Spare half hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pineapples and ping pong

This has been turning out to be quite a busy week.  On Thursday evening I went to a craft meetup, one of the many things on my “when the thesis is finished” list.  It’s quite a cool group, pretty diverse in ages, if not genders, and a reasonable range of crafts, although of course heavily weighted towards the portable, like knitting and crochet.  They meet once a week, usually in a bar, and have a drink and a chat while working on their projects.  Last time I’d gone to the meetup had been in the middle of my thesis, when I wasn’t working on anything except the thesis, so I hadn’t taken a project, just sat and chatted and admired everyone else’s work.  But this time I was determined to take something I could work on.

As I couldn’t exactly lug my sewing machine and giant quilt along, I thought about taking a cross-stitch project, but it’s been so long since I worked on any of them it would have taken me all night just to figure out where I was up to, so I rummaged around in the study until I found a ball of wool (except it’s actually cotton) that Jenny had given me when she left, and found a crochet hook, and asked one of the crocheting women to refresh my memory on how to crochet (which I haven’t done since I was at high school, and wasn’t all that good at it then).

My aim is to make a dishcloth – I was given a crocheted dishcloth a couple of years ago (I think in a secret santa thing?), and after many washings it’s finally wearing out and developing big holes.  So I thought I’d have a go at making myself a new one, and with a bit of help (and a lot of “what on earth have you managed to do here?”, and “are you sure you’re right handed?”) from my instructor, I made what I think is good progress:

My technique is a long way from ideal (I’m sure I need at least two more hands!), and my tension is all over the place, but who cares – it’s going in the sink, it doesn’t have to be perfect 🙂  And at least it’ll be the most colourful dishcloth ever, even if it isn’t the prettiest (actually, that multi-coloured wool is horrible to use – it’s so hard to see what you’re doing!  I just picked it out of the stash because I knew it was cotton, so would work for a dishcloth, and I thought the colours would be nice and bright – I didn’t think about the practicalities of being able to see where the stitches are…)

Then last night I met Lytteltonwitch after work and we went to the Noodle Markets in Hagley Park (after a very long walk around the park, because they had it in a different place to last year, and neither of us had thought to look up where exactly it was (and Hagley Park is HUGE – it’s about a kilometre across North Hagley alone)).  The market was much better organised than last year, and only a couple of the stalls had the ridiculously long queues of last year.  Most of the stalls were concentrating on just a couple of dishes and were just churning them out rather than making to order, which really sped things up, and there were no signs of any of them running out of food like they did last year.

We shared dishes from a few different stalls at random, wanting to try as many different dishes as possible.  Then we saw people walking around with barbequed meat on skewers that looked particularly tasty, so we followed the trail of people back to the source, which turned out to be one of the stalls with the longest queues.  So I volunteered to stand in that queue and get us some skewers, while Lytteltonwitch went in search of the other thing we’d seen people walking around with – drinks served in pineapples (yes, actual pineapples, hollowed out and with a straw and an umbrella stuck in them – we decided that it didn’t matter what the drink contained in them was, we wanted one!).

Although my queue was long, it moved relatively quickly (they had an amazing production line going on with the skewers, with a huge line of barbeques grilling the meat), and we were entertained as we waited by passing dragon dancers (and by a sudden shower of rain – luckily, I happened to have a small fold-up umbrella in my bag, so I and my queue neighbours were able to shelter under it).  When I finally got to the front of the queue and got some skewers, there was still no sign of Lytteltonwitch.  So I headed in the direction of the pineapple drink stand, and found her still in the queue, which was almost as long as the skewers one, but much slower moving.  I was able to pass a skewer over to her to give her sustenance while she waited, at least.  The drinks, once she finally got them, were really good – a kind of mango smoothie, with a tonne of fruit in them, and garnished with slices of pineapple and orange.  Definitely worth the wait, and seriously filling – we didn’t bother going to any more stalls after that!  Using pineapples for cups worked really well with the eco emphasis of the festival (all the plates and cutlery were compostable, to minimise waste), and they were great marketing for the stall – as we wandered around we were asked by several people where we’d got our drinks, and even though we told them how long the queue was, they all raced immediately over there.

