be my favourite winter plant.
I'm not usually drawn to purplish/mauve colours, but I love this big bunch of flowers my Mum gave me the other day when I was visiting her. I'm not sure what the plant is called, but it has a strong perfume and leaves that look a little like sage. It's a small tree/large shrub originally planted by my great-grandmother, Violet Octavia.
Over the past couple of weeks or so, I've been making this simple strip quilt for Keira's bed. She, of course, loves purple like only a four year old girl can. I pieced the front of the quilt to match the backing fabric, which is a black and purple hand-printed panel from West Africa. Now I have to sew the batting in and quilt it and add a binding. Bit nervous about that but I might as well give it a go.
I've been thinking about printing onto fabric lately- well actually, ever since acquiring these great books. But there's something about printing that I can't quite get my head around- perhaps it's the space and time required- not to mention having to be organised enough to search out the right inks, screens, etc. So in the meantime I've been stitching my print idea onto fabric instead. This simple pattern was inspired by the idea of plumage, feathers on a wing. I used cream thread on some murky grey/blue cotton I dyed a couple of years ago. The stitching was just free-form, without any pre-drawing, because I wanted to achieve a kind of random and hand drawn look. An embroidered print.
Arlo says thank you for your nice comments on his post last week. He was thrilled with those. Today has been long anticipated: it's his first day at primary school. I know I could easily have bought him a backpack, but for some reason I just wanted to make him one. A bit of homemade to go with him each day. And at his age, I knew it didn't have to be very big or strong- just enough to carry his lunchbox and water bottle. And perhaps a reading book or two. I used some medium-weight denim to make the bag, and lined it in a navy and cream cotton check. I sewed tabs of cream cotton webbing stuff to attach the straps and a loop for hanging the bag. The straps are lined in a cotton flannel and quilted a bit. Last night after dinner he helped me sew the little name tag- I embroidered his name onto a circle of the same denim and appliqued a little elephant- he can pull the tag to open the zipped part of the backpack more easily. I need to buy a little bit of velcro perhaps to stick the top flap down securely. It's funny, the whole starting-school thing: I had lots of flashbacks of my own early-school days. I suddenly remembered what my first backpack and lunchbox looked like, as Arlo hung his on the hook outside the classroom this morning.