About FutureCat

A bookcrosser from New Zealand (yeah, like that wasn't obvious from the title). Which used to be the whole point of my diary. Nowadays its as likely to feature entries on quilting, cross-stitch, study, travelling, and life in general as anything bookcrossing related (ok, so the travel is generally bookcrossing related :-))

And we’re back (sort of)

If I actually posted here more often, you’d have noticed that everything looked a bit weird around here for a week or two, because the WordPress theme I was using broke, so the site reverted to a default, and everything went ugly. But thankfully our fearless leader Steve was able to update the theme (which, apparently, I’m the only person left using), so all is back to normal, and my carefully crafted (i.e. thrown together in a lunch hour) banner and background are back in their rightful places again.

I’m gaining even more appreciation for the work Steve does on this site, because I’ve been working on some of our WP sites for work, which has involved me dipping my toes into php for the first time ever. It’s a tricky language to get your head around, but I’ve managed to successfully tweak a couple of things, so I’m feeling very proud of myself.


In more relevant news, so there’s this pandemic thing. And the whole country has been in lockdown for the last 4 weeks (I’ve actually been in lockdown a few more days than that, because diabetes puts me in a high-risk category, so I went into self-isolation as soon as we hit Level 2 (explanation of our alert levels, for the non-NZers)). Luckily, my work can pretty much be done from home. Well, in theory at least – the reality has been that I’ve found it incredibly hard to focus working at home. I’m taking comfort from the TEU’s frequent reminders that this is not working from home, it’s working at home during a crisis, so a reduction in productivity is only to be expected. Also, I’ve discovered that if I leave the house every morning and walk around the block, I can somehow convince my brain that I’ve “gone to work”, and get myself more into work mode than if I just go straight from the kitchen to the study. But complaints aside, I’m so thankful to have the kind of work that I can keep doing (and being paid for!) even during lockdown, yet still be safeguarding my health. I’m also incredibly thankful to be living in New Zealand, where our government acted so quickly and effectively to contain the spread of the virus.

It’s turned out to be perfect timing for having Nephew and NOL living here, too! They’ve been wonderful about doing essential grocery and pharmacy shopping for me, so that I don’t have to expose myself to risk. We decided to keep to our own “bubbles”, seeing as they’re having a bit more contact with the world than I am, so we’ve got a system of leaving things on the doorstep for each other (including their washing, which they leave on the doorstep so I can throw it in the washing machine for them, then I leave it out by the line for them to hang up, so they don’t have to come into the house). Being students (especially students whose classes are now all online), they’ve reverted to a mostly nocturnal existence, but we do still see each other to wave to or chat at a safe distance from time to time. Otherwise, most of our conversations are via Discord (though that was the case before COVID-19 too – this is a household of geeks ๐Ÿ™‚ )

For a brief time, official advice was to wash fruit and vegetables in soapy water then rinse. Thankfully, that advice has now reverted back to just clean them before use as you normally would, because do you know how hard it is to rinse soap suds out of broccoli??? I was still amused enough by the advice to take this photo, though ๐Ÿ™‚

My creativity has also suffered during lockdown. You’d think the fact that I spend all day sitting in my study (which doubles as – or perhaps primarily is – my sewing room) would mean I’d be stealing every free minute in my day to work on quilts. But actually, other than trying to keep up with the two quiltalongs, I’ve done very little. Sitting in front of Netflix or YouTube seems to be the most my brain is capable at the moment. But hopefully, now that I’m starting to get into more of a rhythm with work, I can also find the mental space to be creative.

Working on the Sugaridoo quiltalong has been quite a creative process though – I’ve been having fun playing with the colours and incorporating a scrappy look to the rows

One very minor way I’ve been creative is quick paintings for my window. This was inspired by the Weโ€™re Not Scared NZ Bear Hunt which has people putting teddy bears (and all sorts of other soft toys) in their windows for kids to search for while they’re out walking (which is allowed for the purpose of exercise, as long as you stay in your local area). I didn’t have a teddy bear, so I drew one.

And then at Easter, the PM suggested we put pictures of Easter Eggs in our windows as a substitute Easter Egg hunt, so I added a couple of eggs. My window is slowly filling up… (and with the bonus of it stops the glare from the afternoon sun!)

Back before the lockdown, I did some real art! One of the events I went to for Pride Week was a life-drawing class. I’ve never tried life drawing before (well, unless you count some very quick sketches of people in the park from a distance), and I haven’t really done any proper drawing in many many many years, so it was a bit intimidating, and my first few sketches of the early poses were proof of just how rusty I was. But I was reasonably pleased with my last two attempts – her hands and face still proved beyond my drawing skills, but I thought the rest was not bad considering how out of practice I am!

The other cool creative thing I went to at Pride was a comics workshop run by Sam Orchard of Roostertails fame (and also friend of Alkalinekiwi). The workshop was a lot of fun, and I got to meet Sam properly (I had previously met him very briefly at NDF), which was cool. My resulting comic is not the most artistically accomplished (understatement of the week), but at least I enjoyed the creative process ๐Ÿ™‚

There were a few other events I got to for Pride, but unfortunately, a lot of it got cancelled as the first cases of COVID-19 started to emerge in NZ, and restrictions started to be put in place.

And it wasn’t just Pride that was being cancelled – last weekend’s Bookcrossing Convention on the Gold Coast of course had to be cancelled (though we did have a Zoom call with as many of the people who would have been at the convention as possible – that was really fun, and so lovely to see all the friends I would have caught up with at the convention), plus Worldcon, which I was going to go to in July, has been turned into a virtual convention, so that’s another trip cancelled. On the plus side, no travel this year means the money I would have spent on those trips I’ve been able to instead spend on upgrading my computer – my nephew and I have spent the last couple of weeks researching all the latest technology and bought all the parts, so our project for this weekend is going to be putting all the bits together into the most epic computer ever (well, epic within budget, anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ )


In other pre-lockdown, wow-it’s-a-long-time-since-I-wrote-a-blog-post creative news, I finished the ‘Garden City’ table runner to go with the placemat I’d made:

The binding technique did work out a bit better than with the placemat, but it’s not my favourite method though – think I’ll go back to traditional binding.

