Rude plants

… Aha! I thought that would catch your attention.

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About 30cm tall, or a foot high…

And I have to say, not just rude, but also unfeasibly large.  But then, this is the Elephant Ear Taro, (Alocasia macrorrhizos), and everything about it is unfeasibly large, not just its, um… flower.

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That modest little spike of white flower buds is going to explode into a fluffy white parasol of blooms

Round the corner there’s a big spiky yucca which is also starting to flower (again, slightly rude), and the dracaena is also putting out buds. The little mandarin that was being strangled is now flowering tentatively again, the beans are flowering like it’s going out of fashion, and the mature mango trees down the back – which looked on their last legs – are sending out masses of new leaves. The yellow hibiscus, which still needs a good pruning, is flowering, and after last night’s short thunderstorm, everything looks freshly washed. Of course, today is hot, humid and cloudless again, but more rain is forecast, and best of all, there are circulating systems building up over the Solomon Islands and in the Coral Sea which bode well for a bit of a monsoon front.  Better late than never!

Better go and check there’s plenty of cold water in the fridge. It’s going to get bloody hot this afternoon: 40C/104ºF and around 80% humidity. How’s winter in the northern hemisphere treating you?



Worldwide Friends: another corner

I have not been entirely idle over Christmas.

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The top left corner is now assembled and ready to add to the centrepiece. And another corner is ready to start piecing together. So now we can see just how wide this fun quilt is going to be. A massive 76″!  I have yet to determine how long it will be, but it’ll be a bit more than the width, simply because of the way the hexies fit together.

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 9.48.04 PMScreen shot 2014-12-30 at 9.48.45 PMMy thinking about the back has changed a bit, too. Originally I was going to go for a plain red back. Then the fabrics started flocking in thick and fast, too many for the front alone, and the haiku and a tanka made their appearance. The back is going to feature these poems, plus many more hexies, and I’ve decided that the quilt will have a hexie border rather than a straight edge, so round the edge hexies will be pieced back to back, making a frame on the reverse too. That’s this week’s thinking, anyway. As always, it’s subject to change if I come up with a better idea!

The more I consider the quilting, the more drawn I am to a sashiko design. It’s in keeping with the origins of the fabrics, it’s simple and it would work on both sides of the quilt. I doubt if I’ll actually do it in white sashiko thread, since I don’t want it to stand  out so strongly against the dark background, and the thread is quite thick and hard to work with on these tightly woven quilting fabrics. Also, the scale will be fairly large, so I’ll finish the quilting some time this millennium!

The Husband wants me to submit this quilt to the Mackay Show in July. Should be ready by then, so long as I don’t change my mind too often! The only thing I had some concern about is how to hang the thing – I want it to be double sided, and a hanging pocket would spoil the look of the back. However, the Husband has come up with a truly brilliant idea for dealing with this, which is to embed a hanging pocket between the front and back layers of the quilt, inside the quilt itself. The channel would be held in place within the quilt by the quilting. The outer edges of the channel would be stitched to the edges of the outer hexies, and you’d just thread the pole through the edge of the quilt itself. Am I not fortunate in my Husband? Not only enthusiastic about my quilting, but also providing intelligent solutions when required!

Screen shot 2014-12-29 at 12.25.54 PMFinally, in the mail today I received more lovely fabric, this time from Kirsten, who blogs at The Pink Rose Bakery, and produces all kinds of gluten free fabulousness – go and take a look. It’s going to be great to have more red to increase the variety, and I can always use indigo to darken hexie flowers which would otherwise be a bit on the light side. I love the Christmas card, too!

What’s on your To Do list for 2015? 

Who can resist a bargain…?

Not I, that’s for sure.

The post-Christmas sales are on. And since the fabrics were 40% off (yes, you did read that right), I indulged. A bit. OK, quite a lot.  But it was all sensible or necessary, I promise. Sort of….

So, here’s the identity parade:

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Lovely neutrals. I can’t pick a favourite, they’re all great.

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It must be obvious by now that I’m a paisley freak and that by extension, I simply had to buy this fat quarter….

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More of the lovely stuff I used for backing my Happiness quilt, plus a warm beige homespun, and a little more of that fabulous green shot cotton.

Also bought but not shown because it doesn’t photograph particularly well is 2 metres of indigo wideback for the back of Worldwide Friends. Looks like the back’s going to be blue too, but with a different feel.

Next year, I must make a few more AHQ quilts and laundry bags; I feel guilty every time I see that so many other ladies have been busily stitching away. And I must finish the Husband’s Star quilt. And Steampunk needs a good bit of attention. And I have the Kaffe Fassett Hatbox quilt I’ve been promising myself since forever. And there’s my Winter Quilt, all hand stitched batik clamshells in rich dark shades, not even started. And one day, I’ll actually make a quilt from all the denim squares I’ve recycled from the Husband’s work jeans. And so on. You get the idea…

Back to hexies. I’m slowly assembling the square block I showed in my last Worldwide Friends post. Once that’s done, I shall make the equivalent square for the other side.  It’s going to be important to watch out for patchiness in the colour balance. I don’t want it to look splotchy. My plan is for the quilt to be darkest in the centre and get a little lighter as I work outwards, since not all the fabrics are very dark indigo. So far, it’s working pretty well.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are ready for both challenges and fun in the New Year.

Happy Christmas

Season’s greetings from tropical Down Under.

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Delonix regia, the poinciana, which flowers at Christmas in my garden.

I hope you all have a joyful and peaceful Christmas of whatever variety you prefer, whether it’s surrounded by beloved family or a delightfully solitary pause from the usual bustle of life. If your Christmas isn’t looking so great this year, I wish you strength and peace.

