Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Boy quilt finish

I finished up that boy-quilt I made as a warm up after Indonesia - a bit of machine quilting and binding and done. 

I like the jungle fabric I used in one of the squares. I've had it for ages but it's quite dark and hard to use in a kid's quilt - maybe I can just eke it out into I-spy quilts for the next few years. My shelves are thinning out a bit (gasp!) so it might be time to go on another little shopping spree. I haven't bought any fabric (other than the cottons in Jakarta) for ages - it must be time for Hancocks of Paducah to have another free-international-shipping event! I can't resist them.

I broke with tradition and visited one of my local quilt shops on the weekend to buy some batting - I normally just go to the closest one but thought I would branch out and drive the extra five minutes down to Tuggeranong. Batting was fine but I had one of those shopping moments where I remember why my experiences of local quilt shops always seem completely different to anyone else's. People are always saying how expert and friendly the staff are... I seem to end up with the clueless one every single time. 

This is a 54-40 or Fight block - I wanted a ruler to cut the star points.  They look like a 60 degree angle but I just wasn't sure. Anyway the woman serving had no idea, but convinced herself that it was a 60 degree angle ... I shouldn't have gone along with it but I'm terrible when people have very firm ideas about things, it's hard to argue, so I bought it. 

Anyway of course it's not a 60 degree angle, after a full hour with google I figured out it's about 64.5 degrees, which is enough to make the "square" very much a "rectangle" if you try and use a sixty degree ruler. Which I confirmed through making one. Finding that out took me right back to sines and cosines and tangents!!! Oh my goodness, I haven't thought about that since 1986, and I didn't understand it properly then. But I did it, and the calculator on this little macbook can go all scientific when needed. Fantastic.

I see a border of equilateral triangles in my future. Have to use this goddamn ruler.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Starting but not finishing ... a talking-to

This is the post where I give myself a stern talking-to. Part of the reason that I started blogging was so that I would remember what I'd done, including things that I'd started but not finished. It's never quite been the mechanism for transparency I had hoped - and I'm too damn lazy to keep a list on the side of the blog of projects on the go, like some quilters do. My thought was that if I wrote about a project, then it attained a degree of reality that meant I could no longer chuck it in the back of the cupboard and ignore it. Didn't work!

So I am sitting here on a beautiful sunny Saturday late afternoon, letting my husband cook the dinner and wondering if it's cocktail hour yet ... and I've gone back through every blog post and scraped up the ones I haven't finished. Here's the list:

  • Orca Bay - Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt from 2010. And I've done all the hard bits!!! must finish it off.
  • That hideous apricot and blue orange peel. I started hand quilting it in January 2011 and it wasn't any fun.
  • The hexagons. Nothing wrong with this, and it's 90% done, I just have to stitch all those big bits together.
  • The wool felt cushion cover. I think it's kind of boring. Maybe I'll finish it...
  • The santa fe solids. I didn't like the seminole border, but the colours might be worth salvaging. 
  • The broderie perse medallion. Does it need another border? I don't think so...
Well, that's not a very long list. I think there are things in the cupboard / on the shelf / in the baskets that haven't made it to the blog. Maybe I should go see what's up there, if I dare...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gear freaking

I may have mentioned before on this blog that my husband makes model aeroplanes. We have a little room each, next to each other upstairs, and we sit there in the evenings in companionable activity. With a wall between us, which I think is quite companionable enough for an old married couple. He thinks my hobby is a bit strange, and I think his hobby is slightly bonkers, but we are polite about it. And we both think that the other quilt makers / scale modellers in the world that we deal with are complete loons, so we swap "I don't believe it" stories about freaks who scratch-build 1/48th harness buckles and make king-size quilts from half-inch hexagons.

The other thing we swap is a shared passion for gear-freaking. A hobby's no fun unless you can buy stuff that's of no earthly use for anything else, and we both understand that. (And we have separate bank accounts for this kind of stuff too, invisible to each other, which makes life a LOT more pleasant).  Mostly there's not much overlap but this little beauty was picked up by a scale modelling friend who very kindly gave it to me when I expressed an interest, and it is awesome.

These are bonsai shears. You use them for pruning your tiny wee tree. But they are also the best dog-ear trimmers and thread cutters I have ever seen! Sharp blades and an excellent size. When I'm making a hundred half-square triangles I just cut the thread and trim the dog ear in one easy snip, then iron them. Who would have thought of bonsai tools...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Avant-garde fail

I thought I'd get a bit modern, a bit groovy and artistic with this quilt top. Some people can do amazing things with stripes, so you know, I thought I'd try. Not very good. Not very good at all. I think you might have to cut the stripes smaller, or maybe pick more interesting colours, or perhaps put a little bit of thought into it. I had intended making it a bit bigger but nothing about this quilt makes me want to keep going with it. So I won't.

