The Wild Beast of Chiconia, and other tales

The poor Husband is going to come back to a nasty surprise today…

His normally sunny-tempered consort is grim-faced, bloody-fingered (from the pins) and her hair is standing on end.  The overall effect is rather like an irritated bear. It’s not a good look. And the reason for all this joy? The ongoing battle with The Quilt that Fought Back.

Some of the quilting completed in the bottom half of the quilt.

Some of the quilting completed in the
bottom half of the quilt.

Having said that, I’m making reasonable progress. The bottom half of the centre section is done. Perspective lines are in, the little cakes and mugs are outlined. You will definitely not be seeing any close-up brag shots of my immaculate stitches. Because they’re not. Immaculate, that is.  But the overall effect is pretty OK. The chief irritation relates to my new sewing table extension, a clear perspex platform on legs, which slides onto the sewing surface of the sewing machine, in order to give you a larger flat area to work with. This is a marvellous idea in theory, but unfortunately, the manufacturer has slightly changed the shape of the machines since I bought mine, with the result that the table doesn’t quite fit. It’s loose and there’s a gap. And every time I turn or adjust the quilt under the needle, the edges or pins or loose threads catch the edge of the extension and shift it. Again and again and again. I’m delicately refraining from sharing my true thoughts, and I’m pretty sure the language would get this post taken down right smart (considering it’s supposed to be family-friendly). Anyway, I have constructed an elaborate network of sticky tape which is holding it still for now. But I am very definitely in Wild Beast Growly mode for the moment.

In other news (I feel it’s time to move on…), the baby lime tree seems to be recovering from the trauma of the move into larger quarters. The two citrus trees were given a dose of Epsom salts and a large drink of diluted worm tea at the beginning of the week, and it seems to be paying off. The lime, particularly, had clear evidence in the leaves of magnesium deficiency, hence the Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) treatment. It has new flowers, and none of the baby fruit has dropped off.

New flowers and baby fruit

New flowers and baby fruit

I’ll have to thin those out shortly as there are far too many for the tree to sustain, but citrus trees always produce too many and the majority fall off. I’m also watching a couple of the branches, where leaves have fallen off wholesale at some point, but which appear to have some tiny buds on them. If I can avoid pruning them off, it would be good.

Leaves on the dead stick!

Leaves on the dead stick!

The frangipani (dead stick) is in leaf. It has taken a while and I was wondering if it truly was a dead stick, but the tiny little dark red points continued to sprout out of the branch ends, and are now opening into beautiful pointed oval leaves. The parent tree has gorgeous flowers: pink, with a golden heart. I think it’ll be a while before this one flowers, but I know what to look forward to.

My hippeastrums have also flowered profusely; the earliest is now dead or dying, but there are some beautiful flowers still. My difficulty is getting a good shot without a tripod, and even if I had one, getting it to stand still on the uneven bark chip surface. Anyway, look at this gorgeous girl:

Aten't I gorgeous?

Aten’t I gorgeous?

That’s the news from Chiconia. The Beast is soothed by a little light gardening, laundry and photography. The quilt is progressing, the Husband is on his way home, and things are definitely improving in my world. Bloody hot outside, though.

We’re off on a road trip tomorrow. Mackay to Childers, Childers to Coffs Harbour, Coffs Harbour to Dorrigo, and home again after a couple of days. We’re visiting friends, window shopping for a house as an investment property, and on the way home, going to the Craft & Quilt Fair in Brisbane. For those of you feeling sorry for the Husband, you should know that we have a reciprocal arrangement. We go to events he wants to attend, we go to events I want to attend. So far this year we’ve gone to a big truck show in Brisbane, and the World Rally Championship in NSW. Now it’s my turn, with the Quilt Show, and in November we’re going to a classical music concert in Brisbane (Last Night of the Proms – I used to love the Promenade Concerts in London, miss that here…). The lappie is coming along, so I’ll still be posting and checking, but I don’t think that quilting or the garden will feature much over the next week or so.  More soon…


Bonnard 2

The piecing’s going well, if slowly.

Having just got on with it and cut squares, I’ve found that laying them out and quietly enjoying the process has become much easier. I still have ST&D up on the design wall, so laying this quilt out square by square isn’t going to be possible anyway. Having accepted that, I do now have a process, and I started with the central 4 blocks.

These contain both the darkest of the blue, green and purple colours, and the lightest of the ambers and reds. Knowing that, it was easy enough to cut a generous handful of each of the darkest cool colours and a half dozen of the lightest warm ones.

