Saturday, 27 April 2013

Another book read

Pictures of Us
by Todd Alexander

Publisher's link. The publisher's blurb reads:

"Maggie Apperton's family appears functional enough. She has two grown-up children who she has fairly regular contact with and her husband Marcus has built up a successful business. When Marcus dies unexpectedly, Maggie attempts to forge a stronger bond with her children, who, she begins to realise, she barely knows. Pictures of Us is an intriguing exploration of the darker side of family life, what happens when long-guarded secrets begin to surface, the bond between parents and children, and how love and trust are sometimes stretched to the limit."

Can't say I was enthralled with this one. Story line is of a family which is so disfunctional that I found it somewhat unbelievable.

Perhaps I've been dead lucky in growing up in a loving family, and having a wonderful family of my own. Perhaps there are people who live in families where there is so little love & trust & deception is the basis of the relationship.  I found it quite sad.  On the other hand, I was fascinated to see what did actually happen so I read it to the end, and I must say I didn't see the end coming.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

School Holiday Sewing

Last Friday Miss 7 decided that she wanted to come to Friday Quilters with me to "sew a quilt for her bed".  We took along her sewing box ("the BEST birthday present, Baba"), with her stash in it, and got into some serious planning mode.  My lovely friends donated some extra bits (Thanks heaps lovely ladies) to augment her stash, and with her charm square pack, we were away.

Ruby's Moda "Good Morning" charm pack 
So by Friday midday, all the fabrics were cut out, laid out in 4-patches, and Ruby had sewn 5 of the 4-patches together. I left the pack with her over the week end, thinking that one or two more might be done before next Friday.  Well Sunday night Michelle phoned to ask if she could come by the next day so that I could cut the sashing for Ruby, as she had finished sewing all the 4-patches.  Fabulous!

Monday morning they all came over, and we all worked on the layout on my "design wall" - a flannel back plastic tablecloth which I find works a treat.  You can roll it all up and take it with you to a quilt day, or simply for use it for storage until you can get to sew again.

Big sister Holly helping lay out the blocks

All in the act - Ruby & Mum laying out the blocks, Holly supervising & Laura watching on

Morning tea, and the younger girls decided playing cards was better value, but I could see that Holly was itching to get behind the sewing machine.  Not a good idea to sew Ruby's quilt, so I dug out a pack of blocks I had precut some time ago as a charity quilt for Stitching Hearts, and set Holly to work on that.

So I cut sashing for Ruby's quilt, Holly sewed, and Michelle made a label for her quilt.  Tibby supervised proceedings from my chair.  Holly, bless her, put together almost all the blocks for a lap quilt, so now all I need to do is sew them all together. 


Here is a selection of them.  The blocks came about in the first place, because I found a bundle of 6" squares in the charity cupboard.  6" squares are actually quite hard to deal with as there isn't much you can do with them.  Its a difficult size for being alternate blocks to pieced blocks, and you can't make HSTs from them, as the resulting block ends up a weird size.  So this is what I came up with.  The sashing on them is a pile of 2 1/2" strips from my precut strips bag cut to fit.  So win, win.  Squares are used, and so are a bunch of strips, and a charity quilt to boot.
Update on Ruby's quilt tonight is that over half the sashing pieces are now sewn on!  What determination from a 7 year old.  Way to go Ruby!
I have suggested that she enter it in the local quilt show next year.
Til next time...... keep on stitching.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Central Coast Charity Quilt Show 2013

On Saturday Di, Elaine & I wandered off to the Charity Quilt show which was held at Wyong Racecourse.  The charity this year was Cancer Care Services for Gosford & Wyong Hospitals.  It was a first for me as it has always fallen on a date I couldn't make previously.  So pleased that I made it this time, as I loved it!  It was a pretty location, and a glorious day, with nice mid 20s temps and the sun smiling.
There were a couple of tables of crafty stuff out front, before you entered.  Mostly recycled, some toys, and some beautiful silk scarves.  I picked up the cutest poncho for Miss 7's doll for $3.  There were other dolls clothes on display as well, but the poncho was the one that took my fancy.
Once inside there was an area for traders, with quite a variety of quilty stuff, notions, a bit of fabric & even a table with hand made chocolates.  I was strong and walked right past those LOL.  The traders were all local shops, so sadly not a lot there.  Blueberries is in Wyong, and probably our best local shop, although it is quite a trek for me.  I added to my collection of Civil War fabrics from their stall.  Must get a move on and start this quilt I have been collecting fabric for, for so long.  Frankensteins Fabrics is at West Gosford, and that is very much closer to me.  They have a huge range of modern brights.  I didn't see Janelle from Pieces to Treasure which is at MacMasters Beach, or Carol from Cherrypie Designs from Somersby.  Shame as that would have really increased the variety on the traders tables.
Upstairs there were about 100 quilts hung.  A huge variety of styles and colours.  If I were being mean, I would say that the quilts were all hung too close together to be able to view them properly, but that is not the fault of the quilts themselves.  Perhaps the organisers of future events need to think of a larger venue.  It was not a judged show, although there was a "viewers choice" category.
I took a few photos of the quilts which appealed to me most - here are some of them.

