Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A lovely quiet christmas

We had a lovely Christmas - just the four of us, eating the food we like to eat and playing with our wonderful presents. Family rang or skyped, so we didn't feel entirely alone, but other than that it was just us at our most peaceful and relaxed! It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes we can chill successfully. We made gingerbread cookies, but ate them all before they could be iced.
It helped that the boys got a Wii, my husband got an ipad and I got some quilting rulers! Yes, I did sneak off and sew on Christmas Day. In this house every day is a quilting day, and my husband cooked all the meals (to the extent that prawns and salad require cooking) so I wasn't needed. The boys and I painted our menu on butchers paper and put it on the fridge. I'm not sure why.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Summer spread

No, that's not a description of my waistline, although if this socialising doesn't ease up soon it could well be. I decided to make the Not Quite Lego into a summer spread - no batting and minimal quilting. I've wanted to do that for ages, but it really needed a top I didn't care too much about, in case it didn't work out ... and this is it!

Not a very good photo because of the unwilling helpers. In fairness, they don't quite have the reach to hold a quilt up (yet! it's the only reason I keep feeding them, so they can be used for quilt display). The next photo might be a bit more useful in showing the spread as it was intended to be used. There are actually two boys in there somewhere.

I was told about this wonderful site a week or two ago - it is baking heaven!!! The boys and I had a wonderful trawl around and ordered a very restrained selection of candy cane sprinkles, christmas tree sprinkles and gold dust. They arrived in a couple of days and are absolutely awesome!!! We used all three on this chocolate slice. The gold dust was a bit disappointing, it might need a white background to show up a bit more. I'm going to be ordering way more from them in the future.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cheese on Toast

Finally here's a photo of the finished product - on the clothesline which is empty because it's raining, but if I waited for the skies to clear I'd never get it done! What is with this weather - it's been such a cool and damp start to summer. The lovely neighbour invited the boys over for a swim about three weeks ago and we haven't been able to get a decent day for it ... although we went round to friends for a drink last night and the sub-arctic temperatures and drizzle didn't stop the boys leaping in the pool there.

And here's a close up of the clamshell quilting. Not very exciting, but included for thoroughness.
I'm home again from PNG which is nice, although I had a great trip. It was wonderful to be back up there where I spent some very happy years - it's changed, but not in most things. I managed the travel just fine, and didn't get too tired. There are so many things about air travel that completely suck; but it's still nice to have a chance to sit and read a book, or watch a movie, without having to do anything or be anywhere. And someone brings you food! Or they would, if I'd pre-ordered any. Curse you budget airlines. Because of the complex interaction of public service entitlements, value for money principles, and logistics company regulations, most trips are a bizarre mix of bottom of the barrel budget airlines and fancy business class luxury. We relish one, and suffer the other.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Constitutional crisis

Nothing quilty to report on because I am up in Papua New Guinea this week - doing something completely unrelated to its current constitutional crisis - but it's interesting to be here. PNG currently has two prime ministers, two governors general, two completely different cabinets and two Police Commissioners. It's like a giant game of chicken where both sides are racing towards each other daring each other to back down ... and in this town that could go for quite some time!!

Meanwhile several million citizens are quietly going about their own business. Good.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rain of terror

I haven't been doing a lot of sewing lately - a combination of Christmas festivities, work and a good book means I've had better things to do than go into the sewing room. I did tidy my dyed fabric though. And took a picture of the shelves.

We had an absolute downpour last night - torrentially heavy rain that the stormwater drain at the top of our driveway completely failed to cope with. So we had to stand and mop and form a little barrier of towels to stop it cascading into our front door - which worked - but then the groundswell came up and into the laundry, hallway and fifteen feet of carpet in the loungeroom. The carpet already needs replacing but it's very damp and dismal and smelly today! I'm doing dozens of loads of towels, with all the heaters and fans on. Sigh.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chain sewing

I finished the pineapple blossom - renamed "Cheese on Toast" - no pictures yet, because it's slightly too big for someone to hold comfortably, and the clothesline is always full of clothes, so I can't drape it over. But I will take some, and post them, because I really like it!

