Thursday, April 27, 2017

Finishing off

I took the scrappy mountain majesties top down from the "pending" shelf and decided it didn't need anything more - good to go! A sort of baptist fan quilting pattern - very easy when it is in such nice regular strips - and now it is finished as a finished thing. Despite the very old fashioned colours and pattern I really like it.

The red helps, I think. I still have a lot of mid-browns and colours-of-the-woodland in my fabric pile so I'm going to have to do another one to use them up. It's hard though. The clear modern colours kind of leap out of the pile and demand to be sewn, but these take a bit more thought.

This is (yet another) of Bonnie Hunter's free patterns. She is amazing, and I love everything she makes. Scraps forever! I look down on your co-ordinated fabric lines and trendy designers. Pah. This quilt is called "The Affluent Middle Ring" because I was listening to some podcast and one of the ABC announcers was talking about talkback radio and engaging with your audience ... and he said "sometimes though I just feel as though I'm talking to the affluent middle ring" and I thought "No shit sherlock! You have an afternoon show on ABC radio, who the hell did you think was listening" and named my quilt accordingly.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Glorious autumn

The nights are cool, the leaves have turned, Canberra is looking gorgeous and I will post photos of the autumn leaves, like I do every year. Because every year I am startled by how pretty it is. I like winter, and cold weather, so there's no sadness in losing summer for me. Mostly relief to be honest - it was SO HOT for SO LONG. This is the Manchurian pear on our driveway. Our driveway is quite steep so my Dad raked this all up in one marathon stretch because we were having trouble backing the cars out. The tree dumps its leaves over about a week - great piles of them.

One lunchtime last week I went for a run down past Old Parliament House and back through the rose gardens. There are still the very last roses on the bushes. It all looks a bit shaggy and unkempt and ready for a winter tidy up and prune. Yellow roses are my favourite flower of all time - I know that it's a bit corny and boring to like roses but I can't help it. They are just too perfect, especially against a blue blue sky.

The weekend was nice and quiet with a lunch with friends to break up our own company. Dad has been doing some excellent gardening, and the boys have had friends around and other social events. I did some quilting too so I'll take some photos and share. Weaving starts again this Wednesday! Loking forward to it.

We bundled the dog in the car and walked round the lake on Saturday afternoon to enjoy the prettiness. She bounds with enthusiasm for the first half then stoically trots around the second half. Her target audience - six year old girls- were out in force so she got a bit of cuddling and patting. They love her fluffy cuteness.

Yes, number one son has outgrown his father by many inches. We knew it would happen...

Friday, April 21, 2017

The second half of Easter

Easter Saturday I bailed on my loving family and drove back up to Canberra to go to the National Folk Festival. After the success of my experimental day last year I'd bought tickets to the Sunday and Monday so left the painting behind (hahahaha) and went off for some banjo-plucking fun times.

Although I did think I'd made the wrong choice because it was so gorgeous when I left, and the sun was shining all the way back, and I do love being at the beach .... but I'd bought the tickets and Frugality First so off I went. And of course it was awesome. Just magic, just like last year. Perfect weather for starters - but freezing when the sun went down! I borrowed a peruvian scarf from a friend who is experienced in folk festival matters, and comes with a large bag of warm clothes.

I heard some fabulous bands of all shapes and sizes. There were big concerts and little concerts and pop-up concerts and the sign yourself up whiteboard in the bars, and buskers. The Folk Festival is a very broad church, and there was everything from punk-inspired, to deeply traditional, to more country, to strings, to harps, to Finnish accordions, to spoken voice, and choirs, and a capella and blues and this lot - a local band - who are 1930s-1950s cowboy jazz. Of course.

Not to mention the dancing - tango and scottish country and belly dancing and of course the Morris dancers. I still bloody love Morris dancers. I love their random dance-offs where all the groups join up for random things. I love that there were guys in dresses and one guy in what appears to be a sigmund and the sea monsters costume. I love that one guy forgot to put his beer down and someone knocked it with a stick, and only one group (the Auckland City Morris Dancers, they had a kiwi on their braces) thought that the dance involved roaring at each other in the middle, and some guys had hats with flowers on them and one bloke did the whole thing in a prussian helmet. Love it.

