A quick photo before it rains again

I finished off the binding on Monday night, but pretty much every evening this week that I’ve been home before dark it’s been too wet to hang the quilt on the line so I could photograph it (and I really wanted to take the photo outside in natural light). It’s supposed to rain again this morning, but while it’s daylight and the rain is still holding off, I dashed out for a quick photo.

I’m pretty pleased with how this quilt turned out, considering it was just supposed to be a practice run at making a really big quilt (it’s big enough to use on my queen-size bed (which I actually did on Monday night, when we had a sudden cold snap, and I couldn’t be bothered swapping out my summer-weight duvet for the winter one, so I just threw the just-finished quilt over the top for a bit of extra warmth), though, because it’s square, not quite long enough to go over the pillows).  The quilting isn’t perfect (and there’s quite a few wrinkles on the back, because of my struggles to find somewhere to lay it out flat to baste it – I’ve since found instructions for a better way to baste big quilts using a table, so I might try that next time), but the overall effect is pretty good, so I’m happy enough with it (and even happier that the things I learnt will mean I do a better job next time, which was the whole point of making a practice quilt).

What I’m most proud of is the border.  The main design of the quilt came out of some experimenting I was doing with snowballing pinwheels.  The block that emerged was (to me) reminiscent of a flower, so I decided to make a “Flower Garden” quilt, with a field of flowers on a green background.  As I was making the blocks, I decided the off-cuts from the snowballing were too interesting to throw away, so I played round with them and came up with the zig-zaggy triangles border pattern, which is my favourite part of the whole quilt (though I also quite like the negative space between the flowers – I might have to experiment with that a bit more in another quilt…)

So there you have it: my first ever designed-it-entirely-myself-totally-from-scratch quilt.  And my first finished big quilt.

Scrappy bits

So much for my good intentions of regularly posting to my blog – that seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit!  Partly because I’ve been busy (last week I went to Toastmasters on Tuesday night, my craft group on Thursday night, and a union Rainbow Te Kahukura function on Friday night.  And this week there’s Toastmasters on Tuesday (which I’m meant to be giving a speech at – I’d better do some practising!), then a Women’s March Aotearoa kōrero on Wednesday, and I’m going to a movie with Lytteltonwitch on Friday (theoretically I should also be going to the craft group on Thursday, but four nights out in a row seems a bit excessive!).  I really need to slow down a bit, don’t I? :-) ), but mostly it’s because I wanted to report progress on my Flower Garden quilt, but it’s too hard to take a decent photo of it, so I’ve been putting it off until it’s finished, which means I’ve also been putting off blogging.

So instead, here’s a not decent photo of the quilt, all folded up and waiting for me to have a quiet evening or three to hand-stitch the binding down.

Which means yes, the quilting is finally finished! It took way longer than I expected – I’d underestimated just how much area a full size quilt has, and it’s not the sort of project you can work on for 10 minutes at a time – you really need to spend an hour or so (or I do, anyway) to get properly into the rhythm of the quilting. Which means you have to have lots of hour or so long chunks of time free, and see above for how that hasn’t really been happening. But anyway, I finished the quilting last weekend, then made the binding yesterday, so now I just have to do the hand-stitching bit (I could machine sew the binding down, but I struggle to keep it looking neat even on a small quilt, so I thought it’s probably safest to hand sew this one, rather than trying to struggle with sewing a super-accurate tiny hem on such a huge heavy quilt!)

