A spot of colour on a grey day

It’s a grey and drizzly day, and not at all ideal for photographing quilts, but I finished binding the Little Squares quilt last night, and I’m off to Wellington tomorrow (these are completely unrelated events, except that being in Wellington will mean I won’t get another chance to take a better photo of the quilt over the weekend), so I dashed out before work this morning to get a few quick pictures:

I’m really pleased with my quilting on this one. Rather than doing an all-over design, I branched out and used the blocks as inspiration for the quilting. It’s not perfect, but I think it looks really good, and it’s another small step in expanding my quilting skills.

The effect is really cool on the back, too:


Work has been ridiculously busy, with a major project deadline looming (actually, several project deadlines – it’s a PBRF round this year (contestable funding based on the amount of research the university produces), so everyone is rushing to get things finished before the end of the year.  Which, for our biggest project, means getting it finished in the next few weeks so it can go to peer review in time to be published in December.)

And with perfect timing, I’m taking the day off tomorrow.  It’s kind of work related though – I’m off to Wellington for a union conference on LGBTQI+ issues in the workplace.  (This seems to be how the union’s going to suck me in to being active again – I turned down the offer to return to the branch committee, but this conference comes with a free trip to Wellington, so, yeah, looks like I’m getting involved in the union again…)

Anyway, it means I’m now doubly rushed to get everything done this week, so I’m grabbing a few minutes in my lunch hour to write this, then it’ll be back to debugging code.  So many bugs…


The other not ideal timing about going away this weekend is that Dad rang to say he and Stepmother are in Akaroa, and planning to come over to Christchurch for the weekend, so while he’s here do I want him to help me paint the laundry (so I don’t have to spend the insurance payout on a professional painter).  Except I’m not going to be here…  Of course, Dad being Dad, he offered to just do the painting himself (and let’s be honest, it was always going to be more a case of me helping him paint, not the other way around), so he’s going to pop round tonight to pick up a key.  So I should come home from Wellington to a freshly painted laundry area.


I never got round to writing anything last weekend, but I did have an interesting Friday night.  There was a night market in the Arts Centre, with a talk at the Teece Museum on the night-life of ancient Rome.  I met up with Lytteltonwitch at the talk (which was really interesting – all about how most depictions of Roman street scenes are nothing like the reality, which would have been crowded, messy, and pretty dangerous), then afterwards we wandered around the market and the shops that have just (re)opened in one of the newly restored buildings – including Fudge Cottage, which was such a wonderfully nostalgic sight to see back in the Arts Centre (I remember going there at the weekend to buy fudge (or just try the free samples if we were all feeling poor) when I first moved to Christchurch) that of course we had to buy a few pieces (well, that was our excuse, anyway!).

Walking back to the bus exchange, we spotted a man feeding the eels in the Avon.  So of course we stopped to watch, and ended up staying chatting to him for about half an hour, while he fed the eels (and a very large trout who joined the party) an entire pottle of cat food.  They are fascinating to watch (as long as you keep your fingers out of the way – they can give you a nasty nip if they mistake a dangling finger for food, and they’ll climb up out of the water to get at it) – we all agreed it was much more entertaining way to spend a Friday night than going to the pub!

Right, time to get back to those bugs…

Quilting and singing and games

I started the quilting!

I did get quite a bit further than that today, but by the time I thought to take another photo the light was no good.  So you’ll just have to wait :-)  I managed to get just over a quarter of it done, though, so I’m making good progress.  And the quilting is working out exactly as I envisioned it, so it should look pretty good when it’s finished.


I went to see the NZ Opera production of Carmen last night with Lytteltonwitch.  It’s actually the first “proper” opera I’ve ever seen, and it was really good.  I was very glad of the surtitles though, as otherwise I’d have had no idea what was going on (Lytteltonwitch summed up the plot for me as roughly “Boy meets girl, someone dies at the end, and in between there’s a lot of singing”).  It took me about half an hour to figure out what language they were singing in, let alone be able to make out any of the words… yeah, I probably should have bought a programme or something :-)

Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and was surprised at how many of the tunes I recognised – a lot of them are ones that are just in the popular consciousness, without you necessarily knowing where they come from.  The staging was really good too – they did some really clever stuff with lighting, like casting shadows of the actors onto the walls during the bar scene, which gave quite a threatening feel to it.  The bar scene also cleverly put the women in a position of power, so that it switched gradually from a group of drunken men demanding that the women (not sure if they were supposed to represent prostitutes?) dance for them, to the women totally controlling the men and making them perform – the confusion at the end of the scene when the men suddenly realising the roles had been reversed was quite lovely.