Walking back to the bus exchange, we passed a new addition Gapfiller has made to Re:Start – three table tennis tables, with bats and balls that you can borrow for a game.  Neither of us had played table tennis since high school PE classes, but we decided to have a go anyway, and spent a very giggly half an hour occasionally playing but mostly chasing down rogue balls – we decided we really should rename the game “off-table tennis”. There’s signs on the tables saying you must stop play when a tram passes, and I can see why, considering the number of times we had to retrieve the ball from the tram tracks!  We couldn’t quite remember the scoring rules, so no idea who won, but we had a lot of fun 🙂   A couple of young men stopped to watch (they were very polite and didn’t laugh too loudly), so after a while we surrendered the table to them so they could play a proper game.  Definitely a fun way to finish off the evening!

Then this morning I went to another meetup, this time with the Christchurch Bloggers group.  The group kind of fell apart a couple of years ago, when Miriam, one of the main organisers, moved to Australia.  But she’s back, and decided to reinstate the meetups, so we met for breakfast at C1 this morning.  It was great to catch up again with them, and the conversation ranged far and wide.  Hopefully this will be the start of more regular meetups again.

I’m turning into such a social butterfly lately!  (Though mostly just because I feel like I need to make up for lost time, after having pretty much ignored everyone for so long)

A Reindeer on the Doorstep

Came home tonight to find a reindeer waiting for me on the doorstep.  He was adorning a gift from my Bloggers Secret Santa partner, who hadn’t been able to make it to the party on Saturday because she was sick, so she got her husband to drop the parcel off today.

Inside were two books – one a book of craft ideas, the other a tiny book of Christmas carols.

The craft book will I’m sure make for some inspiring summer reading, and the little one and reindeer are now living on my fireplace along with some other Christmassy treasures.

Bloggy party

The Christchurch Bloggers Christmas party was tonight, which means I can finally show you the project I was working on when I attempted to cut my finger off:

Such a simple little bag, you wouldn’t think it could have caused so much trouble, would you? The recipient was really pleased with it anyway, and with the wee bits and pieces I filled it with (a jar of home-made chutney, a Christmas garland made from those clay stars I made a while back, and a cross-stitched bookmark).

The party went really well. Illness and other life stuff meant that only three people turned up in the end, but that was ok – we had a lovely evening anyway, and the small numbers just meant that we could have a good conversation.

And, to be totally show-offy, I was very pleased with how Christmassy and welcoming I had everything looking. When you’ve got people you don’t know well coming to your house, it’s always a confidence boost to know the house looks really good 🙂

And a gratuitous food-pron shot just because:

Running around like a mad thing

I may possibly have over-scheduled this weekend just a tad.  It’s not my fault that all the interesting stuff happens the same weekend! (Though I suppose it is my fault I can never turn anything down – a serious case of FOMO, as I believe the cool kids call it.)

This morning started with a race to get some housework done and washing hung out while the sun was still shining (the forecast for the weekend was rain, but so far it’s actually been pretty nice), then bake a cake to take as a plate tonight, and finish off my present for the Christchurch Bloggers Secret Santa.  I’d just finished icing the cake when Lytteltonwitch arrived, to go to the St Christopher’s booksale.

The sale was a bit of a disappointment – the prices weren’t that much cheaper than in their shop, and even though the sale was almost over they wouldn’t give us a fill a bag deal (though LW did in the end manage to get them to do a deal for children’s books, but again it was no better than they do in their shop).  I miss their old shop with the $2 a bag table 🙁  I did buy a couple of books, but only ones I actually want to read – the prices were too high to be able to stock up on books for releasing.

And now I’ve got half an hour to sit down and catch my breath before I’m off out again, to a pot-luck dinner and movie night being hosted by one of the women from my Toastmasters club.

Work in progress

It’s Secret Santa season, and I’m determined not to resort to junk from the Warehouse to fulfill the under-$10 requirement for any of them.  Which means I’ve got a lot of crafting deadlines in my near future.

