Quilty goodness

Three more quilt squares done!

Feathers. Apart from a wee bit of wobbliness in the corner (mainly caused by not having enough fabric to be able to get a decent grip to move it properly), this one went really well. It looks really cool on the back, too:

Next is Ocean Current. This was definitely made easier by being able to better see what I was doing with the new foot. Still got a bit wobbly in places, but again, I think it was because I was working so close to the edge of the quilt.

And finally, the square with the paper-pieced heart. I decided ages ago I wanted to “stitch the ditch” around the heart to make it stand out, but I hadn’t made up my mind what pattern to use in the background. But recent developments in America gave me the obvious solution: rainbows! (Come on Australia, your turn now…)

The pattern is called Echo Rainbow, and involved a *lot* of backtracking. It was harder than I anticipated to work around the heart, which is why some of the rainbows ended up funny sizes and shapes, but otherwise I think it went ok.

It looks much better on the back, especially the way the heart really pops out:

So that’s all the quilting done!

All that’s left to do now is the binding. Which will be quite a big job (especially if I do it “properly” and hand-stitch it. I suspect I might cheat and do it on the machine, though…). I might make a start today, but I really should spend some time preparing for my interview tomorrow (and a speech for Toastmasters tonight!), so I don’t know how much progress I’ll have time to make. But I’m pretty happy with how it’s looking so far 🙂

Reporting in

Definitely a lot easier to see what I’m doing! I can actually backtrack along lines of stitching without having to guess whether I’m staying on the same line or not (of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t go off the lines occasionally still (as you can tell above!), but that’s more about getting my speed under control).

I’m not sure if the new needle is an improvement or not – it’s hard to tell so far. I’m not even sure if I’m using the right sort of needle, because I haven’t quite got my head around what the different needle sizes and types mean yet (for those of you who understand such things, I’m using a 90/14 quilting needle – if you think I should be using something different, please do tell me, because I have no idea!).

I have a theory about why I’m struggling to get the right speed though, when I thought a few months ago that I had it sorted. With this cold weather, I’ve been wearing socks when I’m sewing, rather than my normal bare feet. So I’m not able to get the same feel for how much I’m pressing down on the foot pedal. I think I might try the next panel with bare feet (might have to put the heater on first, though!) and see if that goes any better.

Anyway, this pattern is called McTavishing. My version doesn’t quite look like the examples I was following, but I felt like I was starting to get the idea by the end. Probably should have picked something simpler as a test for the new foot, but I’m not very good at keeping things easy (as you may have noticed…).

P.S. Yep, just tried without socks, and it’s working perfectly. Cold feet for me from now on!

An expensive wee bit of metal

Just got back from town, where I bought myself a birthday present. If I tell you it was small, very expensive, and made of metal, I’m sure some of you will be thinking jewellery. Nope, sorry to disappoint you, but it’s actually a quilting foot for The Beast. I’ve been using a darning foot for my free motion quilting up ’till now, which works ok, but doesn’t exactly give you a good field of view to see where your stitches are going. So I decided my birthday (and my slowly-increasing skill level) totally justified splurging on the correct tool for the job.

That on the left is my new foot, and on the right is the old darning foot I’ve been using. See what I mean about actually being able to see what I’m doing with this one? I’m really looking forward to trying it – in fact, I think I may have to devote the remainder of the afternoon to quilting, so I can properly test it out.

I also invested in some new needles, because I suspect the ones I’ve been using came with the machine when Granny got it. According to the person who served me in the shop, a needle is only supposed to have a life of 3-4 hours’ sewing. Not 30-odd years then, huh?

Just before I was heading out this morning, I remembered the cat-themed books Lytteltonwitch had gathered for me to release today, so I grabbed an armful and released them along the way:

I shall report back later with quilting progress…

Winning all the things

I decided to take a very long weekend this weekend, because (a) all the stress and uncertainty at work has been very tiring, so a break is definitely in order, (b) my leave is again accumulating to a point that HR will soon start sending me friendly reminders that I really do need to get my balance down, (c) the start of semester is approaching fast, and I’m not at all ready to switch my brain into study mode, so another good reason for a break, and (d) and most importantly, general aversion to having to work on my birthday. As a result, I’m in the middle of four days (plus the weeknd) off – Thursday to Tuesday. So far it hasn’t been totally restful, but it has been most enjoyable.

