Thursday, February 24, 2011

22 Feb 2011

Yesterday, I was standing waiting to catch a bus home after a morning in town. I was feeling good about the computer course I'd just started, and I'd treated myself to a quilt magazine, which I was looking forward to reading. I was composing in my head a blog post about why I haven't posted lately - like how I was getting overload from having to write every single day (for NaBloPoMo), which is not easy for me as knowing I have to do something sucks all the fun out of it; or how I was getting so sick and tired of the way my computer shuts down and/or reboots itself at random times, whether I'm using it or not; or how I decided to take a break and just not use the darned thing for several days, which I thought I'd regret, but actually found rather liberating, despite the thought of all the unread emails piling up.

But just as my bus pulled up, the ground shook so bad I had to grab hold of the bus shelter to steady myself, and looked up at the two storey concrete wall beside me, wondering if I should get away from it, or just wait until this aftershock wore itself out, as so many had done already. Had I known what was happening in the centre of the city (9 km away), I would've been across the road in a shot.

But at the time, I assumed this was yet another aftershock from the 7.1 earthquake that hit us on September 4. We'd had hundreds thousands of those, and we hadn't felt a strong one in several weeks.

Long story short: the bus took me home (we live outside the city, in a satellite town), I collected my girls from school (now closed until at least Monday), and hubby arrived a few minutes later. We've been watching TV ever since, stunned at the devastation of so many familiar landmarks and historic buildings. But by far the worst of it is the fatalities - something we miraculously didn't see in September's quake. My heart goes out to those people, their families and friends.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

... and it's midnight.

Just been online shopping. Just grocery shopping, nothing exciting!
I had to get the order in before midnight.
No, the pumpkins don't change then... I would just miss out on delivery tomorrow.

I've decided to make tomorrow The Day that I catch up on emails and messages and replying to people. So if you're waiting to hear from me, tomorrow will be the day.
Today was just no good for anything.

What I've learned today:
If I need to get something done and I write it down, I'm more likely to do it. And if it's in a public place where the whole world can potentially see it, then it's gotta happen.
Or else.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The other day I put up a random grundle pic.

Here's another one.

I'll tell you about them one day soon.

What I learned today:
Missing library books eventually turn up.
Usually in a place you've already looked.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


First of all, a shout out to all my new blog followers - in fact, to everybody reading right now - Hello! Thank you for visiting my blog! Stay a while, have a cup of tea... okay, I'll have one too, if you insist...

Secondly, regarding the pink/yellow/blue options - I decided. (Hint: see photo.)

Thirdly: What did I learn today?
Only that if you're in a hurry to make 18 snowball blocks, then the quickest way is not to try to be frugal at the same time.

Let me explain. I was scrimping on fabric, so I had the brilliant idea of cutting the 2" squares (for the snowball corners) at 2.5" square instead. Then I could just slice them on the diagonal before sewing them on, and there'd be no waste afterwards.

In theory, it was a great idea. Because 36 two-and-a-half-inch-square blocks uses less fabric than 72 two-inch blocks. But in practice, while being doable, it was far from fast. With squares, you can match up the corners perfectly, and you know exactly where to cut. With triangles, the part you match up has already been cut off, so you have to do some careful measuring, lining up, and sewing.

But I learned all this the hard way, which is probably the best way, as I'm not likely to make the same mistake again.
I hope.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pink, yellow or blue?

The quilt so far

So I was playing around yesterday, auditioning which colour background to use on the next border in my Patchwork Posse round robin quilt. Just as a recap, here's a pic of the quilt so far:

The next border is made up of tall flowers. I couldn't decide which fabric to use as my background in this border - this one will be rather dominant, so I really don't want to get it wrong. I thought about making up some practice blocks, to trial several colours. But I'm too lazy - AND I don't like having spare blocks left over that won't be used.

Now, I wouldn't normally show this sort of thing; I usually prefer to display the finished product, and not the messy in-between stuff. But I've been reading a number of blogs lately that show the design steps people take, and why, and that made me realise I like these peeks into other people's thought processes. So I think it's important to share our ideas.

So what I did was, I laid the quilt top out on the floor and arranged around it some of the fabrics that I'd used in the quilt already (I'm not introducing any new colours into it this late in the game). Then I chose some other scraps in colours I thought would go, for the spacers between the flowers. Then some stems, and the flower heads. Yes - the flowers are white - each flower will be decorated with applique and/or embroidery. I used more scraps to show that in this wee exercise.

There is no sewing or cutting involved here; I'm just playing with folded fabric. Just to get a basic idea.

What do you think?

 -- Which colour do you prefer?

--  How do you "test run" an idea?

What I learned today:

You can use Paint to edit a photo.
(The program, not the art medium! Although the latter would work, just not in the same way. And there'd be a bit of mess to clean up afterwards.)

