Sunday, December 17, 2006

I have run away from home for a few days, and I'm staying with my friend Kaye and quilting some quilts on one of her Statler computerised longarms. Her workshop is a place of wonders, a little slice of quilting heaven. I needed to catch up with the latest developments and get some of my tops quilted.

It's a nice break, and I'm enjoying the bushland setting, and the wildlife. These are some Sulphur Crested Cockatoos that come in for a feed each morning. There were 12 of them there yesterday, quite a gathering. There were kangaroos about early this morning, but I didn't get my camera in time.

It's actually been raining on and off since I got here, which is most welcome. The hills and fields here are so dry they look dark red and sunburnt, it's hard to believe that they will ever green up again. Water is a real worry for most Australians these days, Sydney has only a 2-4 year water supply if the normal rain pattern doesn't resume. This drought is very damaging.

I've tried out some new patterns, and I'm designing more, and just having a nice time of it. I will get home just in time to do the last minute Christmas stuff, and then relax and wait for the day. My treat to myself at Christmas is to do a few jigsaws and let everyone else take care of themselves.

The pattern on the Double Weave top is from my Pantograph Plus pack, and doesn't have a name yet. The pattern on the Single Irish Chain is Clover Meadow, which is still my favourite pattern. I just love the way it quilted up on this quilt; it's exactly the way I imagined it.

Time for lunch and more coffee, then it's back to work. Sometimes you have to get away from everyday life to get something achieved.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I do my sewing on a Janome 6500; before that I used a Janome 7000. I love both these machines, and they have been wonderful to sew on, but they do have a fault. They just eat the points of triangles, and I could never sew single triangles together accurately enough for my liking. When I bought the 6500 I noticed that it had a straight stitch footplate as an add-on, and earlier this year I lashed out and bought one. It has made a huge difference in performance; no more edges of material jammed down into the bobbin area, very few missed stitches on start-up. I leave it on my machine all the time, and put a piece of tape over the stitch width button to remind me not to use it while I have that footplate on. I also use the 1/2" piecing foot, and I'm really pleased with how well my blocks go together these days.

My favourite gadget just lately is this extendable magnet, that I use for picking up pins from the floor. I have back problems, so anything that can save me having to crawl around on the floor is good news. This is so strong it sticks to the nails in the floor, and sweeps up any loose pins like magic. I love hardware stores, which is where I got this.

Our weather is perfect for quilt washing, so I have been doing one or two quilts a day, getting our everyday quilts ready to pack away for the summer. I do love the smell of clean quilts that have been hanging on the line all day.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Life got in the way of blogging just lately, and it's still pretty hectic but I will try and post a little more regularly.

Someone asked for sizes for the blocks that I'm cutting. The small triangles are cut from 2" strips with and Easy Angle ruler, which I love. If you wanted to cut the triangles without that tool the strip would be 2 3/8", and you would cut 2 3/8" squares and slice them diagonally to give the triangles needed.

You need 4 dark triangles and 12 light ones. Make 4 light/dark pieced squares.
Join 2 triangles to each square to make these units.The squares are cut 3 1/2", and the pieced units joined to them.
The large triangles are a 7" square cut diagonally. This is a fraction oversized, but they generally fit exactly, and if they are a touch large the whole block can be trimmed down. I fold the triangle in half and match the halfway point with the point of the middle square.
All in all it's a quick block to piece, and as I will be setting them with alternate plain squares it shouldn't take too long to make this quilt. That is if I can get near my machine in all the upheaval of getting this house ready to go on the market. I wish for a television crew to come through the doorway and do it all for me.....


Friday, November 03, 2006

The block I'm working on doesn't seem to have a name that I can find right now. The book helpfully calls it Pieced Blockwork quilt. Not very specific, or catchy. However, I think of it as an anvil variation, so maybe Double Anvil? Who knows. I rather think I've seen it before, but with 90% of my books and magazines in deep storage I can't really find out. And I've been stumbling around in EQ4 for so long that I'm about to order EQ5 and get with the 21st Century in quilting software. Then I can painlessly upgrade to version 6 when the time comes.