I did end up going into work briefly on Thursday, but only because before I’d decided to take the day off I’d arranged to meet Judy for coffee at one of the campus cafes, and as I was going to be in the area anyway (because I wanted to drop some books off at the library) it didn’t seem worth rescheduling. It was actually nice to have time to talk properly without having to keep one eye on the clock to race back to work.

I carried on next to Riccarton, where I had a few wee jobs to get done. Again, nice to have the luxury of time to just wander around and look at the shops a bit, rather than racing through in a hurry because I’ve got a million other things to do. I don’t think I’ll ever really enjoy shopping for its own sake, but in small doses it can be pleasant. It also turned out to be one of those shopping expeditions where all the stars align, because literally everything I wanted to buy turned out to be on sale. And some of the stuff that I thought was on sale turned out to be doubly on sale, because it wasn’t only marked down, it was included in a two-for-one deal (like I got two tops (from a proper reasonably expensive shop, not just Farmers (which is turning into the Briscoes of frocks, in its constant sales (how many more parentheses can I nest here?))) that I thought had been marked down from $50-odd to $28 each, but I got them for $28 total!). I was starting to feel like that scene from the Gilmore Girls where Lorelai is justifying her shopping for Luke by saying that everything was a hundred thousand percent off.

Friday was a cleaning and cooking day. I’d invited a few people round for a birthday lunch on Saturday, and they included a fair proportion of vegetarians and vegans, so I decided the easiest (and most weather appropriate) solution was to make soup. Soup can almost always be converted to vegan, by just swapping out butter for olive oil, and using vegetable stock as a base. So I ended up making two vegan soups (carrot and coriander, and pumpkin and kumara), and one that was vegetarian but not vegan (because broccoli and cheese soup really does need to include the cheese). Plus of course I made a suitably decadent cake (because what’s a birthday without cake?). It worked out really well, because I was able to get everything all prepared so that on Saturday morning all I had to do was reheat the soups, and bake some bread to go with them.

The lunch was great – everyone enjoyed the soup, we had an excess of cake (because Rosalee brought along a vegan chocolate cake (which was good (and also much tastier than I’d expected) because I still haven’t figured out how to achieve cake without using eggs, so I hadn’t managed to provide cakey-goodness for the veganly inclined), and Lytteltonwitch brought a cake as well, and played many extremely geeky board games all afternoon (and long into the evening – the Gwilks and Lytteltonwitch stayed for dinner (of leftover soup) so we could have another game or two (or three…)). And best of all, Lytteltonwitch stayed and helped me clean up afterwards, so this morning was blissfully free of major cleaning operations. Life is good 🙂

I’d said no presents, but Lytteltonwitch passed a bookshop on her way here, and couldn’t resist buying me a colouring book of “cool cats” she spotted in the window. They certainly were cool, and the book got passed around a lot during the course of the afternoon, identifying cats (and a few people 🙂 ) they recognised in the drawings. I’ll have to scan some of the pictures and post them here as I colour them in.

In other news, I won a prize in Tartankiwi’s In Flight quilt-along! She has a draw every month or so, and enters the names of everyone who’s sewn that month’s birds. And I won this months’ draw! My prize is some fabric and a few of her patterns – very exciting! She’s added three new birds to the quilt-along – too late for me to add them to my quilt top, but they look really cool, so I might make them anyway, and either put them on the back of the quilt, or on some cushions. Though of course with semester 2 looming I might not have time to get them done for the actual quilt-along – they might have to wait until the summer.

And in other other news, I have a job interview on Wednesday morning. It’s for that job I mentioned that I applied for as a backup, and which I’m not entirely sure I want. So my next few restful days might not be quite as restful as I’d hoped, because I’ll have to prepare for the interview (and worry about what I’m going to do if they actually offer it to me!). I haven’t had a job interview for years – better brush up all my answers to those stock “where do you see yourself in five years?” questions…

Finally, a couple of pretty pictures:

At the Steampunk fair in Oamaru there was someone selling pictures printed onto old book pages. I bought these two, an Alice in Wonderland and a compass printed on dictionary pages (which of course appealed to me 🙂 ). On Thursday I finally got round to buying frames and mounted them on coloured corrugated card. The colours don’t show up very well here, but one’s burgundy, and the other dark green. They turned out really well, so I’ve now got them hanging in my hallway by the entrance to my study.


