Thursday, 5 October 2017

Warmer weather

means that the backyard critters are on the move.  There is a pair of Adelaide rosellas nesting in the box this year, they are generally quite shy but they seem to be getting used to the comings and goings in our back yard. 

I nearly stepped on this blue tongue lizard, I didn't see him (I don't know if it is a him or a her but I will call it a him) until I turned around and realised that what I had thought was some gum leaves was in fact a lizard.  Normally the lizards will spend the day sun baking on hard, flat surfaces like rocks or pavers, I'm guessing that the grass was warmer on this particular day.  Our neighbour also has one that likes to lie out on the grass in the morning sun, it is much larger than this one and there is no mistaking it for leaves.

I'm not sure if this is the same or a different lizard, this photo was taken a bit earlier in the month on a cooler day, he was trying to scare me off by hissing at me and exposing his blue tongue.

This magpie has been following the Mister on his weeding travels around the garden, it is now at the stage where it flies down when it sees the Mister come out of the house, almost as if it is expecting a free meal.    I suspect it has a nest nearby and is feeding the chicks. We have never had any of the magpies in our neighbourhood swoop on us, perhaps it is because they consider us friendly -   Magpies can form friendships

Finally the koalas are on the move as well, we have heard a male koala bellowing the last few nights and this morning I spotted him in the neighbour's tree. At the very end of that branch is a female koala and he is blocking off her escape route (unless she decides to jump to another branch).  This afternoon he had moved down to the branch fork where he could have a sleep and still prevent her escaping.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

A loooong weekend for me

 We have just had a long weekend here in South Australia (some other states had one as well) but my long weekend is extra long as I don't have to work until Wednesday night, happy days.

It was quite a busy weekend as the AFL Grand Final was played on Saturday, the NRL Grand Final was played on Sunday and we put our clocks forward for Daylight Saving as well.  Now we just have to adjust to darker mornings and more daylight in the evenings.

I finished off my doorstop and covered the current doorstop box with some linen that I had, it looks a bit more attractive now.  I started hand couching the wiggly gimp thread decoration but my hand started aching so I ended up machining it down with a zig zag stitch, much quicker.

I also made my quilt for the 2018 SA Modern Quilters Challenge  - Broken Glass, we were given a piece of Alison Glass fabric and could add two different solids, and some low volume fabrics.  The finished quilt will be 12" x 24" portrait orientation, I will only show a portion of my quilt to preserve the mystery :) It is ready for the background quilting now, and as the finished quilts don't have to be delivered until next year there is no hurry to get the quilting done.

The sunset last night was quite nice, you can see the sea on the far horizon and the reservoir is just visible in the centre of the photo.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

One of five

I'm quilting five smallish pieces which will help me get used to quilting on my Simply 16.  The first piece is a test block I made for another quilt, I had already added borders and ditch stitched it on my Bernina 750QE in anticipation of needing something for quilting practise before the Simply 16 arrived.

I had no quilting plan so just had a bit of a play with my rulers to start with.  I was wanting to do something else with the circle ruler but the block wasn't big enough, (top left and bottom right corner) for what I had in mind so I had to improvise.  I finished it off with piano keys on the outside section, it took no more than 10 minutes to complete the piano keys on each side.

I've now moved on to the next piece which is a piece of cheater cloth in a log cabin pattern, I'm just going to practise doing straight lines with the machine set to Cruise Stitch Regulation, I'm thinking it will be good practise for Stitch in the Ditch. 

I've been experimenting with using a curved needle to bury my thread ends, it was a bit of a struggle using a straight needle and I think once I get used to using the curved needle it will work well, there are certainly a lot of thread ends on this fabric.

I found that it was hard to maintain concentration and keep the lines straight for more than one row, I do have electromagnetic channel locks fitted to my machine and I might experiment with that tomorrow and see that will keep me from going off track.

Monday, 25 September 2017

An upgrade

A couple of months ago I sold my Sweet 16 sit-down machine and upgraded to a HQ Simply 16 machine with Little Foot frame.  Lately I've been concerned about the amount of time that I spend sitting down (sitting down to sew at my machine, to quilt and of course sitting down at night watching TV) and it made sense to me to consider changing to a machine which would allow me to stand up more.

Another reason was that I had been having a lot of pain in my wrists and thumbs and I think that as I was doing a lot of quilting with a double batting this exacerbated it. An xray and ultrasound showed that I had mild arthritis in my thumbs, some visits to a specialist hand therapist helped and also confirmed that the way I was quilting wasn't helping my arthritis. 

