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.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I'm painting again. Number two son had his birthday last week and we gave him a decent set of paints / brushes / paper for his own, seeing that he was so interested in mine. So he painted, and I painted, and number one son painted, and we made a mess all together.

I'm going back to the watercolour instruction book after getting the humph with it. I wasn't too sure about the landscapes, but let's face it, the flowers weren't so crash hot either. So the book and I worked step by step through a mountain cabin. The book did this:

I did this:
Number one son did this:

Number two son did this:

Then we gave up and put a DVD on.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cupcakes - real ones this time

Food colouring is the boys favourite ingredient. Green pikelets, blue icing, orange pancakes... and pink cupcakes. I was quite surprised just how pink they turned out to be.

And bright blue icing covered in sprinkles (the boys call them) and hundreds and thousands (I call them). We have a few Australia / NZ dialect differences, my children and I. Sometimes I win - they say the letter H as 'aitch' and not 'haitch', and the queen lives in a 'cahstle' not 'cassell'. Sometimes the Aussie wins and the boys definitely go to the swimming 'poowill' not 'pull'. And sometimes there is just a yawning vocabulary chasm when I ask them about jandals or sticking plasters.

Baseball started again this morning which introduces another layer of weird linguistic diversity. Batterup!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pinned up pineapple blossom

I'm able to stretch and bend and pin quilts up now - yay - so there is a backlog waiting my attention. First up is the pineapple blossom. I went with two different red borders with the offcut triangles in between. I like the red because it's warm and happy like the rest of the quilt.

This is being held up by two helpers who weren't really in the mood for it. I just took the photo as quick as I could! I've started hand quilting it in big-stitch clamshells with a dark cream perle cotton. Anything more subtle would just get lost I think. I took it to quilters' daytime meeting today and happily sewed away. I hadn't been for months and it was lovely.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A good week ... with dessert

The boys have been up at the beach all week with their grandparents - having a wonderful time swimming, canoeing, bike riding and walking by the sounds of it ... and falling asleep at the dinner table every night! Well planned, Nan and Poppy. It was the longest we have ever been without them and their first plane flight on their own - and it all went just fine. Of course.

Despite missing them a teeny little bit, we had the most wonderful week - even both being busy at work was a treat - we could stay late and fuss about our own little corners of the working world without also having to wrangle the boys. We went out to several lovely dinners - including one at the Argentinian Ambassador's residence - Hola Argentina! and did the fancy four-course at a restaurant in town. I made my husband take a photo of the dessert which was crepes suzette flaming beautifully - except the flames don't show in the photo. But you can see the mandarin sorbet and various foams (of course! bloody foams) and it was absolutely delicious.

But, to be honest, not as delicious as the poached pears in saffron with golden syrup ice cream that a friend made for us for lunch the next day. That was just amazing. She didn't mind I took a photo either.

There was also heaps of time for sewing. I quilted the little cot quilt - straight lines in the middle and feathers in the border.

I did just one long feather and I'm not sure if there's enough variety to look super good, but geez it was easy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Putting the pineapple blossom blocks together

Just a bit of boring sewing here - putting together the pineapple blossom blocks. It is a little bit exciting because they form a nice secondary pattern. And there are lots of little offcut blocks to trim too, I'll sew those together for the border.

I think I might hand quilt this - big stitch with maybe perle cotton. It will give it a nice rumply feel, to go with the warm colours.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Art ... and not art

My husband and I just went to see the Fred Williams exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia - it's a public holiday here in Canberra for reasons unknown (we seem to have a special day all of our own). I didn't really know anything about Fred Williams but went along to be companionable. It was fantastic - his paintings are extraordinary and show a clear evolution through his life but at the same time staying constant to themes and ideas and interest.

It's the first time I've seen the new entrance to the NGA - much lighter and nicer than it used to be. I'd like to start doing some of the guided tours to introduce myself to the whole place. It's bit intimidating just to rock in and start wandering round! I need a guide.

Every time I see something good like the Fred Williams exhibition it makes me happy ... until I line it up against my own ordinariness. Oh well. I draw things because it makes me happy and stops me watching endless crap on Lifestyle Channel. (Although maybe I could combine my two hobbies and do a portrait of Phil Spencer!!! Nude!!! Mwhahahaha). Here are my hibiscus.

They turned out OK - at least they are recognisably hibiscus flowers.

I am not so pleased with my lemons and oranges.

More work needed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I'm gulping at the moment - having a sewing frenzy when I just keep going and going and finishing things and starting new things and it's all fun and all going well!!! It won't last of course but it's just like the feeling when you're hot and drinking something cold and you just keep drinking it all down. Gulping it down.