Simple, huh? I thought I needed some fancy photo-editing software; instead, I can just use the same thing that my kids use to draw scribble pictures.

I do realise that everybody else out in Blogland, and probably the world at large, knows this already, or better yet, actually has some fancy photo-editing software - but this is me, and after several years of feeling my brain turn to mush after having kids, I feel strangely empowered when I'm able to figure something out. And if I can help just one other person with these sometimes irrelevant things-that-I-learn-every-day, then I haven't wasted my time.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Oops, been too busy to blog today! So here's a random photo of a smiley Grundle.

Will write more tomorrow!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A no-sew day

I haven't done any sewing today.
I've thought about it, though.
I've gone down to my sewing room and looked around, thinking...
But no actual sewing.

It's now after 10 pm, and I am tired, so I'll just leave you with a pic of Tabitha, for the following reasons:
  1. It's a cute pic.
  2. I have nothing new.
  3. I have some older pics, of quilty things, but those will require an explanation, and, quite frankly, I've left it too late in the day to write anything intelligent.
  4. It feels like ages since I've shared a cat pic.
My current wallpaper
What I've learned today:
I really really need to tidy my sewing room!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Birds and butterflies

"Photo tomorrow, rain or shine."

That's what I said yesterday. What I didn't allow for was the wind. Waaay too blowy outside to get a nice natural-light pic of my quilt, so I had to resort to pinning it to the curtains in the living room.

Why did I pin it to the curtains? Because I wanted to take a front-on photo, rather than laying it on the floor and having it look like a trapezoid quilt. (If you know your maths, and you  have some experience of trying to take a decent photo of a quilt, then you'll know what I'm talking about.)
So anyway, the lighting wasn't the greatest, but at least it was natural light, which is way more real than that yellowish hue lightbulbs exude.
Newest border on left and right sides - crazy-patch blocks and crazy-patch applique butterflies. Good fun!

One little bird (if you don't count that chicken below it)

And I finally got around to finishing off the birds, which belong in the second round. Which was way back in November.

For the embroidering part, these are much like the butterflies, featuring blanket stitch and running stitch on the applique pieces, and beak, feet and plumey tail in backstitch.

Two little birds (again, minus the chicken)

I so love these birds! I drew them myself, working through a series of design developments, until I got it right.

(Hey, there could be a blog post in that - I still have all my roughs, AND, I have to post every day for a month - NaBloPoMo.)

What I learned today:  Pinning a quilt top to the curtains will make tiny little pin-sized holes in the curtains. These little tiny pin-sized holes look rather big when you first discover them, but that's only because the light from outside is shining through, showing them up. I bet I won't be able to tell tomorrow.

So, in the immortal words of Douglas Adams... Don't Panic.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stash building

I bought some fabric today. Yeah, a bit of stash-building. Lots of people talk about stash-busting - hey, there are whole books written on the subject - but my stash is hardly big enough to warrant a bust. Therefore I can, without guilt, build it up.

Now don't go getting excited, thinking I'm about to reveal many bolts of designer fabric. I don't go for quantity, I go for variety. So I end up with lots of little pieces. That's in order to have just the right shade of whatever I need at the time.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
The orange is a remnant of polar fleece; the navy is a remnant of flannel; and the three prints are all from Moda, a half metre of each.

These are "scrap packs": the shop bundles up five coordinating offcuts, folds them to look pretty, wraps them in cellophane and then somebody like me comes along and spends a good 5-10 minutes trying to decide which pack I want the most.
I compromised at these three.

They'll all go in the wash tomorrow (except for the orange and navy), then I'll press and fold and put them away in their colour-coordinated piles on my fabric shelf.

In other news, I have just finished the crazy-patch border on my quilt; but I'll have to go outside to take a decent photo of it. Which means tomorrow, as it's now night time and very dark outside. I'm thinking of pinning it to the fence. Because sizewise, it's now beyond the stage of standing on a chair and aiming the camera down. 41" x 57".
Photo tomorrow, rain or shine.

What I learned today:
Hot cross buns, while great for breakfast, are not so great for later in the day if you're in the height of summer. The icing tends to run and sink into the buns, which also go kinda soft.
But they're still yummy for breakfast!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Layout possibilities

So here we have three photos of some quilt blocks that I made last year. I was playing around with the layout possibilities:
  • diagonal rainbow (top right)
  • diagonal stripes, with each colour standing out more due to the colour placement (top left)
  • random (bottom)
Hmmm, I still don't know which I like best.

What I learned today/in the last few minutes:
Taking a photo of a quilt layout, uploading it and viewing it on your monitor, as a smallish size, gives a great perspective.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two down, two to go...

So these are the butterflies I was talking about in yesterday's post. Blanket stitch on the wings, running stitch on the body sections, and back stitch on the cute curly antennae.

