September retreat menu

I've been told that some people attend my retreats for the food. Sure, the farmhouse is gorgeous; working on creative projects is amazing; getting away from the kids is healthy. But the food is really divine. 

If you're waiting to sign up because you're curious about the menu, I've got my first draft hammered out on the chalkboard. 

September is a great time for Ontario produce.

Waffle breakfast will have plenty of berries, stone fruits, apples and pears.

There are so many options for quiches I'll probably make them mini so you can pick a bunch: rapini, zucchini, tomato, leek, eggplant, mushroom? Who knows what I'll end up making. What's certain is that an apple and beet salad will accompany the quiche.

One of my favourite ways to make risotto is with tomatoes straight from my garden. Top it with your choice of roasted chicken, barbecued sausage, or grilled eggplant.

Sunday morning promises a spread of breakfast pastries with homemade preserves and delicious Devon clotted cream. 

Are you excited?? Make this weekend about whatever you want. Rest assured you will be well fed.

Lots of spots left for the retreat. Sign up here!

Quilting at the Farmhouse

Pow Wow Quilt Top by The Willow Nest
We're just under a month away from the Summer Farmhouse Retreat and I'm so excited to start nailing down some details.

As part of the retreat signup process, I asked the crafters to complete a quick survey to give me some ideas for sewing workshops that might be suitable.

I was surprised by how many people were interesting in learning how to quilt!

It will be a dream come true to dedicate an entire weekend event to quilting, but having a workshop start us off on the process is going to be such a great start!

And this could not come at a better time. While Magda is pretty much done her baby quilt, I have yet to even decide on a pattern for my own baby-to-come. Baby (gender inconclusive, I'm assuming divergent) is due at the end of August, and I think it's safe to say that I shouldn't assume I have time after August to work on the quilt.

This workshop will hopefully help me out with picking a pattern. I'm smitten with three patterns at the moment.

First, is the Pow Wow quilt: a great chevron pattern popping up all over the interwebs and is available from the Cluck Cluck Sew website. There are lots of fabric scrap possibilities and is hopefully quick and simple to sew together.

Karyn's Feather Bed Quilt top
Second, I fell in love with Karyn's feather quilt top. The beautiful feathers are a free (FREE!) pattern available from the fantastic Anna Maria Horner. Clearly not as simple a quilt to sew, but boy is it ever gorgeous.

Elizabeth Hartman's Fancy Fox quilt from Oh, Fransson!
And third, I discovered that Elizabeth Hartman just came out with a new fox pattern. Yesterday she revealed a stunning patchwork fox that I think would be perfect for a gender neutral quilt.  This pattern isn't available until mid-May, but judging from her other patterns it will be moderately priced and filled fantastic instructions on cutting and piecing all the fox parts together.

So back to the farmhouse. The Saturday optional sewing workshop will be these three quilt blocks. The Pow Wow chevron will be a great beginner block to learn the basics of piecing; the Fancy Fox and the Feather Bed Quilt will be intermediate blocks for those seeking a bit of a challenge.

We will learn the techniques of piecing fabric, how to do a mini quilt sandwich, different techniques to quilt the layers together, and then we'll throw it together in the form of a pillowcase! Stuff with a $5 Ikea pillowform, and tada!

Oh, you can't imagine it? I guess I should practice and capture some pretty pictures before teaching this workshop. Stay tuned...

Meet Magda (and her beautiful chevron baby quilt)

It's late March. A week until April. I'm in Ottawa and it looks like the middle of February. I hope mother nature remembers how pretty spring is supposed to be...

Speaking of pretty, meet Magda and her beautiful chevron baby quilt.

Magda is a perfectionist in all senses of the word. She strives for the best at all times, rarely settles for anything but, and always ensures that she has taken the time to fully research all aspects of a subject before she makes the best decision possible. She is my go-to for any technology, appliance, or renovation advice. I have yet to be led astray.

Her chevron baby quilt is no exception. She was inspired by this baby quilt from the plaid scottie, and pulled her beautiful neutral-gender colours from Riley Blake Designs' Sasparilla Alphabet Teal.

Magda was set on a chevron quilt that didn't have too deep a zigzag -- a shallower chevron without too sharp a point. Eventually (through much online research) she found a lovely tutorial from The Crafty Cupboard that uses a 60 degree angle instead of the typical 45 degrees.

