Friday, September 29, 2017

Yay, autumn!

It's the best time of year! Summer is lovely and all, but my favorite season is autumn. I can finally break out the hoodies and the slow cooker. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday! I even have a stash of Halloween fabric that I've collected over the years... the plan was to make an awesome quilt for myself, but I love it all so much I can't bear to cut into it yet ;)

The summer months are a break for the Montreal Modern Quilt Guild, so I had plans to catch up on a lot of sewing, but I ended up taking a break myself and enjoying the time off. We finally got a community garden plot (after years of wait list limbo), so I spent a lot of time weeding and got a few cucumbers, tomatoes and a heap of lettuce for my efforts. Next year I think we'll tweak our plant and layout choices a bit, but I've been enjoying being a gardener!

I'm participating in my first online quilting bee, the Canadian Modern Quilt Bee. We started in September (with the Raspberry Kiss block) and it goes for 6 months... I was so excited to get started, I made my blocks the first weekend and had to wait ages for the next (we get a new block each month). We just got the block for October (the Checker block), so that will be my project this weekend ;) I'm in charge of November's block, so I'd better figure out which one I want to do... it's currently a toss-up between two. Maybe I'll just flip a coin.

I did manage to get a few small crafty projects done, including my first time making the 1-hour Basket:

Finished a quilt top (sorry for the less-than-exciting photo, I'll post a better one when it's done):

And even knit myself a new scarf! 

So I am prepared for the cool autumn weather... bring it on!

Friday, June 23, 2017

#QuiltsforQC - update

Things have been quiet here lately, but that doesn't mean I've been sitting around twiddling my thumbs! The Montreal Modern Quilt Guild has been working furiously on the #QuiltsforQC project and we finally have everything done. We received contributions from every Canadian province, as well as many US states and even as far afield as Germany, Italy and Australia. All in all, we received enough to have 50 completed quilts to deliver to the mosque in Ste-Foy next month. :) 

45 of the finished quilts - boyfriend added for scale.

I still need to photograph all of the finished quilts and we will have a summary blog post over on the MMQG blog, if you want to see the quilts close-up. It has been a learning experience, but also a heart-warming one and I sincerely hope that these quilts will convey our love and support to the recipients. 

In other non-house block related news, I've gotten sucked into the Freshly Pieced 2017 Summer Sampler. I have a soft spot for HST star blocks so this pattern is right up my alley :D I don't know that I will make every single star pattern they include (there are a number of fiddly paper-pieced ones), but I've got scrap bins that are bursting at the seams so I've been making some scrappy Alchemy Stars to start with: 

This is putting me in the mood to work on an upcoming project for the MMQG (we are on summer break until September). We're trying a skillbuilder challenge that will take place throughout the year with a new block by a different guild member each month. I am doing HST star blocks in the winter, so it's a great excuse to bookmark a million and one different patterns and sew up some examples! Now that the summer break is here, and the QC project is wrapped up, I hope to finally dig into some of my own projects for a change... it has been ages since I've worked on anything for myself! Time for some selfish sewing :) 

Friday, April 7, 2017

100 years

I have posted this quilt and its story before, but I wanted to mention it again today as it is the 100th anniversary of the events that inspired it.

One hundred years ago on April 7th, 1917, Joseph, Stephen, and Walter Jacobs, and their friend, Francis Pomeroy went out onto the ice to hunt, but they would not return. Months later, a fishing gaff belonging to one of the brothers (below) washed ashore with a message carved in the handle, the only clue as to what became of them.

The gaff, currently housed in the museum on Fogo Island

While on their hunt, the weather had closed in and the ice drifted away from shore, they had apparently wandered for a few days until realizing there was no hope of getting back to land. They carved "lay down perish April 11" on the wooden handle of the gaff and sit it adrift, hoping the tides would take it to shore.

The gaff is currently housed in a museum on Fogo Island, a seemingly innocent everyday artifact until you learn the story behind it. Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea happened upon it on a visit to the island and was inspired to write the song 'Laying Down to Perish'. Seeing Mr. Doyle in concert, he shared the story that inspired the song which in turn inspired my quilt.

While I have never been to the island and I know nothing of the men's families, one hundred years later I am thinking about them.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

DIY: quilt frame

Last summer, one of my fellow Mtl MQG members brought her PVC quilt frame to an event and I immediately wanted one. You could use it for hand quilting, you could use it for basting, it was light-weight and broke down to be stored flat! Very handy indeed for the apartment-dwelling quilter! I looked online and while you can find them state-side for relatively cheap, they're quite a bit more expensive here in Canada... but perhaps I could make a DIY version?

