Sunday, August 30, 2015

Early Starts

Early morning light entices one to step outside and enjoy its fresh softness. Yesterday morning our twins had an early flight to catch and will return tonight. The rural setting of our small regional airport is extra beautiful in the dewy fresh morn with wallabies peacefully grazing nearby.

Our town is known for its hundreds of purple jacaranda trees which burst into masses of purple flowers late every October for a few short weeks. It was a surprise when I spotted a couple of PINK flowering jacarandas in town this week. There are also a handful of white jacarandas around but they flower around the same time as the common purple 'jacas'.

Our little veggie patch is still producing kale, broccoli and sugar snap peas. With spring almost here the bottlebrush bushes are covered in promising buds and our neglected crucifix orchid still graces us with flowers. Morning light adds a special sparkle to each day, encouraging one to smile and remember the gift it is to be alive!

Sharing at SkyWatch Friday.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Organic Threads + Using Cones

Aren't they gorgeous! And those spools are real wood, giving a wonderful old-time, eco-friendly quality, the perfect way to package quality organic cotton thread. 

It's been 10 months since my lightbulb moment about the importance of organic cotton, not only for the environment but also for the farmers (and their families), fabric workers and for those who sew with and use the finished products. In my search for quality organic fabrics and batting I quickly discovered organic cotton threads too. Scanfil make a collection of 34 different colours, spun in The Netherlands from GOTS (Global Organic Textiles Standard) certified organic Egyptian long staple cotton.

After having sewn with Scanfil's organic threads almost exclusively since then, I am happy to report that I am very pleased with them. A little thicker and stronger than Gutermann cotton thread and also Auriful 50wt, I have used Scanfil's organic threads for piecing, quilting and also for hand binding using a double thread. I find them to be a truly beautiful thread to use and look at! (I would not however recommend them for EPP - Gutermann Extra Fine being my favourite for this purpose, or where a very fine thread is required).

Several Etsy sellers stock Scanfil Organic thread in all 34 colours on 300yd/275m wooden spools and some (like Sew Fine Fabric **), also stock White, Natural and Black Onyx in 5000m cones which work out to be more economical. (In fact I have just discovered that all 34 colours are available on cones). This was all the motivation I needed to work out a way to use a cone with my sewing machine!*

First I found a heavy container to keep the cone upright. This empty glass candle holder proved to be perfect in size with an opening just big enough for the cone to fit through. It happens to be a bonus that I love the look of it too, especially as my sewing table is in our main living area. 

Initially I was finding that the thread would sometimes catch between the glass and cone, causing problems with stitch tension, so my solution has been to 'fix' the cone to the base of the jar in a centred position with some blu-tac. This works perfectly and stops the cone jiggling around too, yet makes it simple to remove the cone as required.

I have used masking tape to secure a mid-sized safety pin against to top of my machine as a threading/guide loop.

A second threading/guide loop has been made by wedging a large safety/diaper pin (mine is one with a plastic head, flat on one side) within my spool holder. This keeps the thread at the right height and angle, clear of the extra feet and smoothly guiding the thread along so it can then be threaded through the machine as usual. 

The machine lid can still rest closed, unlatched, providing dust protection. When not using a cone, the lid can be latched completely if I give this safety pin a gentle nudge outwards, or it can easily be removed until needed again.

This very easy DIY set up has made sewing with cones a trouble-free and economical alternative for me - this would have worked for me with my previous 30 year old Janome too. I hope it may help someone else too.  :)

Now back to the story of those wonderful tactile wooden spools. After buying my organic threads from overseas for the last 10 months, I discovered just this week that our local Lincraft store stock these Scanfil Organic threads! However, the spools sold here in Australia contain 100m (right) on a thick centred wooden spool not 275m (middle) on a narrow centred spool (left).

No longer will I have to guess colours, wait and pay international shipping. The best surprise is that they are even cheaper than a 100m spool of conventional cotton thread! 

 [2016 Update - it has been brought to my attention that you can source Sew Easy organic cotton thread on 200m plastic spools online at Spotlight in Australia. The shades and colour numbers appear identical to the Scanfil organic threads and both are made in the Netherlands, leading me to think it is the same thread, just packaged differently.]

