Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An oldie

Unsurprisingly, I haven't been doing a lot of sewing since we got back from the beach! Between looking after the boys, and the house, and hospital visits, and making a cameo appearance at the office, my time has been well and truly taken up. The good news is that my husband had his surgery on Monday and they put him back together (with eleven pins in his arm, gulp).

And now he's back home; a bit sore but given everything he's gone through he's surprisingly alert and managing the pain well. We grumbled a bit about him being bumped off the surgery list on Sunday by some emergencies, but given that it was all done in the public system (i.e completely free) and he was looked after so well the whole time, we feel pretty happy with his treatment and very lucky about where we live.

I took this quilt over to NZ in the suitcase of quilts that I left with the whanau - I blogged about the piecing but never showed a picture of the finished product. So here it is! I followed the circles with big stitch and it's a very soft finish. So now it's sitting in Dad's cupboard rather than mine. Is this progress?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The wonderfully good and the awfully bad

The good was a wonderful weekend at the beach - relaxed and fun! Lots of waves, not too hot (even a bit cloudy some days), friends coming down to join us and plenty of beer, bubbly and burning marshmallows! Lovely. Not too much high fashion or gorgeous bodies though, obviously.

The bad was my husband pitching down the stairs while he was unpacking the car and landing with his full weight on his arm. Broke his two forearm bones very comprehensively yesterday and is still in hospital waiting for surgery, he'll need pins and plates - hopefully they'll be able to do it tomorrow. Just one orthopaedic theatre open on the weekend apparently, and he's not urgent enough to make the cut! My poor wounded bear ... doesn't this picture just make you wince?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Oh boy have we all got the summer snoozies today. It was a hot day yesterday, and a warm night last night, and the cockies woke us up before 7 with their ridiculous screeching ... right now the air is still and fresh and clear, and it's shaping up to be a scorcher. And it is so very very difficult to do anything but sit and read a book. The boys had watermelon for breakfast, and that's all they need.

A good-looking bird but the noise they make is unbelievable. This is on our bird-feeder, maybe we shouldn't encourage them...

Here is my Florabunda Jacobs Ladder - now re-named Tahitian Women after this picture - the one on the right (when Wikipedia stops protesting, which I support fully) where the girl is wearing the pink dress. If your computer monitor is anything like mine it won't be at all true to colour - this picture was in the Musee d'Orsay exhibition I saw twice at the NGA in 2010 and the colours are breathtakingly beautiful.

It's a clear warm yellow and perfect rose pink ... apparently you're meant to think about the nature of colonialism and change when you see this picture - I thought "pretty!! such pretty colours!!!" and it's been at the back of my mind ever since. So this quilt is now "Tahitian Women". I went with six-inch squares for a border in the end - pieced, but not too much. I'm hand quilting it in big stitch with perle thread because the Cheese on Toast was so much fun to do and I liked the result.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Design wall Monday

Yes, I know it's Tuesday here, but if I put it up on Monday it's too early! And much as I love both blogging and quilting, I'm not getting up at 3 am to do them. Today on the design wall (floor) we have the latest large scrap quilt I have launched myself into - shoo fly blocks!!! I am completely loving Bonnie's strip scrap system. I just picked up my little bag of light 2 1/2" strips, my little bag of dark 2 1/2" strips and my companion angle ruler and off I go! The squares can be cut from the same strips as the triangle halves and they all go together beautifully. I have done 53 and I will do about 100 for this quilt.

I was inspired by the process of creating this lovely quilt, which was in turn inspired by an antique quilt in a book ... I thought two things "that's such a nice quilt" and "I have that book!". So I dug it up and went back through it - it is a treasure trove of pictures of old quilts. I found it cheap in a remaindered bookshop, and it has been worth every cent. My inspiration for my shoo fly quilt is this one.

