Thursday, July 31, 2008

Meandering monkeys

Is it possible to over-quilt a quilt? I seem to remember reading somewhere that it could be possible. I am on the (almost) home stretch with my mom's quilt, 'Surrounded by monkeys', and I am free-motioning all the cream parts of the quilt. And I realise that I still do the same mistake: my meanderings are too small, on the border to be stipling, which was the feedback I got on the course I went to on machine quilting. The main problems are that it takes FOREVER to quilt it, and I use a LOT of thread.

But to be honest - I don't really care if it is over-quilted and less meandering than stipling. I actually like the effect. The stars pop out and the quilt feels solid. And all the excess fabric as a result of not too close measuring.... gone:) I think I prefer it this way.

Though my biggest dream at the moment is to get it done! But it is still hot, and sitting in front of a machine under a warm lamp with yards and yards of fabric on my lap .... phew!

But I am getting there, and the party is in 23 days. Still time left. And in 25 days, I will be leaving for Colorado!!! Boulder, here I come!:)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cool thoughts

It is just too hot for a Norwegian at the moment! We had a horrendous storm last night, thunder and lightning. Don't think Thor has worked that hard in years. Thinking that it would at least clear the air and make it cooler, I suffered through it quite cheerfully. No such luck.

So to try and cool down a little I am looking at pictures from last winter. We had some really beautiful frost days. Yes, even me hating winter can find beauty in the ice.

My theory is that no one was supposed to be able to live in this country during the winter. It is not habitable. The only reason most of us stay and do not follow the birds flying south in the fall, is that we are genetically conditioned to live in a winterland. How?

Well, when ice during the last ice age started melting, people started moving north, following the end of the ice. That in itself is stupid, if you ask me. Leaving sunny Spain to follow the ice? Seriously.

Even when getting to Denmark, which is a flat and fertile land, there was this little group of people that had this bright idea to keep following the ice. So they ended up in Norway - full of mountains and stone, dangerous seas, long winters and not a lot of farm land. And they stayed! See?! There must be something genetic.

How can you otherwise explain the desire for Norwegians to not only spend all winter skiing, but even place their explorations in the icy areas. Instead of testing themselves by crossing the Kalahari Desert with no outside support, they cross the North Pole, or the Antarctic, or Greenland alone, on ski, without outside support -still! Today!

About a 100 year ago or so, we had men who took a ship up to the north to let it get caught in the ice, just to see where the ice drift would lead them. Not to mention being the first one on the North Pole.... Yep, I am definitly feeling an icy wind coming:) Nice!

I might even be able to work on the quilt now.... maybe....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mamma mia!

It is just too hot to sew today, and too hot to work, too....

While my mind is still working at more than minumum:) I just want to suggest something.
Go to the movies and see Mamma mia!

Having grown up with ABBA (yes, I do remember them winning with Waterloo) it is so fun to still get itchy feet when listening to the music. And I never realised how incredibly poignant some of the lyrics are.

The story is a giant boost for us women over 45:-) There is life after both 40 and 50. Not only Stellan Skarsgård and Pierce Brosnan, but Colin Firth, too?!?! Yep, Mr. Darcy himself. Sigh... Fun to see those guys playing 'bimbo' roles (quote from Skarsgård himself). The sight of them all in '70's ABBA costume copies are worth the price of the ticket alone. The story is thin, but the pictures are gorgeous, the songs good and the actors are fun! It doesn't pretend to be anything other than pure entertainment. And we need those at times. 

I went straight out and bough the CD, so now I am belting out Dancing Queen while I drive in my car, without air conditioning in these hot days....

Go and see it. Have fun. I guarantee you a smile on your face when you leave.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In the sun, sun, sun....

There is nothing as beautiful as a summer day in Oslo.

If you ever want to make a Norwegian talk (since we are as a nation labeled taciturn) ask him about the weather. I guarantee you, he will not stop talking. Most of our lives are based around the weather, and we talk about it all the time. Truly.

