Friday, December 31, 2010

A traditional Christmas

We've just come back from an excellent week down the beach - traditional Christmas of prawns, surfing, beer and afternoon naps! Australians are a terribly predictable bunch; I think the whole of Canberra was there as well.

We arrived at the beach house Christmas Eve, so no chance for decorations ... but the boys found a couple of old banksia branches and hung chocolates from them! Perfect. And Santa found their stockings too. Who would have imagined it :)

I got some lovely quilting and art bookings for Christmas, and some proper watercolour paints with a book on how to do it!! Van Gogh didn't pick up a brush until he was 30, and 40 is the new 30 apparently, so I'm right on schedule. Unrealistic expectations? Hell no.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Design wall Monday - holy half square triangles, Batman!

When Bonnie put "600 half square triangles" on the latest step of the mystery quilt I nearly fell off my chair - HOW MANY???? But this is exactly why I'm enjoying the mystery quilt - if I had the whole pattern in front of me I would have discarded it before starting as Far Too Hard. But now I've spent hours doing the string blocks I'm not stopping!!! There will be HSTs!!

Actually it's not taking too long at all. I use the eight-at-a-time method with 6" squares then cut into eight and trim them back to 2". With 6" squares I can get seven across a width of fabric (I'm using random yardage, I don't have that many red or neutral scraps left) so I'm doing them in blocks of 56 and I'm up to 224! So nearly half way.

This isn't really a "design wall" as such because I don't know how they're going to go together! It's a mystery:) But I am enjoying spreading them out on the floor and seeing how pretty and scrappy all the bits and bobs look. I cannot figure out how they will go together though ... but my trust in Bonnie is complete...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

All shades of brown

I used a new dye on this batch - yellow ochre. Normally I only buy the unmixed reds, yellows, blues and black and take it from there myself; but this time I bought a little tub of yellow ochre. And it certainly has its own shade!

These are very autumnal orangey yellows. I mixed in a bit of red with some, a bit of black with others, and did some darker and some paler. And that's as unscientific as it sounds, I don't bother with measuring, or labelling or recording what I do. I have ironed them now and put them on the shelf and they look much more appealing than hanging like rags on the line! My shelves are bulging with oranges and browns and peaches and apricots and salmons and yellows ... I think blue and green today to balance it all up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The ever-reliable Hancocks turned up another free shipping event last month, regular as clockwork. Actually, not that regular really, because it seems to be unpredictable ... you never know when the wonder will strike! I like that in a shop. So, as usual, I cleared out their clearance items at one yard each to get to the $75 or $100 or whatever their minimum is for free shipping. And then there's three or four weeks of breathless anticipation to see what actually turns up!
To be honest, I tend to forget I've ordered it, and then buy some more, and get surprised when 19 yards shows in the mailbox. Or, in this case, the carport. I have had MORE words with Australia Post in my ongoing battle for them not to leave stuff where people can nick it. Or it can be rained on. You'd think this would be quite simple, wouldn't you? Hahahahaha.

Luckily, no-one in my leafy and semi-retired suburb bothers to steal my mail. But they would if they saw what was in it! How good is this?

Monday, December 13, 2010

A good day for scouring

I love that they call pre-washing fabric for dyeing "scouring" it. It has such connotations of scrubbing it with something caustic in a big cauldron. Putting it in the washing machine and pressing the start button isn't quite the same.

But today was a very good day for drying - finally some sunshine after all the rain we've been having. This unbleached might be a bit coarse on reflection ... but I'm going to use it anyway! I have used every dodgy fabric from see-through lawn to melting polycotton to hideous polyester satins in my quilting before now, and I see no reason to balk at unbleached calico.

It is also a good day to sit on the steps to have your morning tea (if you're a boy) and roll on the dirty concrete and have your tummy tickled (if you're a fat tortoiseshell cat).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hard at work, honestly

All I've been doing this week is sewing on those neutral string blocks for the mystery quilt ... and it's Friday already! What if I fall behind! The pressure! I did have to go away for work for a couple of days, which I will give as my reason for not a very interestingly quilty post. But we still need a photo - so here is me hard at work in some Pacific country! You can tell which one it is by the local beer ... Tusker, so must be Vanuatu.

