The road to hell…

… is paved with good intentions, they say.

I had excellent intentions at the beginning of this month. I would sew lots, work in the garden, cook lots, get my tax done and of course, post lots. I’ve managed the cooking and the tax. Not deeply impressive, but fate intervened in the shape of another trip south which ate up three days, the big toe which had surgery 6 month ago flaring up extremely messily and painfully, and my 93 year old father, who lives in Spain, needing surgery for skin cancer.

Pa is a notoriously impatient, irritable and still very dogmatic person. Age has not mellowed him a bit, and he still has all his marbles. So he was not a co-operative patient before, during or after the procedure. He was supposed to wear a sling to keep his arm still. Oh dear me no, that didn’t happen. He has resisted expert care until the point where, feeling dreadful, he summoned my sister to drive for 8 solid hours from France to Spain, to come and pick him up. She got there to find the situation was a storm in a teacup. Meanwhile, my brother and I were imagining the worst. It has been a little stressful…

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 10.19.21 amToday I said enough was enough. I headed upstairs to my sewing room and spent half an hour preparing for some solid sewing time tomorrow. I get restive and glum if I can’t do my creative stuff, and that on top of the painful toe and the worry about Pa, has made me rather blue. Another round of toe surgery is at 11.00am tomorrow, and after that I plan to put my feet up and stitch like it’s going out of fashion 🙂

And get waited on hand and toe by the Husband of Chiconia, who has the day off!

The other sort of travel kit

In just over 3 weeks, we’ll be hitting the road north.

The Husband and I, Miss Scarlett and her trailer are off on a camping trip. We’re heading first for Townsville for a couple of days and then for Atherton, up on the cool tablelands above Cairns, in Far North Queensland. Into our newly refurbished motorbike trailer will go tent, camp bed, chairs, lamps, basic cooking equipment and food, bedding, water, fuel and other bulky necessities. Clothes and personal kit will go in the bike panniers, top box and tank pack. It’ll be warm, so warm clothes aren’t needed, but we’ll definitely have the waterproofs along, given that it’s spring and we’re coming into the Wet.

Somewhere in that lot, I’m going to need some sewing. What – you thought I could go on holiday without sewing? Some mistake, surely…

Clearly, it will be hand sewing, and given that we’re camping I can’t pack my super-duper LED magnifying lamp, so the embroidery’s out. So yes, you guessed it, time for hexies once more. BIG hexies.

big-hexiekitI have a pack of large hexie papers, and a lot of lovely large pieces of scrap left over from the Hatbox Quilt blocks, and some of these will fit in with what I have in mind. I’ll need lots of 5 inch squares of my floral prints, mid to pale colour palette, and at various scales. The hexie flowers will have a dark centre, either navy or black. Some will have all the same petals, others will vary. At night, when accuracy will be hard, I can assemble hexies. During the day (assuming I get any down time off the bike!) I can stitch the hexies into flowers. I’ll stop short of trying to sew flowers together; I need to keep the kit small and manageable, given how much space is available.

I’ve no idea yet what these will be for, but I’m sure there’s a hexie quilt of some description in my future.

Inching along…

Just a quick one.

Car Quilt blue borders: two sides done

Car Quilt blue borders: two sides done

Two edges of blue done on the Car Quilt. Two more to go, and I can start the next border.

Happiness: top half done except for outline sashing

Happiness: top half done except for outline sashing

Happiness: Strips for the bottom half - I just need to add the horizontal sashing and outline sash the whole lot

Happiness: Strips for the bottom half – I just need to add the
horizontal sashing and outline sash the whole lot

All the vertical sashing done on Happiness, and 4 more horizontal sashes to go. Then I have to do the outline sashing, and the top’s done. I’ve had a bit of a rummage in the Cupboard of All Colours, and there’s a complete absence of plan for the back. By which I mean, it’s going to be a hodge podge of scraps.

Once again, my sewing time got mostly eaten up. But I am inching forward!

Car Quilt progress

The central section is complete, hurray!

The completed centre. It's basically a medallion quilt, since the rest is all borders.

The completed centre.
It’s basically a medallion quilt,
since the rest is all borders.

It’s about 33″ x 36″, which is too small for anything useful. It’s basically one jelly roll plus a fat quarter or so of the beige neutral that goes in the centre and between each flower. The plan from here on is firstly to add a border of dark inky blue hexagons all round. Then, I’ll be making a pieced border out of the fat quarters I have of all the same fabrics. It’s going to be 3 strips vertical, three strips horizontal, alternating all the way round. Making it fit will be a tiny bit tricky because of course the central panel isn’t square. Look out for some underhand business tweaking widths and lengths… After that… well, I haven’t got that far yet. Let alone think about how I’ll be quilting it. That’s going to be tough, because the fabric is all quite heavy and a dense weave. Maybe – shock horror! – I’ll make it a tied quilt instead. Hmm. Definitely something to consider.

So, the next job is the whole bunch of dark blue hexies I have to make and then sew onto the edges of this panel. I’m blowed if I’m going to make a whole string and then sew that on: much too hard. I’ll add them one by one as I make them, which will be a maximum of three 1″ seams at a time.

