Saturday, June 29, 2013

New bathroom

The new bathroom is finally done - and seeing I appalled you all with the "before" photos the least I can do is show you that I no longer live in mouldy and flaking squalor. It is really hard to take decent photos of a small white tiled bathroom! Boring, even if shiny and clean. Here is a focus-failure-photo of the feature tile and new matching towels ... actually they're not that matching, but I was determined to buy them at Harris Scarfe's 60% off sale and I just went for the best I could. They're new anyway.

And a shiny tap, on a nice new basin, all one piece and easy to clean.

LED lights that look like little robots. They are very bright - and with the white tiles it can get a bit scary in there. I am not used to bright lighting and lots of mirrors when I get out of the shower. I think I might prefer my old dim lights with frosted shades.

So there you go, a budget bathroom renovation without much personality or design flair. And it still cost us fifteen thousand dollars, even with buying everything at the Renovators Discount Depot. We didn't do any of the work ourselves (we don't have the skills), but I watch renovation or home buying shows on UK and US tv where they talk about the costs of re-doing a kitchen or a bathroom or knocking a wall down and it all seems to be much much cheaper. Or should I perhaps not use pay tv as an accurate reflection of real life? Lordy knows I've been caught before ... but anyway "that's enough of grubby money" as my mother used to say. If you want to see a proper quilter's bathroom then I recommend this...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I have been doing a lot of training at work lately - as my organisation desperately tries to spend all its budget by the end of the financial year (30 June here in Australia). And much of it has been about leadership, and performance, and values, and those kind of nebulous things. So there has been a lot of sharing, in pairs, to report back to the group.  At one point we had to reflect on our successes and I must have been distracted by something else because I said "There are none. I have failed at everything I've tried." Which of course completely stopped the conversation while everyone gave me that special look you give to someone who says they have vodka for breakfast. I recovered, and managed to give my normal impression of someone who has their shit together, but it made me think about failures and the face you show the world.

And this is relevant (honestly) because I couldn't think of anything to blog about even though I have spent all week in the sewing room ... because it is just fail, fail fail. I am trying to make a baby quilt. First attempt:

I made these wonky log cabin type blocks in solids and then thought I would free motion it on the new machine -  now I have conquered it. Well, I haven't conquered it. It has a completely different pace and feel that will take me a while to get used to, and this quilt is just horrible.

Close up of the bubbly gaps where I couldn't get the quilting right. And the folded over seams where I picked up the pieces with the foot.

Second attempt:

Kind of a cool dresden plate with borders. I thought that after the horror of free motion quilting I would give the walking foot a go ... it sucked. Really sucked. It doesn't look like it's walking at all. I will have to try something else as a test, because it might actually be the quilt. I cut the background fabric away from the dresden plate so it wouldn't be so bulky, and it pulled and stretched every which way while I was quilting.

Close up of the terrible puckering and lumpy bits. Not even a baby would want this mess.

Third attempt:

I can't even blame the machine for this - I did the flying geese for two borders and did completely the wrong number.  This is solely the result of my own inability to count, apparently four sixes are twenty-four!!! Who knew??? So I don't have enough flying geese for the next border and I've run out of fabric and I might have started swearing and throwing things at about this point. It is salvageable but my enthusiasm has vanished.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

An early birthday present

I've been thinking about getting a better sewing machine for  while now, but it's a bit tricky. All the more expensive machines have fancy embroidery stitches that I don't want or need - and to buy the things I do want like a longer arm and a thread cutter you have to pay for all the other nonsense. So I was thinking about buying an industrial machine, but that's a bit scary. Until I saw the Janome 1600P on sale ... they call it "semi-industrial" which means it's a domestic machine that is just a bit sturdier, only does straight stitch, but does it at a blinding speed. And I mean BLINDING. It goes like a bat out of hell - which suits me. I don't pin (or worry about precision) and this baby rockets along. It is an early birthday present for me from my husband :)

I was swearing at it the first night though - I could not get it to free motion quilt without the thread breaking. I tried every different thread I owned, checked the threading about a hundred times, fiddled with the top tension, fiddled with the bottom tension and just about threw the whole thing out the window. Then I googled, and tried everything suggested there, and it still wouldn't go more than about fifty stitches without breaking ... SO frustrating. The only thing I couldn't try was a heavier needle because I didn't have one - until today when I could get to the shop - and what do you know, it worked! Free-motioning like a bought one. Thank god because I was about to carry it back to the ladies in the shop and throw it at them ... and it weighs a ton. It would probably be GBH.

But I haven't been playing with it today because we went down into Namadgi National Park and took a chilly walk across some semi-alpine grasslands. This stream was frozen over which the boys thought was pretty cool - they don't see that much round here. And they had to poke at it and whack it with sticks until it was broken up, of course.

The point of the walk was to see some aboriginal rock art - some time in the last 800 years they reckon, although there have been people round here for much much longer. It's kind of underwhelming and kind of cool at the same time ... australian history and landscapes are a bit like that. You have to let them grow on you I guess - it's not really a "wow!" kind of countryside. The paintings were on massive rocks that would have been shelters ... although as we were leaving and the sun was going down it was getting COLD and very bleak.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pinky pink pink

I went to Modern Quilters Group on Thursday night which was lots of fun like usual - the only trouble I have is falling asleep at about 9 pm ... by the end of the week I am fading. Not like a flower, like an old dishrag left in the rain. This time Michelle demonstrated improvised stick blocks - that's not the real name - where there are irregular inset strips in a block; different widths and crossing each other. Fun, and can be a cool effect. Anyway, the phrase "pick-up sticks" quilt was used which made me think of Musk Sticks! Back at the lollies again. I didn't have my machine with me on Thursday but yesterday and today I've been putting together pink improvised stick block things.

