Peace and porches

Peace and porches

Or, stop cutting illegally through other people’s neighbourhoods.

I spend a lot of time working in my garden. Planting, weeding, pruning, dead-heading — there’s always a great deal to do. Recently, though, I’ve been trying to go into the garden and just be. I have made the garden in order to be a refuge and a place of peace, and I’m attempting to find that peace there. I look closely at each individual blossom and leaf to appreciate the complexity and beauty of even the smallest thing. I pay attention to the butterflies and bees and other winged insects that work so busily there.

Lately I’ve been especially enjoying all the birds in the front garden from the vantage point of our new porch. Over the last decade and a half, I’ve planted six trees in the front and side gardens in order to provide us and the sidewalk with shade, and to provide the birds with habitat. Until our porch was built, I hadn’t realized how successful that bird-focused project had been. Now, there is always “a melodious noise of birds among the spreading branches” (Wisdom of Solomon, 17:19): goldfinches, robins, cardinals, sparrows, cedar waxwings…we can just sit quietly and gaze as they fly about.

The front porch also gives us a lot more contact with neighbours. Most Overbrook front gardens are fairly shallow, and the sidewalk (or road, for those streets without sidewalks) is not far away. People frequently bike or walk past our house, and if we’re sitting on the porch we often exchange friendly greetings. Sometimes it’s no more than a “hello”, but often people stop to introduce themselves and their dogs, to chat about the new porch or the garden, and to talk about how they’re going to the lovely park by the river and how much they love the neighbourhood.

Both these vehicles are making illegal turns at around 4:30 pm

The porch is a place for us to enjoy the peace of the garden and has also become a place for us to enjoy the fellowship of the neighbourhood among the trees and flowers. It is difficult for us to enjoy these chats against the frequent noise of the traffic that comes down our street. We have to pause in our chat until the racket has gone away. Some of the cars drive sedately, but others roar past. I have even seen an enormous car-carrier truck on our street waiting at the light at the end of the road.

As far as I can tell, no part of Overbrook is protected from commuter and commercial traffic cutting through the neighbourhood. Some signs forbidding turns at certain time of day serve as acknowledgement of the disruption this causes, but have little to no effect in reducing the volume of traffic. I have noticed that other neighbourhoods, like Kingsview Park, are protected from through traffic. Overbrook is almost entirely a residential neighbourhood. I wish we had more front porches here, so that chats between neighbours could turn into conversations between friends. I wish that Overbrook were protected better from traffic, so that we could all find peace and quiet in our gardens


The Pink Quilt

The Pink Quilt

It’s finished! Almost a year after I bought the fabric, the pink quilt for Little is finally done. This is my second quilt. The first one was blue and I made it for the teenager out of his father’s old dress shirts and two sheets.


My quilting journey began in the Ottawa Public Library. I was browsing in the the knitting section and not finding anything new, when I saw on the next shelf a book called The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking by Jane Brocket. The colourful quilts caught my eye and I took it out to have a look. I remember thinking at the time, “Oh, I’m never going to be one of those crazy stay-at-home mums who makes quilts.” Hahaha. Jane Brocket’s message is that you don’t have to be the best seamstress in the world, but if you have the urge to create, you should go for it and perfection be hanged. Since I am a recovering perfectionist, I took the bait. In my further reading about quilting, I found that the instructions that began “cut 1024 2 1/2″ squares out of fabric A” did not appeal.

I like the peacefulness of sewing by hand, and so that first quilt was hand-pieced and hand-quilted. It took about 18 months. The time of day when I actually sit down is in the evening, during what we call Mummy and Daddy hour. When the children are in bed, and the work is done, our rule (and haven) is that we spend at least an hour together in the evening, chatting or watching Netflix. Both hand-sewing and knitting are ideal activities for that hour: relaxing but not distracting.

As soon as the blue quilt was done, Little started wishing for a quilt of her own. We looked at lots of images of quilts on Google, and she was inspired by one with lots of pink and blue and red. On a hunch, I got in touch with my friend Kate Austin, an immensely talented artist. Yes, Kate had scraps for me to look at on my next visit to Toronto. That was the nicest shopping expedition ever: cup of tea, gorgeous fabric, and hanging out with Kate and her two adorable sons. I came home with about 90 squares of fabric samples from Kate’s page on Spoonflower. Little laid our her quilt at home the very next day.


I then ironed all the squares (luckily, I like ironing) and pinned them all into rows before putting them in separate bags so I wouldn’t get mixed up. Then the piecing began, this time by machine. I’ve always been a little cautious around sewing machines, since the speed and noise make me nervous. I like activities to be slow, and quiet to silent. Piecing 80 squares together helped me get over an shyness of my sewing machine admirably. The piecing was done last August, but September is the start of my Christmas knitting season and I had a big blanket in the works for one of my sisters and her family.

Work on the quilt resumed in the new year. I trimmed all the edges and ironed them all flat, then made the quilt sandwich: Backing fabric face down, then organic cotton batting bought from Sew Sisters, then the quilt top, face up. I remember not enjoying this task with the blue quilt but Little helped me this time and it went fast. For the backing, I used a sheet with a pretty busy print so that all the pink quilting thread wouldn’t be that obvious. 20160217_161950

Then one evening I armed myself with my needle (a size 9 between, if you please), the quilt sandwich, pink hand-quilting thread and a thimble. Every evening I could, I quilted each individual square according to its own pattern. I really got to know the quilt this way, and grew to love some of the patterns that I had never really paid much attention to while I was piecing. I had liked the small all-over patterns on the page, so to speak, but when it came to quilting the bolder patterns insinuated themselves into my heart. Since I was never quilting the same designs consecutively, the work remained interesting. I was glad that I was friends with the designer, since I felt a bond with her while I was quilting; it was as if we were working on it together. One thing about hand-quilting: the soundtrack of the process is “where the bleep is my bleeping thimble?” I was always losing track of it.

Slowly the number of quilted squares grew. Once I was done the quilting process, binding began. Little had requested that the backing be the binding fabric as well, and she wanted the top striped border of the sheet incorporated into the design. Endless fiddling on the ironing board ensued, and I pinned and repinned the binding and especially the corners. I decided not to do mitred corners as I had on the blue quilt, but rather folded over ones since they seemed to suit the quilt better. After two evenings of hand-sewing, the quilt was bound.

One member of the household who took a special interest in this project was Georgia the cat. Quilting books often have pictures of cats on the quilt tops and Georgia was no more impervious than any other member of her species. She lay on the quilt while we were laying it out; she lay on the parts while I was piecing it; she lay on it every chance she could get while I was quilting it. That is one really excellent way to get boiling hot: sit under a quilt that you are working on and have the cat come and sit on top of you. She added an extra layer of cosiness to what was already a pretty cosy project: making a quilt for my daughter out of fabric designed by an old friend, with my husband at my side.

Little is delighted, and has been sleeping under the quilt for the last week. I am already planning the next quilt (theme: birds), for Middle.