So I'm looking for another scrappy project, and I was thinking about doing Bonnie's new mystery quilt, when I stopped myself because THE LAST MYSTERY QUILT IS STILL SITTING IN A BOX UNFINISHED. Yes, I am shouting, because I was shouting at myself just the same. And I looked at the unfinished quilt and realised I'd done all the hard work - I'd made 600 half square triangles for god's sake - so I should just keep on going with it.

So I've been sewing all those half square triangles together into groups of five ... it is taking FOREVER and I still have heaps of little fiddly sewing to go. But I'm going to do it, honestly.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm just not that into it

I made a seminole chevron border for the santa fe triangles - and it's one of those odd things. I like the centre, I like the border, but I really don't like them together. It's just not working for me, and I'm not entirely sure why.

Is it because the triangles are too bitsy and the chevrons are too solid? Does it need something lighter on the border, or more square? Am I overthinking this?

End result of all this agonising? It has gone into a plastic bag to have a long hard think about what it's done, and we will renegotiate its future existence, if any, next year. Or the year after, possibly. I'm not doing much sewing at the moment as my time is being sucked up with festive socialising and shopping. My husband's work has a tradition of a children's party in the grounds of the Lodge, which is the Prime Minister's house. They wouldn't let us into the house itself - probably very wise - but I managed to have a good nosey around the garden. I drive past twice a day on my way to work and back so it was fascinating to see on the other side of the fence. There was tobogganing down the lawn.

The PM wasn't at home when we were there ... probably a sound decision. Nothing like a hundred screaming children and a bouncy castle to make you find another pressing engagement.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Oh for crying out loud

The Labor party's annual conference has been agonisingly hand wringing about gay marriage, so I thought I would share this, which I quite like. I don't know who did it - but I figure they wouldn't mind me reproducing it. Honestly, the things people choose to make a fuss over - who gives a rats whether anyone is married or not any more, in any circumstances? I think cancer has made me less tolerant (at which point everyone who reads this and is related to me gives a snort of disbelief because I was pretty damn intolerant to start with) and much less inclined to put up with bollocks.

On a more chirpy note, I did the quilting on the little baby quilt. I didn't get to the baby shower in the end - my stamina took a while to pick back up after the surgery - so I will have to go and visit the expectant mother sometime in the next month or so and hand it over in person ... or I could wait until after the baby's born? or both?

I went with flowers because they're easy to do and aren't too heavily quilted. I should have taken a photo of the fabric on the back - it's Paddington Bear which I've had for years and never used, but it was the perfect blue to blend it with the front.

We're off and running for the start of the Christmas drinks fiesta this afternoon - two lots on the opposite side of town from each other - but that's OK, it's only Canberra!! Doesn't take too long to get anywhere!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sixteen patch finished

I made all the flying geese for the borders ... and then decided not to use them. I don't know why, I might have been feeling lazy? Or was it an artistic decision? Or perhaps I thought a smaller quilt would be more useful? The first is the most likely. Or perhaps I just wanted to get it finished.
It's machine quilted in long gently curving lines. Just enough to hold the layers together, and no more. The binding is nice and stripey. It does feel good to make something completely out of scraps! A brief sense of achievement, and then I fold it up and put it in the cupboard. I think I need to buy a holiday house so I'll have more beds to cover in quilts. I'm assuming when the boys leave home they'll take a dozen each, but that's years off.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My first quilt

I'm joining in with Bonnie's "my first quilt" event - although I should put a warning up that mine is at the severely bodgy end of the first quilt spectrum. None of this classes/kits/instructions/patterns nonsense for me!!! The sensitive should look away now ...

Let me set the scene. My first quilt was made in the summer of 1988/89. I was eighteen, and had just finished my first year away from home at university, in a hostel (dorm equivalent I think). I was back home for the summer to save money, work on my tan, and slowly destroy my soul for $4.60 an hour at Cherrywood Gifts and Video. I was also my missing my boyfriend, appalled by the narrow provincialism of my home town and disturbed by the eight kilos I'd put on after a year of cafeteria food. This all adds up to bored and needing a hobby.

