Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas was such a whirlwind, the last two weeks are just a blur.  It was a madhouse, but not solely due to the time of year.  The volume of mail and parcels we helped deliver was incredible, which kept us more than busy, but added onto that was the work of moving into a lovely little house just down the street.  I noticed it was vacant two Saturdays before Christmas, picked up the keys four days later and managed to have nearly everything shifted the next weekend.  My brother and a mate did all the heavy lifting, which was so good of them, and now I'm settled in for at least 6 months.  More about that later.

DD Seonaid showed up last Thursday, with most of her wordly goods packed into her friend's ute, and everything was unloaded into her room; she's finished her job at Parachilna, and is going to live in Adelaide for a while, with her cousin John.  I really can't remember what we did next; I know there was shopping for last minute things,  and dinner at the brother's place, but none of it has been written to the memory banks.

We had Christmas here, lunch with the Doug and Bev, which lasted till three o'clock, very leisurely, then it was home to pack, for a quick trip to Adelaide to spend Boxing Day with John and Liz.  Liz cooked an honest-to-goodness turkey, which was quite unusual for us.  We have prepared turkey breast roasts every Christmas, but we've never had a whole bird before.  And I'm not sure I ever would go to the trouble myself, no matter how nice it is.

After lunch we went for a walk on Henley Beach, and had a cup of coffee right on the beach front.  It was a lovely bright sunny day, but very windy, as you can tell from Seonaid's hair.

I guess the seagulls did well out of the Christmas parties on the beach.  There were plenty of them around.

Back home again on Tuesday, and Seonaid proceeded to cook up a storm, making multiple batches of gingerbread cookies.  These cookies are her alltime favourites; we had  a huge collection of cookie cutters when she was little, and I used to make the dough and let her and her brother loose to cut out all the shapes.

This is a cookie cutter roller that Mereth found in an op-shop many years ago.  It made heaps of cookies very quickly, but I think I prefer the individual cutters.

This time we decided to ice them, so I googled Royal Icing, and away we went.  It was so much fun, not too much mess to clean up afterwards, thanks to a tip I read somewhere.  If you pile the icing into a piece of gladwrap and roll it into a tube, the whole thing can be put in the icing bag.  Pull the end of the glad wrap through the hole in the piping bag, snip off the excess and it's ready to go.  If there's icing leftover, just store the gladwrap tubes in the fridge.  It was so easy!  We didn't even need to wash the piping bag with this method.

The camels are my favourite.

This is getting too long, and I have to get round to Doug and Bev's for New Years Eve drinkies, so I will finish this later on.  I can't believe all the activity I've managed to cram into the last three weeks; small wonder I need a rest!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

I made a start on joining the blocks last night, but realised one thing really quickly. 

This will only work with blocks that are the correct measurement!  I'm a 'fudgey' sort of quilter; I aim for perfection, and when it doesn't happen I shrug and fudge the results into a passable top.  The key is to aim for perfect in the first place though; if I just throw things together at every stage, it all adds up to grief in the final assembly and quilting.

The blocks I've already made are somewhat, um, individual in their measurements. 
They HAVE to measure 9" from edge to edge, and 11"  from corner square to corner square.
 Lots of them don't.

Out of 14 there are maybe 6 that I can use with this setting method.  There is just no room to manouvre with a set-in seam; there's no wiggle room left.  So the blocks that just won't do will go into another project, and when I start constructing the next lot of blocks I will take a lot more care to see that they come out right.

I think I swapped sewing machines halfway through these blocks, and also changed the method of piecing them, when I realised they were going askew.  As much as I liked the way I started with, sort of sewing in rows throughout the block, it just didn't stay nice and square. 
Starting with a modified nine-patch and adding pieced corners results in a much more accurate finished measurement.

It's a good thing I'm in the mood to be persnickety, and take my time over these blocks; sometimes I just want to quickly arrive at the finished top, and other times I want to concentrate on enjoying every seam and patch.  This is one of those quilts.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So what's next on the design wall?  I'm thinking I may work on these blocks, (scroll down to see them) which have been on hold for quite a while. I spent days searching through old CDs, trying to find the ancient ebay photo that was the original inspiration, but Mereth was the one who finally found it on her spare hard drive.

The setting still intrigues me, and I want to try to do it with all those set-in corners.

I think women used this setting because it gives the look of an alternating block, but uses less fabric.  I'll cut 6 7/8" squares, instead of 9" ones.  If I had no easy access to fabric stores, and only a limited amount of the fabric I wanted to use, then it would definitely be a factor in choosing this setting.