This quilt was absolutely stunning!  So simple, as it is just half square triangles, but doesn't the placement look fantastic.  Loved the vibrant reds and whites and the quilting was beautiful.  So suited to the design.

Here the photograph does not do the colours justice.  The quilt was hung hard up against a window, and you can see that on the left of the photo, so the colours all down that side are washed out.  This was a traditional hexagon medallion, hand pieced and hand quilted.  The hexies were tiny 1" ones.  Loved the colours and layout.

This was another hand pieced, hand quilted diamonds & hexagon medallion.  Can you see the quilting in the centre?  Parallel lines at right angles, about an inch apart.  I took a close up of one of the border stars below.
This was just fabulous quilting with the feathers radiating from the stars.  The fabric on each diamond was carefully fussy cut, so there were secondary designs on all of the stars.

You can't tell that I love the hand pieced traditional quilts in soft colours can you?

I should really have taken a photo of the quilt lable so that I could note the name of the quilt & the quilter.  That's something to remember for next time.

We bumped into Jan & friend in several places.  That is the nice thing about living in a small town - you bump into people you know everywhere.  Thank goodness I'm not having an affair.

After doing the rounds of the quilts we collapsed in the cafeteria for a bit of lunch.  Lovely day.  Thanks Di & Elaine for a great day.

Til next time.....keep on stitching

Monday, 15 April 2013

Tearing my hair out

I have begun the border for the last round of the Round Robin.  Yesterday, after much hesitation, and muttering, I decided to do the border using the Spin Out block.  I found the tute on Quilt Dad's blog.  It was either that, or the Friendship Star block & in the end, Spin Out won.

Doing the maths, I realised I would need a spacer border between my pieced blocks and the body of the quilt.  After much rummaging through my stash, I decided that nothing "went", so off to Hobbysew to buy some fabric.  Isn't amazing that no matter how much fabric you have, there is never just the right one for the current project?

Thankfully the local Hobbysew is open on Sunday afternoons, so I dashed in towards closing time.  I needed more of the background fabric anyway, so I guess it wasn't a wasted trip.  The girl whose quilt centre I have now is definitely a Civil War reproduction fabric girl, and the previous borders have resulted in quite a bright quilt, despite the rich colours used.  I ended up with some Moda Arlington 1840-1870 from the Civil War Reunion range by Barbara Brackman.  Its a tan, with sprigs of red & brown flowers which should be a good transition to my border, in which I am using mostly Civil War fabrics.

After getting home yesterday, I started to pull fabrics for the blocks and cut some of the background fabric.  I just found it so hard!  The real Civil War fabrics were so dull by comparison to the fabrics already in the quilt.  I kept throwing more and more stuff in, and then Tibby got into the act, arranging herself artistically amongst the fabrics.  I  gave up in the end and decided to leave it until today.

So today I began the piecing, and realised straight up that the block won't work "scrappy", and also looks better with low contrast fabrics.  It is a slow old process - choose two fabrics, then cut enough for a block or two, then piece them.  I am happy with the ones I have pieced though.  Here is a peek at one - can't show you the rest until the Big Reveal happens next month.

After a week or so of lovely balmy weather, we have had a thunderstorm this evening with a heavy downpour.  Predictions of showers for a whole week.  Oh well, can't complain as it really has been lovely for quite a while.

Til next time....... Keep on stitching.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

T-4-2 Mug Rug

A little while ago, I was invited to participate in a "Creative Pay it Forward" by a Facebook friend.  The way it worked is that I could join the game if I posted the message on my timeline.  Here is the invitation:

"2013 Creative Pay It Forward: The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me, sometime in the next year, a gift - perhaps a book, or baked goods, or a candle, or something handmade - a surprise!! There will likely be no warning and it will happen whenever it strikes me. The catch? Those five people must make the same offer in their FB status!!"