I went to Spotlight this morning (had to go another route because the river was up ten metres... a whole nother story there) and they had 50% off dress calicos so I got fifteen metres of unbleached for dyeing! And another three metres of bleached extra wide (that was all they had left) so I am gearing up for a full-on dyeing frenzy. Bring it on....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The mystery deepens

I'm still going with Bonnie's mystery over at I have never done one before and the enthusiasm remains strong! This is also the first time in my life I have followed any kind of pattern. My general method is to look at the picture, read the instructions and decide they're too complicated, then knock something up generally the same but much simpler!

Until this step I had never sewn on foundation papers, despite having made dozens of string and scrap quilts. It certainly is a much better finish, and you can use quite small strings. And because it's a mystery I can't look at the finished product and think about how I can make it easier, and skip some of those pesky middle bits .... very good for the soul I think, a bit of discipline.

Bonnie encouraged us not to use just cream or white tone-on-tones but to mix it up a bit. I think I've done that, in fact I don't think I own nearly enough neutrals for this. I've only made a dozen blocks (of the 60) and my scrap pile is dwindling! I might have to buy something, bummer :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Design wall Monday - not much progress

I've finished my pink and purple and green puss in the corner blocks and now I've made the setting half-square triangles. Not too much excitement there!! I think they will look good together - I might just do a plain wide border. Not sure.

The point of the exercise was something small to hand quilt at the quilters' meetings. I've been doing bindings at every meeting this year - boring! It would be good to have something that didn't get finished while I was there and I could pick up and potter away at.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dress form quilt ... from the vault

There's been no sewing because I've been away all week - so here's one from the vault! I made this late in 2007 for a friend's daughter for Christmas, I think she would have been five at the time. It's my version of the dress-form quilt that a few people have made ... I couldn't find either a pattern or any proper pictures at the time so just did it from very hazy memory. Fortunately it's not a difficult shape to draw.

It was heaps of fun if I remember rightly - matching the different scraps of fabric to the different styles of dresses and trying to make each one unique. Some are more successful than others definitely.
I like the one with the pink tiered ruffle skirt ... it's probably some kind of wish fulfilment of clothes that you could never wear in you're own life. Like paper dolls! I might see if the boys are interested in paper dolls ... chances are NO.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Design wall Monday

I'm in Vanuatu this week for work - but I took these photos on my phone literally while I was walking out the door! I'd packed the camera, and it was at the bottom of my case...

Anyway, when I was at quilters a couple of weeks ago there was a black and white picture in a magazine that caught my eye. So I took a photo of it on my phone (I thought ripping out the picture from someone else's magazine wouldn't go down too well...). It's pretty straightforward, puss in the corner blocks with half-square triangles.
I decided to do it in the pink/purple/green combination that caught my eye when I was sewing random scraps a few weeks ago. So I've done most of the puss in the corner blocks and I will then do the half square triangles and see how it looks! The colour placement is entirely random.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Border done for baby quilt

This one is now off the design wall (floor), quilted and bound and safely handed over to the mother-to-be! Who is 35 weeks but looks very well and healthy. She doesn't know whether it's a boy or girl and refuses to listen to her workmate who insists she has 100% success rate with gender prediction. Hmmmm....

Thank you for your comments on my previous post when I was auditioning borders. I went with the orange in the end - but only on a small inner border and in the binding. It was too heavy all together and too dark, but with the lighter print I think it looks better! All the better for a baby to dribble on, that is.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Design floor Monday

And what exciting bit of something is on my floor today!!! Pink and green and pink again strips ... anyone else got the same thing? I'm doing Bonnie's mystery quilt. I've never done a mystery quilt before so I'm hoping my enthusiasm and focus will be enough to carry me through.

I think these strip sets can best be described as "pinkish" and "greenish". Bonnie did say scrappy...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One from the archives

I have finally gotten round to trawling back through the photos on the computer and picking out the ones of my quilts. All our photos - mostly of the kids, they're so cute when they're babies ... not any more - are just plonked in the date folders. So I had a happy trip down memory lane and found a lot of quilts I had forgotten about making! I gave most of them away, but I think some of them are still lurking downstairs.