I caught up with a few friends there which made it even more special - we could go to concerts together or wander off then wander back for some food and a chat. I did two full days and had so much fun. Next year a season ticket! The full five days! Do I have the stamina?


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The first half of Easter

I had a lovely Easter - the weather was just beautiful - almost like late summer rather than mid-autumn. Warm sparkling clear days with cool nights .... perfect. My dad is visiting at the moment from New Zealand so it was a nice change for him from the double cyclone they just got whammied with. Rain and floods and slips and mud through most of the country! But he made it here and Thursday we went down the coast to enjoy the scenery and the sunshine.


This is (hopefully) a very boring video of our beach on the morning of Good Friday. I haven't uploaded a video before, but it should work. I took it because it was just so lovely and there was no-one there! Heaps of people later on of course but at breakfast time I had it almost to myself. Until I went back to the house, and started painting. And painting, and painting.

Another boring photo! An empty room, now with painted walls and masking tape. We undercoated the walls and the cornices, then painted the ceiling and the cornices, then painted the walls Dulux "Whisper White". So three different lots of basically white paint. They all look identical in the tin, but very different on the wall. Whisper White is very slightly grey, when compared to the bright ceiling white.

It was a bit tedious, but nothing compared to the staining and varnishing of the trims and door ... which probably belongs more in my "second half of Easter" post. The boys and my dad were helpful, and I managed to get in one lovely swim in late afternoon. I had a wetsuit on but the water is still lovely and warm. It was more for the air temperature! Any bits of you sticking out of the water got chilled. But otherwise just lovely.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What was in the cupboards

Part of cleaning out the cupboards for the loom (and related items) was seeing for the first time the size of the "orphan block" pile - I had just been shoving random stuff in the tub for some years now. Orphan blocks happen when I can't count properly and make too many, or make a few extra just in case, or try a block or two and don't like them, or make them wrong and chuck them in the tub rather than unpicking. I hate unpicking.  So for my next project I sewed together stuff from the tub. It was very quick and easy.

I have enough left over for another one, and I think I'll do another one. I like these random quilts - they have a certain charm. And it's a trip down memory lane for me because I can remember where the blocks came from, or which quilt they were meant to be in. Some are ten years old.

It's quilted in a thin spiral, not very adventurous but this type of quilt doesn't deserve anything too fancy.  It's called "Awkward Breakfast". Hope you are all having a lovely Easter! Mine has been great so far, and still two days to go...

Monday, April 10, 2017

A social weekend

We've had a lovely weekend of catching up with people - mostly my husband's parents (down from Brisbane) and his aunt and uncle (up from Melbourne) who met in Canberra to see the name of their grandfather - my husband's great-grandfather - up in lights on a wall.

To mark the WWI centenary the Australian War Memorial is doing a Roll of Honour name projections of people who were killed. From 2014 - 2018 they're projecting all the names on the front of the building about 30 times each, and you can find out what time a particular name is up and trot along. As we did ... well, not me personally, because it was cold and raining, but my husband and number one son did. Their middle name is both Stafford, which is the first name of the great-grandfather who was killed, so he is certainly still remembered.

And a bit startlingly well-remembered last year, when the Liberal Party head office released an ANZAC day banner collage for members of parliament to use in their newsletters if they wanted. And plenty of them did - the one above is Steve Irons but there were quite a few others - featuring Stafford Greer in uniform before he went away and was killed - the baby is my husband's nana, who lived to her late nineties. It was quite startling for the family as they took their local members' newsletter to the recycling ... the member for Macquarie put her logo across nana's face. She lost her seat at the July election. Hah.

So we had a couple of lovely family dinners, and caught up with other friends who were down from Sydney for brunch, and it rained and rained which was wonderful. It was the end of term on Friday so the boys were tired and have done pretty much nothing all weekend. We will have to change that soon ... but not today.

