It’s been a wet and miserable Queen’s Birthday weekend, so, apart from venturing out to buy baking supplies (so I could make muffins to take into work tomorrow – we’re having an all-day planning meeting, so I think treats will definitely be needed), and to go to Riccarton to see Solo (my first impressions verdict: it’s a fun enough movie that I can mostly ignore the bad bits), I’ve spent the long weekend at home. Which meant lots of sewing time. So two new Block of the Whenever blocks finished.
The first block is a pretty simple one, called a Shoofly. It’s similar to the Churn Dash, but without the bars around the edges. I was even able to use the leftovers of the 10-inch square I used for that block to fussy-cut a centre again, but I paired it with a different solid fabric this time.
I used a different technique to make the half-square triangles, though, to avoid the problem of bias edges. So to make this block you’ll need:
Print: one 3 1/2 inch square
Solid: two 4 inch squares
Background: two 4 inch squares, and four 3 1/2 inch squares
Pair each solid square with one of the larger background squares, right sides together, and mark a line from corner to corner. This is the same technique I used to make the quarter-square triangles for the Ohio Star, but this time I’m stopping when I get to the half-square triangles.
Stitch quarter of an inch away from each side of the line. (By the way, sorry about the poor lighting for these photos – I normally use the natural light from the window to take the in-progress shots, but it was such a grey day there wasn’t a lot of light coming in).
Cut along the marked lines, and press open.
Trim the HSTs to 3 1/2 inch squares, and cut off the dog ears.
And that’s all the components made.
Sew the squares together into a nine-patch, and you have a Shoofly block:
Sorry about the radio silence again. For some reason (I’m blaming the weird time zone in Spain and southern France), I actually got hit with a bit of jet-lag this time (normally I’m pretty good at avoiding it), and that combined with the usual post-holiday slump, and the grey weather, left me feeling pretty unmotivated since I got home. I’m starting to come right now though, and even felt inspired to do some sewing this afternoon (as you probably gathered from the previous post).
Anyway, I suspect this isn’t going to be a coherent blog post, just a collection of random paragraphs.
My sprained thumb is still pretty sore (not helped by the fact that I keep forgetting that it’s sprained, and over-using it). It’s fine for most things, but then every so often there’s something it just has no strength for – like turning on taps or doing up zips. According to the bit of googling I did, sprains usually heal in around 6 weeks, so hopefully it will come right soon (or, at least, it would if I could remember to look after it!)
On Friday night I went to the Free Theatre’s production of Tom Waits’s Alice. I’d expected it to be a strange play, especially because the Free Theatre has a reputation for doing pretty extreme things with their staging, but it turned out to be an even stranger experience than even the actors expected, when a member of the audience had a grand mal seizure in the middle of the play. At first I assumed it was just part of the play (it did sort of fit the scene, in a strange way), but it went on a bit too long, and then I realised that the actor playing Alice (who was in the middle of a monologue) was starting to cast worried glances towards the back of the audience (it’s a very small theatre), and eventually one of the other actors came out and stopped her, and they put the lights up so that the man could be carried out into the foyer (and, they told us later, taken to the hospital, which is only just down the road from the theatre). There was an unplanned intermission while that was all happening, so we were chatting to the people sitting on either side of us, and they both sheepishly said the same thing, that they’d at first thought it was just part of the play too.
It probably says something about how weird the production was that someone having a seizure in the audience seems a perfectly plausible bit of staging. But it also says something about how deeply conditioned we are by “correct” behaviour in the theatre, that even once we all started to suspect it wasn’t part of the play and that something was actually wrong, we all still just sat there politely, not wanting to interrupt the performance.
The play eventually got back underway, and despite being weird, it was actually pretty good. Because of the interruption it was very late by the time it ended, though, so I missed the last bus – or at least, the last bus that would have taken me all the way home – I managed to get a bus as far as the university and walked home from there.
It turned out to be quite a dramatic night over this way, too. As I was walking along Memorial Ave, I was passed by several police cars going at very high speed with lights and sirens. And then a bit further along at Burnside High, there were alarms going off in the school, and a police car sitting in the shadows outside the back entrance, with an officer in the car watching the entrance very intently – I assume waiting for whoever had caused the alarms to go off to try and escape out the back way. (It turned out later that there’d been an arson at the school – as that article says the police are talking to “persons of interest”, I suspect the officer’s patience might have been rewarded.)
