Super social

Most important thing:  I finished the Lego quilt last weekend, and Lytteltonwitch delivered it to her friend, who apparently loved it.  I was pretty pleased with the finished product too:

The invisible thread, even though it was a bit of a pain to work with, worked out really well, giving texture to the blocks without standing out too much, which is what I wanted. And I really liked how the quilting in the border turned out.

It’s backed with some amazing Buzzy Bee fabric that Lytteltonwitch found, which goes really well with the colours and theme of the quilt. And I gave it a scrappy binding made from the left-overs of the block fabrics.

So, my first commissioned quilt successfully accomplished. Apparently my payment is going to be in the form of dinner at the Noodle Markets tomorrow night – seems like a fair trade to me :-)

I meant to post the pictures of the finished quilt sooner, but I’ve been incredibly busy – mostly at work, where we’re very close to launching another big project (I can tell you about it next week :-) ), which we’ve been working on for the last year or so, and which has been taking up the majority of my time for the last month (to the extent that I ended up working on Waitangi Day, just to meet a critical deadline).  I’ve been busy socially, too:  I’ve already been out three nights this week, plus I’m out tonight and tomorrow night as well – this must be some sort of record for me!

Tuesday night was Toastmasters, and I decided that would be my last meeting.  The club president had said something in his closing remarks a couple of weeks ago encouraging us to reflect on our aims for the year, and I realised I don’t actually have any Toastmasters-related aims.  I joined the club with the aims of improving my confidence, and to not be so nervous when I had to give presentations at work, and I have definitely achieved both of those things – I’ve spoken at conferences, and run meetings, and all sorts of things I couldn’t have imagined doing a few years ago.  And I’m not really interested in the competitive side of Toastmasters, or in learning to become a motivational speaker or anything like that – I’m good enough at public speaking for the kinds of public speaking I need to do, so I don’t feel greatly inspired to learn more.  Which means the only reason I was still going along to Toastmasters is for the social side, and I haven’t even been getting as much of that out of the club lately – a few of the people I used to get on with really well have left, and while new people have come along to replace them, it hasn’t really been the same (plus, as in any club, there’s one or two people who are annoying, and without the buffer of lots of people I do like, it’s harder to tolerate them).  Anyway, as this week is proving, I’m not exactly short of social activities!  So, as Tuesday was scheduled to be a short meeting followed by drinks, I decided to make that my last meeting, so I could go out with everyone for a drink afterwards and say goodbye.

Wednesday was a much more fun outing.  Jacq invited me to go to a recording of a podcast (The Nerd Degree) which their partner is sometimes in the cast for (though not for this episode).  It’s a brilliantly funny podcast, and even better in person (it was fun putting faces to the voices I’d been listening to online, plus you get to see all the facial expressions and other visual stuff that doesn’t translate to audio).  It’s recorded in a small studio in Ferrymead that’s just big enough to have a small audience (I think there were maybe 20 people there), so we were encouraged to make as much noise as possible with our applause so that it would seem like a bigger audience.  There was no problem with not making enough noise when it came to laughing – everyone was killing themselves with laughter!  They’ve got a small bar at the venue, plus you can order pizza to be delivered from Winne Bagoes, so we shared a couple of pizzas for dinner during the interval.  A great night all round (though very hard to wake up in time for work the next morning!)

Then last night I went round to Dana’s place to watch anime with her and her friends.  We’ve been watching a series called Inuyasha, and I can never remember the names of the characters, so I started calling them things like “Dog boy” (a lot of the characters are demons, so they look half human and half animal), “High school girl”, “Little fox boy” and so on.  Dana picked up on this, and now she sends me messages asking if I want to come round and watch Dog Boy with them :-)  It’s technically a children’s series, but it’s very entertaining, especially because we’re watching it in Japanese (with subtitles, of course!), so you get all those over-the-top anime voices.