Been busy, but not with sewing related activities. I'm about to go and get building supplies so we can crack on this weekend and go ahead and finish my room. My DH hates the phrase 'I'm gunna go ahead and....' which all the DIY shows on payTV use constantly. I can push his buttons by saying, as he's about to measure something, 'Why don't you go ahead and measure that..' I can only do it just so many times though, I have to choose my moment. 'Crack On' seems to be the British equivalent, whereas the Americans and Canadians 'Go Ahead'.

I made this little banner yesterday, in about an hour. There are several words I want to do and just have hanging around, to keep me focussed. At the moment it sems very important to me to restore order to my life; my poor house has been in upheaval all year, and I need to set it to rights again. It's literally thrown together, and it would have been quicker if I hadn't twice made the word 'Orber'. I think I have late-onset dyslexia. I have at least 5 other words to make, and I want to attach them to each other with jewellery fixings so that I can rearrange them and separate them for washing. I will be making them from my hand-dyes, and some of them are still a bit loose in the excess dye department.

Well, best be off like a frog in a sock (and that's pure Aussie..)


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I have been busy with other things besides sewing lately, and I'm needing a fix. Might be able to do a few seams tonight, but what I really need is a couple of hours. It's so therapeutic, I should be able to make it a priority.

I still have only 3 projects kitted, so I want to do a few more before the summer, which is just a month away. I love one-patch quilts, so I think I will do an equilateral triangle, a tumbler and maybe a half hexagon. I can cut all those from stacked strips so it will be quick, and then it's just a matter of arranging the pieces and sewing it all together. I like that sort of quilt.

I'm in the process of kitting this quilt, which is from the Glorious American Quilts book. I suddenly became enamoured of this picture, when I realised I had heaps of striking striped fabric like the quilt, and I could use them all in this. I'm loving the look of the block I made to test the cutting measurements. It's 9" finished, and I will need 32 of them to do the size quilt I want. Easy!

Meredith and I have had a sad few days, as the sale of Mum's house was finalised yesterday, and the new owners have taken possession. It was a big thing to give up the key to that house; I will never forget the peculiar sound of the front door lock when someone let themselves in. And now we'll never again have the right to let ourselves in there. Neither of us thought that we would be upset, but we are. Mum owned that house for 44 years, and even when we grew up and moved away it was always home.

But it's time for the old house to have a new life and a new family; we are glad that it will be lived in and looked after and loved.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

I have been collecting dark blues for 25 years in order to make this quilt (can't find the name right now). But I kept using the blues for other things, and I decided that if I don't make the quilt now I never will. So while I sorted out my blue fabrics I kitted up 20 blocks. I even made one block to test out the cutting requirements. 19 to go, and I will have my quilt at last.

I've also been buying reds for years, in order to make a red and white quilt, and never got round to it. So I decided to cut the pieces for a London Roads quilt, and when I sort out the red fabrics I will cut the pieces and kit the quilt. Sewing them will be something for me to look forward to in the long hot summer months to come.

I have sorted and counted 7 of my material drawers, and it's been fun. I've got reacaquainted with all my lovely stuff, tossed a lot of lengths I no longer love and added considerably to the scrap bin. Tomorrow I will sit down and cut all the bits into strips and stow them away in the appropriate drawers. I feel so Organised.

I've had a lot of time to think about my Stash, and I'm trying to define what my material means to me.

Stash; to put away, as for safekeeping or in a prepared place; a hoard.

Hoard; an accumulation for future use.

My fabric is falling into two distinct groups. There is the fabric I want to use, to cut up, to include in all my quilts. And there is the stuff that I just want to own, to have, to gloat over. To use someday in a special wonderful quilt. I'm trying to store them so that I have easy access to all the material I want as my 'working' stash, and then my 'preciousss' pieces can be put away where they are safe and I can get them out occasionally and enjoy them.

I was congratulating myself on the fact that I don't really have a lot of Ugly fabric left, when I remembered some of my vintage fabrics. The only thing that springs to mind with some of them is 'What were they Thinking?!" You be the judge....

The first one is a piece of our nursery curtains and bassinet covers. I loathe clowns and always have.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I am still refolding my stash, and measuring as I go. My backing lengths, florals and blues total 575 metres. Hmmmm, don't know if I'm pleased about that or not.

