The Tree of Life 16: no more excuses

The cyclone is over.  It was stronger than expected and closer than expected, but we came through unscathed.



Ready to pin

Ready to pin

Ready to quilt

Ready to quilt

So the Husband was off to work on schedule, and I was left to look at the ToL backing, batting and top, and completely fail to find a reason not to pin them together. I don’t enjoy the grovelling around on the floor. My knees and back are too old for this game. But it’s done, despite a visit from the Dowager with a birthday present, lots of conversation, making a batch of bickies and serving them with coffee and assorted other displacement activities. I’ve put all the furniture back and vacuumed the carpet and loaded the dishwasher and had lunch. Further displacement activities, you see, so that I don’t have to start actually quilting. And of course, there’s writing this blog…

Thank you to everyone who gave me their thoughts on how the quilting might look. It’s been very helpful in getting me to actually narrow down the list of possible options. It’s also amazing how much less stressed I feel about the quilt now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The first part of the quilting’s going to be pretty miserable, but after that, I can have a bit of fun with my clouds and water ripples. And I actually love binding and labelling, so that’s all good too.

I’m keeping those Amy Butler charm squares out on my work table to act as  a reminder/incentive/goad when the going gets tough.

OK, I’ve cleaned all the lint out of the bobbin race, replaced the needle with a new quilting needle and adjusted tension and stitch length. Time to get cracking.

I’m going in!


The Tree of Life 15: the birds of the air, and a stage completed.

The front is finished at last.

The Tree of Life complete with fish, birds, fruit, flowers, leaves, roots and branches.

The Tree of Life complete with fish, birds,
fruit, flowers, leaves, roots and branches.

Detail of branches, fruit, flowers and birds

Detail of branches, fruit, flowers and birds

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it looks. The appliqué process hasn’t drawn up the fabric quite as badly as I feared, but there is a noticeable difference on the sides, where it’s clear the edge bows in towards the middle as a result. I may do a spot of judicious tweaking of seam allowances and trimming to make this defect less obvious. I’m glad I made the leaves smaller, as otherwise I feel it would have looked very crowded. I’m very happy with the pears instead of grapes, and I’m pleased with the birds, which add a lightness and playfulness the fairly formal arrangement otherwise lacked.

The backing, which exactly matches some fabrics on the front.

The backing, which exactly matches
some fabrics on the front.

I was pondering what to do about the backing. Not in any sense of what it would look like – there’s no way I was going to piece something – but what colour to use. As luck would have it, I was able to buy wideback in exactly the right shade of turquoise to go with the turquoise patches on the front. I’ll use the same thing to bind it, a fairly narrow binding, I think. What is chiefly on my mind at the moment is how to quilt it. It clearly needs it, to even out the texture a bit. But I’m not a big fan of close quilting, so I’m doing quite a lot of internal debating. I’ll outline each branch and root and leaf and fruit and flower. I’ll probably run a line up the centre of each leaf, too. I’ll outline the birds and fish, and the red containing circle.  After that, I’m a bit stuck. I badly want to get this quilt finished, so really simple quilting would be the answer there. But I also want to do justice to the design, and something a bit more elaborate is called for in that respect.

Here’s what I’m thinking: The top half, the ‘sky’, I will quilt with big billowy curved cloud shapes, up to the outer margins of the tree. The bottom half, the ‘sea’, I will quilt with long, meandering lines to look like ripples in the water, up to the margin of the roots. Bearing in mind that my quilting skills are modest at best, that I don’t have a very sophisticated sewing machine, and that my workspace is limited, does anyone have any other suggestions? Just be aware that if I lose courage at the beginning of this process, the quilt is going to get plain cross-hatched diagonal quilting over the whole background, stopping short of the outlined design elements!  And if it does, I make no apologies – finished is better than perfect, eh?

Off to press my wideback and cut it to size.  I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

…And wait some more

Meet Tropical Low (potentially Cyclone) Dylan.

(Photos courtesy of the Bureau of Meteorology)

Tropical Low over north eastern Queensland.

Tropical Low over north eastern Queensland.

The projected cyclone path at 7.30am today. Category 1 only, and it's turning a little more west.

The projected cyclone path at 7.30am today. Category 1 only, and it’s turning a little more west.

Dylan is getting himself organised up in the top right hand corner of Australia, but at this stage it looks increasingly unlikely we’ll be entertaining him in Mackay. Having said that, we’re expecting 120kmph winds and lashing rain, combined with full moon and a king tide, so a little light flash flooding is also on the menu.

Hunkering down for the duration is the order of the day. Catch up on the movie watching, do a bit of baking, and probably a lot of sewing – assuming the winds don’t bring down the power lines. And the phone tower. If they do, it’s back to handsewing by lamplight. How very Victorian! But it’ll pass the time.

Cyclone landfall is tomorrow morning early. After that, it’ll still be ugly for a while, but the worst is over, and the front heads inland where they badly need all that spare water.

