Staying cool with Lime & Soda

In case you were wondering, this is not a recipe post…

Mackay is in the tropics. Our climate is hot, ranging from pleasantly sunny to raging, stinging heat with the force of a hammer. Our old wooden house requires no heating and air conditioning is a must. In the winter, the sun is the only way of taking the edge off any mild chill inside a house designed to stay cool. To this end, the house was designed with a sun porch running along the north side of the house, following the track of the winter sun from east to west. It gets sun all day long. Our living room has 4 continuous french windows which open onto this sun porch, but they’re never open, despite the fact that it would increase the space, warm the room on cooler days and increase air circulation. This is because the sun porch gets too darn hot; the aircon compressor lives in there, and the louvre windows have no fly screens so they stay closed, and the screen door onto the porch lets in the hot air.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this?

The porch roof slopes down so the curtain needs to be higher on one side than the other. I shall fill the gaps with sashing fabric.

Curtains. If I screen off the area of the porch where the compressor lives with a heavy curtain, keep the louvres closed and the bamboo blinds down, and have another curtain for the screen door, I can open the french windows and air condition the sun porch too on hot days and allow warm air into the main room on cooler days. And the Lime & Soda bit? That’s the clever name my friend Carla came up with, back when I was going to make a quilt from these blocks, which were made as part of the first FootSquare Freestyle (F²F) block swap.

Sashing fabric for between the curtain blocks. The flowers are about 2 inches across

NYB tablecloth, which I will edge with the sashing fabric, and three cushion fronts

Instead, I shall make a heavy curtain from 28 of the F²F blocks, and for the table and chairs in the porch a tablecloth and cushions from the four gorgeous New York Beauty blocks made by Avis and the final  three blocks.

The screen door curtain will probably come out of the numerous black, white, grey and lime green scraps I was hoarding with these blocks.

That leaves just one problem. How to stop the barking geckos leaving their pellets of poo all over everything.

Up to now, they’ve had it all their own way in there, and that’s going to stop.

Still, the little poops are black and white, so at least they’ll blend in with the colour scheme.

Ah, life in the tropics…

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Carla’s cushion

Carla of Granny Maud’s Girl has designed the most gorgeous cushion.

I was so pleased to be asked to test the pattern for her, and I’ve found it easy to follow; it answers questions before you need to ask them, and it’s versatile enough to work with fabrics of all kinds.

If you go to her blog post, you’ll see her version, a fabulous riot of gorgeous colours, corralled by an elegant set of 4 English Paper Pieced blocks, and trimmed with velvety pompoms. Mine is different. Far quieter, using leftover pieces of the paler colours from my Bonnard quilt, and devoid of pompoms, but elegant and pretty all the same, demonstrating that the same pattern works well with very different fabric designs and colour choices. Like Carla, I’ve made a concealed zipper opening for the back, but the pattern also suggests alternative closures if zippers are a technique too far for you. My cushion will join the Bonnard quilt in due course as a gift to my sister.

Carla has the pattern for sale in her Etsy and Craftsy shops. If you click on the link above and go to her post about this, you’ll find links to both in her sidebar. If you’re looking for a small, interesting but not too demanding hand-stitching project which gives you the option to go bright or pale, dark or light, high or low contrast, lavish or simple, this is for you. Enjoy!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’m not being paid to say nice things about it – owning this lovely pattern is reward enough.

Still making herself felt

Cyclone Debbie, that is.

Those brown marks are residue from where we taped the windows to try and keep the water out. The heat has baked it on…

Last year, nearly a year ago, she hit our coast and did damage all up and down it. We were lucky and got off pretty lightly, but the front windows didn’t withstand the force of the wind and rain at all well, and water poured in around the edges, down the wall and puddled on the floor. Well, eventually things dried out, but by then rot had set in, and in some areas and it was clear the old wooden windows would never be the same again. Not that they were so very brilliant to start with; in this hot climate, and east-facing in our very hot sunshine and high humidity it was a constant cycle of shrink in the heat and expand in the wet. But after the cyclone they dried warped. With a strong onshore wind and heavy rain they might as well not be there. And the wood has given up. It’s cracked and gaping, rotting, blackened and peeling. Enough was enough.

Would you look at the difference the tinted sunblock glass makes? On the right, glass, on the left, still just the flyscreen, waiting for the sliding panel to go in.

