Thursday, December 29, 2022

 Christmas tthis year was very special for our family.  A deal was made that if Matt stayed on as caretaker at Arkaroola while the resort was shut , he could invite his family up there  for Christmas. Much planning ensued and on Dec 22nd we set off, Rob and co from Adelaide, John and the girls and me from Pt Pirie. 

470 odd miles to our destination...

This was the first hurdle, somewhere north of Quorn. There had been rain the day before and what had undoubtably been a dry crossing was now under water.

This was the view upstream, that was a lot of water coming down.The water was flowing pretty quickly but after watching a couple of 4wd vehicles going through we knew that the road was good underneath and the water not terribly deep in the middle of the dip. John drove on the wrong side of the road (for Aussies), away from the left edge where the water was tumbling rapidly down into the creekbed and we got through. Lily said "Hold your breath if you hope to live!!"

I couldn't believe the line up of cars and caravans on the other side, some people had even got out deck chairs and were waiting patiently by their vehicles. The lady in front of us when we stopped said she'd been there for an hour- How long were they prepared to wait?

Of course I did mutter to John that I hoped we wouldn't become one of those viral videos of cars being swept away, ha!

The further north we drove the more stunning the scenery became but with the girls in the car we couldn't really stop to take proper photos. The ominous gathering of clouds also meant that we had to get there as quickly as we could; the road to Arkaroola had been washed out a couple of months ago and we didn't want to risk being stuck somewhere.

The last part of the road is dirt and we could see veils of rain sweeping along ahead of us, so the nervous tension in the car rose steadily. Phone coverage is very spotty, John had none at all but I was able to contact Matt, and he set out to meet us in case we needed assistance. One of his jobs is to go and rescue stranded people, which happens regularly on these roads.

It was good to see his vehicle waiting for us, and his verdict was there was one crossing where he might have to tow us through, but otherwise it should be fine. The crossing in question had been washed out and tons of fine red dirt deposited like dunes amidst the water, but John went through at a steady pace and we made it. He said there should be sand in our underpants after that!

The worst bit was a stretch of small rocks that looked firm but underneath was squishy, so there was a bit of sliding and skating and muttering until we got out of that.

Of course all of this had slowed us down, so it was nearly four oclock when we finally reached our destination, eight hours after we set out. John said if we ever do this again, he's hiring a 4wd, which would have given us a bit more peace of mind. There might also have been a few less squabbles from the back seat if there had been more room in the car, about everything from Lily's water bottle touching Mia's leg...windmills.... binoculars..... 'leaning'.....who would get the 'top biscuit'. I don't even know what that last one meant.

But we were all together now, and it was Christmas coming up! Let the fun begin!


Thursday, December 15, 2022

Back again...

 2022 turned out to be a year of upheaval in one way or another. My youngest son Matt had been living at my place since jan 2017 and in March he found his dream job and moved out. He's been working at the Arkaroola Resort as a maintenance officer doing everything from plumbing to changing tyres to feeding wallabies and checking bush trails. He's even had a few flying lessons, gulp. I'm so glad for him and I love hearing about this remote area that he loves.

My son and daughter-in-law are now living separate lives and the three girls go back and forth between the two houses. It seems to be working out as well as it can and as Mia said once "We've got two homes now."  When my son has them I look after them during the day and stay overnight as it's not worth driving home. My life is still divided  between my place and the pirie family for the foreseeable future but I love being able to help so that the girls don't have to go to daycare.

Next year the twins will start school and I'll have the days free, so I'm hoping to get back into customer quilts and more of my own persuits.

Izzy (on the right) is eight now, and the the twins are five. The difference between Mia (on the left) and Lily (in the middle) has grown even more pronounced and they are totally dissimilar in personality too. This nana who only ever had boys has had to learn some hair styles and plaiting skills but it's been fun.

Keryn has written about the original computer on Millhouse (the longarm) crashing and having to learn a new program to run it. At least she is computer savvy and can work things out, but I'm having to be coached slowly through each step and the things I did automatically in the old set-up have to be unlearned. I'll get there, I've done two of my own tops and feel a bit more capable. It's still intimidating, whereas I used to feel pretty confident in my skills.

