Worldwide Friends: FFF!

Or, Finished the Flowers for the Front!

That’s 294 hexies made and assembled into flowers, plus another 42 for fillers, since 7th March. With 10 days off in the middle for motorbikery (although, as we know, I did manage to make a few in the in-between times I wasn’t actually on the bike), and a day out to make the Dowager’s birthday gift (for which I now have two more orders, as predicted…).

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.56.23 am Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.57.09 amYou can see from the second picture where the new strip starts – everything above the red arrow is new. Now they all need stitching together. Give me a few days… I need to let my fingers heal a bit. They’ve got holes worn in them from the needle. Did I mention before that I loathe wearing a thimble except when I absolutely have to, for hand quilting?

Now that the front is in the home straight, I can start thinking about the back. I’d better go and press all the fabrics I’ve assembled so I can audition them. Once the front is stitched together I can measure it and then take it down while I lay out the back on the design wall.

I still have to do the calligraphy for the haiku before I can piece that section – imagine stitching the panels in and then making a mistake in the lettering! And I need to inscribe the names of all the contributors on the front in small gold lettering, scattered here and there. I think it’s going to look rather pretty. It seems there’s a day or two with gold resist ink and a small paintbrush in my future!

There’s only one thing bothering me right now.  The front is landscape in format, wider than it’s tall. The back of my mind (the part that demands symmetry, order and regularity at all costs)  is telling me it needs another row or two at the bottom to square it up a bit.  The front of my mind is screaming “nooooooo!”. I’ve had enough of little blue hexies for a little while…

It’s not even remotely square, but then it’s not going on a bed, so does that matter? Does every single one of my quilts have to be square or should I get over that particular obsession? What are your thoughts on the subject, please? I don’t promise to act on them, but I would like to know what you all think!

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Two years

Today is my wedding anniversary.

A beautiful clear pool with rock waterfall, fringed by palm trees, and a gentle breeze blowing off the ocean in the background. There was a kookaburra taking a bath, but I didn't manage to capture him.

A beautiful clear pool with rock waterfall, fringed by palm trees, and a gentle breeze blowing off the ocean in the background. There was a kookaburra taking a bath, but I didn’t manage to capture him.

Two wonderful years. Small change by comparison with some, but still, I’m somewhere I never thought I’d be, having married so late in life. I am very fortunate; I have a grand life and no regrets.

Tonight, we’re going out for dinner to this beautiful place. It’s where we got married, and has become our go-to place for celebrations.

I hope your day is as lovely as mine is!

All things bright and beautiful

Today has been one of those mornings that make you smile for the rest of the day.

At 7am, it’s already humid and hot, at 27ºC/80ºF. Rain is forecast, and the temperature is due to rise to 30ºC/86ºF. I have a big pile of dishes, pots and pans to deal with after last night’s family dinner for the Dowager’s birthday. But despite this, I’m feeling absurdly cheerful.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 7.35.51 amI have got into the habit of throwing bread scraps onto the lawn in front of the covered patio. The Plumed Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna cytoni) have been regular visitors, but today I have rainbows on the lawn too. Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), that is. Also making an appearance this morning is an Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca), and in the distance, a Black Butcher Bird (Cracticus quoyi). Out of shot is a Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles). I do wish I could have got a bit closer, but they’d have all disappeared.

The ducks have got into the habit of loitering around out there, knowing stale bread is on the menu most mornings. The rest of the gang are impromptu visitors and it’s unusual to see them all together so I couldn’t pass up the chance to get a photo. Just one of those moments of brightness that life tosses at you from time to time. I must get around to organising some more bird feeders, with foods suitable to all these creatures. Lorikeets really shouldn’t be eating bread, they’re seed and fruit eaters, and the Butcher Bird is a meat eater.

I hope your day has its own share of rainbows…

A place for everything…

…and everything in its place. This is the Hand2Eye. Something for the eyes, something for the hands. A TV remote holder/handwork organiser, by special request of the Dowager.

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The organiser hangs over the arm of your chair or sofa and keeps things in easy reach. It holds up to 3 remote controls, has slots for crochet hooks, scissors and other bits and pieces, pincushion for needles and pins, and a pop-up thingy to hold and let your spool of cotton unwind as you work without unravelling everywhere. Other configurations are also possible if your handwork is knitting or sewing or stitching.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.51.47 pmThe Dowager is a demon crocheter – take a look at the hankie she made for me for my birthday. Just exquisite work. She does a bit of needlepoint too, hence the requirement for a pincushion and scissors.

