Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stuff Your Stocking

There's a really fun promotion coming up at Sew Sisters! If any of you like to give Santa (or, say, your husband, partner, parents or kids) a helping hand, you are going to want to check this out.

Stuff your Stocking

Pre-registration is required to unlock the deals, but if at the end of the event you've not made any purchases of the daily deals your $10 will be refunded. The best part (well, there are five best parts as far as I can tell):

  1. FREE SHIPPING IN CANADA for all of your accumulated Stuff Your Stocking purchases!
  2. There's a fun surprise every day (I am one of those people who LOVE surprises).
  3. You are guaranteed to have pretty and useful items that you LOVE in your stocking! 
  4. The daily deals are emailed direct to you - no need to search the web every day.
  5. Santa gets a break.
To register, visit the nice people at Sew Sisters here.

To further support your Christmas list, Sew Sisters has started an "All I Want for Christmas" wish list Pinterest board here where you just might find some Doe (yes, they have yardage AND packs - I think they might be the first shop in Canada to have it!).

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Stuff You Need to Know!

This is one of those public service announcement blog posts, just so that I know, that you know, what's going on this week on the internets!

First up, voting is almost over (ending tomorrow) in the annual Fall Blogger's Quilt Festival. You still have time to check out the stunning collection of quilts nominated for the Viewer's Choice Award as well as all of the other festival categories.  My Selvage Colourblock quilt was nominated for Viewer's Choice, which I must say was a huge thrill for me in itself. I don't want to get too sappy, but you can't deny the Sally Field reaction when you learn that your peers appreciate something you designed and made yourself.  I'm very thankful!

Coming soon is a fun event for Canadian Bloggers sponsored by the lovely ladies at Sew Sisters. This event is an opportunity for us to share our stories and introduce themselves to a wider audience. If you want to know who is making what in Canada, then check out the Blogathon!


Starting November 17 right here on the west coast, provincial hosts will introduce themselves and provide a list of links to other bloggers in their province. British Columbia's hosts are both incredibly talented members of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild: Stacey is a designing genius with original ideas and energy to spare.  e Jessica is exploring the beautiful Japanese art of Indigo and Shibori dying and regularly shares her knowledge with fellow guild members.  There are prizes! Every day the hosting sites have sponsored gifts to giveaway to visitors, so be sure to stop in.




All Canadian bloggers are invited to submit their blog addresses to Sew Sisters for inclusion on the provincial lists. Share your address and invite the world to visit YOU! Email the shop at connect@sew-sisters.com

Here are all of the provincial hosts for you:


Monday, November 17BCStaceyStacey in Stitches
Monday, November 17BCJessicaMomiji Studio
Tuesday, November 18MaritimesLindaScrapmaster
Tuesday, November 18MaritimesLindaStitch Lines
Wednesday, November 19ABKelseyEveryday Fray
Wednesday, November 19ABLeanneShe Can Quilt
Thursday, November 20SKHeatherPeace.Love.Quilt
Thursday, November 20MBLoriNight Owl Quilting
Friday, November 21QCJoséeThe Charming Needle
Friday, November 21TerritoriesJanetCaribou Crossing Chronicles
Saturday, November 22ONLorna Sew Fresh Quilts
Saturday, November 22ONSandyUpstairs Hobby Room

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Capri

Here'a another look back on our trip to Italy in October. Our last couple of days were spent on the island of Capri. We were very excited to visit the island, where my late father in law Ted spent several months living in a villa in the early 1950's. Before departing, we looked at his scrapbooks (that included shots of Ted hanging out in clubs with Lana Turner and Lex Barker aka Tarzan!) and read his memoirs.  Apparently Capri was the happening spot for actors, poets, artists and Euro-playboys and girls after the war.  Ted was in the artist category.

It was fun to seek out the same views that Ted had photographed over 60 years ago. Here, a postcard in his scrapbook, of the quaint piazzetta in Capri:

capripiazza1953

And a photo I took last month:

capripiazza

True to guidebook descriptions, Capri is crazy busy with day-trippers who arrive at Marina Grande by large ferries from Naples and Sorrento, and smaller boats from various ports on the Amalfi coast.  Most depart in the late afternoon, so we found the evenings much quieter.  We ate in local 'family' restaurants recommended by our hotel, instead of the crazy expensive hotels and upscale 5-star spots. The service was fun and friendly and the food amazing.  The narrow alleys of Capri town are full with exclusive boutiques and fashionable Italians strolling with gelato in hand (and more often than not, a designer purse in the other one).  I fit right in with my dry-fit hiking outfit and walking poles.