The insurance didn’t want to know, since the windows hadn’t been in great shape before the weather event. So we bit the bullet and got quotes, and gasped and went pale when those quotes came in. Then we got other quotes, until finally there was an option which we could manage. And today’s the day. The weather forecast, although windy, is moderately hopeful. The Husband is off work for the next 4 days. Two men are on the job, and boy are they speedy. I reckon we’ll be putting the blinds and curtains back up tonight.

It’s wonderful not to have the full glare of the sun coming into the room. From the outside, the windows look very dark, from inside, you hardly notice.

It’s not too noisy, but it is a bit messy and disruptive, with doors banging and framed glass panels being trooped through the house. But when the work is done, we’ll be watertight once again, and our new windows will be sleek, narrow aluminium, not nearly as susceptible to cyclone damage. Best of all, the glass is toughened, tinted, UV and heat resistant, so our bedroom and spare room will be cooler – and safer – than before.

I won’t tempt fate by saying ‘bring on the next cyclone’. But next time (God forbid!) we’ll be in better shape to face it.

ScrapHappy January

Hello, hope you’ve all had a ScrappyHappy Christmas or seasonal celebration of your choice 🙂

Today’s the 15th of the month, the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host  ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps. And by the way, this is our third January ScrapHappy. Can you believe we’ve been at it so long?

You’ll remember (I hope!) that last time I decided I wasn’t happy with the way the scrappy quilt was coming along, and that I’d take out all the pale, pastel blocks for another quilt in due course. Well, of course, that left me with gaps, so I’d made another teal and another yellow/ orange block.

I had another look at what was left, and the paler version of the purple block was still pretty strong, so I pulled that out of the stack of pale blocks. So now I had two purples, two teals, two oranges and the black & white, brown, pink, blue, red and green. So I needed four more: another blue, green, red and pink. And here they are!

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. 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 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.

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Karen, Moira, SandraLindaChris and Nancy

See you again, same time next month!

 

 

Clamming up: quilting for Bonnard

I must have made, tried and discarded a dozen different templates.

My original plan was to quilt Bonnard with a random scatter of leaves, but no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t find an assortment of leaf shapes I liked, which were the right size and which were simple enough to quilt with my not exactly tiny hand-quilting stitches. My subconscious was at work, I think, or perhaps it was the quilt, trying to gain my attention and tell me what it wanted.

And then I realised that the quilting wasn’t the point of this quilt, it was a supplementary feature, an attractive way of holding the layers together which incidentally added visual richness and texture. And there it was. I’d do a simple all-over repeat. What about a Baptist Fan, one of my favourites? Still not quite right.

I’ve come full circle, I think. I’m quilting clamshells, like my bestest and favouritest quilt of all, the one that lives on my bed. The ones on Bonnard will be larger, at 4 inches across rather than 2½ inches, but I wanted them to fit within the proportions of the squares and blocks I’ve used to make Bonnard. As an incidental bonus, the larger size will mean I get it done more quickly, and the interlocking clamshell shapes mean the stitching all travels in one direction so I won’t be twirling the quilt around. It’ll sit on the table, its own weight providing the tension I need to hold things flat, and I won’t be draped in acres of cosy quilt at this hottest time of year. As an extra benefit, my plain white teacup is exactly the right size to form the template I mark around, plus it won’t bend and deteriorate like a card template.

Win-win all round, I’d say.

Noodlin’ about

Not quite as aimless and lazy as it sounds, actually.

I used the pool noodle method to layer and spray baste the Bonnard quilt. I got it done in the space of about 2 hours, a record! Plus I don’t have a stinkin’ backache, pricked and sore fingers or pin holes in the fabric. I didn’t do it exactly the way shown on the YouTube video which gave me the idea, which I think would need two people to be successful with a quilt this size, just to keep things taut and smooth. I broke it down into two stages. Here’s how.

First job was to assemble my noodles. I’m using regular foam pool noodles. I cut and fitted together one whole noodle and part of another so they were the exact width of the backing. They’ll cut with an ordinary sharp kitchen knife, no special equipment needed. Then, to stop them bending in the middle, I pushed a broomstick up the centre channel, which also held the extended section on; it’s a tight fit.

Then I taped the backing good side down to the edge of the table, and pulled the rest of it across the table and smoothed it down, taping the first 24 inches of the sides as well, to hold things flat. On top of this I laid the edge of the batting and pulled the rest of that across the table too, so both layers lay flat and reasonably smooth. At this point, I took the decision that I wouldn’t attempt to do the quilt top as well, as I didn’t feel confident I could get all three layers smooth. So on this pass, I layered and basted only the backing and batting.

