Sunday, May 31, 2015

Modern Quilt Show

A friend and I had a road trip yesterday down to Kiama to see the Modern Quilt Show. It was a bit of a haul - three hours drive each way - but I really wanted to see the show and my friend very kindly agreed to a day out. We nattered pretty much the whole drive, had a lovely lunch and went for a walk around the shore line as well - so along with a whole heap of beautiful quilts it was close to a perfect day.

The quilts were interesting, some absolutely beautiful, and some not so much. It was good to see the "No Value does not Equal Free" quilt in person. It's quite lovely, although the magic is really in the quilting. Molli Sparkles the quilt maker had included the cost sheet as part of the quilt description, which was fascinating, but might have been a bit lost in translation. I took a seat nearby at one point when my feet got tired and listened to a couple of dozen people miss the point entirely ... oh well, it's hard to get complex messages about value and costing through in that kind of forum.

I really liked the one that won best in show. I have a photo but I won't put it up because I have no idea who the quilt maker is, and they asked that we credit photographs. But I'm sure it will be on the website if you're interested - it was bright and colourful and interesting and had lots of heart. Sometimes with modern quilts I feel they lack a bit of soul - all that minimalism and low volume and grey linen - but this one was packed with it. And ric-rac! What's not to love.

We also shared the small town of Kiama with some kind of car and bike show. Lots of petrol heads mingling with the decorous quilting ladies ... although I'm sure there was some cross over. Surely?

I'd like to make the trip again next year, despite the drive, because I enjoy seeing lots of modern quilts up close and personal.  I didn't come away full of ideas to try - there were lots of things I don't need any encouragement to do (improv, solids) as well as lots of things I've done and will never do again (matchstick quilting uuuuurghhh) and lots of things I just don't like (massively dense quilting, white white and more white). But I might try some ric-rac.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Frustrations overcome

After a couple of hours of swearing I finally remembered what worked last time - adjusting the little screw on the darning foot that determines how lightly (or heavily) the foot is sitting on the fabric. I had completely forgotten that my machine prefers a bit of pressure on the quilt or else it skips all over the place. Not very interesting I know - but I'm writing it down here so that next time it happens I can remind myself! See how useful blogs can be?

I've also been working through my first ever set of Craftsy classes. Other people had raved about them, so I thought I would give it a go, and bought "The Secrets of Free Motion Quilting" with Christina Cameli, which is six thirty minute classes on free motion quilting. I'm really enjoying it - she is an engaging presenter and I'm getting some good ideas from the different quilting designs.  And you can put her on 30 second repeat for as long as it takes to understand something .... or make her go at 4x normal speed if it's a bit boring. Much better than real life lessons; and I will go on and do some more I think, in the future. It was about $30, so excellent value.

The other frustration I managed to overcome was the beach weekend failure - the boys really could not be bothered going down just for a day so I went down Sunday afternoon on my own and had two days of solitude and mini break! Work could spare me for a couple of days so I enjoyed some beautiful weather, long walks, chick flicks and wine. Fabulous ... and nobody at the beach. Despite the sunshine I couldn't quite bring myself to swim. Probably lovely once you were in; it's just the getting in I was worried about.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


I got all excited about finally having some batting, and pinned up the brown barrister's blocks for a nice solid day of quilting - and my damn machine is playing silly buggers again. The thread keeps breaking! I haven't had this problem for ages. I've tried all the usual fixes; changed the needle, changed the top thread, changed the bobbin, fiddled with the tension, sprayed silicon on the needle, swore, kicked it and cleaned out all the fluff. And things work for a while, and then don't work, and I cannot for the life of me figure it out!!! So incredibly frustrating.

I still like the brown-ness of it all though. That fabric in the middle - the brown background floral - is a favourite, it's very pretty. I think it might be time for traditional brown to make a come back. Most of the blogs I read are by modern quilters and it's all brights and whites and clear clean colours. I like that, but it's certainly not the be-all and end-all of beautiful quilts.