The rest of the weekend was pretty sedate in comparison. The only other strange occurrence (well, strange for Christchurch, anyway, where we don’t have many Jewish people) was a knock on my door last night from a person holding an unlit candle and asking if I’d lit my fire yet. He explained that he was Jewish, and that he couldn’t light the candle because of the Sabbath, but that he also couldn’t ask someone else to light it for him, he could only use a flame that was already lit (Yetzirah, I’m sure you can tell me if I misunderstood what he was telling me?). Hence him wandering around the neighbourhood knocking on doors in the hope that someone had a fire going in their house. I hadn’t lit the fire yet (it had been a sunny day and was only just starting to get cold), so I wasn’t able to help – hopefully he found a neighbour who’d felt the cold sooner than me, otherwise he was going to be in for a very dark night.
This block is called a LeMoyne Star. Well, sort of. A proper LeMoyne Star uses a horribly complicated sounding technique called Y-seams, which I might try mastering one day, but not today. So this is a cheat’s version, that (apart from the seams running through the diamonds) ends up looking exactly the same as a proper LeMoyne Star, but uses half-square triangles instead of scary Y-seams.
I used the same four-at-a-time method for making half-square triangles that I did for the Dutch Pinwheel. And just as for that block, all those bias edges made life a bit difficult, so I probably should have chosen a different method, but seeing as I needed four half-square triangles in each colour combination, it was the most convenient way of doing them.
What you need:
Print: two 4 1/2 inch squares
Solid: two 4 1/2 inch squares
Background: two 4 1/2 inch squares, and four 2 3/4 inch squares
Match one print square to a solid square, the other print square to a large background square, and the other solid square and large background square to each other. Stitch each pair right sides together with a quarter inch seam around the edges.
Cut along the diagonals.
And press open.
Cut off the dog ears, and trim to 2 3/4 inches square.
Lay out the block, and sew together as a sixteen patch, in the same way as the Dutch Pinwheel.
The final result gives a reasonably convincing illusion (as long as you don’t look too closely) of the block having been constructed with diamonds rather than half-square triangles.
I’m not 100% happy with my block – I didn’t think carefully enough about how the seams would lie, so a couple of the points ended up a bit bulky on the back, which could be annoying when I come to quilt it. But I really like the overall effect of the block (and maybe one day I’ll get brave enough to experiment with Y-seams so I can sew one properly…)
My bags are packed, my tickets are printed, the house is clean, and now all there is to do is wait a few hours until Lytteltonwitch and her son come to pick me up to go to the airport. Evening flights do have the advantage of not having to get up at eek-o’clock in the morning to be at the airport on time, but there’s a lot more sitting around saying “Is it time to go yet? How about now?”
Actually, it’s a good thing we weren’t leaving this morning, because there was a huge storm in Auckland overnight, and they had to shut the airport. And the first leg of our flight is via Auckland. Luckily though the winds dropped enough this morning that they re-opened the runways, so all is clear for the flight (though that first flight might be a bit bumpy – there’s a decent southerly blowing in Christchurch as well (and it’s raining and hailing and bitterly cold – winter has arrived with a bang), so I suspect there’ll be an interesting amount of turbulence.)
I’m sure I have been doing all sorts of interesting things since I last posted, but everything seems to have been pushed out of my mind by the whole I’M GOING TO FRANCE thing. I know there was a day of playing Lego with the mini-Harvestbirds (we built a shop for princesses to work in. It sold ice-cream and toffee apples. Because why wouldn’t it.), and I went to another recording of the Nerd Degree with Jacq and their partner (who was one of the panelists, which was cool), and an attempt at a Dog Boy viewing (except the person with the DVDs wasn’t available, so we watched Hot Fuzz instead), and lunch with people, and “we should catch up except I’ve run out of time, so maybe when I get back” with other people, and generally a very busy few days.
Oh, and the Tiniest Cucumber actually grew! Not much, but huge compared to the last photo I took of it. So given that winter is rapidly approaching so it probably wouldn’t get much chance to grow any bigger, and that I’m going away for a month, I decided it was time to pick and eat it.
I can report that:
There was barely enough of it to make a mouthful
It tasted like a cucumber (though a little bitter still – probably needed a bit more sunshine (or at least a greenhouse) to get properly ripe)
It smelt like the cucumberiest cucumber ever – totally amazing!
The other tiny cucumber has also made a brave attempt at growing, but only at one end. One end of it is still the size it’s been for weeks, but the other end has fattened up and become quite spherical.
I decided to leave it on the vine as an experiment. By the time I get back from France, it will either have grown properly, or the entire plant will have withered up from the cold. But no matter what, at least I’ve proven that, against all likelihood, it is possible to grow a (very small) cucumber from seed in a small pot on the doorstep in Christchurch. Just don’t expect enough for a salad…
My experiment with vlogging seems to have been well received (although I did get a few comments that it was very long – I totally agree! I had to sit through the whole thing many many times while I was editing it, and it was way too long!). I even had two people subscribe to my YouTube channel! (Does this make me a proper YouTuber now that I have actual subscribers? Only about 999,998 subscribers to go before I can give up my day job…).