Spoiler alert: I made a DIY version :P 

So one weekend, I gave my boyfriend an excuse to go to Home Depot and while he browsed, I made a bee-line for the plumbing department. There I grabbed:
You could also get some end caps for the feet and even PVC adhesive if you wanted to glue the frame together, but I wanted mine to be collapsible so I just got the basics; all told, the bill came out to about $40. Pro tip: Make sure the PVC pipes fit in your chosen mode of transport before buying them, or else find yourself a very tolerant boyfriend who is willing to spend the drive home desperately clutching the pipes that are partly hanging out of the passenger side window. ;) 

On the way home, I swung by the fabric store and grabbed two sets of Q-Snap replacement clamps (which fit nicely on 3/4" PVC pipe). Then at home I simply used the boyfriend's mitre box and hand saw to cut down the PVC pipe into the following measurements:

Friday, February 10, 2017


A few weeks back, B and I went by train to Quebec City for our anniversary. We stayed at the Chateau Frontenac, we ate some delicious food, we walked around the old part of the city, we had drinks at the hotel's swanky cocktail bar, it was a lovely weekend.

Chateau Frontenac looks like Hogwarts!

Then the following weekend, a young man with a gun walked into a Quebec City area mosque during evening prayers and opened fire, killing 6 people and injuring many more. I was already sick of hearing about hate and bigotry in the news following the US election and inauguration, so the news of this shooting was the last straw. I went to bed that night feeling horrible, and woke up feeling... well, still horrible, but determined to do something about it.

I reached out to my fellow MMQG exec members and we all agreed... we needed to do something. So, taking inspiration from the Ottawa MQG's Fort McMurray project and the Orlando MQG's Pulse nightclub project, both of which we had contributed to, we started the #QuiltsforQC project. Because what do quilters do when things get bad? We quilt ;)

We put out a call on our blog for quilters to make up 12.5" square house blocks that we would then collect and make into quilts. Our goal was to have enough quilts to gift one to each of the families that lost a loved one in the shooting, and one to each of the people who were injured. We chose the 'house' theme so as to remind the recipients that this is their home and they have a right to feel safe here, because we as their neighbors and their community love and support them.

It has been heartbreaking to hear about the victims, and the grieving families they leave behind... but it has also been heartwarming to read all of the messages of love and support we have received for the victims from people wanting to help. It has not yet been two weeks since we posted the call to action and we have received offers and support from every Canadian province, at least a dozen different US States and even as far away as Italy! The Italian ladies will be mailing their blocks, although I was sorely tempted to offer to go collect them personally ;) We have received offers from people and guilds wanting to contribute everything from a few blocks, to full quilt tops and even completed quilts! There are even those who do not sew who have contributed funds to help us buy the supplies we will need to finish the quilts.

Last weekend B insisted that I show him how to use the sewing machine so that he could contribute a block, too. It took a while, but he picked out his fabrics, cut all of the pieces and sewed them together. He even did one of the seams on his grandmother's old treadle machine so that she could symbolically participate as well. I don't think he'll be taking up quilting any time soon, but he was pleased with the finished product. Here is his finished block:

If you'd like to see what others are doing, check out the hashtag #QuiltsforQC on Instagram. So far there are over 200 blocks posted publicly!

So as the blocks start to arrive in the mail from all over, our task begins in earnest as we need to start constructing the quilts. We will be holding a sew-in at Atelier Fiber Arts in Verdun on Sunday February 26th to kick things off... if you are local and would like to help out, come on by! If you're not local but still want to help, I encourage you to check out the MMQG's blog for more information.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

MQG Mini Quilt Swap

So back in the fall of 2016 I signed up for the MQG's first international swap. The theme was to be mini quilts, no larger than 24" x 24" and we would be paired up anonymously with a fellow MQG member to swap with. We shared our likes and dislikes when we signed up, so when you were paired up you got a little list of things your partner liked so you could make something that would suit their tastes.

On the *very* slim chance that my recipient might see this, I won't say who I'm swapping with, but I did want to share the finished product:

I have been looking for an excuse to make Libs Elliott's Rebel Quilt and this seemed like a good opportunity. My partner liked turquoise and orange, plus I threw in a bit of Kona Natural and some Michael Miller Luxe. This quilt is made up of 145 HST blocks, and the finished size of this is 18" square... I'll let you do the math on how many fiddly little pieces went into this. Oh god, so many burned finger tips from ironing all of those teeny, tiny HSTs...