And these are the other two. Each butterfly has a different colour body, which I've matched with embroidery floss for all the stitching on that particular butterfly.

Crazy patch blocks, to be sewn with the four butterflies, to make a crazily colourful border.

What I've learned today: Do the daily blog post earlier in the day. At 10:51 pm, as I write this, I'm too tired to think up wonderful prose.
Good night.

Monday, February 7, 2011

7th of February

Cat update: Tabitha's tail is no longer drooping. The vet medicine is doing the trick!

Weather update: It didn't snow today - no surprises there. But it wasn't hot, either. Cold and wet, not summer weather at all. Although it made a pleasant change to yesterday. And the plants are no longer drooping.

Round robin update: I feel I've done quite a bit today, with crazy-patching.

Yesterday's progress pic: two untrimmed blocks, another trimmed to 6.5", and showing the reverse side of another.

Back and front views: all that paper must come off, and it's so fiddly to get the little pieces out from under the stitching lines! These two blocks are for the butterfly wings, so I used my very small scraps in order for them to be wildly colourful.

Butterfly bodies, waiting to be stuck down and winged.

What I've learned today: Don't use very small scraps for crazy-patching, especially if you're stitching to a paper foundation. Smaller pieces to sew means two no-so-good things:

1.  The paper must come off, eventually, and all that stitching is going to impede progress.
2.  All that stitching, close together, creates bulk. Which will be hard to sew through. And I'm planning on doing (yet more) raw-edge hand applique. Yes, by hand. How crazy am I.

Which means I'd better find my thimble. That nice thick metal one.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The hottest day ever

It has been an unbelievably sweltering hot day. I honestly can not ever recall being hotter. The official temperature was 36 degrees C, with Timaru (which is closer to the South Pole than we are!) reaching 40. Ugh, I am so over summer. I'd gladly swap hemispheres for a week, even if it meant snowstorms. I don't mind snow. Right now, snow sounds rather attractive.

A Grundle, a thistle, and a tabby cat tail
 Did a bit more sewing of the crazy-patch blocks. I'm up to about 9 or 10. Took a progress pic, but haven't uploaded it yet. So I've found another random photo for today's post.

Today I learned that when doing foundation paper piecing, you need to adjust the stitch length shorter. And then make it a bit shorter than that. And use the thinnest paper you can - junk mail can finally come in handy for something!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The weather and the weekend

If I wasn't taking part in NaBloPoMo this month, I probably wouldn't do a blog post today. It's been muggy hot, so I haven't done much. Is that a good enough reason, I wonder - to blame it on the weather? Oh, and it's Saturday. So, the weather and the weekend.

And because it is the weekend, I have done a bit of sewing. For the next round robin border, I have to make 14 crazy-patch foundation blocks, 8 inches square. So far I've completed five. Except mine aren't all 8 inches, and they certainly aren't square. They end up being trimmed down to 6.5 inches, so I've taken a few liberties with the sizing, as in, they're probably more like 7 inches, kinda-squareish. Yeah, I hate wasting fabric. Why make something so much bigger, if you're just going to trim a big chunk of it off anyway?

There probably is a good reason; and I'm sure in due course I will find out what it is and add it to my store of knowledge.

No progress photos though; things are rather messy down in the sewing room.

Unfinished art quilt experiment from 2010: 4" squares of calico which I hand-dyed.

What I learned today (and/or yesterday) is that if you don't have a relevant photo to add to your blog post, just add something else, because the large majority of blog readers would like to look at something.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rainbow x 2

Find me somebody who isn't amazed by the beauty of a double rainbow!

The part I like best is how the colours reverse in each subsequent arc.
CLOSE UP: Can you spot the 2nd rainbow in this pic?

Today I learned a bit about blog banners, and changing fonts. Hope to have a great new look soon!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tail droop and petrol prices

You know how when a cat is so pleased to see you, it sticks its tail straight up in the air? Well, my beautiful Tabitha doesn't just do that; she has a SuperTail, which bends right back, over her back, so that the tip of it can touch her on the head. Other times, when she does stick it straight up, the end curls over, so it looks like a furry candy cane. So cute!

But alas, it didn't do that this morning. I thought at first that it was because I was telling her off for waking me up during the night to watch her play chase-and-pounce. (It was only a lighthearted telling-off. I can never be mad at Tabitha for long!) But no, her tail just drooped during breakfast, and the end of it dragged on the floor when she walked.

And so I did what you do in these situations, and consulted an expert.

Google informed me of the various things it could be, and advised a visit to the vet. Long story short, she's now on Metacam; one dose a day for the next seven days. This afternoon her tail started to get some life back in it.

