Thursday, 26 February 2009

Vintage Thingies Thursday 17 - Tea Cosies

This week I'm playing along again! The Coloradolady is hosting, and on her blog here you can find the links to other blogs showing their vintage finds and treasures.

This week I'll show you two of my newer tea cosies. This first one is from the 1960's, very straight edges and stripes. The fabric is heavy cotton and the insulation layer is foamy plastic. The stain may be coffee or tea; I'll need to try and wash it away.

This other one is more interesting. The covering chintz is from the 1950's. The tea cosy is very heavy. When my mother gave this one to me, she told me I could renew the insulation. I picked up the seam connecting to top fabric and the inner flannel, and guess what I found? The original wool fabric (dark red with a cream pattern, heavily damaged by burning and stains), and the original insulation. It was newspapers dated several years before my birth! I left all the original pages there, added some new news, washed the fabrics and put it all together again.

I think this fabric has a Mediterranean touch, hot summer days and laundry lines across the window. The tea cosy was used also in the garden when we had mid-morning tea and coffee ("elva-kaffe" like our grandmother used to say) or afternoon coffee with the grandparents, great aunt Saima, my parents, the kids who happened to be at home and the summer exchange students or other friends we happened to have living in the house in later years.

There was a round table, four wooden garden chairs, two benches and the lawn to sit on. Naturally, the sun was always shining, the lake was blue and the birds were singing.

In this last picture is a generous peek at the secret Tea Swap project I have been working on. I'm leaving for a little holiday trip tonight, and when I come back on Tuesday evening, I will pack this and the other two things together and send them on their long way on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Laskiainen - carne lasciare

Today is a special day known as the last day of the carnival season. Mardi gras is in Finnish laskiainen. The name may come from the Latin "carne lasciare", farewell to meat at the beginning of the Lent. Our Lutheran church doesn't require fasting before Easter, but we still enjoy fat food on this day. The traditional meal is thick pea soup with fat smoked pork in it; and as a dessert or afternoon coffee treat we have a sweet wheat bun filled with whipped cream and almond paste or strawberry jam. When I was a child, the buns were served on a deep plate with hot milk, which I found most awful.

An old agricultural tradition has remained, too, because it means lots of fun. It is sledging down the hill. This was supposed to make the flax grow tall, and make the harvest good in many ways. The longer the slide, the taller the flax.

These pictures show big and small children having fun this morning, sliding downhill on binliners or plastic sledges.

It was heartwarming to hear the merry laughter and shouts of the kids of different ages. I remember from my own childhood the feel of the bumps on the slope, falling off the sledge and getting snow in my neck and wrists, and climbing uphill again and again. Rosy cheeks, and moist hair clinging to the forehead, fingers and toes pricking with the cold. Oh happy times!

My sister P who was a student at the time, went with her friends in a bigger slope later in the evening, and afterwards there was a dance where everyone went in their sporty clothes. I can imagine there was romance in the air, too, when young adults were playing like kids in the dark winter evening.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Small scraps can make a difference

You probably know I can't throw anything away, because I might need it for something someday? So I keep even small scraps of fabric. They can be used like this:

But my tiny scraps are not always big enough for a project. I wanted to make a set of four coasters, and use a pretty pale yellow floral print in one of the trapezoids. Well, my scrap was big enough for three, but for the last one I had to take a different fabric. It is the first trapezoid from the top clockwise in the bottom hexagon.

Here is a blue set under construction. Next I will make the backing and then top stitch the coasters. I found the pattern in the new Stitch magazine.

Talking about hexagons, there is a project called Hexagons of Hope going on for the bushfire victims of Victoria, Australia. The idea is to send EPP fabric hexagons so the women who have lost their houses and everything else and their fabrics and needles and sewing machines, could put their hands on a new project. I first heard about this from Suzie, and I think it is a great idea. There is a lot of information about the size of the hexagons and how to make them, just follow the link.

Today I finally had a chance to mail my wonky Maverick stars to the Bushfire quilt project. I got a little carried away and instead of the originally planned 12 blocks I suddenly found myself making the 25 to finish a quilt top. I thought my recycled men's shirts (the man is not recycled, I'm his first wife!, but the shirts are) are so different from other people's fancy quilting fabrics, and so I took my scrap bag and went on happily.

This star is one of my favourites, a combination of a plaid flannel shirt, a twill shirt and our living room curtain fabric.