But I really don't have any blues atall, atall. They all fit into a few of these drawers, and when I want to make something I can never find anything that appeals. Maybe because all that's left is the second rate stuff. I have made more than 7 blue quilts in the last two years. And my fabric book shows me that I have bought only 15 or so blue FQs in that time. So I really have been shopping the stash for my blue quilts.

I've posted most of these quilts before, but I'm just showing them so you can see how much blue fabric I used. Click on the photos to see them bigger...


Monday, October 23, 2006

The stack of material at right is the sum total of 9 hours of work; measuring, ironing and refolding my backings. My feet hurt! It doesn't look like much, but there are 274 metres of material there, in 53 pieces. It looks like I'm right for backings for the next 53 quilts I want to make....

There are a lot more pieces to deal with, but I will work on it over the next few weeks rather than all day every day. It's tough work dealing with such long lengths; they average out at 5 metres each. The longest piece I have is 6.7 metres; I think that's enough for anything I can imagine.

It's been fun re-acquainting myself with some of these; I tend to buy backing lengths on sale, and stuff them away in drawers and not look at them again. Some of them are so beautiful I'm thinking of upgrading them to the good fabric storage, because they're too nice to waste as backings.

This is all such a time-waster, when I could be doing other things, but I enjoyed it so much. I at last feel in control of a small portion of my stash. And I decided I'd be much happier with my material if I could gloat over it and see what I have, like Bonnie and her stash. My FQs and small pieces can stay in the drawers, but I want the long lengths stored where I can see them at a glance. I'm making plans for the perfect stash-cupboard...

I haven't achieved any sewing of late, but I've cleaned up and sorted and achieved a lot in the way of organisation, so I'm happy about that. I will be ready to go back to sewing in a few days time once I've finished the clearing up.

My flying geese quilt that I showed a few posts ago was made from 3-D flying geese; it was super easy, and the added fabric layers make it extremely warm. Check out this site for instructions; my blocks were 2" x 4" finished. I also constructed it QAYG, so it was ready to bind as soon as it was pieced. Got to love that.

AS I cleaned out boxes I discarded a lot of stuff, and then cut it into 10.5" squares for my pieced backings. Once again the lid won't fit on the box, so I guess I'd better find a bigger box, or piece another backing. I love how this is using up my ho-hum fabric; once it's pieced I quite like it again.

If you find any spelling mistakes, blame it on the Merlot, a cheeky little drop from the Hunter Valley; I don't think I'm fit to be in charge of a rotary cutter tonight....


Happy birthday Meredith!

Our birth story had a happy ending because of the efforts of two women; Sister Lewis and Flockie, the attending nurses. The two doctors present were GPs, not obstetricians, it was a difficult birth, and Dad wouldn't let them sacrifice one life for the other. They must have thought they had done all they possibly could do. And when the doctors gave up, and left events to unfold as they would, these two nurses kept trying. In those days the doctors were treated like Gods, to be deferred to in all matters, and the nurses practically curtsied in their presence. So these were strong-willed women to carry on. Sister Lewis kept working on pushing Meredith back, with Flockie looking after Mum, and finally they were able to free Mereth enough so that she could change position and be born.

Sister Lewis and Flockie delivered many hundreds of babies in our town, over several decades. They were skilled and dedicated women.

The question that occurred to me was, if they all thought Mum would die afterwards, why was Dad left in the waiting room, instead of being by her side? Hospitals were institutions in those days, and the rules were everything. If Meredith had died Mum would not have been allowed to see her; it was standard policy then, not to let mothers even catch sight of the babies they lost. It's hard to comprehend now, but that's the way it was back then.

And our Maternity hospital would not let a child under the age of 16 into the waiting room, let alone a ward. Children carried DISEASE, and were to be kept away. They had a point, when whooping cough and measles and chickenpox were endemic.

The doctor told Mum that we weren't identical, because we had separate placentas, but they were wrong. Up to a third of identical twins don't share the same placenta. (I just googled it and found out even more useless information...) And our heartbeats were so synchronised that the doctor could only ever hear one heartbeat.

These photos were taken when we were in our early 20's; we look pretty identical to me...