Capri
Marina Grande, Capri

Linen boutique in Capri town
Maybe this is where Mariah Carey buys her bed linen? I saw a few photos of her in restaurant display cases enjoying her Capri vacation.

We made arrangements in port for someone to transfer our luggage right to our hotel. There is a funicular that takes people up to town but the line up would have taken hours. We chose to walk the winding steps up through the houses to the piazzetta (where we enjoyed a cappuccino) and then a further 15 minutes uphill  to our hotel. In hindsight, it would have been much more economical to hire a taxi for 15 Euro up to the town and then drag our suitcases up to the hotel...we were billed 45 Euro for the luggage transfer despite the message on our reservation that said "call the hotel when you arrive to make arrangements for luggage transfer". Lesson learned: always verify what's included! The morning we left the island, we let our bags on wheels pull us down the path to the piazzetta, where we hopped on the funicular to take us down into the port.

Capri

Shortly after checking into our lovely hotel Villa Sarah, we were off on our first walk!  The villa is located above town, so we'd already done most of the climbing and had a lovely stroll along the narrow passageways that function as roads in the Capri neighbourhoods. The only vehicular traffic are one- or two-seater electric carts.

Our hotel on Capri

DSC_9315

Our walk took us quickly out of the houses and into the forests on limestone cliffs high above the sea. We chose a popular tourist route out to the famous Arco Natural, a limestone arch on the east coast of the island.  The route from the Arco continues along the coast with spectacular views before curving back into town from Faraglioni, the southeast tip of the island.

Capri, Italy

Capri, Italy

Capri, Italy

Capri, Italy
This remote home, Villa Malaparte, was built in 1938 for Italian writer Curzio Malaparte. Location, location, location!! Accessible by foot from the piazzetta, or by sea via treacherous stairs.

Capri, Italy
Faraglioni, where you can rent a lounge chair and recline on the concrete beach between the limestone stacks.

Capri, Italy
Looking west along the southern coast of Capri, Marina Piccola is center, at the base of the sheer cliff.

The following day was our only full day on the island, so we chose to hike the west coast from the Faro di Punta Carena lighthouse up to the famed Grotta Azzura along the Sentiero dei Fortnini (a path that takes you through three forts build by the British around 1800.  The path is very exposed and rugged in places along the rocky coastline, but hikers are cleverly distracted by handpainted tile signs grouted into the rock every 150 m, or so. These tiles are bilingual Italian-English and define the local flora and fauna in the most poetic way possible, relating flower names and scents to the Greek Gods and their lovers.

Capri -West Coast

Capri -West Coast
The trail begins here, at a tiny day resort beside the lighthouse - we reached the trail head by bus from Capri town, via Anacapri.

Capri -West Coast

Capri -West Coast
Here, you see the exposed stairs. This section of trail was not for vertigo sufferers!

Capri -West Coast
Check out this villa with enormous (empty) swimming pool. The property looked abandoned, but it could be the owners had just closed it for the winter season.

Capri -West Coast
I'm a sucker for a great mailbox

Our 3-hour trek ended at the Grotta Azzura - and a remarkable scene. Several Instagram friends following our trip had suggested we visit this spot and even take a swim in the grotta (a cavern at sea level accessible by a very small hole that only a tiny rowboat can fit through when the waves subside).  Arriving at the top of the cliff, we looked down to see this:

Capri -West Coast

Numbered rowboat guys picking up people from tourist boats to take them into the Grotta once they had passed by the floating office (striped canopy) to pay their 13 Euros each.  The oarsmen then row up to the entrance, where they instruct everyone to lie down and they wait for the right moment in the swell before grabbing a chain on the wall and pulling the boat through.

Capri -West Coast

It was an overcast day, so we didn't really get to see the incredible glowing blue (azure) sea that people talk about, but it was a pretty fun thing to do.  Once inside, the oarsmen break into song, thinking to increase their tips by creating a lovely feeling of romantica with the echoing strains of O Sole Mio. Ha!  I mostly had a view of our oarsman's butt.