But I’m making good progress.  I’m almost finished making my gift for the Christchurch Bloggers Secret Santa, and this weekend I made a really good start on one for work:

I’m kind of making this one up as I go along, very loosely based on a design I saw which featured wonky Christmas trees.  I didn’t like the rest of the design, so I just borrowed the idea of wonky trees and roughly sketched this out, then started sewing without a lot more planning (as you can probably tell by the fact that I totally failed to pick fabrics that would create any sort of contrast between sky and ground – they looked different in my scrap box).  Still got to finish off the border (I’m thinking of doing the proper border thing of having contrasting squares in the corners – I *think* I know how it’s done…) and then quilt it into a placematty sort of thing – maybe I’ll be brave enough to give free-motion quilting a go…

Social planning failure?

I can’t remember if I mentioned that I’d volunteered to host the Christchurch Bloggers’ Christmas party this year.  The usual host, Miriam, has moved to Australia, and at a meetup a while back Tartankiwi mentioned she hadn’t found anyone else willing to host, so I said if she couldn’t find anyone then I’d step up (yeah, yeah, I know, I keep saying I’m not going to volunteer for anything else, and then I do).  It seemed like an easy enough job – Tartankiwi was going to do all the organising (especially of the Secret Santa swap that always forms a central part of the party), and I’d just provide the venue, so all I’d have to do would be clean the house and maybe provide some cake.  Simple.

But then things got complicated, and it turned out Tartankiwi wouldn’t be able to organise the Secret Santa.  And nobody else looked like they were in a hurry to put their hands up for it, so it only seemed sensible that I do, seeing as I was already hosting the party.  And really, how much work would it be – just send out a few emails (and I still had her emails from last year, so I could just copy and paste most of them), keep track of who was gifting to who – nothing really.

So I sent out the emails, gave the deadline to sign up for Secret Santa, and… nobody wants to join in.  Well, 5 people do. But last year there were about a dozen participants, so it’s a huge drop off.  I’m feeling ever so slightly like a social failure, and like I’ve killed the Secret Santa game 🙁

I shouldn’t feel guilty – I haven’t done anything any differently from how Tartankiwi did it last year, so it really can’t be my fault (and it’s not like anyone else was volunteering to do the job anyway!), but I still can’t help a bit of “what did I do wrong?”

Oh well, at least the 5 people who did sign up sound really keen, so I’m sure it will still be a fun night (even if the “guess who your gift came from” bit will be a whole lot easier than last year!).  I should look on the bright side – at least now I don’t have to worry about not having enough comfy seats for everyone 🙂  And a smaller gathering might actually be nicer than a big one, because everyone will be able to be part of the same conversation.

Yeah, I reckon I can make this work.

Lazy day

Ok, so I totally fail at family. I was talking to Dad this morning, and he mentioned that my step-sister had seen me at the Survivor Poetry event last weekend, and had said to pass on her apologies for not saying hello, because she’d been caught up talking to someone else so I’d left before she’d got a chance. I hadn’t even realised she was there – which is pretty awful, considering she was one of the competitors! She’d been standing right in front of me on stage reading her poetry, and I hadn’t even recognised her. Oops. In my defence, despite being technically family, it’s not like we know each other well – I’ve really only met her a handful of times, and that’s mostly been at big family events where there’s been loads of people, and it’s probably a couple of years since we last met, but it’s still a bit embarrassing, especially as she recognised me!

I’ve had a very lazy day today – it was lovely and sunny this morning, so I spent a fair chunk of it sitting in the sun reading, and another chunk playing on the computer because for once the study wasn’t impossibly cold.  Spring may actually be here!  (Although I’m not getting too complacent – Christchurch springs are notorious for starting off lovely and warm and then turning cold and wet just when you think summer’s about to arrive. But at least I can enjoy the nice weather while it’s here).

Tonight was the monthly meetup of the Christchurch bloggers – only a few people turned up, but it was a good night, full of interesting conversation (and best of all, Tartankiwi said that even though I didn’t win her challenge, she was very impressed by my efforts, and offered me the choice of one of her paper-piecing patterns as a consolation prize!  Now I’ve just got to choose which one… she’s got so many cool patterns in her Etsy shop.)