I also managed to finish the two chickens for my niece just in time for the last time I saw her, when the family were up to do some work on the caravan not long before the lockdown.

Niece had found some big beads to use for its eyes, which turned out wonderfully derpy ๐Ÿ™‚
This one just got pins for its eyes, because I didn’t have enough beads

And that’s about it for an update on life in the FutureCat bubble. I suspect life is going to carry on like this for quite some time, because even as some restrictions are being lifted, my high-risk category means I’ll still be staying self-isolated until the risk is much lower (or there’s a vaccine). But that’s ok, I’m kind of getting used to the solitary life. It’s a bit different to the social whirl my life has been for the past few years, but I’m still enough of an introvert at heart that I can cope ๐Ÿ™‚ Can’t wait for the libraries to reopen, though!

New neighbours

It’s been all change here over the last few weeks, with Nephew #1 and NOL moving up to Christchurch and into my backyard. There’s been a lot of coming and going of both sets of parents to get them settled in, and to do some much-needed work to clear trees and make the back of the garden habitable. There’s still a bit to be done, but my new neighbours are in residence now, and our arrangement is so far working well – we’re settling into a nice balance of being neighbourly without being too intrusive into each others’ lives.

Still a bit of a shock though to look out my kitchen window and remember there’s a giant caravan out there!

Because of the steady stream of visitors and other disruptions, I haven’t managed to get a lot of craft projects done (or video editing – my backlog of half-edited videos is getting huge again, and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve managed to post anything. Good thing I’m not planning on being a professional YouTuber, because I’m doing everything wrong if I want to grow my subscribers!).

I have kept up with my various quiltalongs though. The Sugaridoo one is the one I’m enjoying most – I really love how the latest row turned out:

All the different rows are slightly different lengths at the moment, but that’ll all be sorted out in the final construction. And we’re not doing the rows in order, so that’s not the order they’ll be in in the finished quilt, which is why the colour combination looks a bit odd at the moment. If I’ve planned my colours correctly, they should make a lot more sense once its finished ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve developed a small obsession with making (or at least, starting to make – I’ve got three under construction, and none finished (yeah, doesn’t sound like me, I know ๐Ÿ˜‰ )) table runners at the moment. They’re a nice way of trying out ideas without committing to a full quilt. Of course, it means I’m going to have a whole collection of table runners and nothing to do with them… I’m obviously going to have to throw a lot of dinner parties or something!

I did manage to finish a small placemat with the leftovers of one of the table runners (it was also a bit of a test for the binding technique I was trying out. It didn’t quite work out, but I did manage to figure out what went wrong, so the table runner version should be better). Nephew reckons it looks like a map of central Christchurch, with its mixture of grey and green squares.

What also might look like an obsession is chicken pincushions, seeing as I’ve made two more, and have plans for a further two. But really it’s just because I wanted three pincushions, so I could have one in each place I normally need one – one by my cutting mat, one by my sewing machine, and one to sit in the lounge where I normally do any handsewing of bindings etc. And the chicken pattern is quick and easy to make, and looks cute. But then when Niece was up the other day, she saw my chickens and fell in love with them, so I let her pick out some fabrics and promised I’d make her a couple. So that’s on my sewing to-do list too.

I just realised I put both their beaks on upside down. Oh well…

What I read in 2019

A lot fewer than in previous years. Partly a reflection of how busy the year was, but also just that I was spending more of my down time on other things (like YouTube and Netflix) instead of reading.

Total = 85 books

January (7)

February (5)

March (14)

  • The Castlemaine Murders by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • The Slow Fix by Ivan Coyote (library e-book)
  • The London Train by Tessa Hadley (library audio book)
  • Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (library e-book)
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince (library book)
  • Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (library book)
  • Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu (library book)
  • Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain (library e-book)
  • The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber (library e-book)
  • Close to Spider Man by Ivan Coyote (library e-book)
  • Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert (library audio book)
  • Month of Sundays by Yolanda Wallace (library e-book)
  • Weird Girl and What’s His Name by Meagan Brothers (library e-book)
  • Wide Awake by David Levithan (library book)

April (4)

  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (library book)
  • Speaking for Ourselves by Michael B Bakan (library audio book)
  • The Fairies of Sadieville by Alex Bledsoe (library audio book)
  • The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones (library book)

May (10)

June (7)

  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (library e-book)
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (library audio book)
  • Building Fires in the Snow edited by Martha Amore and Lucian Childs (library e-book)
  • Red Moon Rising by Matthew Brzezinski (library audio book)
  • The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracyby Mackenzi Lee (library e-book)
  • The Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis (library e-book)
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (library audio book)

July (7)

August (4)

  • I’ll Love You When You’re More Like Me by ME Kerr (library e-book)
  • Autoboyography by Christina Lauren (library audio book)
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (library e-book)
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (library audio book)

September (7)

October (7)

November (9)

December (4)


What I read in 2018 (116 books)
What I read in 2017 (106 books)
What I read in 2016 (92 books)
What I read in 2015 (112 books)
What I read in 2014 (93 books)
What I read in 2013 (129 books)
What I read in 2012 (128 books)
What I read in 2011 (133 books)
What I read in 2010 (137 books)
What I read in 2009 (150 books)
What I read in 2008 (154 books)
What I read in 2007 (123 books)
What I read in 2006 (140 books)
What I read in 2005 (168 books)

What counts as a book?

