Worldwide Friends: friendship is golden…

Sekaijū no tomodachi

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The quilt’s name, painted freehand onto the fabric surface using a brush and thick red-gold resist ink

That is what this says. And its meaning is Worldwide Friends or Friends around the World, whichever way you prefer it.

The calligraphy nib on my pen was not the right tool for laying down thick ink on this textured surface, so I fished out one of my fine sable brushes for the lettering. It wasn’t completely straightforward. Having traced the ideograms from the original slips of paper using my LED lightbox and a quilt marker, I found the painting process was fairly laborious. The resist ink is thick and blobby, being very dense with gold pigment, and the surface of the fabric is a nubbly weave, making straight lines and neat corners a bit tricky. It dries quickly on the brush, and slowly on the fabric, so I had to keep moving.

Probably a Japanese person will be able to point out awkwardness or inaccuracy in my letter forms, but so long as it’s not actually saying something rude, I’m OK with it!

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.16.19 pmNow that I’ve done this lettering, the central section can be permanently added to the side pieces. I haven’t wanted to do that until now, because of the additional weight and volume of the sides making it hard to work with the middle – particularly when I thought I’d be embroidering the name on for a week or two.

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At the bottom is Nanette’s own hand-dyed fabric

After my last post on this quilt, which said that I would need more indigoes in order to finish the front, the kind and generous Nanette from Stitch and Sow has sent me even more loot, including some of her own hand-dyed fabric. So kind… As you can see, I’m making progress on the bottom strip. And no, I haven’t worked out how many more hexies I still have to make, that wasn’t such a great idea last time!

Suffice it to say there’s still quite a few hexies to go…


Worldwide Friends: Making my mark

I have been anticipating with some dread the need to do a lot of rather tidy embroidery on Worldwide Friends.

Not just the kanji symbols that make up its name on the front, but also the names of each lovely fabric participant and the haiku for the back. That’s a lot of immaculate satin stitch, never my best work.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 3.20.35 pmInspiration struck when the Wedding Quilt for my niece Claire was making its usual nocturnal promenade through my brain, nagging me to make a start. Not yet, not yet…

But I had come up with a lovely idea for it, involving gold calligraphy winding a thread of poetry† around and around the border of the quilt. My calligraphy is rusty, but hopefully adequate, and I think I’ll be content with the results.

I had bought for this purpose gold resist ink and a broad calligraphy nib. You write, wait for it to sink into the fabric, and then heat set it with either an iron or in the tumble drier. Voilà, permanent, dry-cleanable and washable gold. You can also flush colour up to it and it will prevent migration into the next section. Multi-talented, multi-tasking ink. I wanted it in gold for reasons which are obvious if you read the poem, and luckily, I found some.

The WWF inspiration was the dawning realisation that the kanji and donor names would look beautiful if also done this way. The haiku done in black ink on white or beige fabric panels on the back would be the work of hours instead of days or even weeks. I’ll need to do a fair bit of practice to bring my lettering skills back up to speed and will have to sketch out lettering layouts/templates to ensure it all flows and looks nice, but I have great hopes.

It will be a Final Fabulous Flourish, with curlicues, finials and a cherry on the top. 


He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, by WB Yeats.
In my opinion, surely one of the most beautiful love poems of all time, and peculiarly appropriate for use on a quilt which is also a wedding present to a dear niece. Love/Cloth/Night = Wedding Quilt!


And the winner is….

Carla at Granny Maud’s Girl

(To the rest of you, thank you so much for entering. I wish there had been enough for everyone…)

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Just waiting for a name and address…

Congratulations! An envelope will soon be on its way to you, with all the scraps shown in the original photo. That’s quite a lot to play with. There are two other people who were promised either scraps or a Patsy hankie before I had the idea for the giveaway, and they too will receive their loot in due course. And despite all this mad giving of bits, I still have a little for myself. So we’re all happy.

One day perhaps, the Swoopy Shirt will have worn out past repair, and I’ll cut it up and recycle the good bits. Maybe in 10 years time, I’ll be holding another giveaway. I wonder how many of you will still be with me then… and if we’ll remember this first time.

Back to my needle. Worldwide Friends is nagging. It’s going to be a close thing squeezing every hexie I need out of the fabrics I have, and a visit to the LQS may be required. Lovely Nanette has dug out some more indigo bits and is sending them, and if the spirit moves any of you who haven’t already contributed some scraps to join in, that would be fun, but not at all necessary.

I’ll be doing a WWF post very soon now, since inspiration has struck about the kanji and the haiku for the back, and I want to share my thoughts and see what you think of the idea.

Dear Friends…

Yes, you lot out there, I mean YOU.

Thank you all so very much for the wonderful support I have received in the last few days. It makes me feel that there is some point to the blogging that I enjoy so much, that the thoughts I share with you are heard even if you don’t all agree with me, and that for some of you at least, my choices are the right choices too. I am not alone.