Friday, April 7, 2017

My loom

And here is a picture of my loom - it is quite an ancient structure, but seems in very good working order and all the bits and bobs are in the right place. It feels nice to work with, and I know this after threading and threading and threading ... I had to move the string heddles around too so I removed springs and fiddled around with it. Time consuming but the weaving instructor calls it "getting to know your loom" and it is apparently very important! I'm already finding it weaves a bit softer than the other ones; I need to keep the tension a bit looser. Weird that something so inanimate can have such a personality.

No, it doesn't come with an alarm clock, I just put it up there so I could see it from the bed. I had to put the loom on the table in the bedroom because it won't fit in the sewing room. I brought it home to do the threading so I could catch up a bit. This is two threads used as one for the warp (and weft) - there was a mystery thread in the cupboard that we quite liked, but it wasn't strong enough so I've used it with a cream cotton. And then there are finer cream cotton for the tie down warp threads for the supplementary weft. A bit fiddly but I'm all about the learnings (complete lie, I'm all about the easiest way to do anything, but I have learnt to keep that in check while taking courses as often I do indeed learn something, who would have thought it).

We think the mystery thread might be a silk because it has that slubbiness and slightly sticky feel of silk. It is certainly more interesting than a plain cotton in look and feel. I took it back in on Wednesday and started doing the supplementary pattern of abstract rectangles. They are quite see-through on the background weave, so it looks pale and interesting. Hard to explain, I'll take more photos.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The come-back quilt

I have finished my return-to-quilting quilt - it was lots of fun, and nice and bright and loud - and all on that same wonky half-log-cabin theme. It is called (unsurprisingly) "I'm Back Bitches". I didn't mean to, honestly, it just came out.

I quilted it in the same spiral idea as the piecing, in a bright blue thread. It's a bolder look than I normally go for, and not particularly even. But that was the point of this quilt, to whack something together than made me smile and enjoy the feeling of quilting again.

I don't know how much sewing I'll get done this weekend - I've brought my loom home to try and catch up. I've had to work late the past two Wednesdays and I haven't finished threading my individual project yet ... miles behind. I'll finish the threading and sley the reed this weekend ready to start (finally) weaving next Wednesday. The threading is a bit more complex than anything I'll try on my own! I'm not sure what my first solo project will be when the course is finished and my loom comes home permanently; but there's another couple of months to worry about it. In the meantime I am going to do more bodgy quilting.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

We have a room!

I snuck off down to the beach by myself last weekend to check out our new room ... all finished! Well, finished as far as the builder is concerned, we still have to paint the walls and ceiling and door, stain and varnish the skirtings and door frame, put up curtains and put down a floor ... but we can do that. Because now we have a room! It is very exciting.

When I was at the house last time there was just a wall, and this time there is a door. Into a new room that wasn't there a week ago. It is like Narnia.

A photo of an empty room! Not very exciting I know. I did spend the entire weekend scrubbing. The whole house was filthy with brick and wood dust. They'd put up a tent when they were cutting through the bricks to catch the worst of it, but even so, every surface needed cleaning. And the mop water was red like the bricks. It looked a little bit crime scene.


And this is the before and after shots from outside. We're really pleased with how they've finished off the new (tiny) garage and it does give us a bit of space. We couldn't lock up a car in there but there's heaps of space for bikes and boogy boards and other things we don't want to leave in the open when we're not there.

I did get in a lovely swim - the swell is up again and the waves were massive. And the water's still warm! I stayed in until about 5 pm when I suddenly realised I was the only person in the water (along a mile or so stretch of beach) and I started to feel a bit sharkbait. Hopefully it will still be warm when we go down again, paintbrushes in hand, to turn it into a proper room. The boys can help...

Friday, March 24, 2017

Catching my breath

Work has been busy this week - before you know it it's Friday and I'm getting a chance to catch my breath and look around. I fully intended to take a photo of my loom at weaving on Wednesday but completely forgot ... I arrived late because of a meeting so was cranky and frazzled. But a couple of hours of threading soon calmed me down! We are all threading our projects at the moment which is a time-consuming and contemplative exercise. Kind of boring, but also kind of soothing. I only got halfway through my threading, so goodness only knows when I'll actually get on to weaving.