While I was making the binding, I started playing with the little scraps I was cutting off the fabric, which led to more playing with the collection of tiny bits in my scrap basket (and adding in a few stray blocks I’d made while experimenting with some other ideas), which evolved into the beginnings of an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for ages – a truly scrappy quilt, with no pattern, just randomly throwing together whatever scraps I had to hand, whether they go together or not.  A bit like what I did when I made my hot water bottle cover, but on a bigger scale, and with a bit of inspiration drawn from Deb Robertson’s exhibition of scrappy quilts (which I didn’t make time to go and see in person, and really wish I had!), and from this quilt (though mine is made up of *much* smaller pieces!).  By the end of the day yesterday I had several decent-sized blocks:

They’re all different sizes, and I haven’t squared them up properly, but the idea is that I’ll build them up until they’re the same height at least, then I can sew them together into a row, and continue the process until I’ve got a quilt.  It’s going to be ugly and scrappy, and completely uncoordinated, with hardly a straight line in sight, but hopefully the overall effect will be something cool (and if not, who cares – the only fabric it’s costing me is bits I would have thrown out otherwise, and it’ll still do its job of keeping someone warm).  And in the meantime, I’m having fun, and learning a lot.

22nd

Today was the sixth anniversary of the 22 February earthquake.  The big event for the day was the unveiling of the new memorial wall, much discussed and debated over the last few years.  We needed a blog post for CEISMIC, so I offered to go to the ceremony and write up my impressions.  I won’t repeat what I wrote there, but, just because it’s pretty, here’s another photo from the ceremony that didn’t make it into the official blog:

And a sign I was amused by when I stopped to get lunch on my way back to work (do you think maybe someone was feeling a bit frustrated by the endless roadworks?):


I was quite glad to have the excuse to sit under a tree and just listen to speeches and music for a large chunk of today, because last night was my Toastmasters club’s speech competition, and somehow (for “somehow”, read “because I’m useless at saying no to people”) I got roped into being the contest chair.  Which was kind of stressful, because apparently our last competition (which I’d missed) was a complete shambles, so there was a lot of pressure to get everything right this time (especially as we had guests from other clubs present!).  Luckily, there’s a script to follow for a lot of the chairing (because things like how you introduce the contestants and explain the rules are all tightly regulated), but there was still a shaky moment when I almost forgot to allow the judges time between contestants to fill out their score cards (ok, I actually did forget, but luckily someone sitting in the front row realised what I was about to do, and managed to signal me in time).

Anyway, it all went pretty well in the end, but it was a long night, and I was feeling exhausted when I got home.  So it was nice to have a relatively quiet day today!


I’ve made a bit of progress on the flower garden quilt. It’s slow going though, having to stop so often to shift the heavy quilt around. It’s made me realise I need a more ergonomic setup for my sewing machine, because after a few hours of working on it at the weekend I was hurting in all sorts of places. I might have to look at getting a proper sewing table that’s at the right height, instead of just using the desk.

I haven’t taken a proper photo of progress so far, because that would involve moving furniture again so I could spread it out properly, but here’s a sneak peak of the folded-up version. I’ve pretty much just got the border area to quilt (you normally start in the centre and work gradually outwards when you’re quilting), which doesn’t seem much, but is actually a lot of surface area.

I’m getting impatient to get it finished, because I there’s so many other projects I want to start.  Not that having one project on the go has ever prevented me from starting another, but I’ve got the sewing machine set up to do free-motion quilting at the moment, so I don’t want to have to keep switching it back and forth between that and normal sewing (hmm, the solution here is obviously to have multiple sewing machines, each set up for a different function ;-))

In the meantime, as an outlet for my “I want to start something new!” frustration, I made another dishcloth, so that I’ll have a spare for when the first one needs washing.  I didn’t have enough of the multi-coloured wool to make a whole cloth, and I haven’t figured out yet how to change wools when crocheting, so I decided to knit it rather than crochet this time.

Knitting is definitely one of those skills that falls under the category of “technically I know how to do it, but I’m pretty rubbish at it in reality”, so it’s a bit all over the place in terms of tension (and definitely in terms of casting on, which I kind of forgot how to do so just made it up as I went along), but again, it’s a dishcloth. It’s going in the sink, so perfection is definitely not required.  So despite its many flaws, I’m counting it as a success :-)

One finished, one started

I finished binding the hedgehog quilt (which I think I should call Heidi Hedgehog, seeing as the original pattern I pinched the idea from was called Hazel Hedgehog)

I’m really pleased with how it turned out – free-motion quilting is definitely a lot easier since I got the sewing machine repaired and can actually control the speed properly, and the gloves and slip mat really help a lot too. I feel like every quilt I do, I learn a little bit more – there’s still plenty of things I could improve on (like don’t look too closely at the stitch lengths, which are still all over the place!), but I’m getting there.