I thought this would be a fun thing to do, so I posted my invitation on FB.  A few friends joined me when I posted my invitation, and then I had to come up with something creative for each of them.  Two were quite easy, as they are local, and I am planning to give them a jar of my special tomato chutney, which I have already made, together with the recipe.  Everyone who has tasted the chutney absolutely loves it, so I am hoping that these two friends will too.

However, two friends live overseas. I had to come up with something cheap to post and fun, so I decided to do a mug rug.  And so my T-4-2 Mug Rug idea was born.  I soon found some
pretty orangey red fabric from my stash, and a cute print with teapots on it.  Here is what I have made:

And in case you are interested, here are the instructions.

For each mug rug, you will need:

Scraps of background fabric - these can be 2 different co-ordinating fabrics
Scraps of pelon - fusible pelon would be easier to use, but I had some scraps of ordinary pelon which I wanted to use up.
Some sort of motif fussy cut from a feature fabric which fits in a 5" hexagonal shape.
Embroidery floss to tone with your background fabric.
Scraps of fusible webbing OR fabric glue are useful
5" hexagon shape template.  If you don't have one of these, and would like to draw a hexagon, there is a great tute here.  (The 5" is measured from side to side of the circle you begin with)

Fold your background fabric right sides together. Draw around the 5" hexagon template with a pencil on the reverse of your background.  This is your sewing line.

At this point I anchored the double thickness of fabric with a flat headed pin to keep it from slipping

Using a pencil & quilter's ruler, mark a line 1/4" from each edge of the hexagon shape (cutting line). 

Cut out the two layers of hexagon background on this outer line.

Cut a 5" hexagon from the pelon

Fussy cut your motif.  Don't you just love those teapots?  I actually have a small collection of teapots in various shapes & sizes, but nothing like htese ones!

If you are using fusible pelon, iron it onto the reverse of you background fabric, within the sewing lines. If you use plain pelon as I did, just pin it to the background.

Sew around the hexagon on 5 sides using a 1/4" seam.  Just kiss the pelon with the seam in one or two places if you are using plain pelon, to anchor it for easy turning.

Turn the hexagon right side out.  Use a pencil or an orange stick to shape the corners.  (An orange stick is a fine stick of wood which is used to push down your cuticles when you are having a manicure.  Works a treat to shape corners)

Poke the seam allowance inside the opening of the hexagon.

Topsew just inside the edge of the hexagon, on all 6 sides.  Finish off by burying the threads in between the layers of fabric.

Prepare your motif:

You can either use needle turn applique or fix it to the mug rug using buttonhole stitch.  This is the part of the mug rug which is going to get the most wear, so I recommend that you turn a small hem under even if you are planning to buttonhole the motif on.  This will give stability and protect it from fraying.  My motif is printed on the bias, so for me, turning a hem gave the edges some stability as well.

Either fix the motif to your hexagon with fabric glue, or use scraps of fusible webbing.

Either needleturn applique or buttonhole the motif to the background using embroidery floss of your choice.  If you have chosen to buttonhole stitch it on, I found that using an embroidery floss which matched the background fabric worked best.  Initially I had tried using a blue to match the blue in the motif, but I found that my stitches were too irregular on the reverse and that stood out like a sore thumb.  Much better when the stitching blended with the fabric.  LOL

Now that was easy, wasn't it? 

I am planning to put a little parcel together with the mug rug, a story of the history of Billy Tea in Australia and, as I can't make these o/s friends a cup of Billy Tea, a tea bag with which to make a cuppa for themselves.  The teapots in the motifs I have used is pretty fancy, and nothing like a Billy, but they will just have to make do.

Til next time........ Keep on stitching

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Finished reading my book

I have finally finished the book I have been reading for a while - "Mr Chen's Emporium", by Deborah O'Brien.
front mr chen web

Here is the link to the author's official page

When I use the word "finally", I don't mean it in the sense that it has been a trial.  I have just loved this book.  I have read it with pleasure, and have found myself rationing my reading time so that I didn't finish it too quickly.  I was dying to find out what was going to happen, but I didn't want to come to the end of the book.  Does anyone else do that??

