Foot²Freestyle: November round-up

It’s the end of November already, and Christmas seems to be looming very quickly.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 7.32.54 pmWe’re almost done in time this month, just one person hasn’t been able to complete by month’s end due to other commitments, but I anticipate they’ll be done very soon. It’s been interesting working with colours not normally in my comfort zone, but I’m really pleased with the result. Avis is conscientiously avoiding the gallery to maintain the lovely surprises arriving in her mailbox. She’s waiting until she has all the blocks before completing her own, in order to make something that will unify all the different styles and colour variations. I’ll add her blocks to the gallery when she has completed them. Head over to the F²F gallery page to browse through all the blocks from June – November; the variety is amazing and I’m amazed at how everyone keeps coming up with something different each month.

December is Christina’s turn. She too loves the Degas ballet painting a few of you referenced for your colour choices. I’m showing it below to refresh your memory. Her specified colours are shades of grey, turquoise, coral and pink. She also loves prints, the more the merrier.  Christina doesn’t have a blog, so I can’t direct you there to look at her work, but you should have her email address from the original welcome document to contact her with any queries. If not, let me know and I’ll send it to you.

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I know that Christmas is a time-heavy commitment for many of you, so I’d urge you to complete your blocks as early in the month as possible. We’ll be fighting extended mailing times too, so it makes sense to get ahead of the game if you can. If it does look as if you’re going to run out of time, can you let both Christina and me know, so we’re not left wondering whether something is lost in transit?

Have fun with December, ladies, and I’ll be in touch later in the month!


The Dowager’s Box, all sewn up

So, it’s finished.

Box closedBox open Lid detail Box filledEach time I make this box, I learn something.

This time, I used harder, denser card, which makes the box more rigid, but also much, much harder to cut correctly, and a bit harder to manipulate when bringing all the shapes together. The instructions tell you to label each piece of card, and I agree this is absolutely necessary, especially the top and base, and indicating which way is up on the inner side panels.

Experience does make the glueing process less sticky, and that aspect was a lot tidier than on my first attempt! The inside pockets were a lot easier the second time round too, now that I’ve equipped myself with a load of quilt binding clips to hold everything in place while the glue dries.

I’ve also found I prefer thin cotton quilt batting rather than high loft polyester for the padding; to my eyes it makes a crisper, more refined box shape whilst still offering a padded surface.

It’s not perfect; it will take a lot more goes at it to make something closer to perfect, but it is a good, functional and attractive box, and I’m keeping notes about how to refine it further next time. One note about this particular box to anyone planning to give it a try; I made the band that goes round the edge of the lid very slightly narrower than it should be; I wanted to see a 1/8″ strip of the pale yellow lining at the edge of the lid, almost like piping. Follow the instructions in the pattern if you don’t want to see this.

(In case you missed it in earlier comments and you fancy making one for yourself; Tialys has confirmed that she’s still offering a $2 discount on the pattern for this box for my followers. Just quote BOXCLEVER at the checkout when you purchase the downloadable pattern pdf.)

I’m pretty pleased with how this one turned out. And I think the Dowager will be too!

The Dowager’s Box

The only tangible Christmas gift I’m giving this year is something I’ll have made with my needle.

You may remember a while ago I tested a box pattern for Lynn at Tialys, who is a bit of a demon at cartonnage, or the gentle art of making exquisite fabric boxes for sewing materials, holding treasures, etc. She sells the pattern as well as finished boxes, in case you’re interested; click on this link to go to her Etsy shop. You’ll find the post about my finished box here. It appears the Dowager has been secretly coveting it ever since.

This emerged at last Saturday’s family dinner, when we had the annual discussion about Christmas. Where, what, who and when were all tidied up, and we progressed to gifts. Generally, the adults don’t give each other stuff. None of us needs more stuff. The Husband and I make a substantial donation to charity in the name of all our friends and family, and we give the youngsters money or gift vouchers, or help towards things they’re saving for. This year, the Dowager insinuated that she ‘wouldn’t mind’ a sewing box just like mine. Prising a bit more information out of her, I established that she didn’t care what colour it was, so long as it wasn’t blue. She doesn’t ‘do’ blue. It takes all sorts to make a world, you know…

Pull for the Dowager's BoxSo this is the fabric pull.  The outer body and rim of the lid will be in that gorgeous shot green fabric. The top of the lid will be in the yellow/orange/pink/green Philip Jacobs print, the inside will be mainly the pale yellow with white spot, more of the floral inside the the lid and the pink inside the base and for the pockets. I might make her a matching pincushion, I’ll see how I get on. I’ve got plenty of time, and apart from the big quilt project, I don’t have much else on.

