Wednesday, September 4, 2013


This year I have been trying to do different things.  Not radical, but moving away from the familiar and the tried and true.  This has included making an effort to try different restaurants and learning new things.  For the latter, I've started cooking lessons at the Ministry of Food and I'll write a post on this at a later stage.  With my sewing, I thought I would try to do something other than quilting - as much fun as it is, I'd like to be able to make something that involves other techniques.  So, in addition to the Sewing Circle Tote (which is still a WIP), I decided to make a sewing gadget roll.  After admiring one made by a lovely lady from the Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild around two years ago, she lent me her pattern (Burda 7980) and this sat on my shelf until around April this year, when I decided that I wanted a project that would be relatively quick to complete.  So with some fabric given to me by another Guild member as the base, I dived in.  While a project like this wouldn't be a big deal for a competent sewer, it involved some techniques that were new to me, including sewing from a paper pattern, attaching velcro, using elastic and sewing on bias binding.  I also had a few frustrating moments of turning casings for elastic, painstakingly using a chopstick, before another lovely person from the Guild suggested a tool that I could use to make the task easier.  I think the answer actually is not to make narrow casings out of drill, but the tool was a help. Anyway, it was finished a few weeks ago and while a bit wonky in spots, I am really happy with it, particularly the measuring tape ties that I picked up from Spotlight.  And my rotary cutter won't be just rolling around the bottom of a bag when I got to Sit and Sew Events, which was the real reason that I wanted to make the roll in the first place.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The week that was

Oh dear, the blog has been neglected.  Facebook has a lot to answer for.  Despite being enthusiastic about keeping a blog about our fabulous holiday, the time required to keep things up to date and my inability to work out how to upload photos from the iPad meant that this just did not happen.  It was so much easier to update from Facebook with quick sound bites on what we were up to.

One meme that I did really like to keep up with was Sunday Snippets by Tinnie Girl.  However, due to life changes, she cut down blogging activity earlier this year and it looks like the blog has now been retired for the immediate future.  So I am going to try and keep this up by myself under the title 'The week that was".  So this was mine:

A beautiful evening earlier this week that gave hints of the wonderful late winter weather to come.
Pretty drinks with a special friend.
Perfection - the last day of winter was one of the best we've had this year and this gorgeous camellia summed it up for me.
The first day of spring was spent celebrating Fathers' Day and a special boy's second birthday.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Holiday Day 5

Well, my liking of Dublin increased further with the fact that it was easy to get out of by car.  Still, if we can get through Chicago and driving on the other side of the road, we think we can drive anywhere (well, maybe not New York, Paris or Rome.  Just shut up now!)  We made out way north and visited the neolithic grave sites of Newgrange and Nowth which were amazing.  It is fascinating that such ancient people could construct such buildings of great complexity and precision - apparently the stone roof at Newgrange has never leaked in the 6,000 odd years the structure has been  in existence.   And the transporting of the materials is also a miraculous feat, with some of the stone traced to the Wicklow Mountains some 70 odd miles south of the site.  After living the experience of those who came thousands of years before us, we moved to more relatively modern times with a visit to the site of the Battle of the Boyne where William of Orange imposed a significant defeat of James II.  It wasn't the end of the Jacobite wars but it ended with James II heading back to exile (presumably a very comfortable one) at the court of his cousin Louis XIV.  A pity his son and grandson didn't take the hint.  The opening of the centre was another step in the reconciliation between Northern Ireland and the Republic as the equivalent of the Prime Ministers of each country opened the centre in 2007/8.

After sating our desire for culture for the day, it was then on to Belfast.  This should have been an easy run, but I suspect Stos had the GPS set to avoid toll roads as we found ourselves in some odd spots along the way, including finding ourselves outside the wrong place at our destination (although I think this was a GPS thing rather than a Stos thing).

Anyway, we have spent our first full day in Belfast and I have a number of observations on the place:
- The wind in Wellington has nothing on the howling gale we experienced in downton Belfast this morning.
- I am sure that the reason Irish people emigrate is the weather.  It is nearly summer here and the top temperature today was 7 - 10C and with windchill, I am sure that this is a generous estimate.  Such was the severity of the cold, that Stos wore gloves.  Those who know him will understand from this exactly how cold it must have been for this to occur.
- The people are delightful and love a chat. We were told by our tour driver that this is possibly because of making up for lost time during the Troubles when the walls had ears and people needed to be very cautious about what they said and in whose hearing (real and electronic) they said it in.
- Black cabs can be white, or any other colour.
- The pubs are charming and meals consist of  huges servings.
- When you order a roast, you get both roast and mashed potatoes on the same plate.  I am assured by my host that this is normal.
- I totally get why you need two serves of potatoes with your meal and why comfort food is big on menus.  See comments on the weather.
- Heating is terrific in Ireland.  It needs to be - again, refer to comments on the weather.  For the same reason, I suspect that lack of airconditioning is not a problem.
- I talked myself out of bringing my ski jacket on this trip.  I shouldn't have.

Belfast is a city of very grand Victorian buildings that reflect the  affluence of the past; the result of the being a leader in the linen and ship building industries.  I like it more that I expected to (weather excepted).  However the real revelation of the day was our Black Cab tour of West Belfast and the murals.  The driver is a Catholic who was personally impacted by the conflict that reignited in the 1960's, yet does not appear bitter about the past and is hopeful for the future of Northern Ireland.  Most shocking to us was the continue presence of the dividing wall and lock out zones between the hard core Protestant and Catholic estates in West Belfast plus all the stories that didn't make it to Australia about the sectarian violence.  I thought I had a good idea of this but there is obviously a lot that we didn't know.

Tomorrow we head to the Northern Coast to Carrickfergus and Giant's Causeway.  Our host tells us it is going to be a nice day tomorrow but I will have gloves, coat and scarf at the ready.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Holiday Day 3

After talking about this trip for so long, it is hard to believe we are actually in Dublin.  Following the usual long flight, only made interesting by delays and the fact that I managed to stick to my vow to watch only films I haven't seen before, we managed to get to get here without incident.  When we arrived at the airport, I knew I would like this place because 1/.  there is free wi-fi and 2/.  it was easy to find cheap transport to the city.  The flat we are in is cute and comfortable and right in the middle of Temple Bar and it is easy to get to most attractions from here.  Monday afternoon was spent trying to keep going by acclimatizing to local time and ambling around a beautiful local park,  St Stephen's Green and poking around the shops in the Grafton Street area.  One of the great things about using apartments on our trips is getting information from locals on where to eat so we had a delicious meal at the quaintly named Skinflint before giving in to the jet lag (or more the lack of sleep over the previous 36 hours) and had an early night.   Day 2 started with a walking tour of Trinity College, a great self-guided walk accessed via a Podcast called iWalk Dublin covering Georgian Dublin, followed by a look around the beautiful reading room of the National Library and St Ann's church .  Then, having been assured that the crowds would die down in the afternoon, we headed back to the Old Library at Trinity to see the amazing Book of Kells and the Long Room before doing another iWalk around Temple Bar and the Docklands.  Dinner at the very convenient Larder (across the road) followed, with a 12 euro steak looking like the meal everyone was going for.  Then, having walked our legs off, it was time for a cup of tea, while checking out Belfast accommodation in readiness to head north today.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sewing Circle Tote Sew-a-Long update

Well, I have jumped the gun on the Sewing Circle Tote project as I want to get a head start on this before heading off on holidays.  As Cath says, there is a big investment in time in the cutting stage, but then there are some really quick bits, like the straps.  I have never used interfacing before but have found this to be pretty easy.   A number of the participants in the sew-a-long are experienced sewers, but I am not, so I thought I would jot down my thoughts on the process so far for those who might be in the same category as me and are a bit daunted at the idea of using elastic and zips:

- When you do a read through of the pattern, do not freak out if you don't understand some of the instructions.  They make more sense when you get to the relevant step.  Someone else who I consider to be a very experienced sewer also made that comment. 
- Directional prints.  Cutting the external fabric was not an issue, with the exception of the sides of the patchwork pockets, which you should cut according to the print direction.  However the lining is another story and I would cut as you go.  I have now abandoned the idea of all chevron lining and will use a combination of a solid and the print to make up for the fact that a couple of pieces are cut the wrong way and I also won't have to try and match the chevron stripes.  Once I realised the direction of the lining was going to be a problem, I stopped cutting and have worked out that I can use what I have and repurposed some of the pre cut pieces of the print and should be right to make most of the interior pockets with what I have.
- Have plenty of thread.  The quilting of the bottom of the bag and the quilt as you go approach to the patchwork pockets uses a lot of thread.
- Before you topstitch the patchwork pockets, make sure you have the pockets the right way up.  I had the bottom at the top, so not only had to unpick the bottom piece, but because of the directional print, had to unpick the topstitching and the seams of the sides.
- When quilting the base of the bag, initially I used the guide on my machine to measure the distance between the lines.  Take my word for it, it's much easier to mark the fabric and erase the lines later..

But apart from this, the project is proving to be a lot of fun and not difficult (having said that I am not up to the zips and elastic!).  It is also very addictive; I have been sneaking in 'just one more seam' while I should have been doing other things over the last few weeks.

Here's a shot of progress to date - straps, bag base and two patchwork pockets.  The rainbow stripe is the lining of the exterior pockets.  It is all a bit of technicolour explosion but I think it will work when the time comes to put it together!

To be continued...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Creative Space

I've finally managed to finish the Sweet Baby James quilt and pass it to James' parents, but it took a few weeks from the last photos to the hand over.  I had decided to try attaching the binding both on the front and the back by machine and let's say it wasn't the best idea I have ever had.  I started off by over filling and breaking a bobbin with the invisible thread and after sewing one side, found that the red from the needle side shows through and you could see the very uneven stitching far more than I would like.  So out came the unpicker and the long task of pulling out the nylon thread, then re-attaching by hand.  But it was all worth it in the end.

All the fabric is from Spotlight.  I was very happy to pick up the Prints Charming Rocket print off the clearance table - just the thing for a small boy!

Then came the actually gifting, which made me a bit nervous - what do I say, where do I hand it over and so on.  Finally, I just made sure that his father was free and passed it over fairly quickly as I was worried I would cry and I did note a tear in my colleague's eye.   A week later I was rewarded with a visit from little James and his mum and got a cuddle to boot.  And that's why I love making gifts for others as it is so rewarding and people really do appreciate a handmade present.

For more creative spaces, head over here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Creative Space

I've been a bit slack on the blogging and making front lately; currently I am hand sewing the binding on James' quilt.  I thought I would finish it off in my first attempt at machine binding at last Saturday's Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild Sit and Sew Day, but let's just say I won't be repeating that anytime soon.

What is currently front of mind is the Sewing Circle Tote, sew-a-long that the ladies of the Guild are all getting excited about.  Elizabeth Hartman of Oh Fransson has put out a pattern for a cute and practical bag that is just the thing for all your crafty bits and pieces.  You can see this great bag over here.

Lovely Cath is hosting this project and we have a schedule starting the week of 5 May, going for 8 weeks.  This is going to be interesting as I have a few things on in this period but I love a challenge.  As with most crafty projects, a lot of the fun is in selecting the fabrics.  As this bag calls for a fairly solid fabric, I've picked an Echino cotton/linen blend.  While the pattern shows the bag in  textured solid fabric with print contrasts, I've gone for a print and will use solids for the patchwork pockets.  So here's some of my selection:
The pink train fabric is for the bag exterior, the chevrons are for the lining and the straps were going to be made from the green and white ovals, but I've been having second thoughts about this.  So I asked Stos, who thought that a green and white spot. matching the green train carriage, would look better.  Well, this was practically an order to go fabric shopping and after a visit to a reliable haunt, managed to come up with the material on the lower left.  So I am pretty well sorted for supplies and might just head off to start cutting up in readiness for kickoff.