Off to the sewing machine to do some more on the Tree of Life. Another post later on that.

Watching and waiting

It’s been an odd kind of day.

On the one hand, we’ve been trying to keep things as normal as possible. Shopping, laundry, cooking, a trip to the movies. On the other, we’ve got the news on a lot, we check the Bureau of Meteorology website every couple of hours, and we’re just waiting. And waiting. If that mess out there in the Coral Sea gets organised and turns just a bit further south, we’re going to cop a Category 1 cyclone, the first of the year. I love the BoM. It produces high quality graphics, forecasts and regular warnings when there is something up. We’re ready if it comes, but I suspect it’s going to cross the coastline north of us, and all we’ll get is gale force wind and rain.

The following photos are courtesy of the BoM:

That's a baby cyclone

That’s a baby cyclone

Here it comes...

Here it comes…

Time to hurry up and wait. But  you notice the odds are quite high

Time to hurry up and wait. But you notice the odds are quite high





Anyway, the other thing that happened today is that my Amy Butler charm packs arrived.  They are SO pretty, I had to rip the package open and spread them out and admire them.  And then I photographed them so that I can gloat right here and you can see what I’m gloating about. Sorry about the not terribly good photos, the camera is bleaching out the images quite a lot, so the last few days’ photos are a bit pallid.

There’s only one downside to charm packs, and that is that you don’t get the whole of a large scale pattern. There’s a couple of prints in there that just have tiny scraps of a whole other colour on one edge.  I have a total of 96 squares, so I’m going to supplement with 4 squares of something from my stash and make a quilt 10 x 10 squares, sashed with white so the colours sing instead of distracting from each other.

Anyway, it’s time to batten down the hatches for the night. Next Cyclone report is 5am tomorrow morning...

The Gardens of Chiconia 9

A morning of heavy labour and not much to show for it, unless you know what we were doing!

We’ve been hard at work, loading the borrowed trailer with rubbish we can’t recycle, and taking it to the dump. We’ve also dismantled a series of old fence panels, and have taken off the palings to recycle. With the weather forecast looking so uncertain at the moment, we thought it a good plan to clear away some of the potential missiles lying around in the back yard, since 50-60 kmph winds are in the pipeline, apparently. That same back yard which had become a dumping ground for all the leftover bits of our various renovation projects, and the back yard which is destined to become my food producing area. This morning at 8.30am it was a wilderness of old doors, bits of wood, rotting fence panels, a tangled mess of roots and stones and knee high weeds.

The pods. Note the feet and the big tap in the bottom for drainage

The pods. Note the feet and the big tap in the bottom for drainage. Space around three edges
so I can reach the back.

Space for another one at the end, at right angles to the others.

Space for another one at the end, at right angles to the others, and a bit of room in the angle of
the fence for useful bits and pieces.

And this is how it is now. The three white pods you see are former bulk liquids carriers, which were going begging at the Husband’s work, where they hold a urea additive to help the trucks run more cleanly. I want one more, so that I have three in a row, one at 90 degrees and a space in the corner for pots, stakes and other weatherproof paraphernalia. These pods are raised off the ground by the feet on the metal cages around them, they are rigid, have a tap in the bottom, and they are going to be my raised beds. Not as pretty as wooden ones, I agree, but free, practical for this climate and easily made a comfortable height to work in. We’re going to cut off the top section of the cage and the plastic at the same level. In will go first rocks, then slabs of lucerne (alfalfa) hay, then dried cow poo, then compost. Over time, the lucerne will rot down, and the soil level will drop, at which point, we top it up with another layer of alfafa, poo and compost. Everything will be well dosed with worm castings and worm tea. Because I’ll have 4 of them, I can rotate things and if I get something in the soil, it won’t be such a big deal to clear it out and start again.

These beds are going to be as climate proof as I can make them. They’re raised out of any potential waterlogging, I’m going to run a raised wooden walkway around them (made from old pallets and the recycled fence palings), and the surrounding horrible, sour, compacted ground is going to be weed matted and gravelled to keep down the onion grass, knotweed and rampaging invasive creeper from next door. I’m going to make arches over them from ag pipe draped with bird netting and shade cloth, to keep out excess sun and marauding wildlife. Can’t do much about the marauding insects, sadly. In very heavy rain, I may reinstate the plastic tops which were cut off, raised on stakes at each corner to give each bed an ‘umbrella’ of sorts. Plenty of water will get in at the sides, believe me, and it’ll stop the downpour flattening the plants and flooding the beds. If I start to find the appearance of them objectionable, I can wrap them in shade cloth, which will have the dual function of keeping the contents cooler and disguising how they look!

It won’t take a rocket scientist to realise that I’m not sewing today, so there’s no Tree of Life post. However, I am still hand sewing on the Car Quilt, and shock! horror! I have dug out a crochet hook and have started to make myself something. Time will tell whether it’s a disgusting mess or useful. And I will only display it if and when I think it looks OK. Since I can only do the plainest crochet and my tension is still very dodgy, don’t look for anything too flash!

