Monthly Archives: February 2013

Art Bead Scene Monthly Challenge – February


When I saw the inspiration for this month’s Art Bead Scene challenge I knew I had to try and create a piece of jewelry that captured the spirit of Toshi Yoshida’s amazing woodblock. The colour and the detail really spoke to me.

It didn’t take me long to find the ideal focal bead – a red-orange lentil bead with metallic accents from Grace Beads.

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I was pretty sure I wanted to make a necklace but I didn’t have a clear idea of the design in my head yet. Since I ordered the focal bead at the beginning of the month, I decided to wait until it arrived and then see where my imagination took me.

Unfortunately, the mail was slower than usual and the package didn’t arrive until last Thursday. I was leaving early Friday morning to visit my mother out of town. I rummaged through my bead stash and threw a few random beads and findings into my bag.

Due to family obligations and the fact that my mother and I spent a fair amount of time knitting together, I didn’t work on the necklace over the weekend. Last night I checked Art Bead Scene and realized my piece had to be posted on their challenge web page by the end of today day. I played around with my design a little bit last night but having been up since 5 am to catch a train home, I figured I’d have to skip the monthly challenge and finish it on my own.

As luck would have it, M woke up with a fever this am. Since DH had a non-negotiable work commitment I stayed home with M. He stayed in bed most of the day, reading or listening to music and I worked on my necklace.

I decided to hang the focal bead from a “beaded chain” made from a piece of hand-dyed JodyPoesy ribbon wire and metallic seed beads. I originally thought about adding dangles to the bottom of the focal, but I made a wire-wrapped bail instead and finished it with a small spiral.

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I made a second “chain” of wire-wrapped beads – round and twisted ovals in a neutral, almost off-white colour – and small red fire-polished beads. I added a round off-white ceramic bead from Gaea and a pewter bead from GreenGirl Studios, part of a set I won from Lorelei Eurto several years ago. Finally, I attached the two chain sections with stone connectors from StoneStudiosToo and jump rings.

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Most of the time, before I start a jewelry project, I have a clear design in my head. In this case I made up the design as I went along. Other than the focal bead, everything else came from my bead stash. That made it easier to add elements as I went along – I didn’t have to rush to the bead store for additional supplies.

I’m reasonably happy with the final result, especially the colour. As in the inspiration piece, the red stands out. There lots of texture and movement too. Not bad for a last-minute project.

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My lucky week…and a give-away


Last week was my lucky week. First, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. Then a few days later, I won a fabulous purple dress from a local store. And then on the weekend, I won some beads in Art Bead Scene’s weekly draw. On top of that, as of yesterday, my blog had been viewed more than 5000 times. And not all those visitors were members of my family!

I decided to celebrate my good fortune by having my first-ever give-away. As it happens, I’ve been on a bit of a sewing kick and have made a flock of pincushions. I have a Birdie of my own – she’s part pincushion, part muse. I figured that someone else might like to have a “Birdie” of their own.

To get your own Birdie, all you have to do is leave me a comment and tell me your favourite colour. I’ll put all the names in a hat and pick one winner. I’ll do my best to send you a Birdie in your preferred colour. You don’t even have to sew to enter – the birds look cute just sitting on a shelf. You could also string it with thread or fishing line and hang it up.

The give-away will be open until Sunday, February 24, 2012 and is open to everyone.  I’ll send you your prize, no matter where you live.

Feel free to invite your friends to participate. If I get over 60 entries, I’ll draw a 2nd winner.

The original "Birdie"

The original “Birdie”

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Purple “Birdie”

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The flock – sewn up and waiting to be stuffed

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Pink “Birdie”

I’ve been nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award!


Recently, the TailorFairy nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. This came totally out of the blue and I was very surprised.

Here are the rules:

  • Post the award picture  on your  blog
  • Tell everyone who gave me the award and include a link to their blog 
  • Nominate 15 more of my favorite blogs
  • State 7 things about myself

The TailorFairy is a tailor and a designer.  Her mission is to help people knit and sew their own clothes. Since I have recently taken up sewing, the timing was perfect. She has posted a wide variety of projects, including a number of “easy projects for beginners” (interestingly, the Colette Crepe dress was not on the list). I was particularly pleased to discover a post on altering a top. While she describes adjusting the pattern for a larger bust size, she walks through all the steps and provides pictures. I figure I can probably apply the same steps to reducing the bust size.

I haven’t read all her previous posts, but expect that the TailorFairy will be a go-to resource in my ongoing mission to become a better sewer. Even if you don’t sew, her blog is definitely work checking out. Thanks very much TailorFairy for nominating me.