I was actually double-booked for tonight, socially, because I’d invited Dan and his partner round for dinner, and then the Gwilks invited me over for a games evening.  But it turned out that Dan had to cancel, so it all worked out nicely, and now I’m going round to the Gwilks’ this evening (actually, I should really go and get myself some dinner, or I’ll be late – might have to finish this post off in another post tomorrow…)

Building blocks

I still haven’t got round to buying more of the blue thread I’m using for the Birds in Flight quilt, so in the meantime I’ve been working on the Lego quilt.  This time I’m quilting it much more loosely (to keep the quilt nice and soft, seeing as it’s intended for a baby), so it’s been going much faster.  There’s only a bit of the border area left to go:

I’ve been using a monofilament thread to quilt it, which has been… challenging (especially because I only just noticed the bit on that page where they recommend not using it in the bobbin… which I have been… oh well, it seemed to work ok anyway).  It sews great once you get going, but the thread is so fine and almost invisible (which is the whole point) that anything that requires cutting the thread and restarting (which means having to tie off the loose threads and threading them into a hand-sewing needle to bury them inside the quilt so they won’t work loose) is very hard work – just seeing the thread well enough to be able to tie a knot in it is hard enough, but threading a needle was almost impossible!  I did a lot of back-tracking over previously sewn lines to get to new areas of the quilt just so I could avoid ever breaking the thread!

The invisible quilting does look nice though, especially on a quilt like this where whatever thread colour I’d chosen would have stood out too much.  But I don’t think I’ll be using it on a regular basis – it’s just too difficult.

As you can probably see in the wee sample in the photo above, I used the different “bricks” of the Lego to experiment with different quilting patterns (inspired by Angela Walters’s Shape by Shape book, which is a seriously useful resource – although I don’t think I actually ended up using any of her patterns exactly as she has them in the book, they’re a great leaping-off point).  I’d originally planned to just pick a single design and use it in all the blocks, but I couldn’t find one I liked enough to repeat that many times, so I decided to use a few different ones.  In the end I think I managed to have no two exactly alike across the entire quilt (though some of the variations are pretty minor).  There’s a few bricks that didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d like, and one or two places I might have been tempted to unpick and redo if that wouldn’t have been so hard with the monofilament.  I suppose that’s one way to learn not to be such a perfectionist – make it too hard to unpick mistakes!  Hopefully none of the mistakes are too obvious – I keep telling myself that nobody knows what pattern I was aiming for, so they won’t know that I got it wrong :-)

Slow progress

Four spools of thread gone on the Birds in Flight quilt (and they’re 500m spools, so that means there’s 2 km of quilting in this quilt already!), and still a few areas haven’t been quilted.  I thought four spools would be total overkill, but I ended up quilting pretty densely, which uses up a lot of thread (and takes forever – next quilt I’m doing with a really loose quilting design!).  So I’ve run out of thread, and finishing off the quilting on it will have to wait until I can go and buy some more of that colour thread.

Hopefully it’ll be worth it once it’s finished though. It’s hard to get a real idea of what it’s going to be like when it’s all piled up on the machine and you can’t see the full effect, but I think it’s going to look really cool.

Talking of four, there was a wee earthquake last night in the small hours – only a 4.0, but it’s a sign of how long it’s been since we’ve had any decent aftershocks that it actually woke me up fully enough that it took me a while to get back to sleep.  I remember the days when I wouldn’t wake up for anything less than a 5.0 (and no thank you, I really don’t want those days to be back again!!)

Cicada season has begun, which means that (a) sitting out in the garden can get quite deafening, and (b) Parsnips keeps catching them and bringing them inside.  Being woken by a cicada loudly protesting at being pestered by a cat is almost as disturbing as being woken by an earthquake.  They also have a tendency to escape from her and end up in hard to reach places like behind the fridge.  I can report that fridges have absolutely no muffling effect on the sound of a cicada.