One of the projects I’ve been running at work is building a collection of earthquake-related blog posts from various Christchurch bloggers, to help show the way that the earthquakes impacted on everyone’s lives in some way.  All part of the archive’s aim of telling the story of the human side of the earthquakes through as many media as possible.  So any time I meet a new blogger at the Christchurch Bloggers meetups, I tend to pounce on them to tell them about the archive and try and convince them to let me add their blog (I try and restrain myself though – I don’t want to come across like I’m only there to network.  Honestly, I really do mainly go to the meetups because I enjoy the company, it’s not just because it’s useful for work!).

I’ve been feeling a bit hypocritical though, because here I am asking all and sundry to contribute their blogs to the archive, but I haven’t done so myself yet.  That’s partly because I think other bloggers have had much more interesting stories to tell about the earthquakes (although, as I keep telling other people, that’s part of what we want to capture with the archive – the way some people in Christchurch were (and continue to be) hugely affected, and others hardly at all, and the way that even those of us superficially unaffected have had our lives changed in all sorts of little ways), but mostly because it would be a very public thing to do.

For a start, I’d have to associate my real name with my blog, something I’ve avoided until now (although it wouldn’t be very difficult for a determined stalker to figure out who I am from clues scattered through the blog).  Strictly I wouldn’t have to, I could just archive the blog under the name FutureCat and keep my anonymity (we archived Gallivanta’s blog under her screenname, so there’s precedent for it), but the more I learn about archiving and the long-term value to historians of this stuff, the more I realise how much value associating a real name with the material has, so really I’d feel morally obliged to use my real name.

That’s ok, because, as I said, it’s not that hard to figure out my name anyway, and it’s not like the archive is getting millions of hits or anything.  But what does concern me is that my name is also closely associated with the CEISMIC programme, so it means anything I write here would be associated with the programme (not that we’d archive every single post – the random crafty stuff and photos of the cat have no relevance to the earthquakes – but there’d be a link back from the archive to the Dear Diary site, so anyone reading an earthquake-related post in the archive could then come back and read the rest of the posts here).  And I’d hate for something I’d written here to reflect badly on CEISMIC or on the university.

Of course, I am reasonably circumspect about what I write anyway (I’ve always followed the philosophy of don’t write anything on the internet you would be embarrassed for your mother or your boss to read), but that hasn’t stopped me from being critical of my employer during times of restructuring and other institutional idiocies, or of giving my full and frank opinion of the city council, or of the government (both of whom we need the support of if we want the programme to succeed).  Having that sort of critical material in the archive isn’t a problem in itself (in fact, it’s part of our responsibility under the university’s “critic and conscience of society” role to make sure that all opinions are reflected, no matter how critical of those in power), but it’s a bit different when it’s actually someone from within the programme team writing it.

I could probably solve the problem simply enough by adding one of those “All opinions expressed are purely my own and do not reflect the views of my employer” type disclaimers, but it still makes me a bit nervous.  And I’m also worried that knowing that my real name is attached to my blog will change how I write – I don’t want to lose the freedom to write what I want, and to be constantly having to think about how a rambling post about the antics of the cat or my latest baking disaster will affect my professional image.

So yeah, bit of a dilemma.

It was inevitable

You guys know me.  You know what happens when a craft catches my attention: I spend some time learning the basic skills, maybe go to an introductory class, do a bit of internet research… and then jump straight into the most complex high-difficulty project imaginable, and try and work out how to do it from first principles.  So yeah, it shouldn’t surprise you that of all the ideas I had for Tartankiwi’s butterfly challenge, I’ve picked the one that involves me designing a pattern within a pattern from scratch (and using paper and pencil to do so, no less, because proper quilt-designing software is expensive, and anyway, I don’t have any ink in the printer, so I’d have to go to a mall and buy some, and I want to get started right NOW!).

Add in some inspiration from seeing this version of her butterfly in person at the meetup last night, and realising in the course of the conversation about it that I actually understand a lot more about how paper-piecing patterns are designed than I thought I did, and the result was that a little bit of sketching over breakfast turned into spending the entire morning plotting and planning (housework? what housework?), and I’ve now got a pattern all drawn out and ready to go, and almost a decision on what fabrics to use.

In the meantime, my lap quilt is still very much a work in progress.

Which I was going to work on this weekend… There may be some delay.


The Tartankiwi