August 27, 2013


When Cindy asked for a block representing our homes in the Star of Africa bee I had to stop and think a while. A long while. The Star of Africa bee is about making blocks representing something from your own country; the beemama decides which specific theme.

Of course I’ve been moving around during my life; I’ve even moved from one country to another. Which one of the homes should I pick? The one I lived in as a child? It was a rented one and one I don’t like to think about. The one I live in now? No. Of course it’s dear to me and I helped build it twenty years ago and I’m still taking care of it as well as I can, but it’s not in my home country. Is this the moment I sever my ties to my country and decide to be something/someone else? It doesn’t feel right, so we’ll leave this thought here.

So clearly a house is not what I’m looking for. What else, what is this elusive feeling of home? To make things more difficult I belong to a minority in my own country so not everything is suitable for my means. 


When I’m in Finland I travel around from one place to another, visiting friends and family, never staying for long. (You know fish starts to stink after three days, and the same goes for guests.)This year was no different. I had a marvelous time everywhere I went and I’d loved to stay, but then I’d have to sever my ties to my life in Germany. Not an option.

So what to do? Then it came to me, while I was helping to prepare the table for a traditional kräftskiva. I suppose you don’t have the slightest idea what that is about, do you?

Well, once a year we Swedish speaking people invite friends to eat crayfish with lots of dill and bread. My father used to go catching crayfish end of July with my brother and my godfather. They set out late in the evening with everything you need and spent the night in cold water, looking for the creatures. Afterwards my mother put the crayfish into boiling water and they turned red. Delicious! You are only allowed to catch them for a short time, that is the reason for the once in the year thing.

Nowadays almost no one catches crayfish themselves; we buy them at the supermarket. But still this meal is something quite special for us. We sit around a table decorated with crayfish inspired things, wearing a bib under the chin.  We eat the crayfish, drink snaps and sing silly songs! Crayfish clearly need water to swim, but you’re not allowed to drink without singing a song. So we sing! Songs with traditional tunes, but the texts are a bit different. Quite silly in fact. So silly you cannot help laughing. Of course the snaps helps as well oiling your vocal cords…

This is home to me! This year I was lucky enough to be invited to two kräftskivor. The first one at Mika and Martins place after that waterfall episode at the railway station. 

It was actually such a good party that when I went to bed I couldn't find my jimmies and sat down on the sofa to think about their whereabouts. Three hours later I woke up, still on the sofa and still no jimmies.

The second one during our wool dyeing session with Åsa and friends. 

It was just as good as the first party, only this time I was a bit more cautious with the singing.

Dear Cindy, this is my block for you! I’m sorry for taking such a long time making it, but it’s made with lots of love! The picture is not a good one; the background is white, promise :-)

August 20, 2013

Gathering wool

well, no, even if it seems to suit my frame of mind. Dyeing wool is more to the point.
My last trip to Finland was a good one, even if it had a hard start (I’ve posted about this nightmare trip here). I set this date so soon after the FQR in London because I was invited by my friend Åsa to participate in her yearly wool dyeing party. I've wanted to join for years, but this time I finally had the opportunity.

At home I packed my wool and some red onion peels I'd gathered these last years.
The plan was to dye the wool with natural colors, made from plants, mushrooms or algae.
The girls have been doing this for eight years now and know a lot about the right time to gather what they need, the amounts and generally everything there is to know about dyeing. I, of course, don’t know the first thing about anything.

I brought 900 gr wool, for the most part natural white one, but I had some grey and tan colored as well in my bag. The first thing I had to do was to make a skein out of my wool, 50 gr in each skein with a little help of this handy niddy noddy (dt. Kreuzhaspel, sv. knäpphärrel, fi. viipsinpuu).

Then I put in some threads to keep the wool from getting entangled during the dyeing procedure. I put in three short ones for this purpose. Then each mesh gets a long thread with a nametag and all data, like name, wool, color and dye.