And this is the top finished. I got to make the fun part, and the good ladies in Australia will provide the batting and backing and machine quilting and binding.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Star blocks

When I was going through blogs and Flickr, I found a great way to participate in helping the people who lost their homes in the Australian bush fires. Tia in Australia is organizing a quilting bee to make quilts for those people. You can send 12" blocks to her, and she and her quilt guild will sew them to tops and quilt and bind them. She recommended the Maverick star using 4.5" squares and a light background. One tutorial is here. The Quiltville tutorial is using 2.5" squares, but for the 12" blocks you make the squares 4.5".

I had been making the smaller star blocks for a while for another project, but now I took an unbleached white calico from my stash and cut it up for this project. It was enough for 12 blocks, and this morning I aready sewed six of them.

So far I have only used two fabrics for the stars, but for the remaining six blocks I will find more colours. Tia was also looking for more masculine fabrics, and I think men's flannel shirts certainly are masculine.
There are other projects going on as well, like the Brown Owls' Restash a Crafter, the Handmade Help, Jan's string quilts with tutorial - make your choice! Every block helps, a donation made with warm, appreciating thoughts will be welcome.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

So many ways to help others

This week I spent four days at the Children's Hospital of the University of Helsinki. There are many patients, whose parents are at work and the nurses are always busy, so I try to help out sometimes. There is so much you can do to help without a nurse's training to make the patients feel a little less lonely: reading books, helping them eat or just sitting by the bedside when they come back to the ward from their operation.

The hospital building is built during and after the WWII. This picture of a mother and a child must be from that time.

The original benches in the entrance lobby are very uncomfortable, but the modern pillows are a great help:

These elephants and flamingoes are are donated by Marimekko.

This is the part I love, being a child from the fifties and growing up waiting for new Moomin books to be written. Tove Jansson painted this picture for the stairwell of another chlidren's hospital in Helsinki. That hospital was later changed to take adult patients only. The paintings were copied by art students and painted again in 1998 in this hospital, with the blessing of Tove Jansson.

I love the way the characters are running up the stairs, smiling happily. In the next picture is the framed story about the history of this mural, and in the lower part of the paper a copy of Tove's handwritten letter expressing her joy for the continued life of her characters, to cheer up new generations of child patients.

These stairs come from the entrance floor to the next one.

Isn't the horse just lovely?

This spinster auntie is hurrying with her nieces to bring gifts and flowers to someone.

The operation ward greets the little patients with teddy bears in green. I get this far with the patients, the mothers of young kids are only allowed to the elevator doors, to avoid any separation drama up here.

I love this owl door. It leads to the recovery room, reminding everyone on this side that there are people asleep even when it is daytime. On the inside of the door is another painting, with sunshine and a little bird singing.

There are some professional visitors on the wards, too. Every Tuesday two hospital clowns come to meet the patients who are well enough to have a laugh. You can see pictures of them here. The idea is brought from New York, where the first clown had her training at the Clown Care Unit . Today the Finnish clowns operate in three major children's hospitals for free.

I finished some hand sewing there while my patient slept, but the project still needs some machine sewing before it is ready for photographing. My mind is full of ideas for projects for the Australian bush fire victims. Pip from Meet me at Mikes has done a wonderful job organizing ways to donate, and her sidebar shows numerous links for those who want to help.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Poet's Birthday

Last Thursday, when I was busy showing pictures of old plates, I also remembered to celebrate the birthday of the Finnish national poet J. L. Runeberg (who wrote in Swedish!). The celebrating was emphasized on the material side and included noticing it was that special day, and eating a tart named after him. Runeberg's tart is baked with biscuit crumbs and raspberry jam, and you never know whether you get a moist, soft, delicious one or something like what I happened to choose this year:

It looks just perfect, but the cake was heavy and almost dry. The taste wasn't too bad, but I have eaten better ones. I wasn't in the mood of reading any 19th century poetry, so I just had my private celebration at the waxcloth covered kitchen table.

I have been arranging my handicraft books and magazines. Last week my daughter Kaija was here for two nights, and I wanted her to find her bed easily. My newer sewing machine is in her old room, and so are my handicraft books and magazines. For some reason they tend to gather on the bed instead of the shelves.

But now they have found their way back where they belong. Above are the old books and some magazines.

Here are the quilting books, and on the lower shelf some old magazines: the Australian Handmade from the 90's and British Inspirations from about the same time. Plus all kinds of British, German and US quilting magazines.

On the same day I had some lovely mail. Melanie sent me two magazines/books about Claude Monet and his wonderful house and garden in Giverney. Thank you, Melanie, you are such a sweet friend!