The book was set in a fictional gold mining town in Australia (I think it is set in Gulgong in NSW, but the book does not really state that) and it begins with the main character moving into an old house.  She finds some mementos belonging to a girl called Amy who lived in the house in the 1870s, and so the story weaves from 1870 to the present day, and traces the lives of the two women.  I just loved the story, and the author's style.  It also helps that I love history as well, and am particularly interested in early Australian history.

I haven't sewn a stitch for several days, and am feeling withdrawal symptoms!  Two very busy days, doing all the things that one has to get done has left me with no time to sew.  Not complaining though.  Yesterday (amongst other things) I had a lovely friend come for afternoon tea, which was just great, and today I went shopping with my gorgeous daughter.  Who could complain at that?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Productive Day

I had such a busy day yesterday! 

To start with I am no longer struggling!   I finished off the border on the Round Robin.  Yeehaa!  It has been a time consuming construction, but I just love the end result.  Here is a tiny bit of it in my machine.  Can't show you the rest because of peepers.  Even this bit is probably too much.  LOL

I just love the yellow in this.  I have only been using yellow for a short time, and now I wonder why I haven't used it more in the past.  [Note to self - buy some more yellow fabrics] After putting this border on to the quilt top, I framed it all with a 1" purple border.  So pleased with the result.
Having finished that, I decided that my workroom needed a cleanout.  It does get a regular once over with the vacuum cleaner, but I thought it needed more than that.  Our vacuum cleaner has bitten the dust, so I had to borrow my daughter's, and with the help of the lovely David, we shifted all the furniture, got in behind everything, the floors of the cupboards & the tops of the bookshelves.  Then I emptied all the drawers of my sewing cabinet and vacuumed in there, and sorted and replaced everything.  My cabinet has open drawers on the side, and as it stays open all the time, the drawers get filthy with fluff 'n stuff.  Also got out a damp cloth and wiped over heaps of the surfaces.  Didn't get to dust the bookshelves though.  That will have to wait for another day.
I had decided some time ago that my stash cupboard needed reorganising.  I had lots of green shopping bags with stuff like UFOs, Patterns etc. in them.  I had them stacked in the centre shelves.  The smaller pieces of fabric were in big tubs on the floor of the cupboard.  Well that is daft, as the things that get used most are the small pieces of fabric, and the precut strips & squares, and they were on the floor in heavy tubs.  So yesterday I took everything out of one side of the cupboard, and restacked everything.  The lesser used stuff is on either the highest shelf or on the floor, and the frequently used stuff is stacked neatly on the middle, more accessible shelves.  Still a bit disorganised on that side, but I'm getting there.  I still have to do the other side too.  When both sides are done, I will be able to take some of the stuff off the floor & all the surfaces too.
Then I decided to put a border onto a charity quilt which had been made a bit small.  I put on a 1" framing border in mid blue homespun and a 3.5" floral border in a pretty blue.  I love how this has turned out.  Didn't Jan do a great job of the centre? 

So that was my day yesterday.  I was totally pooped last night.  Flopped down in front of the TV with my hexies.
'Til next time........ Keep on stitching.

Friday, 5 April 2013

A Russian Orthodox Funeral

Today we went to a Russian Orthodox funeral.  Nothing to do with creativity, but as not many people I know would have been to one, I thought I would try to describe it as best I could, as it is quite different from the norm here in Australia.

The funeral was held in the Russian Orthodox cathedral in Strathfield, the church of St Peter & St Paul.  This is the oldest Russian Orthodox church in Sydney (there are five or six others), and is in the suburb which is traditionally the centre of the Russian population in Sydney.  It is quite a simple church, which was opened in 1954.  Externally, it has a bell tower with a small domed cupola on it, a much larger, central domed cupola, and a small domed cupola over the porch which shields impressive double timber doors. 

Inside there is a choir stall on a mezzanine level at the rear of the church, and a carved timber reredos decorated with icons behind the altar.  The walls are hung with icons of all descriptions.  In Russian Orthodoxy, it is customary to own an icon, which should be situated in a corner of the main room in the house high on the wall (so that the Lord can look over & after you), and it should have a small oil lamp or candle in front of it.  The candle should never be allowed to die out.  You are not supposed to dispose of an icon as it is a holy article, so if a person has no one to whom to leave their icon, it is often donated to the church. 

There are no pews in the church.  You are supposed to stand for the entire duration of a service, which for a funeral is roughly an hour long.  There are benchs on each side of the church and at the rear for the elderly and infirm to sit on if they need to, however, it is deemed shameful, and almost everyone stands.