Åsa is checking out my wool
We headed out on a Friday evening to Åsa’s summerhouse some 300 km north from Helsinki. But before we were ready to go we had to pack a lot of stuff with us. Not only food and clothes, no, we took wood for the fires, some bricks, kettles and lots of material for the dyeing and the wool of course. 

The girls had collected all sorts of stuff during the year and sometimes made a brew out of it. For dyeing you have to observe, not only that you gather the right things, no you have to observe the right times as well. 

These brews were frozen and ready to use after defrosting. You can see them in the bottles in the car. An impressive amount of stuff. Then of course we had to collect the other ladies as well. We were 9 altogether, in different stages of life. 

We arrived around eleven o'clock pm at the house and it was still light enough to carry a lot of the stuff from the car down to the sauna by the lake.

The next morning we got most things gathered around the sauna and Karola started building the fireplaces. She used bricks for this and the wood we’d brought with us. She got four kettles boiling and added the brews. 

To make a brew you need a lot of the plant you’re using and you need to cook it for one hour. The idea is to first make the brew and then to let it cool down to 30-40° C. At this point you wet your wool and put it into the kettle together with 10 gr alum for each 100 gr of wool. We let the wool hang from a cane. 

Wetting the wool in clear, cold water

Then you slowly increase the heat to 80° C. After this point you take time and let the brew at 80° C for one hour. After that you take the kettle from the fire and let the wool cool down in the brew.
When it’s cooled you rinse it 5 times in clear water. We didn’t do it quite like this, because we rinsed in the sea. Before the rinse the wool had a quick dip in water with some vinegar.
Rinsing the wool after the dyeing

We hung the wool on a laundry line to dry.

All in all it is time-consuming, but fun work. We were at it for three days. We got a lot of different dyes and every time you had to go through the more or less same procedure. Deciding what to use, getting the fires going, gathering wood and water, preparing the wool, keeping the fires going, rinsing the wool and hanging it up to drydrip.

Of course we didn’t only keep the fires burning, watching out the brews didn’t get too hot. We had time to talk, to laugh, to take a swim in the lake, chill and play games. Pretty relaxing and for me it was a holiday.

Exhausting work
Elsa collecting blueberries
Karola and Åsa taking their booty down from the laundry line.

And my wool? I had 900 gr to begin with, but got another 100 gr from Karola (Thank you ever so much Karola!), so I had 1000 gr with me back home.

For my wool we used the following dyes: meadowsweet, alder, oregano, horsetail, rowan, St John’s wood, bladder wrack, creeping wood sorrel, goutweed, lady’s mantle, velvet roll-rim, reed, cinnamon webcap, lily of the valley (with some yellow onion), alder buckthorn and chokeberry.

What am I going to do with it? No idea what so ever... 

Tack så mycket kära vänner för tre helt underbara dagar; vi ses igen nästa år!

August 11, 2013

Scrappy floating stars quilt

Some years ago I started on my Scrappy floating stars quilt. It was a quilt for a very good friend of mine; Mika, for his birthday. He has a beautiful summerplace in the South of Finland and he and his husband have been slaving away, making it even more beautiful day after day for these last 15 years or so. 

So it was a kind of obvious decision for me to make something for this place. I decided on this quilt, with these colours because I thought it would suit perfectly with the colours in their guesthouse/sauna. And the theme of the fabrics is nautical, for these guys perfect! They are keen sailors.

Well, this is actually not the sauna, but I wanted it as background, because it looks so Finnish :-) Want a better look at the quilt?

Scrappy floating stars, 240 x 200

For the quilt I ordered a lot of Tula Pink's Nautilus, so much in fact that I have enough for another one as well. What I did forget was the binding, so I had to take what I found years later online. I'd liked a dark blue border fabric, but after all the pale green was so much better.

I started on the quilt in 2010, but I didn't know how to quilt it, so it just lay there for years. Now and then I added another row, because I was afraid it might be too small, but that was it. It was only gathering dust somewhere.