I went for a run yesterday lunchtime to try and shake some sense back into my brain. Not sure it worked. There was a visit by the Chinese Premier to Parliament yesterday, so some protest action. The Tibetans are in yellow, on the right. The Chinese supporters (mostly Chinese students in Australia that are wheeled out for these occasions) are in red, on the left. The Falun Gong are sitting quietly around the corner, as they tend to do. The Australian Federal Police put barriers down the middle to separate the groups but I don't think they were expecting any trouble.

The Prime Minister said there would be additional security at Parliament because of the attack in London but I didn't see much evidence of it. Business as usual really. And look at the rain coming in. It started to pelt down just as I finished my run. We've had a lot of much-needed rain this week ... number one son is off on Year 8 camp at the moment. No doubt getting drenched. He is in Year 10 so is there as a student leader to keep the young ones in line! I'm sure that is going splendidly....

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Watching reading listening

I have been more focussed on other people's creativity than my own this week ... some sewing but not much. Working continues to be a drain on my time and energy! Curses. I took number two son and a few of his friends to see the Canberra Philharmonic's production of Chicago on Thursday night.

It was fantastic - wonderful choreography and very high energy. Chicago is a favourite musical of mine, so seeing the old favourites done so well was an absolute treat. And the kids enjoyed it too - they are not all with my son in the performing arts elective but he has cajoled them into enjoying what he enjoys. The only downside was my son refused to do the normal mother/son two part renditions on the way back home. Apparently not OK with an audience in the car.

I went and saw two exhibitions at the Belconnen Arts Centre yesterday - Ebb and Flow is textiles, which is what made me haul myself across town, but actually the paintings in Both Sides of the Fence were more interesting. I must remember to get to these exhibitions, they are not usually too huge so don't take very long to go round, and it's always good to see what people are doing.

I am enjoying my book at the moment - a biography of Leo Tolstoy - normally I get a bit bored with biographies about two thirds of the way through when they start getting into the serious parts of their lives (I prefer childhoods and marriages to politics and business) but this is a good one. Inherently interesting person of course - much more interesting than I realised! I am learning lots - and very well written.

And listening to lots of podcasts while sewing, walking and (sadly) running. The normal Chat 10 Looks 3 which I really like, plus (also quite sadly) the Party Room which is a weekly update on politics and then yesterday I listened to a very interesting talk with Guilia Enders who wrote a book called "Gut". Sounds weird but was fascinating, and quite funny.  Where would I be without the ABC? Bored I think, and sadly under informed. The other thing I'm listening to is folk and bluegrass in preparation for the National Folk Festival at Easter. I loved it so much last year, I am going again, and hope it can live up to my self-inflicted hype. Bring on the banjos!!!!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

And back to quilting

So the loom is in at weaving class, and I tidied my sewing room, rounded up the bits of wool, threw away TRUCKLOADS of crap from my cupboards, and now I feel like making quilts again. It is quite reassuring actually, to feel pleased to be starting a new quilt. I wondered if I had permanently lost interest, but no. I have a heap of half-finished projects I could work on, but that's boring. So I went to the lovely book I bought at a second hand bookshop in Eureka.

It's a beautiful book. I decided I would open it at random and use that page for inspiration NO CHEATING. Luckily there are about six quilts on each page so I had a few options. One of the options was this one.

Isn't it lovely? I like the idea of slightly random off centre log-cabins. I'm going to do a medallion and just throw it together a bit in whatever pleases me at the time. Starting back without any pressure, or compulsion to be tidy.

First border will be some slightly random off centre log-cabins! Yay!



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

And hello four-shaft loom

I don't have a photo of it ... but I have a new loom! A woman at the South Coast was selling off her basic looms she used for lessons, and I was there, so I went round, and bought one! Well actually I bought two, but one was for a friend, so it doesn't count. Isn't that exciting? It is quite old - she bought it secondhand - but seems to be in quite good condition (like I would know) and has a lovely solid feel. I have taken it into weaving class and I'm going to use it in my project, to get used to it in a place where I have some help if anything goes wrong! I had been thinking about getting a loom like the ones we learn on, but they're close to $1000, and this one was $225, with all the bits and bobs you need. So bargain ... I will report back on how it goes as we get to know each other. My loom and I.

