Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's New Year's Eve, last day of 2008, and time to reflect on the year that was. It's been a fun year for me, with travel and meeting up with friends and business acquaintances, but also lots of time spent at home doing what I love best - sewing, quilting and gardening.

This time last year I had no idea of what the coming year would bring, and I certainly never anticipated anything as exciting as owning a 98 year old building. 2009 will be interesting, as we take possession of the lodge and set it up as our teaching venue. We hope to spend many happy hours there with new friends and old. It seems fitting that it will be a Girls Club after 98 years of being a 'men only' zone.

I've been sewing in odd moments, and have a few things close to finished. There is such a pile of new tops waiting to be quilted that it's quite daunting, but I will be brave next week and work my way through a few of them. I'm hoping to finish two more tops tomorrow, and start the New Year off on the right foot; I may even load a top onto Millhouse.

My Sisters Choice blocks are all put together, and just waiting for the green borders, which is what I intend to work on tomorrow. It turned out nothing like I imagined, but I just had to do what the blocks wanted. I've been working with strong colours for quite a while, and I think my next project might be a more subtle blend.

While I was in the garden the other day this arrangement of colours caught my eye, and made me think of the PA Dutch top I recently completed. It's not hard to see where the inspiration came from; quilters have always taken their cue from the gardens around them.
I'm about to go round to Mereth's place, where I will do some hand sewing, drink some wine and wait to see the New Year in. I made sure all my dishes are done and the kitchen clean; I can imagine nothing worse facing the new year with a pile of chores to do. At least I will be able to get straight into the sewing room in 2009.

They say that the rest of the year will be like the first day, so I intend to make it count. I want to work on something old, something new, something finished and something fun. (I know, it should rhyme to be catchier, but I can't some up with anything else.) I will put some stitches into an old project, try a new technique, finish something that is close to completion anyway, and do something purely for fun. That should keep me gainfully occupied for the first day of the year, and if the rest is just like it, well I could hardly complain.

Oh and those boxes that were delivered before Christmas? They could have contained a lot of this....How are we going to stashbust that lot?


Monday, December 22, 2008

Life is busy at this time of year, and blogging is low down on the list of priorities right now. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. However, I seem to have the maelstrom of 'Things To Do' down to simple chaos now, so I should be OK. Basically my method of coping is cutting the list down each day to more realistic proportions, and finally ditching anything that is causing too much trouble. It works.

Last Friday was a hectic day. Life is so calm and ordered usually, and everything happened all at once. I took possession of my Freemasons Lodge, which was very exciting all on it's own. Then there was Christmas shopping, a huge delivery of boxes about which we will tell you in the New Year, lots of cleaning and furniture arranging because I have a nephew and partner staying at my place over Christmas, gardening to get my plants ready for the hot weather; and at evening the local Christmas Pageant, which was a hoot.

All the floats are homemade, and contructed in great secrecy weeks beforehand. Some show up year after year, like this strange offering (what is the lion for? I presume he has friendly intentions).The reindeer, with disturbing red eyes, go up and down as the wheels turn, which is highly comical at speed. The footie and netball teams won their Premierships this year, and got a rousing reception from fans and family.
The local emergency teams and police were out in force, with sirens and lights. The guy in the koala suit must have been so hot, as the sun was still strong.
And this guy is a Bilby, an small, native marsupial that patriotic people would like to see replace the Easter Bunny. Hmm, that nose is unfortunate though, doesn't say 'cuddly cute' to me.
And finally there was Santa and his elves, complete with reindeer. I think Donner and Blitzen are missing, but there isn't a longer trailer to be had, so Santa will have to make do with this lot.

We took chairs and sat on the pavement outside my bank building with friends, and called out to other friends in the parade. There was a barbecue that kept the whole town fed, lollies rained down from the floats to the delight of the kids and it was wonderful.

Afterwards we walked back to a friends house for coffee, and it was late when we set off home. The street was bright with Christmas lights, the sky studded with stars and music still playingin the main street. What a lot of excitement for one day.

And this last measly photo is the top I finished before all the rest of the stuff took place. It used up all the moroon strips in my red pile that weren't suitable for PA Dutch, plus a heap of greys that have sat untouched for 10 years. It is destined for my back verandah, which has grey walls, so it will fit in just fine.