The last step – nominate 15 more of my favourite blogs – is a bit of challenge for me. I am a self-professed blogaholic, but the one’s I often read are collectives (Art Bead Scene and Reinventing Fabulous) or mega-blog’s with very large followings and sponsors (not that these blogs don’t deserve recognition, but if you got 17,000 followers, you probably don’t need this award).

So I’ve put my list together based on blogs I follow and have recently discovered – yes, there’s only 7 (in checking other blogs about the VB Award, they’ve only 5 other blogs).



Tulle and Tweed

Red Squirrel Mosaics



Welcome to my blog

Seven things about Me
– I speak French and English
– My favourite colour is purple
– I like dogs; cats not so much (very allergic)
– I ride my bike to work 7 months of the year
– My favourite book is “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion
– I can’t stand Brussel Sprouts
– I own 3 pairs of red shoes

 Thanks again to TailorFairy for nominating me.

Birdie – a sewer’s best friend


Meet Birdie. She’s my pin cushion. More importantly, she’s my faithful sewing companion.

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Birdie didn’t start out as a pin cushion. I bought a bag of fabric scraps at a craft sale for a $1 and was trolling the blogosphere looking for ideas. I came across a pattern for bird mobile by Spool Sewing. I cut several birds in different prints and made a couple. I strung them on fishing line and gave them as gifts. I’m  not sure if Birdie was supposed to be a gift for someone and I just forgot to give her to them. But when I started sewing again last fall, I found it hard to keep my pins organized. They kept falling on the floor. Messy and potentially hazardous to the dog and M, who always goes barefoot in the house. So when I came across Birdie in my sewing bag, I decided to try her out. We’ve been together ever since.

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In my opinion, Birdie is a perfect pincushion. She’s just big enough to fit in my hand. She also fits nicely into the pocket of my sewing machine case. When I’m sewing, she sits on the table beside me and catches all the pins that would otherwise end up on the floor.

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While she’s a great pincushion, Birdie’s best quality is that she’s totally non-judgemental. No matter how many times I have to rip out and re-sew a seam, Birdie never criticizes. She just offers quiet support. I couldn’t ask for a better friend.

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Birdie on a break

Birdie and a few friends

Birdie and a few friends



Bead Soup – an introduction


For the first time ever, I’m participating in Bead Soup!

Pretty Things - Bead Soup Blog Party

Those in the beading world will know that Bead Soup is the ne plus ultra of bead blog hops. It’s the brain child of Lori Anderson of Pretty Little Things and is hugely popular. This year is the 7th edition and features more than 500 participants from all over the world.

The idea behind Bead Soup is pretty ingenious. Beaders are paired up and each pair exchanges a selection of beads. Each person then creates a piece of jewelry from the “soup mix” sent by their partner.  Each mix must contain a focal bead and a clasp, but the rest is up to the imagination (and stash) of their partner.  On a pre-determined date, the final product is revealed on each person’s personal blog.  Given the large number of participants, this time around there are three “reveal” dates between the end of March and mid-April.

For someone like me, who loves jewelry and beading blogs, the Bead Soup Blog Hop is a huge smorgasboard of ideas and creativity. It’s possible to spend several days roaming from blog to blog, just checking out what people have made. While not every piece is to my taste, I do admire the originality of the designs.

Although I’ve followed Bead Soup for several years, I’ve never participated. For one, each participant has to have her/his own blog – I didn’t set up mine until last year.  Truthfully, I was also seriously intimidated – a good number of the regular participants are professional jewelry and/or bead artists. Their work appears regularly in magazines and some of them have authored books on aspects of beading. These people make a living being creative. A rather hard act to follow for someone who dabbles in several types of crafts (jewelry, sewing, knitting, scrap booking, etc). It`s fair to say, I haven’t really mastered any one genre. Basically, I just like to make stuff.

However, I also like a challenge. When I signed up for sewing lessons, I bypassed the beginner project (a tote bag) and went right to the Level 3 class. Since my dress isn’t actually even cut out yet, I may have over-reached just a bit, but I learned a lot. Plus, I re-discovered that sewing is fun.

I’m not a total newbie to bead blog hops. Last year, I participated in Erin Prais-Hintz’s Challenge of Travel Blog Hop. I’ve also participated in a couple of Art Bead Scene’s monthly challenges (including this month, if my focal bead arrives in the mail on time). But Bead Soup is another level of challenge altogether. My beading muse tends to run hot and cold. We can go for weeks without speaking. This is where dabbling comes in handy – I can always make a card or knit a scarf, while the bead muse is off inspiring someone else.  However, Bead Soup comes with a deadline. Muse or no muse, I have to make a piece of jewelry and write a blog post by April 13th (I decided to play it safe and sign up for the final reveal).