It would look a lot better if I gave it a proper iron, obviously. I still haven't decided whether to quilt it or  just consign it to the bin of shame (or make a cushion cover! or a dog blanket!). It might grow on me.

This weekend has been busy busy busy. Baseball has started again, with both boys playing this season. Number two son is completely new to the game, and has basically no skills at all. But he'll learn - and he has lovely team mates and a very kind coach. A very kind and slightly bemused American coach, who is a bit perturbed that an eight year old boy can have absolutely no idea which one is first base, and whether you go clockwise or anti-clockwise. Hehehe.

And we had a small party for number two son's birthday ... he wanted a chocolate cake, with lime-green icing, and home-made toffee shattered into bits on the icing. I did it, but I'm not sure if it was a success. The toffee looked a bit like little growths all over the cake - and my husband bit into a bit of cake and lost half a tooth. Ooops.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Yes, I am in the cool group, thanks for noticing

Today I am guest posting over on At Home with Books, which is a book review blog (duh). Alyce has a regular series where guest bloggers post on the best and worst books written by a particular author, so feel free to click through and see my not-so-erudite views on Doris Lessing.

I feel like "guest blogging" is something that proper grown-up bloggers do and not just part-time try-hards like me. Isn't that silly? I don't think At Home with Books has any more readers than I do (which mean between us we have eight people, unless some of you are reading both and wrecking my stats).

I think watching other people guest blogging away is the equivalent of those conversations where everybody else seems to know each other, and you don't know anyone, and you're not in the cool group any more, and your inner thirteen year old is mortified. Although I don't think my inner thirteen year old knows any big words like "mortified" ... back in 1983 when I spent a lot of time being hugely embarrassed by everything I think it was mostly "a major shrink-out". What does that even mean??

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's the flowers again

Every year Canberra has Floriade - flowers, lots and lots of flowers, mostly tulips - and it's very pretty and we go every year but really? There are only so many flowers you can see in your life. But the boys love it because there are rides and honey donut puffs and a petting zoo, so we try and make it every year because it is free we are good parents. This year is was just number two son and me admiring the tulips in a very un-springlike arctic breeze.

He made me go on the ferris wheel, despite my new rule after Krakatoa (No Heights No Boats - a lesson to live by). It was OK but wobbled a bit in the wind. Being up there did you give a much better perspective on the flower beds though - aren't those hats cool?

The first couple of times round I was too petrified to turn my head but I loosened up slightly on the fourth through seventh circuit and I was able to turn slightly to the side. Without breaking my python-grip on the safety rail. Speaking of pythons, the reptile tent had three handlers nonchalantly cuddling (wrestling?) pythons of various sizes. I was pretty cool with it until I realised one of them had another one in the hood of her hoodie, just curled up!!! Aaaaarghhh, I left the tent.

The flowers are really lovely. And the setting down by the lake is beautiful. And the honey donut puffs were delicious.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Starting slow

I'm easing back into sewing with a simple toddler-boy quilt.  When I haven't done any sewing for a while I'm all full of ideas and unfocussed and taken over by grand plans ... none of which ever get all the way to completion and tend to result in lots of unfinished things lying around. So I'm starting with a simple boy quilt to warm my way back up.

Not very exciting, but nice to be back into the swing of things! School started again today. Not much to report there either. And a normal working week. Boooooring. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Back home again

And so back to dull reality. I am kind of happy to be home - no bed is ever as comfortable as my own, and it's nice to be re-united with the cat and the sewing machine - but we were very spoiled on our holiday and it's hard to go back to domestic self-sufficiency. The friends we stayed with have a fancy house with lots of staff ... I very quickly adjusted to having my meals cooked for me and my clothes miraculously reappearing washed and ironed. Leaving us time to lounge in one of the selection of outdoor spaces, looking a bit like this, where we read books and drank beer. Every morning the pillows were re-aligned and freshly plumped.

The boys spent a lot of time in the pool and raiding the drinks fridge (a walk-in drinks fridge! boy heaven). Their first experience of an Asian holiday is a bit different to mine - and most of my generation - dodgy backpackers hostels, crowded bars, banana pancakes and having exactly two t-shirts and three pairs of undies in your small as possible backpack!!!