The other frustration was our weekend at the beach - I picked the boys up from school and did a quick whip turnaround to leave again by four o'clock ... we drove for an hour and then sat in a queue of cars for half an hour before being turned around. There had been a bad smash and the highway was closed (for over five hours, as it turned out). There are no realistic alternative roads (especially not in the dark!) so we came back home, via the pizza shop, and at seven o'clock were back where we started. I am very happy not to have been anywhere near the smash, but we were so tired and cranky we decided not to try again Saturday morning, and we've had a very quiet weekend. It was minus 6 last night, but bright and sunny today, which is perfect weather for lying in the sun reading a book...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The middle of Canberra

We had the most glorious winter weather on Sunday - clear and sunny - so we went for a walk up Mount Painter with friends.  This is in the middle of Canberra; it was so clear we could see all the way to the southern most suburbs in one direction and right up to the north in the other. There's nothing much to the west (yet .... Canberra continues to sprawl).

This is to the east, where the city centre is, and the main lake. We stopped for a snack and to admire the view (it was twenty minutes in, the 4 km walk took about two hours, although that might be because of the dog).

Just gorgeous, but it's been back to rain and wind and cold ever since. My battle against the washing continues (I'm losing) - I put a load on this morning and about ten minutes in the power went off. It was a scheduled outage but I just ignore the notices because they don't usually happen ... except this time. Bloody washing.

I have reached the end of the scraps tub - not the end of the scraps but the end of my patience. I got pretty close though, and made exactly 100 twelve inch square blocks. Which would make an enormous ten foot square quilt - or possibly a more sensible eight foot square one, and some blocks for another project. As the scraps got smaller the blocks got more interesting (and took MUCH longer to sew). I also threw out mountains of tiny little bits of fabric that would be completely impossible to use. What was I thinking? I am resolved on a much more focussed attitude to my solids scraps from now on.

And my batting arrived. I'd forgotten how huge 30 m of batting is, so it's taken over my sewing room a bit. The poor people down the local post office were pleased when we picked it up - they have hardly any room and the suburb as a whole is very fond of ordering cases of wine in the mail then leaving them at the post office until they get round to collecting them... unfortunately they know us all by sight so I can't claim anything that's not actually addressed to me.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Solids again

The tops are starting to pile up, so I went to the local quilt shop to buy batting, but they didn't have the stuff I like to use. And there is nowhere else round here to buy it, so I ordered it on the internet, which means a week or so wait. But I can't just sit around in my sewing room doing nothing, so I made a new top from solid fabrics. It's based on Molli Sparkles Mood Ring although I didn't use his method. I don't like the extra seams in the corners, so I just made quarter square triangles from 3" strips.

It's all fiery colours - I pulled about fifteen that I thought looked good together and then removed all the blues, which heated it up no end. But it didn't take very long and I was still in the mood for solids, so I started making crumb / scrap blocks from the offcut bin. This was largely prompted by the fact that when I stuffed the offcuts from the first top in I couldn't actually jam them down it was so chockers; so I have had a very happy couple of days making twelve inch blocks in solids. Nice and big because some of the scraps are quite large, and I don't feel like cutting them any further. Here's the tub, less full than it was.

I am going to make a ginormous king size top for our bed out of them. At the moment I think I'll just jam them all together without any sashing or any other pattern so it will just be a nine foot square of glorious scrappiness … but I'll trial it and see. At the moment I'm just sewing and sewing and sewing, I have a mad plan to get to the bottom of the tub, but that might be just crazy talk. I keep stopping and admiring the alchemy of turning the tub full of basically trash into something both functional and beautiful … to my eyes anyway.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Running, at last

I have never been a runner. I had a complete cow of a PE teacher when I was fourteen (is there any other sort? do gym teachers start as bitches, or do the fourteen year old girls make them that way?) who couldn't believe that I couldn't run whatever distance the curriculum required. Maybe 500 m in four minutes? That sounds quite quick, maybe it was 400 m in five minutes. Whatever it was, I couldn't do it, so for the rest of the year while the rest of the class did sports or athletics, I was sent to the bottom oval with whoever was off sick and a stopwatch, and made to run around on my own until I could do it. Which I never did.

So of course I thought I wasn't sporty, or athletic. And I thought that all through school, while I was in the first school netball team, and the badminton team, and playing indoor netball and tennis and volleyball for fun. When we first started living together when I was at uni, I told my husband that I wasn't sporty, usually while I was bounding off to the gym, or even more indoor netball and outdoor netball and while I kicked his cute Australian butt at squash, and tennis. Athletic just wasn't who I was - I was the fat, lazy, uncoordinated one who didn't like physical activity.

Anyway, eventually I got over it, after being pregnant and then especially after having chemo, when you really can't move around, and you realise how much you miss it. And I now know that actually, in reality, I have to be fairly active or I go a little bit loopy. So I've joined gyms and done long walks and taking up swimming ... but running has always been the one thing that I simply cannot do. I have tried and failed several times over the years to establish a basic level of jogging fitness.