And of course, as you’d expect, some really powerful singing, especially from the performer playing Carmen.


On Friday night I went round to Dana’s after work (this is becoming a regular thing).  There was quite a large group there, so rather than play video games (as is usual on Friday nights – they have a Nintendo Switch connected to a projector, so the screen is pretty much the entire wall), we played a few board games.  One was totally new to me (and I can’t remember the name of it now), but the others I’d played before with the Gwilks – Dixit and Codenames.  A lot of fun, even if I did feel a bit old at times (most of the people there were in their mid twenties).  And I was on the winning team for two of the games, which is always good :-)

Preparing and repairing

I spent the afternoon basting the little squares quilt, so hopefully I’ll be able to start quilting it tomorrow.  I’m so looking forward to quilting this one, both because I just love the colours so much so I want to see it finished, and also because I’ve been planning out how to quilt it.  I’ve got an idea for a design that responds to the geometry of it (rather than just using an all-over design like I’ve used in other quilts), and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

I had to do a little bit of repair work before I could baste it.  One of the Oakshott squares had a tiny tear in the fabric, which I hadn’t noticed until I came to sew all the sections together (by which time it was too late to change the design to not use that piece).  I put some interfacing on the back to hold it together, and did my best to adjust the seams so that most of it would end up in the seam allowance, but it was still reasonably obvious, and looked like it might fray over time.

Luckily though, I happened to have some thread that matched the colour almost exactly, so I was able to do a bit of tight zig-zagging to cover the rip.  It’s still visible, of course, but I don’t think it will be all that noticeable when you look at the quilt as a whole, and it will protect it from fraying.

Off with their hair

Those of you who know me in real life (TM) will know that for the past year or two I’ve been muttering about how one day I’m going to suddenly cut off all my hair.  Well, one day arrived…

Yeah, bit of a drastic change :-) (Although in photos it doesn’t really look all that different, because I always tied my hair back anyway, so you couldn’t really tell in photos just how long it was).  It’s still not exactly the way I want it – I’m going to go back in a few weeks to get the top cut even shorter, but the hairdresser wanted me to leave it at this stage for a few weeks while the follicles relax back into shape – having had it long for so long (and almost always tied back in the same way) has stretched them into weird directions, so I still have a very noticeable part down the centre of my head at the moment, which would be emphasised even more if the hair was even shorter – hopefully it will disappear as the follicles realign themselves.  But even so, I’m very happy with it.  And a bit nervous about what everyone’s going to say when I go into work on Monday… (I didn’t tell anyone what I was planning :-) )

Harvestbird accompanied me to the appointment (mainly to make sure I didn’t chicken out at the last minute :-) ), and documented the entire process (the hairdresser was having a lot of fun demonstrating various cutting techniques and hairstyles from the ages as he cut it steadily shorter), so once she’s uploaded the photos (and video!) I’ll post them here for everyone’s amusement.


Sorry it’s been such a long time between posts.  Work was stupidly busy for a while there (it still is, but at least I’ve got my two new staff now, which has taken some of the pressure off), so I’ve been getting home at night and just crashing, and haven’t been feeling inspired to write.  I really should try and get into the habit again though – I’ve actually been having all sorts of non-work adventures, but haven’t had time/energy to write about any of them.

Most recent was that last Tuesday Dana and I went to see a talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson, which was amazing (even if I did have the odd moment of wishing he was Carl Sagan instead (hashtag geek-child of the 70s)).  For a start, it was at the Horncastle Arena (where graduation was), which is Christchurch’s biggest venue, and normally reserved for big international music acts.  That a scientist was speaking to a sold-out audience in that venue was an amazing thought – rock-star scientist indeed!