Today, the priest wore a long black cassock with a cross on a chain around his neck, and a rich gold stole worn around his neck, falling to about his knees. Russian Orthodox priests generally don't shave, so have long beards.  Unusually, Father George the senior priest, only has a short beard.

The service was chanted throughout, with the choir taking up the chant as soon as the priest left off.  He also uses insence, which he swung over the coffin and all around the altar.  The smoke of burning incense is interpreted by the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Christian churches as a symbol of the prayer of the faithful rising to heaven.  The casket was in the centre aisle of the church, and open.  At the end of the service, it is customary to go up to the coffin, make a short prayer and kiss the deceased.

The wake was in the church hall at the side of the church, and, because it is still only the second week of lent, the meal was very simple, was vegan (no meat, eggs or dairy products), pirog (pie) with either cabbage or mushroom fillings, and pechenii (pastries) either apricot or cherry.  Drinks were tea, coffee, orange juice or water.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Struggling with Borders

I am struggling with the border I am putting on to the Round Robin my sewing group is doing at the moment.  Am I putting off going to my machine to keep piecing??  Of course I am not, this is a terribly important function I am performing right now (grin).

I decided to do a Migrating Geese pattern for this border, which looks wonderful, but it is taking me a month & a day to construct, let alone all the cutting involved.  So far I have pieced 3 sides.  I am planning to put plain corner squares in the each of the four corners, mostly because I couldn't work out how to turn those pesky corners!  I am not sure whether I will simply use some of the fabrics in the quilt itself, or add in a new fabric altogether.  It is currently on the floor, my design wall, with various bits of fabric folded into the corners while I decide.

I can't show pictures as I know that at least one person from my group comes by every so often, so until the day of the Big Reveal, I can't put up the photos I have taken along the way.  Perhaps a series of posts on the Round Robin is on the cards in May once we have given the RR back to its owner.

On another note, I received a wonderful letter today from my Aussie Hero who received the quilt "Adventures in Black & Yellow" which I posted off in February.  He has included a photo of himself with the quilt.  It is so special to see the face of the person for whom you have made a quilt!  There is a great big tank behind him, so the splash of colour looks good.  He has been in the Australian Army for 6 years.  Prior to that he was in the Staffordshire Regiment, whose colours are black & yellow, so that is why he asked for those colours.

I went down to Jan-Maree's (co-ordinator of Aussie Heros) yesterday.  The weather was apalling!  Torrential rain, and visibility was poor.  Quite scary driving the F3 in those conditions, so I made my way down in a fairly sedate fashion compared to my usual blat down the freeway.  There were only a couple of us there, but we still managed to churn out a fair bit of piecing.  JM had us piecing backings to start with, then in the afternoon, we pieced blocks.

Well, I can't procrustinate any longer.  Geese: Watch out, here I come!

Until next time, keep stitching......

Monday, 1 April 2013


Last week we went to Queensland for a family wedding.  The week prior to our departure was absolute chaos.  This old gadabout was out and about pretty much every day so things simply had to be put aside.

So what has that got to do with hexies you ask?  Well I was packing the afternoon prior to us leaving, and horror of horrors, no take along project to pack!  Now I never leave home without some hand sewing to do, so at the last minute, I grabbed some 3/4" hexagon papers and a couple of fat quarters to work on.  At the time, I had no idea what I would do with them.  I just figured that if I made a few, I would work out how to use them.

So here is what I managed to do while we were away.  Not much really, but we didn't have much time at home.

The fabrics are all from my stash.  The floral print at the top I bought at the National Quilt Championships, in Surrey in June 2011.  The other floral came in a pack of about 4 coordinating fabrics from Country by Design, Mosman (now closed unfortunately) about 1995, and the blue floral I have had since forever in my stash.  Pleased as punch that I am using it all.

I managed to coerce my beloved to stop at a quilt shop on Saturday.  The first one I tried was shut as it was Easter Saturday, but the second one was open.  It was an absolute Aladdin's Cave!   Bran's Fabrics in Warana is housed in a warehouse in an industrial area, there were bolts and bolts of fabrics.  Fat quarters, ends of rolls, precuts & notions.  Quite a lot of dress fabrics too.  I bought a piece of soft grey tone on tone, and I think I will applique the hexagon rosettes onto this as background.  My thinking at the moment is that I will make a 9 patch of hexies, and use that as a medallion centre.  

Big dilemma now is do I sash the 9 patch or not.  Will have to play with the fabrics to see how things pan out.