Thursday, July 25, 2013

Turtle-Like Progress

I've been working a bit more on this quilt these days - these Half Square Triangles are not trimmed yet, nor are the blocks sewn together, but they are getting there.

Part of the reason for the slowness is that my sewing is slowly spreading all over the house, since Dave's recliner is right in front of my sewing area. Now I'm taking over the kitchen table at night, and stashing my supplies all over the house during the day, since climbing toddlers + irons and rotary cutters is not a smart combination.
As you can see, just about everything else in our house is migrating upwards these days, too.

I have been slowly stitching and cutting and pressing these block units, a little chain here, another chain there. A little trimming and pressing at night when all the tiny fingers are tucked into bed. My goal is to have all the blocks done by the end of the month.

Its funny, because I want to make some floor pillows next, and I've been agonizing over what type to make. I have a giant bean bag chair in the shed that we took out of the boys' room, as it was eating the entire floor. I was thinking of using the beads in it to make three or four of these:
The funny thing is that I was reading through the pattern, and thinking, "Wow, there are 30 separate pieces to stitch together in each pouf. If I made four, that would be 120 seams. I don't know if I can sew that many seams.

And then I went off to chain piece some more quilt units. And realized that I had way more than 120 seams in the 8 quilt blocks I was working on. And then I felt a little silly.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Adventures: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Decorative Art and Design Wing)

You will notice we missed this post last week. That's because we didn't do it. I got lost heading to a park on the other side of the Mountain (not really a mountain for those of you on the West Coast, but its still called "the mountain" in Montreal) and got a parking ticket all in one day on Tuesday, so I decided that was our excursion for last week - I didn't have it in me to do a second one.

So, this week, on the only cool-ish day (as in not over 40 degrees celcius with the humidity) of the week, we ventured to the MMFA. I love this museum because it is free, they have a bunch of varied permanent collections and lots of visiting exhibits. The visiting exhibits usually cost money, but if there is something cool we can go and pay for that and just see it without feeling bad.

Here we are after getting off a hot bus with a toddler who I foolishly took off my back. He then did not understand why he couldn't walk around the bus and screamed for half the trip. I'm sure everyone was happy to get us off the bus.

Once we had all had a sit and a drink, we went into the gallery and promptly got lost. There is only one entrance to the three (four?) buildings that make up the Museum. They are connected by tunnels, but there are two sets of staircases leading down from the main floor. One goes to the tunnels - the other, of course, does not. We took the wrong stairs. Here is a picture from those stairs to the stairs we should have taken.
This main entrance building has a fun Modern design, although the steps are a bit of an adventure - they are half as deep and twice as wide as normal stairs. Its hard to decide how to walk down them - take two at a time with extra big steps, or one at a time with really tiny steps. Ah, Modernism, do we really need to think this much about steps?
We opted to briefly visit the Contemporary collection and then move on to the Decorative Art and Design Wing. I thought it would be fun for the kids to look at real objects, and it proved to be a big hit. They had fun looking at all the crazy designer furniture and objects. Among our favorites was this nest couch:
A set of dining plates covered in etiquitte instructions that were very clever was my favorite item. The boys also liked a display of miniature guns, and the anthropomorphized people - furniture.

We then decided to go to the sculpture garden, because everyone was getting restless and I didn't want to cause mayhem and get us escorted out by security. After once more getting lost, we finally found it. They have this fun art piece blocking the street that goes between the other two buildings of the Museum right now. These are temporary road markers that sort of look like a field of poppies in the middle of the city.

Right around the corner there is some more public art and sitting space, including that crazy yellow installation that is part of an exhibition we didn't go and see. I'll get to that in a moment, after
a gratuitous shot of my adorable children.
I must say, when you go traipsing through Montreal with these four active, adorable blue eyed children you get comments. A LOT of comments. Montrealers are not shy about telling you what they think, and people regularly stop to talk to us. I don't know how many times I hear - "You are a brave woman!" or (presumably from lapsed Catholics) "Four children? Bless you." One day, if anyone is interested, I'll do a post about how to do urban trekking with four small children.

