24 June 2011


Midsummer is a major festival in Finland, which isn’t very surprising considering the amount of time we spend refrigerated. So when summer finally arrives, we need to enjoy it as much as we can. A lot of people leave the cities and go to their summer cottages in the countryside, by a lake or by the sea. I, too, went to visit my folks.

Fia the Terri(fy)er. 
After dinner the family had a game of Westie-ball.
(I kicked, Dad threw and Fia chased a small football.)
That was the best laugh I've had in weeks.

Mum wanted to visit the Aspegren Gardens, so we packed ourselves into the car. 

A traditional Midsummer pole (very pagan)

The garden

The grounds

These poppies really pop

23 June 2011

By Hook by Crook I'll Get My House in Order

I got a bit deep yesterday, with all my ramblings about swimming. The trip to the pool obviously hit me with a wave of memories. Today I’m swimming into shallower water to share with you a fun project that I did on Sunday.

I’m pretty sure some of you experience the same thing as I do: I'm drowning in paper. Not just the junk mail, newspapers and regular mail, but also all the pieces of paper that I, myself, produce or squirrel away. I’m incorrigible when it comes to writing notes and reminders on little pieces of paper, or jotting down ideas and designs, or ripping text or images out of papers and magazines for information or inspiration, and then just leaving them lying on every surface in the flat. Sure, I have developed a filing system, but it can take a while before all those little pearls of wisdom or useless pieces of information end up where they belong. And in the meantime they increase in number.

So when I saw these cute fabric envelope pockets in 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts, I figured I’d make one to put my treasures in, to temporarily get them out of the way. Ok, I know it’s procrastination, and I should just learn to put things where they belong immediately, but… well… you know…

This is the pocket I made on Sunday, and as you can see, it’s already filled with Very Important Stuff. Now I just need to decide how often I’m going to empty it. I’m waiting for a sunny evening on the balcony. That worked well the last time I sorted out my heaps.

I tried a new method of deciding which colour of thread to use by simply pouring out my threads onto the surface and then removing the ones that I didn’t want. I figured that this could be a good way to discover new colour combinations. And if not - at least it's a feast for the eye.

My thread finalists. I liked them all, but I didn’t want a border competing with the ribbons, so I chose the most discreet colour.

P.S. One little note though, in relation to the construction of the pocket (that is, if you follow the directions in the magazine). I used quilting cotton (Robert Kaufman), but feel that the flap and pocket are a bit too floppy, so I would recommend that you add a lightweight stabiliser in them. That would also help you to avoid a wavy edge if you finish the pocket with satin stitch like I did.

22 June 2011

Shove me in the shallow water before I get too deep...

Now that the worst pressure is off at work, and I finally got my act together and booked that trip to Edinburgh that I should have booked ages ago, I decided to wind down at the outdoor Swimming Stadium today. Gosh, it felt good. Ever since I discovered swim goggles, swimming has been one of my favourite forms of exercise. It’s the nearest a human comes to flying. Too bad, then, that I lost the habit a number of years ago.

I was pleased to discover that my recent snorkelling adventures have strengthened my faith in my own ability to stay afloat. I was more relaxed in the water than I’ve ever been. The snorkelling taught me that you don’t need to continually flap your arms and legs around when you’re swimming. To my surprise, when I was stuck behind slow-moving fellow water-creatures I automatically let my arms relax by my sides just like I learned to do when snorkelling, and just used my legs to push me forward. I never did that before. It sounds ridiculous, but I guess I was afraid that unless I kept my arms stretched out to the front or sides, I’d lose my balance in the water and tip forward. Don’t ask me why, because it’s irrational. But I think it’s connected to the same feeling that I could get when I was snorkelling and reached a steep rock on the sea floor: the feeling that you’re hanging over the edge of a cliff and might fall down. I had a nightmare many years ago, where I was swimming outside a beautiful tropical island and suddenly reached the continental shelf. The steep edge leading down into the dark blue abyss had me waking up in panic with a big NO in my head. I don’t know where the dream came from, as I’d never been in any place like that before. However, by the end of my recent holiday I was pleased to discover that I’d conquered a lot of the fear. A place called Ko Haa was the ultimate proof, as the cliff we snorkelled around had very steep edges, and you could see the divers deep down below you. But with a life vest on and a competent instructor by my side it was no problem at all. I felt confident and safe, and it became my favourite site, as the underwater terrain was varied and exciting, with huge boulders and a lot of interesting things going on. I could have stayed there for hours more. What a shame that good things have to end so quickly.

