Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why I'll never be a modern quilter

Without getting all pernickety about what is and isn't a modern quilter - the best definition? "I know it when I see it" - I know for a fact that I am not one. Because when I get at a loose end, or I just want to make a quilt for the hell of it, I always always end up with traditional blocks in random scraps. It is never restrained or designed or simple or graphic or any of those modern things. I just really love the old blocks pieced from god-knows-what material. I think they are friendly, and warm, which is what you want quilts to be (well, it's what I want quilts to be, others may differ).

So when I couldn't decide what to do next I got an overwhelming urge to do a king-size log cabin with big fat 2 1/2" strips and a dismayingly traditional red square in the centre.

I've done 25 of these - because the blocks are so big that's enough for a large quilt - and my 2 1/2" strip bag is just about empty. I will arrange them in the gaspingly ordinary straight furrows and border them with whatever fabric I have enough of. Probably in brown....

Saturday, April 26, 2014


It is school holidays here - as well as Easter and then yesterday was Anzac Day - so a whole heap of public holidays piled into two weeks. My brother and his family are over from NZ staying with us as well; we took them down to the beach for a couple of days to show off our little piece of paradise.

It was beautiful weather - Canberra at the moment is very autumnal and cool but the coast is warm and the water temperature is still lovely! We went swimming and went for some walks and had fish and chips and did all the proper beachy things.

And we blew out the candles on number one son's cake. Getting so big now ... my nephew is 15 and a fine example of what they turn into, given enough food and sunshine. Like a plant.

Getting too big for having his photo taken at every activity though. He didn't think the world needed a shot of him tucking into his lunch.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A new niece

I have a new baby niece! My husband's brother and his partner have another beautiful little girl ... which is very exciting and she is very cute from the photos. Hopefully I will get to see her in the flesh before too long - it's been a while since we've had any babies around! My brother in law is my age and I must admit I feel way too old to be dealing with a tiny little baby, but I am probably aged beyond my years. (And what made me so old? CHILDREN)

Anyway I made her a wee quilt, which I shall post this week now they have chosen a name (although they can't agree on how to spell it apparently, I just made a stab on the label and if it's wrong well, yay for mad aunties). Not a great photo but you get the idea.

This is the backing fabric - birds! I like the green on this, it's very fresh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Because I've spent the last few days in bed I've been reading quite a bit. Fortunately a couple of weeks ago I went to the Lifeline Book Fair - a twice-yearly Canberra institution with a large exhibition space full of second hand books of all shapes, sizes and quality. Most people treat it like a minimal cost lending library - spend, read and return to the next fair; it's a major fundraiser for Lifeline who do very good work. The most fun is on the last afternoon where they dispense with individual pricing and charge $20 a bag ... lots of people with very very full bags they are trying to nonchalantly float through the cashier even though the bag weighs about forty kilos. Because even though you know you shouldn't try and scam Lifeline - who isn't going to try to cram the most books in for your $20? I got about 30 books in my bag, although half of them were thin - children's classics for number two son, who reads like I do. At huge speed and without much thought.

When we moved into this house nearly eight years ago we had these bookshelves put into the downstairs hallway. It was a fairly wide and useless hallway, and the bookshelves are specially made for paperbacks (not too high and not very deep) so we could get as many as possible in. At the time I thought "we'll never fill that up!". But we did in about a year and we also have bookshelves in the family room, kitchen and most of the bedrooms. I purge regularly for school fetes and back to Lifeline but it's so hard to get rid of the ones I really like....

The hallway shelves are alphabetically arranged by author. I like this because it means I can find things more easily, and also see who my favourite authors actually are in terms of books bought, as opposed to who I think they are when I'm trying to impress people. Turns out I buy books by Bill Bryson, Terry Pratchett, Joanna Trollope and Ian Banks. There's a whole shelf of Doris Lessing, which is mildly literary - but also a full one of assorted Mitford sisters. The biggest single author is Anthony Trollope, one of the few I will regularly re-read, but that might have more to do with the fact he wrote so very many books, than any passion of mine for long-winded Victorians.

