Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Spring is coming!

As we have no garden and my window boxes are still empty from the winter clear-out, this little pot of tulips is very important to me. I have always loved tulips but when we lived in Holland for four years this love became an obsession. All tulips are lovely but for me 'gele tulpen' (I still use the Dutch words sometimes when asking for them in Germany because they are stuck in my head) are the ones that make me happiest. Through the recent snow and ice I have been watching these pushing their way into the world slowly, greenly and determinedly. They have now got to the stage of beautiful looseness and as you can see, it is also very sunny today with blue skies and about 10C, which feels very warm. I'm not a person who is ever bothered about the weather - all seasons have their delights for me. But this has been a difficult winter and these tulips have been a cheerful marker of the transition into sunnier times.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Visit to Monreal

\We visited the village of Monreal today - it's only about an hour from where we live. Monreal existed as a village in 1008; it has already had its own millennium as a community. That sends shivers up my back. Although our snow has melted, it was still quite icy there and we couldn't walk up to the ruined castle and go up the tower - that will be for another visit when it is warmer.

The villagers called this the Schiffhaus (Shiphouse) because of its triangular shape and its place on the water. Very pretty but diffficult to furnish and use those sharply triangular corners.

This is the side of the Schiffhaus and the little door is the Ziegentür (goat door) where the goats went into their own quarters at the bottom of the house. We saw lots of these doors in Monreal but, sadly, no goats.

The painting on the house is interesting. It is St. George, the patron saint of England who killed a dragon. I don't know why he is here in a German village. I'm wondering if once you kill a dragon you get emergency requests from all over (the way a good plumber gets recommended). Need to do some research on this, I think.

This is such a doll's house.

Charming cafe/cake shop, one of many - how to choose?

This is the village fire station; the prettiest we've ever seen.

This was a lovely little trip to round off my half-term holiday. I've had such a restful week doing all the things I love (sewing, sewing, reading, sewing, sewing) and all the Valentine stuff, and I've slept much better than usual. It's true that sometimes staying home is more of a holiday than going away. Though not always!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Addicted? No, not really...

We had real fun playing with the Wii yesterday and I admit to doing a bit of practising this morning (frisbee and basketball). Had a go at the golf yesterday and the bowling. It is easy not get addicted, though, because the call of my quilting is still strong enough for me to miss it and also I could see yesterday that my neck was complaining a bit, so I think those two alone would stop me playing for very long. Great gift - and of course, I've just fallen in love with that little dog that catches my frisbee; not only does he do cute little somersaults when he catches a high one but he actually brings the frisbee back to you. This is something that Logan has never done, well, not willingly and only when he's offered something more enticing in its place, e.g. a food treat or a more exciting toy. I think we could have trained him to do this had we persisted but he was so easily trained in everything else (except jumping at whoever comes through the door in welcome), that we let him away with it. He is, after all, a terrier, and they don't like giving in or letting go. If I'd wanted a truly obedient dog, I'd have got a labrador like most people seem to but I like a bit of disobedience - it stops me feeling guilty about keeping an animal as a housepet. Anyway, now I've got both, the border terrier that we all adore and an obedient, somersaulting little chap on the Wii...

No quilting today - most of the group have other commitments and Stuart and I were meant to be going out for the day but he had to do a conference call, so we'll go tomorrow and as soon as I finish typing here, more swags to be sewn and a play on Radio 4 to listen to. A cosy, calm day ahead.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Wii Arrival

My Valentine's gift came today, although I'm insisting it is ours. Stuart set it up very quickly (I have a complete blank space in my head when it comes to wiring and cables and connections) and, of course, my arm now aches from bowling and tennis. I think I'm doing it too physically as though I were really playing and it doesn't need that kind of wild swinging about. It'll be more fun when the extra controller arrives (separate package) so we can play at the same time but in the meantime there is a lot there for the two of us to compete with. When my daughters and boyfriends come over in March they are bringing their controllers too so I think I'd better clear the furniture if there are going to be four of us playing at the same time. It felt like Christmas today; it's ages since I had a gift that was a toy, a real plaything, such fun.