DSC_9302

DSC_9306
It was pitch black in there, so I couldn't make any setting adjustments on my Nikon. Sadly, this is all I've got for you from the inside!

I'll leave you with a few more shots from Capri. In reading Ted's memoirs and looking through scrap books before our trip, there were several snapshots of he and friends enjoying drinks at "Number Two". Well, it appears the club is still there, however it doesn't open until 1:00 a.m. so we didn't have a chance to check it out.  We had fun finding the front door, though!

DSC_9313 

Marina Piccolo, Capri, Italy
The view west to Faraglioni from Marina Piccola

DSC_9322
An early morning shot of Capri town from the Funicular station patio

Capri
The main ferry jetty at Marina Grande, where we departed for Naples

Capri
My fabulous travel companion and husband of 20 years, on the ferry to begin our journey home. 
Bye bye Capri!

I think I'll do one more post from the trip with some more shots from the Amalfi coast, including a couple of beach days and a visit to the Roman ruins of Herculaneum.  All of my photos will be on Flickr, I just haven't made them public yet as I'd like to properly label everything first.  I'll be back with more Italy next week!


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bloggers Quilt Festival - the ROYGBIV Selvage Edition

International Quilt Market is in full swing in Houston this weekend, so that can only mean one thing: I'm not there! Hehe, while that is true, what it really means is that it is time for the Fall Blogger's Quilt Festival hosted, as always, by Amy's Creative Side.

Last spring I discovered (on Instagram) that my friend Diane was using her selvage collection to make string blocks. She asked if anyone wanted to participate in a selvage block-along. I probably had a ton of other sewing to do, but I also had a selvage drawer full to bursting and it seemed like a good idea to just get busy and make something substantial with all of those pretty selvages.

I know myself. I know that true 'random' doesn't work for me. I will always try to group colours or patterns, or match prints even if I'm not trying. So I decided to forego the random string idea right from the start and instead organized all of my selvages into piles of colour.  They almost completely covered my little sewing room floor!  Then I designed an easy 10 1/2" Selvage Colourblock (tutorial here) that would keep my inner organizer happy.

Selvage colour block by Poppyprint

Four of these squares pieced together give you a lovely diamond of solid colour in the middle, surrounded by related selvages in a 20" block!  I chose my longest selvages for the very first strings next to the solid triangles so that they'd have a nice frame around them to start.  And then I went CRAZY RANDOM....within the same colour grouping, of course.

Selvage Colourblock Tutorial by Poppyprint

These blocks came together really, really fast. I had an absolute ball making them and I so enjoyed using the selvages that I'd been diligently saving for four years.  When this quilt top was complete, B said "Cool!......Wait, is that all from your own fabric?!".  I think you know my answer.  The only colour that I had to raid my stash to cut more selvage off was purple.

Little Black Dress selvage colourblock
I used yard-dyed Essex for my black & white block centre and I love how it looks!  I wasn't sure how to fit black into the rainbow, so I ended up putting it smack in the middle of the quilt.

Once all of my 10 1/2" blocks were made I got kind of excited and pulled all of the newsprint foundations off. In retrospect, this wasn't such a great idea. All of those selvage edges cut at 45 degrees are the worst kind of stretchy! Now I was in a pickle. I had to figure out a way to stabilize the blocks and piece them together while keeping the quilt square. In the end, a skinny white sashing was my solution and I used the BigHugeLabs mosaic tool to help confirm my decision.

Selvage colourblock layout option 1
In the final layout, the 1" sashing borders every 10" block

I was seriously loving this quilt (and there was still quite a bit of selvage on my floor), so I decided to keep going and add a border to enlarge it.  The border is colour-blocked, too! I pieced selvage strings into 4 1/2" wide strips of newsprint and planned the border colours to coincide with the outside blocks of the quilt top. The quilt ended up about 75" square. It's quilted with a wool batting (a first for me - I like the puffiness!). I stitched the ditch around each block to stabilize, then stippled with matching coloured thread over the selvages.  The border is quilted with a figure 8 pattern. This quilting may have required a rather extravagant custom Aurifil thread box purchase.  As you might expect by now, the binding was also pieced to match the colour-blocking.

