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? 🙂

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!

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…

Block of the Whenever #9

I was originally going to make a Friendship Star for this block, but a traditional Friendship Star only uses one fabric (other than the background), and I wanted to include at least one solid along with each print.  So I decided to make it a Double Friendship Star instead.

For this block, unlike all the others so far, you have to cut out more fabric than you’re actually going to use, because you end up with quarter-square triangles with opposite handedness, so you have to make twice as many as you actually need.  Well, actually, I think you could make it without the extra QSTs, by cutting individual little triangles to make them from, instead of starting from squares, but that would be really fiddly and involve a lot of bias edges, so I decided to just waste a bit of fabric and do it the easy way.

Because of needing the extra fabric, I couldn’t get the whole block out of one 10-inch square.  Luckily a lot of the fabrics in the layer cake are repeated, so it was easy to find two squares of the same fabric.

For this block you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square and four 4 inch squares
Solid: two 4 1/2 inch squares
Background: two 4 1/2 inch squares and four 3 1/2 inch squares

Pair the solid and background 4 1/2 inch squares to make four half-square triangles, using the same technique as for the Shoofly block.

Trim the HSTs to 4 inch squares.

Draw another diagonal line from corner to corner across each HST, in the opposite direction to the seam, and pair each one with a print 4 inch square.

Because I was using a striped fabric, and wanted to make sure all the stripes ended up facing the same way, before I sewed the seams I folded the fabric over to double-check I had it oriented correctly (obviously, if you do this, unfold it again before you sew).

Sew either side of the marked line, cut apart, and press open.

This is where the handedness comes in. Each pair of QSTs will have one that goes anticlockwise print-solid-background, and another that goes clockwise print-solid-background.

Sort the QSTs into the two types, and pick one set to use. In theory you could just chuck the other set away (and in fact, you don’t technically even need to sew the second seam), but I kept them in case I want to make a second block out of them one day.

Trim the set of QSTs you’ve chosen to 3 1/2 inch squares.

Lay out the block and sew together as a nine-patch.

(I’m so impressed that I didn’t mess up the stripes. Despite all the checking I did, I was sure I’d still manage to sew them the wrong way round and end up with half of them pointing the wrong way…)

Block of the Whenever #8

Yet again, apologies for the lighting in the photos – even though it’s stopped raining (for now), the sky was still pretty overcast today, so it was pretty dark in my sewing room.  I really should put a decent lamp in there…  Anyway, the colours are way out in these photos.  The “red” is actually quite pink in real life, and the blues are much brighter.

Block number 8 is quite a complex one.  I’ve seen it called a Morning Star, but there’s a few other blocks that also get called Morning Star, so I’m not sure that’s actually the name.

To make it you’ll need:

Print: one 4 1/4 inch square, one 3 1/2 inch square, and four 3 1/2 x 2 inch rectangles
Solid: one 5 inch square and four 2 inch squares
Background: one 5 inch square, four 2 3/8 inch squares, and four 2 inch squares

(I originally made a mistake with my calculations and made the 2 3/8 inch background squares 2 7/8 inches square, which is why they look a bit big below. Luckily, I was able to trim the resulting units down to the correct size once I realised my mistake).

I used yet another method for making half-square triangles, this time one which makes eight at a time. (Actually, it’s not strictly a new method – it’s technically just applying the two-at-a-time method to four squares at once, without cutting them up first. But it feels like a different method).

To make them, place the 5 inch solid and background squares right sides together, and draw diagonal lines from corner to corner in both directions.

Stitch quarter of an inch on either side of each line.

Cut the square in half horizontally and vertically, and along the marked lines.

Press each piece open, to get eight HSTs.

Cut off the dog ears, and trim to 2 inches square.

Combine two HSTs with a small solid and background block in a four-patch.

Repeat with the rest of the HSTs.

Now use the 4 1/4 inch print square with the other four background squares to make flying geese, using the same technique as in the Flying Dutchman block.

(This is about when I began to suspect I’d messed up the measurements, because the overlap between the two background squares was so huge. But I decided to continue anyway, and hopefully be able to trim them down later.)

Sure enough, my flying geese turned out way too big. But I was able to trim them down to 3 1/2 by 2 inch, so it worked out ok. (The trick to trimming them down, if you’re ever faced with the same problem, is to first trim the pointy end of the goose so that the point is quarter of an inch from the edge. Then trim the other sides to fit the required size, making sure the goose stays symmetrical.)