It was a bit like a jig saw fitting the new machine in my work room, I moved my sewing machine table to a slightly different position which gave me a bit more floor space and allowed me to hide quite a few containers underneath it.

In the meantime there is a bit of a learning curve getting used to a slightly different way of quilting so I will be doing a bit of practise on panels and various other bits and pieces that I have lying around.  I am getting quite a stack of quilts ready for quilting once I'm up to speed.

This cushion cover was one of my first quilting practise pieces, it was a Trapunto challenge from the monthly Handi Quilter group that I attend.  Some of it was done using stitch regulation and some in manual mode, I enjoyed both modes.

Saturday, 23 September 2017


Procraftinate: verb.
the act of avoiding a task by crafting instead

my current Doorstop, there is a small weight inside the box

I'm delaying starting things I probably should be doing by starting something else, an Embellished Brick  otherwise known as a Doorstop.  I picked this kit up a couple of years ago when I was over in New Zealand visiting my parents, and now that warmer weather is coming I like to leave the front door open in the morning to let the fresh air through the house.  My usual method of propping the door ajar is rather basic,and I thought that a felt covered brick would look so much nicer, although I think it will be a bit of a magnet for cat fur.

I'm not sure if I will put any of the blanket stitched rings on the sides, I'll finish the top off first and then see how I feel, I'm all for a quick and easy finish on this and so far it hasn't taken too long and besides I'm quite enjoying myself and that is more important than other things.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Flimsy finish

I started this Seabreeze Quilts Mystery Sampler quilt three years ago, (I really didn't think it was that long ago)  I had decided to use only fabrics from my stash for this quilt and I was using the light coloured  spot fabric in each block for continuity purposes. 

I found the blocks under some fabric stacks when I was having my declutter week, eight of them were finished and I needed to finish the other four blocks, luckily all the fabrics had been stored with the blocks so that was a start.  I found the instructions and got sewing, I ended up having to piece together some of the light coloured spot fabric so that I would have enough to use in each block. 

The blocks were all together, now I had to find enough fabric for the sashing, luckily I had enough grey fabric but I had to be careful when I did the cutting.  Using corner blocks gave me a few extra inches for the long borders, now I just have to quilt it.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Still dyeing a little bit more

Earlier this year I was having a big declutter of fabric and I came across a heap of wool squares that I had cut up in anticipation of using one day.  Winter was approaching and I thought a wool blanket might be a good idea, which meant that one day had arrived, so I just started stitching the squares together.  

Let me tell you that you get quite a thick seam stitching wool together, so instead of pressing to one side I decided that I would press the seams open and then stitch them down again on each side which would keep them nice and flat, and as the wool is felted wool there should be no problems with fraying.   I also decided to offset each row of squares so there were no thick intersections and it saved me having to think about matching seams :)

I spent a pleasant weekend sewing wool squares together, to finish it I used some different coloured binding strips of cotton fabric for a machined binding.  It was only when I was finishing stitching the binding on that I remembered that there was more wool fabric stored somewhere else :(  It is getting a bit warm to use a wool blanket now, but today I found the other container of fabric and looked it over with a view to cutting it up ready to stitch.

Looking at the wool I thought it all looked a bit too brown and it occurred to me that I could dye some of the cream and offwhite pieces of blanket that were also in the box.  I cut three pieces off, soaked them in an acid bath and then started dyeing them, I was aiming for a lime green, aqua blue and a pinky-red,

the two different pieces of wool I used for my experiment,
one is a plain cream and the other a large check in cream and taupe

and this is what happened, the colours in the photo are quite true, they are still damp so might lighten a bit once they have dried.  I'm quite happy with how the colours turned out, once I get some more yellow food colouring I will try to get a bright orange piece of fabric, and then perhaps I will start making another blanket.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Dyeing to try something different

While my sister Jenny was here in August she knitted some hats for me.  Two were knitted in a possum/merino blend which was a taupey brown colour and the other used an alpaca yarn in a kind of dirty looking, washed out pale aqua blue.  Back in New Zealand Jenny had been experimenting with dyeing the possum yarn with food colouring, so we decided to try a little bit of dyeing while she was here. 