Selvage colourblock by Poppyprint  Selvage colourblock by Poppyprint


I'm so happy that I saved my selvages so that I have this beautiful memory quilt of all my favourite fabrics. Once this quilt was done, I cleaned up my remaining selvage strings, stuffed them in a big plastic bag and gave them to a friend. I won't be making another selvage quilt and it isn't because this wasn't a ton of fun, it's just that I don't feel like saving and storing selvages anymore. I'm on to the next thing!  

Selvage colourblock by Poppyprint
Here's Selvage Colour Block hanging at my traditional guild's show last June. The entire summer and fall got away from me and I still have not succeeded in a proper outdoor photoshoot for this quilt!

Thanks for getting through this super long quilt story. If you've still got any tea left in your cup, go and check out the other festival entries here!

AmysCreativeSide.com



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Big News - of the BOOK VARIETY!

Keeping secrets is really hard work. When there are 12 women involved, all of whom blog and actively participate on social media, it is almost impossible. So, just in case you haven't yet caught wind of my exciting news, here goes:

I WROTE A BOOK!
MARTINGALE PUBLISHED THE BOOK!
THE BOOK WILL SHIP IN MID-FEBRUARY, 2015!

The best part about this book project? I got a lot of help from my friends. You know that retreats are my thing; I've been running a day-retreat business for almost 10 years and hosting 25 women on a 4-day annual retreat  for 8 years.  My dream for this book was to bring together a virtual retreat of my talented online pals (80% of whom I've had the pleasure of retreating with in real life!) and to share our ideas for useful projects that will help get you and your sewing stuff from home to retreat.  Plus, I wanted there to be a bunch of great patterns to sew once you got there! I've even included a fun group activity for an afternoon sew-in with friends at home if a sleepover isn't in the cards for you just yet.

The amazing people at Martingale worked with me to refine my proposal and I think we've come up with a really unique concept book full of gorgeous projects that everyone will want to make! There is truly something for everyone here. I can't wait to share more with all of you in the new year. For now, thanks to the gorgeous cover, you can have a preview of what to expect inside:



Martingale is based just outside of Seattle, an easy 3-hour drive south for me, so I've been to visit a few times. The staff are incredibly supportive and kind and their offices are so lovely - as you might expect there are gorgeous quilts hanging everywhere!  Perhaps one of the most fun and unexpected parts of the project was being able to participate in the photo shoot.  You know photography is a bit part of my life, but I've never had the chance to work with a true professional before.  For this, and for absolutely all of the aspects of Make It, Take It, including concept development, design, editing and layout, I feel so fortunate for their expert guidance.

Now that I've seen the book listed on Amazon and had the thrill of knowing the publisher likes the projects enough to feature them on the cover of Martingale's latest trade magazine, it is all becoming a reality that feels so satisfying and exciting.


In the new year, I'll be able to introduce you to all of the amazing designers who helped me fill this book with exciting projects. All of them will get to share their own projects and tell you a bit about their designs.  It'll be a blog hop, so of course, there will be books to give away! 

I wish we didn't have to wait so long, but the busy Christmas season is just around the corner, then many of us will be off to QuiltCon.  Let's face it, I've been waiting almost 2 years to hold this baby in my hands, so few more months isn't going to break me.....I don't think. Wink.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Buongiorno, Amalfi!

It is difficult to know where to start. There are hundreds of photos and dozens of good stories (the first and most important one being the story of my happy 20-year marriage to B, which lead to this remarkable trip in the first place!).  We weren't able to manage a big trip for our 5th or 10th anniversaries as I had dreamed (but we did get away for weekends). For our 15th we enjoyed a long weekend in Naramata, riding our mountain bikes on the Kettle Valley Railway and tasting delicious B.C. wines at several wineries.  To celebrate 20 years, I really wanted to do something special and significant.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Hotel Luna Convento, Amalfi

Many people we know told us the Amalfi Coast was their favourite place, or that they had their best holidays there.  I started with a web search of walking tour companies.  For value, itinerary and resources, we chose On Foot Holidays out of the UK. I highly recommend their services.  We would (and likely will) book our next walking holiday through them.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
repaired terracotta