Because the books are alphabetical, I do a really dorky thing when I finish a new book and put it away. I like to see who the author is going to be tucked up next to, and I wonder if they'll get on. For example, I just finished "and I shall have some peace there" by Margaret Roach (which I really enjoyed by the way. I was expecting some sort of sappy moving to Tuscany life-change and organic passata fiesta - but it was much grittier and more interesting than that). So I popped her in between Philip Roth and the guy who wrote "Shaka Zulu" ... and felt quite bad about it. I don't think they would get on at all well. Margaret is probably not having fun.

On the other hand, I just tucked Anne Tyler (Digging to America, quite a good read if not one of the world's greatest books) between Mark Twain and John Updike. That would be a much more interesting side of the table.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The family cold

My husband had it first, and passed it on to number two son. The school rang me when I was in Adelaide because my kid was sick ... I said that's terrible but I am a thousand miles away; which met with the silence it deserved. My husband got him eventually I think. Then this week number one son went down, most unusually as he tends to just ignore any illness and carry on, and then it hit me on Thursday morning. I started crying at work and just couldn't stop which is SO embarrassing but a fairly sure sign you're not super well. I don't have the kind of workplace that has people sobbing on a regular basis, at least not in my part of it...

So I spent the last couple of days in bed and I'm feeling a bit better; clearly just a cold but quite annoying. It was the last day of school term yesterday and we were going to go straight down the beach, but I wasn't well enough. The weather's a bit grey and rainy but it still would have been nice to get out of town ... Anyway here are some photos from last Sunday's walk around the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

Lots of birds apparently, if you can stay still long enough to see them. It was a bit cool to sit for any length of time (despite what the boys are wearing, I swear they don't feel the cold) so we didn't see anything terribly exciting, but still quite a pleasant walk. Good for everyone to get some fresh air in a brief break from sneezing and coughing and lying around, and quite pretty given that it's basically in the middle of Canberra.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

And even more crumbs

So this is what the blues and crumbs turned into - big and blue and quilted in lines.

The straight line quilting was easier than I thought it was going to be, although I didn't intend to change the direction of the lines until after I started. I thought it might be a bit boring with all the lines going the same way. It worked out fine but there is a patch (bottom right) where I finished up, and I ended up with way too much fabric all bunching up in a very inelegant manner. I am, as I've said before, a Very Poor Quilter and there is a fair bit of fudging and the occasional (gasp) pleat in the top to get it all done.

I marked it with my frixion pen as I went and was absolutely paranoid about making sure it was the right pen each time. I do not want normal ink on my quilts ever again; Ultimate Grand Supreme (the one with the pen) is on my older son's bed at the moment and every time I say goodnight to him I cringe. Luckily he'll spill food / toothpaste / marker pen on it before too long and I can give it another solid washing.

Here is a close up of the triangle border. I am almost at the end at my ball of leftover binding! A couple of nice big scrap tops that can be bound in random fabrics and it's nearly all used up. And it is so nice to have the binding already made and you just roll it out.

This quilt is called "Kinky Renee" because I had a line from an old Whitlams song absolutely stuck in my head while I was sewing down the binding ... the line is "gun-toting trigger-happy tranny named Kinky Renee" but that wouldn't all fit on the label. Sometimes quilts name themselves.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


I've been in Adelaide, South Australia, this week for work - lots of fun and even useful but exhausting! Talking and listening all day then dinners at the end of it. Excellent dinners (feeling very fat now) but I'm tired and ready to go home in a couple of hours and not talk to anyone at all for at least two days ... although I can't see the family letting me get away with that one.

Most of our meetings were at the newly refurbished Adelaide Oval (sports ground) which I could see from my hotel room. It is very cool. Isn't Adelaide flat? We got the tour one evening after the meeting and it was really quite fascinating - the ground is maybe 120 years old? and they've managed to keep a bit of the historical side of it (not enough, according to the some of die-hard locals we met) and at the same time it's all whizz bang 21st century sports tech.

Adelaide itself is pretty cool too - historical to my Canberra eyes and lots of old buildings - but we really haven't had a chance to do much touristing. Mostly it's just relief that everything went so well (we organise travel and logistics as well as the meeting content) and thinking about the next one!