My box gets a regular workout, and I suspect once she has hers, this’ll be one of the more useful Christmas gifts I’ll ever have made.

In My Work Room 1

I’m joining Anne in the first of her In My Studio series.

Mine is mainly a sewing space, but it also holds equipment for drawing, painting, knitting, crochet, gilding, pyrography, pattern cutting, beading, felt-making and photography. As well as that, it contains my old Mac computer, now rather slow and clunky, which has many years’ worth of images and records of my work in iPhoto and a huge iTunes music library. I’m extremely lucky that I don’t have to share this space with any other functions or people.

Visiting ChairThere’s a Visiting Chair, for when the Husband comes up to spend time with me while I’m sewing; he can play games on his tablet while I stitch and we’re not isolated from each other in separate rooms.

Sewing tableUnder the window is the sewing table, clear space to the left for the project I’m working on, and on the right a clutter of tools, coasters for the inevitable cup of coffee, scraps of paper and fabric with notes and stitch samples on them, and occasionally, a timer to remind me to stop and do something else!

Cutting tableTo the right of the sewing table is the cutting table, which I’ve raised on special feet to make it a more comfortable height to work at while standing. Here’s where the early part of my patchwork pieces start life, where I trim out paper projects, audition colours and fabrics, and where my quilt notebooks are assembled. Above it is my tool board, with everything I need close at hand.

On the opposite wall is a floor to ceiling bookcase, taking up the whole width of the room apart from the space occupied by the Cupboard of All Colours. The bookcase contains not only a large library of fiction but also all my craft and quilting books, back copies of magazines I’ve kept for a specific reason, and storage of clothing waiting to be recycled into something else.


Cupboard of All Colours








Finally, the aforementioned Cupboard, a beautiful hand made American oak item which I designed and which was made by my brother in law, a talented cabinetmaker. Inside it’s all cedar shelves, on a system which enables them to be positioned at any level. It’s one of my most treasured possessions. As it’s incredibly heavy, it’s fortunate that it comes apart with just a few screws!

On the innermost wall of the room is my design wall, a flannelette sheet hung on a rod on hooks. It will just accommodate a queen size quilt, which is the largest I’m ever going to make. This wall allows me to lay out the pieces for an entire quilt in one go, so that I can be satisfied with the arrangement and colour balance before I start to sew it together. In the short term, the fabric pieces will stick to the flannelette; longer term, I pin them on when I’m happy with the arrangement; the air conditioning and ceiling fan tend to blow them off otherwise!

So that’s my creative space.  At present, it’s fully occupied with my latest project, the Cloths of Heaven quilt, which my followers know as a long term piece I’m hoping to have finished by the start of May next year. Around the margins of that I have three blocks a month for the F2F block swap, and also a ‘scrappy’ post on 15th of each month.

The Cloths of Heaven 10: leaf and branch

I am going slowly bonkers.

It’s the leaves, or rather, the stitching carefully around every bloody 64 of them. The first sheet is done, stitched and cut out. The second and larger sheet of leaves is in progress. Sort of.

Leaves and tendrils notesI had to stop and do something else as it was getting to the point where I wanted to hurl it across the room every time a pin snagged my bare arm. Again. So I moved to applying the 1/4″ bias strip for the ivy stems, only to discover that it wouldn’t go round the tightest of the curves, the tendrils at the ends. Three hours and many tested options later I have the answer. Apply the strip wherever possible. Migrate from strip heat-sealed to the fabric and stitched down with zigzag to plain zig zag just a little narrower than the stripe, done really, really s l o w l y to maintain a smooth curve.

Anyway, after that, I was ready for a little light relief. Normally, pinning a quilt sandwich would not fall into this category, but the panel is only 44″ square and even though I’m pinning closely, it was done quickly and pleasantly, with minimal cursing and bloodletting.

Pinned sandwich with corner testivy corner detailI tried out how the leaves would look. I like it! I have everything ready to start hand quilting the central panel, but I’m going to force myself to finish the leaves first, so I don’t have to dread coming back to it later.

The clouds will be quilted with grey variegated thread, the sky and mountains with dark blue. I shall use silver thread in a spiral on the moon, and around the outer edge of the clouds and the top edge of the mountains – just a single thin line to suggest the edges are moonlit. I want a tiny bit more sparkle for the stars, so I’ll either embroider a star within each shape, or I’ll apply a single tiny sequin or glass bead in the centre of each.

