Sunday, February 27, 2011

Invasion of "Black Squirrel"!

Last year we had a brazen black squirrel living in our neighbourhood. He would come right up onto the kitchen window sill and mock us. Then he would run around to the patio doors to sneer and taunt the cats who would of course go nuts to chase after him. He was a very large squirrel and I fear that if one of the cats got out they wouldn't have a chance in a battle against this fellow and there would be a battle for sure.

Well Thurs. afternoon I sat down with my lap top to work in the family room but there was a scratching noise coming from the fireplace insert. At first I wasn't sure I was hearing correctly as the noise was intermittent. I called Bob to come and tell me I wasn't hearing things. But he heard it too. 

There was something in there alright but we didn't dare open the door to look. Bob lit a piece of paper and shoved it through a crack in the door to try and smoke it back up the chimney. For a few minutes smoke spewed out all around the doors so that we had to run to open the patio doors to get an updraft going. We were the ones getting smoked out!

All was quiet for hours and I felt so guilty for killing whatever it was. I just had to hope the bird or animal had found its way out. Not so. Later that night I started to hear tiny noises again and I knew whatever was in there was not dead - yet. But I was alone at this point and didn't dare open the doors.

Next morning all was quiet at first but then noises started again - this time it sounded like the animal mewing! Oh no, what if it was a cat! Bob donned heavy leather gloves and I manned the flashlight. Ever so slowly he cracked open the first door to see a long black tail. My heart sank. Whatever it was started to move - it must have been terrified. Bob reached in and  oh how the ashes flew!! When he managed to get a firm hold on this squirming piece of fur I ran to open the patio doors with Bob and the mystery animal close behind. He gently laid it on the deck and to our shock it was that black squirrel, now all grey from the ashes. The squirrel lost no time and didn't seem the least bit injured as he dashed over the deck, across the lawn and up the neighbour's pine tree! 

It was when Bob took off his gloves he found he had been bitten and was bleeding quite badly. So we cleaned up and bandaged his hand. He drove to the doctor's to get a tetanus shot and was put on antibiotics! Mind you they had such a good laugh at the clinic over Bob's story. One if the receptionists told him about her grandfather having a similar experience but he got up on the roof with his shotgun and tried to kill the invader. She said "When the police arrived and heard the story they shook their heads - what else would you expect of an old Italian?"

We haven't seen our furry invader since, thank goodness, but the mystery remains - how did he get in as the chimney screen seem to be in tact. Further investigation will ensue when the weather permits. Hopefully squirrels have good memories and this one won't be back - no matter how he got in!

On a cheerier note it is only two more weeks until daylight savings and thee weeks till the official arrival of spring. This long hard winter is going to come to an end soon. Rejoice!! It is time to start some smocked sugar-free Easter eggs just like these!

So until next time, keep stitching!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What a week for weather!

This week saw temperatures soar to +11degrees Celsius on Fri. By noon my front flowerbeds were bare of snow and water was running freely in the streets. The snowbanks were nearly shrinking before your eyes. One would think it was April. 
But then everything changed as the temperatures dropped like a stone! Fri. night it sounded like a huge freight engine was about to plow through the house as the wind got up to between 80 and 100 kph. There was obviously a cold front moving in on that warm air! We haven't had anything that sounded like that for ages and it was a bit scary.
Very early Sat. morning I woke to a blizzard going on outside my bedroom window. I had planned to drive to see our son in the afternoon and had every hope things would subside and it would be safe to travel. As I listened to the radio and the road reports everything was being closed to the immediate north of us and to the east as far as Peterborough. Well, I was going to head south and west. But by 11 a.m. Paul called to say don't even try driving - we are getting a bad storm and it wouldn't be wise to try coming. It continued to snow most of the day and the wind just kept blowing. To say the least I was relieved to get his call and went back to inking in pattern pieces for the Infant Wardrobe, the next pattern.
This morning the sun is shining so brilliantly and there appears to be no wind to speak of. When I checked the front steps, the wind has blown all the snow from the driveway so I won't have to shovel there, just the steps.
I am wondering how my hubby and his friends are fairing in the far north, a couple of hours the other side of Sudbury. They travelled to their cabin on Fri. morning and hopefully will be back on Mon. - just in time for the next snowstorm. Hope they don't run into trouble on the roads!