So pink, so very very pink, barbie world pink. But I like them, and will probably make them up into a mini quilt. I did have a lot of pink hand-dyed fabric and I can't imagine any other use for it.

And I narrow-folded my normal quilting fabric as well, and jammed it in my three pigeonholes. I limit myself to three, and if they're full it's time to stop shopping and start quilting.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rainy Wednesday

Another long and pointless day here today - with extra rain thrown in. I technically don't work on Wednesdays, but there is usually a couple of hours to do - little problems or micro-crises or just trying to make things run smoothly. Overall I think they pay me enough for the amount of effort I put in, so it doesn't bother me, it just means I don't get much else done.

I did go to the gym though, which was actually the most fun I had all day! How sad is that. This is why I go at 9 am ....

Hmmmm, which machine shall I choose! It's like having your own personal gym... I make the staff turn the music right down so I can hear my own ipod. Can't stand that loud modern stuff :)

And I've been back at the crumb block, it is addictive. And easy when you can't think of quite what to sew. I just love the way that a big messy box of nothing turns into cute little blocks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Another side project

Here is another quilt to go with the ripple one - I thought that "liberated" freehand circles would be more interesting than proper circles. Circles that are round. I think I was wrong - I don't particularly like this one! Those arcs are all a little bit anarchic for me. But it is a sofa quilt for a six year old boy so I am not going to agonise over the design decisions.

I had fun with the feathers in the border. Or I did after I finally got my machine serviced - it was not stopping when I lifted my foot off the foot pedal, which wasn't good. So I took it in on Wednesday and got it back on Saturday which was quicker than usual. But a bit shaming - the woman behind the counter had a ziploc bag full of thread and dust which she held out to me with extended arm "this ALL came from YOUR MACHINE" ... why on earth did she keep it? Crazy bat. Anyway she said that perhaps I could get it serviced a little more frequently, and she did have a point. It is certainly running much more smoothly now.

It's a long weekend here, and after a few too many champagnes at a friends house last night (no, the birthday boy's head wasn't exploding, poorly placed sparkler) I made my way through the fog and the frost to the gym this morning but it was closed, despite what they said on the website. I think you should get fitness credits for putting your gear on and going to the gym; that's the most painful bit. But other than that I have spent most of the long weekend sewing and it's been wonderful...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fog and gloom and sad old bathrooms

It's just past one here and the fog has finally decided to think about lifting - a pathetic little sun ray is breaking through. It'll be clear for about half an hour before it starts to get dark again ... at least we don't have anyone trying to catch a plane today because Canberra airport just closes down in the fog. My team grows and shrinks depending on what we're doing and we currently have an all-time record high of five different people working in five different tropical countries ... and they all like to email me and say how warm it is. Well, thank you.

This is the view up the street. Not much to see except the fog.

And while we're keeping it crappy, would you like to see the before shots of the bathroom? It's the en-suite off the main bedroom and it's a bit horrifying. The floor tiles are original 1975.

So are the crappy plastic fittings and "marbled" formica bench.

Before we bought the house they whacked a coat of paint onto the wall tiles; I knew it was a cheap reno job at the time but wasn't too bothered ... then I had the first shower. And the paint flaked off. But not all of it, just enough to make the shower look scabby and leprous. Isn't that disgusting? And it made the drains block up for the first year we were here.

So I am very glad to have seen all of that ripped out and thrown in the skip - including all the walls because of the asbestos. And we have new walls, and a new floor, and the tiling boys are here today and it looks fabulous! The tilers seem to be about twelve years old and they like to play doof-doof music in my bedroom and put grouting tools on the bed and leave the front door open ... but I forgive them because they are making me a nice shiny new bathroom.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Traycloths ... dressing table sets ... doilies ...

I think I've mentioned before my fondness for hand-embroidered thingies. Items that are as outmoded and useless as a floppy disk... unwanted and un-needed and un-loved.  Overtaken by events.

I have a slightly unfortunate reaction to these little linen delights; I want to rescue them. Take them home, wash them, iron them, fold them and put them nicely on a clean shelf (yes, I have one, although not more than one). I don't want to do anything more with them - I can't see a quilt made from doilies in my immediate future unless I go completely INSANE but I just like the idea that they are in my cupboard and not sitting sadly in an op shop or (horrors!) landfill.

So I have some things from family.

And some that I've bought.

And some from other people's family - I'm getting a reputation for a happy recipient ("No Aunty I'm not throwing them out, I have a friend who loves these and she will look after them!!).

Maybe sometime in the future I'll have to have a little chat with myself about what exactly I think I'm doing and where on earth I will expect to store all these things and do you want to end up on Extreme Hoarders with mummified cat skeletons ... but not yet.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Number one son has decided he doesn't want to play footy this season. I tried to talk him into it but he was unusually adamant for an easy going kiddie. I loved team sports and played for decades, but my husband never did, and he turned out all right, mostly. So we said he didn't have to play but there would be some replacement physical activity. He's done a couple of mornings of archery (surprisingly hard :)) and every other time it's a bushwalk.

I went with them last Saturday because it was a glorious day and the sewing room was too messy to contemplate.

The countryside around Canberra is not obviously beautiful but it does grow on you. Old worn-down hills, land that goes on and on and grubby scrappy plants.

Today was a day of solid settled rain - we get about three or four rainy days a year, and I do like them. I had a LOT of rain growing up in New Zealand. But still the walk happened - we have raincoats - but only second son because the older one had a fairly spectacular vomiting and gastro night last night. Seems to have recovered fully now but it was gory there for a while.

Of course you need snacks, even for a quick one hour walk round the golf course at the back of our street.