Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crazy coconuts

On the kids show Bananas in Pyjamas, the character Rat in the Hat says 'cheese and whiskers' whenever something goes wrong. I started saying this instead of 'shit' whenever I dropped something, etc. When I joined the army ten years ago I found myself swearing A LOT. I've really tried to improve my language since then, but whenever I'm under stress I tend to revert to swearing. With two littlies in the house, this is certainly not appropriate behaviour. As I'm nudging 40, it's perhaps time to learn some personal mastery!

As part of this journey, Romily and I have been making up some crazy exclamations to use instead of naughty words! One of our favourite expressions is 'crazy coconuts!' I use this a lot and I think it's pretty harmless. It's become part of our family vernacular, and I think it's the perfect expression to use about the crazy coconuts weather we've been having in Canberra lately.
Lots of storms, rainbows, electrical storms, huge cloudstacks building almost every afternoon. We've had hot days and cold days. It's even been snowing up in the mountains just south of Canberra. All this in mid-spring!
Cold, rainy days have meant the kids and I have spent quite a few of them inside. What better to do on a rainy day than bake? Romily has been helping me use up our overripe bananas and we've made some delicious batches of muffins (secret ingredient is a small tub of Vaalia toddlers yoghurt) as well as a couple of more-ish banana chocolate cakes. The recipe is so easy and obviously foolproof, since I've managed to make it twice and been very happy with the results. I went off-road (or is that off-recipe?) and added some cream cheese icing. Delicious. If you want the recipe, get yourself a copy of the Homemade recipe book that I posted about here. You can order a PDF or hard copy. The PDF is only AUD$8 and the hard copy $15 + P&H. It's the best cookbook - all of the recipes are easy and most of them were contributed by busy mums so they're good for all the family.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Art quilt exhibition in Canberra

Congratulations to Canberra-based art quilters Helen Gray and Pamela Munday whose work has been selected for Art Quilt Australia 09, an exhibition of contemporary quilts presented by Ozquilt Network Inc and Craft ACT.
The exhibition opens on Saturday 7 November and continues until 19 December 2009 at the Craft ACT Craft & Design Centre, Level 1 North Building, 180 London Circuit, Canberra City ACT.

From the Canberra Quilters blog. I'll definitely catch this one.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Progress - on two fronts!

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I have finished another quilt top - this one for my aunt Keryn. She's a funky chick, who likes chickens, so I thought the Tossed Birds fabric from the Timeless Treasures Bon Voygage range was perfect for her. It coordinates beautifully with some of the Park Slope (Erin McMorris) range, so I grabbed some half yards of each (had to do a bit of searching to find it - I ended up getting most of what I needed from Fabricworm).
The fabric is so busy it needs some very simple piecing, so I went for 8" finished squares with a small 2" border of complementary fabric. I'm planning on doing a large edge to edge meander in pale pink. The backing will be the same as the border fabric. I've got a gorgeous white microdot on yellow for the binding, which I think will tie it all together nicely.


I also mentioned I'd been doing some handquilting. While I'm no expert and my technique is terrible, I love the look and texture that close lines of quilting give to a quilt. I really wanted the caterpillar to pop out of the centre panel on this quilt, and it's certainly going to do that. The rest of the quilt is machine quilted in the ditch and outlines, but the centre will be entirely handquilted. I've tried with and without the hoop, and find the hoop does help make my stitches a bit neater as I don't have to hold the fabric - the hoop frame just rests on my arms/lap. No doubt if I persevere my stitches will become more even and smaller. I've booked into a handquilting class on 8 November, so that will probably help too. Just need to find the time to practise what I learn - my life story!


And finally, my copy of Quilts, Baby arrived. Nicolette also posted about it over here. It's a great little book, with lots of inspiration not only for baby quilts, but for doll quilts too. Lots of different ideas to explore in there. Possibly for PIF gifts!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

EBDQS3 swap quilt sneak peek

Now that it's made its way safely to Western Australia, I can post a sneak peek of the quilt I've made for the EBDQS3. I couldn't post it before, because I thought the colours would be a dead giveaway. But, as Helen now knows who it's from, I think it's okay to show you a tiny bit of the front and a shot of the back.The big reveal is on 7 November, so stay tuned. Mine hasn't arrived yet and I'm busting a gut to know who's making mine!