I'm still doing lots of piecing and starting of projects, so I'm really looking forward to being able to use Millhouse to actually finish a swag of them, hopefully without too much help from Keryn.


Sunday, March 06, 2022

I was shocked that sewing the first batch of triangles made so little difference to the contents of that drawer. So the pile of pastel and modern fabric triangles were dealt with next. Another sewing session resulted in some more stacks of HSTs....

but the drawer barely changed. I quickly discovered that because most of these triangles are leftovers from bindings, our own and hundreds of customer quilts over the years, that the light triangles disappeared pretty quickly. I cut about 200 from creams and white strips and tackled the remaining piles.

Surely that would be enough!

Nope.  Now I could put this away and be done with it, but really? How many HSTs were lurking in here over all?

I paired up medium triangles with the darkest darks, cut more lights and back to the machine I went...

To the ironing board!

By now I was slightly appalled at where this was going. Understand that I have a 1 1/2" drawer, a 1 3/4" drawer and a 2 1/2" drawer of triangles as well. My reasoning has been that the set of little drawers takes up the same space empty as it does full, so I didn't have to do much more than tuck all those trimmed bits neatly away. I thought they might be a sort of 'starter' for a quilt someday but would only amount to two or three hundred. I have gone to this stash to pad out quilts I've been cutting for, but now I see that  a paltry 50 or so taken out every now and then wasn't making a difference at all.

No.  You can't really see how high these stacks are, but the final count was around 1,800 HSTs.

Gobsmacked !

For interests sake I tried packing them back in the little drawer and yes, they would fit apart from the bulk of the extra folds in the seam allowance. I'm now deciding whether to start an Ocean Waves or just sew them into blocks of 25 because they won't fit in the container they were meant to be transferred to. One little 5" by 8" drawer housed all that. I know that I cut extra light triangles, but all of these squares are made up of two triangles, people! Nearly 3,000 in that little drawer. 

It's made me think thoughts that I don't want to, about how many quilt tops I could make from the scraps that I adore hoarding, how many tops there are in my extensive stash, the number of quilts I can complete in the years I have left to me.... HEY! this exercise was supposed to make me feel better about the horrors going on, and instead I've spiraled into existential dread over my excesses in the sewing room. Hmmm.

And did I completely empty that drawer? Nope, I gave up. I call quits. I'd have to cut even more light triangles, and then I found this...

The little basket where I put binding cut offs, waiting to be trimmed. Argghh! I used to joke about the fairy tale where every morning there was a room of straw to be spun into gold. "I wouldn't mind if that was scraps I had to deal with, I'd just trim and sew away, and the next day there would be another lot! Tralala!" 

Well apparently I'm living it and it's not as much fun as I thought.....(still can't say no though, so I'm not throwing them out)


Saturday, March 05, 2022

Like the rest of the world I've been thrown off balance by the events in Ukraine and my normal sewing for solace doesn't seem to be working. I'm not doing much doom scrolling because I know I can't handle it, but there's enough news around that I'm still appalled over the tragedy of it all.

There's also some upheavals happening on the home front which I won't go into but Keryn and I are making schedules of things to happen and then rewriting them and rewriting again. It seems as soon as we make plans all sorts of spanners come flying into the works! But we'll get there.

I was putting some trimmed triangles away last week and the little drawer I keep them in was absolutely full. I've been in a bit of a funk since I finished my last top, so I decided I would just sew some together and see if I could make a bit of space in there.

So I sorted and spent one session sewing the repro scraps together...

Yep, this is relaxing and fun pairing them up....

All ironed nicely, now to trim the dog ears and count them up.

These are 2 inch HST that will finish at 1 1/2 inches, so that little drawer is around seven inches long. The stacks in front are about 140 squares in total. That's 280 separate triangles. How did they all come out of that container? I barely made a difference at all, so I decided this would be my MAD challenge for March, Empty that Drawer!! The HSTs would all shuffle off to another large container that hosts the finished squares and I could actually see some progress in dealing with scraps. Challenge accepted.

to be continued...