The boyfriend was actually the reason I thought of doing a quilt - his mother made beautiful quilts, and I'd never seen anything like them before. They were lovely, traditional and hand quilted, in the calico and country style popular at the time. I thought - that's only squares and triangles! I can do that! - so just started into it with a pencil, a ruler, a pair of blunt scissors and a sewing machine.

It took absolutely forever, and nothing came out straight, and nothing ended up the same size, and the colour scheme was truly appalling!!! Such 80s pastels. After I finally put the top together I couldn't believe that I still had to do more work - the quilting - so I didn't. This little number is completely unquilted (so I suppose technically, not my first quilt at all).

Like most first-timers I found the fluffiest polyester batting in the shop and bound it by bringing the backing round to the front. I had no idea how to do corners, so just muddled it through. It is so difficult to imagine how we did anything without the internet! Every technique or tip that you can think of is reachable in 0.27 seconds of google time.

This quilt has not really been used - it's too small for a bed. A fair number of the seams have split, and I think with any real use it would fall to bits completely. But I've kept it, all these years ...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Such pretty colours

This is a unplanned work in progress. I liked the way all these colours went together - are they santa fe? turquoise and red dirt? I made strip sets, cut and re-sewed. It turned out quite surprisingly long and skinny, so there might be some borders on the top and bottom but not the sides to get it back into something approaching square.

Felt pretty rough yesterday after the surgery but it's all getting much better now. General anaesthetics suck, even when you're not under for very long. On the plus side, today has been drizzly rain all day long - nearly unheard of in Canberra! A good day to loll around in bed, and very welcome for the garden.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Spray basting?

This is my first adventure into spray basting. Well, not entirely the absolute first, just the first time I've used the quilt basting spray for its intended purpose, and not just for random glueing. There are a few tutorials and blog chatter out there about using a wall for spray basting - here is an example - and I thought it was completely worth a crack! I couldn't be bothered putting any newspaper on an inside wall so I just used masking tape to hold the backing up, against an outside wall of my house. Then spray and add the batting, and spray and add the top! I didn't think that it could hold through the quilting but I'm half way through now and it is doing admirably! Anything higher than me (178cm) might be a bit difficult, but for little quilts it is very quick and easy.

This is a for a baby shower I'm supposed to be going to on Sunday - I have said I'll go but I'm back in for day surgery tomorrow (just taking the portacath out, nothing dramatic) and there's a chance I won't feel up to it on Sunday. But if I do, I'll have a quilt! She knows she's having a boy, which is why the blue.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shore scene

The next painting in the watercolour book is this shoreline scene. Certainly not like anything I've seen in real life - oceans are far too wild to leave boats lying around the edges of, and harbours have mudflats. But I'm in the hands of the book and its author, whoever he is, and so we painted some boats and sky and sea. I nearly skipped this one because it was really complicated to sketch, but I'm glad I stuck with it because it wasn't that difficult at all when you broke it down! Learning, learning, slowly but surely. So this was the book...

And this was me...

The other new thing with this picture was using masking fluid to paint out the seagull / small boat before you started. The fluid dries and forms a barrier that you can then paint over, then rub off when the paint is dry, so that it's still white underneath. That's pretty cool, but even better was that I had to go into an art supplies store to buy it ... and I just love those places when I actually have something to buy. I find them a bit depressing otherwise - all those wonderful looking tools I can't use - but if I have a specific errand then it's wonderful!

Oh dear, I've just realised that emotional response means I am allowing my sense of lack of legitimacy to undermine my enjoyment of the art store. I didn't realise my psyche could affect my shopping. Is nothing sacred?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not quite lego

I got inspired by Tonya's lego quilt - what is not to love about that fiesta of scrappy strippiness? So I cut an awful lot of strips and bricks one and half inches wide from the scrap bin and pieced them together. I had my own rules - I wasn't going to cut any strips to make them shorter. So if it was more than ten and a half inches long (the size of my finished blocks) it went over two blocks. The other thing I did was cut a lot of strips from dark red yardage to give the blocks a more unified look. Then I bordered it in blue (with red dots) and a piano key border from the leftover strips.