Visting Brazil a number of years ago, we 'broke' our guide after only three days. At breakfast, after the seventh person had come down and asked: "How will the weather be today?" for the third day, she screamed: "What is it about you Norwegians and the weather?! It will be sunny and hot, like it was the day before that, and the day before that and tomorrow. It is never anything but sunny and hot here!" Properly chastised, we kept our weather forecasts for ourselves, but felt suitable vindicated when we a week later visited south of Brazil, where the mornings started and ended with frost. Hah! See, you did have weather in Brazil, too! 

Norwegian weather is seldom predictable. Even if you wake up to a blue sky and tropical heat, you always bring with you raingear, in case of rain, or a sweater, in case it grows colder. Because you never know....

A Norwegian summer can last from April until September, or just one week in May. You never know. A Norwegian winter may decide to wait for a year, or start the snow in October and not let up until May. Never know.

So this summer has so far shown us a week of tropical heat in May, rain and cold weather in most of June, gradually warmer and some more rain in July, until the tropical heat we have had these last two days.

And why am I telling you all this? Because it dawned on me today that we as Norwegians are not particularly well versed in how to behave during a heat wave. We are so sunshine hungry that we react automatically. Outside, outside, don't wait! It might go away again! It is very easy to spot a Norwegian tourist in a hot city in December. Look for the one standing in the middle of the sun, heads up like a hungry baby bird, catching the rays. Instead of doing the sensible thing, like finding a shadow while you are waiting for the bus, or the green light in a crossing. That's us. 

Today I decided that I could not sit inside sewing the whole day, wasting the sunshine. So I decided to take a break in the middle of the day when my fan could not keep the heat out. (Few houses have airconditiong here. Seldom a need) So I decided to take a bike ride instead! At noon - in 30 degrees Celsius and blue sky. Yep.... schmart!!! 

Whenever we have these heatwaves, we always wonder why we can't get as much done as normal, why our work takes longer, why we aren't able to sit outside and sun ourselves the whole day.... it always takes us by suprise. Sunshine should not be wasted!

(Oh, and the title? It's from the Red Dwarf melody. Fun, fun, fun, in the sun, sun, sun:))

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Old crafts

Speaking about old crafts - I did a few courses in tapestry weaving a few years ago. I wish I had more time.... There is something of a zen feeling, when you sit there, picking the threads. It is a very simple concept, a big frame, threads strung between. Like the ones you used as a child, but much bigger.

This is the first one I made, The Madonna. I kept this one for myself:)

The second one, and the last as of now, was a gift to my mother on her 65th. It was supposed to be for her 60th.... but I did not manage to finish it before her 65. Uff:)

I have a dream of taking it up again sometime in the future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quilts for dogs?

Anyone have a good idea how to make a durable quilt for a much loved, but incredibly big, dog? I was thinking about making a quilt for my nephew for his 25th, og would love to make one for Lewis, his dog. There must be someway of making a sturdy quilt (without resorting to the ones with frayed edges and layers and layers of fabric)?

Look at him! Don't he deserve his own quilt? :)

Living in history

If you are ever in Oslo and want to learn about Norway, I heartily recommend our open air museum on Bygdøy. The Norsk Folkemuseum gives you a visual tour of how Norwegian have lived since the 1500. It started in 1894, and is in reality a collection of houses and whatever people needed to do their jobs, or live their lives. 

It is just amazing what they have collected!

They have actually moved! all these houses from where they originally were built, down to Oslo, and then put them together again, brick by brick, or plank by plank. With all the different interiors.

This is an old stave church from 1200, from Gol.

They have small fields in some of the areas where they plant some of the things that was normal for that particular area. They have for instance a small field for flax, keep sheep, pigs, horses and farm cats:)

I love walking around there. It is a quiet oasis in the city (not that Oslo is that noisy) and it makes you feel like you have been transported back in time. In some houses, you can see women dressed in the appropriate garbs of the time doing chores; like baking bread in a wooden stove, knitting, cooking etc.