A rainy sleety day yesterday, followed by a harsh frost last night (though not as harsh as some places – according to The Press, it got down to -20oC up at Lake Pukaki last night!!!) means that the entire city is coated with ice this morning.  Getting to work was a bit of a challenge as a result – I set out to walk, but realised half way down my driveway that wasn’t going to be an option.  Having grown up in Central, I’m pretty good at walking on black ice, but walking nearly 4km on it did not at all appeal (quite apart from the fact that I’d have to walk so slowly so as not to fall over that there’s no way I’d get there on time).

So I decided to catch the bus instead, which turned out to be not much faster than walking, because the traffic was moving so slowly, with everyone being super cautious because of the ice (for those of you from Northern Hemisphere type places with proper winters who are wondering why the council hadn’t salted or gritted the roads, that’s because this kind of weather happens so rarely here that nobody’s prepared for it, so the council doesn’t actually have any of the equipment or materials they’d need for such a job.  It’s the same when it snows – the city just shuts down for the day…).  Listening to the chatter over the bus driver’s radio, it sounded like there were quite a few accidents happening despite the cautious driving. I finally made it into work half an hour late, to find a message from my boss saying he wasn’t coming in at all – he normally bikes in, but couldn’t keep his bike upright for more than a few metres at a time, so decided to work from home.  Wish I’d thought of that!

Oh well, at least I’m in my nice warm(ish) office now, and don’t have to go out again until this evening (well, unless I venture out to the student cafe later for a nice warming hot chocolate), by which time hopefully the ice will have thawed. Yay winter.

Being social

It’s been a very social weekend. Actually, more than just the weekend, because on Friday the CEISMIC team spent the day at the NDF Bar Camp, an “unconference” to discuss digital issues in the cultural heritage sector.  Lots of exciting conversations and ideas, and seriously inspiring.  Tiring though, in that way of an event where you’ve got your brain switched on all day. There were drinks afterwards, of course, during which the fascinating conversations continued, but I only stayed for an hour, because I was meeting a few of the Toastmasters women for dinner.

The dinner was fun – lots of laughs (and interesting food – we were at a Vietnamese restaurant, and ordered a banquet, so we got to try lots of dishes we hadn’t tried before).  Quite a late night though.  When we left the restaurant, we discovered the intersection blocked off with a fire engine and two police cars, and police tape everywhere.  Earlier we’d noticed flashing lights outside, and had seen an ambulance come and go, but this was an hour or two later, and the police were still there.  It was dark, so hard to tell what was going on, but just as we were driving away (everyone was most concerned about me walking home on my own, even though we were only a few blocks from my place, so Ade insisted on giving me a lift) I realised what looked different about the dairy* on the corner – there was a car inside it.  According to The Press this morning, the driver had a “medical event” (I’m guessing that means heart attack?) while driving, and had gone straight over the roundabout and into the dairy.

*translation for foreigners: small convenience store/corner shop, mainly selling milk, bread and lollies**.

**another translation for foreigners: sweets/candy/confectionery

I’d planned to have a quiet day yesterday, seeing as Friday had been so busy, but Mrs Gwilk rang to say they had a new board game they wanted to try out, but it needed a fourth person to play, so did I feel like coming round.  So that’s where I spent the evening.  The game was really fun – it was a strategy game based on the Firefly TV series (which I’ve never actually seen, but knew vaguely what it was about which was enough to understand the game), where you had to run trade and/or smuggling missions across an interstellar society, while managing things like crew and fuel, and avoiding raiders and customs officials (if you were smuggling).  The end of the game was very dramatic, with Gwilk and I racing to get to a particular planet, with whoever got there first winning the game.  Unfortunately an unlucky roll when raiders attacked meant I got there just behind him, but I think second place is still a pretty respectable result 🙂

It was another late night though, because the game took nearly three hours, and then, after mini-Gwilk went off to bed, Mrs Gwilk suggested we try another, shorter game (“shorter” being a relative term when it comes to board games), so it was nearly 11 by the time I got home.

