Tweed Felt Oak Leaf Bowls

Here’s another cute idea I picked up from Martha Stewart.  These bowls are great for odds and ends and for serving nuts and things as well.

Download the template from the website and resize it however you wish, so that it fits on the fabric you choose to use.

I decided to make three bowls here, but for each one you will need equal-sized rectangles of felt, fusible webbing (that’s the stuff that is sticky on both sides), and wool tweed.  The thicker your tweed, the better your bowls will stand up.

For the fusible webbing I used this stuff, which I picked up from Fabricland.

Follow the instructions closely on your packaging to use the webbing to fuse the felt to the tweed.  It took me a couple tries to get it right, so make sure to do exactly what the package tells you to do.

Cut out your template and use it to cut out the shapes from your fused tweed/felt.

Use a blanket stitch to sew up the V-shaped notches.

That’s it, that’s all.  Cute, huh?

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Wool Patchwork Quilt

This was one of the more time-consuming DIY Christmas projects the Pie and I had on our list, and one I couldn’t manage all by myself, so I waited for him to come home before we tackled this in earnest.

This patchwork quilt is an adaptation of a project from Martha Stewart.  Instead of using old sport coats, I had actual bolts of fine wool that I cut up, and my quilt is probably twice the size of the Martha version.

I am not very good at cutting in straight lines, so if a fabric will tear for me, I’m all for it.  I started by tearing 5″ strips from three different coloured pieces of wool fabric.

I then cut those strips into approximate 5″ squares (when am I ever exact?).Now to lay out your quilt in the pattern of your preference.  We did repeating colours, in a 12 x 18 square layout.  Pile up the squares for each of the 12 18-square rows in order, just to get them out of the way.Sew your squares together with about a half-inch seam allowance.

Then have your lovely husband press all those seams flat open.Then, making sure your top ends all line up with each other (because really, nothing else will), sew all the strips together with the same seam allowance.  Make sure that the other seams are sewn flat.Then you can prevail again upon that sunshine of your life to do some more ironing and flatten out the long seams as well.Now you have the top part of your quilt.So now you need a lining and a backing.  We used an old flannel sheet for the lining and a plain cotton broadcloth for the back.  Cut the sheet and broadcloth to size and lay everything out.  The flannel sheet should be on the bottom, with the broadcloth in the middle, right-side-up, and then the quilt top on the top, right-side-down, like so:

Make sure everything is as lined up as possible and pin it all together.  If you are me, one of the edges of your quilt will be a ragged mass of unevenness, where all the square strips end at different spots.  Don’t fret about this — we will do some fixing later.

Sew three edges of the pinned-together fabric up, leaving the fourth edge open (I made the open edge the same as my uneven fabric edge).

Stick your hand into the giant sewn pocket you have created, between the broadcloth backing and the woolen front and turn the whole thing inside out.

Now simply trim the uneven edge until it’s straight and fold it into the pocket before sewing it closed.  I then went around all the edges and sewed them in a similar manner so they all matched.And there you have it folks: a cozy quilt for two.

Roll it up and tie it with ribbon for a quaint and quilted gift!

Bell Island Take Two

What’s weird about this post is that it’s about Newfoundland, and by the time it’s posted I won’t be in Newfoundland any more.  So that’s weird.

When the in-laws were in town, the Pie and I decided to take them to Bell Island.  It was a day that promised rain, but we figured, what the hell, and we went anyway.

Boy are we glad we did.  There was so much to see that we hadn’t seen before on our trip with Cait and iPM, and it made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.  You can see the full set of photos here, but I’ll give you the highlights.

During our crossing we got to watch some minke whales frolicking between two small boats.  I didn’t take pictures because they were too far away for a good shot, and it’s hard to predict when their tails are going to come up.  The whole time we were watching the whales some old guy next to me kept pointing them out to me every time one came up for air, nudging me and saying, “Did you see that?  Did you see it?  That’s a whale.”  Like I didn’t know what I was looking at.  Eventually I moved around and hid behind my father-in-law, who was clinging like death to one of the poles away from the railing.  And my mother-in-law wouldn’t let me hang over the railing, either.  I know where the Pie gets his fear of the ocean from.  Too bad I made him live on an island in one of the harshest oceans in the world.But at least I got them all to smile.  Sort of.  To be fair, it was raining in their faces so that’s why they’re all squinting.After a short interlude, Bell Island emerged from the fog.Our first stop was the Bell Island Lighthouse, which was built in 1939.  This afternoon the lighthouse keeper was actually there, and he let us go up the ladder!It being one of the shorter lighthouses I’ve seen, the view from up there was a slightly more rain-spattered one than the view on the ground, but the Pie took this nice one of the lamp itself for me.

The lighthouse keeper was kind enough to explain to me something that had been puzzling me for some time.  I’d seen brown paper bags, filled with air or paper to fluff them out, hanging over the thresholds of various businesses when they left their doors open.  There was a similar one at the lighthouse, and the lighthouse keeper told me that it’s called a “Newfie Screendoor.”  The paper bag mimics the size and shape of a wasps’ nest, and therefore discourages other wasps, as well as bees and flies, from coming into the building.  He said it’s about 80% effective, which is about what you’ll get from a real screen door.  Pretty clever!