What I made in 2019

And now, just to repeat most of what was in the previous post, here’s my annual list of what I made last year:

January

Much too busy to be creative!

February

TEU Tลซ Kotahi quilt

March

(with Pieta) Lots of heart blocks for the Healing Hearts for Christchurch project

April

(with Pieta) โ€œู…ุญุจุฉ/Aroha/Loveโ€ mini-quilt

May

Didn’t finish any projects, but I started a few new ones… (this could have something to do with why I have so many unfinished projects!)

June

A random serviette, made from a scrap piece of linen

July

(It looks like I achieved so much this month!  But it was mostly a lot of quick little projects, plus finally getting round to finishing off a few big ones I’ve been working on for months.)

A handy bag for holding surgical drains
A chest-protecting seatbelt pillow
A draft excluder for Mum
(with Pieta) โ€œPurple Townโ€ quilt for Annie
And another seatbelt pillow, for Mum
A cushion with handy pockets
โ€œSeashellsโ€ quilt for Fuzzle
A rag rug

August

A kit for my diabetes gear

September

A rainbow table runner for Diversity Fest
(with Pieta) and lots and lots of rainbow bunting

October

Started a few things, but (once again) somehow didnโ€™t get round to finishing any of themโ€ฆ

November

A quick quilted bookmark for Discoverylover
Finished off another of the Christmas mini-quilts

December

And another one
Wug Mug Rug mini-quilt
Rainbow Aroha mini-quilt
And another Christmas mini-quilt (I’m on a roll finally getting these finished!)
Painted two D&D figurines (the one on the right is supposed to represent my possom-skin and Swannie wearing half-orc barbarian Thokk)

What I made in 2018
What I made in 2017

I’m never going to get caught up, am I?

So my sudden burst of trying to catch up didn’t last long. December got busy, not only with the usual round of Christmas and end-of-year social stuff, and a big project at work, but I also bought an extension to my season ticket at Little Andromeda (a really cool “pop-up” alternative theatre that opened in Christchurch in October), which I got with the intention of only seeing a few shows, but they kept adding more cool shows to the line-up, so I ended up again being out almost every night at one thing or another. (And they’ve managed to add another season February-April, which I’ve again bought a season ticket to, so yeah, expect me to disappear again very soon).

I spent Christmas and New Years down in Alexandra, mostly just spending time with mum (who hasn’t been well), and doing as little as possible after such a hectic few months. I did film a few videos while I was down there (making trifle, Christmas lights, and revisiting childhood homes), but otherwise just enjoyed having time to do nothing.

And I did manage to do one creative thing: my nephew’s girlfriend (I need to find a better way of describing her for my blog, seeing as she’ll be living in my backyard soon – Niece-Out-Law? NOL?) gave me some Dungeons and Dragons figurines for Christmas, and my nephew gave me paints for them, so I spent a couple of days trying to paint a couple of them. My eyes (or my patience) are definitely not good enough to paint fine details on tiny figures, but the overall effect isn’t too bad (if you stand back a bit and squint – in extreme closeup like this they don’t look so impressive!)

My plan was to come back from Alexandra and use my final week of my holidays to do lots of blogging and video editing, and crafty stuff, and generally catch up with all the things I didn’t have time to get done last year… and instead I got a cold, so hardly achieved anything at all. I managed a few little projects – catching up with a couple of “block of the month” style quilts I was a bit behind on (the Cosmos Mystery Quilt, which was my birthday present to myself, and which I’ve been filming shorts videos of each month and the Sugaridoo Quiltalong, which I decided not to film, because I didn’t want to step on the toes of the creator, who is also a (much bigger than me) YouTuber, and because sometimes it’s fun to just play with fabric without having to document it!), and finishing a video not-quite-a-tutorial of the Rainbow Aroha quilt I made last year for a union colleague.

The first two rows of the Sugaridoo Quiltalong.
And the fabrics I’ve set aside for the rest of the rows of the quiltalong…
“Rainbow Aroha”

Oh, and after getting frustrated with the falling-apart pincushion I’d been using, and seeing a very cute chicken-shaped* pincushion somewhere online (I really should have made a note where I saw it…), I made myself one:

It turned out so well I’m considering making myself a couple more, so I can have pincushions in all the places I need one around my sewing room (and the rest of the house…)

* For a very loose definition of “chicken-shaped”


Returning to my previous attempt to catch up on some of the other stuff I did last year:

Another small (though it took forever to design and execute) craft project was making myself a bag to carry all my diabetes gear. Everywhere I go, I have to take insulin, the various components of my blood testing kit, emergency snacks in case my blood sugar starts dropping, emergency jellybeans in base my blood sugar goes really low and I start going into hypoglycaemia (the dreaded “hypo”), even more emergency glucagen injection kit in case I get so hypo that I pass out (which, touch wood, has never happened to me, but it’s always a possibility, so I have to carry the kit (and hope that someone recognises what’s going on in time to give me the injection)), notebooks so I can work out the carbs in whatever I’m eating and record what my sugar levels are doing… it’s a lot of stuff. So I decided to make a custom bag that would hold everything I need. And of course I decided to make it as cheerful looking as I possibly could, because if you have to carry around vast quantities of medical supplies, at least they should be pretty and make you smile ๐Ÿ™‚

Front of the bag. I got this fabric in a grab-bag of scraps, so I only just had enough to cover the front of the bag with it, but I loved it so much I had to use it.
And the not-quite-matching back of the bag, made from another scrap piece of fabric.
Inside, with lots of handy pockets and elastic to hold the various bits and pieces. And cats, because everything is better with a few cats ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s still a bit bulky, but it was as compact as I could manage to get it while still having room for everything I need to carry. And it definitely achieves the aim of giving me something pretty to look at while I’m stabbing myself with all the various needles and lancets that are such a fun part of being diabetic.


Another achievement for last year was that I finally managed to finish the rag rug I’d been working on. It took forever (and a *lot* of old clothes cut up for rags), but I finally finished it, and was really pleased with how it turned out:

It now lives in my kitchen, and totally achieves what I wanted – having somewhere warm (and soft) to stand while I do the dishes. Plus brightening up the ugly old lino on the floor. And so far, Parsnips has only managed to pull out one of the pieces of wool (which I resecured, and she hasn’t shown any signs of being tempted to try and pull more out, thankfully).


The university finally appointed a Rainbow Advisor last year, so that our rainbow students get the support they need. In my Rainbow Te Kahukura role for the union, I’ve been working alongside them on a few projects, which has been exciting. One of the big things was Diversity Week (which was actually several weeks), a festival highlighting the diversity at the university. Between us we organised several Rainbow events, including a union-led barbeque for rainbow staff and postgraduates, a film screening, an exhibition, and a stall at the Diversity Market – an evening of cultural displays and food.

For our stall, we had cupcakes, which “customers” (actually, thanks to funding from the university, we gave the cupcakes away for free) could decorate with icing and sprinkles (the word “fabulous” was thrown around quite a bit in the planning ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

While we were setting up, we decided to decorate a few cupcakes ourselves, to provide inspiration. So I decided to see if I could create some of the various pride flags:

From top to bottom:
– Pansexual pride (with extra glitter, because why not)
– Transgender pride
– LGBTQIA+ Rainbow pride (also with extra glitter, see above)

That started everyone else (we had several students from QCanterbury, the student LGBTQIA+ club, helping out on the stall) coming up with ways of depicting the other pride flags (given the limited range of icing and sprinkle colours we had, and the lack of proper piping bags), and we ended up with a whole collection (and a very messy table!):

From top to bottom:
Row 1: Genderqueer pride
Row 2: Intersex pride, Nonbinary pride
Row 3: Transgender pride, Bisexual pride, LGBTQIA+ pride
Row 4: Pansexual pride, Asexual pride

The College of Arts also gave us some funding for decorations for the various events, so Pieta (who’s on the College’s diversity working group with me) and I decided the best use of the funding would be to buy fabric to make as much rainbow bunting as we possibly could. Which turned out to be quite a lot:

The bunting got a lot of use, decorating all sorts of different events during Diversity Week.

These posters are from the amazing Out Loud Aotearoa project which (among other things) collected stories from Rainbow people navigating New Zealand’s mental health system.

And with the last bit of leftover fabric, I made a quick table runner which we used at the union barbeque:

I forgot to get a photo of it at the barbeque, so here’s one of it on my table before I took it into work

Finally, a few more photos of little things I made (or finished making) last year, which I don’t think I’ve posted yet:

I was up in Wellington for NDF in November, which happened to coincide with Discoverylover’s birthday, so she invited me along to her party. So I quickly threw together a little quilted bookmark as a wee present for her:

Remember those Christmas mini-quilts I started a couple of years ago with the intention of giving to all sorts of people, but ran out of time to finish? I actually managed to get a few more of them done! One of them went in my Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange parcel, and another went into a Secret Santa gift exchange at work. If I ever get the rest of them done, I reckon I’ll be all set for Secret Santa gifts for the next few years ๐Ÿ™‚

One Secret Santa I made a special effort for, though. I got invited to the Linguistics department’s Christmas party, and the name I drew for the Secret Santa was actually the person who’d marked my thesis. So I was trying to think of something really cool to give her. Inspiration struck when I was listening to a Linguistics podcast (yeah, I’m a geek), and they were talking about a classic linguistics experiment, which uses an invented word “wug” to describe a little drawing of a creature (and shows that children are linguistically creative, because they can apply appropriate grammatical rules to a totally novel word).

One of the presenters mentioned that that you can’t really use the word “wug” in experiments like this any more, because it’s become a bit of a linguistics meme, and that she even had a coffee mug with a picture of a wug on it – a “wug mug”

That made me think about the other possibilities for decorative wugs, and I realised the ultimate would be a “wug mug rug”. So I made one for my thesis examiner:

Yes, it’s a joke that only someone who’s both a linguist and a quilter would get, but it amused me. And the recipient loved it!

Right, that’s as caught up as I’m ever going to get, I reckon. On to 2020…

A dump of random (mostly crafty) photos (fixed now!)

After such a long time without blogging, I seem to have forgotten how to just sit down and start writing. So to ease myself back in gently, a photo-heavy post (which of course takes much more work than just typing stuff, so I’m not sure why I think this is easier…)

Anyway, this is going to mostly be going through my photos folder and posting whichever ones catch my eye.

First up, my birthday cake (or one of my birthday cakes – I ended up having two, one I ordered (and didn’t think to take a photo of, but it was chocolate and really impressive, and I was under instructions from my dietician to eat lots of it ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and this one I made). I was following an online tutorial, and it was supposed to come out as a perfect rainbow. Obviously, that didn’t quite work, but the random weird swirls of colour it ended up with still looked pretty cool, I reckon. And tasted good, which was more important!

I’ve finished a couple of big quilts since I last posted photos. Well, one big one, and one lap-sized. The smaller was for a work friend who’d had a series of pretty major health problems, and then in the middle of all that, lost her mother. So Pieta, who I’d sewn the Healing Hearts for Christchurch blocks with earlier in the year, suggested we do another cooperative sewing project and make her a quilt. We came up with a general concept (lots of purple, because our friend is a big fan of Prince, and loves all things purple), but then our respective overly-busy schedules meant we couldn’t find any times to get together and sew, so I ended up just making the quilt myself and then handing it over to Pieta for hand-binding, but I still consider it a team effort.

