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 🙂 )

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 )


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 🙂
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 🙂 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 🙂

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 😉 )) 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 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 Tū Kotahi quilt

March

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

April

(with Pieta) “محبة/Aroha/Love” 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) “Purple Town” quilt for Annie
And another seatbelt pillow, for Mum
A cushion with handy pockets
“Seashells” 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 didn’t get round to finishing any of them…

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 😉 ).

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 🙂

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 🙂 ) 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 🙂

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 🙂

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.)

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 blasé 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 🙁 )

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 (“محبة/Aroha/Love”) and provenance! So I think I can call myself an artist now 🙂

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 “Tū 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 🙂

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? 🙂

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

Home again (even if I never mentioned I was gone)

Yet again, a long gap between blog posts, mostly because life has been even busier than usual for the past couple of months. Work has been full of big pushes to meet deadlines, and outside of work has been full of social stuff and the usual degree of over-committing myself.

And I spent the weekend in Hobart.  At the BC-AUS Uncon.  Totally amazing weekend, which I will eventually post some videos about, but at the moment all of the raw footage is on my laptop, and my laptop has run out of batteries, and the charger is somewhere between here and Melbourne, because my luggage got lost when I changed flights.  (Well, technically it’s not lost, because AirNZ reckon they know exactly where it is, it’s just a matter of getting it put on a plane to Christchurch… eventually…)

I arrived home on Monday night – or actually, Tuesday morning, because we landed just after midnight, and then I had to hang around baggage claim waiting for my bag to appear, and then hanging around even longer while the lost luggage guy tried to find it on his computer, and then filling out all the paperwork, and then I still had to go through biosecurity and customs and get grilled for even longer than usual about the contents of my non-existent bag, so that they know what to search for when (if?) it does turn up… so it was after 2 am by the time I got home.  Luckily I’d booked annual leave for Tuesday as well…

Except I didn’t get much of a sleep in on Tuesday, because in a fit of enthusiasm a few weeks ago I’d booked to do a class on rag rug making run by an Australian artist who is trying to revive the craft as an art-form.

Despite being tired, it was a really fun class, and (even though, as usual, I was over-ambitious with the size of project I took on) I made a fair bit of progress on a rug:

That’s not the final texture – once I’ve finished hooking in the strips of fabric they need to be trimmed back to make it more carpet-like (although in theory, you can leave them untrimmed – it just gives the final carpet a different sort of texture.  I think with the design I have in mind it will work better trimmed, though).

So, yet another project to add to the works in progress pile…

And talking of works in progress, I did manage to finish one of the two quilts I’m working on for Harvestbird’s children.  This first one, for Harmony, I’m calling “Harmony’s Flying Foxes” (because somehow the flying geese blocks got renamed to flying fox blocks in the process of designing the layout).  I’m really pleased with how it turned out:

The other one, for Millie, is still sitting on my sewing machine half quilted.  Hopefully sometime over the next few weeks I’ll find time to finish it… though I’m going to another craft workshop this weekend, then I’m off to Wellington for a conference next week, and then, and then… yeah, life is busy.

If you haven’t seen it already, here’s part 2 of the video of making the quilts:

And here’s the other videos I’ve posted since my last blog post (which was over two months ago, I’ve just realised!):

A Word Festival trip to Kaikoura to go whale watching:

Lots of random stuff, half of which I think I wrote about in my last blog post:

Walking the Avon Ōtākaro River during the Walking Festival (there have been many festivals lately!):

Even more random stuff:

Update: I’ve just had a call from AirNZ to say my bag is in Christchurch, and they’ll drop it off to me this afternoon. So more videos to come soon!

X marks the cat, and other expenses

So it seems I can either write blog posts, or I can record videos.  Doing either one seems to sap my creative energy for doing the other (or maybe it’s just that doing one makes me forget about the other).  Which is a roundabout way of saying I’ve been even more terrible than usual at keeping up with this blog.  I have been having a lot of fun with YouTube though 🙂

In the meantime, life has been a combination of busy, exciting, and expensive. Especially expensive, and especially this month.  At the same time as various opportunities arose to spend vast amounts of money on cool things, various existing expensive things decided to break and need immediate replacing.

Cool thing number one was that I finally got all my paperwork together to get my passport renewed.  Which was a bit more paperwork than normal, because I took the (some may say sudden and drastic, although I have actually been thinking about it for a couple of years, ever since they announced the law change to make it possible) step of getting my gender marker changed to an X.  I am now officially, at least in the eyes of the Department of Internal Affairs, outside the gender binary!

(Hopefully I’ve successfully blurred/obscured all of the important identity-theft-enabling bits of that photo!)

It actually was much less complicated a process than I expected.  All I had to do was sign a statutory declaration in front of a JP, and then go through the process of a complete new passport application rather than just a renewal.  The most difficult thing was getting the photo done, because you have to use the paper forms (because they haven’t updated the on-line process yet), so I needed to find somewhere I could get old-fashioned printed passport photos, instead of the digital format most places do now (it turns out Post Shops still do them, in case anyone else ever needs one).