I would much rather have a baby now than at any other time in history. My Gran, who had 10 living children, would pack her suitcase when she knew the time had come, and walk across the railway tracks to the midwife's house, about a mile away. There she would have the latest baby, with the help of the midwife who had no qualifications except her natural gifts, and walk back the next day carrying both the baby and the suitcase (and 8 of those times it was a baby boy she brought home). In my family the women have nothing kind to say about my grandfather.....


Saturday, October 21, 2006

This is the one day of the year when I'm a year older than Meredith.

We have two older brothers, and Mum was quite happy to leave it at that. But she knew that Dad wanted a daughter badly, and so they decided to have one more baby.With six weeks to go she went to the doctor and he felt her stomach and said "I don't know, all I can feel are feet!" An x-ray confirmed there were two of us, and she and Dad and the doctor stood in the street afterwards looking at our first photo and laughing. For a long while, every time Mum and Dad caught each other's eye they both exclaimed "We're having Twins!"

Mum went from the doctor's office to the sewing machine shop, where she arranged to trade her treadle machine in on a new electric Singer. She knew she couldn't sew for two babies with pedal power!

She was 36 years old, with sons 13 and 3 years old. For all she knew, we could have been boys too; it must have been a suspenseful month until we were born, two weeks early. (If we were boys we would have been called Derek and Warren...)

I suppose Mum thought she knew what she was in for when she went into labour with us. After 8 hours I duly arrived. All seemed normal, until it became clear that Meredith was transverse breech, severely so. She was jammed with an arm out, head and shoulders stuck sideways. Time dragged on, and the doctors couldn't turn Meredith, or do a caesarian because she was so far down. It's hard to imagine the panic it must have caused in a small country hospital, with no-one knowing quite what to do. At one stage they said to Dad, 'You have to choose between the mother and the baby, we can't save both.' And Dad exploded with anger and roared 'Don't be so bloody stupid, you'll save them both!'

After 36 agonising hours, and thanks to the dedicated midwives who wouldn't give up, Meredith finally arrived and was whisked away into a humid crib. Mum, after receiving 8 units of blood through the labour, was parked in a private room to die. She was lying there, drifting away when she heard some people making a noise in the corridor. A nurse scolded them into silence 'There is a woman dying in that room, have some consideration!' When it occurred to Mum that they were talking about her she thought 'Dying, ey? I'm not about to die!!' And she started to fight her way back to life.

We heard that story a lot of times, and it never fails to amaze. A day and a half is a long time to be in complicated labour, a long time to wait to be born, a long time for an anxious father. I guess I was the only one who had it easy.


Friday, October 20, 2006

I went to the library today and borrowed some knitting and quilting books, and this art book. It's called Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green, and it taught me an awful lot about colour the first time I read it. It's meant for artists wanting to mix their own colours, but I find his idea of 6 principle colours instead of three primaries really useful when choosing fabric colours. And when I dye fabrics I have much more control over what I'm doing. It's well worth a read if your library has it.

I have to admit that I don't know a lot about colour theory. People have tried to teach me, but I end up thinking 'What's that outside the window....?' while they drone on about it. I like to work by instinct most of the time, and throw away what doesn't work.

This book taught me why so many pretty prints turn to grey or mauve mush from a distance, wreaking havoc with the quilt's overall look. Why that wonderful dark floral actually reads as a medium-light from a distance. It taught me not to buy prints that I know won't work. It taught me how to choose prints to get the effect I want the first time. Other books on colour are just as good, but this one is the one that spoke most strongly to me.

I'm busy making my new blocks, and not being too concerned about the theory behind the colours. I just like 'em. They start out as rail fence blocks, then I turn them into Half Square Triangles and sew them into squares on point. I like the original rail fence blocks so much I might make an entire quilt just out of those. But I also like the soft florals I'm using in the corners of the finished blocks.

I made another 70" square backing from my 10.5" squares, which cleared some more fabric out of the stash. That's another 3 or 4 metres used, even if it has just been transformed into a single piece of fabric instead of many. I'm still on a roll, even if I'm slowing down a little.