The background of the photos above is a sneak peek of another SIMPLY MINI Organic Quilt! The delightful prints are from First Light, an Eloise Renouf collection for Cloud 9, the prepared binding is 'Turquoise' from Cloud 9's Cirrus collection of solids. More to share on that another day!  :)

*This is a fine tuning of an idea I found on Sam Hunter's blog - tip #five in her list of Top Ten Sewing Studio Hacks.

** This Etsy store unfortunately seems to have ceased operating.

*** I have just created a 'page' titled Thread Reviews, filled with quick links to each of the threads I have looked at in some detail over the last couple of years. You will find it in the row of tabs under my header.

Sharing at WIP Wednesday.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Captured in Snaps

The Notorious has been in town the last few days - a handmade recreation of a Spanish caravel. It has been quite exciting to see in on the river, making one wonder about sailors of centuries past and perhaps even pirates!

Master J is home on mid-semester break. He arrived with large trimmings of wattle, collected by the roadside on his way home. I have enjoyed their scent and the dainty little details of their pollen laden flowers (which can be a major allergy problem for some).

You know spring is close when storm clouds like these grace the sky. I took more photos of the sky than the hockey at the girls' game late yesterday - three of our daughters play in the same A grade team. And yes, they won their game. :)  

Another week ahead, filled with possibilities!

Sharing at SkyWatch Friday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Classic Blue and White

Now that's better! A couple of weeks ago I shared how I was contemplating using various blue solids and maybe even some terracotta and orange reds for a flying geese variation featuring these gorgeous organic Moody Blues fabrics by Genuine for Cloud 9 Fabrics. However no combination satisfied like my original vision of classic blue and white. Cloud 9 makes a whitish yarn dyed solid with a light texture - called Limestone, part of their Cirrus collection of solids. My concern was that, like many other light solids, it wasn't opaque enough, allowing seams to show against organic batting a little more than I liked. 

To work around this 'problem' I have decided to use a different pressing method when making the flying geese blocks, pressing seems inwards instead of outwards (image 4). In addition I am planning to insert strips of the Moody Blues 'Dots' print between the rows of geese, again pressing seams away from the white.

These geese blocks are relatively large to allow fussy cutting of the delightful prints. I am utilising the corners of these blocks by sewing an extra seam line before trimming the corner off. This is giving me quite a stack of small half square triangles for a yet-to-be-decided project. *

The thinking part is mostly over for now with the near future holding more sewing, pressing and lots and lots of trimming. And if I need a change of pace I just might have to make another SIMPLY MINI Organic Quilt!  :)

*Size details: Geese bodies (print fabrics - with some fussy cutting) were cut 4 3/4" x 8 3/4" with white 'flaps' being 4 3/4" squares. I've used a very generous 1/4" seam (my preference on a bias seam, especially with the looser weave of the Cirrus fabrics). A second generous seam on the 'waste' side enables the HSTs to be made. Each pressed flying geese block is trimmed to 4 1/2" x 8 1/2" which will enable sew/finished blocks of approx. 4" x 8".
Each HST is pressed and trimmed to 3 1/2", to yield sewn/finished squares of approx. 3"

Sharing at WIP Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SIMPLY MINI Organic Quilts

I'm very excited to share my latest project! The SIMPLY MINI Organic Quilt is the result of combining my desire to make affordable organic quilts, particularly for newborns who are most vulnerable to chemical exposure, and a love of the beautiful organic fabrics now available.

As the name suggests, they are simple, letting the beautiful fabrics be the star - and they are MINI in size at only 20" x 28" (51cm x 71cm). I believe this will prove to be a very versatile size for baby car seats, strollers and as a clean, soft quilt or mat for a newborn baby. This is also a great size for play with dolls, bears etc. Each comes wrapped with its own business card sized tag. 

Now listed in my ETSY shop  (pink one has now sold) where you will find more details. I love both of them, but as a mother of six daughters, I must say I really, really enjoyed sewing with a little pink again.....

***Fabric Note: Each of the four printed fabrics are from Eloise Renouf's new First Light collection for Cloud 9 Fabrics.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Half an Hour

Just half an hour from home. Miss N was keen for more driving practice and to share a favourite discovered location with some sisters. It sure was a fun expedition with the added bonus of a log truck to follow back into town. I'm quite enjoying our bonus little local road trips!

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