There are also different exhibitions. One of my favourites is the folk dress museum. Norway have official folk dresses for every area of the country, the dress that was originally used for all the big happenings in life. Today, we still use them for wedding, baptisms, confirmations, 17 May etc. The exhibition shows some of the older dresses, and some of the details from the different areas. The craftmanship is amazing considering most of this was done in the evening, after all the chores were done, and in candle light! I guess most people did not need glasses at that time....

There is an old Norwegian saying: The devil finds work for idle hands (hence my tag on the blog - no idle hands:)). Norwegian women were for generations taught to always keep busy with their hands, which meant that they would even knit while looking after the cattle. The folkdresses are masterpieces of handcraft, made by ordinary women who were taught by their mothers and grandmothers.

Someone once said that by knitting, you were tied into other knitters from the past to the present. Same goes for all crafts, I think. I hope we never loose the knowledge of these different crafts. My secret obsession is to learn as many old crafts as I can:) I might even share some of them here soon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gates to summer

I drove passed these lovely, handcrafted gates earlier this summer in Sweden. Just love the way it looks:)

Japanese garden

Now and then I try to continue on my Japanese garden. It is english paper piecing, handsewed, a good thing to have now and then. I don't seem to be able to sit and watch TV (of which I do too much) without something in my hands. This was a way of using all the left over fabric from Elisabeth's quilt, and something to do while watching tv.

Unfortunately, I am getting slightly bored with it.... there are so many other things I want to do. But I will keep on trying to finish it. This one I am making for myself: a cozy quilt to use during cold evenings in the winter, while watching my TV:)

I think I have found my new Christmas quilt! I found it on Crab-Apple Hill. It is called "Twas the Night before Christmas" and consists of lots and lots of stitcheries! Yum:) I have ordered the pattern at least, so we shall see.

You can look at it here.

I am also preparing myself to start my own Baby Jane, though for some reason I am waiting and waiting. I have read the book, used the CD, surfed the net and kept up with a lot of blogs. I am sure I know all the blocks by heart now, so I can not figure out why I am stalling.... I need to start it soon!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Enjoy the moment

I was on a two week guided tour of Japan two years ago. The trip of a lifetime. I have to go back one day. The Japanese have an incredible estethic eye. You can just point your camera and click and you get amazing pictures.

Like this gold palace on a quiet fall morning, with a perfect mirror image.

Among the many things that fascinated me, was the appreciation people had for the crafts.

We were so lucky to be able to participate in a 150 year old tea ceremony, as the only foreigners. We were told how to behave, and the ritual for receiving the cup and how to drink the tea. Yes, there were rules for all of it:) The last part of the ceremony was to sit and appreciate our cups; all different, all handmade and some of them very old. Looking around, even not understanding the language, you could see the ladies in their finery showing each other the cups and just enjoying the craftmanship. 

Our guide told us that this was a part of their culture - and she put it down into three simple words: enjoying the moment. They are always so busy, but they manage to stop, even if it is just for a short minute, and just enjoy a beautiful sight. Like just stopping and looking at the rain. Or sitting down and enjoying the first snow. Just for a brief minute. Then you are off to do your job.

I started thinking about our busy lives, and how we never do that. So returning back to Norway, into heavy rain..... I stopped for a minute and just looked. I hate rain, as it always is cold and makes everything grey, but for the first time in my life I saw that there were beauty in rain, too. And in the first snow - though I hate that, too:) Though I lapse constantly, now and then it is so enriching to really look and see - like the marina I drive past every morning. How the moon, in the winter, and the sun in the summer, puts different colour on the sea.

And I really adhered to the momentary enjoyment when we visited a craft center and was shown the latest fall fashion in kimonos! I could stare at them for hours.

