For my first 1:12 scale quilt, I decided on an Amish-style one instead of the jewel-box, as the pieces are bigger (!) and thus I felt on more solid ground. I'm drawn to Amish quilts anyway, the richness of colors and the simplicity -- they have a kind of peacefulness to them. There are a lot of patterns I like but I chose Diamond in a Square, for its relative simplicity yet with the subtle liveliness of the diamond's angles. Interestingly, the Diamond in a Square pattern (sometimes called Center Diamond) originated in the 1930s, among the Lancaster County Amish. It seems so timeless that I assumed it had been around forever. There are some variations that can be made -- the corner squares on the narrow borders can be omitted, one or both, or the narrow border around the center diamond -- but of course the basic elements are the same.
I found an image on Pinterest which I then couldn't track down --
which seemed to me quite unusual with the tan/beige, but was very appealing, so I started with that and just played around with different colors in Kona Cotton, which I really like for its quality and the richness and wide variety of its colors. I ended up getting these --
which are from the bottom, Parchment, Laurel, Hibiscus, Teal Blue, and Garnet.
For the assembly I was going to just wing it (she said blithely), but when I was looking around for old quilts for color ideas, I also came across the Diamond in a Square mini-quilt tutorial at Purl Soho, which turned out to be a very helpful starting point. Not having much quilting experience myself, it was a bit of a revelation that I didn't need to cut all of the pieces beforehand, which turned out to make it much easier and less stressful to adjust the next piece here or there if it needed it.
I decided to press all of the seams open, figuring that that would distribute the thickness more evenly, which I suspect at this small scale might be obvious. I didn't use any batting at all, thinking it might make the quilt too stiff to drape properly -- I've heard that some miniaturists use fabric cut from an old T-shirt, though, so I'll keep that in mind. The binding is just folded over from the back and stitched down by hand on the front, mitering the corners.
Yes, the last corner is really wobbly! I didn't notice until after I'd finished -- so that's the end that gets tucked in!
I was really grateful for both the quality of the Kona Cotton, which took a bit of a beating getting sewn and resewn more than a couple of times on some of the pieces but still looks great, and also for the Purl Soho tutorial and the advice I read somewhere (last summer when I was making the sling bag) that people will never know how long it took you to sew something but they will see how much care you took sewing it, which on occasion must be translated as "yes, pick out the wonky seams, you will be glad you did," which is entirely correct, for just look at the results --
Any quilter reading this will no doubt notice that I haven't actually quilted this yet, and I think I will leave that for the time being. Obviously it won't get much wear-and-tear in the dollhouse, so there shouldn't be a problem with things shifting around, or the seam allowances bunching up. My hand-stitching is still a bit rough, so I think it prudent to wait until I've had a bit more experience in keeping the stitches both small and even!
Well, after this success, of course I had to hurry up and make the rest of the bedlinens, so I stitched up a set of sheets ...
... four pillows, and cases. The pillows themselves are sewn from plain bleached muslin stuffed with one fluffed-up cotton ball each, and the sheets and cases are from a partly-worn-out sheet, the rest of which has that lovely old-sheet softness. The fabric proved to be awfully ravelly, but the cases do look good.
Next time I will try and get the scale a bit better -- this house isn't particularly "realistic" as dollhouses go, but I'd like to have things not too "dolly" here -- but really I'm quite pleased with the quilt, and very happy with the colors and the way they play together. Plus "quilt" starts with Q, so there's my ABChallenge!
I have been stuck on "O" for the ABChallenge for an inordinate amount of time -- I could only think of subjective things, it seemed, like "optimism" and "ornerieness" -- but as David was leaving for work he said, "Look at the huge flowers!" and I smacked my forehead (mentally, of course). These are Mexican evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa. Many gardeners think of this as a weed, but I love the blooms' delicate pinkness and the plant's cheerful lack of temperament. I got these from my mom about six weeks ago -- she begged me to take all of them. I suppose it is that in more-cultivated gardens it tends to insinuate itself everywhere, but here in my inhospitable driveway bed, I think it will be less rampant.
I got "two for one" this morning, as I had planted the oenothera in an empty spot next to this penstemon, which is the California native "Margarita BOP". Yes, BOP in full caps, as it is short for "Back of the Porch" since it was discovered in that location at someone's house by the folks at Las Pilitas Nursery in central California! My plant was pretty last summer, its first in my garden, but this year it is covered with buds and flowers, fairly exploding just this week. The plant itself is rather small, but as you can see, well worth it for the mass of bluish-purple flowers.