Then this afternoon was the bookcrossing meetup.  A lot smaller turn out this time – Rarsberry was at a birthday party, and a couple of the others who normally turn up didn’t show, but we did have a new person, so all was not lost.  It was incredibly busy at the cafe, because the Botanic Gardens were having a special event for Matariki (the Maori New Year celebration), so we were lucky to get a table (well, luck combined with the fact that I spotted some people leaving, so I raced over and bagsed their table – which completely confused the poor person who came to clear away their plates!).  The incredibly long queue to order food wasn’t a problem for a bunch of bookcrossers though – we just took our books so we could read while the queue inched forward 🙂

So yeah, fun weekend, but I am now officially all socialled out.  Pity I’ve got to go to work tomorrow and interact with people…

Balloons and glitter

Still no news on the work front, other than that the VC is currently considering our business case, and hopefully should make a decision before our contracts run out (again…).  I’m not sure if I want him to make a decision quickly just to remove the agony of waiting, or if him taking his time and really considering it will increase our chances.

In the meantime, I’ve put in an application for a new position that’s opened up in another department.  It’s not exactly my dream job (which would be to stay with CEISMIC), but it would be a lot more interesting (and pay slightly better) than going back to my old job, and I think my chances of getting it are pretty strong, so it seemed like a good idea to apply as an emergency backup plan in case our business case doesn’t succeed.  Of course, if they do offer it to me, I really hope it’s not until after the VC has given us an answer, or I’m going to have a very difficult decision whether to accept it or not.  Why is life never simple?

I spent yesterday afternoon at the mini-Harvestbird’s birthday party.  I was a bit apprehensive about spending the afternoon in a room full of 5-year-old girls, but it was actually a lot of fun – they were so completely over-the-top excited about it all. There were balloons, and glitter, and princessy party dresses, and violently-coloured birthday cake, and hundreds-and-thousands sandwiches, and pass the parcel and musical chairs, and I could totally see why mini-Harvestbird declared with shining eyes as the cake appeared, “This is the best day of my whole life!”

I took my camera, mainly so I could take some photos of the mini-Harvestbirds as a belated birthday present for Harvestbird herself.  Most of the photos I took have the other children in them, so I won’t post them here (I got permission from Harvestbird to post pictures of her children, but I didn’t ask any of the other parents).  But a few judiciously cropped photos will give you a taste:

The birthday girl. The party was Frozen-themed (of course), but this Little Mermaid doll was the hit present of the party.

It was also a hit with the minier-Harvestbird, who absconded with it at every opportunity.

“This is the best day of my whole life!”

My presents to the girls (I missed the minier-Harvestbird’s birthday while I was in Oamaru, so I brought a present along for her too) weren’t so exciting as the mermaid doll, but hopefully will at least come in handy: because mini-Harvestbird will be starting school next week, I made them both pencil cases with their initials on, filled with coloured pencils in mini-Harvestbird’s case, and small-child-friendlier crayons in minier-Harvestbird’s.

Some of the sewing is a bit rough round the edges – I was racing to get them finished last weekend – but I was pretty pleased with the overall effect of the patchwork, which was another attempt at the totally random scrappy patchworking technique I used for my hot water bottle.

Having survived the birthday party, I spent the rest of the weekend working on my experimental quilt, and got five more squares quilted:

A single-motif pattern called The Easiest Flower Ever. Dunno if it was the easiest ever (well, maybe the flower itself was, but I messed up the leaves), but it worked nicely as a warm-up to the more complicated patterns.

This one is called Tangle of Lights, and is supposed to be reminiscent of pulling Christmas tree lights out of their box.

Trailing Spirals – a lot less dense than most of the other patterns I’ve tried, so might be nice to use for a really soft and drapey sort of quilt (the closer together your lines of sewing are, the stiffer the quilt ends up).

Flower Power – as you can probably spot, by the same designer as the Easiest Flower Ever and the Happy Blossoms I did last weekend. This was a fun and (mostly) easy pattern – I only got myself stuck in awkward corners a couple of times…

Spider Web – this one was a lot harder than it looks. I just couldn’t get my speed right to be able to control all those little arcs of web, plus keeping a steady outward spiral is very difficult when you can’t entirely see where you’re going (you have a surprisingly limited field of view when free-motion quilting, because you’re concentrating on the tiny area you’re actually sewing, and the machine blocks your view of the rest of the quilt).