What do you think?  It’s definitely not my preferred colour scheme, but the Dowager will be delighted…

Here’s how I made it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.53.06 pm You need a fat quarter of backing material, another for binding, and 5 x 10″ layer cake squares, plus batting the size of your finished item plus seam allowances. There will be a few scraps left over, but not many. I made the organiser 8″ x 25″ finished. Elastic is good but not essential, about 9″, and you’ll need a small empty thread spool.

Make up your front and back strips. Layer together and quilt however you prefer; I used randomly spaced straight lines. The front strip will take 3 of the squares.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.52.17 pmTake the fourth square, press in half to form a lined pocket, stitch in a narrow channel at the top to take elastic, and thread through, leave some spare at either end.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.54.14 pmStitch the outside edges of the pocket to one end of the organiser. Insert the tools you want to accommodate and mark the division with pins. Remove the tools and stitch straight lines to form divisions.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.54.39 pmCut a rectangle the same width as the centre panel of the organiser, but narrower. This will form the pincushion. Press the sides under and stitch in place, leaving the outside edge open. Fill with polyester stuffing – don’t overfill or you’ll distort the centre panel. Stitch down the open edge, close to the raw edge of the organiser.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.55.01 pmNow it’s time to make the spool holder. It’s annoying when your ball of crochet cotton runs away, and the spool holder takes care of this problem, whilst allowing the spool to turn and the yarn to run off smoothly.  Take a 3″ wide strip of the fifth 10″ square. Press in half lengthways. Fuse some lightweight fusible interfacing to the lower half of the strip, below the crease. Press the edges in and stitch together. You can also stitch it together inside out and turn out, which gives a very neat result. Turn the end under and press. Hold it up to the centre panel, next to the pincushion, and mark the length you need, plus ¼” seam allowance. Cut off the excess, but don’t throw it away, you’re going to need it. Make a buttonhole in the centre of the strip. My buttonhole guide was set to 1″. Slit the buttonhole with a seam ripper and tidy it up. Slip the leftover piece over the empty spool. Tuck the ends into the hole in the spool, and stitch together to secure. Wind thread tightly around the spool just below the ends.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.55.24 pmStitch the buttonhole strip to the centre panel, next to the pincushion. It should sit somewhere near the centre of the panel – too far back and the yarn will not run comfortably. ‘Button’ one end of the covered spool through the buttonhole. It should stand up and be held snugly by the buttonhole. The resulting ‘spike’ is a good size to hold balls of crochet yarn.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.56.21 pm Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.57.19 pmThat’s one side and the centre done. Now it’s time for the remote control pockets. Lay the remotes you want to have handy on the other end of the organiser. Lay a tape measure up and over each remote, going down between each one to touch the backing fabric. This will give you the length the strip needs to be. The height will depend on the height of the smallest remote.  Cut a strip of leftover fabric and bind the top edge of the strip. Pin the left and right edges to the background. Insert the remotes and pin between them. Fold and pleat the bottom of the pocket and pin to the edge. Stitch around the outside edge, up between the pockets and along the bottom. Fold the pockets flat along the pleats and press.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 4.58.39 pm Cut 4 x2½” strips from the binding fat quarter. Join end to end, press in half lengthways. Stitch the raw edge to the raw edge of the organiser, as you would to bind a quilt. Mitre the corners, and blindstitch down on the reverse. If you want to fold up and put away the organiser, lay the spool holder down flat through the buttonhole and fold up in three sections.

That’s it! You’re done.

The kindness of strangers

There’s nothing like a quilt to shrink the world and bring strangers together.

Some of the lovely people who’ve sent me fabrics for Worldwide Friends have sent still more when I mentioned that I was going to need some more in order to finish the front. I had imagined simply buying some more indigoes from my LQS, but no, I had offers to send more, treasures picked out from personal stashes all over the place. A hand held out, and help freely given. You’ve got to love the quilting fraternity – or perhaps I mean sorority? I don’t want to seem sexist, I know there are many, many talented male quilters out there, I follow some of their blogs, but all the help and kindness I have received has been at the hands of women.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 11.12.21 pmThe front of Worldwide Friends is in the home stretch. Today I received a second envelope from the kind and talented Jule, who has not one but two blogs to manage and write for, as well as all the beautiful handwork and photography she produces. Go and take a look at From the Boudoir and the UFO Garage & Fabric Depot, the two blogs I follow. She’s sent me some extremely beautiful indigoes, and rather than just show pieces of fabric, I’ve held off until I had made hexie flowers from them, just for something different. Thanks to the help of these and an earlier second donation from Viv, the final piece of the front is going to be as interesting and varied as the other parts.