While I’m a little nervous, I’m also excited. I get to experiment and play around with beads. Since I have bo idea what I`m getting, right now it`s tabula rasa –  the possibilities are endless. I also get the pleasure of seeing what another beader creates from what I sent her. I’m partnered with Marina Kosavic, who is from Serbia. Our beading styles are very different – Marina works primarily with seed beads. I put her package in the mail earlier this week and I’m crossing my fingers that she’s happy with the contents. I`m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.

Stay tuned – I`ll post an update as soon as my bead soup arrives and tell you more about Marina.

Parenting…in a galaxy far, far away

A redevelopment of Image:Milky Way Arms-Hypoth...

A redevelopment of Image:Milky Way Arms-Hypothetical.png: details about method below. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As M gets closer to 12 years old (he just had his half-year “birthday”), we are all entering into uncharted territory. Some days it’s almost as if we’ve passed through the time/space continuum and entered into a whole new galaxy. There’s still some discussion as to whether or not it’s a black hole or a distinct new solar system. But we’re all in agreement that it’s a whole new world and none of us has a map.

As often happens, we came across this new system quite by accident. M was the first to notice the presence of a strange planet called “Hygiene.” It’s very popular with parents, but apparently the planet’s environment is quite hostile to 11-year old boys. I maintain that the planet is benign and can have a long-term positive effect on its occupants – at the very least, they smell nice and have clean hair. However, M is convinced that the planet houses destructive forces. He prefers to visit as infrequently as possible.

I discovered the next two planets – Polite and Respectful one morning as M was getting ready for school.  They are quite close to each other and share the same strange customs – for example, children  do what their parents ask them (the first time!), are helpful around the house and enjoy spending time with their families. Talk about out of this world. The populations of Polite and Respectful fluctuates quite rapidly, often during the same day. M is a pretty regular visitor to both planets, but he has been known to make a quick and unscheduled visit to nearby Rude.  It’s my understanding that the atmosphere around planet Rude is highly unstable and re-entering the atmosphere around the other planets can be a bumpy ride, often involving slamming doors and stamping feet.

M’s dad (or DH, as he would like to be referred to from now on) made the most recent discovery.  This planet, Healthy Eating, is another parental favourite, but M prefers to keep his visits short. Even though he visits Healthy Eating 3x a day, he takes great pains to avoid the Fruit and Vegetable regions. He`d happily hang around Pizzaville, but there`s always some adult trying to sneak a piece of broccoli or a carrot onto his plate. According to DH, what makes Healthy Eating so fascinating is that it hides a smaller planet. Electronics. Apparently,  Electronics, can only be reached by passing through the force field of Healthy Eating. This is probably M`s favourite planet and in an ideal world (e.g., no parents) would spend all his time there. But the planet’s atmosphere, while particularly alluring to boys, is actually very dangerous, except in short doses. Too much time on planet Electronics and their central nervous systems become over-whelmed and they turn into demons. Turning them back into children is very messy and unpleasant. In our experience, visits to Electronics must be closely monitored – and sometimes extraction is required. Full-body armor is recommended.

I expect we`ll continue to discover strange and far-off planets over the next few months and years. As time goes by, M`s going to start making more trips on his own and he`ll be gone for longer each time. Scary and exciting at the same time.

Adventures in sewing – part 1

English: NYA: Minnesota:young woman learning t...

English: NYA: Minnesota:young woman learning to sew. Русский: Молодая женщина учится шить. Миннесота, 1936. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my goals for 2013 is to learn to sew. Not just play with material and thread, but actually sew a piece of clothing I can wear. Proudly. Outside my own house.

Thanks to my mother, who is an excellent seamstress, I understand the basics of sewing. I have my own sewing machine and I can sew a more-or-less straight line. I can read and follow a simple pattern. However, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at sewing. A 2-3 hour project takes me at least 6 hours, often more.

If I stuck to simple patterns and projects, I’d probably be fine. But what’s the fun in that?  The beauty and the folly of the  blogosphere is that I when I find an online tutorial for a dress or a skirt. When I see a fun project or  outfits on Tea Rose Home and Stitch Parade, the rational part of my mind understands that these ladies could already sew before they started blogging about their creations. The fact that I’ve never sewed anything more complicated than a pin cushion or an apron doesn’t seem to matter (Never mind that said apron took 2 weeks and 1 and a half spools of thread to complete).

So this year, I decided to take a sewing class and learn how to sew properly. I signed up for the dressmaking class at fabrications , a funky new independent store, with really lovely fabric that has been hitherto hard to come by in my burg, except by mail order (and huge shipping charges) from the US).

Everyone in the class in making the same dress – Crepe from Colette patterns. Since it’s a wrap dress, with ties, instead of a zipper or buttons, it’s considered a “beginner” pattern (famous last words).