So, in February I realised I had to put some exercise regime in place. I had given up the smelly and shabby gym but really didn't feel like finding a new one; by definition it needed to be a bit more upmarket so I was looking at hundreds or more probably thousands of dollars for a new membership. Swimming was lovely but really not cutting it on the fitness front. Good for mobility, but not making me puff. So I bit the bullet and downloaded the couch to 5 k app onto the phone. And I quite liked it was only $2.49.

The app is quite simple - a 9 week program (if you do three sessions a week, it took me a bit longer because some weeks I only managed two sessions). You start off walking, then running for a minute, then three minutes, then even longer with less walking intervals until, at the end, you are running for 30 minutes. I have my phone with earbuds, and the little voice tells you when to run and when to stop, and the app tracks where you go with GPS.

I did not think it would work, at least not with me, and week 1 just about killed me, but I carefully did everything it said from the beginning to the end. It hurt and it made me puff and I hated it. But guess what? It worked. Roll me in nuts and call me a golden gaytime, who would ever have thought it. A couple of months ago I registered in the Mother's Day Classic 5km run to give me something to work towards, and I did it on Sunday. I had already run the course the week before to make sure I could do it, so the run itself was no problem, but the weather was appalling. Windy and freezing!!!

And it's much less fun running squashed up with thousands of random strangers (most of whom started walking about ten minutes in! Slackers) than on your own. So I might not take up racing any time soon, but I did it, 37 minutes without stopping. Yay for me.

And now I have downloaded the 5 to 10 km app, which starts you on short intervals of faster running during a steady jog. Just a minute, then three minutes, and on it goes. At the end you run for an hour. That will NEVER happen, week 1 is just about killing me, but I am going to carefully do everything it says...

Friday, May 8, 2015


I enjoy knitting, but I'm pretty hopeless at it, and if I have to concentrate or follow a pattern it all goes horribly wrong. So a year or two ago a friend introduced me to the concept of dishcloths, and I have been happily knitting them ever since.

Nice cotton yarn, as big or as small as I feel like making them, moss stitch around the edges (except where I miscount and it turns into rib) and then when they're finished I can actually use them for mopping things up. And the cotton comes in lovely bright colours, which you can make in stripes as big or as little as you like. Awesome.

The other thing you can do is give them to people, who will generally be able to use them. Everyone wipes their kitchen benches, surely. But after dozens of the little buggers I'm over it, I think, at least for now. I might knit a scarf.

And here's a sad picture - the end of my great big fluffy batting roll! Thirty metres of 2.4m wide polyester batting, come to an end. I bought it in February last year, so there you go. I will have to order another one... so many quilts.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

More holidays

So we ended up having a week at the beach, and despite the appalling weather we all had a very good time. We got the back end of the dreadful storms in Sydney that basically washed the whole city into the ocean - it lashed us too but the sand just drained it all away. We surely did not go swimming though - this is the ocean. Rough and big swells and generally very unappealing!

Lots of DVDs and books, and we did a bit of exploring. There are a couple of towns to the south that we've never gone to, so the boys and I went to Bodalla. Which is a tiny little place with a lavender shop, an art gallery, a petrol station, a pub and a tie-dye shop. I wouldn't have thought the boys would be interested but they were quite happy to amble. We finished it up at a terribly cute little cafe. Yes, that is bunting. More sugar in the decor than in the chocolate caramel slice number one son polished off.

The next day we ventured a bit further to Narooma - which is a lovely wee town about forty minutes down the road. It was a back up option when we were buying because it's really nice, just a bit further  away from Canberra. The sun was finally shining by then and we went for a walk along the breakwater. Number one had charge of the camera - isn't this artistic? Finally a photo of me, and it's all blurry.

The big treat of the breakwater was completely unexpected - fur seals!! I had no idea, but there they were, basking happily on the rocks. They are Australian fur seals, or possibly New Zealand fur seals, I'm not entirely clear on the difference. We just sat and watched them for ages - mostly they were soaking up the sun but every now and again they would smack each other with their flippers. Or stand up and "ark!ark!ark!" and then lumber over the rocks and smack each other with their flippers again. Awesome to watch, although they stank like the otter enclosure at the zoo. They say seal fur is wonderful and waterproof but I bet it reeks.