Right, that’s it, need a cup of tea and a sit down (OK, a nanna nap). More tomorrow.

Words Under Pressure # 15

imagesToday is Australia Day.  Across the country, millions of Australians are celebrating our wonderful country, and new Australians join us.  We are Australia, and our second name is diversity.

Down south, in the cities below the Tropic of Capricorn, the weather is sunny and warm.  It’ll be a perfect night for the fireworks in Sydney.  Up here in the tropics and in the thirsty west of Queensland, we’re having some rain at last.  Not floods of it, but a soaking fine rain and strong wind.  Perfect to give the ground a drink after such a long Dry.  We’re promised more for the next couple of days. Celebrations of a different kind, and for a different reason. The farmers will see a film of green on the bare brown paddocks in a few days. Dams will fill and the animals will have something to drink. The fire risk will abate out west, and a few more farmers will save their farms to hand down to their children.

It’s been too dark today to do much sewing; the lighting in my sewing room isn’t good and I rely on strong daylight coming in at the window, but with black rainclouds overhead, I’ve set it aside for a while.  So, here are some more words, which I feel are appropriate to the day:


I stopped my world
And I got off, and left behind
Grey clouds, blanketing
The cold Northern skies.

I flung myself, rejoicing,
At a younger nation and purer sky,
At newborn days and glorious nights,
A cleaner slate to write upon.

I said goodbye, unhesitating,
To Orion, Ursa and Polaris,
And find myself blessed
Under the Southern Cross

I’ve been in Australia ten years, and a citizen seven of them. I don’t regret my decision to come for a second, and you couldn’t pay me enough to make me go back. I love this country, for its faults (and there are some), for its ridiculous, excessive beauty, for its diversity and for its people, of whatever colour or origin.

Happy Australia Day, today (the real day) and tomorrow (the public holiday!)

And a happy snap of the Southern Cross constellation, which I don’t think I’ll get a look at tonight.

Southern Cross constellation: Alpha Crucis, Beta Crucis, Delta Crucis and Gamma Crucis

Southern Cross constellation:
Alpha Crucis, Beta Crucis,
Delta Crucis and Gamma Crucis

The Tree of Life part 15: it’s aliiiiive!!

No, Dr Frankenstein has not been tinkering with my quilt. 

Bird templates

Bird templates

But there is certainly a whole lot more going on suddenly. I’ve cut out and positioned the rest of the leaves. Sewing on to follow, o joy. I’ve made templates for all the birds, which was actually lots of fun. I’ve made sunflowers, which look a bit crude and simple right now, but are going to be embellished with satin stitch when I sew them down, which will hopefully take care of that issue. And I made three attempts at bunches of grapes. No go.Whatever I did, they looked like amorphous dark blobs, and had to be explained rather than explaining themselves.

Tree, fruit, flowers and leaves

Tree, fruit, flowers and leaves

So I’ve come up with a super-easy and if I may say so myself, rather brilliant alternative. I had some nice fabric featuring simplifed colourful pear halves on a dark brown background. They were in oranges, yellows and greens, and worked very well with the tree’s colour scheme. So I’ve made cut-outs of half a dozen of them, and I feel they work very well – better, in fact, than the grapes would have. And then, with the fruit, flowers and remaining leaves pinned on, I wanted to see how the birds would look, and I’m loving it!


Detail of fruit and birds

The paper templates are pinned on too. I think the birds need to be white. There’s so much else going on that I think they’d fail to stand out as they do if I made them a different colour. Any thoughts?

I was at work the last two days, which is why there hasn’t been the usual long blog about what I’ve done. But I was not idle. The Car Quilt is reaching the point where I’ve got to start considering borders, hurrah! What you see in the photo is going to be outlined with a row of dark blue hexies, and then the borders are going to be pieced strips of all the fabrics featured, perpendicular to each edge rather than parallel. This centre piece is currently 33″ x 36″ (80 x 90cm).

Car quilt progress

Car quilt progress

At least, that’s my thinking right now. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time!

The Husband is working this afternoon, and has a bit of a dash on to try and get home in time for weekly Saturday night dinner at the Dowager’s.  It’s been very hot and pretty humid today, so I’ve been glad to be inside, in the airconditioning.  I occasionally feel guilty about having it on and using so much power, but about 10 minutes after I turn it off, my conscience goes: “yes ok, whatever, put the damn thing back on!”. And I do. It’s currently 33C (91F), and humidity’s around 55%. If I could send some of this heat over to you guys currently freezing your bits off in the US, I’d do it in a flash. And in return, I’d like a short burst of that icy wind, please.

Tomorrow’s yard work in the morning till the heat gets insane, and then retreating indoors to my sewing machine. With luck, I’ll get all the leaves sewn down, and can make a start on the fruit and flowers. I hope you’ve all had a good week and are ready for whatever the weekend brings.

More tomorrow.