I like it - but it doesn't have the charm of the original lego quilt. The strips are bigger, and most of them are one fabric across the width of the block, so it's not nearly as intricate. It's still warm and friendly though, with all the red. And big enough for a queen size bed too. I would like to hand quilt it for the look - maybe big stitch like the pineapple blossom - but has my enthusiasm for that run out? Can I quilt another one or will I get too too terribly bored?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas, whatever

Here is my little Christmas wall hanging all quilted and finished. There are loops in the circles that might possibly be leaves or pine needles, if you squint. And stars in the background, and straight lines on the edge.

I took it to Quilters' meeting today - where I failed to understand the voting system again -but I am quite confident that I didn't win. I did win the lucky door prize though, for the first time in ever, which was a nice fat quarter and some stranded cotton. It will be put to good use.

I don't know about going to these meetings. The only thing I have in common with anybody there is quilting, and nobody really talks about it that much. Oh, and cancer, EVERYBODY has cancer. But I don't much want to talk about that either.

Monday, November 14, 2011

...that rise from the lake to the trees

We went away for the weekend! After many long and boring months in Canberra we packed our little bags and drove two hours south to Jindabyne. Not exactly circumnavigating the globe, but it felt really good to go and see something different. We hadn't been down that way since well before children - Jindabyne is the main town for the ski areas, but still a tiny place, and very quiet in November. The original town was flooded for the hydro scheme, so now they have a new town, and a lovely lake. This is the view from the apartment balcony where we stayed - absolutely gorgeous.

On Saturday we went to Thredbo - a tiny village in the National Park at the bottom of some ski runs - and took the chairlift up to the top. It was high and I was scared and also kind of horrified at the fact that my seven year old was sitting next to me on a glorified park bench at least 100 feet above very hard looking rocks with absolutely no safety straps or anything ... of course he LOVED it. Here we are at the top - after having conquered the big scary chair lift.

Everyone else on the chairlift was doing the walk to the top of Mt Kosciusko - Australia's highest mountain. I'm from a country where if you want to stand on its highest point you really need to wear, at minimum, closed-in shoes. You wouldn't take your toddler and a picnic hamper. Apparently the only reason you can no longer drive to Australia's highest point is because people were trying to do it in their sedans and getting bogged. It's no wonder no-one takes the country seriously.

Having said that, even that stroll would have been too much for me this time, so we just chairlifted up and walked down. The boys got to see some snow! Much excitement. And then we saw some trees, and some nature, which is pretty damn boring. So we didn't quite do the full 5km walk and took a short cut down the ski slopes to the village ... we were hungry.

Did you know it is impossible to get down a ski slope in summer without (a) falling over and (b) breaking into something from The Sound of Music.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Greens and galahs

Here are the greens - very pretty. There are some more being rinsed at the moment, where I used the same blues but a different yellow (the yellow ochre). These are done with the sunshine yellow, which makes for a nice clear green.

And here are the galahs. Galahs are terribly stupid - they are always the ones that get run over, or eaten by dogs - but so pretty in pink and grey. And they have a lovely bell-like warble, not the raucous screech of most of the other parrots. We get eight or nine different types of parrots at our bird feeder and there is a definite pecking order. The galahs are, unsurprisingly, close to the bottom.
I took this photo because I thought the birds matched the flowers! If only my interior design skills extended to the inside of the house, it would all be perfect...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pottering about

My husband and I love pottering. We say things like "I might just have a potter-y sort of day" and smile. I think we are already mentally retired (yes, in our 40s) and love to poke at the plants in the garden, gently think about cooking lunch, and put a hat on to slowly drive to the shops for some milk. In our little fantasy world, the children have already left home, so we do get a bit surprised when we stumble over them, or they ask for food.

My point? I've been pottering about with quilting. Meanderingly hand quilting the big pineapple blossom. It's not too slow because it's big stitch, but any hand quilting is a contemplative, rather than a results-oriented, activity.

