The Gardens of Chiconia 40: Bathtime

In the very dry winter/early spring weather we’ve been having in the lead up to summer, it’s not only the garden that has suffered.

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The birds have been going thirsty, and apparently, unwashed!

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 4.55.49 pmWe have got into the habit of providing water for drinking and bathing, and since the dishes went out onto the bird feeder, they are rarely empty of bird life. It can be hard capturing the action out there, but the lorikeets are the boldest, noisiest and by a long way, the splashiest.

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The dwarf mango tree we planted some weeks ago is loving its new position, and has rewarded us by blossoming, at least a year before I would have expected it. I don’t know if the flowers will come to anything, but if they do, I’ll be pleased and impressed. This tree began its life in northern Queensland as a baby, a slender wand about 40cm high. It’s now a good 2m tall, with a sturdy trunk. Given the lack of rain, we are watering it carefully by hand, using the water condensed out by our living room air conditioner.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 4.57.16 pmThe lychee is also signalling that spring has arrived with the most gorgeous display of new foliage in glossy shades of pink and bronze. All the new shoots it has put out have increased the canopy of the little tree by about 30%, and I think it may be time to consider finding it a new home in the ground rather than in the tub it has occupied for a few years. The avocado, which flowered a few weeks ago, has had its new shoots and most of the flowers eaten by the blasted grasshoppers, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing any fruit there, but again, it’s increasing in size and should be transplanted. I have potted on my angel trumpet cuttings and my custard apple seedlings, and they are enjoying life in the sunporch until they’re large enough to go into the garden.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 4.57.54 pm Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 4.58.11 pmThere’s some lovely colour showing itself: orchids, petrea and so on, but mostly things are looking very brown and crispy.

The garden is waiting with bated breath for the start of the Wet. Won’t be long now. And when it starts, you’ll almost be able to see everything growing!


Go the Doggies! Let the game begin

Someone is having a 60th birthday (no, not the Husband of Chiconia).

And he’s a big Canterbury Bulldogs ARL fan. So his dear wife decided that he deserved something a bit special, and that I was the person to make it (having made hers already). And so begins the fourth Footy* quilt I’ve made. It’s a simple pattern of large and smaller squares in two colours, with the team logo in the middle.

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Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 11.28.54 amSeven blue fabrics, seven white/pale fabrics and three feature fabrics for the large squares. I’ve cut a total of 114 small blue squares, 114 white squares and 11 large squares. And that’s not including the two outer borders (one narrow one in white, one wider one in blue) and backing and binding.

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 11.29.12 amThat’s a LOT of cutting, but it’s easy work: press, fold, trim, slice, slice, slice, slice, slice, slice and slice again. The borders can wait till the main part of the front is finished.

I like making this quilt, it comes together easily and quickly, row by row. The initial layout’s the main thing; it takes a lot of space, and I like to make sure that the colour layout works – a patch of darker colours in one corner would not be a good look. Also, some of my ‘whites’ are actually very pale blue, and need to be matched with the darker blues where possible to give good contrast. I have a little spare of each colour in case substitutions are needed here and there. There are going to be some very nice scraps to play with afterwards, too!

In case you’re wondering about the prevalence of chevron fabrics, it’s totally planned, to tie in with the blue chevrons in the background of the logo.

I’m not greatly looking forward to the quilting part, because it’s a big quilt, nearly 90″ long, but it’s going to be cross-hatching, just like all the others before it. Simple, but pleasing.

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My original design, now looking a bit battered after several outings…

I think this will be the last team quilt I make. I don’t want to repeat myself indefinitely, so unless there’s some really urgent need for another sporting blankie, I’m calling it full time on the Footy quilt. Meanwhile, into the scrum!

*Australia has 4 football codes: Rugby League, Rugby Union, Australian Rules and Soccer.  And the greatest of these is Rugby League (Go the Storm). Not that I’m biased, or anything…

The Bookcase Quilt: happily ever after

That’s how books are supposed to end, isn’t it?

And that’s how the story of the Bookcase Quilt is also going to end. It’s done, despite a number of delays and obstacles in my path, and I’m very happy with it. It’s not my most immaculately made or quilted piece, but it’s perfectly personalised and tailored to its new owner. I’ve had a lot of fun making it, too.

So here it is. The eagle eyed among you will observe a few pins still in the binding as I had not at that point quite finished stitching it down. I had to get some photos while there was still reasonable light, as it’s going off tomorrow to my niece. The pins do make that side hang a bit strangely, but at least I have a record.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 5.10.41 pmScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 5.11.16 pmAnd now it’s time to move on to something else. I have my F2F blocks to make for this month, I have a large blue & white Bulldogs RFL team quilt to make for the 60th birthday of a friend’s husband, and I have a pile of fabrics and garment patterns singing a siren song, which I’ve firmly resisted so far.

I’m going to start with pressing all the fabrics and cutting the pieces for the Bulldogs quilt, all 240 of them.

