Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gracie McMusic

Everyday Miss G - Gracie - disappears downstairs and sings her little heart out. When I hear her, whether at home or at church, I stop          and listen. Her gorgeous, gentle, heartfelt voice has this impact on me. Early this morning Gracie shared her talents outside a coffee shop, along with her guitar teacher from earlier years (also sharing his quality instruments and equipment). She hadn't sung in a public setting like this and she was very well received. She turned 17 a few days ago and I can see much more singing in her future - it is her passion. Her twin sister, Miss N, also has a lovely, perfectly complementary voice and plays several instruments but her greater passion is sport.

A few months ago Gracie started her own YouTube channel to share covers of her singing and playing. She has recorded these at home, all by herself, using my Canon DSLR and uploaded them unedited. You can have a look - or a listen - here.

She hopes to continue to develop her talents and one day buy some better instruments and equipment. For now, her guitar teacher is keen to have her share any singing engagements he may book.

And I will continue to enjoy listening to our little songbird everyday.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Choices and Thankfulness

'Killer Clothes - How seemingly innocent clothing choices endanger your health...and how to protect yourself'. This is a very enlightening, and frightening book, best read in small doses. It covers much more than just fabric composition. Every time I pick it up I become more aware of the clothes I am wearing at that moment. Part of my response has been to make myself a skirt late last week from organic cotton using a length of Cloud 9's Wildwood which I had bought to use as a quilt back.

Same technique as when I made a skirt recently, using another skirt as a template. Here I am wearing it again today, a perfect lightweight for our hot almost-summer days. It's been worn and washed several times already, softening with each wash. We hang our washing/laundry to air dry (weather permitting) and thankfully the skirt hasn't required ironing. I'm planning on sewing more clothes using organic cotton.
*Update August 2015. The fabric in this skirt has continued to soften with ongoing wear and washing, however it really doesn't offer the soft drape which is desirable in a skit like this. However this speaks well of the durability of the fabric for use in quilts and other household items.

With recent hot days, I sometimes cook our evening meal very early to help avoiding heating up the house later in the day. The chicken went into the oven before sunrise and was enjoyed with salad that evening.

The twins turned 17 this week and chose to celebrate with an ice cream cake which they had the pleasure of constructing.

There is a sombreness in the home at the moment as a well loved Australian cricketer, 25 year old Phillip Hughes, has died this afternoon as the result of being hit in the upper neck with a cricket ball while batting on two days ago (just below his helmet). Earlier this month while Miss N, Miss G and Master J were playing local club cricket a middle-aged team member dropped to the ground unconscious in the middle of a game with a brain bleed. He remains in hospital with an uncertain future. Life can be unpredictable, let's be thankful for each other and each day - and a very special Thanksgiving to my US readers :)

Miss E sporting fancy sunglasses during her first dental checkup. She was still smiling afterwards too!

Last but not least, a little more hand stitching on my epp flowers for my Fresh Fields quilt - loving these colours as the near-summer heat sets in.

Sharing at WIP Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Organic Discoveries

'Tell me is there a lot of variety with the organic fabrics?' asked Kim in the comments on my previous blog post. Although no expert, I was quick to share what I have learnt so far - below is my lightly edited email response to her....

Hi Kim,

There is indeed quite a variety of organic fabric, ranging in weight (home decor, voile, quilting/poplin etc) and an ever increasing variety of designs. I can’t source any locally (I have asked) but online in the right places there are lots to choose from, just type ‘organic’ in the search box. There are a few fabric designers who have their ranges printed on a number of different fabrics/substrates including organic cotton - Amy Butler comes to mind here. Some sites stock no organic fabrics, others like Hawthorne Threads have a large range.

As always, Etsy is a good place to look too. I have even found some Scanfil GOTS organic cotton thread on Etsy which is lovely to work with (bought from Sew Fine Fabric on Etsy, along with some Cloud 9 solids - they have low shipping rates too, even to Australia).

You just have to read carefully as some designs use the word ‘organic’ to describe a free-form design rather than the fabric composition. It seems to me that in the past a large percentage of organic designs were targeted at babies/young children, but I’m pleased to see a great many more general appeal designs being released more recently.