I've been making a few words too, for an idea I briefly had about our challenge quilt for next year's exhibition. The theme is "red plus one" which is in some ways a moronic theme, but in other ways quite brilliant. It certainly leaves it very open, which is the best thing in a theme. On the other hand, they had to explain that the "plus one" means another colour (rather than bringing a date for example) and if you have to explain a theme then maybe you haven't properly thought it through.

I like my words but I don't know if I'll keep going with it. The letters are a bit irritating to make because they're so small - our challenge quilt has to be 50cm x 70 cm - and I was getting jack of it. But it was nice to potter.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Starting to look a lot like Christmas

The quilters guild Wednesday meeting is having a little christmas challenge for our November meeting - make something vaguely christmas-like and we vote. With coins, and the coins go to the refuge. And the quilts too, I think. There seemed to be a strong suggestion we make a patchwork elephant. Anyway, I couldn't quite understand the ins and outs (and I wasn't really listening) but I got two main messages; bring something yummy for morning tea, and make a christmas-themed thingy. Tick, and tick.

Here is my wallhanging pinned and about to be quilted - in twenty three years of quilting I have never made a christmas anything! This is a cut down version of this quilt which I found aimlessly googling "christmas quilts". It's such a great idea, I love it. My quilting isn't going to be quite so gorgeous, but it definitely looks like christmas! yay!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I regularly read maxabella loves - it's a delightful blog about kids and life and things like that. She is doing a series at the moment on planning a kid's party and it sounds all wonderful ... in a how-is-life-on-your-planet kind of way. I love what she's done and the suggestions but oh my goodness it would not be me in a million billion years.

I should admit, for my oldest's first birthday I did match the cupcakes to the tablecloths and it was great! Champagne cocktails, my friends because he didn't have any yet, and colour co-ordinated balloons and napkins. But that was pretty much the end of my enthusiasm for party planning. I'm quite happy to have parties, as long as I'm not asked to do terribly much. If the kids don't do it themselves, it doesn't happen. So, when number two son had his 7th party on the weekend, they did the lolly bags themselves.
They completely did the decorating.

Made their own pinata.

My role was cooking the sausage rolls and telling various kids to use their inside voice, put that stick down, stop eating like a pig that's disgusting, do you need to go to the toilet? well stop clutching yourself then and counting down the minutes until they left. As a party I think it was quite successful - everyone seemed to have a good time - games were played and food was eaten. Most importantly, the birthday boy was happy! I can't decide if I'm being neglectful or encouraging creativity and resilience...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I've got the blues

But luckily only the literal, rather than the figurative ones. Does that make sense? Am I using the right words? My kids explained the difference between simile and metaphor to me several times this year, and I still don't think it's sunk in. Luckily they are receiving the benefit of an Australian public education and will be stuffed full of useful information by the time they are 18 and set loose on the world. Adverbs, protons, fractions, everything.

I made up some new dye and some new soda ash solution and got going with the blues. I seem to have a mountain of yellows and purples and browns at the moment. I'm not sure if that reflects my dyeing or my sewing preferences. But now I have to make some blues and greens. These all turned out quite turquoise, although they are varying combinations of turquoise and blue.

I have been sewing a little bit, although most of the weekend was taken up with a birthday party for the just-turned-seven year old. I may post about that, if I can recover my mental and physical fortitude. It was fairly horrific. The birthday boy enjoyed himself.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bad dyer

In January this year, before I was overtaken by Events (they should have a capital E, all things considered) I put in four lengths of calico to soak in soda ash solution. Last week - they were still there.

The bucket's been outside for ten months. It was only half full when I put them in, and it was full when I opened it, so it must have let the rain in. And some leaves and dirt too, by the looks of this.

In January, I made up some dyes, used most of them and put the leftovers in the fridge. They were still there too - doesn't it look grotty? It's a spare fridge, but we do still keep food in it. Not if we can help it though - it freezes salads.

So, last week I put on my sexy and fashionable dyeing clothes for the first time since January.

And I used all the leftovers. You certainly won't see that recommended in a dyeing book but it all turned out fine.