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Oops-A-Daisy by Keiki for Moda

Now, let’s get on with quilty life. Here is some fabulous fabric recently sent me by my friend Mrs R as a belated birthday gift. It’s bonkers, but beautiful! I’ve never seen a fabric before that seemed to be smiling at me, but this one does. The colours co-ordinate nicely with the colours I have used (in somewhat less intensity…) in my Heirloom Quilt*, which lives on our bed. So this piece of loud and lovely fabric is going to become my sitting-up-in-bed-with-morning-coffee pillow, backed with the same gorgeous lime green shot cotton as I used on my sofa cushions. I plan to quilt it by hand, following the outlines of all the flowers, leaves, birds and butterflies, using some of my Aurifil graduated quilting thread – either the lime green or the orange, I think. The pattern is really large, so it’s not going to be an endless job.

With reluctance, however, I have to put it aside for a while. Worldwide Friends is demanding my attention, it has been sadly neglected recently and I must churn out some more hexies, make flowers and fillers and stitch another big piece together. It has to be finished by early June to be entered into the Mackay Annual Show. No pressure then… Also on the Look At Longingly List is the Swoopy Shirt, which has achieved stasis as a fully cut out pattern, and is sitting folded tidily on the side of my work table. Somewhere between the shirt and the pillow is Claire’s Wedding Quilt, which is trying to emerge into reality from my brain, where it flaps and glitters in fully finished glory.

I admit it. I have a terminal sewing/quilting problem. The joy of making things which are both beautiful and useful is eternal. I hope to die with that joy still lively in my mind, and my hands as active as great age and arthritis allow! 


*Have a look at the Chiconian Quilts page.

The Comfort of Caramel

My morale has always been boosted by caramel in all its glorious forms.

I know, I know, the dieticians would have a fit. You know the drill: “food is not a crutch, you shouldn’t eat for comfort”. To which I rudely reply Nuts To That. It’s quicker, cheaper and easier than therapy, drugs or support groups, and you can keep it conveniently in the cupboard in case of emergencies! I don’t think my caramel habit is too dangerous just yet…

So anyway, it’s been a trying couple of days and I wanted a nice slab of something, well, comforting. So I made some. This therapeutic creation is Chocolate Caramel Shortbread. It’s also, but not for any reason of virtue, gluten free. But not by any stretch of the imagination dairy free, so be warned.

You’ve seen it everywhere, but probably never made it. And it’s easy. Want to try some?  If there’s anyone out there who said No, would you please leave quietly, shutting the door behind you, while the rest of us make pigs of ourselves and have lots of spoon-licking moments.

It breaks down into three ingredient groups: A, B and C

A) Shortbread
1 cup flour, whatever you have
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 cup caster sugar
125g/4oz melted butter

B) Caramel
1/3 cup golden syrup. This is heavy dark syrup with the consistency of cold honey, not pancake syrup, which is too thin and runny.
125g/4oz melted butter
2 x 395g/14oz cans sweetened condensed milk

C) Choc topping
200g/7oz dark chocolate (eating or couverture)
2 tblsp light vegetable oil

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The baked shortbread

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Butter, condensed milk and syrup, some of my favourite food groups….

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Pouring the thickened caramel onto the shortbread

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Baked caramel with little volcanic crunchy bits

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No prizes for guessing where that spoon went afterwards…

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Another pouring shot. This time it’s chocolatey

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The whole wonderful taste explosion: shortbread base, thick caramel layer and velvety chocky top

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Well, of COURSE I licked the knife afterwards….

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Grease and line a square brownie pan with baking paper. Greasing it will help you remove any spilled caramel in the pan that would otherwise set like concrete.

Mix all (A) ingredients together and press the resulting dough into the base of the brownie pan. Make sure you get right into the corners and have a level edge. Bake for 15 minutes and cool for 30 minutes.

Mix all (B) ingredients together in a heavy bottom pan over a low to moderate heat. Stir continuously for about 10-15 minutes, while the ingredients blend and thicken. Once it starts clotting and bubbling, and has thickened a bit, pour it over the shortbread base and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and bubbled on the top. When it is no longer hot, refrigerate for at least half an hour and preferably a bit longer till the caramel is very firm.

Put the (C) ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and heat on high for 30-60 seconds till the chocolate is just melted. Blend thoroughly with a spoon till smooth and glossy. Lick the spoon (oops, did I say that out loud…?). Pour quickly over the chilled caramel layer, tilting the pan to get it into the corners. Tap the base of the pan gently on the counter to level the surface, and return to the fridge to set.

This is incredibly rich, incredibly yummy and dangerously moreish. Ensure you are forced to share it with family or dear friends who can be relied on to heroically save you from yourself by eating their fair share.

Otherwise you will end up sticky, dishevelled …and seriously sugar loaded.