Cloud 9 is a relatively new fabric company which only uses organic cotton and low-impact dyes. Wildwood is one of their newest releases, which although listed as quilting weight, it is quite light weight, almost like poplin and would lend itself well to clothing too. Last night I checked their site again and they have up several yet-to-be-released ranges which look amazing - I can’t wait! (Click here)

The Intrepid Thread is a US bricks and mortar store which also sells online - and as a bonus, they (update-DID but not any more) have great shipping rates, including a special shipping rate for international orders of between 8 and 9.25 yards etc (also for larger orders too). They have a good range of organic fabrics, many currently on special.

Well I’m sure that’s more than enough info for now……looks like I have the basis of a blog post written here! I could have just answered ‘yes’ to your question.

After reading my email and checking the Cloud 9 website, Kim discovered she had inadvertently bought some Cloud 9 fabric at her local Spotlight store recently.  We had a Spotlight store open in our town a few weeks ago but as yet they have no organic stock.

I'm really enjoying working with a selection of Cloud 9 fabrics from three different collections plus their new Cirrus range of solids, purchased from three US retailers. All their cloth is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton and has proven to be colourfast, including a navy/ocean Cirrus solid and also a deep purple/iris Cirrus solid (not shown above). The Cirrus solids are a different cloth type, being yarn dyed with a visible weave, some with a slight shot appearance, and they crease more than the prints (I prewash all fabric) and the darker the colour the more it seems to crease. The solids co-ordinate well with many of Cloud 9's print collections. The Cloud 9 quilting weight print collections are a beautiful finely woven, lightweight cloth with several of the prints and colourways coordinating well with each other. In the photo above I have used mostly Wildwood, along with some fabrics from the Acadia and Shape of Spring collections.

There are many, many good reasons to choose organic cotton, including their amazing range of beautiful prints - both available now and soon to be released. I know what I'll be suggesting for my own Christmas gifts.....

Sharing at WIP Wednesday.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sweet (Sweltering) November

The jacarandas have been beautiful again this year, spreading their purple haze all around our town for weeks.
Another generation of Australian Wood Ducks are walking our streets. We watched during one dusk walk as an oncoming car stopped to let them safely cross the road - much to our relief!
16 year old Miss N has had two games of first grade night cricket with our local club. She is decidedly dwarfed beside her fellow team mates.
For my birthday this year I requested gifts of service from our children - which were given, as well as chocolate.
My husband seconded one of my organic fabric orders to serve as part birthday gift - isn't it beautiful - Wildwood by Cloud 9 - just what I wanted!   ;)
One of the best birthday treats was having Miss E (6) wear a dress which I made in 2011 for Miss V (which she never once wore!). She didn't last the whole day in the dress but I enjoyed every minute of seeing her wear it. You can just see where she has lost a top tooth too.
I completed my Ginger Blossom pinwheels quilt late Wednesday night and gently tucked it around a sleeping Miss O straight away. It is a delight to see her enjoying this quilt, one long enough to keep her toes warm too!
Today is not quilt weather! The cucumbers were struggling to manage at 11 am, despite me giving them a long drink around sunrise. The gazanias seem to be loving the sunshine. Now noon, it is already the hottest day of the year at 39C (102 f) and the mercury is still climbing (update:it reached 43C at 2.30pm, and was over 40C for several hours). Master J is leaving right now to play cricket in the heat, all afternoon. We need to attend a function elsewhere in town which hopefully will be air-conditioned......
Sweet and sweltering.  :)

Sharing at Our World Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ginger Blossoms: Almost Done

Simple borders have been added, just as Karen Moore did in her original Ginger Blossom Pinwheel which I am shamelessly copying. Basting was completed on our large dining table, in two halves. I'm using Sew Easy 50/50 Bamboo Cotton batting for this quilt - a beautiful light even-coloured soft batting with minimal flecks. Then the straight-line quilting began. I find I have best control if I roll each side up, letting the quilt feed through the machine while I hold each roll as if they were reins on a horse.

Early this morning, before the children began to stir, I finished the quilting on Ginger Blossom Pinwheels. I would not have dreamt of using my noisy old machine with clackety walking foot while any were sleeping. I do however, find that my new machine skips the odd stitch here and there, sometimes several in a row, even after changing needles, so if any have suggestions to help, I'd love to hear from you.