For my dress, I chose a pink and purple paisley – Grace – RubyWine (Cocoon Collection) by Valori Wells for Free Sprit. It’s busy, but I think it’s rich looking and will compliment the simple lines of the dress. Plus, I have a pair of pink shoes that will look almost as cute with the dress as the yellow shoes in photo.

The pattern calls for 4-1/4 yards of material, which even for a total non-sewer like me, seems like a lot of fabric for a sleeve-less dress with a V-neck back. But no worries – I washed it and pressed it  out with the iron. I figured laying out the pattern pieces would be easier without wrinkles.

The course was 6 hours – over 2 nights. For the first class, the instructor told us we would focus on fitting the pattern and cutting out the fabric. On the second night, we’d sew the dress and finish it (once again, famous last words).

The first step was to take our measurement and figure out what size to make the dress. The pattern comes in sizes 0-18, all printed on the same tissue. Each of the sizes is identified by a different cutting line. Based on my measurements, I was a size 0 on top and a 6 at the waist and hips. The instructor did caution me that Colette patterns tend to be generous on top, so I might have to make further adjustments to get it to fit properly.

The second step was to cut out the pattern and make a muslin. Since my mother has always cut straight from the (Vogue) pattern, I’d never actually made a muslin before. In this case, we only made the top, which featured 6 darts, 4 on the front (bust and waist) and 2 on the back. I’d never made darts before either, but the instructor provided very clear directions.

Putting in the darts and sewing the top together weren’t terribly difficult. The dress has a small cap sleeve and the shoulder seam is curved which is was a bit tricky to iron. Other than that, so far so good.

The muslin didn’t fit very well, and as expected, I needed to adjust the pattern. By this time, we’d been working for over 3 hours and time to go home.

At the second class, we worked on adjusting our patterns. The instructor had all the necessary tools and tricks, plus an amazing amount of patience. For me, the biggest issue with the fit were the double darts on the front – very pointy a la Wonder Woman. Not at all flattering (I didn’t have my camera with me, so there are no photos).

It took me most of the class, but I managed to make all the recommended adjustments – add an inch to the length, take out excess material below the shoulder, etc. I made so many changes to the original pattern that the instructor suggested I re-copy the pattern onto plain paper, so I could cut it out properly.

At this point, we were at the end of the 6 hours. Carrie and Curtis, the lovely owners of fabrications, invited us back for another week. We were supposed to cut out our material at home and come back, ready to sew.

Despite having followed all the directions, I wasn’t a 100% confident about cutting out my material from the re-adjusted pattern. I really liked my fabric and wasn’t keen on wasting it on a dress that didn’t fit. So I dug through my fabric stash and found a piece of fabric to make another muslin.

The second time around, the muslin came together quite quickly – much faster than the first time. In class, we’d used tracing paper to mark the darts, but I didn’t find this very accurate – my darts weren’t exactly the same length. Since this makes a big difference in the fit, I decided to mark the darts on my second muslin with thread. This way, I’d be able to tell exactly where the dart ended as I was sewing. While using thread took a bit longer than just tracing them out, I had a much better results – all 6 darts were more or less in the right place and the right length.

However, despite my new-found talent at sewing a dart, the second muslin didn’t fit. In some ways, it was worse than the first one. It was too tight under the arms and pulled across the neckline. Even worse, the darts were too close together. I’d gone from merely pointed to bullet-boobs. Not only was it not pretty (again, no photos), but it was discouraging. I had no idea how to fix the pattern.  There was no way I was going to risk cutting out the material.

Back to the store for the last session. The instructor made several more suggestions and while I re-drafted the pattern, she took apart my muslin, so I could make a THIRD one. Meanwhile, everyone else in the class had cut out their patterns and are busily working on the top of the dress. My fabric hadn’t even been out of my bag.

At this point, I decided that if the muslin didn’t fit, Crepe and I were done. We were never, ever getting back together. If I couldn’t get the pattern to fit after 3 tries and 9 hours, it was not meant to be. Besides, this was the last class and unless the instructor was prepared to make house calls, I had no idea how I could get the pattern to fit. Since I like to know as much as I can about a subject, I’d ordered every book I could find in the catalog on alternations and pattern fitting from the library. But as I’ve learned from experience, reading and doing aren’t the same thing. I was not feeling encouraged.

Muslin #3 was closer. The double dart was definitely not my friend. I was totally prepared to bail, but the instructor re-drafted the pattern while I was sewing up my muslin. The biggest adjustment was taking out that pesky bust dart.

Since the instructor went to so much trouble to help me, I feel obligated to give it one more try. Crepe and I are still together for at least one more day. Just to be on the safe side, I’ve started checking out possible replacements. Suggestions are most welcome. Anything with darts need not apply.