Saturday, November 26, 2011


Who knew you could grow raspberries in Queensland?  I’ve never seen a plant ever, but this one was at the nursery so hopefully that means it will grow here.  I’m obsessed with taking pictures of the developing fruit at the moment. 

Chickens!  These have been a while in the planning and yesterday was Chicken Day.  They have been given the highly original names of Blackie, Brownie and Whitie.  Fifi took one run at the fence and quickly realised that she wasn’t getting a chicken dinner.  She just sits and watches them now.  The chickens flipped out when they saw a cat the first time – lots of squawking and carrying on, but they quickly settled down.  There are plans for a couple of Silkies and a duck as well.  It’s probably a good thing that there is a limit of 6 birds.

And the best of all:

A knitting machine!  It took me 5 trips to get everything out of the car and carry it upstairs.  There’s a stand for it which I am pleased about because I don’t have a table that I can use for this. The colour catalogue has a price of $870  and the year 1982 written on it.  I paid $50 – couldn’t get the money out of my purse fast enough!  I had a Singer knitting machine many years ago but didn’t really know how to use it and got sick of dragging it around everytime I moved house, so I gave it away.  I’ve been wanting to get another one for a while now, can’t wait to get it set up so I can play with it.  It looks like all the bits are there.  What to make first?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remedial quilting

I hate unpicking.  You can call it all the cute names in the world like reverse stitching, but I still hate it.  I only ever unpick stuff if it is critical.  If it’s just a little bit wonky and I can live with it and it doesn’t cause other problems, then it stays.   I’d rather try and do it right the first time, which might take a bit longer but it saves time if you don’t have to unpick stuff.

And if there’s anything I hate more than unpicking, it’s unpicking quilting.  I never unpick quilting.  I always do a test piece so tension and stuff is sorted out before I start on the real quilt. 

All of this works great on my quilts.  Not so much when I’m working on other peoples quilts.  Like this one:


This one was made by a friend and I am quilting it for her.  She had it pinned and ready to go. 

I knew I was in trouble when I looked at it -  the middle of the quilt is all on the bias, and there are 2 borders added – the narrow navy and the wider red floral.  The borders were wavy wavy wavy.  I undid and redid the pins and hoped I could quilt out a few little puckers.  No such luck – it all bunched up and there was no way I could quilt it flat.  Bugger.

So it ended like this:

More unpinning.  And the quickest way to unpick long straight seams?  Rotary cutter.  Not for the faint hearted, but easy enough if you are careful – you just press the blade against the stitches while you pull the fabric away. 

But wait, there’s more:

Yes, I had to pull the borders off too.  I starched the quilt middle, to help stabilise the bias and stop it stretching too much.  Starched all the border pieces and pressed the crap out of them so they wouldn’t stretch either.  I like that blade for unpicking – it just slices through the stiches.  All the fuzz on the navy is from the bamboo batting – it’s like velcro, sticks to everything.  It doesn’t beard through the fabric like some polyester battings.

I finally managed to get all the borders back on – on most of the pieces I have cut off an extra inch of fabric, so they were way to long to start with. 

So that’s where I’m up to.  Top is ready to be pinned.  Again.  I have to fix the back too – it’s not quite big enough so I have to add to it.  And add more batting.  I might just get people to give me their tops and pin them up myself – it might be quicker in the long run.

And the moral is:  It could all be avoided if it had been done properly the first time.  Sigh.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The process


From this:

to this:

then this:

more cutting and ironing and sewing:

and, finally, this:

It’s sort of a dresden plate.  I’m not in love with this yet, which makes it hard to keep sewing.  On the other hand, I have cut out enough pieces to make a whole quilt.   I might have to try some different layouts – it’s all a bit much as a circle I think.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I’m not sure who was the klutz – the thrower of the gardenia, or me, the throwee of the gardenia.  It was a moment of sharing that resulted in a dead gardenia and a wasted cup of tea. 

It did smell lovely before it landed in my tea though.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


So it looks like we are getting some chickens.  And ducks.

We went to the local produce place to see what they had.  The answer was everything – I saw the biggest chicken ever, I swear it was the size of a labrador.  A fat labrador. 

We kind of worked out what we would get – some brown speck-eldy looking hens, maybe a Chinese silky one, and later on some ducklings.  I have vetoed a peacock, goose and turkey.  And a goat, although it would probably do a good job of keeping the grass down.  They had a tiny pony (miniature horse maybe?) that I would love to have except the council doesn’t allow it.  Not fair – I’ve seen bigger dogs and they’re allowed.