If I can't handle all those set in seams, I will turn the block on point and add triangles to the corners.  Then set that block on point.
The alternate squares of pink would be pieced of four triangles then, which I don't want to do, but in the long run it wouldn't be all that noticeable.  But I'll try the plain squares first.

 This antique quilt has the same setting, but the album blocks are aligned on point.
I like this one too, there is a strong secondary pattern happening here.
You could definitely have fun colouring it creatively to get a 3D effect
 I have more examples of this setting, but I'm out of time, I'll post them later.  It's time to go to work at the Post Office, delivering all that Christmas cheer; I see parcels in my sleep these days, but at least eveyone is happy to see me arrive.  Not long till Christmas, and I'm busy busy busy!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Last Friday Mereth and I went down to Adelaide to spend the night with John and Liz.  We picked up her new computer from the warehouse, and then off we went to have tea at a sushi place in the city.

  Mereth is terribly picky about food, so I don't think she enjoyed it as much, but I loved it.  The plates were colour coded, so you could tell how much each one cost, and there was a photo menu to consult so you had some idea of what each plate contained.  The problem was, the contents of some of the plates bore no resmemblance to the photos in the menu!  Mereth liked the deepfried chicken strips, but you might as well be at KFC for those.
These trout and avocado rolls were very nice, but I honestly don't know what else I ate; not a lot of it was identifiable.  All nice though, and I can't wait to take DD Seonaid there.

Not touching these baby squid though.
No-one else seemed particularly keen to try them either.
Next morning we were off to an orchard, as the cherry harvest is in full swing.

I've never been a big fan of supermarket cherries, way too expensive and not much flavour.  They are very different when picked straight off the tree; I'm a big fan now.

We had a very good Devonshire Tea, with scones that were almost as good as Mereth's (she makes the best scones ever!)
It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning, and it got even better when John obligingly detoured to Tricia's Fabrics.  And Officeworks after that.  We're easily thrilled.

The time is rushing by so quickly, two weeks till Christmas!  I'm fussing around with decorations today, it's always nice to have Christmas things all through the house.  Though I only have one room, which makes it easier!

This is Bev's Christmas Village, which she assembles every year.
She began it when her granchildren were tiny, and 20 years later she has a wonderful collection.  It's lovely to study it and see all the little characters shopping, chatting, shovelling snow, sledding, welcoming guests, carolling.

With all the fuss of moving over here and renovating, there wasn't time to add anything new this year, but we have a trip planned to the Christmas Shop in Adelaide, where no doubt Mereth and I will be tempted to start our own little Christmas kingdom.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's a lovely cool, grey day today, a little bit too rainy to work in the garden, so I am sewing with a clear conscience.  It would be lovely to start something new, but I need to restore some sort of order to my sewing room before I pull out new fabric and start cutting.

I want to finish this top, as Seonaid likes it and would give it a home. 

The centre is in one piece, and now I need to audition a few fabrics for borders.  I bought half metres of these blue/green batiks to see if any would be suitable;
when I choose what I want it will mean a trip to Adelaide to buy the meterage that I need, but that's OK.  I think I can deal with another trip down to the city, even though the traffic is really hectic at this time of year.

I realised that I'm drawn to these colours so much because they are what I like to wear.  In fact I seriously think I'll get enough fabric for a couple of shirts, that way I'll get to enjoy the gorgeous designs in my wardrobe as well as my quilts.

I saw such lovely batiks at Trish's Fabrics, I'm afraid I'm going to have to start acquiring them. I'll always be a repro addict, but I think there's room to sneak a few batik quilts in as well.

The photo below shows two dogs trying to eat their own weight in dry food. 
We had two 8kg bags of food, one of a high-fat puppy mix which they love, and the other an older dog mix.  The brand was on special, but there was none of the junior mix they usually get, so by mixing the puppy and older flavours the nutritional levels were the same.  (Got to limit that fat content, they could be portly if we didn't keep an eye on what they eat.) Well!!  They thought it was brilliant to have all that food in front of them, and kept snacking while I mixed it together.  Note that Pippi, faced with expanses of food, is mainly interested in what Dolly is eating.  It's all the same, sweetheart!

They are so funny when we feed them together.  Dolly sniffs her plate, looks at me to ask 'Will I like this?', and having tasted it stops to say 'Thanks Mum, this is great!!'  All the while she's doing this, Pippi sucks up her share like a vacuum cleaner, then moves across to Dolly's plate and tries to polish that off as well.  And because Dolly is usually talking to me and not really paying attention, Pippi cleans up her dinner.  Mereth uses the excuse that she's a growing girl, but that won't work for much longer; Pips has done her growing up, now she's just going to get wider and heavier I think.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Done, done, done!!

I can't wait to put something new up on the design wall, I've been living with this quilt for months.  I'm really glad to have finished it at last.


I usually start off with a comment about how slack I've been not to post, how busy I've been, how I must do better.  But I won't do that today.  Straight into some photos.

 First up, the Honeycomb quilt, two seams away from completion, pinned and waiting patiently by my sewing machine for the last two days.  I will sew one of those seams before I go to work, as Dog is my witness.  Must see progress......

We go round to our brother's place twice a week for a delicious meal cooked by his lovely wife, and some leisurely conversation.  Not so last Tuesday; SIL Bev was worn out, and not feeling the love for her Christmas tree, so after dinner Mereth and I pitched in to help decorate.  It's fun to rummage through different decorations and she has a fantastic collection of baubles. 
We decided on a red/gold theme and that tree was laden in no time. It needs more work, but we will do that after dinner on Friday. I hate to say my DB sat in a chair and rolled his eyes at our efforts; Christmas Spirit, he haz none.

I will get some good pictures of Bev's Christmas village next time, it's extensive and has lights and two trains, and snow and everything; magical!

We went down to visit Mereth's firstborn son, and went to a few places, no time to tell about that now.  Suffice to say there was fabric acquisition.  Remember when I tried so hard not to buy blue/green/acqua fabrics to finish this quilt?  I snapped, after two years I'm still harbouring a longing for these colours.  I can feel a batik stash coming on.

 These are my usual choices, pink and brown and shirtings, with a bit of green thrown in for luck.

 Notice the dog on the floor?  Faithful girl, always underfoot.  I think she does it to annoy me, so that I take her to the park.

And that seam is sewn, ready to be ironed when I get back from work.  I'm even closer to having a finished project!!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A whole month has gone past since my last post, how slack!  I do like to post interesting photos of my progress on various projects, and there just isn't any progress happening,  so nothing to blog about.  Except work and work and work.

DD Seonaid made a quick trip home, which was lovely, but I failed to get even a single photo while she was here.  We were too busy taking the dogs for walks, shopping, visiting and watching movies late into each night.  Good times anyway, even without photographic evidence.

I've also spent a lot of time in the garden, planting and repotting and making shade structures to protect the plants from the summer sun.  It's hard work now, but it will pay off later when I don't have to water everything so frequently.
I made two wicking beds, which are working brilliantly, and I have plans for two more. One is full of jalpenos, and the other has dwarf beans and tomatoes, silverbeet, spring onions and peppers.  I have a few more poly pipe shade structures to build, And then it will be summer and too hot to work outside so I will have to start sewing again.

Yesterday I made myself sew most of the remaining blocks of the Honeycomb quilt, and it's nearing completion.
My attention span is waning, sewing the same block 300 times.  I still like it, but I'm ready to move onto something else.  With any luck, there are only a few more hours of work ahead, and then I can sew all the rows together and call it done.  I will have to have a major clean up of all the stacks of fabric in the sewing room, and cut all the scraps down into useable pieces.  It will be therapeutic to restore order to my workspace.
What will I work on next?  Something with a bit of variety, but not anything difficult.  Maybe it's time to start something plaid, like JulieK; her quilt is massive, very spectacular. I think she's the Queen of Plaid.  If I made something like that it would certainly whittle my plaids down to manageable proportions.

I'm wondering if  I should do Bonnie's Orca Bay mystery; I might make a few units of each step, so I can have fun sewing along with everyone else, but not commit to a big quilt that I might not have time to finish.

I love these cheerful little Johnny-Jump-Ups, they have been flowering for months.  They self seed, so they'll be back next year too. It's wonderful when plants come up all by themselves, and don't need to be looked after. 


Saturday, October 22, 2011

It was my birthday yesterday, and I had a lovely day, lots of email and texts from friends and family, friends popping in and then dinner at the brother and sister-in-law's place; birthday pizza!  It's Mereth's birthday today, and you can read about why we were born 36 hours apart here, and here.  Happy birthday Sis!!!

I seem to have completed most of the urgent things on my work list, so it will be a weekend spent in the garden and the sewing room I hope. 

This is the herb garden I planted last week, in foam boxes to help insulate the root area from our extreme temperatures.  I arranged them to leave a space in the middle and filled it with earth, which made an even bigger garden bed.  The ground here is century old builder's rubble, not the best growing medium.