Today's feature from the archives is ... this planets quilt which I gave to a little boy for his third birthday. You can still get away with quilts at that age - any older and they're cross for not getting an actual toy. But at three they're still only focussed on the cakes and chips.

This quilt was made with some of my very earliest hand dyed fabric - I think I put it with a black print because I was worried about the dye running. I rinsed obsessively back then though! Most of the current ones would be more problematic. I know the kiddy has used the quilt, so I'm assuming it's been washed - and no shrieks of horror about a ruined load of washing, so it was probably fine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

New pretty fabric

Seven lovely yards arrived from Aunt Bea's today. I have an image of Aunt Bea - wise, grey-haired, slicing off fabric and popping it in an envelope just for me. And the fabric always comes with a Hershey bar!!! My children, good Aussie kids that they are, have no idea what a Hershey bar is. They prod it suspiciously ... then figure it out and wham! all gone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Even more babies

And to round off the baby trifecta here is a very simple little quilt I finished on the weekend and gave to a woman at work today - she's having a boy she told me today! How exciting, boys are lovely. I didn't know when I made it though, so gender-neutral as usual.

It's from a packet of charm squares I found in the cupboard and a few ring-ins. I'm not sure why, it was a very small packet of charm squares with only twelve in them. I can't remember using any of them, but I must have ... or, more likely, I bought it because it was really cheap, and that's why. Regardless, it was the perfect size and colours for my quilt! So karma wins again.

And Hancocks have free shipping again, bless them, and the Australian dollar is at parity with the USD!!!! At the risk of sounding obsessed by money and / or offensively frugal, I'm getting the fabric to my door for less than $AUD 5 per yard, compared to $25 / metre minimum in the shops!!! Wow, is all I can say, wow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Design wall ... floor

I've really been enjoying looking at all the contributions to design wall Monday over on Judy's blog so I thought I would join in for once! I don't actually have a design wall though, I tend to lay blocks out on the floor to look at. I like it because I can see them reversed in the mirrored fronts of the cupboards, and it's like looking at them from a distance. On the downside, I tend to wheel over them in my sewing chair. Very bad for a block, being caught up in the casters of a wheeled deskchair.

So, this rainy Monday, we have some basic blocks on the design wall (floor) for yet another baby quilt! The ladies of my acquaintance are popping them out at the moment, so I'm making cot quilts galore. And no-one seems to want to tell me what gender they are (or they don't know themselves) so it's all either green or yellow, or blue with flowers, or something bright and multi-coloured.

I'm auditioning fabrics for the border at the moment. I don't actually like either of the ones in the photo - too dark and heavy I think - so I will pull out some more lighter fabrics and see if any of them work.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Doodling on fabric

Monday and Tuesday this week I spent in an organisation management get together - perfectly civilised and even slightly interesting - but requiring me to maintain focus for hours at a time. Not a strength for me. I find that if I just sit I wander off - so I'm much better to take notes; or, if there's nothing really to write down, to doodle. So I doodled little squares and patterns, and plenty of them.

They look much better from a distance - close up you can see the lack of finish.

I liked them so much I thought I'd try them on fabric - so I got a permanent marker and ruled a 12.5" square (because that's the size of my square ruler). The fabric tends to bunch so I attached them to a baking tray with masking tape and did my doodling. One is on white fabric and one is actually a pale pink.

I like them! They're not difficult or timeconsuming - one takes about fifteen minutes - and the edges are a bit rough, but the overall effect is very interesting. I shall do some more and see how they go in some kind of quilt. I don't know yet how you would quilt them. I may have to do some experimenting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back to basics

It's back to something nice and straightforward with this baby quilt. It's for a friend's baby who I was meant to go and visit this morning, but I have a cold, and there's nothing like spreading your germs through a bunch of little kids to make you popular. So I'll have to see them another time ... no point in going if you can't blow on the baby's tummy.