I didn’t manage to get a decent photo of it, unfortunately. This was taken with it draped over a sofa at work after Pieta brought it in to show me the finished binding before she wrapped it up to give to our friend.

It’s a variation on a jelly-roll race quilt, but instead of being made from a jelly-roll, I just cut strips from various fabrics in my stash. Which meant I got a lot more variation in the length of the strips, which I think made for a more interesting quilt (and meant I could change the size a bit, to make it more square than a traditional jelly-roll race. The pops of yellow among the purple reminded me of the lights of houses scattered across the hill in Lyttelton, where our friend lives, so I called the quilt “Purple Town”.

Because it was a pretty simple design, I went a bit overboard with the quilting, with lots of feathers and Angela Walters-style improv quilting. I was pretty proud of how it turned out, and our friend loved it – she’s hung it in the entrance-way of her home, so it’s the first thing she sees when she walks in the door, which I think is the best compliment she could ever give it!

The other big quilt I finished was for Fuzzle, as a thank-you present for her coming down to look after me after my surgery (because I had almost no movement in my arms for the first couple of weeks, because if I tried to move them I’d stretch the incisions across my chest). The original plan had been for Mum to come and be my post-surgery nurse, but a health crisis meant she couldn’t make it to Christchurch (and was facing her own surgery and at around the same time as mine!!) so all my friends rallied round to replace her. My local friends took it in shifts to stay with me for the first few days (as well as bringing regular deliveries of meals and entertainment), and then Fuzzle came and stayed for the rest of my recovery time, which was amazing.

So one of my big items of pre-surgery prep was making her a quilt. I’d been playing around in my design book with ideas using curved log cabin piecing, and she lives by the sea, so this sea-shell shape emerged as a design. The colour choices were obvious – Fuzzle’s favourite colour has always been green, with purple a close second ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m not 100% happy with how it turned out – I like the scrappy look of the log cabins, but if I was to make it again, I think I’d try and keep the tones within each colour more consistent, so that the seashell shapes stood out a bit more. I feel like my quilting (basically long arcs echoing the seashells) helped define the shapes though, so I was reasonably pleased with the final effect. And Fuzzle loved it, which is the important thing.

I did a lot of other little craft projects in preparation for my surgery, too. I’d been obsessively following all the top surgery videos I could find on YouTube, and noting down all the things people had found helpful to have post-surgery, so I could be prepared.

OK, and also because it was a good excuse to play with fabric ๐Ÿ™‚

First up was a bag for carrying my drains. Basically an apron with big pockets, that attached round my waist with velcro. I didn’t end up using this as much as I’d thought, because I’d based the measurements on what I’d found online, and it turned out that the drains my surgeon uses are much bigger and bulkier than the standard ones used in the USA (which, of course, was where most of the information I was finding was from). They fit in the pockets ok, but because I had the pockets on the front, whenever I sat down (which was most of the time, see: recovering from surgery) the tops of them would dig into my stomach. So I ended up just carrying the drains around in my hands a lot of the time, and only using the bag if I needed to go out (like when I had to go back to the surgeon’s office for a checkup). I think something more like a holster, with two big pockets on the sides, would have been a better design than an apron.

Next essential was a seatbelt pillow. This I did find really useful, because any time I had to get in a car, having a pillow between my chest and the seatbelt made things a lot less painful!

I made one for mum, too, but this one sized for the lap part of the seatbelt, because her surgery was in her abdomen:

(very small photo because I forgot to take one, so mum took this for me later, and her phone has some weird settings)

And while I was stuffing long tubes, mum asked me to make her a draft excluder for her door:

Yes, it’s the same fabric as my seatbelt pillow. It was actually the fabric I’d used for the backing for Fuzzle’s quilt, so I had some long strips left over that I’d trimmed from the sides. I wasn’t just being mean using up scraps for the draft excluder though – it just happened to be a perfect match for the colour of her lounge suite, much better than anything else I had in my stash!

I also made myself a pillow with pockets, to hold useful things like the TV remote control. Not completely essential, but I had a whole load of scraps of nice linen fabrics I wanted to use. And it did turn out to be really useful – not so much for holding things, but for the first few nights, when I was sleeping on a recliner chair instead of in my bed, I slept with it against my chest as a barrier to discourage Parsnips from jumping up on me (although she was actually really good – she seemed to sense that I wasn’t up to having a cat on my lap, so instead of jumping up on me like she normally would, she spent most of the time sitting on the arm of the chair, as close to me as she could get but not actually on me).

I had two different ideas for the pocket, and couldn’t decide which to use, so I ended up making it double-sided, with pockets on each side. This side has one big pocket, and then the other side has two smaller pockets.

I purposefully made the pockets lie very flat to the pillow, so if there’s nothing in them, unless you look very closely it just looks like a normal cushion:

I loved how it turned out, so it’s still living on the chair in my living room, even though I don’t actually keep anything in the pockets.

(This is getting much longer than I planned, and there’s still a load more photos to go, so I think I’ll stop here for now, and continue with Part 2 another day.)

Testing, testing… is this thing on?

Yeah, so it’s been a while. But it seems that improvements have quietly been taking place with the DD site behind the scenes, and things that were broken are perhaps unbroken, and I’ve been prompted to actually write a blog post for the first time in forever.

Once again, I don’t even know where to start with getting caught up, so here’s just a random selection of news:

  • My surgery was successful, and I totally love my new improved body. There’s still a bit of swelling and lumpy scar tissue that’s slowly breaking down (and it’ll probably be a couple of years before the scars start to fade a bit), but I’m really happy. Totally worth it! (There are (of course) several videos if you want to see all the gory details: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQCyCJrez23-1jrxigUGYKZyG0k8GZoCQ)
  • This weekend marks a year since I was diagnosed with diabetes. There’s been a few ups and downs (the downs mostly being around a bit of food anxiety I developed, thanks largely to the (I now know wrong) dietary advice I was given right at the start when everyone assumed it must be Type 2. I still have the odd moment of anxiety about what I “should” be eating, but I’m slowly learning to relax and believe my dietician when she says I really can eat anything, as long as I balance my insulin appropriately.
  • At work I’m now officially the Lab’s manager (as opposed to the sort-of acting manager I’d been for the last couple of years). I’m very much finding my feet still with the new role – it’s got a lot of those kind of challenges you’re supposed to describe as “exciting” but are more accurately called “stressful”, but it also has a lot of good bits.
  • The Lab was moved into a new (well, newly refurbished, anyway – it’s been closed for a year for the last of the earthquake repairs) building last month. And in the juggling of people and resources that moving always entails, it suddenly turned out that there was an office going spare. So I now, for the first time in my entire working career, have my own office! It’s taking a bit of getting used to, after having worked in open plan and shared offices for so long (it’s a bit lonely sometimes!), but it’s also cool having a space that’s all my own – I’m looking forward to decorating it!
  • At home, I’m going to have slightly less space of my own next year, because my eldest nephew and his girlfriend are moving into a caravan in my back yard. They’re both coming up to Christchurch for tertiary study (Nephew at the university, and Niece-Out-Law at the polytech), and all the accommodation options they were looking at were horrendously expensive, so Nephew came up with a plan: for a fraction of what a year’s rent would cost, they can buy a nice, completely self-contained caravan (for my American readers, think something more like a trailer), and he asked me if he could park it in the back of my section. In return, they’re going to tidy up the back of the section for me, and pave the area where the caravan will be parked (so when they’re gone next summer I’ll have a nice outdoor area where I can set up an outdoor table and chairs), and generally help out with things like gardening and supermarket runs. They came up for a visit a few weeks ago so we could talk it all through, and I think it’s going to work out really well. Because they’ll be self-contained, they won’t need to come into the house (except for laundry, which we’ve agreed they’ll do during the week while I’m at work), so it won’t be any disruption to my life, and I’ll have all the benefits of having family nearby (like feeding the cat when I’m away!). And I get to help my nephew in a really practical way to take his first steps along his academic journey. So win-win all round ๐Ÿ™‚

(There’s lots of craft projects to catch you up on too, but that involves sorting through photos, so they’ll have to wait for another time.)

So welcome back! And hopefully I’ll do a slightly better job of sticking round this time…

Catching up on (some of) the news

You know how you get behind on something, and the further you get behind the bigger it gets, so it seems too impossibly huge to tackle, so you put it off even longer, and it just keeps getting bigger… yeah, that pretty much explains the massive gap in blog posts.  I can’t even blame putting all the interesting stuff on YouTube, because I’m months behind there, too.

Anyway, there’s no way I’ll get caught up on 6 months worth of news now, and some of it is in videos anyway, so this is going to be just a random collection of whatever news comes to mind.

Health News (the boring stuff)

I suppose the most important (though kind of boring now) news is a diabetes update.  It’s officially Type 1, which is the kind that most people develop in childhood, and is usually genetic (as opposed to Type 2, which is the one that’s usually caused by poor diet/exercise). It’s still a mystery why I suddenly developed it so late in life – my doctor said it might have been a virus that damaged my pancreas, which I think is doctor code for “I have no idea”.

Type 1 means I’ll need to be on insulin for the rest of my life (I’ve already got pretty blasรฉ about poking myself with needles, so that’s a less scary thought than it was 6 months ago), but on the plus side, the dietary restrictions are so much more relaxed than they are with Type 2 (where the treatment is all about controlling your weight), so in theory I can eat pretty much whatever I like, as long as it’s appropriately balanced with insulin.  In reality, I’m still learning to do the insulin balancing act, so I’ve been pretty restrictive in what I’ve been eating, sticking mostly to a few basic meals that I can easily work out the insulin for (it’s a whole procedure, weighing everything you eat, and calculating how many grams of carbohydrate everything contains, and then deciding how much insulin you need to take to balance that out), but I’m starting to get a bit braver about eating a wider range of food now. I haven’t been brave enough to eat things like cake yet though – my dietician (yes, I have a dietician now – she’s part of my clinical team at the Diabetes Centre.  And yes, I also have an entire clinical team!) said occasional sweet things are ok in moderation (the guidelines for type 1 diabetes nowadays are pretty much the same as the healthy heart guidelines), but so far, other than a few squares of sugar-free chocolate, I’ve been avoiding sugary stuff.  I fully intend to have cake for my birthday though!

Health News (the exciting stuff)

The more exciting news on the health front is that as part of all the “I have a chronic illness now, how am I going to cope?” soul-searching I did at the beginning of the year, I decided that it was time to do something drastic to take control of my life.  So instead of just watching top surgery videos on YouTube and wondering wistfully whether I could do that, I went and asked my GP about it.  Who referred me to a psychologist (psych sign-off is still required for any sort of gender-affirming treatments in NZ; the concept of informed consent hasn’t really reached us yet), who confirmed what I’d already suspected, that getting a place on the (decades-long) public waiting list would be pretty much impossible unless I was prepared to lie and say I was a binary trans man (which I’m definitely not), and go down the “traditional” pathway of hormones (which I don’t want) before surgery.  So that meant if I wanted surgery I’d have to go private.  And pay a lot of money, because I don’t have health insurance.

I almost gave up at that point, but when I had a look at my finances, I figured out that I could actually afford it, it would just mean a bit of re-prioritising.  And thinking about that made me realise that having a body that more closely matched my gender was going to make me a lot happier than renovating my bathroom, or replacing the carpets, or any of the other vague (and boringly practical) plans I had for that money.  So I rang a surgeon for a consultation, and I’m booked in for surgery in early August (!!!!).

Which is getting excitingly close!  I’m busy organising all the practical stuff for my recovery at the moment – I’ll basically have no movement in my upper body for the first few weeks, so I’m going to have to take full advantage of friends’ offers to help just to keep me fed and warm. Having to be dependent on people isn’t something I’m looking forward to, and I’m definitely not looking forward to the surgery itself, but I’m so looking forward to the result – having a flat chest will make it all worth it!

Christchurch News

Christchurch of course hit the world’s headlines again earlier this year, with the horrific shootings at the mosques.  It’s had a huge impact on our city, which only just starting to recover from the earthquakes (and then the fires).  I spent the first month or so after the attacks thinking they hadn’t affected me – I was safe at work when it happened (the campus went into lockdown, which was a bit scary because of the memories it brought back of the earthquakes, but mostly just an inconvenience – we weren’t allowed to leave the building until about 6.30 pm), and I didn’t know any of the victims, other than one man who I’d met briefly at my former ESOL student’s house, and who I would exchange nods with when I saw him on the bus.  But the horror of it, and the air of tension across the whole city (not helped by having police helicopters patrolling overhead for weeks, and armed police everywhere) got to all of us, I think – I was surprised how strongly I reacted when I accidentally saw part of the shooter’s livestream last month (we’ve been protected from seeing any of it here, because the NZ media has been very careful about not giving any airtime to the shooter or his manifesto – it’s only very recently that they’ve started referring to him by name, and not just as “the shooter”).  It was only a short clip from the beginning of the video, just of him getting out of his car to walk into the mosque, so nothing graphic (thankfully!), but it still made me feel physically sick, and almost in tears, just seeing that much.  So yes, the shootings affected me more than I thought.  But how much worse it must be for the families and friends of the victims, and for the survivors who can’t just turn off a video to avoid constantly seeing what happened.


I went to one of the memorial services (there were many), and afterwards walked past one of the areas where people had been leaving flowers.  There were so many of them – they filled the grass verge all the way along the block, plus there were more hanging from the fence, and on the other side in the botanic gardens.  The outpouring of love and grief from across the country was amazing.  I’d say it gave me hope, but of course all too soon everyone has forgotten, and are back to the casual everyday racism (just this morning our provincial rugby team announced they won’t be changing their name from the Crusaders, because there’s nothing wrong with associating yourself with a war between Christians and Muslims, apparently ๐Ÿ™ )

Craft News

One amazing response to the shootings was the Healing Hearts for Christchurch project, which started off with the aim of collecting blocks to make into quilts for the families of the victims, and quickly expanded to include quilts for all of the survivors and first responders, and for just about everyone in Christchurch’s Muslim community.  Last I heard they were up to nearly 900 quilts!

Pieta (a friend from work) and I got together one weekend to do our bit, and managed to sew 27 blocks to send off to the organisers in Auckland.

We had a few blocks left over that had turned out a bit small, so didn’t fit the requirements for the Healing Hearts project, so we turned them into a mini-quilt we could hang in the foyer of our building at work.


I did the quilting (which I’m quite proud of!), and Pieta did the binding and made the hanger.

It’s since been moved from the noticeboard where we’d hung it temporarily to a permanent position on the wall, where it’s displayed like an actual artwork, complete with a little nameplate giving its title (“ู…ุญุจุฉ/Aroha/Love”) and provenance! So I think I can call myself an artist now ๐Ÿ™‚

I got my first quilting commission this year too!  Our union organiser had loved the little “Rainbow/Te Kahukura” quilt I’d made for the union offices, so she asked me to make something larger to hang in the meeting space (and even paid me for it!  Though I only let her pay for the materials – that still counts as a commission, right, even if I didn’t charge for my time?).  She gave me pretty much free range on the design, but suggested I do something with “Tลซ Kotahi” (“Stand as one”, one of the union’s slogans). I expanded that idea to a general theme of diversity, and standing together, and I was pretty pleased with the result:


The background is an echo (if you squint your eyes the right way :-)) of the union’s logo, which has two interlocking spirals in shades of yellow and orange.  I tried to make the people as diverse as possible (I made this before March, or I’d have thought to put one of the women in a hajib) – as well as the obvious diversity with the rainbow flag and the wheelchairs, I tried to have each of the fabrics I used for the people represent a different discipline across the university: numbers for maths, cogs for engineering, bugs for biology, bones for history, words for English, a tui for NZ studies, and so on.

Then Pieta, after the success of our mini-quilt/artwork, asked if we could collaborate on another quilt, as a gift for a colleague who’s been having some health problems lately.  Complications with scheduling meant that after an initial design discussion, I ended up making most of the quilt myself, though PIeta is again doing the binding – she’s working on it at the moment, which is why I haven’t got a photo, because I forgot to take one before I passed it over to her.  I’ll get a photo once it’s finished, but for now you’ll just have to believe me that it looks really cool.

Looking back through my photos, I realise I haven’t posted proper photos of the last few projects I finished last year, either!

The biggest thing was finishing the “Millie’s Star” quilt. It ended up being a lot more work than I’d anticipated when I offered to make the girls quilts, but it was definitely worth the effort – I was so pleased with how it turned out, and both girls were totally thrilled with their quilts.