But! The end result looks great, if I do say so myself, and the burns have mostly healed ;) There is a lot going on in this quilt pattern (and in the fabrics), so I went with simple straight-line quilting:

It will be off in the mail to its new owner in a few days... I hope she likes it! I'm quite curious to see what I get from my mystery partner, now!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The story of the Christmas Feet Stew (and a recipe)

Ragoût de pattes, or as it's known in our house, Feet Stew, has become one of my favorite holiday dishes. It is a very traditional Quebec dish for this time of year and the first time I had it was one of the first Christmases I spent at my boyfriend's parents' house. My family not being from Quebec, I hadn't really experienced any of the Quebec Christmas traditions yet, so when his mother handed me a plate of 'ragoût de pattes', I smiled and took it and then leaned over to my boyfriend and whispered "Did she just say this was feet stew?!?" In French, 'pattes' generally refers to an animal's feet or paws... so I translated the name of the dish literally. In culinary terms, however, 'pattes' would more accurately translate to hocks or shanks, so 'ragoût de pattes' is actually a pork hock stew with meatballs. 

I tried it and found it was delicious, but of course all I could think was: 

And so the tradition of Feet Stew was born ;) I have since learned the recipe and make a batch of it every year in the winter and it is absolutely delicious. Below is the recipe I have cobbled together... I had to take some liberties as the first source was the boyfriend's grandmother's recipe which was rather vague, being one of those "pinch of this" and "handful of that" kind of recipes. Combined with a few other versions of the recipe and my own trial and error, I have arrived at my version of: 

Christmas Feet Stew
(or Ragoût de pattes de cochon)

4 large pork hocks, fresh or frozen and thawed
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped with the skin left on
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried savory and dried thyme
1 tsp each ground cloves and ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 slices dry/stale bread, crust removed
Enough milk to moisten the bread, approximately 1/4 cup
2 lb ground pork
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp each ground cloves and cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste (approx 1 to 2 tsp of each)
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten 
Boiled potatoes to serve

In a large pot put the hocks, onion and spices and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and let cook until meat falls off the bones, usually about 60-90 minutes. Remove the hocks to a cutting board or platter and using a fork, remove the meat and set aside. Strain the liquid, throwing out the solids and reserve the broth. This step can be done in advance and the meat and broth kept in the fridge. 

Pour the milk over the dry bread and allow it to soak up all of the liquid; use a fork to mash up the bread to a loose paste. Add it to a bowl along with the ground pork, onion, garlic, spices, salt and pepper, flour and the beaten egg. Mix thoroughly and form into bite-size meatballs. Using the same pot that you cooked the hocks in, brown the meatballs (in batches if needed) and set aside.

In the same pot, add in the 2 tbsp butter and melt over medium heat, add the 2 tbsp flour and stir to form a paste. Keep stirring until the flour is golden brown then whisk in the reserved broth. Whisk briskly until all flour clumps are gone, then add in the pork hock meat and the meatballs, bring it up to a boil then reduce down to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes. At this point you can adjust the seasoning to taste, and you can adjust the thickness of the sauce by adding flour to thicken or liquid to thin. Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes.

Notes: Sometimes my broth comes out a bit lacking in flavor so I add a little beef or chicken bouillon to punch it up a little. If you find the flavor or the finished stew a little flat but don't want to add salt, I sometimes add a dash of sherry or apple cider vinegar at the end to brighten it up. The above recipe serves 4 to 6 and freezes and reheats very well. 

Whether your day involves feet stew or not, I wish you a very happy holiday and all the best in the new year! :) 

Friday, November 18, 2016

I don't think so, Tim...

So I finally dug into the quilt kit that my mom bought over the summer. It is a riot of various plaid and polka dot flannels, and so far has been surprisingly easy in coming together. I'm not normally a fan of working with flannel as it can be tricky, but this fabric has been lovely... nice and thick with minimal unravelling and it is super soft; it will make a nice finished quilt. Due to all of the plaid, we have jokingly named it the Al Borland quilt. :)

Stairsteps quilt pattern by Bonnie Sullivan
The quilt is made of 8-inch blocks constructed of one large piece and three small pieces of the various flannel prints and then constructed improvisationally. The name of the pattern is 'Stairsteps' and in the directions it shows you to assemble it in a stairstep pattern (go figure), but honestly with such a simple block you could do a ton of variations with it. Since my mom liked the pattern as printed, I followed stuck to the stairstep design. The backing is blue minky fabric which I'm not looking forward to quilting... my sewing machine will definitely need a good cleaning after this one. I also have a number of small scraps left over that I will have to find a use for... maybe a pillow?

Plushie bat pattern 
I have another quilt project which has stalled at the moment... the top and back are complete and I have basted it all together, but I cannot yet decide how I want to quilt it. So for now it is in the 'time out' corner and instead I've entertained myself by making a few plushie bats instead. They are a bit of a pain to put together (especially with some of the fabrics I've chosen), but they're just so cute I can't help myself. The cute little guy pictured above went to my nephew William for his birthday. 