Oh, and by the way:  I owe my minor obsession with pouring shots to Conor at One Man’s Meat, who is a genius in the kitchen and with a camera. Get over there and start salivating at the pictures and enjoying the prose, which is wonderful.

Swoopy Scrap Giveaway

And so to more cheerful subjects.  This was the post I’d originally planned for this morning. The Swoopy Shirt is cut out!

It was a bit of a challenge, since the fabric wasn’t quite long enough for one version of the layout or quite wide enough for another. Add to that the fact that the fabric does have a direction if you look carefully, and I didn’t want the front running one way and the back another. The sleeves are running upside down, but that’s just too bad and will hopefully not be too noticeable.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 1.20.53 pmThe result of all this busyness is scraps. I’m keeping two biggish pieces, but the rest is up for grabs so I can spread the joy a little. The photo shows what’s available – that’s a 12″/30cm ruler beside the pieces to give you an idea of scale. The fabric is 100% cotton Liberty Tana Lawn in the grey Patsy A colourway, with touches of pale blue, pink, yellow and raspberry together with the grey and white. They’ll make great paper/foundation piecing scraps, EPP hexies, or nice bits for scrappy string piecing. The fabric presses to a beautiful crisp edge and is a joy to work with. Click on the photo to get a close up of the fabric.

If you’d like to enter the giveaway, enter a comment of some sort below. I’ll put all your names in a hat and the Husband of Chiconia will draw the winning name. We’ll do the draw and I’ll announce the winner on Thursday morning my time, which is mid to late Wednesday for many of you. If you win, I’ll respond to your comment and ask for your address to mail the envelope of scraps, unless it’s one I already have, in which case it’ll be just the good news that you’ve won! I’ll mail to anywhere in the world, so no one is excluded. The fabric’s light and postage will not be crippling.

If I don’t get any entries, I’ll keep the lot, mwahahah! All for me!

If you’re not for us, you’re against us…

I’ve discovered something today which has caused me quite a lot of pain. It is not excessive to say that it caused some tears.

You’ll recall that I wrote a post on the topic of subjective value in quilting, saying that I prefer doing it now for love instead of money, trying not to attach ‘value’ to my work based on how long it took and how much the materials cost, but instead on how much I enjoyed doing it. I was amazed at the strength of reaction it provoked, both pro and con, because I wasn’t tub-thumping or getting on any soapboxes to preach my point, merely making an observation. I respect the position of those who demand a fair price for the work they sell, and I have been clear about this, but I do also expect that respect to be reciprocated for my opinions.

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Different opinions not allowed

What I was stunned to discover today was that someone has hijacked chunks of my post into a blog of her own without asking, and has seen fit to slant and emphasise points out of the original context to support an attack against me personally and others who do not charge ‘correctly’ for their quilting work. This person did not respond directly to my post, as would have been appropriate, but has seen fit to criticise me on her own blog for my opinions because they are different from hers. I do not name her, because I am not in the business of tit-for-tat, and quite frankly I’m not anxious to swell her readership.

To add insult to injury, she has missed the point. I am no longer in the business of selling the fruits of my hobby. I am not in competition with her or her fellow quilt professionals. My refusal to sell my work does not set false price expectations amongst potential buyers for the quilts of others. I do not sell quilts at all for any price. Instead, I give them away for love, for charity, for friendship, for celebration and in appreciation. They are gifts. Sometimes, the recipient pays for the fabric. Mostly not. Apparently this is wrong and I am devaluing the market for her and others of her ilk who earn a living making quilts. I should charge, whatever the context. The Quilt Police are among us….

I know that the world of blogging is filled with people who have no manners, but wouldn’t it have been better if she’d commented on my blog, mentioned that she disagreed with my points and said that she was planning to write a post of her own responding to mine?  To make her comments personal and directed at me by name without any notification seems disrespectful in the extreme.

I think what I find most painful is being accused of perpetuating and hiding behind “a corrosive lie”(her words), which is that I don’t need the money. I truly don’t need to make money from friends, family and deserving causes. I am accused of “making myself sound fortunate” because I don’t need to make a living from my quilts. I am fortunate, but why is this something to be ashamed of? This is not the career I have chosen for my life’s work. I do not need to be businesslike, or realistic. This is merely my joy, my interest, my passion in chief amongst many passions… It’s like condemning hobby woodworkers because they give their grandchildren wooden toys without charging a ‘realistic’ price and making life hard for ‘real’ woodworkers who earn a living at it.

I did not know her post was there so I had no opportunity to respond. And today, reading her rather sarcastic attack directed at me personally hurt, quite a lot, like being struck from behind by an unseen assailant.

I hope she is satisfied with herself and her actions. She certainly got her point across, but did it have to be at the cost of causing pain to a complete stranger, who has no possible impact on her potential customer base, in another country far, far away…?