My finger is famous

Damp day again – I think January swapped its weather with December, so instead of the heatwave we’d normally be getting now, we’re getting rain and general “are you sure it’s summer?” weather. Oh well, at least it’s damped down the fire risk (literally), and I’m sure the farmers are happy.  It would be nice if we could find a happy medium between “stinking hot” and “cold and miserable” though…

Went back to work on Monday, and had hardly finished clearing my emails when a colleague dropped into the office to tell me that a TV news crew would be visiting the university to look at the Canterbury Roll (because we’ve got a scientific team visiting from the UK to do image analysis on it), and they might want to interview me about the digital edition.  Which meant I had to quickly dash home and get changed, because every day is casual Friday in the Lab over the summer, when we don’t have any students in, so I was wearing my usual jeans and a t-shirt, and thought I should probably try and be a bit more professional looking if I was going to be representing the Lab on TV.

I made it back to campus just in time to meet the UK team and help set up the room they’ve been working in so that it would look suitably “sciencey” for the cameras (and ever so subtly make sure that the banners advertising the various departments involved would be seen in the background :-) ).  When the reporter and camera operator arrived, we were all introduced, and it was pretty obvious that the reporter was only interested in the Game of Thrones angle that most of the newspapers have picked up on (the connection is pretty tenuous – the Roll was written during the War of the Roses, and Game of Thrones is loosely based on the War of the Roses – but of course the media love talking about it.  The Daily Mail even somehow twisted it into meaning that our Roll directly inspired Game of Thrones (and that’s not the biggest thing they got wrong in that article…)), and had absolutely no interest in the digital edition.  But I still had to hang around just in case, so I spent the next couple of hours standing around and occasionally being an extra body the camera person could instruct to point at things on the Roll while he was filming.  It meant I did end up in the background of a lot of the shots they used in the news item (not on purpose, I swear – it just seemed like wherever in the room I stood, the camera would end up pointed in my direction!) and my finger featured prominently in the teaser they used for the segment, but I didn’t get to actually talk about the important part of the story from the Lab’s point of view, how the digital edition is opening up a previously hidden document to the entire world, and using technology that’s never before been applied to historical documents.

Oh well, it was interesting watching the camera operator work, anyway – as well as the normal big news camera, he was using a little Go-Pro for some of the shots, especially the panning shots along the length of the Roll.  And it was really interesting chatting to the scientists about what they’re doing, and seeing some of their preliminary results – they’re basically photographing the Roll using different wavelengths of light (from UV to infrared), and using the colour profiles that gives them to identify what materials the pigments were made from.  Some of the colours also turn out to be transparent at certain wavelengths, so they can see what’s underneath (which is really important for our Roll, where there are all sorts of erasures and additions by later scribes, depending on whether they supported the Lancastrians or the Yorkists).

Then yesterday I got an even better chance to find out what the scientists are doing, because we had a day-long symposium to discuss the next phase of the Canterbury Roll project, so all the different teams that have been working on it presented the work they’ve done so far.  And this time the Lab’s work was well represented, because I talked about how the digital edition works, one of our directors explained its theoretical importance, and a couple of students who’ve been working with me on the next phase of the mark-up explained what they’ve been doing.  Presenting to a small academic audience isn’t quite as good exposure as being on the news, of course, but it’s more important that our academic colleagues know what we’re doing anyway.

Otherwise, this week has just been settling back into work.  I haven’t managed to finish the quilting on the Birds in Flight quilt yet, but seeing as the weather is so horrible, I might settle down with a podcast and get some sewing done this afternoon….

It’s a bit damp out there

Compared to how much my throat was hurting on Tuesday, I feel almost back to normal – antibiotics are truly magical things. My throat’s still a wee bit scratchy, but at least it doesn’t feel swollen any more, and it isn’t agony to swallow.  I haven’t even felt the need for any medicinal icecream today, which has got to be a good sign.

Actually, the not feeling like icecream thing might have more to do with the weather – it’s been bucketing down with rain all day, and generally pretty miserable.  Parsnips has not been impressed.  She keeps standing by the cat flap and crying whenever I walk past – I’ve never managed to convince her that I don’t actually have any control over the weather…

The view from the window. As always, the drain across the street has blocked and flooded half the road.  I’m really glad I didn’t have to catch a bus anywhere today!

Not having any great incentive to leave the house, I spent most of the day working on my quilt, and made a lot of progress.  It’s always hard to judge exactly how far there is to go while it’s still on the machine, but I reckon I’m about three quarters of the way.  If this weather keeps up, I may well get the quilting finished by the end of the weekend!