And talking of learning, I started to quilt the big flower garden quilt, and that is definitely a learning experience! Just figuring out how to arrange that much fabric in a way that the weight of it doesn’t drag on the bit you’re working on, but so you can still move it around, takes a lot of trial and error. I started off with the bits I wasn’t working on rolled up (and kind of pegged into place, because I don’t have any of the fancy clips the pros use), but I gave up on that after a while, because it made the quilt too stiff and hard to move. Having the bit under the machine loosely rolled, and the rest just sort of pushed up around me so I was working in a kind of nest seemed to work a bit better (no photos of that version, because I was too tangled up in the quilt to reach over for my camera :-) )

It’s physically a lot harder work quilting a big quilt, having to constantly move all that weight around, so I don’t think this will be a sit down and get it done in a day sort of project. It’s more one to do an hour or so’s work on, then have a rest and come back to it later. So yeah, don’t hold your breath for it to be done in a hurry, but at least I started it.


I had a nicely social (and foodie) day yesterday. First I got a message from Harvestbird to say she was taking a long lunch break, so did I want to join her. As we had a bit more time than our usual rushed workday lunches, we went into the botanic gardens, and had lunch in the cafe there, which was really nice (despite the sandwich I got not resembling in any way the one I ordered – it was nice anyway, so I wasn’t too worried). Then, in the evening, I met up with Lytteltonwitch to go to the food trucks in the Square. They rotate the trucks that are there, so there’s always something new to try. I wasn’t impressed by my first pick of fajitas (which turned out to be half cold, pretty tasteless, and more stewed than grilled), so threw out most of the dish, but made up for it with some barbecued satay beef skewers, which were really good. We shared some zalabia (a kind of Egyptian donut) for desert, which were covered in a honey syrup, so incredibly sweet – I gave up after just a couple of them.

Crafts, being social, having time for a leisurely lunch – I feel like I’m slowly turning back into a normal human being again after all those months of being a hermit!

We’re gonna need a bigger boat

I basted the flower garden quilt yesterday.  Which is just a fancy way of saying I pinned the top, batting and back together so that it’s ready for quilting.  Which means you’ve got to spread out the fabrics somewhere you can lay them completely flat before you pin, otherwise you get wrinkles in the backing.  Except I made the quilt just a little bit too big for the biggest bit of floor space I have:

I think I need a bigger room. Or maybe I could just get rid of some furniture – I don’t really need a couch in my living room, do I?

I did manage to get it basted in the end, by leaving the edges until last and then moving it around a bit, but the thought of getting that massive quilt on my little sewing machine is a bit daunting!  (And as quilts go, it’s not actually that huge – it’s a bit less than queen size).

In the meantime, to get my FMQ muscles back in shape, I quilted the hedgehog.  I decided to try a spiky sort of quilting design, and I think it came out really well.

It even looks cool on the back. I used more of the orange fabric for the backing, and the spiky stitching on it came out looking like a cross between flames and an autumn leaf pile:

Just got to put the binding on, and it’ll be done (that’s the nice thing about mini quilts – they don’t take months (or years, in the case of the bird quilt!) to finish :-) )


I haven’t just been using my days off to sew (ok, mostly I’ve been using them to sew, but I have done some other stuff, honestly!).  Yesterday I met up with some old friends of Mum’s for afternoon tea.  They moved up to Christchurch a couple of years ago, and actually live in the next suburb over from me, but I hadn’t got round to getting in touch with them.  However, the other day I ran into them unexpectedly, so we made arrangements to meet up.  It was great catching up with them (I think I’ve seen them in person only a couple of times since I was at high school!), and they’re really lovely people – they kept insisting if I ever needed any help with anything to call on them, and they’ve promised to invite me to their next barbecue – you’d think it was me who’d newly moved into the area, not them! :-)

And yes, Mum, I passed on your news, and they’re totally thrilled for you (though they’ve already probably rung you to tell you that – I think P. was going to ring you as soon as he got home!)