He spoke very inspiringly and entertainingly too – I was so glad I went.  At the end, they had an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, but we were sitting so far up the back in the cheap seats (which were only relatively cheap – rock-star scientists command rock-star prices!) at the top of the arena that there was no way we’d have made it down to the queue for the microphone in time (not that I would have been able to think of a decent question anyway, even if I’d been sitting right up the front).  The first couple of questions were of that non-question “Here is a long rant about my favourite hot-button topic, what do you think?” type, but then people started asking really complex and interesting questions about astrophysics (some of the best questions came from kids!), and deGrasse Tyson gave wonderful answers that managed to be non-technical enough that everyone in the audience would understand it, without dumbing down any of the really deep and interesting stuff that made the questions so fascinating.  The Q&A part went way over time, because deGrasse Tyson kept saying he was going to make his answers briefer so more people would get a chance to ask a question, but then would get caught up in the complexities of the answer, and it would be just as long as the previous one.  The compère kept suggesting that maybe it was time to wrap things up, and deGrasse Tyson would agree, yes, just one more question, and then carry on :-)   By the time he finished, the security people were herding everyone out the door almost before the applause had finished – I think they wanted to get home!


I haven’t made a lot of progress quilt-wise, for similar reasons to the lack of blogging (plus it being too cold in the study most evenings).  But I managed to get a few more rows sewn onto the little squares quilt:

Although I’m loving how it’s turning out (I think it’s my favourite one I’ve made so far), I’ll be so glad to get this one finished – matching all those seams is hard work!

Progress, and not so much progress

My plan to use spare half hours to sew failed the moment the really cold weather set in, because I’d forgotten just how cold the study can get in winter (for some reason to do with the way the hallway bends just before the door to the study, the warmth from the fire, which happily heats the rest of the house, never quite reaches the study).  So dragging myself away from my comfy chair in front of the fire into the inadequately heated by a small fan heater study was a struggle – one which the warm and comfy chair usually won.

I also haven’t been feeling all that creative anyway – we’re still attempting to recruit new staff at work (I won’t go into the details of why the process is dragging on so long, because it reflects badly on the professionalism of people in certain parts of the organisation, but let’s just say there have been some unnecessary delays), so I’m still trying to juggle the work of three people on my own – thankfully everyone else involved in the projects I’m working on has been very understanding that I can’t do everything at once (and in some cases have just had to put projects on hold for a while), but it’s still pretty stressful and exhausting keeping everything going, so I’ve been pretty much feeling like crashing when I get home (not helped by being out being social three nights out of four last week!).  I am so looking forward to getting some new staff!!!

Anyway, as a result I haven’t got very far on sewing all those nine-patches together (also, sewing them together is a very slow process, because there are SO MANY seams to match!  I really didn’t think about that when I was designing the quilt!).  But I’ve got a few rows sewn together at least:

And I have made good use of sitting in front of the fire time to put the binding on the jelly roll race quilt. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:

My quilting is still a long way from perfect, but it’s definitely improving, and basting it on the kitchen table definitely worked, because there’s no stray tucks or pleats in the fabric on the back.

The being super-social last week was probably a bad idea, considering how tired I was, but it was fun.  On Tuesday night I was the Toastmaster (ie Chair) for our Toastmasters meeting, which not only involves a lot of work during the meeting introducing speakers and keeping the meeting running to time, but also meant I spent most of the weekend emailing back and forth with people making sure that all the speaking roles were filled, and finding replacements for last minute apologies.  The meeting went really well though, and finished almost exactly on time, so I was happy with my efforts.

Then on Wednesday night there was a quiz night for the College.  Seeing as we didn’t have enough staff to put together a team from the Lab, I joined my former colleagues from English, and despite a not great start (and the fact that the quiz was one of those franchised ones that are never as good as when the organisers just put the questions together themselves – very heavily skewed towards rugby and pop culture, and of course never any science questions, which incites me to rant about the state of society and why are people so scared of science…) we somehow ended up winning.  Despite my reservations about the quiz format, it was a lot of fun. It definitely helped that nobody was taking the quiz too seriously (first prize was a “gold” cup from the $2 shop, and some coffee vouchers for one of the campus cafes, so it wasn’t exactly high stakes :-) ), so there was much silliness going on, and attempts to bribe the judges, and much friendly rivalry going on between our table and the History department table next to us (they came second in the end).