Slowly falling apart… with childhood illnesses?

Because bodies are evil, and know when you’re on holiday, mine has decided to get sick this week, with strep throat of all things.  I’ve never had it before, but was under the impression it’s something that only kids get.  But no, apparently adults can get it too, and I have it.

Luckily it’s not too bad – very sore, and I feel like I’ve got a lump stuck in my throat, but otherwise I’m not feeling unwell other than a little tired (which I’d just attributed to too many late nights recently).  I went and saw the doctor today, and she prescribed me some painkillers and antibiotics, and told me the best treatment was to rest and eat icecream (I reckon that’s the best advice I’ve ever had from a doctor!  Hmm, I wonder if I should keep eating the icecream even after the infection is gone, just as a preventative measure? I think that sounds like a good idea :-) )

Other than getting a sore throat, I’ve been having a very lazy couple of days, slowly working my way through quilting all those birds (I think I’m about a quarter of the way through it), and sitting in the garden with a book, trying not to forget to move into the shade so I don’t get even more sunburnt.  I did have a few visitors yesterday – Stepmother is in town visiting her daughter, so they came round in the morning to drop off a couple of tubs of cherries.  Stepsister also invited me to go and visit a friend of hers in the evening, who is selling off most of her fabric stash in an attempt to declutter.  In the end we didn’t go, because Stepsister wasn’t feeling well enough, but that was probably a good thing – I really don’t need any more fabric, do I?  (Trick question, of course I do!  But having the temptation removed was probably a good idea.)

Then in the afternoon, Ade popped round to steal some lemons off my tree.  It was good to catch up with her, because they’re moving up to Auckland in a few weeks, so I won’t see much more of her.

Right, I’m off to follow the doctor’s orders and have some icecream :-)

Back to the birds

Hey, remember this quilt?

Yep, that one I started ages ago (ok, I just checked, and the quilt-along started in January 2015, so pretty close to three years ago!), which I finished the top for, and then never got round to quilting, because semester started and I was too busy, and then Tartankiwi released three extra birds, which I wanted to incorporate into the back but couldn’t decide how, and then I thought I should probably get a bit better at free-motion quilting before I attempted it, and I couldn’t decide how I wanted to quilt it anyway, and then I was just totally intimidated by its size and by how long it had been sitting there waiting so I felt like when I did quilt it, it would have to be perfect, and then I kept getting distracted by shiny new projects (ok, so that’s been happening pretty much all the way through all the other stages as well), and finally yesterday I told myself it was time to bite the bullet and get it done.

So I spent the afternoon yesterday sewing the backing together, and ironing the top (because apparently if you leave a quilt top folded up in the bottom of your half-finished projects pile for a year or two, it gets a bit wrinkly – who knew?), and then this morning, after I’d scrubbed the kitchen table (and the kitchen floor, because have you seen the size of that quilt?  There was no way I was going to be able to baste it without some of it falling onto the floor at some point.), I finally got it basted, and started the quilting!

Did I mention this is a very large quilt?  And incredibly heavy?  I am going to have very well developed shoulder muscles by the time it’s finished – moving it around on the machine is a real workout (I am so thankful for my nice new sewing table – quilting it on my old setup would have been impossible).  But I’m pleased with how the quilting is turning out so far – it’s definitely not perfect (the other problem with it being so hard to move is that it’s difficult to keep the motion nice and smooth, so some of my swirls (the swirly patterns are supposed to be air currents or something – it makes sense to me, anyway) are pretty wobbly in places), but hopefully the effect as a whole will make up for the occasional oddity.

Don’t hold your breath for this to be finished soon though – there’s a lot of quilt to cover, and many many hours of work still to be done (and also, much as I enjoy quilting, I don’t really want to spend my entire break in my sewing room, when the sun is shining outside (well, it was earlier – it’s clouded over again now…)).

A lot to catch up on

A belated Merry Christmas (or celebration of your choice) to everyone – sorry I didn’t post sooner, but it’s been a busy (and very social) week.