Eggy odyssey

For those of you who have been reading my random writing for long enough, you'll remember that Romily and I kicked of a rainbow egg odyssey nearly two years ago. We usually have scrambled eggs on Saturday mornings as a treat and to give her a super energy boost before she heads off with Carl to swimming lessons. We've been adding a few drops of food colouring - at first it was to make the meal more appealing to a fussyish two-year-old, but it's since become something fun, as well as a basic chemistry lesson! She's learning what colours mix well with others, and what the yellow colour in eggs will do to an otherwise pleasing combination.
Here's some pink eggs we had recently. They looked yummy! We have some rose colour food colouring which holds its colour pretty well over the yellow in the egg.
Sadly, mixing red and blue to make purple did not survive being added to the yellow egg mix! We, of course, ended up with brown. Now brown eggs an appealing meal does not make! Carl had to look away while he ate his. We just stuck with yellow on the weekend while my parents were here. I don't think they would have liked green eggs, for example!


There has been some sewing going on around here - I've pieced a top for one of the comfort quilts I'm making - this one for my aunt who is just starting chemotherapy after having an advanced breast cancer removed. I've also been doing some handquilting on Tristan's very hungry caterpillar quilt. I'll post some pics over the next day or two. We're going a bit slow here, Tristan has croup again and is very clingy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's time to Pay It Forward

I am participating in some 'pay it forward' fun over at and am continuing the fun here. I have three spots to fill for peeps who want to join in too. I will make a handmade gift for the first 3 interested people. I have 365 days to do it in…What it will be and when it will arrive is a total surprise! The catch is that you must participate as well: you must have a blog and before you leave your comment here, write up a pay it forward post on your blog to keep the fun going.(Just cut and paste this one if you like, changing '' to '' which I did!) Looking forward to this :)

Edited: thanks for playing ladies, we are now full!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More sewing for my favourite client

Yes, you guessed it, that would be Romily. While I was fondling fabrics trying to work out which I'd use for the EB Doll Quilt Swap, Romily espied some purple/gold and cream/gold 'Japanese' fabric I'd bought a while ago. I'd had good intentions of making a panel quilt with a silk panel I have, but when I got the fabric home I saw that my idea wasn't really going to work and it wasn't going to be my style of quilt at all (not that I have a set style yet, but I'm working on it and that wasn't it).Anyway, Romily got very excited and asked me in such an endearing way to make her a skirt that I could not refuse. And, let's face it, when one is procrastinating from doing the things one should do, what better offer should come along than to make a skirt for one's dearest daughter? (And that would be enough 'ones', yes?)So, being the obediant mother that I am, I whipped up this little skirt in an afternoon. I didn't use a pattern - just measured Romily's waist and the fall to above her knees and went for it! I cut a strip across the width of the purple fabric, and a narrower strip of the cream, also across the width. I sliced the purple 2/3 way up and french seamed in the cream strip. Then I sewed the side seam, made a casing for elastic, inserted the elastic, stitched in the ditch on the side seam and each opposing quarter, whacked on a two-fold hem and voila!

As you can see, Romily was very happy with the finished product. Because it's made from quite heavy quilters cotton, it balloons quite a bit, which she loves. She declared it to be a 'dancing skirt', which means she loves it. So easily pleased! I am taking full advantage of it while it lasts!


I mentioned procrastination. Our third and final written assessment prior to the exam on 2 November was a dreaded group assignment. I say dreaded, as we each get the same mark, no matter how much effort each individual puts in. When dealing with people who may or may not have the same standards, it can be tricky to come up with an end product that is mutually acceptable. Fortunately, I was very lucky in being grouped with a couple of fellas from Defence who were very easy to work with and who met their commitments. Even more fortuitously the other half of our syndicate also got along well and both teams managed to meet in the middle and submit work with which we were all happy - we even managed to submit the assignment one day early! Now that's out of the way, the only two study things standing between me and Christmas are the exam and a research proposal that I must submit next week. I'm transferring to a Master of Philosophy in Business (half coursework; half research), which means that this is the last semester of coursework I'll have to do. Yay!