And, while I'm working on all of these things, I've been listening to the new album by Kaleo pretty much on repeat. They are an Icelandic rock group whose sound is absolutely incredible, you should give them a listen :)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Z is for Zillah...

I realized that I never posted my finished Molinari challenge quilt, or much of anything lately for that matter, so figured I'd check in and bring everyone up to speed...

Over the summer I finally finished up my piece for the MMQG's Molinari Challenge. I took inspiration from one of Molinari's paintings in which he pays tribute to a poem he especially liked. Likewise, I took lyrics from one of my favorite songs and designed a quilt around it.

No prizes for guessing which song I chose... ;) The quilting is based on another of Molinari's paintings... I like how it looks on the back of the quilt, though I'm not as sure about the front. Ah well, it's done and that's the important thing!

I also finally finished my Libs Elliott 'Weight of Love' quilt that I started back in the beginning of the year at her workshop. It had been hanging around half finished for ages as I just couldn't decide on how to quilt it. Finally, I got tired of looking at it unfinished so just did some basic diagonal quilting, threw on a scrappy binding and it now happily lives on my couch. Although technically it's not done... I still don't have a title/label for it. I can't stop staring at the pink diamond...

In August I attended the Twist Fibre Festival with the MMQG. We were invited to attend by the organizers and we ended up feeling a little out of place, but we had lots of questions and lots of interest from the festival-goers. We even recruited a few new members. We had some of our works on display, Craft de Ville had supplies for sale and we had a little demo station where people could try hand-quilting. It was a lot of work, but it was a fun weekend.

As summer came to an end, the boyfriend and I took some time off and went down to Cape Cod, a first visit for both of us. We saw Plymouth Rock (meh), ate at a 320 year old tavern (mmm, chowdah), and I finally got to visit the Edward Gorey house, which was absolutely wonderful. To my delight, they had a Gashlycrumb Tinies scavenger hunt in the house, so Bruno and I ran around happily looking for the 'hints' for each of the 26 children. Above is the hint for James, who took lye by mistake. (I couldn't resist buying the 'Z is for Zillah, who drank too much gin' mug ;)

Sadly I haven't had much spare time to do any sewing for myself so I don't have a lot to show for the past few months. I did, however, snag some cute fabric while on vacation which I promptly turned into a Heidi foldover clutch. Cuz yanno I love me some zippered pouches :) I do have one quilt in the works (a first-ever attempt at foundation paper piecing and using text in a quilt), but it is still in progress so I will wait to share any pictures of that until it is completed. 

And finally, in collaboration with the Ottawa MQG, we had the good fortune of hosting Cheryl Arkison recently for a trunk show and workshop with the MMQG. Guild events are always slightly crazy for me as I do a lot of running around to make things go smoothly, but it was lovely to meet Cheryl and to see how much everyone enjoyed the events. It makes it all worth it ;)

More stuff is on the horizon for the MMQG and I have some projects I really need to get cracking on, so blog posts may be a bit sporadic. If you don't already, I would recommend you follow me on Instagram for more regular (if less wordy) updates :)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A must-have notion for quilters

As I posted back in April, the MMQG is currently doing a challenge based on the works of Guido Molinari. I finished my quilt top in April and have spent the intervening months staring at it in despair as I tried to decide how I was going to quilt it.

I have never spent so long staring at a quilt top without being able to picture how I wanted to quilt it. I could have done something simple, or something innocuous that you wouldn't really notice... but this is a piece that has meaning, this is a piece dealing with art. I wanted the quilting to be part of the piece, not just something that faded into the background.

So, of course, I decided to do something like this:

Because why make it easy when I can make it impossibly complicated for myself! ;) I started on it yesterday afternoon and it has gone fairly well so far. 

When I say "fairly well", I mean I've only spent about 50% of my time seam ripping and redoing. ;) At the moment I'm having to rip out and redo a particularly visible section... this is the first time I've tried quilting like this and I'm learning a lot. Most notably: Don't start right smack in the middle of your quilt where your inevitable screw-ups will be most obvious when trying out a new quilting technique. See, I'm learning! :P 

Through this process, I have discovered an absolute must-have notion for quilters. It is a book called "Creative Cursing: A Mix 'n' Match Profanity Generator" and it an absolute life saver. When I make a mistake that has to be taken out and redone, I simply give the book a quick flip and yell out the profanity it presents me with! It is amazingly stress-relieving, as well as being entertaining for others within earshot. Now and then my boyfriend will poke his head into the workroom and inquire: "Uhh, did you just call your sewing machine a 'crap bucket'?" I cheerfully reply "Yep!" and he backs away slowly to the other room.

I really should get back to the quilting... there is much left to do (and redo). For now, I leave you with this: