The big reveal

The mystery quilt has been handed over to its recipient, so now I can show it off here:

Given the subject matter, no prizes for guessing who it went to – Lytteltonwitch of course. When I saw the fabric (everything inside the inner purple border is a single panel of fabric) I knew I had to turn it into a quilt for her.  The big challenge was to finish it in time for Halloween, especially as I was running short of weekends in October (next weekend is the NZ/Aus Bookcrossing convention, and this weekend I was supposed to be spending most of on a couple of long walks as part of the Walking Festival, but the weather has reverted to winter again with heavy rain all weekend, so the walks got cancelled and I was left with a free weekend, which is really the only reason I managed to finish the quilt off yesterday).

The patchwork itself isn’t particularly complicated (the border is made of Courthouse Steps, with Log Cabins on the corners, which are both pretty simple blocks), but it’s the first time I’ve really done multiple borders (I don’t count the added-at-the-last-minute borders on the Flower Garden quilt, because I was very much making them up as I went along – this time I actually planned the borders in advance and worked out all the measurements so everything would fit).  In the process, I learnt that my quarter-inch foot doesn’t actually sew an exact quarter inch, although I don’t think it’s the foot at fault – I actually think my machine is slightly out of alignment.  It’s only out by about a millimetre, which isn’t a huge issue most of the time, but when you add all the millimetres in all those Courthouse Steps up, it was out by about an inch in the total length.  Which meant I had to trim the blocks next to the corners quite a bit to make them fit properly, so some of the “steps” are very narrow compared to those around them.  Luckily though it’s not really noticeable unless you know what you’re looking for, so it doesn’t spoil the quilt overall.  I’ll just have to keep the not-quarter-inch thing in mind next time I’m doing a quilt where the measurements are so crucial.

As I mentioned, I’m really proud of the quilting on this one, because I didn’t use an overall design, but quilted different sections differently so that certain parts would stand out more.  Most importantly, I stitched an outline around the skeleton, then (other than a few internal lines to keep the batting stable) left the skeleton itself unquilted, with dense quilting in the background (spiderwebs, of course :-) ), which makes the bones really stick out. It’s a bit hard to see in the photos, but in person it looks quite 3D.

I did something similar with the borders, using dense and sparse quilting to increase the contrast between the dark and light steps.  I also changed the thread colour between sections, again to keep the contrast nice and clear.

You can get a better idea of how I did the quilting by looking at the back of the quilt:

The difference to the final product between doing elaborate quilting like this and just doing an overall design is subtle, but I really like how it came out.  And, as always, I learnt a lot in the process.  Every quilt I make expands my repertoire of skills a little bit more.

Needless to say, Lytteltonwitch was very happy with her gift :-)

Oh, and the skeleton glows in the dark…


I went last night with Lytteltonwitch to see the film adaptation of Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover.  I’m not sure what I thought of the movie as a whole, because it was filmed in post-earthquake Christchurch, so (just like the first time I saw the Lord of the Rings movies), seeing so many familiar places on the big screen distracted me from the actual film (I think the same was true for most people in the audience – I kept hearing whispered comments from around the theatre of “Hey, that’s…”).  I’ll probably have to see it again to judge it properly.  But a few (spoiler-free) initial thoughts:

  • Timothy Spall was really good.  A bit too good, really – he made the local actors look slightly amateurish.
  • Setting it in Christchurch (or, at least, filming it in Christchurch – I don’t think they actually say in the film that it’s Christchurch, but they mention the city being destroyed by earthquakes, so there’s not really any other western city it can be) was, I think, a good choice – the empty residential red zone provides a suitably eerie backdrop to the story.  I wonder though how audiences outside of Christchurch (and particularly, outside NZ) will respond – what’s become normal to us (an antique shop in a shipping container, half-demolished buildings left abandoned, streets with the outlines of gardens but no houses, and in particular, parts of the city being so incredibly normal when everything around them is damaged) be so weird as to be incomprehensible to outsiders?  How will outsiders read things like cordon fences and flooded streets, which have so much extra meaning to Christchurch people?
  • I haven’t read the book (yeah, I know, but it’s one of her later books, so I missed out on reading it as a kid, and she wrote so many I haven’t caught up with all of them as an adult), so I don’t know if it’s meant to be this way, or if something was lost in translation from book to film, but there were a few moments where I got really confused about what was going on – it felt like there were plot points that had been skipped over or something.
  • (Just to harp on about the landscape a bit more…)  As films always do, they took a lot of  artistic licence with the geography of the city – there’s scenes where characters walk from what looks like Bexley to the CBD in a few minutes (it’s about 10 km in reality), and buildings that are far apart (in time as well as space – in one scene a couple of the characters are on a balcony looking across the city.  Right below them is a building under construction – except I know that when that building was at that stage of construction, the building they’re supposed to be in (which they definitely weren’t in, because it was earthquake-damaged so would be too dangerous, and it’s on the other side of town anyway) had already been demolished…).  None of this detracts from the film though (unless you know Christchurch well, of course, when it’s a bit distracting – again, I heard a few whispered comments in the audience of “How did they get there so fast?”).  It mostly just amused me, seeing how they’d warped the city to fit the needs of the plot or atmosphere (or just logistics – there’s one scene that shows an ambulance travelling along Hagley Avenue towards Christchurch Hospital, but when it arrives, it’s at Princess Margaret (an old, mostly abandoned, hospital on the edge of town) – obviously they couldn’t film at the real hospital because it would be too disruptive).

So yeah, I need to see it again (and probably read the book) to really decide whether or not I liked it.  If any of you (especially the foreigners) get to see it, I’ll be really interested to hear your thoughts.

Playgrounds and poetry

Brother and family were up at the weekend to go to a concert. It was a bit of a flying visit, but I met up with them for dinner on Sunday night, and then took the morning off on Monday (finally using up some time in lieu I accumulated months ago!) so I could faciliate a meeting between Niece and the mini Harvestbirds (who met her at my graduation party, and had asked me frequently when she’d be back in Christchurch so they could play with her again) at the Margaret Mahy playground before the family headed home.  The meeting was a great success – the children reconnected and spent several hours playing happily on the playground, while Brother, SIL, Nephews (who are getting much too grown up to be classed among the children any more), Harvestbird and I sat in the sun and chatted.  Definitely the best possible way to spend a Monday morning!


Last night was a very late one, because I went with Harvestbird to an open mic poetry night.  Stepsister is a regular attendee (and I think involved in organising them?) and had invited me to come along sometime, mainly because there’s quite a few NB-type people who go along and she thought I might like to meet them.  I extended the invite to Harvestbird, seeing as she’s a real poet, so we met up for dinner beforehand, then went to hear the poetry (and participate, in Harvestbird’s case).

It was a really fun night – the poetry was of variable quality (from amazingly good to seriously average), but most of the poets only read two or three poems, so even the not-so-good ones weren’t up for long enough to become tedious (and the really good ones more than made up for them!), and there were all sorts of little fun audience participation traditions the event has (like everyone singing when a new poet gets up to read for the first time – Harvestbird was greeted with a rousing round of Oma Rāpeti, complete with all the actions), plus regular breaks to let people refresh drinks and chat.

I never did end up meeting the NB people Stepsister had promised to introduce me to (I think maybe they weren’t there – she mentioned there were a lot of people missing that normally turned up), but it was definitely worth going along anyway just for the entertainment.  Harvestbird was keen to go back again too, so maybe if I go to enough of them I’ll be inspired to brush off my own very rusty poetifying skills (don’t hold your breath!)


In other news, still no progress on the whole having a government thing, but the final results with the special votes should be out soon, which is what Peters says he’s waiting for, so hopefully things will start moving after that…  And in the meantime, other than a lot of “experts” pontificating in the media about which way they predict Peters will go, the country potters along as if there’d never even been an election.


Three happy things:

  1.  Nephew #1 shot me a rabbit the night before they came up to Christchurch.  It was delivered to me skinned and gutted but otherwise intact, but thankfully Brother quickly deboned it for me and cut it into usable pieces, so I was able to cook myself a very tasty stir-fried rabbit and peppers dish for dinner on Monday night, and there’s enough meat left that I’ll be able to make a small casserole at the weekend. Parsnips got the scraps, but wasn’t overly impressed, and only ate it when it became clear I wasn’t going to give her anything else – rabbit is a bit gamey for her fussy nose, I think.  But that’s ok, even if she doesn’t appreciate Nephew’s gift, I certainly do!
  2. I started quilting the mystery quilt, and it’s going really well (wish I could show off some work in progress photos, but they’d give the game away).  I’ve been trying out some new FMQ techniques, and I’m really pleased with how they’re turning out – I reckon the quilt should look pretty cool once it’s finished.
  3. The weather has been warm enough for the last few days to have the windows open.  It’s amazing how much better the world feels when there’s a pleasant breeze wafting through it.

There’s pretty pictures at the end

Number one thing: I want to know whose decision it was to schedule the election for the same weekend that daylight savings starts?  Have they no sympathy for those of us who stay up half the night to watch the results, and then get an hour less to sleep in the morning?  This is nothing but cruelty.  If I make it through the day without falling asleep at my desk, I’ll be amazed.  (And I don’t even drink coffee, so I can’t go for the traditional solution :-( )

So yeah, the election.  Not quite the result anyone could have wished for (well, maybe with the exception of Winston Peters, who must be loving being back in such a position of power, having the whole country once again waiting for him to decide which coalition he’ll join). I got invited to the Greens’ Ilam gathering to watch the results on Saturday night (because I’d been a scrutineer for them again) – it was a pretty subdued evening, of course, but interesting discussing the results with people who know a bit more about the behind the scenes stuff.

(For those of you not in NZ, the short(ish) version of the election results is that neither major party won enough votes to form a government either on its own or with its obvious coalition partners, but NZ First, one of the minor parties, has just enough seats to push either side over the line.  But NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters, is a bit of a volatile character, so is as likely to make the decision based on who he feels has personally insulted him as on such unimportant things as policies or ideology. And last time he was in this position, in 1996, he took great pleasure in stringing everyone along for weeks while the two major parties grovelled to him.  Which means we’re probably in for more of the same this time round, while the country waits impatiently to find out who the government will be.)