Around came the Lazy Bums group and new impuls to get things done! The Lazy Bums is a support group for talented ladies with starteritis to make the UFOs go away. There is a new group starting now, so if you want to join us please do! It is so much fun and much better than piling UFOs for ever :-)
This is actually one of my finished projects in this group, the very last one. I spent a couple of nights with my sewing maching, quilting away like a madwomen. I finished finally 2 1/2 hours before I had to get on a plane to London for the Fat Quarterly Retreat. Who needs sleep anyway?
The reason for this rush was that my next trip to Finland was only a couple of days after the retreat and I wanted a bit of time to finish the binding.

For the backside I made some sailboats; they take up the theme of the fabrics nicely, don't you think?
I like a bit of something on the backside, otherwise it's so booring.

Here they are, Mika and Martin, with the new quilt. They look quite happy, don't they?

Finally a picture of  the scrappy floating stars quilt in its new habitat. The colours are perhaps not quite perfect, but I think its ok.

August 8, 2013

Journey with hindrances

Do you read your morning paper, occasionally shaking your head over some tornados or flooding or other catastrophies? I do. Just a fleeing tought about the poor people involved, but that's it.

I suppose it's normal if some journeys don't go as smoothly as expected, but still you somehow hope it will never happen to you. Well it did happen to me, not once but twice in less than 24 hours. This is not going to be a very spectacular story I'm afraid, but I'd like to share it with you. Somehow it took a bit of my joy of travelling away.

Two weeks ago I booked a flight to Helsinki on a normal Thursday night. I'd planned to stay at work until 2 o'clock, with plenty of time to grab my bag and get to the airport. But somehow I was very nervous the whole morning, so I got home at twelve and did some odd jobs around the house. Still my nervousness would not go away, so I decided to get to the airport three hours early. A good thing I did!

The first part did go smoothly. I got to the trainstation on the subway and waited for my train to take me directly to the airport in Düsseldorf. But at the trainstation the unexpected happened - an IC train got in on time and we were informed it was 25 minutes late? Then the next train got in on time and the same happened, only this time it was 40 minutes late. Then we were told it would not go further. Very suspicious. Now my train was due, but they said there was some trouble along the track to Cologne, so we should get on a tram instead; my train wasn't going anywhere.

Now, the tram to Cologne takes about one hour and I was afraid I'd miss a lot of time and that the same fate would happen to the trams as to the trains. So I decided to cross the Rhine and get to Cologne on the other side of the river. Usually easy piecy. But after a while we were told on the subway, that the subway could not proceed because of flooding. Flooding? I didn't see any rain!

Ok, so for the third timeI got on the subway, this time in the other direction, going home again. I was thinking of taking the car to the airport. Clearly there were difficulties getting to Cologne on both sides of the river.
While I was talking to DD2 on my phone as I sensed someone was looking through my bag behind my back. I kindly asked (ok, more like yelling like a maniac at the top of my lungs) the three ladies leave my things alone. They got away and stood laughing outside the subway. I picked my valuables from the floor, rather upset I must confess.

At home again I had a another idea and asked a friendly neighbour if she could drive me to Cologne as it is not that far from where I live. I reckoned the trains would be all right east of Cologne.
We got into the car and she told me the motorways were blocked because of falling trees and flooding. Still she drove me where I needed to go and I set out running with my 20 kg bag behind me.

On the train station the next train to Düsseldorf airport got away without me. They closed the doors in front of my nose. Now I had to look for the next one and there was one going in just a couple of minutes time. As it came there was an anouncement, but I didn't hear it properly so I asked some other passengers if it really was the right train to the airport. They assured me it was.

No, it wasn't. It was the train to Düren, not to Düsseldorf. Wrong direction. At the next station, the main train station in Cologne I had only three minutes to get the next fast train to Düsseldorf from track two. I ran like a olympiac with my 20 kg bag up the stairs to track two, only to read the train was leaving from track four today. So off I went with my bag, down the stairs and up the next ones. This time I was informed the train was 40 minutes late. Still no big problem, because another one was leaving shortly from track five.
Ok, we were informed after a while the train on track five wasn't leaving anywhere.