If you’ve been keeping track at home, that’s 21 blocks quilted, so there’s only the four corner blocks to go now (which will be the hardest ones, because there’s not a lot of fabric to hold onto, and a huge weight of quilt trying to drag the fabric out from under the needle). Which is good, because I’m running out of patterns that meet my criteria of looks like it will be interesting, but not too incredibly difficult 🙂

Blossoms and Snowflakes

A couple more FMQ squares for my experimental quilt (at this rate, winter will be over before I get it finished…):

This pattern is called Happy Blossoms, and it was a nice fun one to sew (even if I got confused on a few of the flowers) – it flows quite nicely.

And this is The Snowflake, another pattern that’s greatly helped by drawing chalk guidelines (just ignore the few wee places where I veered totally off the lines).  The snowballs were supposed to be randomly placed, but apparently I’m not very good at doing random, because I seem to have ended up with diagonal rows of them.

Other than that, and a bit of working on a wee secret project for an upcoming birthday party, I’ve had a very lazy weekend.  Last weekend was so full-on (as well as the Oamaru trip, I went to Alex’s farewell lunch on the Monday), and then work is still reasonably stressful while we wait for a decision on our future, that I pretty much ran out of go this weekend, and spent a lot of time vaguely mucking around on the internet and watching youtube videos.  Not the most constructive way to use my time, but sometimes necessary.

On Friday afternoon a few of us from work went to visit the Whole House Reuse exhibition at the museum.  Whole House Reuse is an amazing project – they took a redzone house that was scheduled for demolition, and salvaged as much of the material as possible (it was supposed to be all of the material, hence “whole house”, but they found asbestos in the insulation, so had to dispose of that), then asked artists and craftspeople to find ways to reuse the material in creative ways.  The idea being to show just how much material that normally ends up in landfill when a house is demolished is actually still useful.

We worked with the Whole House Reuse team at the beginning of the project to archive their catalogue of all the materials recovered from the house, so we were really keen to see the exhibition of works created from the material.  There’s some really amazing stuff, everything from a whole new building (a 10 square metre “tiny house”) down to jewellery.  There’s some incredibly imaginative uses of material, too, like light-switch casings turned into picture frames.  Hopefully we’ll be getting pictures and documentation from all of the artists to add to the collection in CEISMIC.  There’s going to be an auction at the end of the exhibition, and I’m very tempted to attempt to buy one of the smaller pieces for myself.  They may all end up being way out of my price range, but I’d love to have a part of such a cool project.

After the museum closed, I met up with Lytteltonwitch and we went over to The Commons for dinner.  The food trucks that were at the Square every Friday night over the summer are at The Commons one Friday a month over winter.  It was very cold, and the ground was pretty wet after the rain, so you had to be careful dodging puddles in the dark, but there was a great atmosphere and loads of exciting options for food.  Jan was there with her pop-up tearooms, doing bacon butties and puddings, so of course we had to sample both, and then we were tempted by several of the other stalls, so ended up eating way too much (and I still didn’t get to sample half the things I’d have liked to – I think I would have exploded if I’d eaten anything else, though).

I got to try out the new bus exchange on the way home (only half of it is open, but it’s the half my bus leaves from) – a huge improvement on the temporary one, if only because you get to wait for your bus inside and sheltered from the weather.  It seems a lot nicer than the old one, too, though that might just be because it’s new.  But it felt a lot more welcoming to me, and safer, too (though I’m not sure what exactly was making me feel that).  Nice to finally see one of the many promised anchor projects finally open, anyway.

Stick some gears on it (warning, many many photos)

Lytteltonwitch and I spent the weekend in Oamaru, where they were holding their annual Steampunk Festival.  We didn’t dress up ourselves, but we did go to a few of the events. I think what was most fun though was just seeing all the costumed people wandering around the streets.

I wasn’t brave enough to actually ask people to pose for a photo very often – most of the photos I just took without asking (not that anyone seemed to mind when the did notice I was taking a photo – I think walking around in costume pretty much comes with the assumption that people will take your photo).  I should have asked more often, though, because those photos are definitely the ones that came out best.  Although some of the unposed ones did make for fun juxtapositions.