In Trivial News, today I filled the car up with petrol for the first time in a long time. Hubby recommended it, as he reckons fuel prices will skyrocket soon. As opposed to the slow but steady rise in price we've been seeing over the last few months. Today it costs $1 and 99.99 cents per litre. I don't know what that compares to for overseas prices; it would be interesting to see. (That is NZ$, in case you're wondering - which is currently worth, I think, about 75 US cents.)

Luckily for me, I had a voucher to get 10c off per litre. So I saved me a few dollars, and paid what I would've at full price several weeks ago.

Today I learned that bumblebees are attracted to the light. Turn it on, it will buzz on up to the ceiling, in an attempt to get up to the mini-sun. Turn it off, and it will immediately fall and land on whatever is below it.

This I discovered at 5 a.m. Guess how.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another border!

Whoops, the day is almost over and I'm late doing the daily post.
It's been a very busy day here; the first day of school for the year for my kids. And h-o-t. 32 degrees C. (I have no idea what that is in F.) And very windy, too. Hot northerlies, the kind that get the laundry dry super-fast.

In quilt news, I've finished another border on the Patchwork Posse round robin. This one was designed by Beth from EvaPaige Quilt Designs. It was super-easy, and super-quick.

Problems arose, however, after I had finished piecing the first border, and was ready to attach it to the rest of the quilt top. I neglected to take notice of the part of the instructions that said to "measure your quilt". I had assumed mine was right. Well, the strip that I'd pieced measured what it should; it's just that the rest of my quilt was around 1 and 5/8 inches shorter.

Despair hit me. I hate unpicking seams and resewing. Even more than I hate pressing.

So I fiddled with the numbers, and counted the seams between blocks and sashing strips, and figured that if I resewed - without unpicking - each of these seams, but go in about 1 millimetre on each, then it should turn out about right. And about right is okay with me.

And it did work out all right; there was just a tiny bit of trimming (1/8") at each end, to make the new border measure what it should.

Yeah, and then I read that the most important thing is that the sashing strips nearest the edges should match up with the thin border strips on the previous round. They did... they just don't anymore. Well, the theme of the quilt is "whimsy", after all.

What I learned from this experience can be summed up very easily: read instructions, more than once, and measure things!
But it's perfectly fine to make mistakes; I believe it's the fastest way to learn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mail call

Here we are, into February already. Gosh January whizzed by. So fast.
So now if I mean "a few days ago", I could actually just shorten it to "last month", and if it's more than just a "few" days, I'm covered.

So. Last month, I received some goodies in the mail. First, there's this cool Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks magazine, and a pattern for a Winding Ways quilt. I won these back in December, as part of the Patchwork Posse round robin adventure. Reeze from Morning Glory Designs sent them to me, all the way from the USA, yay! Thanks, Reeze! The quilt is her design, and she has a block featured in the magazine: #106 - Rising Star.

And I can't wait to begin the quilt, although I guess I'll have to start collecting fabrics first. I want to make it scrappy and colourful. But I'd better finish a few things before starting on anything else. Although there's no harm in having a small bin ready to receive ideal-sized scraps.

The other parcel I got in the mail was also something I won; this time on Trade Me, which is NZ's version of eBay. (Although I don't know why they say you "win" an auction; you still have to pay for it! Yippee, I won the right to spend money! Funny thing, online auctions.)

So, what I won/bought was an embroidery floss box, with over 70 threads, all wound onto bobbins and labelled. Not brand new, but I don't mind. I don't do cross stitch - and have no plans to ever try it - but these will come in mighty useful in the hand applique parts on quilts and suchlike. Lots of colours I didn't already have. Yay!


In Cat News, the flow of bumblebees has seemed to stop. I got somewhat tired of being woken up in the morning with the cat pouncing on the bed, playing with her latest prey. So I pulled out a couple of offending plants. Some people, I guess, would call this weeding.

First there was a thistle plant. It had grown huge. I was letting it grow, truth be told, because I wanted to do a dyeing experiement with the flowers. Beautiful pinky-purple, they were.

But alas, the bees loved the flowers, the cat loved the bees, and she didn't even mind/seem aware of the risk of being pricked or bitten. So out it came.

The bumbles were still hanging around though. On the other side of the house, right outside my bedroom window in fact, I have a lot of mint. It started off as a single mini-plant, but boy did it take off! And it flowers, and the bees come, and so the cat comes to see what all the buzzing is about.

I felt bad, pulling it out. And not just feeling bad as in I'm getting a sore back from all this bending over in the hot sun, but bad for the bees. Sure, I know there are other flowers, in other people's gardens, but I've heard that bees are on the decline. Which is not good for Planet Earth as a whole.


What I have learned from this is that the best way to pull out an overgrown thistle bush is to do it in parts. Get the secateurs, and cut it into manageable pieces. Then throw them in the bin. No, I don't mean the compost bin, I mean the rubbish bin. If that's wrong, in an eco-way, then I guess the Compost Police will be after me.
I'll let you know if they visit.