As a result, I’m going to try and film a few more vlogs (much shorter ones, I promise!) while we’re in France. I found an app that will let me do the editing on my phone (it can’t do as many fancy things as the one I was using on my computer, but can do the basic stuff), so that in theory I’ll be able to edit and upload videos as I go, which means they won’t end up in that infinite pile of travel photos and blogs I’ve never got round to editing/uploading from previous trips. No promises though – I may be having way too much fun just experiencing travel to want to document it. But keep an eye on my YouTube channel just in case
And for your amusement in the meantime, here’s a video of Parsnips I made while testing out video-editing apps:
I really have been trying to take it a bit easier and look after myself, honestly! I even took a couple of days off sick last week to get over the worst of this cold (though it’s still lingering a bit – I feel fine, but my voice is still really scratchy). Of course, the temptation to use the long weekend achieving all the things was very strong.
After work on Thursday night I went out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group that I met during Pride week. They seem to be a really friendly group of people, so I think I’ll keep going along to their meetups (once I get back from France, at least – the next couple of meetups are while I’m away). It feels like time to start expanding my social circles again, now that I’ve stopped going to Toastmasters.
Friday I did spend reasonably quietly (enforced by the shops being shut for Good Friday) – after getting the housework out of the way, I spent most of the rest of the day just sitting outside reading. See, resting!
Saturday, however, was a getting things done day. First stop was the supermarket – normally I try and go on the way home from work, but having been off sick I hadn’t had a chance, so I was running out of everything. Of course, I managed to mistime it so that I had to wait half an hour for a bus (or take a different bus and have a long walk with heavy bags at the other end, but see trying to rest as much as possible), but it was a nice day and I had a book with me, so that wasn’t too much of a hardship. It did mean that pretty much as soon as I got home and got the groceries put away I had to dash out again, because I had a long list of things to get done in Riccarton, plus I was meeting a friend for afternoon tea.
I managed to get everything done in Riccarton with the minimum of stress (well, apart from the usual long weekend, the shops were shut yesterday so everyone’s in a panic that they’ll never be able to shop again, the mall is totally packed sort of stress, but that was to be expected). The trickiest bit was trying to find a birthday present for Niece – I did brave a few of the terribly pink and demanding-of-gender-conformity toy aisles, and even visited that temple of tween consumerism Smiggle (where I was both disgusted and slightly impressed by the cleverness of the way they display their prices – or rather, don’t display prices for most of their stock. None of the items have individual price tags, but are instead listed on (very small) sign boards on each shelf, making it near impossible to match an item to its price. The only solution is to take the item up to the counter and ask for the price, which I’m sure is the downfall for many parents, because by the time you’ve got the over-priced pencil case your child is begging for to the counter, it’s going to be difficult to tell the child that no, it’s actually too expensive. The psychology of it is brilliant. The ethics, not so much.) In the end, I had to retreat from all the pink glitter, and took solace in Whitcoulls, where I found a copy of Go Girl, Barbara Else’s new storybook about exceptional NZ women, which seemed a much more palatable choice of gift (to me, anyway – I suspect Niece would have preferred the pink glitter unicorns in Smiggle).
After all the shopping, I met up with Jenette at Coffee Culture for tea and cake, and lots of really interesting conversation. But why is it I always seem to make friends with people just before they leave the country? She’s moving back to Ireland in July, and seeing as I’m going to be away until May, we won’t have a lot of opportunities to catch up before she goes. Oh well, it’s still nice to meet new and interesting people.
Dad had messaged me to say they’d be passing through Christchurch on their way south from Nelson, and that he also was on a birthday-present-buying mission, so I’d arranged to meet him at the mall once he got to Christchurch. I’d thought I’d need to kill some time waiting, but Jenette and I had talked for so long that the timing worked out perfectly – I just had time to race in and buy myself new gymshoes and then it was time to meet Dad. He was much more decisive than me about present-buying – we went into the kids’ clothing department at Farmers, he picked out a couple of items of the correct size off pretty much the first rack we saw, and I reckon we were out in the carpark again within about 5 minutes. That’s the kind of shopping I aspire to!
Shopping accomplished, we picked up Stepmother and Stepsister, and (after being enthusiastically greeted by all of Stepsister’s dogs – she only has three, but somehow they always seem like a lot more than that!) we went over to a pub in St Martins for dinner. A pleasant end to a very busy day.
