Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Quilting retrospective!

 I wondered how many quilts I had made in 2013 and went back through my photos.

There are two  single bed sized quilts, one wall quilt/table topper and one large lap size (which I expect to finish by the end of the year).  These quilts have been quite challenging to make. Like all quilts they take time and effort to bring them together, but I am very pleased with them all.

                                                  "Afternoon Tea with Mum" quilt 

The Music Quilt

The Japanese Lake
(just now it is just a top and back and it may be done before the end of the year)

Welcome Freedom
Wall hanging/table topper

I have a "leader/ender" project on the go too. It has about 100 blocks out of a required 140 made so far. The pattern is a Jan Mullen's design called "Dark Nightz". I have made one of these before, enjoyed it very much. It is a great scrap quilt project.

This was also the year that I was able to get this old girl working again- and she is really lovely. Made in 1916 and still going strong.

Next year I will continue to work on my accuracy and on my scrap quilts.

I would like to find a cabinet where I could show off the quilts I have made -preferably with glass doors.

I want to tackle an applique quilt -I have been putting this off because I don't really like the technique, but there is a lot of lovely Japanese fabric left in my stash and I have just the pattern for it.

I also have plans to make a queen size quilt for my bed.

That should keep me busy enough!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Magical Aussie style Christmas

 It has been a magical Christmas day -for once, the weather was not too hot -only about 30 degrees Celsius, with a welcome breeze around noon, when we sat down to eat. We had DS and our lovely DIL with our little 19 month old grand daughter, and we had our DD and my DH's brother sit down at our patio table.

I went with a 'typical Aussie Christmas" theme in the decorations and the food.

We ate  prawns and chicken kebabs with mango salsa.

DH barbecued the steak and there were lots of salads: potato salad: pumpkin and beetroot with spinach and cashews: coleslaw; a garden salad; and a salad with cauliflower and peas and beans with a creamy orange dressing.

There was also a ham -of course- and  pineapple to go with it.

The non-compulsory desert was fruit salad with rosewater syrup and Eton smash. Everyone had some!

People chose their own drinks -but I enjoyed a very fine sparkling wine from Little River in the Swan Valley.

Coffee was most welcome after all that.

We had a lovely day.

There are lots of leftovers!

Good -that means my duties are at an end and I can go back to quilting through the Christmas -New Year shutdown at work.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The story of the music quilt

I have finished the music quilt!

This quilt started with a collection of music fabrics. Music has a big part in our lives, so it was pretty likely that one day I would make a music themed quilt. I wasn't sure whether this would end up as a gift, but in the back of my mind knew that my son's very strong interest in music would meant that, if it turned out OK, it might become a gift going in that direction.

I was actually a bit intimidated by the fact that I loved all of this music fabric. I wanted so much for this quilt to be special,  and that was a bit too much pressure -what if I spoiled all that lovely fabric?

The design breakthrough came via my son and son and daughter's old school friend
L, who is a young quilter. She showed me a panel from a local quilting shop which had musical instruments on it. We both bought a panel to see what we could do with it.

Then I found a bolt of fabric in a local fabric shop which had choristers in choir robes. From there I started playing on the design wall. I framed the choristers with music notation print fabric.

The problem I found with the musical instrument panel was that it felt too boring and predictable, even when the chorister blocks were interspersed with it.

The answer was to do some UnRuly letters which make up the words "Psalms, Hymns and Songs" from the verse in the bible Ephesians 5:19 -20. It is a favourite verse of mine.

Be filled with the Spirit,19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God.

As soon as I had posted this rather blurry picture of these words on Facebook, my son asked for the quilt to be his-and so the project found it's natural goal of being turned into a quilt to commemorate the Commissioning of my son and daughter in law as Salvation Army officers. I could see that the music quilt had both the stringed instruments which are so much a part of DS's life and the brass instruments were there for DDIL. 

The words I had chosen seemed pretty apt for a young couple going into ministry. 
From there the question was: how big is this quilt going to be? I had lots of music fabrics so I made some more blocks for a border. I framed the blocks with solids in browns from a collection of Kona cotton, which reminded me of colours of coffee and chocolate drinks.

I still thought it looked like it needed a lift, so I added a sort of soft orange border which picked up the colours of the instruments. 