A week should see the front done. Then I must piece the back, sandwich everything, and finally, hand quilt. WWF is not going to be bound but faced, with a strip of hexies around the outer edge of the back, stitched edge to edge with the outer hexies of the front. I’m putting in a totally concealed rod pocket, hidden between the layers, with only slots in the outer edge of the quilt to show it’s there. The quilting needs to hold it in place without seeming to to do so, and some sleight of hand is going to be needed there.

It’s all new, unknown territory, and I really wish I wasn’t testing myself on an exhibition quilt, but there you go. Quilters do these things to themselves…

What I did on my holiday

I’ve always loved the stories you get from children assigned an essay with this title!

My essay is not perhaps as sweet and entertaining, but we did get a lot done! Let’s see… We travelled 3,400km (2,100 miles) in 10 days. We got very, very hot and very, very wet. We met dozens of new friends. I caught up with a few old friends and family. I didn’t cook a thing for 10 whole days! I haven’t gone that long without picking up a knife or spoon since we were married… And most shocking of all, I entered a quilt shop twice without making a purchase!

Despite the fact that we had only 30cm² (12″) of luggage space each I did manage to pack some WWF supplies in my hexie sewing kit. Along the way, I donated the hexie kit itself to my friend Mrs R, who needed something for small hand work while she waits with her daughter for the first grandchild’s imminent arrival. A good use for it, I’m sure you’ll agree. After that, a plastic baggie did the job. Here’s my output for the 10 days… Even amongst all the fun and games, I found time to stitch.

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17 new hexies for the top half of the front of WWF. Only another 25 to go…

Since I got back I’ve shopped, cooked, done laundry and done a myriad of other small chores. None of my precious plants have died, there are limes ripening on the tree and the house is in good shape. We did have a small unexpected visitor, who made an appearance in the laundry whilst the Husband was spending some quality time with the porcelain fittings in there…. A small black snake slipped quietly from the store room under the door into the laundry, past his legs and out through a small space where the toilet S-bend goes through the wall. We have taken to making lots of noise as we approach, and there’s a broom and a grabber in there now, in case he makes a reappearance! Hopefully he’ll soon find it insufficiently peaceful for winter quarters and will evacuate back out the way he came…

Now that I’m back and the worst of the mess is tidied away, I can get back to my usual pursuits. I still have a lot of work to do on WWF, but I’m still hopeful of getting it done in time for submission to the Show on 12 June. I also have to make a gift for the Dowager, whose birthday is in 8 days.  She’s requested a combination remote control and crochet tool holster to go over the arm of her sofa. It also has to integrate a pincushion and crochet cotton spool holder. And it has to go with the décor of her living room, which is burgundy, cream and pink. I have just the fabric for the job, and am very grateful for the opportunity to remove it from my fabric collection! It came as part of a layer cake and I really dislike the colours, so you can understand my relief at passing it on to someone who’ll appreciate it!

But you know the best thing of all about being home?  My lovely bed…..

Words under Pressure #20

Our current trip has once again reacquainted me with the beauty and variety of this wonderful country I have chosen to come and live in. And since I’ve been on the road for days, I have no sewing to show you, and my camera is staying safely in its bag, out of the rain, so it’ll have to be words again.

Someone asked me the other day if it hadn’t been really hard to give up everything and everyone I had in England to emigrate to Australia. Yes, of course it was hard, I was dragging up my whole self by its roots, but it would have been much harder not to come here. I fit in here better than I ever did there, I feel more at home here than I ever did in England. I was drawn, as if by a magnet… It wasn’t ‘brave’, more inevitable!

Immigrant’s Song

Far will I travel over strange lands,
Touching none, seeing none.
Called, pulled by my heartstrings
To a new land, a new home.

Many millions will I pass,
Unguessed, unknown, unmet.
Gladly passed, gladly left,
For my new land, my new home.

Straight as arrow flight
Will I go, eyes ever ahead,
Passing marvels unmarked, undesired.
Towards my new land, my new home.

I have not left the ones I love.
They are all gathered up.
I carry them in my pocket as I walk
In my new land, my new home.

It took a while to adapt, but now you couldn’t pay me enough to get me back. My roots are down deeper here than they ever were there.