Then of course I went and draped myself over the edge of the cliff to take pictures of the rock formations (I was actually about two metres back from the edge but not according to my family).  The entire in-law family was not impressed.Mrs. Nice, a photographer herself, could understand my desire for the perfect shot, but she still wouldn’t come any closer than ten metres from the edge.They were all only content once I was satisfied and stooped to taking pictures of wildflowers that were on safer territory.Then we hit up Lance Cove Beach, which was where, last time, Cait and her shiny red boots saved me from an exuberant mallard.The gentlemen skipped rocks while the ladies took pictures of rocks.And boats.And wharves.We found some fossils.And a butterfly.And a SHIPWRECK!Not bad for a day at the beach.

Then we headed off to see one of the abandoned iron ore mines.  The reason rocks are red in Newfoundland is because they’re rusty with iron.The rust tends to get into other things as well.Anyway, at the end of a long rusty trail there was a weird, rusty shed.And behind the shed (and down a slippery, precipitous climb) there was a rock.That tiny yellow sign is actually about a metre by a metre and it reads KEEP OFF: FALLING ROCKS.

The sun took an opportunity to disappear for a while behind the clouds as we slipped and slithered our way to the beach.  It took about ten minutes to get down there.  When the terrain looks like this, however, you can’t really blame us for exercising caution.  Mrs. Nice remained at the top and waited for our impending deaths, but Papa John gamely followed us down.Why attempt such a harrowing climb, you ask?  Well, because of this.That, my friends, is an abandoned mineshaft.  HOW COOL IS THAT?

Still, once we were down there, the looming cliffs and their attendant minor landslides put a little bit of a damper on our high spirits.  There’s no sense of scale in this shot.  But the closest piece of fallen stone is about the size of my leg.  You can see from the above shot how far down it really is.And here’s the mineshaft.We’re not stupid: we didn’t go in.  The whole thing was raised about 2.5m off the ground and the way up was slippery and showed signs of recent landslides.  Plus who knows how stable those supports are?

Here’s a picture of me looking uneasy in front of it.  Or at least as close as we felt comfortable to getting to it.Then we began the climb back up.

Not that way.  There was a better path we hadn’t seen before.

Then we ended our tour watching the plants dance in the breeze.  It was worth the climb!

Tourist at Home: Bell Island

On a gorgeous Saturday morning we made a trip to Bell Island.

We drove to Portugal Cove-St. Phillip’s, about twenty minutes north of St. John’s, and waited next to a waterfall for the ferry to take us away.

A trip on the ferry costs nearly nothing, and you pay the fare only once to get on and off the island.  The ride there was pretty awesome, and we all took lots of pictures.The ferry itself was super-ghetto, which made it also cool.

Bell Island was settled by farmers in the early 1700s.  Iron was discovered there in the late 1800s, which made Bell Island into a thriving mining community.  The mine closed in 1966, however, and since then the population, once around 12,000, has declined to less than 4,000.  Most Bell Islanders live in the incorporated town of Wabana, but a few live in the smaller towns of Lance Cove and Freshwater.  The mine is open to tourists, but unfortunately we were about two weeks too early to get a tour.

Fun fact for you.  Bell Island was one of the only places in North America to see enemy action during WWII.  A pier where 80,000 tonnes of iron ore was stored in preparation for shipping was torpedoed by the German u-boats in 1942.  Supposedly at low tide you can see the wrecks of the four ships that were sunk in that battle, and there stands a memorial for the 69 men who died in the conflict.

Unfortunately we got lost (hard to do on such a small island, but we managed) and we didn’t make it to that memorial.

We did, however, find a beach.

There was a duck who had it in for me.  Cait chased it away with her scary red boots.And a boat that probably didn’t float.

And a seagull.

On an old wharf with missing pieces and a warning sign.And some rocks, which the Pie threw into the ocean (surprise, surprise).

And an inukshuk, which I built.

Cait found a rock with a happy face on it, so we gave the statue some expression.

We drove around a bit more, and then we found the lighthouse, which made the entire day worth our while.  This shot reminds me of an Alex Colville painting.

There were warning signs everywhere about unstable coast line, which we ignored, and were glad we did.  Well all of us except the Pie, who worries about such things.

The lighthouse sat on the edge of an enormous cliff.

Below it were some utterly fantastic land forms. 

This huge broken piece had all sorts of little caves underneath it and the water was so blue.It reminded me of some kind of pirate meeting place.I crawled over some strawberries to get some of the photos.  The ants living there didn’t like it very much and I was soon covered with the little buggers.

This mini staircase was at the edge of the parking lot.  You could pick it apart with your hands, which made me a little glad I hadn’t gone right to the edge of the cliffs.

I think this is a pitcher plant.Behind the lighthouse it looked like the horizon stretched off and ended abruptly, and it actually did.  You can see in this photo, where the grass ends is just empty air.  The cliff drop-off is staggering.  You really do get the impression that you are at the end of the world.  Most of Newfoundland is like that.