Finally what binding would be used? I had thought of going with one of my favourite black on white prints, but I decided in the end to use with some lovely fabric which DS and DDIL had given me last Christmas. It actually has ornate crosses on it, and I thought it would be particularly apt to wrap the Commissioning quilt in the Cross.  Each Salvation Army class group is given a name and the name for my family's group is "Disciples of the Cross"

 We have just returned from the Commissioning, and were able to give the gift in person to my son and daughter in law.

There was a lovely moment when their little girl crawled all over the bed, pointing to the pictures of the musical instruments with great excitement.

 I am pretty happy with the way this turned out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Budget quilting- a few strategies

I love quilting! I also know that is can be an expensive hobby if I am not careful. Fabric often sells for $12.50 or more per metre in Australia, and it could take at least  11 metres to make a bed sized quilt 218cm x 244cm. including backing.  That would be 12.50 x11 or $134.50. Then there is the wadding at $50 or more. If it is a bigger quilt that I can't quilt  on my Domestic Sewing Machine, add $200 roughly for the Long Arm Quilter to do their quilty magic.  So, a quilt could cost me between $200-400 without any cotton thread, rotary cutting blades or any other consumables.

If you are on a limited budget as we are, our hobbies must fall in line with our family priorities and responsibilities. I don't think that means that we can't make quilts -lovely quilts-if we are on a limited budget, it just means being thoughtful and careful with our hobby.

Here are some tips that I have picked up over the years:

1. Check supplies before buying anything.
Most quilters have a supply of fabrics which we lovingly call our 'stash". I have a stash -and this is only after quilting for four years! It takes a bit more imagination to make a quilt with what you have, rather than rushing out to buy fabrics which match the picture you saw in a magazine or on a you tube video, but the resulting quilt will be original! Recently I needed a border for the music quilt I was working on -by going to my stash and trying to use what I had, I was forced to become more inventive and creative. I think it is working! It is important to know what I have already in my stash so that I don't re-purchase fabric I have already got -which would be a waste.

2. Buy boring stuff
Don't laugh at this one! There are fabrics which make you go "WOW" because they are so beautiful, but what one often needs in a stash are fabrics which are less exciting on a roll, but more useful in a quilt. Some people call these 'blenders' and they are often quite subtle. All I know is fine stripes, small spots including self-coloured spots, solid colours in homespun, and other humble fabrics are often less expensive or marked down, but will be very useful in the quilt.
This way you can keep your fabulous fabric as the feature in a quilt without needing lots of it.

3. Buy on special-not full price where possible. This means thinking ahead -the times I have rushed out for something I needed to finish a quilt have been the times I paid too much.

4. Be accountable. I am part of an online quilting group called "Stashbusters"- we encourage each other to use what we have and keep away from the shops. I also make sure any purchases I make are recorded in our family budget -this keeps me grounded in reality.

6. Look in unusual places for fabric: I like to go to op shops where I have found fabric remnants like the gorgeous 1.5 metres of new batik fabric I got today for a measly $3. I have used cotton sheets as backing for my quilts -nice and wide and soft. I have started looking seriously at the 'novelty print' sheets from the 80s -would make a nice nostalgic quilt for a hipster or two -with motifs like Star Wars or some such. The quilt above was made entirely from fabric I found in Fremantle op shops when I worked there -and I gave it to a colleague when we finished our project.

I have also taken part in scrap swaps with people either close to me or across the world -a great way to get some 'new to me' fabrics and to make friends too.

I have a lovely friend who was given a lot of fabric from a shop which was closing down -I was allowed to pick some bolt ends -and they have been great. The only stipulation was that we had to USE them. Happy to do so!

5. Make scrappy quilts -and have lots of patterns for them.
Bonnie Hunter has some lovely free patterns on her blog -and lots of techniques for storing them to turn a messy pile into a useful resource.

Do you have strategies for keeping the cost of quilting down? What are they?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Model a new future-to help the planet.

I read the summary of the latest International Panel on Climate Change report. Scary stuff!
Here is a readable summary from the newly crowd-funded Climate Council

I believe that now is the time for us all to start putting the story into action in our lives. We have to begin modelling a new future for the planet, one which is not so carbon-heavy and so damaging.