So, onto the EBDQS3. I have finished the quilt, just the label to affix (it's drying as I type) and it will be ready to mail off tomorrow, well inside the deadline. I can't show any sneak peeks, unfortunately, as the person I'm making it for might read my blog. I am very happy with this little quilt and will be sad to see it go!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sewing for SuperRomily

When asked what costume she wanted to wear to the 'When I Grow Up' themed final dance class for last term, Romily answered: 'Superhero'. LOL

Then she asked me to make her a rainbow cape. Sadly, I had neither the fabric nor the time to create this! So, I went for something a lot simpler. She was very happy nonetheless, and teamed the cape with her favourite mask from the $2 shop.

The cape was easy peasy. I measured the width of her shoulders and the length of her body from shoulder to knees, found a couple of suitable pieces from my stash and cut them to size, sewed them together around three sides wrong side facing, snipped the corners and turned them right sides out. Then I cut a strip of contrasting fabric about 1 metre long. I ironed it in half lengthwise (wrong sides together) and then each half in on itself again to make single fold skinny binding. I then centred the binding on the open side of the cape rectangle and pinned. I then edgestitched from one end of the binding to the other, making sure I caught the open side of the cape inside the binding, et voila.
For the finishing touch I drew a capital 'R' for Romily, traced it and then traced it in reverse onto a small piece of steam-a-seam. I ironed it on to a piece of the same contrast fabric, cut out the R and ironed it onto the cape. I then zigzag stitched around the inside and outside of the letter. (Click image for a close-up!)

One superhero's cape and one happy daughter.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Quilting for comfort...and speed

I know, don't die of shock when I tell you that there has been some quilting going on around here. My darling mum was recently diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her bowel and underwent surgery nearly two weeks ago. Being so far away, I felt pretty useless, more so by the fact that we have all been sick again, so I couldn't even fly down to visit, let alone help look after her in the early days of her recovery.

What to do, I thought, other than make her a quilt? Because mum's surgery was scheduled so quickly I didn't have much time to put it together. I also didn't have any time to go fabric shopping, so I delved into my stash, finding the 1/2 yards of Amy Butler Belle that my brother and his partner bought for me for Christmas. I thought it was perfect for this project as it all coordinates. I decided, that since time was of the essence, I would make a strippy block quilt. I wanted it to be fairly big so I sashed the 5" finished blocks (rotated at each setting) with 5" white sashing. The finished quilt measures 45" by 55". I was really happy with how the quilt top turned out. Fresh, bright and modern.
(Photo by Rom!)

Not so happy was I with the quilting. I know I've complained of this before, but it doesn't seem to matter how careful I am with the basting, the fabric shifts as it's going through my machine (even with a walking foot - which seems to be next to useless) and it ends up bunching. I think part of the problem is that my base-level Janome has such a small work surface that the weight of the quilt drags the fabric out from under the needle, despite my best efforts to support the weight of the quilt. It also means that my 'straight lines' are often not, due to the dragging. I guess this means that I need a bigger machine! Sadly, our finances are not in a state where this is even a remote possibility. I will just have to persevere. Maybe I need to do more stippling, as this will help avoid the bunching issues I'm getting with full width straight line quilting. I am also investigating different batting/wadding options, as it's possible my choice in that area is also affecting the end result.
I also made my first pieced back, not completely happy, as I somehow managed to get it slightly offcentre, and with the straight line quilting this really shows. I hope mum will forgive the quilt's imperfections. It's the thought that counts, right?

Anway, while it's not perfect, it made it to my mum a couple of days after she got home from hospital. I'm hoping it feels a bit like a long-distance cuddle every time she sees it/snoozes under it. It's the best I can do until we see mum and dad again - hopefully in a couple of weeks, our state of health pending.