And then I just started with the top line and worked my way down, avoiding putting like next to like as much as possible, but not being overly fussy about it.

The 4 blocks are done and joined, and now I’ve also finished the row above and the row below, where the colours start to change a little, with the cool colours less intense and the warm colours less pale.

Against my new, relaxed attitude to colour placement, I’ve been pretty meticulous about the cutting, and even more meticulous about the stitching, which is where a quarter-inch foot comes in handy.

Mine’s a little wonky; over time, the ‘blade’ edge on the right that you butt the seam allowance up to has spread outwards a little, making it a quarter-inch plus a couple of threads wide, but so long as all the seams are consistently a couple of threads wider, it all works. No major mis-matches so far, so fingers crossed I can keep that going across the whole quilt 🙂

I’ll just keep plugging along. Cut a bit, lay out a bit, stitch a bit. It’s strangely peaceful… 🙂

ST&D: Till minne av vår mamma

Today, I received Gun’s squishy envelope for the Signed, Tealed & Delivered quilt.

She’s made three beautiful blocks, two envelopes and a postcard. With it, there was a lovely letter, and I don’t mind telling you it made me cry a bit. Let me tell you why.

This quilt is dedicated to Barbro, Gun’s mother, whom she and her sister Monica lost to ovarian cancer in 2009. So you see, Gun also has a special reason to work on the quilts for Ovarian Cancer Australia.

In her letter, Gun explained that her mama had loved bluebells, so she was delighted to find a paper piecing design of bluebells, which she carefully scaled down for the front of the postcard. The back of her postcard is beautifully embroidered with a Swedish stamp and a special message, which translates to read:

Love you, miss you   |   In memory
Gun and Monica        |   of our Mamma

I’m honoured to be working with such a special piece of creative work, and to dedicate this quilt to a mother who was so greatly loved and is so greatly missed.

För Barbro: till minne av vår mamma…  

In honour of all our mothers, and loved ones lost.


SAL 54: Dahlia #1

It’s SAL time again, and this time, I’m ready 🙂

I missed last time because we’d been travelling and I had nothing at all to show. But now I’ve got the new project up and running.  It’s a Kaffe Fassett design, from his recent Bold Blooms book, which I posted about earlier. I had to buy myself a new tapestry frame because nothing I had was large enough and none of the local shops stocked one which would accommodate a 22 inch canvas. Nor could I buy the yarns he specified, which are a bit specialised and mostly only available in the UK. So I’ve had to make substitutions based on the image in the book. The colour variations in the DMC tapestry wool I’m using are not as subtle and delicate, but I think it’ll be acceptable. Not exactly like his, but enough to make a very nice cushion cover!

So, without further ado, here’s where I’ve got to. Not a huge amount done, but the chart is rather tiny and keeping track is quite difficult. Hopefully I’ll have made some slightly more impressive progress next time.  I’m already thinking about doing this same design in a different colourway. I’m thinking an orange/red/hot pink dahlia on a navy background… I like this new frame a lot because it stretches between the two arms of my chair and takes the strain off my own arms a bit.

Do go and see what the other talented people in the SAL group are working on. We’re an international group so not everyone will be posting at the same time, but if they haven’t got their post up yet when you visit, do make the time to go back.

AvisClaireGunCaroleLucyAnn, JessSue,
CindyHelenStephLindaCatherineMary Margaret,
Timothy, Heidi, Connie, Jackie

See you next time, on 16th December!


Squishy, scrappy, stripey

Try saying that three times in a hurry.

Seriously, it’s been one of those days. I have been on the go more or less constantly since 7am, without stopping for meals.

A teleconference, two meetings, a couple of schedules and reports to write, emails to get off, laundry and meals to see to, and to crown it all, the gas cylinder ran out while I had something in the oven that was supposed to take 2 hours and be ready for the Husband’s evening meal when I got back from the second meeting.

Needless to say, it wasn’t and I had to make an emergency stir fry from what I had in the fridge. It was tasty, but it wasn’t succulent pulled pork…

However, amongst the angst, some really nice things happened.

The teleconference was fun, encouraging and very good for my morale. A squishy arrived from Nanette with two beeyootiful postcard blocks in it for ST&D, and I started a scrappy strip on the first of the till rolls.