We began in Amalfi (3 nights) and walked to Sorrento via Praiano, Positano and Sant 'Agata. We stayed 3 nights in Sorrento as well, then snuck over to Capri for our final 2 nights in Italy.  We walked every single day except for the first one: our luggage was lost during a transfer in Rome and that first day we spent in Amalfi wandering a bit aimlessly, half-heartedly trying to buy some clothing, but clinging to hope our luggage would arrive by evening.  To keep a long story short, we didn't see our own clothes until we reached Praiano on night four.   I do, however, have a snazzy new pair of Puma running shoes, some too-big designer men's jean shorts and four pair of practical cotton briefs (let me tell you, it is NOT EASY to find cotton undies in a tiny Italian tourist town!).  I had a little meltdown on day three, but my calm, reassuring husband got me back on track with the purchase of a lovely red purse made of dreamy Italian leather. I felt much better.

Amalfi, Italy
Heading east towards Atrani, from Hotel Luna Convento, Amalfi

On Foot Holidays provided detailed written route info, very clear colour maps, an additional guidebook and a handbook of tips from previous travellers including restaurant reviews and recommendations.  We took walking poles (which I am sure saved my knees) and carried only day packs with camera, water and snacks.  Our luggage (once we had any) was transferred to our next hotel by a local agent and waiting in our rooms when we arrived from our walks each day.

Amalfi, Italy
Amalfi beach

Ravello to Amalfi
Amalfi from the pier

Ravello to Amalfi
Our hotel, Luna Convento on the point with the tower restaurant across the street from the hotel entrance.

The daily routes were excellent. Most walks took us very far from the coastal road(s) and off the beaten track. We walked ancient paths that have followed the coastline and ridge-top contours for hundreds of years before cars ever reached the coast.  We walked up and down many, many stone stairs.  The coast is a jagged peninsula of limestone jutting out to the west and dividing the Bay of Naples to the north and Gulf of Salerno to the south.  The entire peninsula is a UNESCO Heritage Site, with small hilltop towns (many consisting of just a few houses and a church, monastery or convent) and sea-level towns built almost vertically up the limestone cliffs.  Walking from town to town requires a morning climb of about 800 m elevation and an afternoon decent of the same (with about 10 km of up and down walking in between).  Luckily, you are only ever 3 or 4 km from the nearest cappucino. 

Amalfi Coast 2014
Atrani

Detailed walking notes were essential to staying on track, in towns and in the highland areas. In populated areas the walkway/trail is the only means for locals to access their homes and terraced lemon and olive groves. The 1-2 meter wide stone path functions as road, sidewalk, front porch and yard!  We were always greeted with a buongiorno or salve! or buonasera by locals and fellow walkers alike. Most days we walked alone and hardly saw anyone on the trails outside of the towns. The busiest walking route was the Path of the Gods, a popular day hike between Praiano and Positano where we encountered large walking groups of Germans, Kiwis, and Brits.

Amalfi Coast 2014

Amalfi Coast 2014
Every home has a beautiful painted tile number plate and an extra one to let you know if there is a cat or dog that needs minding when you open a gate!  This is the entrance to an olive terrace - you can see the mesh tarps that are strung under the trees to catch the olives when they ripen and fall.

Amalfi Coast 2014
A guest house garden in Santa Cosma

Amalfi Coast 2014
At times I really felt like I was walking through strangers' lives, so close to their windows as to hear conversations inside.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy
The beautiful Villa Cimbrone in Ravello

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy
The Tea Garden, Villa Cimbrone

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy
Terrace of Infinity, Villa Cimbrone (if you've seen The Trip to Italy, you'll recognize this!)

Ravello to Amalfi
Amalfi (taken from Pontone)

Ravello to Amalfi
Terraced lemon groves

Amalfi to Praiano via Marina di Furore
A cappucino on the terrace of that yellow cafe in Lone would be quite the thrill!  We were too high above town with a long way still to walk that day, so we didn't try it.

Amalfi to Praiano via Marina di Furore
There were many barking dogs and these two gave us quite the reception, however they all stay on top of their own walls and behind their gates. A third small & friendly dog from this house joined us on the path and walked about 500 m with us until we met a road where he simply around turned and went back home.

I'll sign off here for today, but there are more photos to come!