Everything but the kitchen sink

Long distance travel is a feat of endurance. I have an extra, extra long trip coming up, and I’m brewing a plan to bring some of the comforts of home along with me.

It’s very exciting. The Husband and I are heading off to the West Indies at the beginning of April. Sort of a first anniversary present to ourselves, combined with a return match to visit my oldest friend Julia and her husband, who got married a month before we did, and who performed extraordinary feats to get from Barbados to our wedding here in Mackay. My side of the wedding party was a little scarce (7 people including Julia and Brett) compared with the Chiconi side (30+ people), so their efforts were greatly appreciated. Anyway, I digress.

We shall be on a plane for obscene amounts of time. The Husband will be able to sleep. He can sleep standing up. The rest of the time he will eat, watch movies, play games on his phone and read the Kindle. I will not be able to sleep. I just can’t, on planes, unless the presence of the Dear One suddenly waves a magic wand over my brain and I zonk out. Something still to be discovered. So, I have to have pastimes. I’m making myself a carry-on survival kit. It will contain my laptop and phone, all our travel documents, a sewing kit and a small personal kit, a few pens and a small drawing pad. The pens will come in handy when everyone rushes to fill out a landing card, and realises they have no pen. And when I say I’m making this kit, that’s what I’m doing. I’m assembling and sewing it from scratch. It’s going to be navy and white fabric, padded and quilted, with soft straps and a zippered top. A well considered survival kit can make all the difference, particularly as this will be the longest journey I’ve ever done all in one go.

Drawings and fabric selection for the Survival Kit

Drawings and fabric selection for the Survival Kit

The drawings are still at the embryonic stage, but you get the idea. Now all I need to do is work out how to make it!

I finished my sewing day yesterday with two more stash baskets: the purple and the blue. Different handles on each, I’m still feeling my way with what works best, but I think the purple version is going to be the one that gets done most. I’m loving the empty space that’s appearing in the Cupboard of All Colours. One day, when it’s all tidy and spiffy, I shall take a brag photo…

Purple basket. Don't you love the lining fabric?

Purple basket. Don’t you love the lining fabric?

Blue basket, and a different handle.   Love that print, but couldn't use it anywhere...

Blue basket, and a different handle.
Love that print, but couldn’t use it anywhere…

Time to go and get Himself up for work… Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration, if that’s what you like to do.  I shall be spending some solitary quality time with my needle; the Car Quilt needs some love.

Talk to you all in 2014.



Triple Trouble 7: heavenly bodies

And here’s the third one. Once again, I still have to applique the diamonds into place, but you get the idea.

This block is called Rolling Star. And while comets are not strictly speaking stars, they are heavenly bodies which have movement, so I’m calling it a comet, with a shower of sparks in its tail, gradually paling into white.

Again, bad lighting. Another bedroom, a different bed. But you get the idea

Again, bad lighting. Another bedroom,
a different bed – I’m running out of options!

Do you like how the white fabric in the background echoes the pattern in one of the star fabrics?

Do you like how the white fabric in the background
echoes the pattern in one of the star fabrics?

So that’s the three tops.  Each different, but based on the same basic idea of a white background, a feature block with visual interest, and some sort of applique to emphasise movement.  Each a different colour.  The Husband made an interesting comment yesterday. He wondered if once the happy parents had assigned a quilt to each triplet, the colour they were given would stay with them through life. He said that as a child, he and his brother were often given the same thing, differentiated by colour. His brother’s gift was green, and his was blue, and this lasted a long time. In addition, if either of them was given something in the ‘wrong’ colour, it didn’t feel right.  We shall have to wait and see.  Good job that as far as we can tell, they’re all girls, and more interested in that sort of thing. And before you leap on that particular generalisation, I know, I know, there are plenty of boys who are just as interested in colour. It’s just that in my experience they’re as rare as hen’s teeth…