There are easy steps which we in the carbon heavy world economies like Australia could take right now:

1. Use the car less, use public transport more.  It makes sense to share the drive with others going the same way -if your city has a safe reliable public transport system you are ahead of the game. I live in Perth, where the public transport is a bit crowded and could be more frequent, but is still EMINENTLY reliable and usable.  My DH and I have been using lots of public transport to get around since we stopped working full time. It is cheap and easy, and you get to read while 'getting there!".

2. Use your legs -walking or riding -to get around. Free exercise in the open air! I have a lovely little 'nanna trolley' which is the envy of most of the people in my suburb -it helps me swap short distance car rides for a nice stroll to the local shop. I also have access to a good pair of shoes, and a nice paved lucky is that?

3. Repair, re-use, re-cycle. Every manufactured thing we own has cost the earth something to make -if we can repair it or find a new use for it, that saves the energy it would take to make it again. Mind you  there are plenty of barriers to repairing things.  Our old clothes line broke and despite the manufacturer offering parts on their website, we were unable to get any replacement parts after three months of trying.  Bad customer service and bad for the planet!

4. Eat local foods.  Do think about where you food comes from, and how much carbon it took to get it to you. Oranges from California are available in our shops when they are out of season in the southern hemisphere, for example. I don't think we can afford to keep on doing this unless those Californian growers can find carbon friendly transport options. I choose to buy local fruit and vegetables in season, and to grow as much of my own food as possible.

5. Work on reducing food waste.  The UN says 
  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
  • Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
There is a British site which helps people to learn to 'love food hate waste"  -with lots of great ideas and recipes for getting started.

Want more inspiration? The simple living institute has a great free book with stories of real people from around the world living more simply. Get yours here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Spring, rain and other lovely things

Spring has sprung in Perth, with storms and rain and the occasional lovely warm day. We took DH on a picnic to New Norcia on Father's day and some of the pictures you see here are from that day.

We have been busy, with DH working full time for ten weeks in a locum position. This means that he is getting some lively stimulating times, and the income will be good, but that things we are used to him taking care of, are still waiting! I have been working at my lovely part time job too -and that job always seems to spread into too many hours. Then I need to take time off and get back into things around here again.

We did have a blitz on the winter weeds in the front garden, and a bit of a go at the back. We have finally had a feed from the beans crop which for too long was all show and no go. We are really enjoying out winter self-seeded tomatoes -so early to have ripe home grown fruit.

In the house, I have been perfecting my sour dough technique. We have also enjoyed double choc chip cookies!

My music quilt is closer and closer to completion, although lots of concerts and picnic days have reduced the amount of time I have spent on it recently.What is left to do? Quilting the word panels -make some borders -put it all together!

Music has also been very much a part of our lives when we sing in the St Barnabas Community Choir -we are practicing for a concert in two weeks (eek!). We also had a wonderful time at the Joan Baez concert, and at the Australian String Quartet.

Then we went to Shrine, the new Tim Winton play.

Apart from that, we have been busy marching in protests to seek a better way for asylum seekers in Perth. The tide seems to have gone out on the ocean of compassion in Australia, but we continue to hope for a change of heart and mind.

On the weekend I am getting a very special treat. I am going to Melbourne to spend some time with my son and lovely daughter in law and my grand daughter. Blessings abound!

The tomatoes are getting bigger! 

Enjoy some of the scenes around New Norcia!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Overcoming resistance...or 'just do it!"

The music quilt has been progressing lately, after I ended three weeks or more of procrastination.
I just didn't get started on making the words for the quilt -I was facing that common problem of 'resistance'-the creative person's inner struggle to just sit down and do what you are supposed to do.

I think in this case it was because I was keen to do a really good job on this quilt- I have been saving music fabric for several years now, and I have it set aside as a gift if it is good enough -so I think I was afraid to get started. Would the reality of what I can actually make be anything like the 'perfect quilt" in my head?

Well I just got started .. having given away perfectionism one more time.

I am quite pleased with the progress! Here it is on the design wall, waiting for some more stars!

Oh, and I have some nice fabric for a border or three!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Winter joys

We have had a lovely rainy week -nearly 55mls in the gauge since last Sunday -and the garden is showing the benefits.