This is the first quilt I have sewn without prewashing all fabrics. Using a fat quarter bundle it seemed impractical (and it is generally not advisable to prewash these smaller pieces of fabric), however I find the smell/chemicals tend to irritate my throat when I've been working with the unwashed fabrics for a while. I'm contemplating squaring the quilt, zigzagging the edges and giving it a couple of washes (along with the binding fabric separately) before I attempt to attach the binding and hand stitch it on the quilt back. I'll let you know how I go...

I'm keen to finish Ginger Blossoms so Miss O can begin to use it and so I can start to play with the beautiful organic fabrics which have arrived since I last posted. More on that soon!

*Update: I did square off and zigzag the edges, washing and line drying the quilt and separate binding fabric twice! I'm very pleased to be able to report that this almost completely removed the new fabric/dye smells/irritation and has caused no further issues.  :)

*** You can see the completed quilt in use a few days later here.

Sharing at WIP Wednesday.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Organic Cotton

Organic cotton fabric - I have bought a little of it here and there for quilting in the past. It cost slightly more and it was rarely true white but I chose it because it was better for 'the environment'.

Then a few weeks ago I stumbled upon this:

'Approximately 25 per cent of the world's insecticides and 10 per cent of the world's pesticides are used on conventionally grown cotton and it's estimated that 50 per cent of all the insecticide used in India is sprayed on cotton. This causes monumental damage to the environment and to the health of farm labourers who are exposed to the chemicals. Non-organic fabric can also use genetically modified seeds....

Unfortunately it gets worse: as the pests develop resistance to these chemicals and the soil loses it fertility, the farmers find themselves in a never ending spiral of debt....illness, depression...suicide

...Organic cotton farming...natural fertilisers...crops are rotated and bugs are hand-picked...Weeding is also done by hand...allows farmers to grow their own food safely and keep animals.....increased opportunities for women working within the organic involved also gain skills and training because the organic system is so tightly controlled and education-focused...the farmers are generally paid faster than those in the traditional industry...'

Suddenly 'the environment' was becoming very personal. This double-page spread in the midst of Cassandra Ellis's impressive book, 'Cloth' (borrowed from our local library - published October 2013), has started me on an intriguing trail of discovery. Before having children I had spent a total of eight months living in India over the course of two trips, and my husband has had much more time India, even as recently as 2012, visiting some of our Indian friends. (See the label 'India' in the group of tags in the column on the right for more about our ongoing India connections).

The more I read, the more I have been disturbed by what I have learnt about conventional cotton farming, harvesting and printing/finishing.
Gina Pantastico, Director of Operations for Cloud 9 Fabrics recently shared a couple of articles over at Sew Mama Sew which have been most informative yet not too technical:
This first one looked at cotton farming and in the second article Gina gave a somewhat disconcerting outline of harvesting and printing/finishing cotton fabrics..
Another site, O Ecotextiles, covers some very interesting issues in greater depth including, but not limited to, fabric. 

What to do? While I still treasure and will carefully use my collection of conventional cotton fabrics, I can see organic cotton featuring much more strongly in future purchases - for the sake of the farmers, the environment (our waterways, air and soil) as well as the health of those who work with and use/wear the end products - and that's every single one of us! 

Today I received a small order of hand printed organic fabric from Maze and Vale. Leslie custom mixes environmentally friendly, water based textile inks and screen prints her own designs in her one room studio in Melbourne. The fabrics are fine, soft and smooth, the prints are wonderful and the packaging was delightfully personal (thank you Leslie!).

I am very grateful also for companies like Cloud 9 Fabrics and Birch Fabrics who are continuing to release ever more enticing designs in organic cottons. There are some packages of organic fabric on their way to my home right now - at least one of which I hope will arrive in time for my birthday later this week. 

Do you have experience with, or thoughts on organic cotton? I would love to hear about it.

*** Just to clarify that the Maze and Vale order shown above, as well as the 'packages' on their way, are all my own purchases.  I really want to support the organic cotton system as well as looking after the health of myself and my family. In fact at this point I'm not buying any fabric unless it is organic and have been busy looking into organic batting, organic threads as well as organic bed sheets etc.

Sharing at WIP Wednesday and Fabric Tuesday.

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