Then on Thursday night I went to the crafting meetup group, which I probably should have skipped seeing as it was the third night in a row I was out late, but I hadn’t been able to make it for a few weeks so thought I really should go along.  It was over in Linwood, which is always a pain to get to (especially as they’d had some sort of power outage or something at the bus exchange, so the real time arrivals system was down and you just had to guess when your bus would show up and at what end of the bus exchange), but I made it over there eventually, and did actually have a nice evening.  Luckily someone offered me a lift home, so at least I didn’t have to battle the bus exchange chaos again getting home, but I think I might skip the meetups on that side of town for a while, at least until the evenings get lighter again so that I can just catch a bus that takes me in vaguely the right direction and then walk, rather than having to find the combination of buses that will take me close enough to not have to walk too far in the dark.

Anyway, talking of walking, it is actually a nice day today, so I think I will abandon my computer now and go for a nice walk and enjoy the sunshine for a while.  The way the weather had been lately, it could be weeks before I see the sun again!

Lots of little squares

Finished making the nine-patches.  All 113 of them.

I’m slowly getting better at getting all the seams to match up with each other properly (nine-patches are very good practice for that!).

I haven’t got as far as actually sewing the blocks together (too much of a social life this weekend, going out to a Toastmasters thing last night, and then to a birthday party for one of the mini-Harvestbirds this afternoon), but I did stick them all up on the design wall just to see whether what I’d been imagining for the quilt would look as good in reality, and it does:

I still need to play round a bit with the exact placement of the blocks, because I just threw them up there in the order they came off the pile, so some of the colours in the nine-patches are a bit too grouped together, but I’m really pleased with how it’s looking – the colours in the nine-patches work together with the Oakshott blocks in exactly the way I’d hoped.

(Hmm, do you think mini-Harvestbird would mind if I skipped her birthday party in favour of playing with my quilt a bit more? …nah, probably should go to the party, shouldn’t I?)

Spare half hours

Ages ago I asked Deb Robertson how she manages to produce so many quilts while juggling work and children, and she told me she makes a lot of use of those spare half hours at the beginning and end of the day, when you can sew a few seams, or cut a few pieces, even if you don’t have time to do much more.

Now that I’ve got the new sewing table, it’s a lot easier to leave a project set up mid-process, without it being in the way, so I decided I’d give her approach a try.  So in the evenings this week (I’m not organised enough in the mornings to find spare time to sit at a sewing machine!) I’ve been sitting down with the aim of just making a little bit of progress (rather than my usual approach of thinking of the project as a whole (or even each major step of it) as being something that needs to be completed all at once, so therefore needs a huge chunk of spare time to work on).

And it’s amazing how much I got done.  Ok, so a couple of those evenings I got so engrossed in what I was doing that I stayed up way past my bedtime, but given that I was out two nights this week, I think I did pretty well:

That’s 341 sets of three little squares (it was supposed to be 339, but I mis-counted at some stage so did a couple extra by accident), all cut and sewn together.  Ok, so I sewed a lot of them by making strip sets then cutting them up, which sped up the process a bit, but that’s still pretty impressive, I reckon!

Now I’ve just got to sew the sets together to get nine-patches (which is exactly what it sounds like: a square block of nine patchwork squares), and I’ll have all my blocks ready to start laying out the quilt design.

I may end up spending more than half an hour working on it this afternoon, though – I’m too impatient to see how it’s going to look!

When decisions get too hard…

…start something new :-)

I still haven’t made up my mind about the border for the Three Dudes quilt (which (prompted by Mum asking why it was called Three Dudes, and me realising that the answer was that it was based loosely on a quilt design that was based loosely on a quilt design that was originally called Three Dudes, so by now it is very far removed from the original concept!) I have decided to rename as the Cordon Fence quilt (because the criss-crossing of the dark strips reminds me of chain-link fencing, and because Christchurch)), I’ve set it aside to think about another day.  Which meant my sewing machine was sitting empty.  Which is a bad thing!