Visiting a temple a few days later, we came in the middle of a ceremony for seven year old girls (I think they were seven) as they were presented in the temple. All in these perfect little copies of kimonos. I thought this mother and daughter were just beautiful together.

I found this book: Quilting with Japanese fabrics, by Kitty Pippin when I returned home. This quilts has been haunting me ever since. One of these days I will make my own version of it to commemorate my trip to Japan. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Seasons come....

I finished another one of Bareroots little stitchies. Love those. They are fast and fun to make, and just perfect for small gifts.

This one is for my houseloving friend for Christmas. And since she doesn't know about the blog, I can put it out already now:) There are other things I have to wait showing until after Christmas, as I don't want to show people their gifts beforehand!

Take a look at Bareroots website and see for yourself:)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

African memories

Four years ago, my brother's family and I took a trip to Kenya, to visit my aunt and uncle stationed there at the time. My second trip, their first one. We took a week safari in Masai Mara, among others. It never ceases to amaze me that even if you have seen all the animals in the world on Animal Planet or National Geographic, it is such an experience to see it 'live', even if they are several meters away from you. We saw a family of 13 lions!

When my brother turned 50 the year after, I decided to make something that could remind them of that trip. This was a quilt I had seen in a picture from a shop in USA, and I managed to track it down on the web. It is called 'Leapyear in Lowenveld' from a book called Quilt Safari. I ordered the whole package and got many beautiful vibrant 'african' fabric. I would never have found that by myself.

The quilt had all those things that we had seen in the park; the lions, the giraffes, elephants, the people. And the odd shaped trees and flowers. The only thing missing was the marabou, but they are frankly so ugly, good thing they weren't:)

I appliqued using freezer paper, and decided to go all the way and handquilt the thing, too. Boy, did I regret that one.... I was two months delayed in giving him the gift.... but he forgave me:)

It is now hanging in their entry hall, and greets all visitors as they enter. I still stop and look at it, finding new things about the colours and the fabric. And remembering the trip.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Surrounded by monkeys

The little time left of the weekend was spent on starting machine quilting mom's birthday quilt. I really, really need to find a different basting that what I am doing at the moment. Basting with thread does NOT work!! Argh. However, I am trudging along.

I bought the whole package from a little quiltshop in Niwot, Colorado, last summer. I love it when I can find total packages and I don't have to think about what fabrics or what colours. I did exchange a few fabrics, as I detest certain pink colours and will not work with them. I thought also that pink was too bright for the quilt, and exchanged it with darker reds.

I love the names of the blocks. The big one is Puss in the corner, surrounded by Farmer's daughter, while the small one is Spinning star. Why it was called 'Surrounded by monkeys' in the store, I do not know. Since mom is a farmer's daughter, and so am I, I thought it was appropriate:-) Not quite decided what to call the quilt itself, though.

Most of the quilt is to be quiltet in freemotion..... oh joy. We shall see how that goes.

Wind in my hair

Two days just slouching around with my aunt and uncle:) How nice. We had beautiful weather, mostly, so we could even have dinner outside; not a given in Scandinavia in July, trust me. We did have some winds, which I did notice particularly when I took a bike ride.... riding against the wind.....

We went for walks down to the lake - which is really a sea. I think I read somewhere that there are around 150 fishermen making a living from fishing in the lake. They have tankers going up and down! The lake is huge!

My aunt and uncle have two dogs - Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. They love the water! The fur is wavy and has this oil on it that repels water. They are so fun. The male, for some reason, likes to carry around a rag. He needed to show me his rag, very proud of it.

I am a cat person, but I do like some dogs, especially with personalities, which these two have in abundance.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Off to the sea!

I am taking a few days off to visit family in Sweden. They have a house near Vänern, an inland sea a few hours from here. It is so big, you can't see from one side to another. I keep forgetting it is freshwater:-) I will post pictures.