Isn't that a terrible photo? Perhaps this is better. It's a nine patch and the one above is a churn dash, but the idea is the zig zag setting - I stared at that pink nine patch quilt for AGES trying to figure out how it was set. It doesn't go together on point in any direction. Then, finally, when I saw the churn dash in the book it clicked in that they used setting quarter-square triangles. Which opens up all sorts of possibilities! I think I'm going to set this shoo flies with a different fabric for each zig zag. More scrappy that way....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

More than a little jealous

We had a farewell bbq for friends last night who are off on posting - taking up her first head of mission position as Australia's high commissioner to another country. And I have to admit, I am more than a little bit jealous!! To have an adventure, going somewhere you've never been before, to do something you've never done before; and to be scared and excited and proud ... it's a feeling that I have not felt for ages.

It was like that we all finished secondary school and left our small town to go to university. And then again at the end of university as most people left to travel or work or study overseas. (New Zealanders leave New Zealand in their 20s in mass hordes. Mostly they come back again.) It's an unmixed excitement - not that we didn't worry about the hurdles, or obsess on the logistics, because we did - but there was a sense of taking on the unknown and of endless possibilities! Anything might happen.

It's not the same excitement that you get when you buy a house, or get married, or pregnant. Sure, there is pleasure, and congratulations, and friendship, but it's not unmixed. Those milestones add weight to your life, as well as possibilities. First postings are exciting, but not so much subsequently, as your friends take themselves away for years! Take away tiny babies and bring back walking talking kids, or (gasp) teenagers.

But there is something about wearing that ambassador label, for some reason, that sparks it up again. The first time we waved one off was in 2005 and it took me a while to identify why it felt like being in my early 20s again ... and why I felt so envious when I know full well that a career in foreign affairs would see me hurl myself off the R. G. Casey Building within about a week. I was hankering after the possibilities.

I'm sure having had the most boring and depressing 2011 in the history of the world isn't helping either ... I was interested to read Posie's post on re-uniting and reconnecting at this time of year. Public service postings don't have quite the regularity of Army, but this is still a popular time of year to move to minimise disruption to schooling - and we will be reconnecting with friends moving back this week. Which will be lovely, and remind me why I like living here, and remind me that friends are friends and years apart seem like days when we're back together.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Florabunda blocks

I've finished all my pink and yellow Jacob's Ladder blocks - I shouldn't keep calling it Florabunda because it has no florals, but I can't think of another name yet. I laid them out on the bed for placement then sewed them together. I am very pleased with how they turned out - I was a bit worried because I had selected the scraps based on colour rather than value. So the pinks were sometimes light and sometimes dark and the diagonals were receding and advancing all over the place! I've decided to call this "optical interest".

The cats weren't super impressed that I was putting the blocks on top of them, although I did leave them airholes.

And my third "helper" was number one (idiot) son ... still in his pyjamas at lunchtime! We are having a lovely holiday so far. I have a list of leaving-the-house activities, things I know they would enjoy, but it's hard to get excited about going anywhere when they are incredibly content just to hang at home. Yesterday they wanted to fly a kite, and today they're going to make a tent out of sheets in the back yard ... it's just too wholesome for words. If it carries on like this they'll stop swearing and thumping each other soon (no chance, I'm dreaming....) Although I've stopped counting Monopoly as a wholesome activity when I realised they were playing it as a contact sport. In my day when you landed on Free Parking you just got some money...

Monday, January 9, 2012

I was a strange child

Here's another treasure that was unearthed at Dad's. A doily set that I embroidered sometime between my tenth and twelth birthdays. What kind of kiddy does this - especially in the early 1980s? Even then these things no longer existed in everyday use; or certainly not in anyone under the age of 70. I think my grandma kept her hairbrushes on a set on top of her dresser but nobody else did.

There's a main one, and two smaller ones, for scent bottles perhaps. A hairbrush, a comb, and a hand mirror. On the top of the chest of drawers. What universe is this that has such strange things in it?