As for the "tea" part of this post, Julia turned sixteen a few weeks ago -- a big milestone for all of us. I asked her if she wanted a party -- she hasn't for quite some time -- and she said promptly, "Afternoon tea!" I think she had sort of written off afternoon tea as one of Mom's Anglophile quirks -- until I took the family to Brown's Hotel in Mayfair one memorable day last summer, and she got to experience first-hand what a real, if exceptionally luxurious, afternoon tea can be.
I was quite willing to cater an afternoon tea, less formal than Brown's of course, with my higgledy-piggledy blue-and-white china, but heartfelt nevertheless -- cozily lavish, if you will! There were egg-and-cress and cucumber sandwiches and chicken salad in puff-pastry shells, then my trusty Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea scones recipe with strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream (the sine qua non for Julia), and a selection of cakes, including rosewater shortbread (a variation of one from River Cottage) and a modified version of Nigel Slater's seed cake recipe (with a bit more caraway seeds, despite his caveat, and some cinnamon and clove, and a rather amazing crust of demerara sugar inspired by Oakden's version -- I do like seed cake).
I was inordinately pleased with the flowers, which for once in my gardening life are all home-grown. There are three newly-opened "Gertrude Jekyll" roses (with a truly wonderful scent), some gangly stems of yellow bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), sprigs of purple de la Mina lilac verbena (Verbena lilacina "De la Mina") and "Margarita BOP" penstemon, a single big bunch of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), some long white fortnight lilies (Dietes iridioides), and sprigs of dark salmon-pink coral bells (Heuchera something-or-other).
Chocolate and raspberry cupcakes, with raspberry and white chocolate cream icing -- inspired by ones from Martha Stewart but adapted from a recipe at Serious Eats. (Instead of having a jam center, I just put the -- seeded -- jam in the batter; I also used 1/3 cup of cocoa as it was a bit dry with 1/2 cup, and doubled the amount of white chocolate and jam in the icing for more flavor. Quite a hit.) You will have to take my word for it that I am not a fussy baker nor especially handy with a piping bag, because I thought these turned out amazingly pretty.
Fresh blueberries and lemon curd in ready-made tart shells, improvised. Also a success, and easy-peasy!
And we are still basking in the glow of a very enjoyable afternoon!
I'm kind of torn about internet challenges, which for me are a lot like New Year's resolutions -- wonderful and admirable in theory, but often simply just more than one can manage in the allotted time. Possibly I am either too ambitious, or too easily distracted (ooh, a new "44 Scotland Street" novel ...), and frankly, I suspect the latter. Be that as it may, I do have a list of things I want to sew this year, and when I came across the 2018 Make Nine project the other day -- I shan't call it a challenge, then -- I thought, "well, I like the 'gentle' part!" and so I hope that seeing my to-do list in this rather fetching nine-patch will keep me focused.
At the top, from left, is Purl Soho's Quilted Vest, because I'm finding those really comfortable in our not-quite-winter, since they are warm but not a coat, and this particular one because I love that collar!; the Circle Tech Pouch, a free pattern from Coats, which will be stocking-stuffers come Christmas; and the Hawthorn dress from Colette, because I've been wanting a really good shirt-dress pattern and hope this is it!
In the middle, Very Shannon's Reversible Sock Knitting Bag, because we all need a pretty bag to carry our current sock knitting in, right?!; and Simplicity 8050, a retro reprint from a year or so ago, because the 1940s patterns seem to suit my figure pretty well (I can't decide which I like better, though, Miss Bias Tape, though probably in a less air-raid-siren color than that, or Miss Many Buttons); and a jewel-box quilt in 1:12 scale. This particular one is from someone on the Petitpointers list, whose pictures are also on Flickr -- I really like the jewel tones against the white -- though I might practice on something a little simpler.
And at bottom, the Ladies' Edwardian Apron from Sense & Sensibility, because I've had a hankering for this pattern for quite a long time, and other things keep jumping the queue; a new pair of Walking Shorts from So Sew Easy, because my favorite pair has now been mended with a darned hole where I must have splashed some bleach on it at some point in the distant past, and narrow bias tape around the fraying hems, and my other pair, despite being marked as my size is at least four inches too big around the waist, which impresses people who notice it into thinking that I've lost a lot of weight, but really is only annoying because I keep having to hike them up, and the pockets are far too small. Now that I walk pretty much every weekday, having more than one pair of shorts is pretty important. I found this free pattern online, and think it will suit my needs -- i.e., comfort and pockets. And lastly, another Very Shannon freebie, the Reversible Box Tote -- because we all need more project bags, right?!
I think it goes without saying that there will be knitting chez Bluestocking this year -- I just don't have any firm plans yet!