It’s hard to describe just how happy I am to see that one little letter in my passport! (Though also a tiny bit nervous about whether it will cause any problems at borders – in theory it shouldn’t, because it’s a perfectly valid passport issued under NZ law, but who knows what border officials will choose to be nit-picky about.  Oh well, I’ll get to test it out in November… which brings us to the next exciting expense…)

The next cool thing was (now that I finally had my new passport so I could) booking flights to go to the NZ-AUS Bookcrossing uncon in Tasmania.  It’s going to be a small, very informal uncon along similar lines to Stewart Island – basically just hanging out together on a (slightly larger :-)) island, doing a few touristy things, but nothing too planned.  Just a long weekend, but I’m really looking forward to it.  Plus I get to add another Australian state to my list of places I’ve visited (only Northern Territory to go…).

The third cool thing is I bought myself a GoPro!  It hasn’t arrived yet, but I should get it in a week or so.  Totally stupid thing to buy when I’d just spent a lot of money on Tasmania (it’s not the cheapest place to get to from NZ – even though it’s closer to NZ than the rest of Australia, there’s no direct flights, so you have to fly via Melbourne), but I’d been looking at them longingly ever since I started playing round with the YouTube thing, and the opportunity came up to save a couple of hundred dollars on one, so it was too good to miss.  So once that arrives, expect me to get even worse at blogging than I am now… (you might as well just give up following me here, and subscribe to my YouTube channel instead)

And then, having spent all that money, the Word Festival programme came out.  And there were so many things I wanted to go to.  And last time, when I managed to miss out on some of the best sessions due to indecision, I told myself that next time I’d just book tickets to everything that interested me, and take time off work if necessary, and see all the things.  So I did.  Including a day-trip to Kaikoura to go whale watching with two whale experts on Tuesday, and something like eight other ordinary festival events between Thursday and Sunday.  Plus I’ve got a few more free events I may go to if I haven’t completely exhausted myself dashing around all the events I’ve booked for.  So it’s going to be a very busy week this week!

And then there were the less fun expenses.  First, my lawnmower died.  Mini-Gwilk, who does my lawns for me, came in looking sheepish one day and said something along the lines of “Um, was I supposed to put oil in the lawnmower or something? Because it’s stopped working, and there’s black smoke coming out.”  Luckily, it didn’t turn out to be *too* expensive to repair, but it was a bit of a pain, because I don’t have a car (and taxis for some reason aren’t keen on carrying dirty old garden equipment in their nice clean cars), so had to beg lifts from friends (many many many thanks, Mr Harvestbird!!!) to get it to the repair place and picked up again afterwards, and the repair place is only open on Saturday mornings, which required a lot of coordination with said friends.  But all was managed in the end, and I now have a nicely working lawnmower (and instructions from repair guy about what to tell mini-Gwilk what not to do next time).

And then, because black smoke is apparently not dramatic enough, I turned on my oven and the fan unit started shooting out bright white sparks and flames.  Cue FutureCat scrambling to switch it off at the wall!  Luckily all of the dramatic stuff was confined to the inside of the oven, so there was no risk of the fire spreading, but it was still pretty exciting for a moment there.  And then depressing, when I contacted my friendly electrician, and he confirmed that it probably wasn’t worth him even coming out to look at it, because I almost certainly needed to buy a new one (and that 18 years is actually pretty old for an appliance).  And then he improved my mood substantially by offering to source a new one for me (and even better, only charge me cost + his time, with no extra markup), which was a great relief, because I really wasn’t looking forward to devoting my entire weekend to trawling through whiteware shops with no real idea of what was good vs what was just marketing hype.  He managed to find me a decent brand (Westinghouse) at trade prices, which even with his time plus the installation cost still cost me way less than it would have to buy retail (and I’d still have had to pay installation anyway), so I was very happy with that, even though it’s an expense I would have rather not had at all (or at least, not this month – though I wasn’t going to wait any longer to replace the oven – even just the couple of weeks I was without it while waiting for it to be delivered was much longer than I ever want to eat microwaved meals for ever again!)

So that was my horrifically expensive August.  I haven’t added up everything I’ve spent this month, and I don’t think I want to!  Oh well, this is why I have an emergency savings account, for times exactly like this. Just hope nothing else expensive happens for a while, so I can top it back up again…


In crafty news, the main thing I’ve been working on are quilts for the two mini-Harvestbirds (who have declared their official internet pseudonyms to be “Harmony” and “Millie”). It started off as a fun idea – I’d design a couple of simple quilts, let them pick the fabrics, and participate in the layout process so they’ll feel like they’d had a hand in the design, and, as a bonus, turn the whole thing into a series of YouTube videos.  I should have remembered that old rule about never working with children or animals though, because things didn’t entirely go according to plan.  Harmony’s quilt went perfectly (despite me messing up my initial calculations for the block measurements) – she was so excited about the idea of being in a YouTube video (suitably anonymised, of course) that I think she would have agreed to anything I suggested.  She was totally happy with the design, with the fabric choices I offered, with everything, really.  All went smoothly, we sewed the first few blocks together, and then after the kids had left, I was able to quickly whip up the rest of the blocks over a lazy weekend. The blocks are now sitting waiting for a free weekend when I can invite the kids over again to help me design the final layout of the quilts.