Yesterday I started the scrap/stash basket making marathon.  The first one was the yellow one. I don’t use a lot of yellow and orange, and I did have a nice fabric to use for the outside which will never feature on a quilt because the print is too strong and the repeat too small. I bought it because I love the print!  So now it’s a basket. I made it high and short, and I gave it big floppy ‘ears’ for handles, which fold down neatly to fit between the closer shelves in The Cupboard of All Colours.  The other one was the basket for shades of aqua and turquoise and sea green/blue, and it’s long because that’s my favourite colour range and a long basket is needed. It has a pull handle on the front only.  I learned some useful lessons from both baskets. Going forward, I’ll be using the same shape as the yellow, but with smaller handles, which get in the way a little.  Purple is next. Again, I don’t use much of it. but I have a pretty print to line it with which picks up the colour of the outside.  This is a great way to use up all my batting leftovers!  Only possible because of that fantastic invention, iron-on batting-joining tape. I LOVE that stuff. Once I’ve done the applique, I’ll be cracking on with that.

Yellow basket with big floppy, folding ears

Yellow basket with big floppy, folding ears

Long skinny aqua basket. Not so successful, I had to nip in the corners to stop it sagging.

Long skinny aqua basket. Not so successful,
I had to nip in the corners to stop it sagging.

The Dowager came round this morning bringing her completed tapestry.  We’re going to use a very pale yellow with small white spot for the rest of the bag body with just a strip of blue down one side to echo the blue in the tapestry.  It’ll have a flat bottom and handles like the ones on the navy & white stripe bag I just made, but a little longer.  I need to sort something out for the lining – perhaps the same as the outside if I have enough, and give her a couple of pockets inside for keys and so on.  I think I’ll need to stiffen the back quite a lot, as the tapestry front is quite firm and otherwise the bag will flop.  I’ll see how it goes.

So, three tops done. Three to sandwich, quilt and bind…

Triple Trouble 6: heading south

... the geese are on their way south for the winter. Or that’s the impression I’m trying for.

Since the block is called Circle of Geese, I pondered goose-related imagery to bring movement to the quilt top. And one of the best known things that geese do is fly in a triangular skein/wedge when heading for warmer weather in the autumn.  So here it is (sorry about the poor lighting: the only space large enough to lay it out is on my bed, since the design wall is occupied by the Tree of Life quilt, and the bedroom lighting is not of the photo studio variety!):

Some geese are circling. Some are on their way already...

Some geese are circling. Some are on their way already…

Close up of the feature square. I still have to applique the triangles to the background.

Close up of the feature square.
I still have to applique the triangles to the background.

Again, the quilting is going to echo this shape, done in white so it doesn’t leap out at you.  More walking foot action.  I’m beginning to wonder what I’m going to do with the backs of these three baby quilts. And what I’m going to bind them with.  It’s not a big issue, but I’m making good progress, so it will become an issue fairly soon! I’m pretty sure the binding will match the theme colour, but as for the backing, I’ll wait till I get there.

The orange/yellow block quilt top is finished, applique done.  I shall keep the production line going till all the tops are done, and then sandwich/pin/quilt/bind them all at the same time.  The good thing about baby quilts is that you can use standard width fabrics for the backing without having to sew them together to make them wide enough. It means that I can, if necessary, just go out and buy a metre of this, a metre of that, and the job’s done.

The Dowager has admired my bags, and wants me to make one for her, using a tapestry panel she’s almost finished. It’s got a design of gerberas with pale yellow and royal blue in the background, so it’s quite vivid, and it’s not so formal that it would be incongruous on a fabric bag.  I shall have to have a poke around in The Cupboard of all Colours, aka Stash Central.

By the end of today, I hope to have the applique for the Circle of Geese quilt done, and possible also a storage basket or two. Perish the thought that I might actually do that AND sort some stash into them… Let’s wait and see.  The Husband was off to work especially early this morning, so I’m an hour or two ahead of myself.

So, two down, one to go, and then it’s back to the Tree.  Yes, well done, you have observed that I am procrastinating

Triple Trouble 5: triangle spinoff

It was difficult, this bit.