With the university being closed from the 22nd, which effectively made the 21st the deadline for all those PBRF-eligible projects, the last week of work was a lot more frantic than I’m used to the normally-lazy last week being.  But despite a few last-minute hitches (one of which kept us working until nearly 4pm on the last day, when most people had sloped off around lunchtime), and the fact that everyone else was in pre-holiday mode, so we all kept getting distracted by invitations to morning teas, and people just dropping in for a chat, we somehow managed to get all the projects finished and live just in time.

The one I’m most proud of (and not just because I’m listed as an editor in the official citation listing :-) ) is the Canterbury Roll Digital Edition.  We’ve been working on it for well over a year, and it’s taken up a huge amount of my time, as well as that of others of my team, plus various students we’ve had working in the Lab as interns or research assistants.  I’d hate to think how many person hours in total have gone into it, but I think the end product is worth it.

The Canterbury Roll is a 15th century manuscript held by the university, which gives a genealogy of the Kings of England, starting with Noah (yep, that Noah – they took their genealogy very seriously in the 15th century!) and ending with Edward IV.  It’s an amazing document, but it’s on 5 metres of rolled up parchment, and is kept locked away in the library’s rare books room, so it isn’t exactly easy to view.  Which is why we, in conjunction with the History Department, and a few other collaborators at other universities, decided to digitise it.  So now anyone can go online and view a high-quality digital facsimile, which will really open it up for people to study.

And because it’s digital, we were able to add all sorts of other features – like you can click on any part of the Roll and you’ll see a transcription of the Latin text, plus a translation into English, plus you can see which of the four (or possibly five – there’s a bit of academic debate there) scribes who contributed to the Roll wrote which bit, and turn on notes which show you where the scribes made errors.  The interface that does all this was built by the Lab, and I think we did a pretty good job :-)

Plus it’s just been a really fun (and interesting!) project to work on, and taught me so much.  On the technical side I had to learn a new programming language, but as well as that I picked up quite a bit of Latin and medieval history along the way, just by osmosis from being so immersed in it all the time :-)

Once we finally managed to leave the Lab on Thursday night, we all (plus the Directors and a few other staff who’d been involved with the Lab over the year) went over to the Staff Club for a few drinks.  There was an end of year barbecue going on, so lots of staff had their families there, and it was a lovely evening so we all sat out on the lawn and enjoyed being able to relax for a bit, and watch Santa presiding over a lolly scramble for the kids.

It was Antoine’s last day (he’d hoped to be able to stay on longer (and we’d hoped he’d be able to too!), but the budget didn’t stretch to offering him full time work for next year, which he needed to extend his visa past March, so he decided to spend his last few months in the country travelling around instead), so as a farewell present we gave him a book about New Zealand’s great walks, some of which he’s planning on doing before he leaves.  He’s definitely going to be missed, and not just for his programming skills – in the 6 months or so that he and Samuel having been working for the Lab, the three of us have formed a really good team, and it’s going to be tough to have to build that again with a new person.

I was glad to have Friday off (we always get Christmas Eve, or the Friday before if it falls on a weekend, as a University Holiday), so that I could run around madly doing all the last minute jobs I hadn’t had time to get done earlier in the week – cleaning the house, stocking up on groceries, and buying extra plates so I’d have enough for Saturday’s party (I’d invited I think 14 people, so if everyone turned up, the plate situation was going to get tight).

As it turned out, a few people pulled out at the last minute (one of the hazards of having so many extreme introverts in my friends group – running out of metaphorical spoons is reasonably common, especially in the super-social pre-Christmas season) so it wasn’t too excessively large a group that turned up on Saturday.

