Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Lotta Hexies Olympic challenge

I am a sporting tragic. There. I said it. If a football game is on the TV - AFL or Rugby League - I will watch it. Basketball - I'm there. Tennis. Hello?

Olympics? Oh, now you're talking.

I took long service leave during the 2000 Sydney Olympics so I could go to the occasional event in Canberra and Sydney, and sit and watch the coverage on TV all the other times. I can't remember if I was sewing anything at the time - perhaps a redwork quilt, as I was very into stitchery at the time. But for the 2012 London Olympics I wanted to sew something to commemorate it.

Enter Lotta Jansdotter, and her superb range "Echo" which was released last October just a few days before I turned up Purl Soho in New York and purchased multiple half yard lengths of most of the range.

This is Purl Soho.

Purl Soho

And this is me outside Purl Soho, and I can't quite believe that someone who doesn't even pay attention to the selvedge of fabrics has just purchased a sizable amount of the ONE RANGE. This is not something I ever do, unless it's Kaffe.

Outside Purl Soho

Lotta (because I'm on first name terms with that part of my stash) sat around for a few months after we came home while I worked out what I wanted to do with it. The prints are quite large, so a big block was the way to go. One day I saw a photo of a quilt with gigantic hexagons and that gave me the idea of a big block hexagon and diamond quilt.

Preparing the grey diamonds

I'm using three inch papers. The grey fabric was already in my stash - I'd been busting to use it for ages but it was never suitable, but this time it is.

I started sewing on Day 1 of the Olympics, and by the end of the day I had this. I'm not a fast stitcher, but the gigantic shapes make everything so much quicker. I won't lie - it's satisfying.

End of Day 1 of Olympics

And by the end of day 2 I had this.

End of Day 2 of Olympics

I'm not sure how much progress I'm going to make over the next week - I'm at choir two nights and quilt group one. Then there's that pesky daytime job that gets in my way.


I love the fabric so much. Possibly more than I love Kaffe fabrics. Lotta has a new range coming out in a couple of weeks called Bella, and I will definitely be getting some of this too. Apparently Bella matches well with Echo, so I'm hoping I'll have room in this quilt to incorporate them.

Are you making anything while you're watching the Olympics coverage?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to make an Australian quilt

As I type this, the great movie "How to Make an American Quilt" is playing on the TV which is appropriate as I stitch quickly to finish my Twisted Hexagons quilt for the Canberra Quilters Exhibition.

Twisted Hexagons

I got my quilt back from the longarm quilter a few weeks ago, and then spent over a week agonising. Raylee did a brilliant job on the quilting, however I didn't think through those pointy side bits very well. I mean, I only had seven years to think it over. A night of practicing a different binding technique to get corners that were perfect ended in tears, and a pair of scissors up the sides of the quilt was the only answer.

Twisted Hexagons

I now had straight edges to bind. It doesn't make the quilt as interesting now, but I wasn't really interested in a quilt causing me that much stress.

Twisted hexagons

I hand stitched over 10 metres of binding to the quilt. Binding is my favourite part of quilting, which was just as well.

Twisted Hexagons

Making over 200 blocks weren't enough, and I found myself making one last one for the label.

Twisted Hexagons

No other label would have worked as well.

I still have to sew a hanging sleeve on the quilt, and then on Saturday I hand over custody to the exhibition committee. I won't see it again until the exhibition opens a couple of weeks later. I'm pretty excited about seeing my Twisted Hexagons in the show, after so much work. I've loved making it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Clear air

Carrie and I have a stall at the Old Bus Depot Markets tomorrow, for the Creative Fibre Day. This is usually a lot more relaxed than the Celebration of Wool Day in May, so I'm really looking forward to it!

However there was that little issue of stock. I had none. I bought a lot of fabric in Townsville and Charters Towers to make bags ... and then nothing. Zilch. Absolutely no desire to ever make a bag ever again. I'm not too sure what came over me. I was mentally just not prepared to sew under pressure, and to another deadline.

Making bags for the market

But sew I did, and I eked out six project bags earlier in the week. Then in a flash of late night inspiration, I rummaged through my "cut and ready to sew" box and came across the makings of 15 Sunnyboys and box bags ready to go.

Making bags for the market

A lot of quilting and a lot more sewing later, I had myself the first Sunnyboys and Boxes for Socks I'd made in a couple of years. And they were FUN!

Making bags for the market

My sewjo might be back but first it was time to move my feet. As much as sewing is a major part of my life and a cure for stress and anxiety, moving my body is just as important. Since I climbed Castle Hill the other week, my enthusiasm for getting outside and moving my butt (I hate calling it exercise because I refuse to do it unless it's fun) has increased tenfold.

Bushwalk - Mt Majura Nature Reserve

I have become so addicted to walking through the bush - boring, flat suburban walks do nothing for me anymore. I just wish the days were longer, but they will be soon enough.

Bushwalk - Mt Majura Nature Reserve

I love stopping to catch my breath and spying a mossy mound, or hearing croaking frogs in a dam in the valley below or seeing kangaroos grazing on the field ahead. These photos were taken in a nature reserve not far from my house. There is a mountain I can climb here, but I haven't gotten around to that yet. The bush trails are just too interesting for the moment.