Thank you all for your help with the dreaded ear worm; I have classical music in the background now, which tends not to get too stuck in my head.

Time for a quick break and then back to the leaves.

Chookonia begins

Since we first moved here 14 months ago, I have wanted to have chickens.

It’s clear that there used to be some here, as evidenced by the totally dilapidated hen house near the end of the back yard. It’s only good for demolition now, but there’s a lot of back yard for a small flock to enjoy. Many things have prevented it happening, all perfectly understandable, but finally, finally, it seems as if it will go ahead.

Chookonia sketchDespite the heat and humidity, we have been doing some yard work towards this end; most notably, we’ve started digging the 8 post holes for Chookonia, the palatial hen house now taking shape in a shady corner of the back yard. It will be 3 metres square, 2 metres high, solid but airy, and will have a raised brick floor under straw to keep the Girls dry and cosy even if the yard gets very squishy and muddy when the Wet finally decides to start. It’s large because there will be times in storm season when they will be safer kept in than let out.

Chookonia planThe project is not a small one, which probably best explains why we’ve put it off for so long. The impetus came when we got permission to recycle all the dumped building material from the block next door. Not only do we have enough corrugated steel to make the chook house, we can also mend the shed roof, making it a bit more unlikely that the next cyclone will see it landing on the golf course half a kilometre away.

We’ll be getting some help putting up the frame, which needs to be embedded in concrete in holes sunk 40cm down, and mounded at the top so rain will run off. We’ll probably also get some help when we come to put on the roof, but the rest is down to us. I foresee some colourful language, hurling of tools, stomping around and going off in a sulk… We are both terribly clumsy. We have to make a sliding chicken door, a hinged person door and a nesting box access hatch. Endless possibilities for things to go wrong!

The Girls. Three Australorps and three Isa Browns.

Some of these will hopefully be arriving in the next couple of months…

The Girls will be getting a permanent run under the trees for shade and shelter, and protection from the quite large birds of prey round here. They will also be allowed into the back half of the yard once we have upgraded the fencing so they can’t sneak underneath it. You know how it is. If there’s one small hole in the whole 200m of fence, they’ll find it and be through in a flash.

I can’t quite decide how many Girls we need. I’ve always had six; three Australorps and three ISA Browns. I love the Lorps best, they are beautiful, friendly, stately and calm and lay large pale brown eggs. The Browns are slightly better layers of mid brown smaller eggs, and are a bit smarter, but they are also a bit more aggressive. The mix of 3 of each seems to work well, so I’ll probably end up going with the same again. I’ll be getting point-of-lay pullets rather than chicks, so they’ll be ready to start work a bit sooner and won’t be so vulnerable.

I’m looking forward to seeing one of my favourite sights again, the Girls hitching up their fluffy skirts and flat out racing for home because I’ve called them in for the evening grain. Closely followed, I might add, by two of them having a tug of war over a piece of bacon rind…

We’ve made a good start. Now we just have to keep the impetus going.


The Cloths of Heaven 9: the ear-worm

All yesterday, this dratted song was playing in my head.

Corner templateTrimmed leaves on templateMy brain changed the words: brown became green, grey became blue.

I have 64 leaves to make, so a music track in my head was helpful to keep me going, but now I can’t get rid of it! Does anyone have any other leaf-making sound tracks to suggest?

Anyway, the template is done, about a third of the leaves are stitched and I’ve got a few cut out. The rest are drawn up, sandwiched and pinned, waiting for another mammoth bout at the sewing machine.

The Husband is off work for the next 4 days, so I’ll be spending most of my time with him instead of my sewing machine. We have a ‘fun’ project in mind: the block of land next door is vacant, owned by a construction company, and they have used it not only for the storage offered by the large shed on site, but also to dump all sorts of oddments of construction material, leftovers, and bits and pieces that make my recycling heart glad and my acquisitive eye gleam. I have sought and received permission from the owners to go in and help myself to whatever I fancy, since it will save him having to cart it away! Woo hoo! Chook house and chook yard fencing, here we come.

It’s quite a labour; much of the stuff is overgrown and tangled, and naturally, we’re doing this in snake season, so despite the soaring temperatures and humidity, we’ll be fully swaddled in heavy duty work clothes, boots, gloves, sunnies and hats. But almost everything we need is there, and I’m sure there’ll be one or two things we don’t actually ‘need’ but which I will grab because I’m sure I’ll be able to think of something to do with them down the track.

Time to go and trim a few more leaves. (Nooooo! not that song again!)