And speaking of good things, this rather long and rambling tale leads me to my next Franka update. Last Sunday I worked on the water template and discovered that it will be challenging, but it’s perfectly doable. I’m not afraid of a challenge and I have the patience of an angel when I know what I want to accomplish. I’ll do the water in raw edge reverse appliqué. I’m getting ready to go hunting for fabrics as soon as my vacation starts. But before that, I’m going up to Ostrobothnia to my folks to celebrate a traditional Finnish Midsummer Festival.

19 June 2011


I'll get all dolled up in my gladrags, stay
up till all hours, oh
up to no good.

(Liz Lohhead)

I found these elf ears when I was looking for something else, and felt the urge to be silly. I mean, after all the serious stuff I've faced this week, I'm in need of an antidote. Of course, they're nothing compared to the stuff they used for making the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but at least they gave me something to giggle about this evening.

I wonder what they'd say at the office if I turned up like this for work tomorrow? Perhaps I should suggest this photo for my security ID badge. I'd like that.

Two more weeks, and my vacation starts. I can't wait.
Rat Race and Maiden’s Dance

Almost two weeks ago I mentioned this month’s theme for The Sketchbook Challenge: Pathways. I’ve been working long hours this week, so I haven’t had much time or energy for any other pathways than those that lead to and from the office, with some slight detours to the gym and the supermarket. But the theme has been on my mind nevertheless.

I found this cartoon in the paper recently and found it hilarious (gallows humour works at the moment):

  The most difficult part is to get them to want to live on 
after they’ve finally found their way to the middle of the labyrinth.

The middle of the labyrinth, by the way, is eerily similar to my room at the office. :-P

After I saw the cartoon, the idea of a labyrinth was evoked in my mind. The labyrinth is an ancient symbol that can be found all over the world, and it can be argued to represent a long and difficult journey. A good theme for Pathways, that is.

And then I remembered something.

I’ve done a bit of travelling in the UK, during which I’ve been looking at standing stones, stone circles, geoglyphs and burial mounds everywhere from Cornwall in the south to Orkney in the north. And I’ve envied the abundance of exciting archaeological stuff that can be found there. Last summer I travelled in Sweden, where I was thrilled to find rune stones and other rock carvings. And I asked myself: what do we have in Finland? And to my shame I discovered that didn’t know.

But while I was contemplating labyrinths, I suddenly remembered the Troy towns, which we in Finland call ‘jungfrudans’ (maiden’s dance) in Swedish and ‘jatulintarha’ (giant’s garden) in Finnish. These stone labyrinths can be found along the coast. I’ve never actually seen any of them in original, only heard of them. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before I worked as a guide at an open-air museum in Vaasa about 10 years ago. There was a replica of a maiden’s dance there. Isn’t it weird how you travel other countries looking for exciting things and miss the ones that you have in your own backyard? I need to educate myself on Finnish archaeology.

Here’s a page inspired by a Troy town. Please switch over to Flickr if you want to read about the techniques and materials that I used.

The good thing about the Troy town layout is that it’s not the kind of labyrinth (or maze) where you get lost or eaten by a monster (or end up in front of a computer). It’s more like a spiral. You walk (or dance) along the path until you reach the centre and then you walk back out again, hopefully wiser than when you started. A comforting thought.

12 June 2011

Summertime, and the Living is Easy

The weather’s been fantastic this week, so I’ve been out and about quite a bit, spying on ducklings, sitting on rocks lapping up the sun, and playing with paint and gesso as a resist (I’ll get back to that later) on the balcony – which I finally managed to scrub clean on Saturday. I need more flowers, though. Something that pops. Something deep red or purple. I’m thinking geraniums or dahlias. My ankle is a lot better now, so my spirits have lifted considerably and I’ve snapped out of the lethargic state I’ve been in for weeks. I’ve even been to the gym. Phew, it feels good to be back.

I haven’t done much textile work, though. It’s been too hot, and who knows when we’ll get a hot spell the next time. Better enjoy it while it lasts. The forecast says it’ll be cooler by tomorrow. But I have done some thinking about Franka. I’ve finished defining all the lines by now and she’s been hanging on the wall in her usual place, where I’ve studied her from time to time. 