Last week was a busy one. Lots of political stuff, of course, but plenty of other things as well. I took Monday morning off to be a support person at a mediation hearing for a friend who has been battling ACC (she asked me because she knew I’d been to mediation meetings when I was involved in the union, although they were quite different, being through the employment court, and with a lot more lawyers involved). I can’t go into any details about the hearing itself, because it is of course all confidential, but it was an interesting process. My role was mostly just to take notes and ask for clarification occasionally (the details of the case were very complex, and even the mediator was getting confused at times!), but my friend said she really appreciated having me there, because I could stay clear-headed and make sense of what the ACC person was saying, which she was feeling too stressed to do on her own.

There were of course a lot of politicians visiting campus last week. I didn’t have time to go and listen to all of them speak, but I did get to hear Metiria Turei talk at an event organised by the Māori Students’ Association. She was really inspiring, and seemed pretty genuine for a politician – a pity that the whole benefit fraud scandal has destroyed her political career. She spoke really openly about the scandal and her choice to go public, and said she doesn’t regret it, because it at least opened up a discussion about how we look after the most vulnerable people in our society. I can’t condemn her for her choices (either the fraud itself or in going public), but I also can’t help wishing it hadn’t damaged the Greens so badly.

On Friday I went to an apolitical (but also very political – maybe just not party political) presentation from Gen Zero about the Zero Carbon Act (NZers, if you haven’t signed the petition already, why not?). Another really inspiring talk, and great to see Gen Zero taking change into their own hands, rather than waiting on the government to get round to it (which could be a long time, depending on which way the coalition discussions go…). It was great to have a chance to catch up with Rosalee, too – she’s been doing amazing things by the sound of it, touring the Zero Carbon Act around the country.

But I did get to do some fun stuff during the week as well – I finally made it back to the craft group meetup on Thursday night (for various reasons I’ve missed the last few weeks), and then on Friday night I went round to Dana’s place to watch an anime series with her and a few other friends. I haven’t watched a lot of anime, so it took me a couple of episodes to get used to the narrative style, but once I did it was quite entertaining. We only got about a quarter of the way through the series, so I think we’ll be continuing the viewing next week.

Then on Saturday I managed to squeeze in a Bookcrossing meetup between scrutineering and going to the Greens’ event in the evening, and then I spent yesterday afternoon at the Len Lye exhibition at the Art Gallery with Harvestbird and her children. The miniest-Harvestbird had been to see the exhibition with her class, so she was very proud to be able to show us around, and tell us how the sculptures moved.

So yeah, a pretty busy week! No wonder I didn’t have time to post anything before now.


Finally, to update last weekend’s happy things:

The flowering cherry is fully in bloom, and looking amazing (ignore the state of the lawn – it rained all week, and once the sun finally came out for long enough to start drying it out, mini-Gwilk was away for the weekend so couldn’t do any mowing for me):

The apple blossom is starting to come out too:

I found the perfect frame for Yetzirah’s painting (it’s made out of recycled fence posts, which seemed apt), and hung it next to one of her very early efforts. The difference between the two is amazing when you see them like that – I hope you’re feeling suitably proud of how far you’ve progressed, Yetzirah!

And I managed to squeeze in a little sewing time, so my secret project quilt is starting to come together. You’ll have to wait until the big reveal to see the whole thing, but in the meantime, a sneak peak at a couple of the component blocks (yes, of course some cat fabric snuck in there, what else did you expect!):

Three happy things

  1. Got home last night and found a large envelope in the letterbox.  Inside, a beautiful watercolour painting by the talented Yetzirah.  It’s even more gorgeous in person than it looked on screen – can’t wait to find an appropriate frame and decide where to hang it!
  2. Some of the blossom is out on the cherry tree! I’ve been watching the buds for the last few days, waiting for them to burst, and it finally happened this morning. Barring wind, the whole thing should be in bloom in a few days.

    In the back yard, the apple blossom isn’t quite out yet, but it’s very close:

    And, amazingly, the plum blossom hasn’t all blown away in its first appearance, for the first time in many years, so I might actually get some plums this year (or, more realistically, the birds might get some plums – the chances that I get a chance to pick them quickly enough are pretty slim).

    Spring is definitely sprunging.

  3. The other exciting parcel in my letterbox last night was a piece of fabric I have actual plans for (as opposed to my usual “this is cool, I must add it to my stash” purchases). You know how sometimes you see something and you immediately know the perfect person for it? Well, one of my favourite fabric shops had a sale on, so I was browsing through their site, and saw a piece of fabric which I knew I had to buy and make into something for a particular person (who reads this blog, hence my deliberate vagueness). It arrived yesterday, and is just as good as I thought, so I spent a couple of hours this morning picking out other fabrics to go with it and drawing up some design ideas (photograph taken with inspiration fabric conveniently hidden…)

    So this afternoon it looks like I’ll be ignoring the three quilt tops still sitting in my to-be-quilted pile, and starting a new project instead.

    But what’s life without too many projects on the go at once? 😉