By now I was getting rather desperate and saw a fast train leaving for Hamburg and I jumped on it, hoping it would pass Düsseldorf on its way.  I had nothing to loose, it was this train, or I'd have to go home again. Lucky for me it did go to Düsseldorf. But my ticket wasn't valid on this train, so I had to buy a new one. Grrrr....

In Düsseldorf I had to change trains for one going to the airport. Once again I was running with my bag behind me stairs up and down, looking for the right track. I finally found a train leaving for the airport in 5 minutes and waited for it, hoping all my troubles would be over now. Then my train just disappeared from the information board and another train got in instead. Once again I asked the other passenger if this was the right train to the airport and was assured it was. I didn't believe it, so I checked the front of the train just in case and there stood Wuppertal, not Düsseldorf airport!

There I stood with train no. x once again just disappearing into thin air right in front of my eyes. I looked around me and saw a train leaving for the airport from another track and I got busy running again, hoping for the best. The good news is; it was the right train and it did go to Düsseldorf airport, but it wasn't to be hurried. It was slow, very slow. By this time I was chewing my fingernails, but everything was finally ok. I was able to drop my bag at the right place with a couple of minutes to spare and I passed the security in time to get on my plane. But it was a very near shave.

We had a stop over in Berlin and I met DD2 there. She tried to calm me down, by now I was crying and she gave me lots to eat, but I had to run for the next security in just 15 minutes, so it we had a very short time together. The security took forever and once again I got to my plane just in time. It was already boarding as I got there.

In Helsinki my friend Asa and her husband Mara came to get me from the airport and I was really relieved to see their friendly faces! Nightmare over, or so I thought.

But perhaps you noticed I told you something bad happened twice in 24 hours, so my story is still not completely told. After sleeping like a stone I went to another friends place, by train. No biggie. Just the same train I've been taking occasionally all my life. This time it started raining shortly before my stop and the train didn't go any further. After a while the ticket collectors opened the doors and went out in the pouring rain and after a couple of minutes got back in again, dripping with water. The train slowly got moving and we were told it had rammed a tree, but it looked like we'd be able to get to the next train station. We did. The ticket collectors had pulled the tree out of the way in front of the train.

By now the rain was pouring down and I grabbed my bag and ran for the next roof like everyone else. I managed to get under the roof and didn't get hit by the small stone sized hail.

My friend met me with a big smile and no shoes on his feet. He asked me to get my shoes off as well, but I didn't really see that much water in the underpass and didn't understand why I should.

Water pouring down the bridge like a waterfall

The reason soon got very clear; there was water everywhere. Deep, ice cold water. We couldn't get to the car, it stood just 5 meters away, but rain was pouring down like waterfall. 90 ml in 15 minutes. The cars got stuck and the stores hadn't any electricity. Sometimes the people couldn't get out of their cars, the water was too deep. Other people helped them from the outside and pushed the cars away from the deep places.

We found a shop with electricity and were able to find something to eat in the evening, so everything ended well after all. But that is a story for another day :-)

Here only buses were able to pass

August 1, 2013

FQR 2013 in London

If you've ever been to the Fat Quarterly Retreat in London you know how exciting things can get. For me it was the first time and I was a bit late finishing my name tag, the swap items and finding all the stuff needed for the classes. Worst of all; I had to finish a king size quilt for a friend of mine, bacause I was leaving for Finland a couple of days after the retreat. I've been working on this quilt for five years, but now of course everything had to happen at the last minute.

Swap items
 So the last night before the retreat I finally finished the quilting around midnight and spent one hour getting the house in some kind of order. Off to bed at one and up again half past three. Of course I couldn't sleep at all; it was too hot and then there were some mosquitos in my bedroom. Zzzzzz, zzzzz, zzzzz around my head...