Not piecing together the background, which was straightforward despite having to do the cutting outside on the only table large enough, and having the bits almost blow into the fountain at least twice (although I did make a mistake which I’m not going to rectify, no prizes for guessing what). No, the tricky part was placing the triangles, which are supposed to look as if they have spun off the whirling central design. In my head, I can see the finished thing: the quilting’s going to follow the curved lines on which the triangles have been placed, radiating out from the offset coloured square like curving sunrays. Nothing too fancy, just a bit of work with my trusty walking foot and some white thread.  The triangles are going to be appliqued down with orange satin stitch.

The orange quilt top layout

The orange quilt top layout

Centre detail

Centre detail

I’ve got a good idea for the green one.  You’ll just have to wait and see. Probably only until tomorrow, though!

Now that I’ve made two bags, I’m getting the bag bug. I spent an hour or so yesterday browsing for free patterns to download, plus some storage baskets to try and make my stash storage a little more aesthetically pleasing than the current multiple shoebox hodge podge… I desperately coveted the Noodle-head Basket which the lovely Sarah gave away recently as part of Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day. So I’ve decided to try and make my own, probably without the divider, since it won’t be helpful with the stash storage purpose. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. Trouble is, I need about 10 of them: Black & white, red, green, blue, yellow/orange, pink, purple, brown, neutrals, multicolour.  I know very well there are many impulse-purchased fat quarters in my stash which I will probably never use, and unless I make a bag out of them, they might as well be useful and become a storage basket.

Well, that’s quite enough displacement activity for the moment. Back to the sewing machine.

Footling about

Well, if not exactly footling, then certainly faffing. Or something.

Whatever the correct word is, I have been wasting my time prettily. I now have a tidy work room, I have hung a couple of certificates that have been here a year and had never made it past a stack in the corner. I have put up a hook for the beautiful Monet calendar the Dowager gave me for Christmas. I have put away the wobbling stack of fat quarters and fat eighths which had been growing in the corner of my desk. I have nobbled a shoe box from the Husband to contain them – he got new boots for Christmas. I haven’t got quite fancy enough to cover it with fabric, or put pretty labels on it, or anything like that… What I have done is this:

Navy and white stripes, navy with a tiny white spot, and a spiffy bow tie.

Navy and white stripes, navy with a tiny white spot, and a spiffy bow tie.


Inside lined with this bold green, black and white print.
I had just enough left over to make a long divided pocket.

I was feeling all sort of iffy about starting back in on either the Tree of Life or the three baby quilts. I needed something small that would produce instant results. Well, almost instant. I was enjoying the last bag I made and thought, well, why not another one? So I went for something completely different. It’s cute, eh?  Pockets inside for pen, phone and keys. For the lining, I used up a fat quarter which I’ve never been able to find a use for, as it was so bright and graphic.  It works just fine here! The design is by Tuula Hepola  of Ottobre Design in Finland, and I downloaded the pattern from the Quilt Inspiration free pattern archive in the purses and handbags section.

I’m a bit peeved, because the automatic threader on my sewing machine has stopped working. The tiny hooky thing no longer lines up with the eye of the needle.  I have to go old school and do it by hand, and my eyesight is not what it was.  The poor machine needs a service anyway, but I keep finding projects to use it for, so the service keeps getting deferred.  One day there’ll be a dreadful noise, everything will stop and then I’ll be forced to send it to hospital for a nice rest in a darkened workshop.

I also got cracking on the Car Quilt last night. All the final pieces are laid out on the rug in the living room, and I just have to keep churning out the hexagon flowers. The central section is going to end up about 34 x 36″. After that, I’ll have a narrow navy border, and then I’ll piece additional borders from the larger pieces I have of the same fabrics used for the hexies. Haven’t quite decided how that’s going to look. Maybe strip piecing, so it has a striped border all round, mitred at the corners, and probably bound in navy too. I shall wait for the quilt to tell me what it wants.

We’re making inroads into the leftovers. I’ll know for next year to plan what I think we should have, and then take a third of it away. Except the chocolate mousse. We’ll keep that at the original quantity, thanks very much.  It’s so easy, so rich, so moreish. Only three ingredients. Here you go:

1 jar of Nutella
2/3 of the volume of Nutella in heavy cream
1/3 the volume of Nutella in unsweetened Greek yoghurt.