Problem is that I feel guilty for going off. I have this quilt lying on my sewing table. I am about to start machine quilting, and I never know how long that is going to take! It's for my mom's 75 birthday and my mom and stepdad's 20 wedding anniversary, to be celebrated on 23 August. Will I get it done in time.... sigh. I always get to a point where quilting suddenly is stress and not joy.

I had this dream of starting my Baby Jane this summer. Really have time to sit down and fuss with it. It all depends if I can get this one done in good time before the 23, because I am leaving for Colorado on the 25th!! See you soon, guys - only 47 more days to go.

Anyway - I finished stitching a small Christmas stitcherie from Bareroots. I love those, and bought several of them. Good as small gifts. They are small, meant to be in a frame of around 5x7 or so.

Sometimes small things are fun to make, as you finish them quickly and they don't take a lot of time. I made this for a friend last year, paper piecing. Small, small.

I have a whole book of these. One of these days....

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A lifetime of pictures

When my niece, Thea Sofie, turned 20, she commissioned her very own quilt, with everything she wanted! So she gave me a full list - she wanted pictures, embroidery, buttons, sequins, lace and everything else, please! And since I am not good at designing my own stuff, I almost fainted. But I thought - ok, she wants everything, lets give her everything. 

I asked her to find the pictures she wanted in it, and ended up with around 60 pictures! Oh boy, simpler and simpler.... I spent about six months trying to find a system that would make sense, or at least a framework instead of just splashing the pictures all over.

The pictures ended up in groups: birth, family on both sides, friends, pets, portraits, her and her brother, grandparents etc. I used both colour and black and white. The pictures were printed on tight woven cotton prepared with Bubble Jet solution, so that the quilt would be soft and washable.

There is no way a picture could make it justice, but here is the finished work.

All the pictures were framed in green or red fabric, depending on which group it belonged to. The rest of the quilt was made in Japanese flower fabric, as many as possible. Kathrine's Quilt had this wonderful bunch made all ready, saved me a lot of trouble.

I 'wrote' her name in sequins in the middle, which is hard to see properly.

I also made 16 different blocks in each corner, all from Kaffe Fasset book from the AV museum in London, just to fill it out a little. Some stitcheries from different other quilts, put it all together and then sewed the final last twenty pictures I on the back sides. I just could not find room for all of them on the front.

To make sure it would all make sense for her in the future, I made a photoalbum with copies of all the pictures, with the history behind them all. So in the future, she will remember her great grandmother's name, and when she had her first day of school.

Twenty years - a full lifetime - on one single quilt. Yepp, all juggled around, but that is life:-)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hot in the city....

We were blessed with some very warm days last week (though today it is raining again....) and I was able to take Friday off and get out of the hot city. I wanted to go to Drøbak, a small coastal city a little outside Oslo. I am a fan of Nemi, a Norwegian comic strip about a goth girl growing up. The artist is wonderfully insightful and slightly wicked:-) You can see her new exhibition at Avistegnernes Hus in Drøbak until August 28.

More information about the exhibition is found here.

They call Drøbak for The Summer City. And it is, truly. There seem to be something about the sea air in Norway, because every little village along the southern coast seems to be just overflowing with roses and beautiful gardens.

I fell for this idea. How wonderful to incorporate the sea in your garden like this:-)

On one of the houses near by the harbour, they had this lady mounted on the wall. Isn't she regal? 

The details are just magnificent. She has two golden rings on her right hand, and very fashionable red nail colour:-)

Norway is a maritime nation of old, and these ladies were made to reside on the bow of a ship, plowing through the waters. I always found it strange that ships could carry the name of a woman, be referred to as a 'she' and have a woman as a figurhead, but it was considered unlucky to actually have women onboard. If you talk to some of the sailors today, they still think the same.... some of them.

I have always thought the women had the hardest job of all in areas where the menfolk were out sailing - to have to sit at home and wait for them while trying to make sure your family would survive while the breadwinner was gone for months and sometimes years. Never knowing where he was or if he would ever come home.

