Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A week in New Zealand

We've just got back from a short holiday to New Zealand - kind of a long way to go for a party but we took a week and caught up with family and generally had a break. We really went because we decided not to go to Argentina - which is another post in itself. (How can someone do a blog post about why they didn't go to Argentina? Don't most people wake up every day, decide not to go to Argentina and not feel the need to explain it? Probably.) It was so nice for the cousins to get together ... and wrestle. Boys.

 So, what did we do? What any normal person would do in in NZ of course. Geysers and boiling mud.

Admired the view.

And another view. Apparently NZ national parks have these picture frames at scenic points. Isn't it a cool idea? And it was such a beautiful day.

We went up a hill in these.

And came down a hill on these.

Grandad took them fishing and they ACTUALLY CAUGHT FISH. Which we had for dinner.

And the best of all was on number two son's birthday - when we visited the Shire. Yep, we spent some time in downtown Hobbiton. More hobbit holes than you could poke a gnarled (yet magical) stick at. All that time spent watching the Lord of the Rings movies (them, not me, I find it a bit torpid) paid off.

So now we're back - tired and broke! It's ten hours door to door from my house to my sister's house in Auckland - which is a long day but not a major trip. It's only two hours time difference but I'm waking up a bit early, which means I can go into work and get something done before I fade away. Jet lag across the Tasman, how shaming.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I went to a PARTY

Goodness, I promised party photos on Tuesday and haven't done a thing. So here you go - three of my sister's four kids had significant birthdays in October and they had a family-friendly party. The twins were 18 and their older sister was 21, so lots to celebrate. Here is one twin - the big banana.

Marilyn Monroe was 18 too, and Pebbles turned 21. Aren't they pretty?

That is of course the genetic inheritance from their parents - Jane Jetson and the Milky Bar Kid. He mostly had a milky bar in his shirt pocket but people kept eating them.

And it is definitely not the genetic inheritance of their aunty - Cyndi Lauper and her dashing husband Shane Warne.


At about eleven I was having a few wines (and the leftover chocolate fondue) with the middle-aged women when I thought to check my children - they were lined up on the sofa with their ten year old cousin absolutely mesmerised by the drinking games. Not participating thankfully, but completely riveted ... who knew the world had such fabulously fun things in it? Another tick in my mother-of-the-year basket, and vital step in their education... cheers!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Twirly Shirley in action

And here is Twirly Shirley as it is meant to be seen ... with an actual niece inside. A slightly hungover but still gorgeous niece, on the sofa, with a big yellow quilt. I will be back with more photos of the party but in the meantime here is the closest I have to a quilt action shot.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Twirly Shirley

Here's a top I made a couple of months ago but just finished off the binding last week at quilters. It's part of my ongoing obsession with crumb blocks! This time made into half square triangles with yellow, lot and lots of yellow. Oh I do like yellow. This is all my hand-dyed yellow - lots of different ones because I can never seem to make quite the same colour twice! But necessity is the mother of ... of multicoloured quilts I guess. I had to take these before the sun came up because it's impossible to take decent photos with the bright sun on it; so the colour looks a bit more lemony than in life.

I've called it "Twirly Shirley" because of the quilting. Wobbly waves.

I went a bit denser with the waves on the border to give it some texture. Easy to do but really effective! I like this quilt - it's even more cheerful in person, if you can believe it. Sunshine on a stick.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Back to school

We had a quiet second week of the holidays - went to the movies (Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, not bad), bought some books, pottered around at home. The boys watched all of the Lord of the Rings DVDs (including the Hobbit) and most of the last eight series of Dr Who. I did a bit of sewing... shoo fly blocks for some reason. Nice big ones. Really just a small step up from the scrap blocks! I'm using different fabrics for each one.

And number one son and I had a little project - re-painting a bookshelf that had been relegated to the carport. It was dark and ugly and now it is white and pretty! Not exactly done by painting professionals but a good thing to do, we both had fun and it was quick enough that we didn't get bored.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Still dyeing

I've got a production line going at the moment - alwas a good idea to take advantage of the mood and have a dyeing bonanza while I still feel like it! If I go good and crazy I should have enough to last me for a few months, or until the mood hits again. I did some purples this time.