Bring the Nutella to room temperature if you store it chilled. Beat the cream till it forms stiff peaks. Put the Nutella in a bowl. Add the cream and yoghurt and fold together gently until everything is completely blended. Be gentle, to keep the air in the cream. Once it’s combined, either pour into individual serving dishes or one large one, and refrigerate. It will firm up in the fridge. Be warned, the human body is not designed to cope with more than about 150g/5oz of this in one serving. Over-indulge at your own risk. Oh, and you can add a couple of tablespoons of hazelnut liqueur if you like to live dangerously.

Tomorrow, I promise faithfully to get back to proper projects.  Probably.

Triple Trouble 4

… and the last one’s done.

Lilac Rolling Star.  There are all sorts of memorable scraps in this one!

Lilac Rolling Star. There are all sorts of memorable scraps in this one!

This lilac Rolling Star block is by far the most complicated thing I’ve ever attempted in patchwork.  I’m way, way out of my comfort zone, so I’m especially happy that it turned out reasonably well.  The eagle-eyed among you will detect that some of my points don’t exactly match, that there are two random seams near the centre because I misjudged the size of the piece I needed, and that the outside edge is distinctly wobbly.  But you know what?  I don’t care!  All together now: “Finished is better than perfect!”

For Christmas, my lovely family-in-law have given me Spotlight gift cards. For those who don’t know what this means, Spotlight sells dress, quilting, curtain and upholstery fabric, homewares and a huge range of craft items. So today, I went in, trailed by my faithful pack-horse (aka the Husband) and went a little crazy. I’ve bought three different white fabrics for the three baby quilts, a couple of fat eighth packs, a few fat quarters, a length of fabric to make a new top, a couple of racks for spools of thread and bobbins, a new pack of pins, and last but not least, a brand new iron. Now, there’s nothing wrong with my existing one. It works just fine, but it get cursed on a regular basis because while I’m using it the cord constantly gets tangled up in the hooks that hold my rulers on the edge of the sewing table. This new iron avoids that problem. It’s cordless, and quite a lot lighter than the other one. And best of all, it cost only $10 in the sale.

Now, my teeny weeny sewing room looks like a bomb hit it. Tonight I have a few small jobs to do, and they have to be quiet ones as the Husband is working tonight and is getting some sleep before heading out at around midnight. But tomorrow, I’m going to have a huge tidy up so I’m clear, clean and tidy for the start of the New Year. Think of it as a detox, and you won’t be far wrong.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year. It will be the 10th anniversary of my arrival in Australia next year, so I’m hoping to have a small celebration at the end of July to mark the occasion. I have a few other fun things planned – I feel it’s important to start a new year not only with difficult resolutions, but with things to look forward to as well.

What’s on your work table just now?

Deck the halls….

… with boughs of palm tree!

The Christmas table, awaiting for the guests

The Christmas table, awaiting the guests

The sun beating down on the garden

The sun beating down on the garden

We’ve laid palm fronds over the clear part of the patio roof, an excellent way of keeping the hot sun off the Christmas table, and an ingenious solution I owe to the Husband.  As you can see, we’re not going the holly and ivy route.  It’s so hot that we’ve had to resort to keeping the aircon on in the house and blowing it out of the window at the patio, using a fan.  Extreme, but otherwise we’d expire.  The food’s all cold, the drinks are all iced, and hopefully by 3pm the temperature will start to reduce as the sun gets a little lower and ducks behind the palm trees.  I watered the garden at 6am, and you’d think it hadn’t seen a drop for weeks, judging by the look of it. Everything’s thickly mulched with sugar cane trash, which works very well.

The family’s arriving in an hour, and I’m going to try and finish the second half of the Rolling Star block for the third baby quilt. But I think somehow I won’t make it. I keep seeing things I need to do.

So, I’m calling it a day for Christmas. I hope you all have the Christmas you dream of, that everything goes well, and that you are mentally restored (even if physically is asking too much!) by time spent with friends and family.  I’ll catch up with you in a day or two, once the washing up is done!

Signing off from tropical north Queensland,