The other mail was from Japan. I bought these fabrics and pinch pouch frames from good-ness Etsy shop. I just wanted to have the mushrooms, and I think of using the sewing machine fabric for my sewing group bag I'm going to start planning someday. It is so good to have the materials ready when the inspiration hits!

Next week there will be little or no blogging, just some quick blog reading in the evenings. I will be volunteering at the children's hospital in Helsinki for several days. I have some hand sewing projects reserved for the moments when the little patients sleep, and some reading for the commuter train. Have a good week everyone!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Vintage Thingies Thursday 16 - Plates

This week I'll take you to my kitchen again. Coloradolady Suzanne is hosting the VTT and her blog has links to all who are playing along this week. Suzanne is showing some vintage Valentine's Day cards.

This is an old plate from the Finnish manufacturer Arabia. The pattern is from central Europe, like many of the early patterns were.

This is also Arabia, a rose plate my mother gave me for my cakes and biscuits when I was putting up my own household. The roses are decals, not individually painted.

This last one is something quite different. The plate itself is manufactured in Czechoslovakia, and my mother has painted it in the late 1930's, before she married my father. She has told me that the patterns were copied from special books. She also learned many names of colours in French at that time, because the colours were from France. "Le ciel est bleu", she used to say, when we talked about her painting. (This ciel looks more like purple!)

This is all for this week's vintage. Suzanne has more places to offer!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Socks and Secrets

Our local newspaper Keski-Uusimaa invited everyone to knit socks "for a friend". All socks sent to the newspaper will be given for charity in this area before Valentine's Day. (Valentine's day is here called "friends' day", we deal better with less romantic love! So it is suitable to send cards to all your friends, or not.) They received 174 pairs in just a few weeks; the appeal was made after Christmas. Now all socks are exhibited at the shopping centre, and the public can vote for their favourite pair from 12. The selected socks can be seen on the newpaper's website here.

The other socks were grouped by colour for display:

The knitters were asked to make their own pattern and use their imagination.

Some socks were obviously knitted by beginners. The ones I'm showing are among the best. I am not a knitter although I can knit socks and other things; I just wanted to show you the variety.

I may have told earlier that I kind of like ironing. Last week my old faithful ironing board collapsed, and I needed a new one. Here it is:

The new one is higher, wider and longer than the old one. and it has this nice holder for the cable. You can see my ironing pile on the dining chair behind the board: there are only two table cloths and one men's shirt left after today's test drive.

I have been making my secret Time for Tea Swap projects, and now I can give a little peek on what is coming. Here is some embroidery:

And the other project is more in the quilting department.

This last one will not be sent away so you can see a litttle more of it.

I have some new plans in mind, too. There is still time to start a smallish project, I think. On the other hand, I just downloaded the February block for my Country Calendar BOM from Ellie's Quiltplace. It is a nice one and will not take too long, especially because I have already stitched the name of the month.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


Yesterday we had a beautiful, sunny day with -15 degrees C or +5 F, no wind, the sun felt warm on my face when I took these photos. The bare trees had literally icing on the branches; I believe I could have heard a little tinkling if there had been any wind. You can click the photos to enlarge and see the glass-like ice.

I took the photos at noon, to demonstrate the increase of light around these northern corners at this time of the year. On January 31st the sun rose at 8.37 a.m. and set at 4.31 p.m. This is how high the sun was at the highest:

The following picture was taken a month ago, on December 31st at noon in the same place. Sunrise was at 9.24 a.m. and sunset at 3.23 p.m. My almanach states the dark hours of the 22nd day of each month; in December it was dark for 16 h 14 min on that day and in January only 15 h 8 min. The time of morning grey and twilight was in December 51 minutes and in January 58 minutes. By the spring equinox the day will be about five hours longer than now.

With the increasing light I hope to increase my energy as well. I'm thinking about things like changing the plants in bigger pots, reorganizing some more stash, starting some new projects and so on. Next week my dear daughter Kaija will come and stay in her old room for a couple of days; she will be starting a new school and there will be a few school days per month near here. Having her here will inspire me. I'm sure I will want to have something to show when she comes back from school!

A couple of days ago Suzie, the Little Busy Bee, gave me this award:

Thank you, Suzie!
It came without any rules, and that is how I'm giving it forward to the following creative bloggers:

As an awarded creative blogger I feel like I ought to show something I have been sewing for a change. I have been mainly working on the stars I have already shown, and on the very secret Time of Tea Swap, so no crafty photos doesn't mean I have been lazy! I will try to make some sneaky peek photos of the tea project when the sun is up again.