Franka in her current state. I’ve moved the left border a bit, and I’ll also move the text down a bit when I make the template for her thought bubble.

My first plan was to use appliqué, like Pam RuBert, but I’ve come to realise that I’ll have to use a combination of appliqué and reversed appliqué. The black ripples on the water would be quite laboursome to cut out and sew in their right places, so I’m thinking that I could cut away the ripples and all the other design elements from the ‘water fabric’, and apply that onto a black foundation. The ripples would then be formed by black gaps in the water fabric, and the rest of the design could be appliquéd in the other black gaps. In theory this seems to be the right way to do it, but I haven’t yet made the water template, so I don’t know yet what difficulties I’ll encounter. I started with the flower and fish templates today. This is what they look like so far:
Some of the elements are tiny, so I’ll have to think about that. It may be that I paint them in with the help of a stencil and opaque paint, instead of trying to cut them out in fabric and sew or glue them down.

8 June 2011

Stop and Smell the Flowers

It's been a glorious evening, and I went for a little stroll to check out what's going on in Mother Nature's kindergarten. First, however, I stopped to smell the flowers. The scent of lilac is intoxicating at the moment.

A little further along I discovered that Mrs Merganser has opened a competing diving school for ducklings. Now, this is the school I want to attend! There was a lot of splashing around, and the pupils seemed to be having a great time. Mrs Merganser was a lively instructor, and when her pupils got tired, she let them crawl onto her back and off they went. The camera died on me just as she was swimming past me with four little ones on her back. I guess that's the difference between the professional photographer and the just snap-happy amateur. The pro brings an extra battery just in case.

 The Fountain diving style

 The Fairy Wheel diving style

The String of Beads diving style

The Wings of a Butterfly diving style

6 June 2011


Tomorrow’s my birthday, and then I’m one more step closer to the Big Bada Boom, which will happen next year. How surreal. I don’t see myself as someone soon-to-be-40. (And I can feel a long line of people before me who have said exactly the same thing…)

It’s also a new month and a new theme for The Sketchbook Challenge: Pathways. A good and inspiring theme. You see, with the Big Bada Boom approaching faster than I care to think, I’ve started looking at my life and choices with slightly different eyes. I look back, I look at the present, and I look to the future. And I contemplate what I see. About a year ago I realised that I’ve been a bit lost for a number of years. Somewhere along the path that I took things went missing. For instance, I stopped drawing and I stopped caring about mermaids. I didn’t stop being creative, but the projects I chose weren’t really the things I wanted to do in my heart of hearts. They were fun, useful and enjoyable, but in a way an ‘easy way out’. To my horror I realised that I had a habit of choosing my projects on the basis of whether or not they could be done in front of a TV show.

What I needed to do was to get out of my comfort zone, and to go back and pick up some of the things that I’d left behind. Such as drawing. And mermaids. I needed to find the magic and passion again. Let out that eccentric megalith-loving fairy-freak that's hiding behind the guise of a public servant. So I started treading myself a new pathway. I don’t know where it’s leading, but it feels good and it feels right.

Walk This Way
My first page for this month is inspired by ancient rock carvings. I visited Sweden last summer and was thrilled to come across authentic rock carvings and rune stones. Footprints like these could have been made simply by placing a wet foot on the rock, and then using the wet print as a guide when carving the rock. Please visit my Flickr photostream for the full image and a description of the techniques I used to create the page.

Rock carvings near Nyköping, Sweden. These would make great stamps!

A megalith-loving fairy-freak guised as public servant on holiday in Avebury, England

5 June 2011

Mrs Eider’s Diving School for Ducklings

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this moment: the opening of the Diving Schools for Ducklings. I love watching the little balls of down when they start training their diving skills. They put such an enormous effort into getting under the surface, and then they bob straight up like cork. I feel very close to them. It’s the same when I try to dive. I never learned to dive as a child, and I’m still uncomfortable under water. Which is not to say that I’m uncomfortable in water. I love swimming and being in water. So, since I got the hang of snorkelling, I’m thinking perhaps some simple diving could be the next thing to try. It sure looks like a lot of fun. Perhaps I could sign up for Mrs Eider’s Diving Course. Her pupils seem to catch on pretty quickly.