In other news, I think it’s time for a rebranding around here.  This blog stopped being primarily about bookcrossing a long time ago, so it seems silly that the name and theme is so bookcrossing-focussed. So I need a new name, and a new decorating scheme.

Except for I don’t know what to call it!  Any thoughts?  I’d like to get FutureCat in the title somewhere, but I can’t think of anything that doesn’t sound cheesy.  Maybe I should just follow Yetzirah’s lead and just make the title my name?  Any ideas greatly appreciated!

Yes, it’s a different quilt today

I’ve been kind of bouncing from project to project this week, I think because I’ve had all these things I’ve been waiting to get to work on, so I want to do all of them at once.

I started today thinking that I’d go and buy the fabric for my new project, but then I thought if I was going to the fabric shop, I really should buy the batting and backing fabric for the other two quilts while I was there.  Which meant I had to figure out how big they were going to be.  Which was easy for the bird quilt, because the top is done, but the flower garden quilt still needed its border added.  So I spent the day working on that instead.

When I laid everything out, I discovered I’d miscalculated the length of the border a bit (I’ve been pretty much making things up as I go along with this quilt), so there was a wee bit of unpicking involved to shorten it down to the proper length.  But I think it’s looking pretty good so far:

I still need to add another strip down the sides, but that’ll be the quilt top done.  So if I go and get the batting and backing fabric tomorrow, I’ll be able to start quilting it.  I want to quilt this one before I do the bird quilt, because I haven’t quilted a full-sized quilt before, only baby and lap quilts, so this is my practice run for the bird quilt (which I really really don’t want to ruin, after all the work it took!)

So that’s the plan for tomorrow. Possibly, if I don’t get distracted by something else again… :-)

Bringing balance to the weekend

Yay for five-day weekends! (Tuesday is a university holiday, on top of the usual Easter public holidays).  I’ll admit my first instinct was to treat the long weekend as three extra days I could spend in my office coding my data (a long and laborious process – I’ve got tens of thousands of instances of “of” or “-‘s” in my data, and I’ve got to manually go through each of them and decide whether it represents a possessive or not (not as easy a decision as you might think: “the roof of the house” definitely is, but what about “the middle of eating lunch”, “that kind of thing” or “lots of rubble”? (spoiler: they’re all technically possessives.  But “all of a sudden”, “sort of screamed”, and “full of water” aren’t.)), and then I have to classify the ones that are possessive according to a long list of criteria that seemed sensible when I designed my methodology but now I’m faced with actual data seems overwhelmingly huge.  Plus, people don’t speak properly!  I wish I had nice data like “the roof of the house”.  What I actually get is something like “and then um the the the r~ the top ah you know the roof f~ the roof of of the um the h~ the house you know sort of fell”, and I’ve got to somehow figure out which bit of that is the possessive.  When you’re reading the nice examples in textbooks, they never mention that nobody actually talks like that! (sorry, my quick aside seems to have turned into a rant about data.  So, back to what I was trying to say…)).  However (as may be evidenced by the preceding brackets), I realised it’s probably about time I had something resembling a break, so I compromised on doing *some* study but not an excessive amount, and spread out over the whole long weekend (rather than my usual system of spending one whole day of my weekend studying).  Trying to find a balance between actually enjoying the weekend (not that I don’t enjoy studying, but it is tiring) and not feeling guilty about wasting this opportunity to get all this extra study done.