And now I need to go and do my share of the cooking, ready for when Mereth's boys arrive. Our brother and family will probably be here for Boxing Day too, so it will be a family Christmas.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ship's Log; Sunday

The Captain has fallen victim to a mysterious illness and is unable to control the ship. Much cutting and piecing has taken place, all from the box of Cursed Strips, still with no end in sight.We rue the day the Captain stumbled across this container that seemed to bode no harm. The source of the current contagion has been traced to this blog;now chaos reigns on the Bridge.
The Ship's Doctor can do nothing to stem the sickness, and says it must run it's course over the next few days. What the outcome will be, no-one can tell.We are in good cheer, and trust that all will return to normal soon. In the meantime, we have set sail for the Boggy Garden, in the hopes that sunshine and fresh air will cure our Captain. It is our only hope.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Borders are finished, and once again I was completely unaware how big this quilt was going to turn out. It didn't help that I had the bright idea of adding another row of blocks, or that we changed the sashing to 3" instead of two, and then added multiple borders. It grew to be 76 x 88, and that's not a small quilt. But on the bright side it will need a lot of fabric for the backing, and I will find something in the stash to use.

Alas, the drawer of strips was still disappointingly full. It's not as if I asked a genie for a drawer of red, green and gold strips that never ran out, but it seems I got it anyway. So there was more sewing of blocks, and grumbling because I'm a bit tired of these colours anyway, and before you know it, there was another top.I'm sure there's a Quidditch team out there with these colours.

This one is smaller, thank heavens, as I refused to cut new stuff, and I actually came to the last of the yellow. The sashing is blue strips that were found (with horror) in another drawer, and hardly made a dent in the pile. What will I do with the rest? I'm thinking of piecing a backing like Mereth's, I am so Over these things.

All this came about because Mereth and I have never completed a quilt with lots of yellow and red. We both love Pensylvania Dutch quilts, but have never been brave enough to make one. It was actually quite hard to work with only these colours, and I was beset with doubts about the outcome, and my sanity, but I love both tops now that they are done. I don't expect any of my patchwork friends to like what I've made, and I'm sure they won't understand why I put these combinations together, but it's a little link with the antique quilts I love.

I'd better reserve some time with Millhouse next week.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

I made this quilt to use up a pile of 2.5" strips, and it worked well. I really like the block because it uses large pieces and goes together very quickly. I'm callling it a Stacked Album, because I'm too lazy to go look in EQ6 and see if it has a proper name.From the 2.5" strips cut one 10.5" rectangle and two 6.5" rectangles. Cut two 2.5" squares.From the background fabric cut two 4 1/8" squares and cross-cut diagonally twice, to give 8 large triangles. Cut two 2.5" squares and cut them once diagonally, to give 4 small triangles.

Sew a large triangle to each side of the 6.5" rectangles and the squares.
Make sure they look like this when finished. Snick off those dogears at the edge.Fold a 6.5" rectangle in half and crease; do the same with a square.Line the folds up and pin.
This aligns the edges in the correct place, so all you have to do now is sew the seam.

Add these two pieced bits to the centre 10.5" strip in the same way, matching centre creases.
Then add the corner triangles.

Your block will look like this; it may be a little mis-shapen; I trimmed mine to 9".

As I said, I'm done with the red and gren strips, now I want to do something totally different. Red and BLUE!


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I've been sewing madly in between other chores today, and much progress has been made. I've finished adding the sashing strips to the PA Dutch quilt, once Mereth professed herself totally over it, with only the outside bits to do. I wanted to see this in one piece, so I completed it, and will choose borders tomorrow when the light is good. Rule number 1. is never choose borders or sashings at night; it all looks different the next day. I will post a photo of the whole thing later.

I'm sooo pleased with how this little quilt turned out; I can just see it as the backdrop for our Christmas tree, so I'd better get it quilted without delay. I will do up the directions for it as it was a delight to stitch, and used up whole bunches of my red and green strips. I don't feel like I've finished with the block yet, I enjoyed stitching it so much, so there might be another one in a diferent set of fabrics soon.

And I put the borders on all the placemats and they're just waiting to be quilted and I can cross them off the list. I think I may be done with the whole red and green thing for a while.....