Sew each flying goose unit to a print rectangle.

Now lay out the complete block, and sew together as a nine-patch.

Block of the Whenever #7

The second wet-weekend block I created is called the Sawtooth Star. This one has a much larger centre than the other blocks I’ve made so far, which was a nice opportunity to show off one of the large-scale fabrics from the layer cake.

To make a 9-inch finished block you’ll need:

Print: one 5 inch square (I fussy cut mine to centre on one of the big flowers)
Solid: four 3 1/8 inch squares
Background: one 5 3/4 inch square, and four 2 3/4 inch squares

I used the same flying geese technique as for the Flying Dutchman block, except this time the background fabric forms the geese.

Place a solid square on opposite corners of the large background square, draw a diagonal, and stitch quarter of an inch on either side.

Cut along the marked line, and press open.

Add another solid square to each, mark the diagonal and stitch on either side.

Cut along the marked lines, and press open.

Trim the flying geese units to 5 x 2 3/4 inches, and lay out the block.

Sew together to make your Sawtooth Star.

Definitely a very cheerful block for a grey day!

Block of the Whenever #6

It’s been a wet and miserable Queen’s Birthday weekend, so, apart from venturing out to buy baking supplies (so I could make muffins to take into work tomorrow – we’re having an all-day planning meeting, so I think treats will definitely be needed), and to go to Riccarton to see Solo (my first impressions verdict: it’s a fun enough movie that I can mostly ignore the bad bits), I’ve spent the long weekend at home.  Which meant lots of sewing time.  So two new Block of the Whenever blocks finished.

The first block is a pretty simple one, called a Shoofly.  It’s similar to the Churn Dash, but without the bars around the edges. I was even able to use the leftovers of the 10-inch square I used for that block to fussy-cut a centre again, but I paired it with a different solid fabric this time.

I used a different technique to make the half-square triangles, though, to avoid the problem of bias edges. So to make this block you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square
Solid: two 4 inch squares
Background: two 4 inch squares, and four 3 1/2 inch squares

Pair each solid square with one of the larger background squares, right sides together, and mark a line from corner to corner. This is the same technique I used to make the quarter-square triangles for the Ohio Star, but this time I’m stopping when I get to the half-square triangles.

Stitch quarter of an inch away from each side of the line.  (By the way, sorry about the poor lighting for these photos – I normally use the natural light from the window to take the in-progress shots, but it was such a grey day there wasn’t a lot of light coming in).

Cut along the marked lines, and press open.

Trim the HSTs to 3 1/2 inch squares, and cut off the dog ears.

And that’s all the components made.

Sew the squares together into a nine-patch, and you have a Shoofly block:

Block of the Whenever #5

This block is called a LeMoyne Star.  Well, sort of.  A proper LeMoyne Star uses a horribly complicated sounding technique called Y-seams, which I might try mastering one day, but not today.  So this is a cheat’s version, that (apart from the seams running through the diamonds) ends up looking exactly the same as a proper LeMoyne Star, but uses half-square triangles instead of scary Y-seams.

I used the same four-at-a-time method for making half-square triangles that I did for the Dutch Pinwheel. And just as for that block, all those bias edges made life a bit difficult, so I probably should have chosen a different method, but seeing as I needed four half-square triangles in each colour combination, it was the most convenient way of doing them.

What you need:

Print: two 4 1/2 inch squares

Solid: two 4 1/2 inch squares

Background: two 4 1/2 inch squares, and four 2 3/4 inch squares

Match one print square to a solid square, the other print square to a large background square, and the other solid square and large background square to each other. Stitch each pair right sides together with a quarter inch seam around the edges.

Cut along the diagonals.

And press open.

Cut off the dog ears, and trim to 2 3/4 inches square.

Lay out the block, and sew together as a sixteen patch, in the same way as the Dutch Pinwheel.

The final result gives a reasonably convincing illusion (as long as you don’t look too closely) of the block having been constructed with diamonds rather than half-square triangles.

I’m not 100% happy with my block – I didn’t think carefully enough about how the seams would lie, so a couple of the points ended up a bit bulky on the back, which could be annoying when I come to quilt it.  But I really like the overall effect of the block (and maybe one day I’ll get brave enough to experiment with Y-seams so I can sew one properly…)