Lytteltonwitch had proposed a road trip for Easter Sunday, and texted me to suggest Kaikoura. It turned out she had an ulterior motive, because the town had recently been yarn-bombed, and she wanted to document it to send to her European yarn-bombing accomplices. I didn’t mind though, because I haven’t been up to Kaikoura since their earthquake, and I was interested to see how things had changed, and in particular the changes to the seashore (where the seabed has been uplifted by several metres in some places). Plus our road trips are always fun, no matter the destination.
Despite there still being a lot of road works, Kaikoura was full of tourists, and seems to be well on the way to recovering from the earthquake. The damage to the land itself is still very visible in places, with huge scars on the hills from the landslides, but the town itself doesn’t seem to be greatly changed. The yarn bombers had been hard at work, and pretty much every post and railing (plus a park bench and a bicycle!) had been decorated, so we had a very slow walk along the main street while Lytteltonwitch took photos of them all.
In the rush to get organised to leave first thing, I’d neglected to take my big camera, so while we were wandering around the shore I was experimenting with my phone’s camera (see above). This led to experimenting with the video, which led to joking about being a vlogger now instead of a blogger. So we proceeded to film a “totally professional” vlog, which lasted all the way back to Christchurch (and was over 2 hours long, and used up all the battery power and almost all the memory on my phone). Which I then spent most of today trying to cut down into something of a (slightly) more watchable length (ok, and playing round with adding silly title cards and stuff as well). Don’t think I’ll be giving up blogging for vlogging in a hurry (though it might be fun to try it again occasionally – I definitely learnt a lot from the process of making this one (mostly what NOT to do )) – it takes even longer to edit a vlog than it does for me to edit all the photos for a blog entry!
For your viewing pleasure:
Sitting at a computer all day editing video counts as resting, right?
really shouldn’t be surprised that I’m sick – given how madly I’ve been running about both at work and socially for the last year or two, a crash was pretty much inevitable. And, as usual, it’s the pressure coming off a bit (with QuakeStudies 2.0 finally finished, so that, although my to-do list at work is still impossibly long, at least it doesn’t feel quite as urgent) that was the final straw. My body has come to the conclusion that if I have time to breathe then I’ve got time to be sick, so gone on strike.
Actually, it’s a bit self-inflicted, too. If I’d actually slowed down properly when I started getting sick, I’d probably be over it by now, but of course I didn’t. I took last Monday off, but then all my sensibleness went out the window – I decided I couldn’t possibly take Tuesday off because I had a student coming in that afternoon (and plus I wanted to go to the Bookcrossing meetup in the evening, which I’d feel guilty going to if I’d been off work sick), and then I had some work I really needed to get done on Wednesday, and meetings I couldn’t skip on Thursday, and… (yes Mum, I can hear you from here saying “They’d have to cope without you if you were run over by a bus, so they can cope without you when you’re sick”, but unfortunately you instilled too much of a work ethic in me, so guilt always wins out over sickness). And then, just to add to the not-resting-ness, after work on Friday I dashed out to the airport so I could see Dana off (she’s moving to Japan), and then had to race home because I had tickets to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and Comedians (the sequel to the show I went to with the Gwilks last month, and just as good as that one) and there was no way I was missing that, so yeah… by Saturday my slight cold had developed into full-on feeling rotten, and I’d completely lost my voice (like, I could barely emit a whisper).
I at least spent this weekend mostly resting, other than a little essential housework and grocery shopping, and my voice has partly come back, but of course I’m back at work today (I’m caught in that “I don’t feel sick enough to stay home, but once I’ve made the effort to get to work I feel awful” trap), so I’m probably undoing all the good effort of the weekend. Just as long as I’m recovered before we leave for France!
…but I’ve actually finished the Birds in Flight quilt! I made the binding for it last weekend, and then took advantage of the fact that I have a cold and it was raining yesterday to spend the day doing as little as possible other than sitting watching videos while hand-stitching the binding down (yes, I’m a glutton for punishment, but it looks so much better when it’s hand sewn compared to just top-stitching it).
And here’s the result (with bonus Parsnips in the background – I didn’t notice her there while I was taking the photos):
Other than the fact that I really should have added an extra strip of background fabric around the edges so that the birds aren’t so close to the binding, I’m really happy with how it turned out. I had a few doubts about my choice to use a scrappy binding while I was sewing it on, but now that I see it as a whole I like it again. And I’m really pleased with how the quilting looks, especially the contrast between the background and the birds.