The bottom one I did a bit of splashing to mix up the colours a bit and make something more interesting. I don't think I should use pink for splashing. It looks a bit ... crime scene.

And then a new dye I hadn't tried before called "Moroccan Red". I mostly just use pure colours rather than mixes, but I must have bought this one a while ago in a spirit of adventure. I don't know if it's because I've had it too long, but it seemed quite weak ... needing a lot more powder to make the same intensity of dye strength. So some of these ones are a bit paler than I was hoping, and the one at the top was meant to be a mixture of black and the Moroccan Red - it's just black! Or rather grey. Quite a nice grey, but not at all what I thought.

I am also overdyeing one of my more spectacular disaster batches. I think a couple of years ago I was at the end of my enthusiasm so just dumped the leftover fabric and dye together and made about ten yards of this.

Isn't it ugly? Black is bad for splotches because it never looks very textured, and that horrible pale purple background with strange teal and darker purple bits. Icky. This one I overdyed with pink and I think it looks quite cool now. None of the teal remains.

And this one I did Moroccan Red - you can see what I mean about it being not very strong. It looks stained rather than dyed, not very attractive. But the wonderful thing is I can just overdye it all over again! Yay!

Friday, October 11, 2013

School holidays

It's still school holidays here and I've been off this week entertaining the children. No, that's not true, I have been distantly supervising them ... they are more than old enough to entertain themselves. But we did have an outing, to Floriade, which is Canberra's annual flower festival. Mostly tulips and bulbs, with some of the spring annuals to spice things up a bit. There is always a really lame theme that the designers torture themselves by trying to do flower beds in the shape of ... but really it's just lots and lots of flowers. This is from the top of the ferris wheel - there are definitely shapes. Of something.

Number one son is not very happy with heights. He didn't really open his eyes until we'd gone round a couple of times, and even then he peeked out while maintaining a strangle grip on the nice solid metal pole in the middle of the cabin. So when we got off he had to have some candy floss to settle his nerves. It worked very well.

Here's a pond with a big yellow duck in it. No, he's not about to fall in, he's just being an idiot. As you can see it was ferociously windy and not very warm. Typical Floriade weather!

I love the colours in this - pink and purple with just a hint of yellow. I took lots of close-ups of flowers, which I do every year, I don't know why. I never look at them again. It's just they are so very pretty en masse.

We did the flowers, then the rides (ferris wheel and slides), then the gnomes and the display gardens, before meandering around to the kiddy area. There was a reptile petting zoo which the boys loved and I stayed outside of! I don't mind lizards but I really don't need to see vast pythons slithering around ... and all the handlers seemed to have little snakes in their pockets or round their arms. A bit disconcerting, especially in a crowded tent. The albino snake was really disturbing, it just looked wrong.

Anyway, while I was waiting I saw this sign of upcoming events in the kids' area. Isn't this the most appalling attempt to make boring things interesting? Oral hygiene? Puh-lease.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dyeing in the laundry

No, the joke never gets old ... where's Mum? She's dyeing in the laundry. Yes, yes I am. I bought this cream cotton ages and ages ago on super special and it's been sitting in the corner of the sewing room in a neat roll; just waiting. I really love unrolling it with a big dramatic gesture (no-one is around to see of course, except the cat, and she's never impressed with my gestures) and letting it billow around. Then I stuff it into the washing machine for a pre-wash.

And here are the results so far - a yellow with turquoise.

And a yellow with marine blue. Possibly the same yellow, but possibly not. I don't keep track of what I dye with, which is why I end up with oodles of the same colour because I think it's something different. But it works out in the end because I use all the powders up before I order any more - so I'm bound to get through all the colours one way or another. And it's not like I won't use them, because I will! I've got a batch of lurid purples in the rinse at the moment, I'll post pictures later.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Another walk

We walked for a bit longer on this one - nearly three hours; admittedly not very fast but we were still tuckered out by the end. It was at the very edges of the suburbs, so the first half on the country side of the ridge felt nice and rural and isolated. I do like a good flat path to walk on - the thing that irritates me most about bushwalking is having to watch my feet the whole time! I am very unco-ordinated and prone to stumbling, so I need to look at the ground. And then I get very bored - I can watch my feet at home, with food and coffee.