I've had a number of ideas for the ABChallenge, and even some photos, but (ironically) was stuck on J. Then we went to some friends' house for a "soup exchange" and game night, which was a lot of fun. We brought Bowl of the Wife of Kit Carson for the soup, and for the game a 1970s-era Mille Bornes. Both are excellent in their respective ways, and it was a cold, rather damp evening, also eminently suitable for both soup and board games, as well as good company. I had never heard of this game until we played it one night at David's parents' house some years ago, and found that not only is it an amusing family game but it has these wonderful 1950s graphics, very chic, so we have glommed on to the game and played it a number of times since, and David chose it to take with us this time. When I remembered that the French for "board game" is jeu de société, the evening was complete!
An alligator lizard, very common here in Southern California. This one was hiding near the garden hose, so I couldn't quite include its tail, which was easily twice again the length of its body!
An old and I'm afraid rather dusty brass engine of my dad's, the 0-4-0 "Mudhen" in HO scale from Ken Kidder. These particular model engines are not very popular with train enthusiasts as they are rather plain and slow, but I have a great affection for this little Mudhen as when I inherited my dad's collection this was the only one of his dozen or so treasured brass engines that started right up -- after some thirty years! -- and chugged off down the track, merrily as could be asked for.
This was edited by playing around with the Creative Filters on my Rebel T5. On our old PowerShots, you get these effects by setting the camera to the effect you want and taking the photo, but with the T5, you take the picture first, then edit it in the camera. A little confusing, but the plus side is that you can not only try out the different filters -- grainy black-and-white, soft focus, fish-eye, toy camera, and miniature-effect -- but also some different degrees or contrasts of the effect you choose. The highest degree of fish-eye was also pretty close to the sensation I was trying to convey, but I liked the miniature-effect best, of not so much disorientation (my head is surprisingly clear at two o'clock in the morning) but just that hyper-awareness of the hour.
"Hobbity". And of course, "hobbit tea" (see what I did there?!), though for a hobbit this is probably the bare minimum for elevenses. Still -- it is comfortable and appealing, being indoors and eating a warm scone with a cup of tea on a cold, bright winter afternoon, and what could be more hobbity than that?
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened 1/2 cup brown sugar (you can certainly use white, as in the original) 1 egg 1 cup mashed pumpkin 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon baking powder + 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt OR 2 cups self-rising flour
Preheat oven to 425° F.
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, then the pumpkin, mixing well, then stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined.
Turn out onto a floured board and cut as you like.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until done. (I usually use a stoneware tray, which takes a little longer.)
All of the versions of FBP's recipe say "cold pumpkin" but I'm pretty sure this is because the recipe is from the days when a housewife grew her own pumpkins and made the mash, and you would want to have the mash well-cooled so that it didn't start cooking the egg just from its radiant heat. And there are never any spices in the recipe, but you could certainly add nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. to good effect.
"Orbital" in pink, and "Double Bump" on the needles. I am still a rank amateur at crochet, and find it difficult to know what it is I'm looking at, so this took three or four tries before I got into the rhythm of it! Still not pleased with the jog, but there it is.
We've been having a bit of summer in February lately, with temperatures in the 80s (pushing the 30s C), but yesterday morning it was suddenly foggy and cold -- by the time I went out for my daily walk, it was beginning to clear but still clinging to the valleys and dips in the landscape. Unfortunately, it had all burned off by about 9:30 ...
Today is the 7th, and my tally is at six for the "Month of Letters" challenge, so I am pretty much caught up after the late start. Yesterday I sent a Postcrossing postcard, a long-delayed Christmas thank-you, and a postcard to a young family friend who baked a cake for our get-together Sunday afternoon. (I of course stitched willfully ignorant through the ostensible reason for the gathering ....)
And this afternoon I sent Julia's photo in her Rose Parade band uniform to the grandparents and honorary auntie --
I started to read Nancy Enge's blog a few months ago because of her miniatures, but a recent post struck a chord, albeit one in a minor key, talking about being in a bit of a funk -- I recognize that feeling of vague disappointment in everything one does, the paradoxical combination of restlessness and general fatigue, even the buttery-fingers part. I had a very stressful Christmas, and have already suspected that my starting a dozen or so new books and projects in the weeks since is both a symptom and a sort of self-cure. It's just that the restlessness tends to be a bit frustrating, too, when what you need is to relax, to re-focus. I have been tempted now and then to start up something along the lines of Blackbird's "Show and Tell Friday" -- but more immediately, Nancy wonders if an "arbitrary and not-too-difficult challenge practice might help" to jump-start the creative energy -- thus the ABChallenge, to take a photo of something representing each letter of the alphabet in order, something simple and really not demanding at all, just to blow those cobwebs away, as it were. I took these photos the other day -- yes, the same day I decided to do the Month of Letters, that's what I mean! -- and I have to say right up front that I like Nancy's watermark/caption so much that I have promptly lifted the idea for myself! Here is A, B, and C --