Millie, on the other hand, was a different matter.  I forgot just how much she has very much her own tastes and opinions on things, so she rejected my first few suggestions, and there was much scrabbling through half-thought-out sketches in my design book before we found one she liked.  Which I then had to turn from sketch into actual design on the spot… which was a fun challenge 🙂  I have to say though, she’s got very good taste – the colour combinations she wanted are going to look amazing, and I suspect I’m going to be very pleased with the finished quilt. The only problem is, it’s an incredibly complex design (it’s one I had in my book as a “one day, when I’ve got time” idea), so it’s definitely not one I’ll get finished in an afternoon.   So far I’ve managed to cut out all the pieces, and sew the 96 (!!!) half-square triangles it needs for the main stars (and that doesn’t include all the snowballed corners I’ll need for the sashing stars).  And I haven’t even begun to sew the actual blocks (other than the one I quickly sewed on the day the kids were here, so she could see what they’d end up like).  Given how busy the next couple of weekends are going to be, part two of the video might not happen for a while.

It is going to be a gorgeous-looking quilt, though:

In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s the video of part one of the process:

In the meantime, I gave the girls another mini-quilt for their dolls, while they wait for their actual quilts. Once again I had one of those practice quilt sandwiches I’d been trying out various FMQ ideas and exercises on (you might be able to identify a few recent projects on there), so I squared it up and stuck a quick binding on it.

I actually reckon it looks not bad for a bunch of random practice stuff 🙂

(Oh, and if you were wondering, no, I haven’t abandoned the Block of the Whenever – I’ve just been distracted by other things. Once I get these two quilts finished, I’m definitely going back to it)


Otherwise, I have as usual been busy with all sorts of interesting things, none of which I can remember off the top of my head right now.  I feel like I’ve been being excessively social this year!

Just this weekend I went to a feminist poetry reading with Harvestbird on Friday night (which was being run by step-sister, so I also caught up with her briefly before the show), which featured some really amazing local poets (Tusiata Avia being the most notable, and also the most incredible to listen to – I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy hearing her perform her poetry).  And then last night I played D&D with Gwilk and some other friends.  I was playing a wizard for the first time ever, which meant a lot of new rules to learn, but was fun to try out – I can see a lot of potential in the character (though I think Thokk will always be my favourite).

And last weekend was another D&D game, plus going out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group, and the weekend before that I went to the Botanic D’Lights festival (see video below) with Lytteltonwitch, and a stash swap, and in between there’s been various work events, and I’m exhausted just writing this, but it’s actually all been a huge amount of fun. I feel like I’m finally figuring out the right amount of social stuff that stays enjoyable without making me want to go and hide in a corner for a few days 🙂

It’s been a while

Usual excuses – too busy doing stuff to write about it (though I did make a few more videos, which may have contributed to the lack of blog posts – videos are fun to make, but incredibly time-consuming to edit, and by the time I’ve sat at the computer for long enough to do that, I don’t feel like blogging…)

I can’t remember everything I’ve been doing since I last posted, so a few highlights:

Last weekend I went with Pieta to a craft workshop run by Rekindle, where we learnt to weave baskets from cabbage tree leaves.  It was a lot of fun, and I was pretty pleased with how my basket turned out for a first try.

They’re holding the Rekindle workshops in the Arts Centre now, instead of out in Ferrymead, which makes them a lot easier to get to, so hopefully I’ll be able to do some more.

In other craft news, I haven’t given up on my Block of the Whenever quilt, but I did set it aside for a while so I could play with some other ideas.  Most notably, learning to do partial seams (while also videoing the process, which mainly taught me that my craft room is not big enough to be a studio!) to make a herringbone-patterned cushion (actually, the bit of that cushion I’m most proud of is the quilting – I tried to emulate Angela Walters‘s “improv quilting” technique, with lots of feathers and swirls, and it turned out incredibly well.

There’s also been some D&D (both in the form of returning to Gwilk’s game, as well as being invited to join another game (made up of pretty much the same people as Gwilk’s game, but with different characters, which could be challenging), as well as going to another Dungeons and Comedians show the other night), and board games, and meeting all sorts of new and interesting people, and going to talks and dinners and even to watch a band (who weren’t that great, but the people I was with were fun, so that made it worth going).  And generally being excessively social (well, excessively social for me, anyway 🙂 ).  Oh, and being incredibly busy at work and learning all sorts of new skills that take me well outside my comfort zone, but that’s preferable to being bored!

I really must remember to post more frequently, so I don’t forget half the stuff I’ve done before I get a chance to write about it…