I’d split the party into two parts, and decreed the afternoon kid-friendly, and the evening for adults only.  That way I could invite the mini-Harvestbirds, so they wouldn’t feel left out, but also have time for proper board games, uninterrupted by children, later in the evening.  It all worked out fantastically well – Lytteltonwitch and the Harvestbirds came for the afternoon, and we played Pictionary and nibbled on snacks until about 6, when the mini-Harvestbirds helped me to make pizzas (I’d made a few batches of pizza dough in the morning (during which I managed to burn out the motor in my food processor, producing big clouds of black smoke, so the food processor and the first batch of dough ended up in the bin, and I kneaded the rest by hand), and asked everyone to bring along some pizza toppings to go on them).  The elder mini-Harvestbird got bored with helping pretty quickly, but the younger one enthusiastically assisted me right to the end, and we got quite a good production line going, with me rolling out the bases and spreading the sauce, and her putting the rest of the toppings and cheese on – we had it nicely timed so that as soon as one pizza came out of the oven the next was ready to go in, and there was a steady stream of pizzas going through to the lounge (the rest of the guests had arrived while we were cooking, so there were plenty of willing recipients for each new pizza).  The pizzas were declared a great success, and I even managed to get a couple of slices myself from the last one out of the oven (I think we cooked 10 pizzas in total – pretty good going for a kitchen staff of two, one of which was a 5 year old!!)

After dinner, the Harvestbirds went home, and the rest of us played board games until the small hours of the morning.  A great party all round, although I was totally exhausted by the end!

The next day (Christmas Eve) I’d planned to have a restful day, with the exception of making a cake to take to Dana’s place on Christmas Day (she’d invited me to have lunch with her, her partner, and her mother).  I wanted to get some fresh fruit to go on it, so my plan was to go to the supermarket nice and early, before it got too busy, and (as motivation to get an early start) have a nice breakfast at a cafe on the way.  The plan was slightly foiled when I slept in (something about the very late night the night before), but I set out for my favourite cafe, which is half-way to the supermarket, only to find it boarded up, and a notice saying the cafe was closed until the broken windows could be repaired (it looked like a car had driven into it – probably someone overshooting from the angle-parking carparks in front).  All was not lost though, as there’s another cafe (not quite as good) just along the road from the supermarket.  Except that one was also closed – no damage this time, they’d just closed for the holidays.  I ended up walking all the way to Church Corner before I found somewhere to have breakfast, by which time it was more like morning tea time, and by the time I actually got to the supermarket, it was totally crowded.  So much for my relaxing start to the day…

I got home, and was just sitting down for a few minutes before starting the cake, when I got a phone call from my former ESOL student, asking if she could come and visit.  I haven’t seen her in about a year, so it was lovely to catch up with her (and meet her granddaughter, who is starting school in the new year!  Time has definitely flown – I thought it was just a couple of years since I finished tutoring her, but I went to her son’s wedding that year, and now he has a nearly 5 year old!).  It was quite a long visit though, as we each caught up with the other’s news, so by the time she left I had to rush to get the cake made.

It turned out pretty well though, especially once I added the fruit in the morning:

I had a nice lazy start on Christmas morning, then caught a bus over to Dana’s place.  Dana was, as always, spectacularly dressed in a totally Christmassy outfit – here she is doing her best impersonation of a Christmas tree:

We had a lovely lunch of mici (little Romanian sausages – very tasty!), devilled eggs, and German salad (Dana is Romanian, and her partner is German, so it was quite an international meal, especially when you add in the French Chocolate Cake I’d brought!) – it looks like quite a small meal when you look at it on the table, but we were all totally full by the end!

After lunch we opened presents. I’d managed somehow to find enough time over the last couple of weeks to finish off a Christmas mini-quilt for Dana, which she loved:

(Obligatory photo of the back, to show off the quilting. I was experimenting with using different colours of thread in the different areas of the quilt, which I think turned out quite well.)

Dana had actually given me a gift at the party on Saturday, so gave me a Christmas card so I didn’t feel left out on Christmas Day, which was very sweet of her :-) The gift she’d given me was very cool – two new ornaments for my tree; a gold leopard and a unicorn sloth hugging a rainbow. I never knew I needed a rainbow unicorn sloth in my life, but he is such a perfect addition to my tree!

After stuffing ourselves some more with dessert, we tried out a game Mum had sent me, which involved taking turns playing tunes on a kazoo and then everyone attempting to guess what the tune was. It was hilariously funny (especially because Dana’s mother never quite got the hang of actually getting her kazoo to do anything other than make raspberry noises), and quickly descended into giggly chaos, as we abandoned all pretence of keeping score or following the rules and just played silly tunes.