There was a Steampunk Market on the Saturday, with some amazing costumes on both customers and stall-holders:

Also on Saturday we went to a talk about the science of Scott’s Antarctic expedition (the speaker arguing that the expedition was far from the incompetent “boy’s own adventure” it has been portrayed as in the popular media, but rather was a serious scientific expedition, with many of the “bad” decisions Scott made being explained by the fact that he was more concerned with collecting good data than with his own or his team’s safety.

Then later in the afternoon was a dramatised reading of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, performed by a group from Wellington, accompanied by much audience participation in the form of flag-waving and shouts of “Huzzah!” at appropriate moments.  The performers led us on a walk around Oamaru, stopping at various points to perform another Fit of the poem.

The cast:

Most of the audience were just as decorative as the performers:


Lytteltonwitch was trusted with the holding of the Jubjub bird staff.  So of course she immediately started trying to peck people with it…

On Sunday we saw even more elaborate costumes at the fashion show.  The contestants were judged not only on their costumes, but also on the backstories they’d come up with for their characters.  Some of them were very clever (and a couple were just incomprehensible…).  There was an audience choice section, and it was very difficult to choose who to vote for, because there were so many amazing costumes and stories.

I didn’t get many photos at the show, because we were sitting a few rows back, so I had the choice of either getting lots of audience heads in my photos, or standing up and annoying the people behind me.  So I didn’t take any photos during the competition itself, but did manage to grab a few during the photo shoot session they had while waiting for the judges to return.

This woman’s costume was amazing (she was Absinthe, The Green Fairy), but obviously it was also amazingly heavy, because she had so much trouble walking in it that she needed the help of her kilted companion (who I gathered was her partner, who didn’t normally participate in steampunk events, but had dressed up so he could accompany her on stage) to stop from falling over as she walked the catwalk, and her smile had more than a hint of grimace of pain to it.

[Edit: I’ve been informed that I was mistaken in my assumption that the Green Fairy was suffering under the weight of her wings.  In fact, her wings are very lightweight, but due to an accident she has difficulty walking and climbing stairs, and having spent most of the day on her feet while rehearsing for the show, was in a lot of pain, hence the need for her companion to assist her.  Makes her achievement in participating in the show all the more impressive!]

Another view of those massive wings.

Although the MC tried to coordinate the photoshoot, asking the contestants to all face to one side of the runway or the other, he had limited success, because they all kept turning the wrong way to wave to friends in the audience. Because of where I was sitting, I couldn’t get everyone in frame anyway (and never did manage to get a photo of the people at the far end of the runway), so this is the closest I got to a group shot of all the costumes.

The woman with the multi-coloured parasol and her green-suited partner (who featured earlier in the Hunting of the Snark cast) were who I ended up voting for, mainly because their story was very clever (it involved a safari to hunt tea-krakkens).

Oamaru is definitely embracing its new steampunk identity, with a lot of businesses cashing in on the trend (with varying degrees of successs – probably because it’s pretty obvious which ones are only doing it to try and attract tourist dollars).  This sculpture outside a car dealership was pretty cool, though:

And of course, in the midst of the Victorian quarter is Steampunk HQ itself, a very strange place that’s a cross between a junkyard and an art installation, and definitely an entertaining place to explore.

There’s a steampunk-themed playground, too, with elaborately-carved old trees decorating its boundary:

It wasn’t all steampunk though.  We did take an early-morning walk around the waterfront (and later, rode the old train back round the same route – I think the train’s supposed to be for kids, but we still had fun 🙂 )

We also visited an art gallery, which (among other things) had a WW1 commemoration that was very well done.  If you’ve been to Oamaru, you might have noticed the avenue of trees going up the hill, each of which was planted in memory of a local man killed in the war, and each of which bears a brass plaque with his name.  Over the years, many of the trees have had to be cut down for various reasons (mostly because they were dying), so the plaques were preserved.  The exhibition displayed all of the removed plaques, turning them into temporary artworks.  (Only one sneaky photo, because I wasn’t sure if photography was allowed inside the gallery).

And on Sunday morning we took an early-morning walk through the botanic gardens, which were shivering under a very heavy frost (there was even a decent layer of ice on one of the ponds):