Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Arts, Crafts, and DIY (page 1 of 2)

My quilting-from-scraps project

In 2011, when I lived at the cottage on Sand Lake,  I started reading up on patchwork and cutting up blocks of cloth to make a queen-sized quilt for my bed. Ever since, usually over the winter months, I put in a few hours here and there stitching it together. It’s made from honest-to-goodness scraps made by my adorable pets: non-reparable, almost-unforgivable holes in various sheets sets and a duvet cover. There was nothing to do but quilt them. Though I did make a hot plate pad out of turning scrappy cloth into “yarn” and then knitting it. That was hard on my hands – the knitting was tougher work than with wool.

So I turned the scraps into a pattern and stitched it all together. As soon as I had the top layer and found a bottom piece to match, I ordered a wool batt from Cedarview Farms in southwestern Ontario. I’ve “bagged” it, though it won’t be a complete bag where all seams are sewn, like a duvet or sleeping bag; instead I might need to create borders on two sides. As my theme is a windmill, I’ll use the border called “Flying Geese.”

I’m getting ready to start quilting it. This is where the handy book The Quilting Bible, and a website called Quilting Made Easy, come in handy. I have a quilting wheel I inherited from my grandmother, which I can use to perforate the copies of the stitching patterns I’ll use. Then, one rubs coloured chalk into the pattern to transfer it to the area for stitching.

Thanks to the help of the ladies in the Westmount Quilter’s Guild, I’ve tacked the quilt. I’ve partly quilted it too, along the seams, and as soon as that’s done, I will finally be able to quilt it by machine. I’m looking for a long-arm sewing machine, because it’s going to be hard to feed a queen-sized quilt through any other kind.

I’ll show pictures when I’ve made more progress. It’s been six years since I started it. The going is very, very slow.

Christmas decorations: a mostly homemade wreath

Here I was wondering “what the heck am I going to write about this week?” and then… the clue comes in: it’s Christmas! Time for the decorations. I’ve hung the string of lights in the window, and a wreath by my front door.

The wreath is one of my favourite things ever. I made it five years ago (which accounts for the dim quality of the photos I took from PhotoBooth on my iMac). Here is the play-by-play:

It’s made out of  Virginia creeper, which, if cut fresh, will be pliable enough to weave. Otherwise, if it’s a little aged, it can be softened up in a hot shower, and then wrapped around and twisted into a wreath.

Then I wrapped it around again with be-buttoned burlap ribbon, bought at the dollar store many years ago, and tied with a complicated bow. Off now to find out what else is suitable for decorating it. I know I have cranberries…

Using the plastic mistletoe and a foil ball spray with a ribbon from the trove of Christmas decorations:


How about with a rat? Too cute, especially with his cheek spots. 

My dearly departed Benjamin, AKA Beelzebubbles.

Well, I can’t hang it outside with Benjamin, but I can use IKEA rats or mice:

Mice work better. The brown mouse on the right has a ribbon around its neck. The white mouse swinging on the mistletoe keeps the mistletoe in place. Because of the lopsidedness of the wreath, I re-centred it to the left – as you will see in the next pic. 

I even had a red-anodized-coated copper wire in my tool box (I love it when the things I keep find a great purpose!) from which to hang the wreath outside. 

In the past year the wreath has one small addition that is perfect: the trapeze mouse has a little bell on a red cord around its neck.

I hope this post inspires you to make use of nature’s materials and your own hoarded craft parts to create a work of joy and fun.

As an aside, one of my European friends  who saw my wreath pics wrote to me:

Our neighbours didn’t take their wreath down after Christmas one year because they liked it so much. When they finally wanted to put it away in spring, they found that a robin had built a nest in it. They had to use the back door for months, until all the nestlings had left…

A new fence made of welded wire and cedar posts

At long last, I finally have a new front fence. I could go digging through my blog posts or photographs to show you its somewhat ugly predecessor – which I had built in a rush and with limited resources in 2010. But really, why mar your eyes, when I can show you the beauty of the new fence, in a pic taken by a non-photographer with the ever-ready iPhone? (It’s true: when I aim to please, I use an old Kodak EasyPix.)

As I wrote last year in one of my most popular posts (on making Red Pepper Jelly), I don’t have a post-pounder, an auger, or a sharp-shooter for digging the post holes. Page wire is the kind of fence I wanted, minus the barbed wire, however, when I found welded-wire fence at the hardware store, I bought it to finally commit to the project. I posted it would look something like this when done, except with nice round cedar fence posts from the country, and not square city posts.

I rented a post digger shovel from Home Depot, and I got the help of one fine friend, Marc. He thought that round posts or square posts made a difference in ease of installation, until we got to work and saw it made no difference at all. We used six posts for the fence. Each one took about 45 minutes to dig – or at least it felt that way!

The sun was bright, and it was hot, and hair-metal music played on the boom box (which was called a Ghetto Blaster in Mr. T’s day). We joked about wearing beer t-shirts just to fit the work image. Marc had too much beer the night before, so we saved all cap-twisting for when the work was done.
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New Year’s Resolutions and getting organized



Come New Year’s, I always ask people what their resolutions are. (It’s more than just being polite because I want to tell them one of mine.) Most people say “None, resolutions are only made to be broken,” but I disagree; that’s all-or-nothing thinking. But some people surprise me with something ambitious or unusual that they want to do. Last year, I did some resolutions and goal work with a friend, and she accomplished more than she thought she would. This graphic (left) was what she found very helpful, but I prefer the version above, if you have the explanation from 13 Rules for Realizing Your Creative Vision.

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