The progress so far.  The blue tarp is to stop the dogs over the back barking their heads off every time they see someone in the yard.  What they can’t see, they don’t bark at.  The little aviary shed has been cleaned out and just needs to be waterproofed a bit before it is habitable. 

The plan is for the area to be covered with wire, so we can keep them enclosed when we aren’t at home, but also let them roam the yard a bit if we’re supervising.  I wonder how high a chicken can jump? 

A little while ago I “planted” some sunflower seeds.  I was not very successful if this specimen is anything to go by – it’s about 20 centimeters tall instead of the 2 metres promised on the packet. 

Obligatory cat picture:

They won’t sit still and pose (unless they’re asleep) so my strategy is to point and click and hope I get a good one.  Sometimes I do, and sometimes I get this – a combination of moving cat and camera shake.

Friday, October 14, 2011

From the way back machine

Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of making a double wedding ring quilt. 

I bought a set of templates, and have a couple of friends keen to make their own versions as well.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve attempted a DWR.  The first time would have been in about 1987.  Back then I didn’t have any idea about inches, having grown up with the metric system.  Quarter inch seam?  No idea what this should look like, but a quarter of anything would have to be tiny, surely.  Plus I didn’t want to waste any precious fabric in seams.  I looked at the top (still unfinished, naturally) and my 1/16th seams and marvel that I got it to go together at all.  Of course it does not lie flat, but that is the least of it’s problems.

See those holes?  I decided after I had managed to piece this together that I didn’t like one of the fabrics I had used.  The logical way to fix this of course was to unpick pieces out of the quilt top and then insert different (even uglier) fabric.  I was enthusiastic, if not skilful.  Coco is willing to use it as a bed, which is something I suppose.

My second attempt started in about 1998.  By this time I have a bit more idea of quilting and knew the importance of accurate seams.  This has come together better, I pieced the arcs on the machine (I drew the sewing line on each piece because this was before I had a quarter inch foot.  Or a good sewing machine).  I wasn’t brave enough to piece the arcs to the background by machine though – I did that by hand.  It worked pretty well, and this top is almost finished except for 2 curved seams. 

This was also before I had much practice at picking fabric.  I wanted pastel, but I don’t think a lot of these fabrics work now.  The do love this sock fabric though – I still find bits and pieces of these fabrics in my stash occasionally but I think the sock fabric is all gone. 

I’m still deciding on colours for the next DWR, maybe a dark or coloured background with brights this time.  I’ll be paper piecing the arcs and machine piecing the backgrounds.  I might finish this one so I can practice quilting ideas on it. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Way to go quilt

I’ve made this quilt a couple of times – it’s from Hot Possum.  This version is cot sized – I left out a sky panel to make it a bit smaller.  I love how the VW looks careening off the road straight at you.    I try to find quirky bits and pieces from my stash for the applique.  I didn’t have to buy anything for this quilt except backing.  I knew that duck fabric would be perfect for something one day.  

Saturn and the rockets always looks good too – the background has silver glitter and the quilting is in silver metallic thread. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More Mulberries

Confession:  I have not eaten a mulberry from my tree yet.  Haven’t tasted the jam I’ve been making, haven’t eaten a fresh berry from the tree. 

But I did try this:

Mulberry pie, made by my friend Margaret.  It was yummy and not as sweet as I expected.  Everything is better when it’s wrapped in pastry.

Monday, September 26, 2011



The mulberries continue to ripen, and the possum doesn’t seem to be eating very many.  There are flying foxes out there every night though.  There is still plenty of fruit on the tree, and I am picking about half a kilo a day.  I don’t actually like mulberries, so I am planning to make jam to give away. 

I’ve never really made jam before, but it doesn’t seem that hard.  I had a practice last week with strawberries, and worked out the basics.  One batch was like strawberry syrup, so I used Jamsetta for the next lot and it set really well.  All the fruit floats to the top of the jar though, and I’m not sure what causes that or how to prevent it.  I’ve decided to like my jam that way- you can have chunky or not chunky from the same jar.


1 kilo of mulberries, 1 kilo of sugar, juice from 2 lemons looks like this at the start:

It’s pretty interesting to watch as all the juice comes out of the fruit and it starts boiling up.  The instructions say use a big, deep saucepan and you really do need it.  The fruit and sugar boils up a long way.  I was surprised by the colour that the mulberries turned – a rich deep red.  I was expecting more of a purple-y colour.  The spoon is now red, it didn’t wash out.