Monday, February 14, 2022

This is the second finish for the year. I have no idea what to call this, other than 'grey, cheddar quilt.' I put the blocks together as a sixteen patch, which greatly simplified things. 

I made 4 patches using two fabrics, in sets of two which gave me a sort of framework for dealing with the scraps. A set of two cheddar and grey 4 patches and another pair of lighter  grey/blue combined with the lightest squares in shirtings, red and white checks and pale blues.

A vintage gingham in black and white gave me the darker stripes running diagonally across the top. The original quilt that I was inspired by had a lot more of these darker areas but I didn't want to recreate that blotchiness, and preferred these subtle bands instead.

The borders were made from men's dark grey shirt strips alternating with the remains of a fat quarter, cut in 1 1/2" strips, and then a 4 1/2" strip of another vintage gingham that was only 36" wide. This one was blue, but I think that helps tie in with the light blues in the centre of the top.


I knew that joining the gingham in any-old-how fashion would give an unsightly break in the borders, so I decided to have a go at matching the checks. These little squares are 1/8" wide, eek.

This attempt....not so great, but it will do.

This try was better, but I wasn't going to agonise too much. As long as there was no overall break in the pattern I was happy.

This used up all the grey and cheddar scraps that I wanted to deal with, and I actually had to cut some strips from fat quarters in the end. I have some leftover blocks because I changed my mind about how big I wanted this to be, and I'm going to make a second top using these colours, in a different design. I'll have to use the stash now that the scraps have gone but I really liked making these blocks and I'm not sick of them yet.


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

First finish for 2022

 It's hard to see the borders in this little top but they are there, framing this baby top nicely. Still haven't found the missing sheets but when I do I'll set the rest of the blocks I made into another little quilt. I'm quite pleased with how the fabric behaved so I'll be on the lookout for more very lightly used cotton linens at the opshop. And then try not to misplace them...


Monday, January 31, 2022

My Mad Piecing effort

Keryn talked about MAD piecing in this blog post when she was lamenting all the bits of progress she was making on many projects. Her idea was to make a difference - (MAD) - to one project by making a concentrated effort to move it along. I was searching around for one of my projects to give it a hurry on, and instead fell down another rabbit hole.

For the last two years I've made promises on my yearly to-do list that I would find a pattern to use a container of dark grey scraps which had accumulated seemingly without any effort on my part. It's not a colour I'm drawn to but the trimmings from customer quilts, scrapbags from the opshop and other gifts meant that I had quite a collection. I could have just passed them on I suppose but I really thought I could find a use for them, if I just found the perfect design. 

Also on my list to be dealt with was a cheddar/yellow group of scraps that weren't reproduction and that I wasn't wedded to. I have a drawer full of lovely authentic repro fabric in this colour that I would use if I wanted to make a serious quilt. Is this an odd attitude, leaving my gorgeous yardage in the drawer and fussing about scraps that I didn't even choose? It drives Keryn nuts but I seem fascinated by the concept of just using what is there. I  can't give up on the scraps, it seems.

I'm a member of a facebook page called QuiltHistorySouth and they recently had a discussion about cheddar in old quilts. One of the photos depicted a four-patch quilt using black AND cheddar, as well as some shirting and plaids. I could substitute the dark grey for the black, and use both lots of lingering scraps.

Over three days I've had a blast, decimating both containers to the point that I might have to start using a strip or two from the regular stash. The shirtings are from opshop shirts which is another section of the stash that I'm gradually whittling away. I feel so virtuous, and even though the result is not particularly attractive it will be functional and has a more masculine feel to it.

I have fifty or so blocks made and pinned to the design wall and I'll be making more four patches to replicate some of the darker areas of the quilt. Unfortunately I virtually have to use a spotlight to get any sort of picture of my design area so it's not as washed out as my photo makes it.

I just hope my enthusiasm carries through to actually making a top but at the very least I can say I've made a difference to those grey and yellow scrap containers.


Saturday, January 22, 2022

Stuff just vanishes..

After I had finally found my missing blocks I thought I could have a very quick finish for 2022 by whipping up this simple little top. I nearly had it in one piece when I ran out of the white setting fabric.