Settlement day for my hall is getting closer, and I'm trying not to be impatient. We went up there yesterday to have another look, and it's almost empty so I took some photos. We could have a dance in that back area, if we ripped up the ghastley blue carpet. There is dreary wood grain lino beneath it, and pine boards under that. Hopefully the boards will be worth polishing at some date far in the future. I need windows out there far more urgently.

I read on Nadine's blog about her dilemma with inaccurate rulers and markings; Mereth and I have found the same thing with different brands of rulers. Mereth is much more concerned with accuracy than I am, I tend to fudge and trim and lop off what shouldn't be there, while she wants everything to measure what it should. Many of my rulers have variable measurements, which is a bit frightening; the longer the ruler the more it shows up. It's hard even to know what to use as a standard, but I measure them against a steel engraved ruler as the markings on those are very fine and easy to see. So far I think my Omnigrip ruler is the most accurate, but I only have one of those. I don't think I'll be replacing all my rulers any time soon though. My 6" pinwheel blocks had 44 pieces each, and were 1/16" larger than they should have been, but I can certainly live with that.

Of course, once you start doubting you can never be sure of anything!

I remember when I was in primary school we were subjected to a visit from the School Inspectors each year. They were exalted beings, and even teachers, those lordly beings, were scared of them. I recall two visits very clearly. One inspector, to demonstrate the weight of air, borrowed Gavin Lugg's wooden ruler and balanced it half on, half off the desk; laid a large sheet of paper over and hit it karate style, snapping it in half. We were all astonished, not that he had proved himself so thoroughly, but that he just calmly handed Gavin's useless ruler back to him.

Another inspector picked up a ruler (I guess they just had to work with whatever was handy) and flummoxed the class by asking 'How do you KNOW this is a foot long? It could be wrong!' He then launched into a dreary talk about official standards for weights and measures, but in that instant I had become a sceptic, and learned a valuable lesson; Trust Nothing!


Saturday, December 06, 2008

I've hardly stopped sewing this weekend, it's been just wonderful. These are just some progress photos, to show you what I've been working on.There were two drawers of red, yellow and green 2 1/2"strips that I cut years ago for a Pennsylvania Dutch quilt. Mereth began sewing these blocks in April, and I finished up the last four yesterday, so now there are 31. ( I miscounted what we needed.) They will have their setting decided sometime later, right now I'm moving on to the next projects destined to use up all those strips

This is ultra simple, and will have a blue or green setting fabric to make them look suitably Pennsylvanis-Dutchish. They are so easy to sew they multiply like magic, so I won't stop making these until the containers are empty.

And they nearly are, after making 22 of these blocks, and 6 Christmas table runners.
Plus the 20 ninepatch blocks from my Pretties. I tell you, I'm out of control!! There are two other sets of blocks on the design wall too, but I won't show them just yet.

Mereth came round last night after tea, and I moved the TV into the sewing room and we sewed till 3.30am. It was a brilliant night, watching Seinfeld episodes and then Harry Potter movies. We weren't even tired when we decided to call it a night, and both pulled up just fine this morning. Maybe we're not too old to do this sort of thing after all.

I have to curtail my sewing efforts for a while, as it's Carols In The Park tonight, and Mereth and are going to wander up there with chairs and join in the singing. I've been listening to the sound checks all afternoon, and some of the performers are very good. It's making me feel all Christmassy at last.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Judy is having a Quiltathon weekend, and I'm joining in. I'm in a mad keen sewing mood anyway, so I might as well dignify it by calling it an official Quiltathon, and the last one for 2008.

I'm sewing these blocks first, made of leftovers from my pinwheel quilt. They are so pretty that it's slightly saccharine, but I figure there will be enough for a sweet, girly quilt and then I can go back to my muddy 1800s reproductions that I love so much. And if I don't 'do' pretty then why on earth do I have so many in my stash??

I'm going to get the borders on this quilt this weekend, and piece a backing out of those two fabrics. Then there is nothing else to do except load it on the machine and quilt away.

In the comments Stephanie remarked " I love pinwheels too-these look like spinning ones surrounded by clouds of fairy floss, like you'd find at a rural show." I thought this was amazing, as I've been calling it the Showgrounds quilt as I worked on it. The pinwheels reminded me of the ones we got at the Crystal Brook show each year, and the pretty flowery fabric was a reminder of the long grass and the wildflowers, and all the colours of the crowds and exhibits. So I think it's going to be called Country Show from now on.