 This is the first time my Bird of Paradise plant has had more than one flower on it at a time!

 The bottlebrush is just bursting out -and my resident Honey-eater is a regular guest.

 DH has made one batch of yummy cumquat marmalade already -but there are more to harvest.

 The Iris are in bloom in the back yard.

 So is the Happy Wanderer

Winter self-sown tomatoes have steadily cropped.

And I think my sourdough is benefitting from my new oven!
So it all looks pretty calm and peaceful, doesn't it? And sometimes it is!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Getting to know Nellie

 This is Nellie, my Singer treadle sewing machine, which was made in 1916. She is in very good condition as far as her decals go -the only wear in the space where someone's hand would have supported the machine as she was lowered inside the cabinet.

Her decals are lovely art deco style pieces.

I have had her for 8 years, but just this week I finally got the machine repair man in to see if he could fix her up and make her go. All she needed was some oil and a new belt.

Even her bobbin winder works! She has a top-drop bobbin case - I bought some bobbins to fit.

My DD and I are in love -she is so nice!

I have been working at some chain piecing to get my hands and feet used to being coordinated together when I sew. It is great fun. I love the fact that Nellie and I work without electricity.

I wonder who owned her before I did? What did she make for her first owner in 1916?

Oh, and why is she called Nellie? After Dame Nellie Melba, another hard working Singer!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't throw it out- celery trimmings soup

You know how you buy celery, and cut off the leaves etc? You seem to get an awfully big pile of stuff to throw out -often bigger than the stalks that you save.

There is no need to throw them out! You can use celery leaves in salads -but most people find them a bit strong in taste, so this is not a solution for all of the leaves in the bunch you have bought.

We love making celery soup with the leaves and trimmings. It is easy and tasty and cheap! As I wrote here it is important that we try to avoid food waste.
Kent pumpkin pieces, onion flakes and water added

1. Wash the leaves etc and chop roughly.
2. Fry one or two onions gently to bring out the sweetness of the onions.
3. Add some chopped pumpkin or sweet potato (this is important to counteract the bitterness of the celery, but if you can substitute corn kernels or a tin of creamed corn)
4. Add a lot of water (probably 3 litres) to cover everything
5. If you have them dried onion flakes are a lovely addition -they are quite sweet too

6. At this point you can proceed directly to simmering and stuff, but I usually check the fridge and throw in any left overs I might have -this is not necessary but adds depth of flavour.

7. After at least an hour of simmering (2-3 is great) remove some of the fluid and set aside. You want a creamy soup with some body, so don't be afraid to take out quite a bit of liquid-you can put it back later if it looks too thick, but it is impossible to get the fluid out if it is too thin.  I often take out at least a litre. You can freeze the leftover liquid for stock to use in another soup.
Veggie stock removed from the soup -for the start of another meal - I keep it in the  freezer.

8. Using a stick blender, blitz the whole thing.

9. Add some powdered milk and blitz again (start with half a cup of powdered milk). You can also use cream if you have it, or coconut milk is nice too.

10. Check the taste and adjust seasonings.

Enjoy your soup, with crusty bread for preference.

Save the leftovers in small containers (freeze it if not being used immediately) and take to work, and

 congratulate yourself on making nutritious food from things you would otherwise have thrown out!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Winter Feast

 This is the mantle that my crafty DD decorated in anticipation of the Second Winter Feast we have held in honor of the solstice.

 A choir of birds and musicians among the holly and the ivy.

 Venetian masks -one looking back over the year that has been, one looking ahead to the year that is coming.

 A table set for 10 in the lounge room because we can't fit ten in the dining room-in summer of course we would just eat outside on the patio. We invited friends, who brought contributions to the meal.

We served pastries and dukkah with home made bread and sparkling wine for starters.
Roast pork, beef casserole, roasted vegetables, a green salad and a potato bake for the main course.
Figgy pudding with butterscotch sauce and drunken pears for dessert.

 We lit the room with lots of candles. There was more holly and ivy on the table.

 It was a lovely night!
It ended with DH giving our guests a Winter Package of home made marmalade, home grown lemons and turnips and Kaffir lime and bay leaves -just a little sharing of our harvest.
From now on the days start getting longer-yippee!