Of course, no quilting done at all and a very quick dinner planned. I shall do some quiet applique later this evening when we catch up with the Sopranos. I'm having such a lovely week, probably more fun than if we had gone away!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Need six hands

This is Nr. 15 of the Nearly Insane quilt - quite an easy one this compared to some!

And this is the first part of the border swag on Olivia's quilt (looking a bit wrinkled because I haven't pressed it yet). The quilt top was pieced and then these border crescents and buttons are applique. The most difficult bit is placing them accurately because they are all curves and so are hard to measure.

So here I am on half-term holiday, Stuart is working in Frankfurt today - I have a whole day's quilting ahead of me (apart from dogwalks in the snow) and I don't know what to work on. I'm really enjoying quilting the split nine-patch, really enjoying these applique crescents (and have a load of them to do) and yet the Nearly Insane is pulling me because I haven't done any of those since last autumn. When I first started quilting, I never understood how people could have so many projects that they were working on at the same time (and so many unfinished things). I began and finished my first two quilts without any other distractions. And then came an unfinished quilt, just needing binding and a little bit more quilting - it lies in a box. And now I have no idea now how I come to have three quilts on the go at the same time.

Had a lovely Valentine's Day on Sunday. We don''t usually do much beyond exchanging cards and going out somewhere nice for dinner. Because of the snow I didn't even buy Stuart a card this year but he got me one. And two huge bunches of pale yellow tulips (my favourite flowers). And took me for a delicious dinner. And ordered a Wii for me (online - it should arrive this week) because I had had such fun playing with it at my daughter's house. So, a very special day. I think a little bit of Stuart-spoiling is now required.

Enjoyed the opening of the Winter Olympics, especially after my friend in Canada had told me they had no snow and it was too warm for the snow-making machines to make any. I particularly enjoyed the huge sparkly bear and wondered how they did that - I was quite sad when it disappeared. Looking forward to watching the skating.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The wrong border

I am finished with the middle of the Crescent and Star quilt for my youngest daughter, Olivia, and am ready to organise the border. But the wrong border appeared and got in the way. I think this is Logan's first appearance in the blog and he obviously wanted to do it in style and fit in with the general theme. This border terrier just loves 'quilting' but his interpretation of the word is different from mine. What is it with animals that they just love to sit on, curl up in, go to sleep on, quilts - whatever stage of making they are at? Anyway, here is the quilt top without Logan:

And here are some of the crescents just freezer papered and ready to applique when the dog allows me to sew the white borders on:

And as I am on half-term holiday from school starting now, I've been really busy and done a whole load more quilting on my split nine-patch. Here is the back so far:

The batting for this is the cheap single duvet from Ikea (cost only 4 Euros) that I mentioned before. Batting is quite expensive here in Germany so this seemed a real bargain IF IT QUILTED OKAY, so it was an experiment. As the rest of the quilt cost very little, I was prepared to take the risk. As you can see, it makes a lovely puffy, almost trapunto quilt effect but I would not use it for complex quilting; it's a little bit too thick. If I were making another quilt this size with simple quilting (something quick and maybe machine-quilted) then this would be well worth buying again. It has, of course, a machined edge and I've left this until the end. When I've done the border quilting I'll machine along inside the manufactured edge and then cut it off so I can do my own binding. It has been a successful experiment and is making a really squishy quilt but I wouldn't use it on a quilt that really mattered, like the one above for Olivia. Right, off to eat something and rest my sore fingers - I'm trying to get so much done during this week off that I think I might have overdone it today.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

This and that

Nose-numbingly cold here today, the kind of cold that makes it hurt to breathe. Got straight up and put clothes on top of my pyjamas and out with the dog. I was layered up plus hat, scarf and gloves but I forgot to put Logan's jacket on. By the time we were on our way home, he was walking quicker and quicker over the frozen ground and I felt guilty - he has a nice waterproof 'sheepskin' coat and I'd forgotten. Meanie.