With all our snowy weather I heard from my friend in England that the snowdrops, which grow wild, are in full bloom all along the roadsides. These snowdrops are growing along the wall in her garden.  And soon to follow will be the fields of daffodils which also grow wild and free throughout the countryside. I just can't imagine how beautiful that would be. We won't see trilliums in the woods here most likely until April. My friend also said the Christmas roses (Helleborus niger) were late blooming this year. Just look at the gentle colouring of these plants that she photographed in her garden. I hope they show well on your computer screens.
Smocking seems to be showing up everywhere in fashion this spring. I found a wedding gown in a brides' magazine that was classic in its simplicity and would have been so easy to recreate. It appeared to have been made from a bishop pattern in a chiffon-like fabric but was sleeveless. The bodice had been smocked with a honeycomb stitch and beaded with tiny pearls. The neckline was a simple binding that turned into self-filled rouleau over the shoulders and fastened with a tiny jewelled clasp like a necklace. The skirt had been professionally pleated with sunburst pleating - the only thing that you couldn't do at home. The model wore nothing more than magnificent drop earrings - so elegant! How simple would it be to recreate a gown like this? The magazine was borrowed and I returned it without taking a scan - how foolish of me!
I've seen smocking featured in designer collections lately on the fashion network and pictures of garments with touches of smocking in many of the fashion magazines. I haven't had a camera handy to capture any of these. Just keep your eyes peeled and you will find ideas as well.
Well it will be interesting to see what this week brings. 
Be sure to keep stitching!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Doll aren't just for kids...

When I was a little girl I played with dolls like everyone I knew. I draped fabric from my mom's fabric stash and 'designed' ball gowns and wonderful clothes. Then I moved on to using the sewing machine and creating 'real' clothes for my Tony doll - a Barbie look-a-like. I made hats and handbags jewellery and shoes all by hand to coordinate with every outfit. When they created a category "Best Dressed Doll" at the local fair, guess who entered her doll and wardrobe? After winning for a couple of years, they dropped the category and I moved on to sewing for me.

So as an adult, when doll making became so popular I was not at all surprised. After all, dolls don't squirm around during a fitting nor do they bleed if you prick them in error. They don't grow so what you make fits forever! And they can't tell you they hate that colour or go jump in a mud puddle and ruin your creation!!

At the height of the doll craze I created "The Grace Knott Dolls Clothes Collection" which included miniatures of the classic Grace Knott patterns and a doll's dress form all to fit the very popular American Girl Doll. My own daughter was away at school and far beyond playing with dolls so I got to create and play to my heart's desire.

Then with the help of my husband I designed a wooden bed with all the accessories sized for this popular doll. Bob created the frame and headboard, sanding and finishing the wood. I made the mattress from a foam slab covering it with fine cotton and then a custom mattress cover. I was on a mission! Everything had to be to scale. Next came the sheets, fitted bottom and a European style top sheet trimmed with Swiss insertion, French val lace and silk ribbon roses. Next a blanket of softest fleece hand bound with silk ribbon. Then came a pillow with a coordinated pillowcase trimmed in Swiss triple entredeux and a silk ribbon rose.                                                      
What beautiful bed would be complete without a duvet and piles of pillows? This was turning into a major work of art packed with teaching techniques. The duvet has a centre panel of diamond tucks, mini piping and a button closing. There is a pillow sham with flange finished; a demi-moon shaped pillow with the same diamond tucking, lace edged ruffle and faggoting; a bolster with monogram and a teddy dressed in white Swiss edging and a ruff of French Val lace. Most of this could be done with the odds and ends from other projects. But the beauty of all this is it is to scale so if you learned how to do it for the doll you could do it full sized!