(The duck is definitely my favourite bird on the quilt – I’m not normally a fan of orange, but something about the way the different fabrics combined just works here)
I love the way the quilting around the birds makes them show up on the back, too:
And talking of the back, here’s the full effect of the rainbow stripe (which, yes, is a bit askew. It wasn’t supposed to be, and I thought I’d lined everything up correctly when I basted the quilt, but obviously not…)
Other than the slight slant, the back turned out exactly as I’d hoped. In fact, I think I almost like it more than the front.
Just as I was finishing taking the photos, the sun finally came out, so here’s a couple of shots to show off how bright those colours look:
Not bad for three year’s and two month’s work (I checked, and I started it in January 2015).
And finally, just for the pretty, an artistic-type shot of the back:
Last weekend was the Lantern Festival, so on Sunday night I met up with Lytteltonwitch and (after a detour to watch Loving Vincent (which was… interesting? I liked the concept, and it was very pretty, but I thought the sound was badly done – it sounded too much like a radio play, and didn’t connect properly with the pictures (by which I don’t mean it wasn’t in sync, it’s just that it somehow didn’t sound like it was coming from inside the scenes – I’m sure there’s a technical term for that…) which kept pulling me out of the story) at Alice’s (and is this the worst example of nested brackets totally messing up the parsability of a sentence ever? Sorry!)), we wandered through the Square and along the river to see the lanterns all lit up.
I’ve heard a few complaints about how crowded it was, but I don’t think it was that bad. Some of the queues for the food and activity stalls were quite long, but you just had to be patient (or pick one of the stalls with shorter queues). And there were a few bottlenecks where construction areas are still cordoned off, but again, just a matter of patience. I just thought it was wonderful that finally we have enough of the city back that we can have the Lantern Festival in the CBD again and not hidden away in a corner of Hagley Park as it has been for the last few years. And it’s still enough of a novelty to have actual crowds in the city centre I can’t help enjoying it when it happens.
On Saturday Gwilk finally managed to get everyone back together for another attempt at our long-neglected Dungeons and Dragons game. It was a lot of fun (Thokk (my character) spent most of the evening being nasty to Mrs Gwilk’s character, after she inadvertently insulted Thokk’s parents. I *think* Mrs Gwilk got that it was all just role playing…), so hopefully it won’t be another year before we manage another game.
Hmm, I seem to be telling the story of my recent adventures backwards again. So, to continue the theme, let’s skip back a few more days.
Last Thursday I went to a really interesting panel discussion put on by UC’s FemSoc club, on the topic of the #MeToo movement. The panel included victims, educators, and politicians, and had some really thoughtful things to say about how society and the justice system is failing victims of sexual abuse, and the difficult question of how to fix the problem. There was a surprisingly respectful audience discussion afterwards, and it sounded like the evening might have some good outcomes in terms of the university looking more closely at its policies around harassment and abuse.
And I was out on Wednesday as well, at another recording of the Nerd Degree with Jacq and their partner. It was, as always, incredibly funny, although I thought it took longer than last time to properly warm up. Darcy, another former LING student (and who helped me with the graphs for my thesis, so will forever be my hero for her R-ninjaness) came along too, so it was nice to see her again.
So quite a social week last week! Plus we’re in the middle of interviewing for a couple of new positions for the Lab, and I’m on the interview panel for both of them, so it’s been busy at work as well. Thankfully this week has been a bit quieter on the social side at least – there’s been a lot of just coming home and crashing in the evenings.
I haven’t forgotten about my Block of the Whenever quilt (and I definitely haven’t run out of ideas – I’ve got a long list of blocks I want to try next), but I decided I needed to get on with the quilting on the Birds in Flight quilt before I lost track of what I was doing. And the exciting news is, I finished all the quilting!!! No photos yet, because I still need to put the binding on, but it’s getting much closer to a finished quilt. Not bad for three and a bit years’ work…
Actually, I heard from a reliable source that the internal recommendation from Statistics NZ was to include an “other” category, but it was rejected by higher powers (read: the Minister) because it would cost too much, and there’s not that many trans*/gender diverse people in NZ anyway (except of course the question has never been asked in the census, so nobody knows what the true proportion is), plus what about all those people who’d write in a silly answer and mess up the statistics? (to which the only response is what about all the people who now can’t answer that question accurately, so have to give an untrue/incomplete answer, and mess up the statistics?)
I know a lot of trans*/gender diverse people are protesting by requesting a paper form and writing in their gender, but I wasn’t organised enough to do that in time, and anyway, I do actually like the idea in principle of an on-line census (as long as it’s backed up by paper forms for those who don’t have a computer/internet access, of course). So I just had to tell a lie to the government.
And then there’s the whole NZ European/Pākehā issue…