(By the way, the hand quilting on the Tree of Life is roaring along well, you just can’t really see anything so there’s no point in posting until I have a landmark to celebrate – probably by the end of the week.)

Excuse me while I go and rip out all the basting and take the templates out. One of my favourite bits!

A little break…

I’m giving myself a night off from the Tree of Life quilt. Burnout threatens…

Well, it looks a bit Japanese, so I've chosen a suitable print

The fish looks a bit Japanese, so I’ve
chosen a suitable print

This print of Australian native flowers is just what I need here!

This print of Australian native flowers is just what I need here!

The fish fabrics are selected, and I need to have a think about how I’m going to use them. I can keep it simple, and make my life easy, or make it complicated, and make them gorgeous. Given the amount of work gorgeous will take, I think on the whole simple is going to win. But either way, I have to piece together some tricky shapes. I’ve reached the stage where I have to start doing really, really fiddly stuff, and I’ve been at work all day, and I’m a bit tired.

The Car Quilt so far

The Car Quilt so far

Flowers waiting to be added

Flowers waiting to be added

Finished hexies waiting to be assembled

Finished hexies waiting to be assembled

Fabric squares waiting to be sewn onto the papers

Fabric squares waiting to be sewn onto the papers

So to avoid the absolute certainty of stuffing up something complicated because I’m too tired to think clearly, and too clumsy to handle delicate pieces, I’m having a short break from the master work!  I’m going to relax, have a nice meal, have a drink, watch some TV, and, because the world has not yet come to an end, do some sewing… Of the Car Quilt hand sewn variety, which I can churn out without any direct intervention on the part of my brain.

It’s all hands and eyes. I can watch TV at the same time, have a conversation, answer the phone, and still those little hexagons keep coming, and still they magically turn into flowers at the end of the evening. I can ring the changes, too. I have some papers and squares of fabric. I have some hexagons already sewn to the papers. I have some flowers made up. So if one activity gets boring, I can move on to another. It’s soothing, satisfying, comforting, and above all, brainless! Just what I need tonight.

Now, where are those mince pies I made…?

Tree of Life part 4: the Circle

I left you, dear readers, contemplating the vision of me crawling around on the kitchen floor…

I finally got the background taped down and straight, a pin in the centre and my string and pencil doing their thing.  Once the pencil line was complete, I started pinning the bias tape down.  The problem is not going to be the outside of the curve, but the inside, where rather than stretching the edge to fill the curve, I’m going to have to ease in extra fullness. I’ll just have to take it slowly and carefully, and not let my excessive impatience take over.

Keeping the stitches as small and invisible as possible

Keeping the stitches as small
and invisible as possible

It’s not too hard to make the stitches nice and small and even; I’m using a fine needle and fine cotton thread, and the tape itself is quite thin and manageable.  What is tricky is keeping the curve smooth, to prevent ‘flat’ sections. On a circle of that scale, it would be all too easy, and it’s the sort of thing the eye immediately picks up on. I’m becoming an increasing fan of the bias strip, which I’m fully prepared to admit is a tiny bit tragic.

I’ve had to be careful not to cause puckers by pulling the thread too tight, or draw the background fabric up too much, otherwise it’ll be baggy in places and contracted in others, which will not look at all nice. So far, so good.

Outside edge finished. Now to get the inside edge as smooth...

Outside edge finished. Now to get the inside edge as smooth…

The circle in place. No flat spots that I can see, and no puckering

The circle in place. No flat spots that I can see, and no puckering

So I finished this evening with the outside edge appliqued down, and the inside edge pinned, ready to do tomorrow. Only 5 metres (16ft) of stitching to go…

The moment of truth approaches.  The tree, leaves, grass, birds, fruit flowers, and everything else in the circle must be drawn to scale.  

I’ve got this far, I can do that too.

Busy with pots and pins

No, that’s not a typo. I have been holding forth in both kitchen and sewing room…

Home made tomato sauce for summer flavour on winter pasta

Home made tomato sauce for
summer flavour on winter pasta

Turning these...

Turning these…

...Into this

…Into this

Yesterday, I was on a bottling/canning (depending on your country of origin) roll. On top of the 10 jars of preserved mangoes, I now have 8 jars of very, very yummy tomato sauce with onion, garlic, oregano and basil and a hint of balsamic vinegar.

And this morning, I turned 4 ingredients into peanut butter cookies. After that, I collected another 6 mangoes from my sister in law, which I shall bottle later this week, maybe as puree this time, for eating with icecream or turning into smoothies.

The Car Quilt, growing fast

The Car Quilt, growing fast

And then it was time to turn to sharp objects.  Here’s how I’m getting on with the Car Quilt.  (I can see that this name may well stick, but for the newbies, it’s handwork which can be done on long car trips, rather than a quilt to put over a spoilt vehicle!).

Finished Sea, set out Sky, ready for me to start sewing the top half of the background next week

Finished Sea, set out Sky, ready for me to start sewing the top half of the background next week

And finally, I’ve finished the Sea section on the Tree of Life quilt background, and have now set out the Sky section on the design wall.

So, lots of photos, not too many words for this post.  It’s been a busy couple of days...