I enjoyed making this and not having to worry whether it was fulfilling my artistic urges! (I have them, honestly). The blue floral is very pretty, and more of a aqua blue than shows in the photos. I machine quilted it with freehand flowers in the middle of the stars and a basic squiggle on the outer border.

I'm slowly handquilting my way through the liberated chinese coins - I've decided to do freehand baptist fans in the borders which I do love, but it's going to take quite a long time, given the size of the quilt. Oh well, that's what television is for.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

String block things

I reckon the fun part is sewing the strips together. Having to decide what to do with them is a royal pain in the arse. They look so pretty all together, and so miserable in a block! Anyway I made an ohio star, which is a bit wonky (obviously) with an orange star. No particular reason for the orange - other than there was about a yard and a half of it and it was on the top of the pile.

I also made a spider web block - not foundation pieced - just adding the bundle of strips to the triangle and trimming it down to size ... made sense at the time. I would like to do it again with a more co-ordinated bunch of strips and make one of those pretty spiderweb quilts you see floating around on the web at the moment. The web effect is a bit lost with these random triangle points ... and I change the pattern so the star would be the primary impact - you can see the seam allowance in the left hand one would hit at the star point rather than make a floating background of orange.

I don't know why I'm torturing myself with possibilities now, I have to go to work and can't sew until tomorrow. Yesterday was a 16 hour day (I get paid for 5) so I'm going in half an hour late today! Yeah, what a way to stick it to the man.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Colour combinations

I'm sewing together solid colour scraps and strings at the moment, mostly randomly. I like the way that sometimes the colours go together unexpectedly. I always think "I MUST remember that colour combo for a quilt" ... but I never do. Maybe now I've taken pictures of them it'll last longer?

Scraps to strings makes a godawful mess of the sewing room. I haven't seen floor for a few days, and I think when I do it will be covered in threads - my jeans look like I've been rolling around in a garment factory. Isn't this pink and purple and green great? What are my chances of getting the men of the house to agree to re-do the living room these colours .... zero. Definitely zero.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Old embroidered things

For a while now I've had dibs on the old embroidered things lurking at the back of my Dad's linen closet. It's the usual assortment of things that don't exist any more - doilies, nightstand sets, teatray cloths ... and some that do like tablecloths and napkins. I've made Dad promise not to throw it out so it's all waiting there for me to come over and collect it! With empty suitcases and probably an excess baggage chit as well. I think there may have been a recent influx from when my aunt died ... I'm not sure. Dad is a bit of a hoarder.

So, some of it come over in an envelope with the six-year-old's birthday present last week, as a sneak preview! Dad was apologetic that he can't tell whether its recent machine-made or hundred-year-old embroidered by great grandma - but I can't tell the difference either! Some of it is clearly made by hand, and some is clearly post WWII synthetics, but other than that? It's a mystery. I'm having fun washing and folding regardless.

The blue background is maybe a dishcloth or teatowel - quite small anyway. The orange flowers are on a tablecloth! Pretty!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shiny things in circles

This is what my shiny scraps turned into. Lots of small circles, surrounded by lots of large circles. On different coloured fabrics - scraps again - without any particular plan. I like them! Although it's crudely appliqued, just with yellow topstitching around all the circles. But I think it makes it more colourful (although the real reason is that I had yellow thread in the machine and I couldn't be bothered changing it).

I finished the binding at quilters on Wednesday - in our new premises in an old primary school that's been turned into community multi-use. We have designated rooms in a building but the quilters' Wednesday day time meeting is in what used to be the old school hall. It's lovely - light and bright and everything is nice and new because all the kitchens and toilets have been redone for the re-use.

I don't like it when primary schools close - but Canberra's original vision was one primary school for every single suburb, and that just isn't feasible all the time. So, if they have to be closed, it's lovely that they're used as community facilities and not bulldozed and sold to developers. And who could be a nicer tenant than the Canberra Quilters? Apparently we share our floor with the University of the Third Age and the Heraldry Society. Sounds like fun ...

I finished the binding in time for show and tell - one of the ladies at my table said my quilt looked lovely from a distance! Yay for me!