We ate lunch at Dick’s, a family restaurant celebrating its 60th year in operation.  I enjoyed my sandwich. It had a nice view.  The restaurant, not the sandwich.The ferry back was slightly newer, and we passed the old on on the way.  And a sailboat. 

It was such a nice day.

Hob-Nobbing with Rust Paint

There is an iron grate, or hob, in front of my blocked-up fireplace.  It came with the apartment, to distract, I suppose, from the hideousness of the wooden door that obscures the hideousness of the fireplace itself.

In any case, it’s rusty.  It attracts dust and cobwebs and because it’s all rough with rust it’s hard to keep clean.  My dusting cloths just catch and don’t remove any of the crud.  It looks like it was painted at one point, but that it’s almost all worn off by now.   What isn’t worn off is the marking on the inside:

Design Copy Righted

by W. L. Sharp & Sons

1893

So it’s old.  And it’s kind of cool.  And I don’t want the rust to destroy it any further.

I’m going to re-paint it black.  I find that’s a good solution in this house.  If something is rusty and/or gross-looking, I paint it.  The paint seems to protect it from any further damage, and it makes it look a little better.  There’s a cupboard in the kitchen that I painted the top of black, to hide some horrible stains and to mimic our black counter tops.  I also painted the rusty light fixture in the bathroom to save me the eyesore.  I think it’s a good approach.

I got some eco-friendly CLR-type stuff I picked up at Shoppers a while ago.  It’s amazing how well it works.  Unfortunately I don’t seem to have it anymore, nor can I find it again.  Fortunately the hob isn’t THAT rusty, so I think I can just paint over it.  It should at least stop it from rusting more.

***EDIT: I of course found the CLR-type stuff under my sink at the very back the DAY AFTER I painted the hob.***

I did, however, attempt a vinegar/baking soda concoction to blast away some of the rougher stuff first.  I scrubbed it with a stiff brush, like the kind you use on your barbecue.

Rinsed it off with the hose and left it in the sun to dry.  We actually HAD sun for once.

Now to paint!

I’m not too concerned with a glossy finish here so I used semi-gloss rust spray paint (Tremclad, to be more accurate) and I’m not sanding down the hob because I don’t want to rub off something important.  I’m also doing this outside because none of my windows open and I want to live to plague the Pie a long, long time.  I painted in my little quarry because that’s where I do all my painting.  It’s out of the wind, nice and sunny, and if I get some paint on the rocks who is going to care?

Make sure to follow the instructions on your paint can for proper technique, like distance from object and drying time.

I did the first coat, waited the requisite time for it to dry, then did the second.

I brought it inside after a while because I was afraid of rain.

And there it is.  A definite improvement.

Crayola Payola

I went to high school with a lovely girl named Paola.  While we generally pronounced it the boring North American way (“Pollah”), we would occasionally say it correctly (“Powla”) or even go crazy and hyper-phoeneticize it (“Payola”).

In grades nine and ten she and I used to colour pretty much everything we owned.  We used a lot of Crayola products, especially the stamp-y markers.  She had way more artistic skill in her little finger than I could ever hope to have.

We’ve since lost touch.  I think she’s a nurse or some form of medical practitioner now, and I wish her all the best.  But this little project made me think of her.

I was on MarthaStewart.com the other day, looking for ideas for re-purposing objects into practical items, and also for Christmas gift ideas that could be made on a budget (stay tuned for those DIYs).

In passing I found this little project (just skip the ad and you can see it), and I thought it might be fun and easy to do.   It not being Valentine’s Day, I probably wouldn’t make any hearts, but a rainbow of circles might be nice in the kitchen window.  And if that worked, I thought I could make some more for my nephew and goddaughter in Sweden as a ‘just-because’ kind of present that would fit easily in the mail.

For this you will need wax crayons, a pencil sharpener, waxed paper, kraft or brown paper, an iron (and ironing board), scissors, and a needle and thread.  Maybe a stencil or cookie cutters as well.

Using the pencil sharpener, make some shavings of the crayons of your choice.

Lay a sheet of kraft paper on your ironing board.  This is the crucial step or you end up with melted wax all over your ironing board.

Put a sheet of waxed paper on top of that and fold it in half.

On one half of the waxed paper, sprinkle the shavings of your choice, evenly but thinly across the area you want covered. 

Refold the sheet and fold up the other three sides as well to hold in the shavings.  This is a pretty important step, so don’t forget it.

Place another sheet of kraft paper over top to protect your iron.

With your iron on medium, make a few passes over the paper pile, checking each time, until you are satisfied with the melty results.

Mix up your colours and alter the size of your shavings

Remove the shavings sheet from the pile and allow to cool.  Repeat.  Experiment with the width of the shavings, the density on the page, and the colours you mix together.

Draw or trace, using a stencil or cookie cutters, the shape you wish to create, and cut it out.  I chose circles for me, then an astronomy theme for Arun and a garden theme for Maya.

I noticed the sheets were starting to curl (and I was losing the light) so I put the cut-out pieces under some heavy books overnight.

Thread a needle with the desired colour of thread and carefully poke it through the top of your shape.  Tie a loop for easy hanging.

Final step: Hang!