Good job they’re all nice simple squares…

Make do and mend

Something happened to my favourite pair of ripped jeans. 😦

Overnight, they developed pale blotchy brown stains splattered all over the legs. I have no idea what it is. And it won’t wash out, I’ve tried everything. I think it’s something plant-based from out in the back yard, perhaps dating from a rather vigorous pruning session. Rips I live with happily, it’s part of the ‘worn-and-loved-to-death’ look, but these stains just looked, well, dirty.

So instead of throwing out a perfectly good pair of jeans I love, I resolved to patch them. It’s the way I was brought up, by a mother who raised 4 small children, my older siblings, during WWII. ‘Make Do and Mend’ is deeply ingrained in my psyche as a way of life, in all sorts of ways.

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According to the British Museum website: “Make Do and Mend was a pamphlet issued by the British Ministry of Information in the midst of WWII. It was intended to provide housewives with useful tips on how to be both frugal and stylish in times of harsh rationing. With its thrifty design ideas and advice on reusing old clothing, the pamphlet was an indispensable guide for households. Readers were advised to create pretty ‘decorative patches’ to cover holes in warn garments*; unpick old jumpers to re-knit chic alternatives; turn men’s clothes into women’s; as well as darn, alter and protect against the ‘moth menace’. An updated version of the book was recently released to coincide with the economic recession, offering similar frugal advice for 21st century families.” (My italics).
©The British Library

Some of the stains were very small. Others were bigger. I tried ‘pretty decorative patches‘ in nice fabrics. It looked…. meh. And then I thought: Where does it say patches have to be square?

You know what’s coming, don’t you?  What’s my perennial go-to patch(work)?  Yup. The hexie.

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Bye bye, brown blotches. Hello, happy hexies!

I may or may not do a bit of random embroidery on them too. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

I’m Hexcited to announce yet another scrap project completed!

ScrapHappy September

Woo hoo!  I’m on time! (It must be all the cake…)

Once again, it’s the 15th of the month, the day Gun and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps – no new fabrics. It can be a random or formal quilt block, a pillow or pincushion, a bag or hat, a collage or rag rug. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address shown on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join.

ScrapHappySep2015Here’s this month’s scrap block, nice and random. The observant among you will notice that the fabrics are all ones which featured in the Bookcase Quilt, and the block has eaten up all the very small pieces nicely! Twice happy! There are lots of long strips left, so I’m pretty sure you’ll see the same fabrics again, but this 12″ block has used everything shorter than 6″ long.

Linking with

Gun at (in English and Swedish)

Titti at (in Swedish only)

Helena at (in Swedish only)

and a last-minute addition!

Sue at


SAL 17: Sitting this one out

I don’t like to miss deadlines. (“No, really?” I hear you cry…)

But this time I really do need to cut myself some slack. Too many balls in the air, and something’s going to get dropped unless I focus. So I have no stitching progress to show you; basically, the piece hasn’t been picked up since the last SAL report.

I leave you with some images which express very well how things are going behind the scenes… Feel free to help yourself if you’d like them. Or if you’d like to create some of your own, go here.

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Meanwhile, the others have been industrious, and you should go and take a look. Remember they’re on earlier time zones than I am, so give it a few hours before you try…

Avis at

Claire at

Gun at

Carole at

Jule at

Elizabeth at

Wendy at

Lucy at

Cathy at

Jacqui at

Jess at

The Bookcase Quilt: No fine for overdue books

I drove my niece to the airport this morning.

With considerable regret, I might add, and not just because I wasn’t able to send off her quilt with her. She’s been a wonderful guest, entertaining, undemanding, helpful, happy to join in whatever fun was on offer, and deeply appreciative of my cooking. We had a very good time together, and I’m sorry she’s gone. I was considerably distracted from the matter in hand, the Bookcase Quilt, but as she pointed out, she’d happily wait, and I could send it after her once it was ready without killing myself to get it done before she left.

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The vertical seams are joined edge to edge with large zigzag stitch. The horizontal ones are held in place with masking tape just until I can get round to stitching them on Monday.

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Top row, waiting to be added.

So instead we had fun, I didn’t sew as much as I planned, and the quilt is lying in 3 pieces, waiting for the assembly to be completed. The quilting is complete. I didn’t stitch any detail into the owl bookends; I did some test pieces and wasn’t happy enough with the effect to risk messing up on the actual owls. I’m fine with them as they are now! Assembly has started: I have joined the three blocks across the top, the middle and the bottom, and the strips that conceal those joins on the backs are done.

Today and tomorrow I have baking orders, tonight is family dinner night and I have the meal to prepare for that, so the next time I’ll be able to sit down and work on it is Monday. That’s OK. If I can finish the assembly on Tuesday and take the binding with me to my sewing group to be hand finished, it’ll be done by the end of the week.

I wanted a photo of us both with the quilt, but will have to content myself with any photos she sends me of it in use: in the park, at the beach, at her yoga retreat, on the sofa with yet more books….