And as an aside, this little salt shaker is a keepsake from the Crystal Brook show when I was about 7. I won him on one of those clown games, and I begged and begged for another go, so I could win the pepper one as well, but Mum wasn't sympathetic. I thought he was truly gorgeous, and it made me sad to think he would never be re-united with his mate. I was an odd child; I even felt sorry for the teacups in our china cabinet that didn't have matching saucers. I think I needed to get out a bit more......


I seem to have gone a little mad today, and my design wall is full of new blocks that I want to work on. I can't seem to choose which one to concentrate on first, so I am making them all, and getting in a fine old mess. Mereth sat and chatted to me, and cut pieces if I needed them, and wanted to know why on earth I was working on 5 things at once. Who knows, but I had a delightful day in my sewing room. Pictures tomorrow, it's too late to take photos tonight.

My pretties quilt is in one piece and just needing borders. I think it turned out well, and I'm planning some spectacular quilting for it once Millhouse is free of customer quilts. I bought the backing for it while I was in Perth, so I'm all ready to start quilting as soon as I do the borders. It will be so nice to finish one of my own quilts for a change.

I've made 6 Log Cabin quilts in my time, and it's a block I love. I always think I'd like to do it with smaller strips, and for a while I've been stockpiling 1 1/4" strips for just that purpose. When I did the 1" pinwheels for the pretties quilt I had heaps left over, and I though it would be cute to use them for the start of the log cabins. I like how it's turning out, so it's one of the projects up on the design wall. It makes my head spin using these as leader-enders, adding all the rounds on in between sewing other blocks. I am getting lost and putting things on the wrong side, or confusing light and dark rounds. I need to slow down and take more care of what I'm doing. But they are tremendous fun, and I have a whole drawer of strips that Mereth cut from my Judie Rothermels, and it will be fun to start using them.

These last photos are of a garden next to my brother's place in WA. I have no idea what these native flowers are, but it was a spectacular shrub. I took a lot of photos of it, the flowers were different at every stage of develoopment, and it was truly amazing.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Yesterday our patchwork group had it's Christmas outing, and we went off in three cars for a Mystery Tour. Only the two organisers knew where we were going, so we had to make sure we didn't lose sight of their car. After two hours of driving and a couple of hair-raising U-turns when they thought we were lost but we weren't, we arrived at Maggie Beer's Farmshop in the Barossa Valley. Maggie is a renowned cook and food writer, and presents the TV show The Cook and The Chef. We went through the shop and sampled all the lovely local products, and then had lunch on the verandah, overlooking the lake. It was very civilised to sit and enjoy a glass of excellent shiraz, but we made so much noise laughing and talking that no-one else would come out on the verandah with us. Squibs!!

This is one of our lovely hostesses, conducting a cooking presentation on The Actual Set of the TV show; us country kids were suitably impressed.Of course there was a trip to a patchwork shop afterwards, where a little fabric was added to the stash, then a trip to a coffee shop and time for home. We had a fun day with all our friends, and got to know each other a lot better; we have all seen one of our number in a G-string (thong) now, although there was a lot of debate among the older ladies about whether she had it on backwards or not, and as it was over the top of her trousers anyway it lost some of the effect.

My big printer that I use to print pantos is called Gilbert, and he and I have spent a lot of time together the last few days, filling orders. My workroom was swamped with 10' lengths of paper, but now it's all parcelled up and posted, so I am allowed to sit in my sewing room and play. I made this trial block, called Chain of Arrows, that I want to make in some of my delicious Civil War greys.
Then I sewed up a storm, and finished the last of my Pretties blocks; I'll have to think of an official name for this quilt. As you can see, I am in the process of joining the blocks together now, and getting excited to see the final result. I just love the way it's turning out.While I was away Mereth 'organised' my sewing room. She's very good at that, and I don't mind her doing it, but it's a bit disconcerting when she says 'Now don't be mad at me, but...' My mind whirls at the prospect of what I'm about to see. But she had just moved a few pieces of furniture and stacked everything neatly in baskets and sorted out my tottering piles of fabric. I was not the least bit perturbed by any of it. I'm sure she could have a career as a Stash Elf; she could just appear each night and put a sewing room to rights as if by magic.

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