Finally, I managed to do something I usually find very hard: I said No. Someone wanted me to do something I don’t feel comfortable about, to commit to something for which I don’t feel I have enough time. I agreed to part of it, but drew the line very clearly under what I was prepared to under-take and what I wasn’t. That’s usually very difficult for me to do, but this time, I did it. It feels good! 🙂

So I’m celebrating with a bit of silly word play. Well, you know me…

Rainbow scraps

Yesterday’s ScrapHappy post made me realise it might be time…

I hadn’t actually counted how many blocks I’d made so far. As chance would have it, there are 16. Bright and pale, and in a rainbow of colours. The blocks will finish at 12 inches square, so it’s a little small for a lap quilt. I quite like this layout…

Not my best lit shot ever, but I’d only taken this as a record of the layout and then put the blocks away. Too much faff to get them all out again… Lazy, that’s me!

However, I have a Secret Weapon. One that will use up even more scraps and enlarge the quilt without needing me to make another 5 blocks. This is my Secret Weapon.

Ayup. It’s till rolls. You know, those narrow rolls of thermal paper they print your receipt on, only to have it fade into nothing 3 months later. The paper’s designed to be torn off on a perforating blade, so removing it from the back of my pieced strips will be easy. You can get them everywhere: eBay has nice cheap ones, and I got these at my local office supplies place.

You’ve probably seen something on the internet somewhere where you use these rolls as a foundation for piecing endless long scrappy strips. That’s what I’ll be doing here. Each of these rolls is 20 metres/65.5 ft long x 47mm/2.25 inches wide, so I’ll be able to make lots of strips (you can’t buy them individually). But I can foresee lots of uses for them. You can use them scrappily, or draw lines on them to create perfect paper pieced borders, or stitch them together for scrappy log cabin blocks, or rail fence blocks… well, you get the idea.

I’ll outline each block with a 1 inch border of white or black (haven’t decided yet which), and then sash with this scrappy strip. The advantage of not starting assembly right now is that if I change my mind about any of the blocks, I have time to make another to replace it before I start sewing things together.

The upside of this plan is that I still have lots of Scrappiness to go before this quilt is done 🙂

ScrapHappy November

Hello again, it’s time be happy with your scraps.

It’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

I’m rather happy this month, because I’ve managed to put together another 3 blocks – not much visible change in the sheer quantity of scraps in my ‘collection’, but at least the older ones are slowly getting used up, while I generate some more!

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials.

It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, sculpture or a pair of socks. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them all into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not pull them out, make something pretty and join us on the 15th of each month?

Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). The list of names and blog addresses was getting rather long, so Gun and I have decided to just give the names, which link to the blogs. Just the same, only shorter!

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, NormaLynda,
Birthe, Turid, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChris, and we have a new member joining us this
month. Welcome, Nancy!

See you again, same time next month!

Beginning the Bonnard

You may recall I’m making a quilt called Bonnard for my sister.

The colour scheme is inspired by a particular Bonnard painting she likes, by the view of treetops from her living room window and by the use she intends to make of this generous lap-sized quilt.

The quilt is all about the colours. The design is incredibly simple: A 64 inch square quilt which is composed entirely of 2 inch squares. Just that. 1,024 of them.

And I have been in a stew about starting. How do I begin? Do I start by cutting all the squares and then arranging the whole thing in a snowstorm of little squares, or do I start with the four centre 16-patch blocks, and cut just those squares so I can see how it’s all going to look, and then work outwards?

I have the fabrics sorted by colour and saturation, light to dark. It ought to be easy, but I’m procrastinating wildly. I can see how it should look in my head, but can I translate the vision into reality?

The answer is yes, of course, but I don’t want to make a mistake, or find myself disappointed with the result. I’ve never made a quilt where design played so little part and colour was everything. I’m used to telling a story or creating an effect, where the shapes within the quilt have an important role to play. Here, I’m simply blending 5 colours in dark and light shades. I find it astonishing how intimidated I feel!

There’s only one thing to do, of course. Get out the mat, the ruler and the cutter, and just get started.


A little giveaway…

I have leftovers. Too big for scraps, too small for curtains.

The ruler gives you an idea of the pattern’s scale

This is the fabric I’ve used for Miz Lizzie’s curtains. I have two pieces left over, which would make a very pretty cushion cover or maybe 4 place mats… They’re 25 inches high by 22 inches wide (including a selvedge on one side).

Now, I’m also looking to expand the list of blogs I follow. You guys know what I like. You can see who I’m already following from the side bar. It’d be great if you could recommend some new ones!

If you’d like these fabric pieces, let me know and I’ll mail them off to you. Just leave a comment below, together with your blog recommendation. And even if you don’t want the fabric, it’s always good to hear about new blogs. I’ll pick a name at random on Monday and let you know who it is. If you win and I don’t have your details, I’ll respond to your comment, so keep an eye out.

Good luck and have a good weekend 🙂