Tickets for the fundraising quilt are selling well through the church people but that is Gay's area. I've put posters up at school but no takers yet, sadly. As I'm only part-time, I don't actually have time or opportunity to go round asking people. Never mind, I think it will raise enough.

Saw 'Avatar' on Sunday night. Very simple story but well acted. Very impressive and subtle 3D effects but I have to admit that the last 30 minutes of big battle wore me out - I felt brain-blasted afterwards. Don't think this was the 3D effects but just the bright colours and the speed of movement seemed to confuse my eyes. Too old for this stuff maybe! Looking forward to the Tim Burton 'Alice in Wonderland'; when the trailer showed the Cheshire cat's smile in the air, it really made me laugh. Meanwhile, we've just finished the third series of 'The Wire' (wonderful) and now catching up with the last series of 'Sopranos'. This is the problem of not having English tv, although I am ahead of the Brits with 'Mad Men' as I watched it all online. Loved it.

Right, quick shower, eat, and quilt until time to go to work.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Vanille Krapfen - my downfall

It's Karneval time here in Germany and these are made just for a few weeks around this time. They vary from baker to baker but are always delicious - deep-fried doughnut puffs filled with creamy vanilla custard. They are so light and yet so fattening, so evil and yet so moreish. I bought 10 (bad decision), only 9 made the journey from bag to plate and I dread to think how many there will be when Stuart gets home this evening. It's like one of those old-fashioned murder mysteries where people are getting killed off all the time. And then there were two...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Who's here? Who's there?

Just added Shelfari - not sure why but at least the page doesn't look quite so bare and new... Started thinking about the blogs that I read regularly and those that I just wander haphazardly into, like going down a corridor and opening doors - all human life is there. Sampling these can make you feel intrusive, bored, inspired, entertained, shocked, engaged - any of these. And there are people out there wandering haphazardly into my door. I don't think they will feel intrusive here or shocked, that's for sure. I started wondering about the blog persona and how that might develop. I realise that my blog persona is not me so much as a nicer, wiser, more easy-going, improved version of me. This could stay, could become a more perfect image or will settle down and my faults will start to show more. I also can't use the DH, DD etc, abbreviations which seem to be the norm. I'm a very fast typist and names will be in full. Well, musing over, foggy outside today, off to do the ironing and then some quilting.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Sun is Done!

There are many reasons people write blogs - well, today, I'm using it to get rid of my frustration.

The sun is on the back of our quilt group's fundraising quilt, the African fabric one. The quilt is so bright and busy that we backed it in black but Gay, who planned the quilt and did most of the work on it, wanted to connect the back with the front. She had a great idea - to make a quilted sun to applique on the back. This seemed simple but, I think, caused her more frustration than the quilt itself. She pieced the sun with scraps from the quilt but then had problems attaching it because she cut too much fabric off the edges to turn them under (there were other problems too). It is often the way that a quilting task that you think will take a lot of time and you postpone, often turns out to be straightforward and quick to do. The opposite is more often true, of course, that you think you can get a certain stage done 'in a morning' and you find there's no way and it drags on.

Anyway, Gay had understandably had ENOUGH (you know how that feels...) We decided that the best thing to do would be for me to applique the sun with embroidery floss and a buttonhole stitch (not blanket stitch which a lot of people think is buttonhole stitch). Blanket stitch leaves a little thread loop to neaten a raw edge and looks very pretty but in this case we had two fabric raw edges and places where the machine stitching was gone and the sun sandwich not joined. The buttonhole stitch is a tailor's stitch and is very strong. It needed to be when people were making buttonholes by hand, often on woollen coats where the buttonholes got a lot of use. There is a difference in the loops of thread around the needle that makes a little knot at the edge of the fabric to be protected and is really effective. My solution. Yes, I said, I can have that done in no time...