The beach was beautiful this weekend - it was a long weekend but the boys and I came back Sunday night because the builders arrived at 7 am on Monday morning. Not a holiday in New South Wales. But we were not complaining because it is good to see them cracking on. Wall frames are up, windows in, just bricking to do then gibbing the interior, electrical and finishing. Another week or two they reckon.

We had some lovely swims - there was a massive swell down the east coast because of the weather over the last few days. Saturday we swam at the patrolled beach and Sunday we made sure we went to the southern end of our beach which is more sheltered. The water temperature is the warmest of the year and was lovely. Still cold by any objective measure, but certainly not requiring a wetsuit.

The dog loved it. Seaweed, dead jellyfish, all the pack together on the beach.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bye bye rigid heddle

Sadly, Canberra Spinners and Weavers wanted their little rigid heddle loom back, so I snipped off the last project and waved it fondly goodbye. Actually I took it and everything I'd made into the Wednesday weaving class for show and tell - I think they were quite impressed that such a daggy little loom could make pretty things. The last project was a sampler of different techniques from the book my husband got me for Christmas. The first few are different sizes and shapes of loops for texture. Wide apart loops, close together loops, and large cut loops.

The next things in the black wool are Danish Medallions where I didn't quite understand the instructions for the first few. They look a bit mutant, but get better.

Then there are ones where you loop the weft around the warp to make a more open look. The middle ones are really easy but look very cool. I did it in different sizes and different distances apart but it's all the same basic technique.

These ones were done with pick-up sticks; where you manually put an additional stick through to make different sheds ... mimicking a four-shaft loom in effect. It's quite fiddly but the textures you can get are lovely. And very varied - I picked out the main techniques to try but each one could have multiple variations. And I only did it one colour; if you put different colours through it as well you can get something that looks incredibly complex, just on your little home-made rigid heddle. Sob.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Weekends are precious beasts at the moment - work is busy and after the laziness of December and January I'm finding there's not much time to do anything. Or anything fun. I have zero running fitness at the moment too. I tried to go for a run at lunchtime today  - or at least half a run doing the "run one song, walk one song" method - and even that was too hard. Fat and slow. I might have to ease back into it. The weekend before last I took the dog for a long walk around the lake which was a bit exhausting for both of us - me because I'm fat and slow and the dog because her legs are really only four inches long. About halfway we sat ourselves in the soft grass for a little rest, and to let the wind blow through our fur.

Canberra was going about its normal weekend happy business. There was some sort of random art event for kids at the National Gallery. A beautiful spot for it.

And there was a march of lots of people with different flags. And some singing. I looked it up when I got home and it was "International Mother Language Day" which explained the Welsh and the Ukrainian national costumes. I could not for the life of me think of a reason that those two groups would be on a wee march by the lake together.

Last weekend I headed off down the coast to inspect the building works. Not that there is much to see but we're still very excited. A slab!!! It looks huge. I think they always do at this stage. Hopefully we will have some walls this week.

I fully intended to go swimming but the weather was atrocious, and an easterly had filled the bay with bluebottles. Apparently the water is still lovely and warm but I wasn't tempted to go in.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

California Part 9 - last day

The trouble with an 11.30 pm flight is the risk of hanging around all day doing nothing - so we tried to fill it as much as possible and not think about the hideousness of the return journey until we absolutely had to. And that's also the joy of Airbnb - our lovely host didn't mind what time we left - he didn't have anyone coming in straight away, so we did our day, went back and had a shower and got our act together and didn't leave until 7 pm. Try doing that at a hotel....

So our first stop was a tour of City Hall. A wonderful building, with a very knowledgeable guide, who was retired but had worked there in various capacities (administrative and political) since the 1970s. It gave it an interesting spin when he'd known the various people we just saw as bronze busts. Very interesting architecturally as well. We did the tour with two other Australians and a Colombian.