We've had some lovely rain, which is a reprieve from the hot days during the week.  I figure it's a little window of opportunity to get some of the larger plants settled into the garden before the really hot days of summer, so that's what I'll focus on first.  Then I will get all the pots into positions where I can cover them with shade cloth on the worst days, and mulch all the areas that normally grow weeds with vicious seedpods that cause the dogs a lot of misery.  In my spare time, I'll clean up my sewing room.

I've already cut a heap of pieces for the elongated hexagon quilt, which had stalled for lack of little triangles; there are plenty now. 
I aim to sew all the blocks into sets of four, then rearrange those on the design wall. 
It should make it a bit easier to manage than the individual blocks.  I'm getting impatient to see it in one piece, and get all the fabrics for it put back in the drawers; I don't want to start anything new until I'm done with this quilt.

We have only 2 and a half months left in this year, and I don't think I've completed nearly enough quilts.  I want to have a mad dash to the end of the year, and get some tops quilted as well as UFOs finished. 
 How long ago did I make these blocks?  I'd completely forgotten them?
All these were on my design wall at some time, I must get back to them, especially the 16 patches.  I could clean out a lot of scraps just by making that simple block.

My first list will be projects that need to be sorted and completed; after that I'll list the tops in the order that I would like them quilted.  The other goal I have is to exceed my 2010 total of 57 posts for the year.  That was pathetic, I know I can do better in the remainder of 2011. Onward!!
Bold Seduction blooming against
 the old stone of my Hall


Sunday, October 16, 2011

I can't take the Shoofly quilt down from my design wall yet, I just love looking at it throughout the day.  I fall asleep looking at it, full of satisfaction at the colour combination and the beautiful geometrics of the block.  The border pleases me greatly too, I love the triangles marching around the centre.  It's wonderful to finish a project and be thoroughly satisfied with the result.  I have to thank that long ago quilter for inspiration, the vendor for selling it and Bonnie for posting that photo that sent me hurrying to make my own version.

Of course I have leftovers, but I will add them to the spare parts pile; something tells me I haven't got this colour combination out of my system yet. (Check out the cute aluminium cannisters from the second hand shop; I just love vintage aluminium.)

Friday was a mental health day.  It was a stormy start, I was racing around on my bike with lightning and thunder overhead, and rain bucketing down at intervals.  When I stopped to deliver things people sympathised with me for the awful conditions, but I loved it.  If I was at home working I would be inside and not aware of the fantastic clouds, the alternating hot and cold air, the strange gusts of wind from the east.  It was amazing, and I got paid to be out there witnessing it.  Good stuff.

When I got home Mereth had been working at her machine for seeral hours, finishing a customer quilt, and was ready to run away with me to Jamestown.  We dropped the dogs off at Matt's, then were off on our little adventure.  We always go to the op-shop there, where I fell in love with this vase;
it's signed by Henning Rathjen (1903 - 1968), a Melbourne potter, and his work is collectible.  I really like those daisies around the rim.  I  love being able to Google things and find out more info. 

We stopped in at the patchwork shop of course, to find a few essential pieces.
Over a long period I've bought three half-metres of the bottom cream fabric,and used all of it; I decided that I need to buy the rest of the bolt, or I'd regret it ever afterwards.  I feel safe now, knowing I have that in the stash.
I couldn't resist getting a half metre of this fabric, just because.  It will go in with all my other Pretties, and one day I'll know what to do with it.

We went to a couple of hardware stores for plants and bits & bobs, and the supermarket, then splashed out on excellent coffee for the trip home.

On the way we got thoroughly sidetracked by the clouds and the extraordinary light on the fields.  We kept exclaiming, and pointing things out to each other, and stopping the car to take photos.  We pulled off the road at one spot, and saw a tiny track over the hills that we had never noticed before. 
It only took a moment to decide that we didn't have to go straight home, and that we could go and get 'lost' for an hour or two.

It was a great day to be driving on country tracks, not knowing where we were exactly and not really caring. 
There were lots of other roads to explore, but we had to leave them for another day. 

We stopped at a farm to ask for directions back to main road, and admired this mare and foal. 

The owner told us he was a pretty blue when he was born, and keeps changing colour as he gets older.  He's destined for racing, and he's got the legs for it.

The clouds got darker, and the light stranger, so we hightailed it home ahead of this cloud.

It looked like something from Lord of the Rings, threatening and portenteous, and coming in fast.  We outran it though, and by the time we'd picked up the dogs and arrived home there was just a few minutes of rain left in it.  We had a splendid day out, very refreshing, and now I'm ready to do some hard work in the garden.  Thank heavens for weekends.

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