Lovely quilt on one of the tables at the retreat market
Luckily I got to the airport without any hassle and I fell asleep on the plane before takeoff. I woke again from the hard landing, but that was all the sleep I got that night. At the bus to London I was too excited to sleep; you see I was going to meet Rachel (Mammafairy) for the very first time! We'd planned to do some shopping before we went to the retreat and to grab some lunch as well. You know how it is when you finally meet someone you only know online; you can never be sure if you get on as well IRL as in front of a machine :-) No need for this with Rachel! She met me with her adorable son Alex on Oxford street and we got along like houses on fire from the first minute on. Rachel is even lovelier IRL than online!

At the retreat lots of people were milling around with their new name tags around their necks. I tried to find some familiar names or faces and did find a few. Some ladies came to me presenting themselves and looking rather confused because I didn't react with the expected enthusiasm. I was just too tired to take anything in, sorry ladies. Too much information and too little sleep. I even told Susan (Canadianabroad) to her face that her name was Amy...

The first class was to begin at two o'clock, but the group was divided into two. So I had some time at my hands and could check in at the hostel. Well, it took some time and patience. I'm not a big fan of the people at the reception desk at the Baden Powell hostel. Actually this was my worst check in ever. However, this story isn't about the hostel. I shared my room with some lovely, lovely ladies; Aylin (Nilya) and her daughter Leila, Ulrike (Floh), Kris (Zaynoo1) and Miriam (Berlinquilter). Viele sonnige Gruesse aus Finnland!

Aylin and Ulrike

Aylin's cathedral window being born
My first class was EPP curves with Joanna. Of course I'd forgotten a lot of my stuff upstairs, but with a little help from the other ladies I got my things done. Sorry I didn't take any pictures of my sample, but if you're really interested you can see it here.

The first evening closed with a visit at the Village Haberdashery and an Indian dinner with friends.

Alex, Rachel and Kris
As you can see we had a great time! Then off to bed, trying to stay awake on the subway.

Next day started with some Free Motion Quilting with Trudi. I've never made FMQ before so my expectations were high, but Trudi topped it all! It was just great, every question answered and lots of information about things I've never concidered.

Di, the quilting goddess
I sat next to one of the greatest quilting goddesses on this planet, Di. Don't know why she signed up for this class?
Dear Rachel lent me her sewing machine, because I didn't want to take mine on the plane. Here she is, sewing away during her break from another class. I used the time annoying everyone else around.

Lunch was served at the terasse. Just imagine all the discussions going around :-)

Lovely ladies discussing important matters
After lunch the next class was due. It was photographzy with Judith Damen. Thanks Judith for a great class; I've finally understood some fundamentals about photography and got a lot of useful tips about how to present a good picture as well. Can't thank you enough Judith! You don't see the results yet, but I promise some improvment later on.

Judith needs Gummibaerchen as fuel
After the second class Rachel and I went for dinner alone; I think both of us needed some quiet around us after all the chatting.

On Saturday in the evening we had a market place in the great hall. Lots and lots of gorgeous stuff. It was difficult to limit oneself to only some of the things.

Michael Oakshott at the market place
The Oakshott table was the hardest to resist. Well, I did buy some things...I'll show them later on when I know what to make from them.

Market place
But the other ones weren't much easier to resist...

Impatient ladies waiting for the raffle
After the market place we had a very generous raffle. No, I didn't win anything, but it was fun to see how happy the winners were with their loot. Each one of us got a bag full of goodies at the retreat, so it was easy. Sorry not to have a picture of everything we got, but I put everything away at once after returning home.

Turn needle application class
Sunday closed at midday after the last classes. Here are some pictures I took during the retreat to give you an impression of what was going on and some lovely items.

Susan, Cindy, Leanne, Emily, Nicky and Di

Ulrike's lovely pouch

For me the next FQR is already booked in my mind. Hope to see you there as well! And most of all; a big, big hug to the ladies organizing this retreat! You did a marvellous job!