Bushwalk - Mt Majura Nature Reserve

Back to base camp (my house in my boring, flat suburb), and I sort out stock for the market on my ironing board. I have six project sacks, 10 boxes for socks, five Sunnyboys and three needlecases that I found in another box marked "stock".  Lucky.

Making bags for the market

I might have energy to sew another three bags tonight. Or perhaps I'll take my chances with the market tomorrow, relax in front of the footy, make a cup of tea and stitch some more of these.

Hexy MF - 50

Hexy MF - 50

Fifty-two made in a month. I surprise even myself sometimes.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A retreat of hexaholics

Because surely "retreat" is the correct collective noun for a group of hexaholics in the same location?

The retreat I attended in Townsville was the annual retreat of an online guild called Southern Cross Quilters. I've been a member for 12 years, but this was only my third retreat. And because it was in my hometown this year I definitely had to go.

A couple of weeks prior, we retreaters were discussing which projects we were going to bring for the 2 1/2 days of sit and sew that were planned. I mentioned that I had three English paper piecing projects on the go and I was going to bring at least two of them along. And that's when all the fellow hexaholics came out of the woodwork and we had ourselves a truly hexerrific and inspiring retreat. I only managed to capture a few of the projects on the go as I was in classes for two mornings and missed a lot of the goings on. If you want to see more, take a look at Cathy's blog post on the retreat.

This is the latest project of my dear friend Cathy Miller. Cathy and her husband John came all the way from Canada for the retreat, and she sang at the Friday night dinner as well. Her quilt is a snowflake ... of hexagons. The white fabric is a super sparkly fabric. It's just gorgeous.

Cathy's snowflake hexagon quilt

Close up of Cathy's sparkly snowflake quilt

Helen brought along some quilt-as-you-go hexagons made from siggie squares. Each retreat we swap signature blocks and fabric squares evocative of the theme of that retreat. I think Helen is using the Bendigo retreat siggie squares but I could be wrong.

Helen's Quilt-as-you-go hexagons, made from siggie blocks

Joy has been working on a Candied Hexagon quilt. I've heard so much about the pattern, but had never seen a block up close. No wonder it gets the name "Candied".

Joy's Candied Hexagons

Joy's Candied Hexagons

Sarah was working on some mahoosive 2 1/2 inch flowers using Kaffe fabric. The pattern is actually in the latest Quilters Companion magazine.

Sarah's quilt

Barbara's 3/4 inch scrappy hexagon quilt was absolutely spectacular.

Barbara's flower garden quilt

As was Lissa's 1 inch grandmother's flower garden quilt using 1930s reproduction fabrics. She told me that every flower had a different fabric. That's quite some collection on 1930s fabrics she has!

Lissa's flower garden quilt

People also brought along some show and tell. Cathy brought two of her amazing hexagon quilts. This one is called "Seven Garden Maze" and is made from 1/2 inch blocks and dupioni silk. She gave me the pattern to this, on the condition that I make one of my own and send her a photo. Cathy - I've ordered the papers. They arrive in 10 days.

Cathy Miller's Seven Garden Maze

And just when you thought that quilt was spectacular, Cathy also made this one. It's called "Insanity" because it's made from 1/4 inch papers and quilted with colonial knots. Yes, I did just type 1/4 inch.

Cathy Miller's Insanity quilt

Cathy Miller's Insanity quilt

And what did I work on while at retreat?

Friday stitching

My Hexy MF quilt got quite the headstart while I was away. I managed to stitch and baste all these.

What I sewed while on retreat

It was a great, great retreat.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Castle Hill

I've just returned from a quilt retreat in Townsville, but before I get into the shenanigans we got up to (oh yeah!) I wanted to document my walk up Castle Hill, more for myself than anything else because I never want to forget that feeling of exhilaration.

I'd climbed the Goat Track up Castle Hill a couple of times when I was a teenager but I was fitter and younger and skinnier back then. But after getting such great news from the surgeon the other week, I knew I had to climb Castle Hill, to prove to myself and everyone once and for all that I was a survivor. Also - because it's there and why not? (You'd be amazed how many people asked me "BUT WHY?" and failed to understand why when I told them.)

Start of Cudtheringa track - yes that's a man in a chicken suit. Sigh.

I started my climb on the Cudtheringa (or Cutheringa) Track. It starts on the side of the hill off the Castle Hill Road, and climbs and meanders in front of the face of the hill until you get to the other side where the real hard work begins. When I arrived at the track, I was horrified to see not only a man in a chicken suit, but a billy goat AND a television crew.

the track starts off quite steep. I managed to walk around the television crew, the goat and the chicken, and climbed rocks and rocky stairs until I needed a break. That's when I realised the goat was following me and the camera was filming it, and my derriere. For reference, the goat handled the climb better than I did. For further reference I watched the channel 7 local news that night and was relieved to see any shots of my derriere, flattering or otherwise, ended up on the editing room floor. Phew.