This is the next quilt in the binding pile; another colour sampler. This is one of my favourites, soft and pretty and comfortable. Another quilt that was thoroughly enjoyable to work on, from start to finish.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In between building construction activites on the weekend I sat at my sewing machine. And had an attack of rationality. That's when a voice says in your head 'What do you need another quilt for? You should finish what you have started. You should clean up this mess. You should do some work..' It ends with the truly terrifying 'You should get rid of all this stuff!'

Luckily my reaction to the final statement is always to start sewing in defiance. I appeased my conscience by pulling all the doubtful greens out of my three drawers of green fabric, and set to work to cut them into squares for backings. I'm not starting a new quilt, I'm making something useful out of nothing, I'm making more room in my stash drawers, I'm saving money by not buying backings, blah blah blah. (Having fun too)

The only problem was, the box I keep my 10.5" squares in was overflowing, so I made two backings first, a blue one and a pastel one. They both have quilts to belong to, so I felt very virtuous as I refilled the box with green squares.

I have been cutting 10.5" squares for my pieced backings, but a lot of the scraps weren't that big. I've started cuttiing 8.5" squares now, because I can get those out of a skinny quarter, with nothing left over, thank heavens. I'm using up my fabirc at a great rate.

Along the way I played with a new strippy scrappy project I want to do next, and the voice in my head gave up in disgust and went away. Yay! Another small victory for the right-hand side of my brain.

Seeing how blah those backings look I can only be glad that I got those fabrics out of my stash; they wouldn't have enhanced any quilt top that I put them in.

I went to the art shop today to replace my pencil sharpener; I gave Meredith my other one. This is the best sharpener ever. At one quilting workshop the sceptical ladies kept fishing out problem pencils from their sewing kits, but this little beauty put a perfect point on all of them. It has never failed me yet; got to love something that doesn't let you down. It has two different angles that you can put on your pencils, and it's brilliant on those fragile ones.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Nines asked for pictures of laundry rooms, so here's mine. It's just inside the back door, which is off to the left. It's built into part of the back verandah, and I never do laundry without feeling grateful. For many years I had to haul all the washing downstairs to a set of concrete sinks, with the washer installed on a high concrete slab. That made it taller, and I couldn't even reach the bottom of the bowl; I had to sort of jump in and swipe things out. That was a lot of fun. It was just bare dirt, and if things fell down they got filthy. I hated it! Most highset Queensland houses still have the laundry downstairs, even new ones.

I worked on DH for 15 years before I got my washer installed upstairs, and he fought bitterly. He thought it was a silly idea. But he has had to agree that it was the best thing we ever did, besides moving the toilet upstairs. That happened within weeks of buying the house; no way was I going downstairs in the middle of the night. I was adamant.

Other piccies are a Flying Geese quilt I made a while ago. It's flannel, and very snuggly. It was so simple to make and finish, I feel drawn to do something with quite large pieces and graphic impact. Might start work on something similar...

And the picture of arches in one that I took when Meredith and I were in Port Adelaide last year. We drove under the railway bridge and the view was so impressive I made Meredith drive around the block and park on the side of the road while I ran under the bridge and took some photos. The passing traffic thought I was nuts, but the perspective was intruiging.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

I ask you, is this the proper use of a treadmill? All the cats take turns sleeping on it, and I hate to say that I haven't turfed them off once in the last week. And what is my laptop doing there? I've obviously been distracted. Time to clean up and concentrate on putting things to rights around here.

We're having cooler weather thank heavens, so it's much more pleasant to work during the day. On the weekend we'll be working on the room downstairs, so I 'm trying to finish off a few sewing projects before then. Or at least get them organised so that I will know what I was doing when I finally get back to them.

The blue quilt is one of that I bound the other day. It is also a colour sampler, using a block that I have seen called Rabbit Foot, but I'm sure there are other names for it too. Its a nice simple block to try out the technique.

I love blue and green together, it's one of my favourite colour combinations. When I was home in South Australia I had to stop and take photos of the scenery; blue skies and green crops, with the darker blue line of the Flinders Ranges between.

Meredith spent years living on a farm, and I used to love driving out to her place. Once I irritated everyone in the car by singing John Denver all the way; 'Thank God I'm a Country Boy" but I substituted 'girl' of course. Mum said, in an effort to shut me up, "You were born in the city, not the country'. Maybe, but in my heart I'm a country girl.

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