The first solution to this problem was to spend some time consolidating some of the blocks I’ve slowly been accumulating for my super scrappy left-over-bits-from-my-scrap-basket quilt, and start connecting them together into bigger strips. Suprisingly, my occasionally grabbing a handful of scraps and sewing them together added up to quite a bit of quilt:


(The little green stars and blue hearts aren’t part of the design – they’re just post-its I stuck on there to remind me what size blocks I was aiming for)

The longest strip is long enough to go the full width of a quilt, and the others are getting close. I’ll need twice as many strips to make up a full quilt top, but even so, that’s about a third of a quilt made so far, all from scraps I would otherwise have thrown away (plus a few sample blocks where I was testing out how an idea would work).

Hmm, I suppose the real message I should take from this is that patchwork is an incredibly wasteful process!


I also started a brand-new project (because having four unfinished quilts in the production line is never enough :-) ), inspired by a charm pack (i.e. a pre-cut set of 5 inch squares) of Oakshott fabrics I’ve had sitting in my stash since forever. I won them during TartanKiwi’s In Flight quiltalong, and put them aside because the fabrics, though just small pieces, were so nice that they deserved to be used in a project that highlighted them somehow.

Except I had no idea how to do that, so they’ve just sat there for the last couple of years, waiting on inspiration.  Which finally struck the other day, when I came up with an idea that (I hope) will show off 30 small squares of plain but colourful fabric beautifully.  So I spent a very enjoyable hour or so picking out a selection of patterned fabrics to add to the charm pack:

A very busy collection, but that’s the idea – the plan is they’ll provide a contrast to the plain squares, while keeping all the colours in roughly the same tonal range.

I’ve actually made a bit more progress than that on the project – I cut most of the pieces yesterday, and made a start on sewing the units together that will eventually make up the blocks.  But by the time I thought to take more photos, it was getting too dark, so you’ll just have to wait to see what I’ve got planned :-)


In other news, work has been a bit stressful lately. On the plus side, I’m involved in a really exciting (and challenging! It’s definitely going to be stretching my coding skills!) project to produce a digital edition of a medieval manuscript. I’ve been sort of project managing/overseeing the project for a while, but not all that heavily involved in the actual work, but since Lucy-Jane left the lab, I’ve had to pick up a lot of the coding work she was doing, which is involving quite a steep learning curve (especially as it uses a language I’m not familiar with (both in the computer language sense, and in the human language sense, because the manuscript is in Latin! Although thankfully I don’t need to worry about that side of things – we have historians doing all the clever need-to-be-able-to-read Latin stuff, I just have to help make their work appear on the computer screen in the right way. Although I suspect I will have picked up quite a bit of Latin before we’re finished!)). So that’s something fun and juicy to get my teeth into.

On the minus side, a couple of days after Lucy-Jane left, Rosalee also put in her resignation. Not that I blame either of them for leaving – they’re both going to exciting new opportunities that they would have been mad to turn down (Lucy-Jane to a private sector programming job, Rosalee to work in social justice activism), but it’s suddenly dropped the Lab from three staff (plus the boss, who is teaching pretty much full time, so we don’t see much of him) down to one, and there’s no way I can pick up all of the work myself. Which puts the Lab in a bit of danger as to its long-term viability. Luckily the university has approved us taking on a couple of extra staff for the rest of the year (at the end of which my contract runs out anyway, so we’ll be having to make a business case to continue the Lab anyway), but it’s going to be tough getting them up to speed quickly enough that it doesn’t damage any of the projects we’ve got on the go.

Yeah, interesting times… Oh well, better than being bored, I suppose :-)


The Word literary festival, by piggybacking on the Auckland festival, have been having an autumn season, basically bringing a few of the authors who were going to Auckland anyway down to Christchurch.  I’ve only managed to get to one of the events (they all sold out very fast!) – a reading/performance by Ivan Coyote (whose book was one of the ones I bought at Scorpios the other day).  It was a great night – their work manages to be incredibly entertaining while touching on some pretty deep issues.  I thought about staying for their book signing afterwards, but chickened out – I never know what to say to authors at signings, and end up just mumbling a vague “Hi, I think you’re great, please sign this” and rushing away, and then think of all the cool and articulate stuff I wish I’d said afterwards.  And anyway, the queue was incredibly long, so I was worried if I stayed I’d miss my bus.

Of course, the minute I left the venue, I was kicking myself that I hadn’t stayed, so I decided that when I got home I’d write them an email to tell them how much I’d enjoyed the show.  Which I did, and got a lovely reply from them!  Totally fan-squeeing here :-)