Oh, what is Samantha wearing? She will be snug in her smocked flannel nightie from the pattern, "Dolly Snowdrift".

I had a ball doing all this and Bob had fun with his part - so much so that he said he would make more if people wanted to buy them. Well like all phases, dolls have passed but I still have this wonderful collection of bed linens for the Samantha doll. Perhaps one day I will have a grand daughter who will have hours of fun playing with all these things.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day. Best wishes to you all and don't forget to make something chocolate for your special love!!

Till next time, keep stitching......

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mistakes happen!

I didn't feel much like writing on Sunday, my designated day to write. 

I was putting the finishing touches on the robe for the Westport Retreat in June when 'tragedy' struck. 
Let me go back a bit. I had chosen to pipe the vertical princess seams of the pattern, "Autumn Leaves". Now this is always a tricky business as it is so easy to end up with badly puckered seams. But everything turned out perfectly. The pockets went in like a dream - I couldn't have wished for things to look any better. So when it came to the seam finish for these seams I didn't want to disturb anything. They were too bulky to do mock 
French seams so I opted to serge them. 
Jo-Anne is choosing the buttons and making the buttonholes.

Sergers are wonderful tools but oh so dangerous! I was so careful to stitch these long seams and end perfectly where the seams had to split for the pocket openings.
When I checked the last seam sewn, to my absolute horror a tiny pucker had formed on the under side of the seam allowance in the last inch of stitching and was caught in the stitching. 

Oh, easy, I thought. Just clip the stitches, lift out the fold and re-stitch. I did just that but found there was a nice neat oval slice out of the side panel just below the right pocket, 1/8" wide x 3/8" long! 

What will I do? Memories of Trudi Clarkson's old standard saying came 'serging' back from the past: You can fix anything if you just add more lace and entredeux. Well I hadn't used any entredeux or lace in this robe so putting a blob of lace down there would be like hanging a red flag on the spot. 
If it were my garment I would have mended it and treated it with a seam sealant to protect it during future laundering, then added a monogram over top of it all - an embroidered 'JC' would just about do it. But this robe isn't going to be mine!
I fussed most of the day, not sure how to save this. There was no more fabric even if I could cut a whole new panel. I thought about doing a patch so it looked like a Madeira applique with embroidery but that would create bulk and make it look more noticeable. 

In the end I placed a piece of the fabric behind the hole and 
used the fine sewing thread to stitch a multiple zigzag to mesh the fabrics. (Knowledge of invisible mending would have been an asset here!) I took all the threads to the back, tied them off and buried the ends in the seam allowance so that the process could be deconstructed if necessary. A good steam pressing left the spot much less noticeable - unless you know to go looking for it. My friend Jo-Anne will have the final say about the seam sealant and the monogram when I see her in June.
On a much happier note my dear husband brought home a big bouquet of carnations the other day just because it has been so snowy here. Most of the flowers were still buds so as they have opened it has been wonderful to see all the colours emerging. There are pinks and reds,pure whites, peaches and these rich red/purples. Just look at the variations in these in the foreground. The thing I like best about carnations - besides the range of colours available - is that they last so long if you take care of them.  I look at these and think, I should get out my watercolours..... 
And my African violets have been blooming constantly since Christmas. Would you believe this plant was started from a single leaf from the 'mother' plant just three years ago. It is just as large as the original. My mother would be so proud if she could see these as I was known as the original brown thumb who was able to kill any plant that came into the house. Even my Christmas cactus bloomed twice this winter. That has never happened before - once last year, twice? unheard of! Feeding the little things and regular watering    seem to be the key to success.

Well haven't I just rambled on! Hoping to get back on track for next week
Till then. keep stitching!