With all good wishes from Chiconia.

Properly dressed…

… which is what my Christmas table wasn’t.

I have a very long table. It’s 3.1m/10’2″ long, made for my by my BIL from timber grown, felled and seasoned on my land when I lived in northern NSW. The timber is Cryptomeria japonica, or Japanese cedar, known in Japan as sugi. I wanted a big table. I wanted to seat as many friends and family as I pleased without squashing. That part, indeed, the table fulfils. It’s seen action both in and outside the house, it’s been my sewing table when I was hand quilting a queensize quilt, it’s one of my favourite pieces of furniture. But….

Screen shot 2014-12-24 at 11.31.10 AMHave you ever tried to buy a tablecloth longer than 3m? It’s not easy. So these days, I tend to use a couple of starched vintage white damask tablecloths handed down to me by my mother, and I conceal the fact that there are two with nice place settings. Only, of course, you can’t buy a set of 12 or 14 place mats either. And I was really stunned at the price of the nice individual mats. So I made my own, of course. I bought one large (but not large enough, grrr!) tablecloth in red and white stripes. I cut it up into place mat sized pieces, dug out all my scrap batting and some white fabric, and away we went. White napkins, red tealights, and some red flowers, and my Christmas table will now be properly dressed.

Screen shot 2014-12-23 at 10.40.47 AMYesterday, I got another envelope of fabric loot for Worldwide Friends from Carole in the UK, who blogs at A Slight Obsession with Books. She’s sent me two pieces of batik and they’re very appropriate for the season! The brighter blue has flowers that resemble snowflakes, and the dark one has what look just like Christmas trees on it.

Screen shot 2014-12-24 at 8.06.47 AMToday, there was another from Jule in Germany, who blogs at From the Boudoir and also at The UFO Garage. Both blogs are wonderful and a great showcase of her amazing work. She’s sent me some beautiful pieces of indigo, mainly Japanese prints which will feel right at home.

I’m giving you a break from interminable photos of indigo hexagons, so I won’t show you further progress, for that you’ll have to wait till after Christmas.

Back to trying to work out who’ll sit where….


Hamming it up

Today, I did battle with our ham. 

I’m not really at home with very large chunks of meat. I do love a roast, but not on the epic scale of a whole pig’s leg, or a massive turkey, for example.  My formative years in a large and hungry family were spent making much of little, getting three meals out of one chicken, that sort of thing, and I really lack the sort of solid experience that carefree management of this kind of Big Food requires. So when hands go up in favour of ham on the table at Christmas, my heart sinks slightly.  It’s not just the preparation. I’m really bad at carving, too, and the Husband is not far behind. Whatever I do is approached with a little trepidation, a dash of pessimism and a sprinkling of stress to spice things up. Still, I’m normally accounted a good cook, and I was not ready to admit defeat.

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I had to get the photo taken before Someone started picking at the crispy bits at the back. And I don’t mean me…..

So, to the ham. This monster was a raw smoked leg. After stripping the skin off and cutting the traditional diamond pattern in the remaining fat with a sharp knife, I decided to forego the also traditional cloves. There’s not much I dislike more than biting down hard on a hidden whole clove, and one or two always manage to escape, attracted to my plate like magnets.  Instead, I’ve basted the beast with a mixture of my sister’s home made Seville orange marmalade, grain mustard, tamari, apple cider vinegar, ground cloves (hah! that’ll show ’em) and allspice, which has baked into a light mahogany glossy, aromatic glaze. In the bottom of the roasting tin was some sliced onion, which slowly released aroma and sizzled gently in the smokey ham fat and glaze drippings. I’m completely confident that this bonus food of the gods will find a home with the leftovers the day after Christmas.

After all that, it wasn’t hard, just fiddly, and there was lots of basting (after the first hour, I basted every 10 minutes for another half hour).

I’ll let you know how it tastes, but I’m pretty sure the guests won’t be holding back….

Worldwide Friends: in the corner

Another batch of hexies and fillers completed.

Screen shot 2014-12-22 at 10.24.49 AMNow that these are done and pinned in position, I begin to have an idea of just how large this quilt is going to be. On the basis of what is here, it’s going to be 75″ wide and probably 81″ long (190 x 205cm). That’s before any border or binding.

Screen shot 2014-12-22 at 10.57.17 AMSo I think I can safely say that some of these beautiful fabrics are going to get used on the back too. Normally, I’m a fan of plain backs, just because it’s easier, but with so much extra fabric and the haiku too, a picture is beginning to form in my mind of what it might look like. Nearly as interesting as the front! A double sided quilt. Of course, this means the quilting will have to work on both sides, so I will have to be super-careful and missed stitches will show. I think it will  have to be a hand quilted job, after spending so much time hand stitching all the hexies. Rather than do some sort of complicated pattern which will fight with all the different fabrics, I’m going to go for an overall repeat design, like I have on my heirloom quilt. That one has clamshells. I’ll have to ask this quilt what it wants a bit closer to the time. It can’t be anything that follows the hexie shapes, since I can’t absolutely guarantee that things will line up between front and back. Maybe a gentle wavy line on the diagonal, or something similar.

Screen shot 2014-12-22 at 10.24.11 AMI’ve also had another nice squishy envelope arrive, this one from Nanette, who blogs at Stitch and Sow. She’s sent me some really lovely prints which will enhance the beauty and variety of this quilt.

My Christmas handwork is all sorted. Putting this lot together… (and, as the Husband points out, eating lots of Christmas cake. I suppose that counts as handwork!)