Now I've been reading Becky of Quilted Twins fame and I was taken by the fact that she sometimes uses sheets as her white fabric, acres of material all the same and plenty to waste without worrying about running out. No need to try and match different whites or creams, wonderful!!

So when I found a new set of lightly patterned cotton sheets in our opshop I bought them with this in mind, and promptly cut up one pillowcase to make these blocks. Yep, this is working well, until..... I lost the sheets! I'd gone as far as I could with the setting and needed just a few more strips but I couldn't find the double bed size sheets anywhere. They make quite a large bundle and I've searched everywhere I can think of. Having just pulled the sewing room apart trying to find the blocks I knew that such a large pile couldn't be hidden there. Grr!

I can only wonder if I took them to the workshop (to iron perhaps?) and they've been swallowed by one of the mounds of stuff there. In my trip to the opshop I found another pillowcase of the same design, so I'll use that to finish the top, and then I'll promptly find the sheets I suppose.

When I was putting the pieces back on the design wall I noticed this...

The edge block is in backwards, argh. So I have to unpick this and resew it before I can set the rest together. I'm not happy with this poor little top, through no fault of it's own. I think it was a design from maryquilts

 It is a very nice easy pattern to sew, when everything else goes smoothly.


Sunday, January 09, 2022

Home time

 On Boxing day I woke up with a slightly scratchy throat and wondered if I was getting a cold. Sometimes air conditioning over night gives me that feeling but next day I knew I had 'symptons.' I wanted to get tested for covid but our local centre was shut for the public holiday, so I decided I would isolate (which they'd tell me to do anyway) until I could get a test and the results. 

Four days later I had a negative result, as well as a hacking cough, but I have to say it was a very enjoyable home stay. Somehow, between helping with the pirie family, quilting for others, shopping for family members, appointments and working a couple of other obligations I hardly ever have a day at home to myself. Even on weekends I'm often playing catch up, running between the workshop or family commitments. 

So the prospect of time at home was just amazing, and as I didn't feel too bad apart  from the cough  I decided to sew up some little blocks I'd finished earlier, as a last minute finish for 2021. Do you think I could find them? Nope, nowhere to be seen.

This resulted in the biggest, most thorough sewing room clean up in years. I literally looked in every box, every container, every bag, drawer, cupboard, tub and tin. It was wonderful, knowing I couldn't go out and I could make this big mess and sort and purge and consolidate knowing that I had hours and hours, nay days to do it in. It seemed like a gift, and the ongoing organising of my space has continued to make me happy. 

Once I finished in the sewing room I moved into other parts of the house and it was great filling up the wheelie bin and the local donation bins; what a wonderful start to the year! I think I'll aim for this every year after Christmas and New year.

But did I find the blocks? No, not until this morning when I was bemoaning the fact to Keryn and wondering where they could be. I was searching for something else in a drawer, I picked up another set of blocks at the bottom and there they were cowering out of sight. Grrr, I'd looked in that drawer so many times before, but I didn't completely empty the contents. Lesson learned, hopefully.

Another lesson is that it shouldn't take the threat of having a dangerous virus to make me stay home and carve out some time for myself occasionally. This week or so of home time has been precious and restoring and I need to make it a regular part of life.


Friday, January 07, 2022

2021 wrap up

Blue square in squares

In 2021 I finished ten tops, none of them very big. I made dozens and dozens of blocks for various projects, but a lot have become stuck on the choices for borders and settings. I cut a huuuge amount of material and 
scraps up, but I don't count it until it's a finished top, so there are no figures for that.

Green album

Cobblestone corner

I finished this top with a small border, but never got a photo of it because it was such a hassle getting it back up on the design wall.

flannel staircase in repros

flannel improv scraps

baby flannel staircase 

Shirting four patch

I also finished a little cross baby quilt.

baby cross

pastel 16 patch

Jewelbox star

I spend a minimum of four hours in my sewing room every day, not all of that at the machine, but lots of cutting, sorting, designing, musing. It's more than my happy place, it's my sanctuary and I love it. I hope to spend just as much time there in the future, but it's not really about the productivity and how many tops I get done. It just makes me happy and centred to be in my room, pottering away.


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