Below is an action shot - number two son has just said some smart arse comment to his brother, and is about to get thumped. I did take a photo of the thumping, but nobody needs to see that.

We're carrying sticks for the magpies. It's swooping season, and they tend to come from behind and nip a chunk out of the back of your head. But if you carry a stick higher than your head they hit that first. It's only for a few weeks but it's an entertaining sight in Canberra watching people out walking carrying great chunks of wood, like Gandalf. Cyclists don't have spare hands so they stick foot-long twigs in their bike helmets. They look like antennae for the mothership.

Anyway, we avoided magpies and after meandering along the path for quite a while, climbed the hill. It was a lovely view - the weather was gorgeous and the sky was clear. Out to one side were fields and trees and distant hills.

The other side was Canberra in all its glory ... actually it was far enough away to look perfectly fine. Like most built environments that started between1960 - 1980 most of Canberra is not very attractive up close. A bit of the more modern stuff isn't much to write home about either, but nothing has quite hit the concrete horrors of the 70s.

I'm still smiling here - we shall see how week two of the holidays pans out. Of course I look at the photo and all I can see is my massive double chin - after a three hour hike - what is the point? I did have a chocolate biscuit during this break though .... mmmm maybe I should stop complaining and start eating fruit. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

It's beautiful!

Well, remember that little orange rail fence that I didn't like one bit? In case you're not keeping track of my sewing projects (for shame) here it is again.

Thank you for those who commented on what I could do with it - I think everyone was unanimous that it needed some kind of other colour - but everything that I added as applique or border just didn't work. Tonya suggested blues ... and I had been struck at the exhibition by a couple of quilts that had really dense big stitch hand quilting. So, I put another orange border on it just to keep it together and then quilted it closely allover in big dense blue curves.  The colour looks a bit different in the one below, but it's probably closer to real life than the one above.

The idea was to do the opposite of orange straight lines - waves and curves in various blues. And it turned out beautifully! Far too small to be anything useful but very pretty.

It's hard to see from the photos but it's both soft and solid. The density of the stitching gives it both weight and a kind of rumpled feel ... it would be great full sized but that is NEVER going to happen - it was not quick to do even this little thing!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Crumb blocks ... again

I've been back on the crumb blocks this week - so fun to do and perfect for a gap when you don't know what to make. I find that I tend to sit and stare at the books and the fabric and get frustrated when I don't know what project to do next; much better to actually do something. And crumb blocks are always there. A while ago I was asked how I made them - here are the action shots. But a warning, it's not scientific and it's not pretty .... First I sew two small bits together.

Then I sew another bit to it. At an angle is more interesting than straight. I chain-piece them and chop the threads apart with scissors.

I trim the excess with scissors and chuck it in the bin - there's a bit of wastage but who cares! It's all scraps.

I don't bother ironing at this point - just add another bit of about the right size. If I have a bit that's too long I just cut it off before (or during) sewing. If it's big enough, I put the leftover to one side to start off another block.

I often add pre-sewn bits. The green stripe and brown check triangle was a remnant from some other project. Actually some other project about twelve years ago! Wow.

And another strip - at an angle again. As long as the seam is straight it doesn't matter what relation it has to the edges of the fabric.

Just trim it down with scissors to something that looks normal.

After half a dozen or so bits I flatten it with the iron before adding more.

If there's a really long strip I don't cut it before sewing - just drive it over the top of as many blocks as possible, and cut it apart when you're done.

When it's big enough (I do 6 1/2 inch blocks usually) I iron it, then trim. I do this size block because it's the width of my ruler :)

And ta-da! There's a wee crumb block. All different, but all kind of the same. I don't colour co-ordinate the fabrics at all, although other people do and they look awesome. I try to make sure the edge fabrics have at least a half inch before the seam, to make it easier when I piece them, but I don't always manage it. I usually make about a dozen at a time - chaining them onto each other - then take them away for trimming. It takes about half an hour ... so two dozen for a load of washing or one dozen in the time between putting the roast in and the potatoes ... what an exciting life I lead.