I’d stitched together all the strips I’d trimmed off the blocks for “Harmony’s Flying Foxes” (where I messed up the maths, so had to cut the blocks down a bit) into little scrappy log cabin blocks, so I used those to make a quick cushion for a bonus Christmas present for Niece:


She loved it (in fact, I think she liked it more than her actual present!), and apparently it still has pride of place in her bedroom ๐Ÿ™‚

And finally, one of the pile of Christmas mini-quilts that I started with the intention of giving to everyone a couple of Christmases ago, but totally failed at actually finishing at the time.  The rest are still sitting in the pile, but I actually managed to at least finish this one off in time to send it off with my Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange gift last year:

In other craft news, my rag rug is still in progress (almost finished though – I just need to stop getting distracted by other new and shiny things and get on with the last wee bit), various other quilts that were in progress this time last year (including the “Block of the Whenever”) are still sitting in my “get round to it one day” pile, and in the meantime I’ve started new projects (just about finished sewing the top for a quilt that’s going to be a gift, so I need to get it finished before my surgery!), and have a million more in the planning stages.  (Now you know why I never have time to blog anymore…)

And finally…

Just because I found this photo on my phone while searching for the quilt photos:

I actually managed to get to some of the Pride events this year. We don’t have a parade in Christchurch, but there were plenty of other cool events, including a picnic in Rangiora I went to with Harvestbird and family, where I got my face painted as “a purple rainbow cat butterfly”.  Because who wouldn’t, when presented with an option like that? ๐Ÿ™‚

What I made in 2018

(Very late (blame the Flickr debacle) and I know I’m way behind on blog posts (and vlogs), but I’ll get there eventually – life has been busy!)

Projects completed in 2018:

January

I made a lot of progress on projects, but didn’t actually finish any of them.

February


Lego Quilt

March


Birds in Flight quilt

April and May

Is travelling a good enough excuse for not finishing anything?

June


Herringbone cushion

July


A basket made from cabbage tree leaves

August


Another doll’s quilt

September

So many projects in progress, none finished…

October

Harmony's Flying Foxes
Harmony’s Flying Foxes quilt

November

Too busy travelling…

December


Millie’s Star quilt


A scrappy cushion for Niece


Another Christmas mini-quilt


What I made in 2017

What I read in 2018

(Very late posting this list, but here it is…)

Total = 116 books

January (12)

  • Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (e-book)
  • I Think You’ll Find It’s a Bit More Complicated Than That by Ben Goldacre
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (e-book)
  • Solo by Kwame Alexander (library audio book)
  • Shape by Shape: Free Motion Quilting by Angela Walters
  • Hypercities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities by Todd Presner, David Shepard and Yoh Kawano (library book)
  • The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens (library audio book)
  • Looking for Me by Betsy R. Rosenthal (library e-book)
  • Devil’s Food by Kerry Greenwood (e-book)
  • Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks (e-book)
  • This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang (library audio book)
  • The Tortilla Curtain by T Coraghessan Boyle

February (12)

  • The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace (library audio book)
  • Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (e-book)
  • Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse (library audio book)
  • Filth by Irvine Welsh (library audio book)
  • Cauldstane by Linda Gillard
  • The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson (library audio book)
  • Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
  • Simply Retro by Camille Roskelley (library book)
  • Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (library e-book)
  • How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart (library e-book)
  • A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (library audio book)
  • My Point… And I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres (library e-book)

March (11)

April (7)

May (13)

  • Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan (library e-book)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • Merde Actually by Stephen Clarke
  • The Bletchley Girls by Tessa Dunlop (library audio book)
  • Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (library e-book)
  • Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende (library audio book)
  • Mystery Cats edited by Cynthia Manson
  • The Empress of Timbra by Karen Healey and Robyn Fleming (e-book)
  • The Spymaster’s Apprentice by Karen Healey and Robyn Fleming (e-book)
  • What We Reach For by Karen Healey (e-book)
  • Tricked by Jen Calonita (library audio book)

June (13)

  • When We Wake by Karen Healey (library e-book)
  • Between Us by Clare Atkins (library e-book)
  • Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Layer Cake, Jelly Roll and Charm Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott (library book)
  • Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (library e-book)
  • All We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson (library audio book)
  • Every Day by David Levithan (library e-book)
  • Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (library e-book)
  • You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour (library e-book)
  • Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey (library e-book)
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sรกenz (library audio book)
  • Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey (library e-book)

July (17)

  • The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sรกenz (library e-book)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (library e-book)
  • Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker (library audio book)
  • So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (library e-book)
  • Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane (library e-book)
  • Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
  • Modern Quilt Magic by Victoria Findlay Wolfe (library book)
  • The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (library audio book)
  • The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Translucid by Sophie Labelle (e-book)
  • Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Six Earlier Days by David Levithan (library e-book)
  • Ordinary Life by Elizabeth Berg (library e-book)

August (8)

  • Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • High Wizardry by Diane Duane (e-book)
  • Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • A Wizard Abroad by Diane Duane (e-book)
  • Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (library audio book)
  • The Wizard’s Dilemma by Diane Duane (e-book)
  • A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane (e-book)

September (7)

  • Gender Games by Juno Dawson
  • The Camelot Caper by Elizabeth Peters (library audio book)
  • Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry (library audio book)
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (library e-book)
  • The Europeans by Henry James (library audio book)
  • Kit by Juno Dawson (library e-book)
  • The Book of Night with Moon by Diane Duane (e-book)

October (7)

November (5)

  • The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict (library audio book)
  • Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • The Big Meow by Diane Duane (e-book)
  • Away With the Fairies by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Wizard’s Holiday by Diane Duane (e-book)

December (4)

  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (library audio book)
  • Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin (library e-book)
  • Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (library audio book)
  • Murder in Montparnasse by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)

What I read in 2017 (106 books)
What I read in 2016 (92 books)
What I read in 2015 (112 books)
What I read in 2014 (93 books)
What I read in 2013 (129 books)
What I read in 2012 (128 books)
What I read in 2011 (133 books)
What I read in 2010 (137 books)
What I read in 2009 (150 books)
What I read in 2008 (154 books)
What I read in 2007 (123 books)
What I read in 2006 (140 books)
What I read in 2005 (168 books)

What counts as a book?