Well, yesterday I spent most of my day on that ******** sun and was humbled. I didn't have enough of any one orange floss so I made each length of floss from a mixture of four different coloured threads. This wouldn't have been so bad except that buttonhole stitch takes a lot of thread and I had lots of points and deep Vee-shapes to go round, so I was having to make floss lengths every ten minutes. I couldn't get a regular stitch depth because some of the sun had edge stitching and some didn't. The quilt was very heavy and I needed to turn every few stitches - couldn't put it in the frame because I was afraid I would sew right through the quilt instead of just the backing.

Now it's done and I can't imagine why I made such a fuss or why it took so long and wore me down. Weird, that. I will say, though, that I never want to see the colour orange again in any shape or form. Ever. Or at least a few weeks.

Going to see Avatar tomorrow (in English!) - not my sort of film normally but I want to see what the fuss is about. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Houses Quilt

This is a quilt to record all the places that I have lived - there are 30 houses and I can embroider addresses under 18 of them. I need some more embroidery floss of the right colour to finish; only half of the addresses are there at the moment. I got the pattern for the houses from Bonnie Hunter at Quiltville. Bonnie always has such good ideas and I loved her quilt 'Happy Houses' but I didn't want to do the tilted jolly houses, partly because I didn''t want to do a load of long triangles and also because I knew I wanted the addresses and a calm, restrained look.

The great thing is that I did not choose the fabric. I would never have chosen these colours or patterns. At the time I made this we were in extreme financial difficulties (ironically, caused by a house!) because we were paying rent here in Germany, a mortgage for a house in Holland which we were trying to sell and international school fees. I was making mini-quilts to be economical. But a friend of mine moved back to England and began volunteering in a charity shop there. Someone donated a pile of fabric. Although my friend, Anne, is not a quilter, she immediately realised these were fat quarters and offcuts from other projects. She put some money in for them and brought them to Germany. I was able to use some of them towards the last quilt group fundraising quilt and the rest gave me my happy houses. Really, the only reason I can think of that quilting fabric would be donated to a charity shop is if the quilter died or was for some reason unable to continue with her project - quilters never just decide they don't like quilting any more, do they? Anyway, I am so happy that her fabrics were not just dumped but found their way to me.

This is a special quilt for several reasons: it enabled me to connect with an ex-quilter and give life to her fabrics; it reminds me of the good friend who kindly gave them to me; it is entirely hand-sewn - yes, every single stitch, even the binding, because I wanted a project I could carry around with me and so I have many happy memories of where I was when I sewed different bits; it made me happy when we had a lot to worry about, and lastly, it is a real heirloom quilt because it is a record of my life which I can keep adding to if we move again.

Oh, I feel quite emotional, time for coffee!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Had enough snow?

I've had enough snow now. It looks so lovely but is causing so many problems. There have been over 400 accidents in NordRheinWestfalia, our area of Germany, in the last few days. The school where I work is high on a hill and reached by a long road that is mostly a continuous bend and I seriously thought that school might be closed today because of access problems. It was clear enough, though, but more is expected.

Burns Night was fun and I had no hangover the next day, partly because I didn't drink much and partly because the haggis made me very thirsty and I drank lots of mineral water. As part of his speech, Stuart gave each woman a gift of chocolate-covered almonds that he bought in Madrid. They were called 'Toro' and were amazingly good. I'm afraid mine disappeared before I was aware of it; the chocolate on them was so silky and the almonds had a toasted taste. More, please! Our taxis both ways were sliding and floating a bit on the icy roads but we made it.Lack of hangover meant that I was up early enough to watch Federer and Murray in the Australian Open final. Pure pleasure, so happy that Federer won and that he did it so elegantly.

So now comes the diet (one of the reasons I ate all the chocolates yesterday). First temptation was tiramisu in the staff room bought by someone with a birthday; ooh, life is cruel sometimes...

Two more Nearly Insane blocks shown above - getting there slowly.