Block of the Whenever #5

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…)

Home!

Actually, I’ve been home for a few days, but DD was down.

I had an amazing time in France (and Spain) – had a million adventures, which I might even get round to writing up one day (yeah, I always promise that, but we know it’s never going to happen…)

I did manage to film a few videos though, so in case you’re not one of my 11 YouTube subscribers (yep, I’m totally famous now!), here they are:

No more sleeps

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:

  1. There was barely enough of it to make a mouthful
  2. 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)
  3. 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:

So, about that slowing down

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?

Voiceless

I 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!

 

You’re not going to believe this…

…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:

Dragons in the Avon

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…

When the government forces you to lie

Thanks, StatsNZ!

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…

Cucumber sandwiches and a chicken in a tree

I spent this afternoon with Harvestbird and the mini-Harvestbirds at a garden party hosted by Dorothy’s pop-up tearooms (i.e. my friend Jan, who catered my graduation party).  After cold and wet weather earlier in the week, it was a lovely afternoon sitting under the trees eating scones and cucumber sandwiches and an array of incredible cakes.  I taught the mini-Harvestbirds (plus an additional small child from a neighbouring picnic blanket) how to play petanque, but was called away from the grand championship game by Jan, to tell me I’d won a prize in the raffle: a seriously cool pair of teapot and measuring tape earrings (quilts and tea – it’s like they were made for me. Just add some cats and books, and they’d be perfect :-) )

I think the highlight for the mini-Harvestbirds was the chicken they spotted perched high in a tree (the venue was out in the semi-countryside on the edge of town). Much excited shouting of “there’s a chicken in the tree” later, they had quite a crowd of adults gathered to see the phenomenon (mutter, mutter, city people, mutter, mutter…)

The elder mini-Harvestbird was moved to compose a song about the chicken, which younger mini-Harvestbird accompanied with interpretive dance.

Hmm, I really should have videoed it, shouldn’t I?  But as you can probably tell, it was a very impassioned performance.

A very pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.


Talking of cucumbers, my little cucumber plants are struggling on, despite the cooler weather.  The leaves seem to be starting to die off, but despite that the plants keep valiantly producing flowers, and the actual cucumbers have more than doubled in size.  This would be more impressive if they hadn’t started out microscopic – the largest is now about 2 cm long.

Any bets on the chances of it reaching edible size before winter? Nah, thought not.

Even more incredibly, the watermelon has suddenly taken off. I realised yesterday that suddenly it wasn’t just the couple of leaves it’s been all summer – it’s grown a longish vine which is using the neighbouring mint plants for support. A vine with little buds on the end of it:

And when I got home this afternoon, those little buds had turned into watermelon flowers!

Definitely not holding my breath for actual fruit though.


As I was taking the photo of the watermelon, Parsnips really really wanted me to pay attention to her. This mostly took the form of meowing loudly and flopping dramatically on the step in front of me. Except she totally misjudged how close she was to the wall, so only her front half managed to flop, and the back was left slightly propped against the wall:

Most cats would have moved to a more comfortable position, but once Parsnips commits to a flop, she really commits.  She stayed in that position for as long as I was out there, twisting her head into maximum “aren’t I cute, now pay attention!” position while her back legs stayed standing on the lower step

Strange cat.

Block of the Whenever #4

Another very traditional block, the Ohio Star.  But unlike the other blocks I’ve made so far, which have just used two fabrics (plus the background), this time I’m adding a third fabric:


Technically you can make an Ohio Star with just two colours (or even one, if you kept the central square the same as the points), but I think it looks much better with three.

What you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square

Solid 1: one 4 1/4 inch square

Solid 2: two 4 1/4 inch squares

Background: four 3 1/2 inch squares and one 4 1/4 inch square

Pair one green* square with the pink* square, and the other with the large background square.

(*Obviously, you don’t have to use green and pink – I just can’t be bothered writing “solid 1” and “solid 2” every time.  If the fact that your colours are different than mine is too confusing for you, possibly quilting is not the craft for you…)

This is another way of making half-square triangles.  It only makes two at a time, which actually works out nicely for this block, and also doesn’t end up with bias edges on your block like the four-at-a-time method.

Draw a diagonal line across each pair (the line doesn’t show up very well in the photo, but I could see it pretty clearly in person), and stitch quarter of an inch either side of the line.

Cut along the drawn line and iron open, to get two half-square triangles of each colour combination.

Now take each green/pink HST, and pair with a green/background HST, with the diagonals running the same direction, and the green on opposite sides.

Draw a diagonal line in the opposite direction, and sew quarter of an inch on either side of the line.

Cut along the lines and iron open, and you’ll have four quarter-square triangles.

The quarter-square triangles should end up 3 1/2 inches square.  Trim off the dog ears, and lay out the block.

Sew together as a nine-patch, and you’ve got your Ohio Star.

A couple of my points didn’t line up perfectly (there’s a lot of fabric coming together in those corners), so I did consider unpicking that last seam and trying again, but it won’t really be noticeable once it’s part of a big quilt, so I decided to follow the most important quilting rule of all: “Finished is better than perfect”

The fridge magnet was a free gift thrown in with my last order from the Missouri Star** Quilt Company, and lives on the filing cabinet next to my cutting mat – it’s a useful reminder sometimes, when I feel the obsessive perfectionism gene I inherited from Granny trying to come out – luckily it’s nicely balanced by my inherent laziness :-)

(**There seems to be a star block named after every state in the USA (now there’s an idea for an overly-ambitious sampler quilt for someone!).  I’m sure a few more will end up in this quilt, though maybe not the Missouri Star – I think it might be a bit too complex to work well at this scale.  Maybe if I run out of simpler blocks…)