Okay, so onto this. This is made entirely of blown glass by an artist named Chihuly.
It is over 10 feet tall and really stunning. We thought it was made of balloons at first, and the kids were fascinated by it. I might take them to this exhibit if I can enlist Dave's help. It looks pretty stunning. Or I might sneak off myself to see it.

After the art gallery, it was necessary to refuel. We got some takeout - fries and a Pop Shoppe pop (eek!) and Gyoza. The carrots, as well as some grapes and goldfish, we had brought with us. All the kids tried the Gyoza, and a few even liked them. I was pretty happy no one loved them, because that meant that I got to eat most of them.

Then we headed down the street to the subway, past one of my favorite buildings. This building is part of Concordia Univserity campus. I love that it looks just like a quilt. My kids roll my eyes when I say this, but I still think its a pretty fun building.
So that was our adventure for this week. What summer fun have you been up to?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sewing Bits and Bobs

I have, as usual, made little pockets of time for sewing in the midst of family chaos. Actually, a couple of these pockets were courtesy of friends who took my older three kids to the park, and one was courtesy of a very late night. In any case, I must sew, or I get grumpy, and then all the baking and playing in the rain and doing last minute things that will require me to pack instant lunch and wrangle everyone in and out of the van and skip the baby's nap just aren't fun anymore.

So, first off, I am determined to finish some of my "to do" quilts despite having a few stacks of new fabric calling out to me. One is this windmill quilt, which seems to never go away - I bought the swirly Kaffe dots on ebay (my first online fabric purchase) and the pink and orange FMF are from the original run of the fabrics. I decided to make this quilt out of those fabrics at the same time as Katy which was back in 2010. I should have decided to make the blocks the same size as hers - 4" HST - and I would have almost a full quilt top already. Instead mine are 3" HST, which makes the finished blocks 12". I've discovered that I'm not a lots-of-small-blocks kind of quilter unless I'm making a small quilt. I get bored too quickly.
In any case, I digress. These 14 blocks are done. 8 left to go, plus a chunky improv-ed border and we'll be good to go. Hopefully it won't take me another 3 years to finish that!

As far as time goes, my next project was fast - it took me about 2 minutes. They boys were playing dress up, and Emma decided that she wanted to join in. She had an old dress up tiara, but it has been sadly beaten up, since she got it for her 2nd birthday, so she decided that a new crown must be made. Now.
Fortunately I have lots of wool felt drifting around for just such occasions. I folded a scrap that looked about the right size for her head in half, cut it into a crown-ish shape and added piece of 1" elastic to the back. That's my kind of dress up sewing. I shall add jewels later (I'm hoping to get away with felt ones, but I think I may have to find some faux baubles somewhere).

It really does make me happy when the dress up gets pulled out, as there are so many things I've made or found over my years of parenting in there. The wizard's hat (modeled by Owen) and Emma's "dress" were from my original dress up kit I gave Andrew for his 2nd birthday. The belt is a knight's belt I made a pair of for Christmas for the boys one year.
Andrew's jedi robe was from Halloween two years ago (note the unfinished seams - I don't make fussy dress up, otherwise I just get mad when they never wear it), and Aaron's vest is a pirate / cowboy vest I whipped up for Christmas when he was 3.

Now that Emma is entering that fabulous dress up stage, I have to start making girl dress up. Yes, chain mail and super hero masks and firefighter hats are fun, but seriously, what is a little girl's dress up world without wings, tutus and at least one sparkly dress? I was informed, in fact, that her friend Clara has both butterfly AND fairy wings. Just in case I'm feeling ambitious.

I also sewed a test run of the pants out of Simple Modern Sewing - a Japanese (English translation) sewing book. The fabric is this mystery colour - sort of a green - grey - brown I had drifting around in my stash. I think I bought it in Saskatchewan because I was excited to find something at the fabric store that actually contained 100% natural fibres. 

They were really basic. And I'm sure they would have been quick to whip up if I hadn't been so keep to whip them up late at night. I've made pants before - in fact I once made an awesome pair of fitted plaid pants with belt loops and darts and everything - but not in a long time. So I got the seams mixed up and ended up having to rip them apart.

They are a nice, simple pants pattern, and I'm sure I'll be making myself some more in the fall. As you can see, I've been wearing these around without hemming them, which I suppose I should get to soon. I'm just so short of summer pants right now, as my dryer ate all my Thai fisherman pants and I'm still not in my pre-Owen pants, that I needed to wear them right away.