In some coastal areas in Norway they have set up statues for the sailors wife. A very good idea:-)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hateful necessity

Basting.... does anyone have anything positive to say about it? I have spent hours this weekend on my sitting room floor basting. My back aches, my fingers are sore from pin pricks. And the worst part? I can't seem to find one single solution that actually makes it easier to machine quilt this thing! I have tried spray glue - too messy and it doesn't stick for that long. Added to it that I have no idea what the long term effects of this glue is. I have done the safety pins - which always gets stuck in the back of the sewing foot. Annoying! So I have settled on the old fashioned basting by thread, eventhough this one also gets stuck.


I am planning to test out the basting gun, or whatever they call it, next. Thought I would see if I can guy it in Colorado this summer, when I go for my annual visit:-)

Does it work? Some say yes, some say no. Nothing for it but trying:) Half of the fun of quilting, isn't it, trying out new things?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Inger's houses

When an old childhood friend turned 40 a few years ago, it was natural to make her a quilt. She most of all wanted something with a religious theme, something she could look on and find comfort in. She also loves houses, in all shapes and forms. I spent a long time looking for patterns, went through all my books and magazines, all of which I have too much of:-) Suddenly one day on the net, I found this BOM from an Australian site, though the pattern is originally American. 'By wisdom a house is built... in the country' and the search was over!

I did the whole BOM so that I could get the fabric just right, and not have to be stuck with the left overs. I figure I am a little different than most quilters there.. I am not good at using left overs - be it fabric or yarn. I tend to buy them for specific purposes, and can't seem to be able to look at them from others sides. But I am getting better!

So this is the result:-)

It is a different kind of quilt, as it is made of 12 different table mats, almost. Each one is completed separately and then you handsew them all together.

You do the applique and the embroidered text (all from the Bible, based on houses - meeting Inger's demands:-)) on osnaburg fabric, then sewed the osnaburg on a piece of fabric, added batting and backing and then did a simple quilt with DMC, like a bumblebees flight:-) Not sure you can see it on the picture.

It got BIG! It took me over a year, as I had to wait 12 months for all the blocks, but it was a nice and slow way of making something. She received it on her 41st birthday, but I was forgiven:-)

This was the block that clinched the choice of pattern.

Inger is a person that really loves and takes care of her family and friends, and I immediately thought of her when I saw this. I am so lucky to be a part of her family. Her second of four children is my godchild, too! :-)

Elisabeth's quilt

Last weekend I gave away my best quilt till now, I think:-) My sister-in-law, Elisabeth, turned 50, and I asked a long time ago if she wanted a quilt. After having ascertained what kind of colours she wanted, I realised I had a chance to do what I had been looking for: go wild with Japanese fabric:-) I had been to a class that Rie Norum held at Kathrines Quiltestue in Oslo, how to make the block Walter's Place from Dear Jane, and had decided I wanted to try that block. My dream is to make a Baby Jane.... some day.... so this would be good practice, I thought.

I spent months looking for the fabric. So fun! The actual block was not so easy - 22 pieces.

I struggled, but managed in the end. In fact, it turned out way better than I thought. The guys at Kathrines did a good job helping me finding the 'in-between- fabric and the borders. They have such a good eye!

I can recommend Rie Norum and Hilde Aanerud Krohg's book: Quilt Shack: Over 30 Charming Patchwork And Applique Designs. You can find it on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My very first blog...

Wow... never thought I would start my own blog. However, I realised that there is no fun in making things if you can't share them! I tend to make quilts and then give them away, which means that they are kept 'hidden' in a bedroom somewhere. So to soothe my own egotistical need :-), I hope to share what I have spent hours and hours making.

So from tomorrow, I will dig into my archives and see if I can find some pictures to share. I hope they can be an inspiration, as I get inspiration from other bloggers. Later!