So it’s a new year

Well, that whole return to blogging didn’t last long last year, did it? And to be honest, this one probably won’t either. It’s mostly because vlogging has taken over a lot of the role blogging used to play for me, but also just that usual loop of it’s been so long since I blogged anything, it’ll take me forever to catch up, so it’s easier to just set it aside for a bit longer. And then suddenly it’s 2021.

So I’m not going to try and properly catch things up (other than lots of photos of craft projects, mainly just so I’ve got something to link to for my annual round-up of what I made last year… which is a bit redundant, because it means this post and the round-up post will almost be identical…) Life continues in this weird what passes for normal (as long as you don’t look beyond the borders) state here in Aotearoa. We’re (except in the border isolation hotels) Covid free, and life has sort of returned to normal, except for not being able to leave the country, and always being a bit on edge waiting for the next community outbreak to shut things down again, and anything that needs to be imported being horrifically expensive or in short supply (that part feels like being back in the Muldoon years!). But otherwise, it’s easy to forget that the pandemic rages on everywhere else.

The being on edge thing has kept me in Christchurch for the Christmas break – I’d thought about going down to Alexandra, but knowing how stupid people can get around Christmas and New Years, and the inevitable huge parties, I was a bit worried that if there was going to be another outbreak, it’d be during the holiday period, and very likely somewhere like Queenstown. And much as I love Alex, the thought of being stuck down there if we went back into lockdown wasn’t tempting – especially if I’d end up working from home for months again, with the terrible internet down there! So I’ve stayed at home and had a very quiet Christmas – which has had the advantage of having plenty of time to get on with some craft projects (and some video projects – for once I’ve actually got a bit of a buffer of scheduled videos, so I don’t have to be scrambling to edit a video every week!)

And talking of craft projects, here’s lots of photos, in no particular order:

The project I’m most proud of is Birb, the wall-hanging I made for my niece. It’s a portrait of her pet cockatiel, and I was working on it off and on since sometime in the winter. It was a bit of a last-minute rush to get the binding sewn off so I could post it down to her for Christmas.

I based the pattern (very loosely) on a quilt I saw online somewhere that had a variety of different birds in a similar style, though I ended up changing a lot of the details as I went along.

I made a pieced back for it, because I had a few half-square triangles left over, so I decided it would be fun to try and incorporate them into the back. Even though when it gets hung on the wall nobody will ever see those details, I really like the idea that the back is interesting too – it’s like including a little easter egg πŸ™‚

I’m really proud of the quilting – it feels like it nicely shows off how far my skills have progressed over the last few years πŸ™‚ And I had a lot of fun coming up with quilting designs for each component.

It’s also the biggest quilt I’ve completed this year (I have made a couple of quilt tops that are bigger, but they’re still sitting on the pile waiting for inspiration to strike to get them actually quilted). Everything else has been mini-quilts – probably because they seem more manageable at the moment.

One you might have already seen if you follow Yetzirah’s blog is the mini-quilt I made to celebrate reaching 100 subscribers on my YouTube channel. I had a little competition where viewers could suggest a quilt theme, and I’d draw one out and make it for them. Yetzirah’s name came out of the hat, with the suggestion of hearts and batiks. She’d just been converting her chicken coop into a writing retreat room, so I had that space in mind when I made it. A gorgeous NZ-made batik ended up being the central fabric, so I called it TΕ«Δ« in the Henhouse.

It’s another one where I incorporated a spare block into the back, this time as a label:

A mini-quilt that didn’t make it onto my YouTube channel was the one I very quickly made as a wedding present for two friends who’d converted their civil union into a marriage and threw a party to celebrate. They’re both major Star Trek and LEGO geeks, so coming up with a design to suit wasn’t hard πŸ™‚

I had to Google the shape of the communicator badges on their shirts – I’m definitely not a Trekkie πŸ™‚

And one that has already featured on my channel is a little Christmas tree that came from a rainy, I feel like starting something new, sort of day just before Christmas. I had a charm pack I didn’t know what I wanted to do with, so I just started playing, and this was the result:

Plus, I finally got round to finishing off the last of the Christmas mini-quilts I started years ago (I just checked – it was in 2017! That was when I finally learnt the lesson that making anything in bulk is boring, and I’ll give up half way through, so I really shouldn’t attempt it, no matter how much it seems like a cool idea to make loads of something so I can give one to everyone I know).

There were also lots of quilted things that weren’t actually quilts. Like the cushions I made as a housewarming gift for another friend. I half-jokingly said I should make her some cushions, and asked her what colours she liked. When she replied “rainbows”, I immediately had the (slightly over-ambitious) thought that doing something with a bargello technique would be fun, despite the fact I’d never actually tried bargello before (when has that ever stopped me?). I used bargello for one of the cushions, and then used the scraps from it to make a complementary design for the other one.

I also made a couple of hot water bottle covers, one for myself, and one for my niece (yes, I do make a lot of things for her – she’s totally spoilt πŸ˜‰ )

This is my one,which started off as a mistake – I cut some of the pieces wrong for one of the blocks in the Sugaridoo quilt, so decided to use them for an improvised block, which ended up being a hot water bottle
And this is my niece’s – I basically just wanted an excuse to use that forest fabric πŸ™‚

This very small mat was made at the request of Mum, who wanted something to put under her kettle to reduce the noise when it boils. Her request was for something very simple, and red to match her kitchen. But of course, simple is boring, so I ended up experimenting with an octagonal log cabin (with limited success – it’s really hard to keep the angles on an octagon accurate as you add to it!)

I really love this fabric I put on the back – actually, I think I like the back more than the front!

Mum loved it so much it didn’t actually end up doing the job it was intended for – instead of putting it under the kettle, where it would be hidden, she’s got it out on display, under the fruit bowl πŸ™‚

Another request from Mum was for a cat bed for Raji. He’s been overflowing his existing one, so she wanted one slightly bigger. So I bought some fake fur and adapted a dog bed pattern:

It ended up very puffy in the centre – hopefully Raji is heavy enough to sink into it, and not float on top πŸ™‚

I only finished it a couple of days ago, so I haven’t had a chance to get it posted down to her yet – I’ll do that once the post office opens on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to finding out whether it gets Raji’s seal of approval (Parsnips sniffed at it once, and hasn’t gone near it since).

In other non-quilting craft projects, I also made another big pile of bunting for the union, this time in Pasifika fabrics:

This is some of it hanging in the corridor outside my office – we had a competition in our building to decorate the hallways for Christmas, and our floor (which we share with the Pacific Research Centre) decided to go for a “Pacific Wonderland” theme.

And of course, like everyone with access to a sewing machine, made many, many, many masks for friends and family (and a few for myself).

I had to make at least one with cats on it πŸ™‚

And finally for the completed projects, I made noticeboards for my craft room/study, so I can finally stop trying to stick pins directly into the walls:

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 πŸ™‚ )

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 πŸ™‚

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 We’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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ )


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 πŸ™‚
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 πŸ™‚ Can’t wait for the libraries to reopen, though!