So many weddings! On a Wednesday in January, there were at least two dozen that we saw, having photos on the scenic steps. We felt very underdressed compared to the wedding guests in their finests.

After the tour we walked (miles) to Japantown to check out some manga for number two son. We went to the most amazing bookshop that he would have loved! Of course his parents just stare at each blankly and wonder what the hell we should get out of this vast acreage of very specific Japanese things. Japantown was actually really cool - we hadn't seen it mentioned much on the tourist circuit but there were heaps of shops which lots of really (weird) Japanese stuff in it. We had a good old poke around. And of course an excellent lunch.

Then we walked (miles) to see the Haas-Lilienthal House, which is a late Victorian house that has remained largely unchanged internally until it was given to the City in the 1970s for a museum. It's only open one Wednesday a month, so we thought that was enough of a coincidence for us to want to see it! We had actually booked an architecture tour the day before but the guy got sick and had to cancel, so we felt we were owed a bit of architectural grandeur.

It was great - another amazingly knowledgeable guide - but it just seems weird to me that you can inherit a house that your mother decorated and furnished and live there for 80 years WITHOUT CHANGING ANYTHING.  And they were wealthy people, who raised children there, and moved in society, and travelled ... did they never just think it was ugly or old fashioned? Did they never go to other people's houses and like what they saw? My mother had green and blue mottled carpet with an orange and yellow upholstered lounge suite when I was growing up in the 1970s. No-one would keep that.

We walked back (miles) with coffee stops and staring at more houses, and hills, and views, before reluctantly going back to the apartment, packing up, and preparing for our final drive out to the airport. Which was a bit traumatic (accident stopped traffic, and we took the wrong turnoff to the airport) but we had left hours too early, so even with all that we arrived in plenty of time to sit on hard plastic chairs and stare at each other before boarding. And another 20 hours of air travel ghastliness before back home again. I was pleased to see my bed, but not pleased to be home. We could have done a few more weeks. It was a great holiday.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

California Part 8 - San Francisco still

Today we put our walking shoes and trod the streets of San Francisco - around and around and up and down. Especially up and down! We found a Spothero park near Union Square and got distracted for maybe half an hour by the shops before walking up to Chinatown. I saw a fabric shop and went in - not realising that I had stumbled into the four glorious floors of Britex fabrics. FOUR FLOORS. Packed full of fabric, all sorts, everything, all prices, unbelievable. I literally had my mouth hanging open and the sales staff were laughing at me although I think they've seen it before. One of them kindly said I could take photos. I didn't, and I didn't buy anything either. I had paralysis. How could you choose one thing? Impossible. On to Chinatown.

We had an early lunch at Z and Y restaurant that had been recommended by a friend and it was delicious. Szechuan, and crazy amount of chillies, but we struggled through! Then walked to City Lights bookshop, because you have to look around it really, and on to Coit Tower. Walked up some of the legendary steep streets - took this photo because the truck at the bottom was stuck. It couldn't go forward or back because the angle where the street met the cross street was too acute and it jammed its fenders. The driver was getting a bit cranky, and the cops were on the way. Hahaha. A guy who lived there said it happens all the time.

Today was a beautiful clear and sunny day - and the view from the top of the hill where Coit Tower is was stunning. San Francisco just laid it on gloriously. The Tower had more excellent 1930s murals of the dignity of workers.

I chose not to go up the tower (no heights, no boats) but Brad did and said the views were extraordinary.

This is the view back down to the ground. Slightly too extraordinary for me. I was happy to see his photos but felt no urge to have a first hand experience.

We headed off in another direction from the hill to wander through the inner suburbs. It reminded me so much of Wellington! Just bigger. We were happy to look at the buildings and stop for coffee and cake when we got tired. There were some seedier areas we passed through but not exactly what you would call rough. Maybe it gets dodgier at night? We went to the Cable Car Museum which is also the place where the cables for the four remaining cable cars run. And you can see them spinning on the enormous wheels ... it is quite low tech. Amazing that it is still running after so long but I wasn't filled with confidence to go and leap on one.

And back we went to Union Square with tired feet ... but not too tired to check out the winter sales in the shops just one more time. In case we missed anything.