Afterwards, we played a more sedate game of Ticket to Ride, while snacking on yet more chocolate, so it was about 7 pm by the time I left. It was a lovely evening (after a stinking hot day), so I decided to walk home – it took about an hour, but was a really nice walk after all that food. I met a lot of other people out walking along the way – I think everyone had the same idea to take advantage of the slightly cooler evening!

My original plan for Boxing Day was to go into total hibernation, having been way too social over the preceding few days, but seeing as I needed to replace my dead food processor, I decided to brave the Boxing Day sales, and went to Riccarton Mall. I managed to find a decent one for 50% off, so it was a successful expedition, but struggling through the crowds in the mall (especially carrying the large and heavy food processor box!) was not fun. By the time I got home I never wanted to see another person, so I’m afraid I wasn’t in the most social mood when Lytteltonwitch dropped round that afternoon. She’d come bearing fabric though, for a quilt she’s asked me to make for a friend of hers who’s having a baby (does this count as my first commission?), so I forgave her for interrupting my solitude :-) (and after all, I was the one who’d emailed her with a list of fabric requirements that morning, just in case she wanted to take advantage of Spotlight’s sale, so I couldn’t really complain when she did exactly what I’d suggested).

With a new quilt to work on, I of course immediately abandoned all the half-finished quilts piled up on my desk, and spent yesterday and today happily sewing. It’s quite a simple design, so by this afternoon I had a finished quilt top.

Most of the pieces cut out (I told you it was a simple design).

Laying out the blocks.

A couple of slightly more complicated blocks to add as a finishing touch.

The finished quilt top. Can you tell what it is yet? :-)

Lytteltonwitch’s friend is seriously into Lego, so she asked me to design something with a Lego theme.  I’m really pleased with how it turned out – I think it’s really effective for such a simple design.

I don’t want the quilting to detract from the solid colours of the blocks, so I’m planning to quilt it with invisible thread, which means the quilting part will have to wait until that arrives from the shop in the North Island I’ve ordered it from. The baby isn’t due until February, though, so I’ve got a bit of time.

So, that’s how I’ve spent the last week or so.  How was your Christmas?

Wisdom is overrated anyway

A week or so ago, I had a toothache.  On a Friday afternoon, of course, because things like toothaches never happen on a day when it’s easy to get a dentist’s appointment.  But I somehow managed to at least get in to see my normal dentist’s assistant.  Who, after a bit of poking and prodding, told me that not only did I have a cavity, as I expected, but that it was in one of my wisdom teeth, and therefore wasn’t going to be a quick filling-and-you’re-done sort of job.  And that there wasn’t really anything he could do on the spot (other than give me a prescription for antibiotics I can get filled if it starts hurting enough that I think it might be infected) but that I’d need to see the real dentist* to discuss what to do about it.

Luckily, the pain eased off again (it’s definitely still there, but it’s just a dull ache that I can pretty much ignore most of the time, and so far have only had to take pain killers for once – did I ever mention my high pain tolerance?), because it was a week before I could get an appointment for the consultation with the proper dentist, and, because I’m going to be away at a conference, I won’t be able to get the actual work done until the end of the month.

And yes, the bad news is I have to get that wisdom tooth out.  And he strongly advised I get the other two** out at the same time.

The good news is, it isn’t going to be quite as expensive as I’d been dreading (it’s always scary when the first thing a dentist asks is “Do you have insurance?”***).  Thankfully, the whole thing, including a couple of minor fillings that hadn’t been bothering me, but which I decided he might as well take care of at the same time, should come in under $1000.  So not cheap, but it could be a lot worse.

And the other good news is that, unlike the last tooth I had out, which was just under local anaesthetic, I’ll be properly sedated this time round.  So hopefully that means I won’t even notice the horrible graunching noises of tooth against bone which are almost worst than the actual pain part.

Still not looking forward to it, though.

