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 (“محؚة/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 “TÅ« 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? 🙂