For more creative spaces, head over here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Creative Space

There hasn't been a lot happening this week - it is so hot and humid here that it is a bit hard to get interested in anything much other than wondering when it will cool down.  However, I managed to get quite a bit done on James' quilt over the last week - basting completed and the first of the quilting was started at the MMQG Sit and Sew Day at GJ's last weekend and I did a bit more during the week. Per one of the suggested options in Modern Minimal, I am echoing the feature blocks in the quilting,
which looks really effective.  I'm extremely happy with the backing; this is a Prints Charming fabric that I picked up for $3 per metre(!) at Spotlight a couple of weeks ago.  But even though I really want to get it finished, manoeuvring a quilt around a sewing machine in this weather isn't a lot of fun so  I might just cut and join the binding fabric and put this on hold until the weather breaks later this week; even though I love the heat, we are overdue for some cooler conditions.
For more creative spaces, head over here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

My Creative Space

I have been thinking about a little boy who through, circumstances at birth, is probably not going to lead the life that his parents had hoped for.  Wondering what to do and say, but  in the end deciding that  a handmade gift will speak for itself as well as for me.

This work in progress is for James.  The design is Boxes from Modern Minimal by Alissa Haight-Carlton.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Creative Space

P1010749 by AndreaAMM

I have a few projects on the go at the moment, but I thought that today I should catch up on my Bee blocks. I have been procrastinating about this one because it is an improvisational number and I was a bit worried about running out of fabric. However after picking up some more supplies last weekend, I poured a Margarita this afternoon and set to work. What I like about this block is the complete freedom to do whatever you like, with the only rule being to make the block a minimum size of 8.5 inches. So my contribution was to add a kennel with a Dalmatian inside and put a fanlight above the door. The end result is not particularly wonky except for me forgetting to make the 'lawn' extend between the two structures. I hope it will do!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Creative Space

Update on the Sherbet quilt -  Mackenzie Rose has arrived and her quilt is finished.  After some umming and ahhhing, I decided to use purple to bind it and I am really happy with the result.  This quilt is well travelled - the binding was finished while we were on our jaunt to Canberra to see the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition.  I met Mackenzie yesterday; she is so cute and apparently the text book baby.  So far.  As it is so warm at the moment, I don't think the quilt will get much use for a few months but I'll be interested to know how practical the large white negative spaces are.....

Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Creative Space

IMG_0949 by AndreaAMM
It's back to Bee Bold, Bee Brave, Bee Helpful this week and I have made this for Bronwyn,  a '+ and
X' block . I love the simple, yet effective style and working with aqua makes the job even more enjoyable. The only thing I was disappointed with is the points, which could have been more precisely matched, but Bron did say that the quilt police aren't on duty this month, so hopefully this will fit the bill.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sunday Snippets

This week has been about taking advantage of a day off to cruise, cooking and catching up on some reading.  So much for all the sewing that I was going to squeeze in.
 A lovely morning view.
 Something worth investigating.
 Making pesto from homegrown basil.
 My favourite models.
 A glorious sunset from the deck.
The start of a cruisey day at my favourite watering hole (with a coffee, of course!).

I hope your week was as enjoyable as mine.

Tinnie Girl is taking a break from blogging so I'll be interested to see if anyone takes up the mantle of hosting this fun weekly theme.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Creative Space

It's all about babies at the moment.  My good friend S has just become a great aunt to a little girl, Mackenzie Rose.   Having known that the baby was going to be a girl,  this was a great excuse for me to dig into Alissa Haight Carlton's book 'Modern Minimal' in order to make this cute quilt, which screamed baby girl to me with its pink dominated pastel palette.  I've stuck to the colour scheme in the book but as I didn't have any pale green, threw in some purple.  I'm really liking the look of this and will bind it in purple as well.  The ladybird feature print fabric tied all the colours together and for about 10 seconds, I thought about using this for binding as well but, after Stos confirmed my doubts about this, will stick with the solid.  Now for the trimming and binding.  I have two seasons of 'Boardwalk Empire' to watch while doing the hand stitching so it won't be too much of a chore.