Not to mention such historical oddities as travellers cheques, tiny little towels and never ever ringing home because it cost a week's wages. And Poste Restante!!! The joy of arriving in a new city and seeing if there was any letters from anyone in poste restante, because that was the only way you could be in contact with family and friends. My god, it sounds positively medieval, like we were off on the crusades or something.

To top off this luxury fest we were upgraded to business class on the flight home for reasons that are still unclear ... I don't think I'll ever get the boys back into economy. They didn't notice proper linen and cutlery (I did), but they thought endless chocolates on a tray were the bees knees, and when we turned their seats into lie-flat beds and tucked them in with a blanket their eyes nearly popped out of their heads.

Yes, definitely back to the mundane and humdrum for us. Who wouldn't miss eating breakfast at this table every morning. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The most boy-friendly thing of all

What could possibly be a more boy-friendly holiday activity than a car museum or a water park? There's only one thing that fits the bill ... A LIVE VOLCANO.  

The observant among you may have noticed that we are not in Australia at the moment - Australia being distinctly lacking in live volcanoes. The water park might have been a giveaway too - only penguins and polar bears would brave an outdoor pool in Canberra in September! We've had a few days in Jakarta staying with friends, and then a little trip off the west coast of Java - next to Sumatra - to see this smoking hill in the middle of the ocean. It is Krakatau - or more accurately Anakrakatau, son of Krakatoa. When the big Krakatoa eruption happened in 1883 it basically blew itself to bits, and the caldera is now ocean with islands around it.

Of course it had to be climbed up. I suspect that if this volcano was in Australia, no-one would be allowed to even land there for reasons of safety, but the Indonesians are much more relaxed about these things. The volcano had been very active last week, so there were lots of sulphur gases and lava bombs that were ejected by the volcano and are still smouldering hot. Fascinating. Yes, my child is standing about eight inches away from fresh lava.

I get horribly seasick, so the hour and a half on a small boat on a big sea was ghastly, and I did an awful lot of vomiting. Oh well. The best bit was stopping for a swim and a relax on a beautiful beach on one of the islands - Mamakrakatau - beautiful clear warm water and gorgeous soft volcanic black sand. 

We stayed in Carita, and the boys swam in the warm sea as the sun set over the Sunda Strait. I'm scheduling this post for when we are in the air on the way back, so by the time you read this we will probably be back at home, and dreaming of that warm sand....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shopping not sewing

This holiday business can really cut into one's sewing time - I haven't lifted a needle in a week - but there is always time for a bit of gentle shopping. Can you see a theme in the latest purchases?

 Lovely batik - printed cotton not proper wax batik, but I wouldn't want to go chopping up proper batik, so this will do nicely for my quilting. Do you think I can use all these together, or would that be a bit over the top? I waver between that and thinking "more! I need more batiks! more patterns all together yay!" That's kind of my quilting motto to be honest, maybe I should get little cards made.

I did buy something else in the fabric shop, this glorious Ungaro silk. A bit more expensive than the cotton, but it's a beautiful weight and will make a really lovely shirt ... when I get round to making it. I still have a length of beautiful fawn-coloured silk my husband bought me in Beijing in 1998, it's just too pretty to cut. But now I have the plain shell-top pattern sorted I could use it for this without fear. It's always the first cut that's the hardest!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Even more boy-friendly

The one thing that could be even better than a car museum for a boy on school holidays? A water-park. A really big water-park with lots and lots of scary slides, water cannons, not-so-scary slides, big splashy pools and rubber rafts. Add in some soft drink and pizza and it was pretty much heaven for everyone. This is them racing out of the pool at the bottom of the "hairpin" so they could go up again.

This is me and number two son shooting out from the "twizter" backwards. The last part of the slide is enclosed (so pitch black) and it's not so much fun to do it backwards with a hollering seven-year old. We did the open air one next (and then I did them on  my own!) and both were much better.

Everybody will sleep well tonight.

Monday, October 1, 2012

School holidays

School holidays started for us this weekend so it's off and running with boy-friendly activities. And it doesn't get more boy-friendly than a car museum... Number one son got behind the wheel of an Austin 7. What a tiny wee car! He looked about the right size to drive it. Hard to imagine touring the countryside in it.

I preferred the timeless elegance and luxurious curves of the fifties models. There were also some wicked fins, rocket headlights and jet plane decorations! We got sadly back into our modern cars, boring colours and no chrome at all.