I need to get more jars.  I’m not running out of mulberries any time soon. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I have discovered the reason that I “ran out” of fabric for this quilt when I was so sure I had bought enough to finish the whole project.  I found 10 completed blocks that were not with all the other completed blocks.  The good new is now I only have to finish 3 full size blocks and half size fill ins and it will be finished.  (Plus put all the rows together and add a border, but let’s not quibble over details.)  It would have been nice to discover them before I went out and bought more white muslin and made another 250 pink ellipses though.  I think I’ll do a simpler machine version with the leftovers so it’s not a total loss.

All of a sudden it’s spring in my back yard – despite the lack of rain for most of July, the mulberry and nectarine trees and gone crazy and started fruiting already. 

Hopefully the possums won’t eat all of them.  (I wouldn’t mind them having some, but when they take a bite out each one and then leave it I get annoyed.  And they already ate my capsicums.)

I hope I can find someone who eats mulberries, because there are an awful lot of them on the tree this year and I don’t like them.  If only the possums would co-operate and just eat mulberries.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I can’t resist a vintage Singer - they are so solid and reliable, as well as pretty.  This one needs a bit of cleaning, and the gold is a little worn but that just means it’s had a bit of use.  It’s a knee lever machine and seems to run pretty well.  I have four old Singers now, in varying states of repair.  According to the serial number, this one was made in Clyde Bank in Scotland in 1938. 

I’ve been sewing for a long time, and buying fabric for a long time.  Luckily I have the room to store it, but I think I really need to use things up instead of just keeping them.  So I went off to my sewing room and pulled down 4 plastic crates of scraps to see what was really in there.  The answer is this:

Leftovers and abandoned projects from the last 20 (!!) years.  I used to keep every scrap of fabric, for the simple reason that it was so expensive to buy.  It still is, but I’m a bit more realistic now about what I will actually end up using and I tend to throw  little scraps out these days.

I started sorting – I have heaps of blue and not much yellow/orange fabric.  Plus country colours, blacks and multi colour stuff.  It looks much better in separate zip lock bags.  I also threw out 2 shopping bags of unusable stuff (although I did go through them a second time and pulled a few more pieces out, but after that I really did throw them out).

I went through a William Morris phase, before deciding it was all a bit too hard and putting it away for 11 years.  This is actually not as ugly as I remembered it, but I’m not planning to finish it any time soon.

After sorting out all those scraps, my plan was to use them to do some string piecing.  I ended up with this so far:

Not sure if I like this either, I think it’s too much colour and I’m not confident that it will improve.  I was keen on the red centres but now I’m not so sure.  Maybe I need to only use one or two colours in the string bit (blue/green maybe?) or have the circles in different single colours.  Dunno.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I finally heard back about the Fabric of Society challenge – accepted.  They’re probably accepting everything, but the entry form does say it’s juried, so you can’t take it for granted.  Now I get to go to Melbourne too, so I can see it hanging.  I also want to go and see the original, which is at the Queenscliffe Historical society.  I’m not sure where exactly that is, but it’s somewhere near Melbourne. 

I’d put this one away because I am so tired of looking at it and now that it’s been accepted I have to finish all the little fiddly bits, like adding tassles to ponies.  Also need to make a storage bag and work out how to get it there, I think a courier might be easier than posting. 

This cannot be comfortable:

but apparently I am wrong about that. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011


During yesterday’s sewing outing, the topic of sewing baskets came up.  Monica wants one, and I had told her that I could find one in a second hand shop that would be much nicer (and much better value) than a brand spanking new one. 

Finding stuff you want in second hand shops is mostly luck – you have to be there on the right day and pay attention to what’s for sale.  I almost missed these:


Not one, but two vintage sewing baskets!!   For $4 each!!  They were definitely coming home with me.

They’re quite large – about 30 cm across.  The insides have pretty much had it, so I am planning to take out the old linings and replace them.  I want to add pockets to the sides and a pin cushiony thing on the inside of the lid. 

I also bought a glomesh Oroton cigarette case for $3.  I don’t smoke, but this little bit of gold glomesh made me remember my mother’s handbags from the 1970’s – so slinky and shiny.  I’m going to find something else to keep in it. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pinwheels and Feathers

Here’s what happens to unattended quilts at my house:

it is automatically assumed as premium cat sleeping space.

I finished this pinwheel top a little while ago, before I was distracted by quilts with cats and ponies.  This will be my entry to the RNA show this year, so I have been finishing the quilting.  I’ve been wanting to learn free form feathers, and I think I’ve got them under control now – at least in these small sashing spaces.  I get hung up on having each feather “identical”, but the reality is the feathers are – and need to be – different sizes to fit the space.  I’ve worked out how to get around bends and corners, so I can’t wait to try them in a bigger space.