She added a strip of white fabric to really make the rest of her quilt pop, and the end result was gorgeous.

People approach me all the time to tell me how impressed they are with my sewing talents (aw, you guys). And I protest until I'm blue in the face that I'm no more talented than the average person. I just seize moments when I'm inspired and schedule some time to give it a try. Magda used to be one of these people I speak of. And here she is, whipping up a beautiful quilt top in less than two days.

It's about setting aside the time and surrounding yourself with inspiration and support. I've got a couple spots left in the my Summer Farmhouse Retreat if you're looking for a creative outlet!

Sadly, Magda isn't able to join me for the next retreat. If only Magda's amazing husband could lock her in a room and force her to finish the quilt so we can see the finished product. She's chosen a mouse and bicycles print from the Lizzy House Cat Nap collection as her quilt back!

Final Retreat of the Year

I've done it. I've decided to squeeze in one more retreat before I'm too pregnant or when I need to focus on a being a baby-momma again!

It would be such a shame to not visit the beautiful Cobblestone Farmhouse this summer.

So I contacted the lovely owner and I've secured the first weekend of the summer for the last Purple Workbench retreat of 2014: June 20 - 22rd.

The farmhouse is located in gorgeous rural Cobourg, an hour and a half outside of Toronto, a mere 10 minute trip from the Via Rail station (I am more than happy to pick people up!) and the tranquility of the space will surely inspire some creative crafting!

Whether you have a project in mind, or you're hoping to join me in some workshops, this is a weekend for you to relax, be creative, and have everything else taken care of.

The retreat offers wonderful workspaces for your projects: large work surfaces, big windows, quaint nooks. And it's a guarantee that the weekend will be filled with fantastic food.  The end of June screams outdoor bbq, luscious berries, and a refreshing glass of summer wine.

For more info, check out the specifics on the events page, or use my new signup page on the "register" tab!

Meet Meghan (and her works of art)

Did I mention there were three fantastic ladies that joined me at the Cozy Winter Retreat?

Meet Meghan.

Meghan is a visual artist who spends her day inspiring young artists by teaching high school art class.

You can just imagine my excitement when I found out she was able to join us for the winter retreat. It's always nice when we can add some variety to our group of sewers; not only is there one less clunking machine, but the visual art is such a creation of the moment: there's no predetermined design or plan. It was going to be so exciting seeing what would inspire Meghan in our retreat space. I've always admired her paintings of colourful outdoor beauty.

Undecided about what to work on, Meghan came equipped with a whole car of supplies. Paints, chisels, exacto knives. Canvases, wood blocks, linoleum.  So much more exciting than fabric and thread. Well, except maybe when you see a collection of fabrics that make up a beautiful baby quilt. But we'll get to that in the next feature.

Her artist's toolbox was already so intriguing, what was she going to make with it all?!

Saturday morning we went for a walk together in the deep, deep snow, down the cottage property towards the Nottawasaga River. The morning was beautiful: bright and sunny, although unforgivingly windy. We witnessed a beautiful fugue between two Mockingjays. (Okay, I have since confirmed they were common Chicadees -- infinitely less exciting, but their back and forth banter was still beautiful.) With her exacto knife in hand, Meghan foraged the ground for inspiring pieces of nature.
I always find it so ridiculous that someone could be in awe watching me stitch a straight line. I wonder if Meghan felt the same way when Danielle, Magda, and I were ogling her ability to glue foliage onto painted blocks of wood. It was just so darn beautiful! I was amazed at Meg's ability to edit and simplify to transform the clumps of dead grass she brought back from the outside tundra to look vibrant and alive.

Her other project was undeniably fascinating to watch. She created two linoleum prints. My zero education in this process would describe it as carving into the linoleum to create a giant rubber stamp. You sort of have to think backwards and carve out the negative space, and then think mirror image because everything is reversed when printed.

The "thistle" print was incredible. And she was nice enough to make three prints so each of us could bring one home.

Thanks so much, Meg, for your surge of visual art creativity at the retreat! And an extra big thank you for introducing me to the reality series "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist"; I cannot believe I had not heard about this show earlier!