Anyway, it seems to be working ok so far.  On Friday I did the housework, then went into my office for a couple of hours, then met Lytteltonwitch in town so we could have dinner at the food trucks in the Square, because it was their last Friday night before shutting down for the winter.  We tried also to go and see Ornot’s new play, but the booking office was closed when we first tried, and then when we went back later they’d just sold out.  Oh well, should have been more organised and booked online…

On Saturday I walked over to a cafe for breakfast, did a couple more hours work, then came home and baked some biscuits.  Half the biscuits I took round to the Gwilks’ that night for the games evening they were hosting.  They wanted to introduce various parts of their friends groups who didn’t intersect to each other, so I didn’t know any of the other people there, but games are a good way to get to know new people without all the awkward “so… what do you do…” small talk, so it was a really fun evening.  Made even more fun by their cat deciding to bring a small rat inside in the middle of proceedings.  The rat of course managed to escape the cat’s clutches, run up the curtains and leap from curtain-rail to shelf around the room, causing much chaos as everyone tried to alternatively catch it or just get as far away from it as possible.

After the late night on Saturday, I decided to take yesterday off entirely.  So I spent the morning sewing.  I don’t think I’ve shown you pictures of my latest project (not that I really need a new project, because I’ve still got the Birds in Flight quilt to finish, but that’s at a stage that requires much thought and planning, and I wanted something that I could just work on a little bit at a time when I’ve got an hour or two spare).  I finished the last of the blocks for it yesterday, but I’ve still got to do all the sashing yet.

The background fabric is a much nicer shade of green than it seems in that photo, honestly, it’s just taken in bad light. It’s actually a really fresh spring green, that goes great (I think) with the bright colours I’m using.

Then in the afternoon I went over to Harvestbird’s with the other half of the biscuits, to eat cake, peaches, and easter eggs (the mini-Harvestbirds had had an easter egg hunt in the morning, resulting in a considerable haul, so adult Harvestbirds were working on the theory that it’s better to get as much of the chocolate consumption over with as quickly as possible, and suffer one day of hyperactive children rather than drag it out for weeks), and sit in the sun (well, in theory, anyway. The mini-Harvestbirds were very excited to have me visit, so I spent a lot of my visit playing with them (hmm, maybe that’s why they’re always so excited to have me visit…) – so I had to push them (and their imaginary friends!) on the swing, take part in ballet practice, say hello to a pink diamond with a face (called “Diamondy”, of course), and help build an elaborate lego ice palace for the diamond, to protect her from attacks by Ralph Wiggum from the Simpsons (it all made sense at the time, possibly?). Harvestbird took a photo of the ice palace (Flickr won’t let me embed it for some reason – possibly because you’ve licenced it copyright, Harvestbird?).

The plan for today and tomorrow is similar.  Once I’ve finished writing this I’ll head into my office for a few hours again, then maybe have a late lunch somewhere nice, and tomorrow I might take advantage of having a day off when everyone else is back at work to go into Riccarton.  Maybe I’ll even do something drastic like see a movie!

While I’m posting photos, here’s my shiny new suitcase.  For most trips to conventions when I’m just going for a few days and am carrying more books than clothes, I normally take my yellow bookcrossing bag, but it’s not really big enough for longer trips. And my battered old suitcase that I’ve had since I was 19 is really on its last legs – the wheels fell off years ago, and I don’t think it can survive another long-haul.  So I bought myself a new suitcase the other day.  But it was a bit boring, and looked like every other suitcase in the world.  And the advantage of my yellow bookcrossing bag, and even more so of my old suitcase (which I’d extensively decorated with that puffy foam paint that everyone decorated their clothes with back in the 80s), was that they stand out really well on baggage carousels.  Who needs to tie an identifying piece of ribbon to your bag when your entire bag is decorated? :-)

So the solution was obvious.  Buy a packet of sticky foam shapes, and make my new suitcase a bit more interesting:

Ok, so half of them will probably fall off before I get home, but in the meantime it’ll be distinctive :-)

And finally, a photo of Parsnips with her bald patch:

And Parsnips mid-yowl, complaining that I’m wasting time taking her photo when I could be scratching her under the chin, which in her opinion is one of the only two reasons humans have hands (the other, of course, being to open the fridge door).