And those of you who sew clothes can't tell me you've never worn a not quite finished garment out and about. Because I know you have.

Better photos to come when they're actually finished.

I was hoping to get a lot of clothes sewing in, and had optimistically purchased the English translation of the "Stylish Dress Book" so I could make some summer dresses. Now I'm thinking maybe some tunics for early fall and winter layering. Or some cute dresses for next spring. Well, since I've already ordered some Parsons Grey and Anna Maria Horner linen, I'd better make something . . .

ps - not to be an enabler or anything, but Pink Chalk Fabrics has a bunch of linen and voile on sale for $10 a yard. Just so you know.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Friday Adventures in Montreal - The Biodome

One of the things I promised my kids this summer was that we would finally explore Montreal. We have been here for three years in August, but it has been a very busy time full of babies and job changes and studies. My oldest son loves exploring and adventures, including the traffic jams and getting lost and ending up somewhere different than you intended. This is good, because when you go places with me, this happens a lot.

In any case, in our weekly schedule (I might do a post about that too later) we have made Friday "Adventure Day". I will try to keep up with them on this blog as best I can.

This weekend is the Jazz Festival in Montreal, but I didn't feel up to taking four kids by myself to such an open area, so we opted for the Biodome. (Tip for Montrealers: if you go down to the basement and buy a year family pass, its only a little more than one regular family admission and you get full year access, plus free entrance to the Planetarium in November.) The Biodome is part of Olympic Park, which is across town from us, so we started the day with a big adventure on the bus, then the metro (the subway).
The three older kids loved the metro. Owen was not happy with riding on my back for 30 min. of underground.
Here is the Biodome - I love the Modernist concrete architecture around here (plus a Silvercity, of course). Is it just me, or is there something really Canadian about random, optimistic concrete structures? Two out of the three universities I attended were also full on Modernist concrete. I think it must have just been that everything was booming in the 70s.
But I digress. Here we are getting off the subway. The photo below is a great photo of me but not so good of Owen - have I mentioned that I got a haircut? I did. And I finally found a good hairdresser. Hooray!
In typical toddler style, Owen's favorite part of the Biodome was the puddles outside.
I love the colours and design in this poster (La Presse is the French Language daily newspaper in Quebec). I know, I'm such a quilt nerd.
When we got there, we had to wait in a giant line up, as it was Friday and the week of the Jazz festival and there were tourists everywhere. It was real fun with four small children. Fortunately banana bread came to my rescue - I had a whole loaf in my bag and we nibbled away at it while we waited.
In typical Jill fashion, we got all the way to the end of the line only to discover that you buy the year long passes down by the coat check - where there is abseloutely no line.

The Biodome is pretty cool. They have reconstructed a tropical rainforest, a maple forest, the Saint Laurence salt water coastline and the arctic. You can walk through and watch all the animals in their semi-natural environment.  My favorite feature is that under the habitats they have water tanks, so you can see the fish and beavers and things as well as the above ground action. There is also a beaver cam and a lynx cam, so you can still see them if they are in their dens. Things like that always amuse me.

 Of course at this point my camera ran out of batteries, but I did get a shot of the turtles in the rainforest.
And at the very end, my kids' favorites - penguins. When Emma saw these she yelled, "Wow! Penguins really DO exist!". Again you can see in the water, too, so you can watch the penguins swim by.
In the lobby there is presently a display of cool birdhouses - this mosaic-ed one was my favorite.
After our tour of the Biodome we went to the Naturarium, a kids' room full of hands on nature props, microscopes with things to look at under them, and old stuffed animals. It was well worth the visit, and  I'm happy we have the year long pass, as some of the animals were sleeping or had just had babies.

We then did the whole metro / bus trip again, which went just fine. All in all, a successful first adventure. It really is nice to have kids at an age where these sorts of things are actually fun - not just a huge headache for me. I really do enjoy older kids.

So, hopefully I'll keep you updated on our summer adventures.

Oh, and my husband is mending up fine. I'm still on duty for most of the house / kids stuff, but at least he can do things for himself now.