For more creative spaces, head over here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sunday Snippets

After a bit of the break, back to the lovely regular blog themes that get you thinking about the week that was.
 A fun dinner with visitors from America, family and friends.
 I didn't think we needed a coffee machine but even just one decent brew a day at home makes it worthwhile.
In a world of Masterchef, molecular gastronomy and other fancy schmancy dishes, the humble raspberry and coconut slice still holds its own.
Some vintage loveliness that we have on long term loan until its owner comes back to claim it.

See what others have been up to over here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Creative Space

After working on a bigger project (update next week), it's nice to be working on individual blocks again - back to the Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild 'Bee Bold, Bee Brave, Bee Helpful' bee.  Lorraine is one of the issuers of fabric goodies this month and she has given us something nice and easy to work with - Kitchen Windows from Elizabeth Hartman's lovely book 'Modern Patchwork'.  Lorraine is working with colours that she normally would not choose and this is what I really enjoy about these Bees, in addition the fun of doing something different each month, you often get to work with colours outside your comfort zone.  I can't imagine that I would ever have picked this combination (although I do like the diamond fabric) but they have come together beautifully.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished quilt.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Simple Pleasures

I have always taken it for granted that everyone could cook if they tried.  As a small child, we 'helped' Mum in the kitchen and an early memory is of my sister and I using an old fashioned mincer to grind cold roast lamb to make Shepherd's Pie.  Later, both L and I cooked at home as kids (although I don't recall the sister who became a chef doing much in kitchen!).  At high school, Home Economics was offered as an arts option and, as I was complete rubbish at traditional art subjects, I quickly took this up and stuck with it as long as it was offered (four years at our school, in those days).  I don't remember being a top student but I did well,  managed the curriculum without any problems and remember making a rather impressive decorated fruit cake for my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary.  However, recently speaking to an older woman about her plans to make a cheesecake for a special occasion, I realised that maybe cooking isn't something that comes naturally to everyone, and some people are very nervous about making things that I had always thought of as straightforward.  So I'm now not so judgemental and am perhaps starting to see my ability to cook well and do what seem to be the more advanced things, such as making pastry from scratch, as a skill, rather than something fairly standard.

On getting married and shortly thereafter enrolling for university, and subsequently spending many years studying part time, Stos became the chief cook and remains so to this day.  He is a good cook and also gets home earlier than I do, so it makes more sense for him to be in charge of the kitchen.  But I do enjoy cooking and generally make one meal a week.  I love to hold dinner parties and when we need to take a 'plate' to an event, I will always put my hand up to make a cake or dessert, as the sweet stuff is what I prefer to make.  And recipe books - well, I have more than I will ever use, but love flipping through them looking for inspiration.

So while this isn't a simple pleasure for some, it is for me and even though I don't cook a lot, I enjoy it when I do.  In fact, while I'm at home on leave, I plan to on trying out more recipes from America's Test Kitchen, my current favourite series of books, and hope that they continue to be hits, just like this delicious lemon bundt cake.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


As it is New Year's Day, I am going to be very brave and set some resolutions, but keep them real and achievable.  I don't need to lose weight, get fit or give up smoking (although drinking less would probably be a good idea!) so nothing earth shattering.  But these are things that I really want to address and I think are manageable.  Here goes:

 - Do one thing at a time.  Finish what you start.  This is a fairly ambitious one for a crafter, as UFOs (unfinished objects) are an unquestioned part of life, but, for me this more about finishing tasks and not dividing my attention to the point that things are not finished or not done properly.
 - Do more reading for the Day Job.  It's not the most exciting stuff in the world, but I should be more on top of this than I am.
- Be confident, don't fear failure and stop procrastinating about the hard stuff.
- Learn some new sewing skills.  I've signed up for a Block of the Month using foundation piecing, so that's a good start.  Now to re-learn zips.

There are other things I'd like to address but in the spirit of keeping this manageable, I'll add only when I've ticked something off.

Happy New Year.