I’ve managed to convert two friends to quilting.  We’ve had a couple of sewing days (and outings to fabric shops) together, and it’s been a great experience for all of us.  This is Shanon’s first quilt – she managed this without much help from me, because she couldn’t wait to get started and worked it out from a book.  Before I knew it, she had finished the top and it was ready for quilting.   A quick trip for backing and batting, and we pinned it all together and ready to start the best bit – quilting!  Nothing too complex, just diagonal lines across the squares with a walking foot on the machine.

I have no pictures of Monica’s quilt, but it is the same sort of arrangement as this, only with cat fabrics.  She had been buying cat fabric for a while with the intention of making a quilt, but had no idea how to do it.  A borrowed sewing machine, a bit of guidance and she is on her way to a finished quilt as well.  They are both planning to enter The RNA show as well, so there will be much sewing done to be finished by the deadline.

I kind of forget sometimes that not everyone knows how to use a sewing machine – it’s second nature to me and I just assume everyone knows how to sew.  So it’s been a learning experience for me too – having to explain threading and different feet and seam allowances.  And how important ironing is. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

(almost) done

It’s all the little finishing details that I hate the most – labels and hanging sleeves, storage bags etc – about getting a quilt ready for a show.  I hope it actually gets accepted as an entry after all this.   My trip to Melbourne in July depends on it.


I am so tired of this quilt – I liked making the blocks and putting things together, but it is a HUGE quilt (almost 3 metres square.  What was I thinking??) and the size alone makes everything a little bit harder and take a bit longer to finish.  Add to that a cat who assumes that every quilt in the house is for her personal  comfort (and I don’t want to be a meanie and move her when she looks so cozy) and I don’t get much done.  Much more fun to plan new quilts and flick through magazines instead.

Possible new projects

  • applique blocks on a red background
  • something with lots of little squares
  • stripey fabric in something.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten – I’m leaning towards the red background thingy. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I have a deadline fast approaching for this quilt, to be entered in the Fabric of Society challenge – entries are due in by 1 May, and the rules specify a photo of the COMPLETED edges.  Bugger.  Sometimes I can get away with having a quilt mostly finished and in the process of being quilted for entry photos, but not this time.  So I have set finish date of mid April, to give myself time to photograph and post entries away.  So I have a bit more than 4 weeks to quilt and bind this – I think it’s possible.

The top is (finally) finished – it’s enormous.  About 280cm square, and I hope that the quilting will shrink it in a bit.  I have to work out how to get it basted together.  I hate crawling on the floor to pin, but it will probably need to be done.  I just remembered that I was going to buy a tin of spray baste at Spotlight this morning.  I forgot it.  I don’t want to go back tomorrow.  Looks like the pins will have to do then.

Complete with matching cat.

Can’t play favourites – here’s the other (non-matching, recently shaved) cat. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I went back to work on Tuesday, only to turn around and come home before lunch time because of the flood crisis that was starting to hit Brisbane.  I am not in an area affected by flooding, thank goodness, so I can do little but watch it all happen on TV.  It’s horrifying.  I kind of remember the 1974 floods – I was almost 6 then – and the long effect it had on Brisbane afterwards.  It influences my thinking a lot, when I see new housing estates on flat flood plains I always shudder and think how that area would fare in a flood situation.  I guess we’re finding out now.  When we were looking at houses to buy, real estate agents would try and make being near a creek attractive by selling it as park land, I would always be wondering how often the house would flood. 

Couldn’t go to work this morning either, as Police have advised people to avoid travel where possible, and my work is at Toowong where there are some flood affected streets near the office.  Tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

On the upside, I have had a lot of extra time to work on this quilt, which has a deadline looming (1 May, but it’ll have to be finished way before then).

Lots of foundation piecing, which is now mostly done. 

500 plus appliqued diamonds (monofiliment thread and zig zag stitch) finished.

I went for a walk to the creek at the end of the street, which is normally just a trickle and found this:

It won’t flood any houses, so I am relieved by that.  There is a fair amount of water going through, but nothing compared to other areas closer to the river.  I feel so helpless when I see the devastation on TV, I need to find something to do that will help someone.  I don’t know what that is yet. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cloud watching


Weird cloud.  Must be something to do with thunder storms.

Frantic quilt production line currently in process.  Deadline fast approaching…..