Some of the nine-patches I made for no apparent reason from the leftover two-inch strips were cream and green; they looked so pretty and fresh that I made them into a little cot quilt top straight away. More green and some yellow - about forty inches square. Hopefully gender-neutral (despite the flowers) for a pregnant tummy or two of my acquaintance. These people who won't find out if they're having a girl or a boy! Or (even worse) won't tell you!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

An old quilt, showing some signs of use

Because number-two son claimed the stripey quilt for his bed, he had to remove one of the ones already on there. Most beds in this house have a few quilts of different shapes, sizes and thicknesses. So do the sofas, and the cupboards. Actually most rooms look like a rag bag exploded in them. I say they should be happy I'm spending their inheritance on fabric and not gin and lottery tickets. They don't answer me back because they're muffled by layers of quilts.

The quilt that was removed (demoted really) was this one I made in 2000. Dodgy looking dress scraps (this was before I realised that quilting fabric was actually quite good for quilting) and hand quilted during the long winter nights I watched TV while my husband was Pretending to be Very Important at Parliament House and didn't get home till midnight. I didn't mind - this was before children so I worked all day - and the first winter back from Papua New Guinea so I had thin blood. The cats and I would watch Sex and the City and I would quilt.

This quilt definitely qualifies as well-loved. And my favourite bit of the whole thing? When I was basting it I realised I'd cut the back a bit small, and I couldn't be bothered sewing another bit on, so I just left it with the batting showing. And this quilt has been on the bed for ten years, machine washed and dried a couple of dozen times, vomited on at least twice and used as a floor rug for about six months. The lesson? Quality craftsmanship is not only overrated, but unnecessary.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thirteen happy years

I was 28 - hardly a teenage bride - but we seem like such babies!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pros and cons

I finished the radiotherapy last week, which is good. I am now burnt, flaking, itchy, raw and tired, which is bad. I can't do anything that requires stretching or extending my left arm, which is bad. I can't hang out washing, load and unload the dishwasher or lift pots and pans, which is good. But I can't pin quilts or sew any seam of more than about a metre, which is bad.

So I'm sewing small things and waiting until I heal to pin up and do the big stuff. I've put my scrap 16-patches together and made 96 flying geese for the border, but can't do any more for the moment. I'm going to do the flying geese border in a quilt as you go variant - where you pre-quilt the middle then sew the borders (unquilted) directly to the middle then quilt. I think it makes perfect sense :). I made four different sorts of flying geese, one for each side.

I've turned the leftover two-inch strips from the pineapple blossom into some nine-patches. I don't know what they'll be for but it was fun to do.

And I've watched a lot of footy of various codes. A brilliant AFL Grand Final, an excellent NRL Grand Final, an OK showing by the Wallabies although they are NOT looking like tournament winners I have to say. I think they'll get knocked off by South Africa next week and not even make the semis (oh the horror! the national shame!). Then I can cheer for Ireland because they have the cutest accents.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

An unexpected finish

This is one of my many ongoing never-ending medallion quilts. I do like making them because you can try out different things as you go. Medallions can have an unexpected vibrancy that block quilts don't always - perhaps because block quilts are generally planned out from the start. The only downside of medallion quilts is that you have to do more and more sewing for each border as you go out ... which is generally the point that my enthusiasm is drifting away.

So, with this quilt I did it a bit differently. I made a couple of dozen Ohio star blocks before starting the big blue centre square, so that when I reached the outer border it would already be done. And, naturally, when I went to put the star blocks on they looked terrible. Just completely wrong. So I made them up into a quilt on their own - queen-size once I'd done the sashing - hand-quilted it, and gave it to my husband's aunt and uncle for christmas. I wish I had a photo, but no.

This quilt languished for a couple of months, then I put the little star blocks around it. Which are cute. Then it languished for a year or two more, when I did the wavy bias strip border. And then I agonised over what to do next for a few more months before it was all "bugger this, just finish the thing". So I did - it's 60" square about, which isn't big enough for a double bed but excellent for a boy bed. Lightly machine quilted - the dark blue has big pebbles (more like stones really) and the rest is straight lines or ditch or echo, depending on mood.

My Dad is holding this up - it's a rare treat to have a nice tall man in the house during daylight hours. Not only is he doing wonders in the garden, but is handy for quilt photography! It's raining buckets today (first day of school holidays of course) so gardening isn't an option. Before photographing though he had to wrestle the boy out from under it. Could be a LONG two weeks.