I pinned the edge of the batting to the noodle, and rolled the batting up carefully, ensuring it was straight by checking the edges. I then sprayed the leading, taped, edge of the backing, aligned the batting to the taped edge and carefully unrolled to the edge of the sprayed area, smoothing the batting onto the backing, spreading in an outwards motion from the centre. I was careful to cover any exposed parts of both the batting and backing, as well as the table top. I untaped the edge of the backing and pulled it down so a new section was on the table top.

I continued spraying a section, unrolling and smoothing the batting, until I reached the opposite side, exposing the edge of the batting pinned to the noodle. I unpinned, smoothed out this final section, and trimmed away excess batting flush with the edge of the backing.

I then pinned this flush edge to the noodle and rolled backing and batting together onto the noodle except for the final table-width. I then took the quilt top, and right side up, aligned the top edge with the top edge of the batting/backing but leaving about 1.25 inches of backing clear. I then rolled the remainder of the quilt top onto a second noodle.

After that, it was a repeat of the backing. Spray a section, smooth out, pull forward, spray the next section, etc. Finally, I flipped the sandwich over and smoothed out the backing again, as it became a little wrinkled while the top was going on.

If you want to try this yourself, you’ll need:

Pressed and smoothed quilt top and backing, and batting cut to size
Masking tape
2 – 4 pool noodles, depending on how big your quilt is
2 broom sticks or pieces of dowel the same size
Glass head pins (not as big as flower head, but easier to extract from the foam than dressmaker’s pins)
8 – 10 sheets of butcher’s paper or a plastic drop sheet
Spray baste ( I use 505)
A large table in a clean, dry area with no wind to blow the spray about.
Fabric scissors

If you haven’t tried this before, I urge you to give it a go, especially if you’re over the floor grovelling needed for pin basting. Actually, if you’re sensitive to the spray, this process would work quite well for thread basting too, but you’ll need a curved upholstery needle for the quickest results.

Job done. Smooth layers, trimmed out, and ready to start hand quilting.  I must go and find my hoop…

Cultivating the tiny

I’m giving fermentation another go.

I’ve tried fermentation before, with zero success. The red cabbage, apple and capsicum mixture that should have been tangy and tasty… wasn’t. It went nowhere. I could not achieve a bubbly result, despite following instructions to the letter, using filtered water and special non-iodised sea salt. Zilch. I moved on.

Six months ago, I got an infection of helicobacter pylori, the bug that lives in your stomach, gives you stomach ulcers and can, if not treated, lead long term to stomach cancer. It wasn’t nice, but the treatment was worse: brutally efficient, effectively wiping out most of my colony of useful gut bacteria. Since then, I’ve struggled a bit with my internal economy, and finally, I decided it was time to repopulate.

The other day, I acquired a dried kefir starter culture. I like yoghurt a lot, and kefir has a similar flavour profile, but about a million times more good bacteria if home made. (Commercial types tend to be pasteurised, which destroys most of the bugs you want.) Having made and enjoyed my kefir, I let a small second batch over-ferment so it started to separate into curds and whey. I tipped the whey off, and this was my starter for fermented vegies. You use one tablespoon of live whey per 500ml of filtered water, and this is the liquid in which you submerge your chopped, sliced or shredded vegies. I’m not a huge salt fan, and salt fermentation produces a result I find too strongly flavoured – sauerkraut being a case in point. The mild tang of whey fermentation is much more palatable and enjoyable, in my opinion. While the salt does keep the vegies crisper, it’s a benefit I’m willing to sacrifice for a flavour I prefer.

This is my setup: a large 2 litre glass spring-top jar, filled in this case with shredded red cabbage, small cauliflower florets and thinly sliced carrot batons. I tried the old folded cabbage leaf on the top trick to hold things under water, but the mixture was too lively, and when I came downstairs in the morning, the jar was sitting in a large puddle of pink liquid and the leaf was high and dry. So now I have a small glass jar filled with water as a weight. It’s just slightly less in diameter than the mouth of the big jar, so it will let the fermentation gases escape around the outside, but it’s heavy enough to keep everything down under water so nothing nasty can start growing. As the mixture ferments and air bubbles are released, the weight slowly sinks and liquid escapes. Once it reaches the flavour I like, I shall cap the jar and keep it refrigerated to slow everything right down. The liquid from the jar can be used as a starter for the next brew, or I can start fresh with whey from my kefir.

I’m happy to report that my insides seem to be enjoying the new regime now that my biome is being restored.

Amazing what a difference such tiny creatures can make.