*Not that the assistant isn’t a real dentist – according to his card, he has a BDS, and he must be a proper dentist if he can issue prescriptions – but the other dentist, who I think runs the practice, is the one who does all the complicated stuff.

**I had one out many years ago when I lived in London.  The others hadn’t come up yet at that time, so I didn’t bother getting them out at the same time.  In hindsight, I really should have while I was covered by the NHS!

***To explain for the foreigners, although we have free(ish) public health care in New Zealand, that doesn’t apply to dental work.  Some people do opt to take out health insurance (mainly because it allows them to skip the waiting lists in the public system), but in theory you shouldn’t have to… until you get a huge dental bill and then start regretting your choices.

And now, to counteract thoughts of pain, three happy things:

  1. Lytteltonwitch and I have booked our flights to Paris for next year’s Bookcrossing Convention!  It’s suddenly all very exciting and real.  We haven’t booked much else yet (just accommodation in Paris and Bordeaux – we’re still working out the rest of the itinerary), but I’m spending way too much time poring over maps of France (and northern Spain), and practising my very rusty French (and only slightly less rusty Spanish), when I should be doing other things. Who cares, though – nous allons en France!
  2. New World were doing their “Little Gardens” promotion again last month, and I finally got round to starting off the three plants I got (I seemed to have bought very few groceries while the promotion was on, probably because I was away quite a bit). We had a bit of a heat wave last week, so they all burst into enthusiastic life very quickly, but have slowed down a bit now that the weather has returned to normal Christchurch spring-ness. I’m not convinced about the feasibility of growing either cucumbers or watermelons in a pot, especially not in this climate, but it’ll be fun seeing how far they get. And the thyme should at least grow ok, once the weather warms up again.
  3. The rapid approach of Christmas has given me the perfect excuse to break out a new project. Or technically, many smaller projects. I, as usual, have got way too ambitious with my plans for “quick” wee presents, but I’m having lots of fun making them (it may also have been a good excuse to buy a couple of Christmas-y charm packs that were on special at one of my favourite fabric shops…).And so, the production line begins:

    (and experimenting with all the possible colour combinations…)

    I did actually finish one of them off completely, because I wanted to include one in the parcel I send off for the Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange, and I’m running out of time to send it. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out – I was playing some more with contrasting quilting textures, and using the patterns of the pieces to guide the quilting. I don’t think I’ll do the rounded corners on the rest of them though – they were way too fiddly to do the binding on.

    The quilting looks really good on the back, too (and for once, I actually remembered *before* I did the binding to add a label, and some little loops in case the recipient wants to hang it up instead of use it as a mat).

Not all my own work

When I was down in Alexandra the other day, mum gave me an old piece of appliqué she’s had for ages, and asked it I could quilt it and turn it into a cushion cover for her.  So that’s what I spent yesterday afternoon doing (in between writing that ridiculously long blog post).

Stupidly, I forgot to take a before photo, so you’ll just have to be satisfied with photos of the finished object (you can just use your imagination for the before shot – it looked like this, but flat, and with no binding):

I wanted the appliqué to really stand out, so I used the same technique as with the skeleton, stitching in the ditch around the main elements, and then using a really dense quilting pattern for the background (possibly too dense – it’s a bit stiff for a cushion cover, really, but I wanted to keep the scale of the quilting really small to be in fitting with the size of the piece).  I found a scrap of super-high loft batting to use, so the flowers really puff out:

I even managed to find some fabric in my stash that matched the colours in the flowers almost perfectly, so I could give it a nice colourful binding to frame the picture.  I reckon it turned out pretty good.

It’s a bit of a weird shape for a cushion (which is why it looks a bit strange here – I didn’t have a cushion the right size to fit it, so I just stuffed it quickly with an old towel for the photo), but the fabric was too small to square up, and adding extra borders on the sides would have looked strange, so it’ll just have to be a rectangular cushion.  I think it looks ok, anyway.

And it means that for once I’m showing off a completed project (even if most of the work on it was done by someone else), instead of a work in progress!

Hope you like it mum!  I’ll try and remember to take it into work tomorrow so I can post it to you.