  Possum/merino hat soaking in citric acid and water mixture

Basically the wool yarn (or garment) is soaked in an acid solution for about an hour, then a dye solution of water, food colouring and vinegar is made, the yarn is added to it and gently agitated in the dye solution, then heated.  (We used a microwave to heat the dye solution but it is possible to do the heating on a hotplate.)  Once the dye has been taken up the yarn is then left to cool in the dye solution for 30 minutes or so then the wool can be gently rinsed until the water runs clear, spun in the washing machine to get out all the water then dried flat.

one of the hats after the dyeing has almost finished,

This hat was knitted in alpaca and was originally the same colour as the knitted garment underneath

We had already dyed one possum hat with red food colouring (the left hand side)  but it came out quite blotchy, the one on the right was dyed with rose pink food colouring, it has some faint blotches as well. (The photos aren't quite true to colour possibly because the photos were taken outside and I think the colour is a bit washed out.)  The original possum/merino blend is underneath and is in reality a wee bit darker than the photo shows (the photo of the hat soaking in the acid mix is closer to the true colour)

Jenny mentioned that it is easier to dye skeins of yarn and if there is a bit of blotching then it is less noticeable once a garment has been knitted.  The aqua blue hat had very few blotches, we're not sure if this is because it was a different yarn (alpaca) or because we used a larger container for the dyeing which meant that the hat had a bit more space to move around in the container. 

The dyeing procedure doesn't take too long and it was a fun way to spend an hour or so on a gloomy, rainy winter day.

Thursday, 14 September 2017


I made and finished this quilt earlier this year, I thought I had some progress photos but I can't find them, I suspect I deleted them once I had worked out how I wanted the quilt to look.  It started out as a way to use up larger fabric scraps, I wanted to make large blocks and I remembered that Bonnie Hunter's blog had a tutorial for Scrappy Trips around the World which made 12.5" blocks.

It didn't take me too long to cut the fabric strips and start stitching them together, then I played around with a few layouts until I found the one I liked and started stitching the blocks together. 

quilt backing in progress

The backing fabric was a bit of a no brainer, I was still trying to use up fabric scraps and had plenty left over and it seemed quite apt to make a giant block for the backing. This also meant I could use up the extra block I had made and make one square the quilt label.

The straight line quilting was done on my Bernina 750QE, I used various different colour threads so the quilting would blend in with the various fabrics.  The binding was made using a Kaffe Fassett Spots fabric in blue, the quilt is called Deviations on a World Trip.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A family favourite

This recipe was one of Mum's favourites which I have been making quite a bit recently.  It is a lovely savoury scone with a corn filling, great for a savoury snack or to have with soup instead of bread.  My apologies for the not so great photos, I took them in between mixing and rolling the scone dough, and dough covered hands don't mix well with cameras.

Corn Krollen

1/2 cup finely chopped onion                   2 rashers of bacon, chopped (optional)
2 garlic cloves, crushed                            1 anchovy, finely chopped (optional)
1 tin creamed corn (125g size)                 1/2 cup kernel corn (tinned or frozen)
15g butter  (or 1 Tbsp olive oil)               freshly ground black pepper to taste
170g tasty cheese, grated                          1/2 - 1 cup finely chopped spring onions (optional)

In a saucepan melt the butter (or warm the olive oil, if using) saute onions (and bacon, if using) and garlic until cooked, add the corn, anchovy and black pepper, mix together and let cool completely before using.

Scone Mixture

340g Self Raising flour                            1/2 tsp salt
2 Tsp baking powder                                85g butter
1 cup tasty cheese, grated                         1 1/4 cup milk

Sift dry ingredients into large bowl, rub in the butter, add the cheese and stir to mix, then add the milk and make a dough. Knead lightly and roll out the scone mixture to make  a large rectangle.
Spread the cold corn mixture over the rectangle, leaving a couple of inches of scone mixture showing on one long side. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the corn mixture, then roll up as if you are making a swiss roll. (start rolling opposite the end that has scone mixture showing)  Cut into slices and place on a baking paper lined tray so the cut side is facing up (see the last photo).

Bake at 200°C for about 20-25 minutes, the time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the krollen, you want them to have a browned, crusty appearance and to be cooked all the way through, there is nothing worse than uncooked dough.

the mixture ready to be rolled


the rolled up mixture before slicing

Recently I have started using the following scone mix, I prefer the zing that the cayenne gives.

2 cups flour               4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt                 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp butter             1 cup tasty cheese, grated
2/3 cup milk

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, rub or grate butter into dry ingredients, toss in the cheese and mix around, add the milk and mix to make a stiff dough.

The corn krollen cooking in the oven (the photo isn't very good because of the oven light)