I didn't do such a bad job considering my age ... and my chronic lack of attention to detail in any aspect of hand work. Sometimes my mother would made me unpick things, but I think I was ignoring her, even that early (ignoring didn't really kick in until I was about 14 :). My grandma did wonderful crochet, so I'm fairly sure she did the edging. I never learnt to crochet, which is a bit disappointing in hindsight! I might put it on the list of things to teach myself; along with drawing and self-control.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Back with my family [sewing machine]

It is lovely to be home again - even just after an excellent six day adventure - back in the sunshine! and heat! I came home Thursday evening and had to work on Friday - but that was OK because I have the next three weeks off to look after the boys and hang out at home. My husband has already done ALL the cool things to do with kids in Canberra, so they could be in for a very boring time with boring mum. My aim is to get them so bored that they are begging to go back to school! Optimistic?

I leapt straight back into my Florabunda ... well, it's not actually Florabunda, but based on the same principle of Bonnie's cheddar and floral Jacob's Ladder. I'm using pink instead of yellow, and mostly yellow prints in place of florals. I have pre-cut the strips for each block and then I use my nifty little angle ruler to cut the triangles as I go. It's very more-ish - you can't just stop at one - so I've spent most of today happily back in the sewing room.

And look what else I'm doing - spinning my seams!!! I never do things properly, but for some reason I gave this a go, and it's very easy and makes the seams lie beautifully flat. I really should listen when people say things are a good idea, because quite often they are right.

I also nipped out to Spotlight and bought another dozen metres of white fabric for dyeing. Number two son came too - unexpectedly! I usually can't pay them to go to Spotlight - but he bought some beads and has made a bracelet, it's very cute. He's very cute too. For some reason I'm still on NZ time and have woken up at 6 am for the last two mornings. It gives you so much more day!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I'm in Auckland airport at the moment waiting for my flight. Good wireless and a nice coffee... but I'd rather be on the plane and moving!! Then another two and a half hours in Sydney waiting for the little plane down to Canberra. Despite offloading all my quilts in Tauranga I managed to be five kilos over my 32 kg weight limit! So I gave Dad a pile of letters and papers to take back with him ... they will have to wait till next time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Something old and something new

I'm over in New Zealand visiting my Dad for a few days - after the travelling to PNG and back was so easy I felt healthy enough to take a short trip over the Tasman and catch up with the family. The boys were completely outraged that I wasn't taking them ... but from all accounts they are having a lovely time at home doing boy things (lots of lamb chops and computer games I think. And ten pin bowling).

This is the something new of my title - my Christmas present of a set of Aurifil threads. I sent my husband the link ages ago and suggested it would make a good present - he dutifully ordered it but was a bit bemused ..."I thought it would be something more exciting than just threads". Poor man doesn't get it it all!!! Beautiful Aurifil threads in all these colours - how could anything be more exciting? (I've already started using the pink).

And a new ruler. I've been using this on the new scrap quilt I shouldn't have started before I finished Roll Roll Cotton Boll ... but I did, and it's fun.

There have been lots of somethings old too - Dad helpfully dragged out at least five boxes of my stuff from the top of the cupboard in the spare room .... and gently suggested I sort and/or throwaway. Most of it is old school notes and uni notes - it's scary how much stuff I have completely forgotten - and I'm chucking all that out. The rest are old letters from friends and family - the ancient age of post! And some truly excruciating teenage diaries and some even more mindblowingly appalling teenage poetry. If I ever get brave [drunk] enough I will put some examples here for your literary pleasure.

Dad also has a couple of suitcases that used to live under his mother's bed - old linens, laces and clothes. My aunt has labelled some bits but some are complete mysteries, and I don't know enough to tell Victorian handmade from sixties machine nylon. I think both are in there :)

This is, according to my aunt's label, "bodice from great-grandmother's going away dress - 1850?". It is a plaid silk in shades of brown and gold with tan-coloured fringing. Hand stitched and boned to fit a tiny frame!! Amazing.