Cudtheringa Track

Cudtheringa Track

These photos make the Cudtheringa track seem gentle and harmless, but it wasn't. There were a lot of rocky steep tracks and boulders, but also beautiful views to North Ward and the Strand below. I was surprised to be walking through some remnant coastal rainforest at one point - from below and above, Castle Hill seems to be just rock and grass.

View of North Ward from Cudtheringa Track

Castle Hill from Cudtheringa Track

Castle Hill taunted me from above. It just seemed too high to conquer. Frustratingly, there were a lot of people on the track RUNNING. Some passed me at the beginning and passed me again coming back the other way when I was only half way up. But everyone was really friendly, which is typical of Townsville, and very supportive when we chatted. They were possibly secretly concerned about whether the fat girl was going to make it up the hill without suffering a heartie.

Start of the Goat Track

I walked up the Cudtheringa Track until I got to the Goat Track. This track actually starts at the old quarry in North Ward and is a lot shorter than the Cudtheringa/Goat Track combination, but also a lot steeper. My  friend Cathy did this walk on Monday (she blogged about it here). I needed this track to get to the top of the hill. When I as a kid, there weren't stairs - it was a dirt track, with a lot of sheer rock climbing. Nowadays it's a massive rock and dirt staircase. Obviously built by a sadistic 6'5" person because most of those stairs are a foot high.

Goat Track

Goat Track

I walked most of the way up the goat track with these two girls. They were so lovely and very encouraging. They advised me to walk back down via the road, as the track got scary and steep going down. I think it was good advice.

Goat Track - redder face than my red shirt

It was a warm day - about 27 degrees, mostly cloudy with a bit of hot sun occassionally. My face got redder than my shirt, and only a little bit of that was from the sunburn.

Castle Hill Road at the end of the Goat Track

Finally I got to the road. My two friends were long gone, having found their hundredth wind. 150 metres of walking up the road, and I was at my destination - the lookout.

Pallarenda, Rowes Bay, Magnetic Island

That's Magnetic Island in the distance,  Pallarenda to the left, and Rowes Bay at low tide. Kissing Point and the rock pool are that nob of land in the middle of the photo, and the houses North Ward are below me. Those tennis courts I used to play on as a teenager. Townsville is so beautiful. No wonder I get homesick.

Best of all I felt AMAZING at the top. Exhilarated, like I'd just run a marathon, or climbed a really big hill (ha!). I did it, all by myself, and I had an absolute ball doing it. I took my time, enjoyed the views along the way, thoroughly enjoyed the walk, loved chatting to people I met and now it was time to just drink that all in. And stitch a HexyMF flower to celebrate life and it's battles, for both me and for Cam.

I stitched a hexagon flower at the top of Castle Hill

It was good to take in that amazing view and quietly stitch and let my heart rate and red face subside. I still had to walk back down that hill.

I stitched a hexyMF flower on top of Castle Hill

I climbed to another lookout and took a photo, and then turned around and walked back down the hill.

Castle Hill road heading back down

And tried not to get killed. There were heaps of walkers and runners travelling up and down the hill, but also lots of cars. While climbing up the hill killed my calf muscles, walking down the hill killed my hips. About half way down I spied a dirt track and on speaking with a family group behind me, the teenage boy in the group and I took off down it. He told me it cut off about a kilometre of bitumen road and he preferred it to walking down the road. Dirt tracks, even steep ones, are so much more pleasant to walk on. At the end of the track we appeared just above North Ward and not far from where I started my walk. I said thanks to my companion, and kept walking.

Castle Hill from Kennedy St North Ward

Down Kennedy Street.

Queens Gardens

Queens Gardens

Queens Gardens

Queens Gardens

Through the cool and green Queens Gardens where I spent so much time as a kid.

And onto Gregory Street. By this time I was starving - it was 2 pm, I'd been walking for almost 4 hours (with an hour break at the top) and I pounced on the menu of the first cafe I came across that had nice, light meals. I ordered an open chicken sandwich, but what I got was a whole lot more than a light meal.


From there I walked to the Strand a couple of blocks away and was set to walk the 20 minutes back to my hotel when I was hit with exhaustion so grabbed a cab.

View from room at Jupiters

When I got back to my room I put my togs on immediately and went for a swim. When your hotel pool looks like this, you would too. I swam a few laps (!!) and sat in a cold spa to soothe my aches. Then I went to back to my room and got really, really sick. That damn chicken sandwich with multiple layers of oil and fat (pesto, avocado, cheese, olive oil, aoli, chips) and my lack of gallbladder finally did me in. I missed the pre-retreat dinner that night but I didn't mind. I was still high on endorphins, even if I was nursing a bottle of flat lemonade for dinner and rubbing Difflam into my sore hips and calves.

Days later I was still high on my achievements but I couldn't walk or climb stairs without yelping. I know people climb Castle Hill every day for fitness, and I know I'm no one special in climbing it. But I feel pretty bloody special. It was my personal marathon, my flip of the middle finger to the memory of the horror of last year.

And that's enough for me.