Sunday, October 13, 2013

Is this thing on?

Oh! There you are! So hey - I know I'm not around these parts anymore, but you might still be. And you might like to know that while I haven't been blogging, I've been getting ready to reopen my online store.

Yep - it's amazing how losing one creative outlet suddenly gives you the space to both see clearly, and find room in your day to start creating for others again.

I'm not on Etsy anymore - I have my own domain name and I'm using BigCartel. I get more control that way, but probably less foot traffic. And that's OK.

Wanna see what I've been making?


See you around!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Catch ya later, alligator

I've been thinking about this for years. How much time we spend online, sharing our lives - personal or crafting. How much expectation we place on ourselves getting blog posts written, performing the ultimate show and tell. How much stuff we make is for ourselves, and how much is purely "for the blog".

I've been blogging a really long time. I have met some amazing people - incredible people - who have become the dearest real life friends. I couldn't hope to meet those people were it not for this blog.

But sometimes, despite the friendships and sharing and encouragement, you just don't feel like writing anymore. It seems like a chore, you don't feel like sharing, to tell one story means telling a whole other story as well and you really don't want to go there. And this is how I felt the last fortnight when I thought of how I tell you all about my quilt retreat. And it seemed silly - it felt silly telling you about it, even though it was wonderful.

I've lost my blogging puff. That's all. It's not busy-ness (although I am incredibly busy with house renovations and quilting and the presidency of the quilt guild). It's not even necessarily about privacy, although that is playing a factor. It definitely has nothing to do with comments or readers.

I'm just ... done.

So I'd like to thank all of you who have come by in the last nine years. Thank you for sharing right back, for inspiring me, for teaching me great things, and in many cases for becoming the greatest friends a girl could ever hope to know. I think I might miss this blog one day, but at the moment I find that hard to believe. I might even be back one day, but again I find that unlikely. I'm not going to stop making, stop baking or stop gardening. I will still always be a bike-riding, lap-swimming, sewing, quilting, cooking, gardening, Pyrex-loving socialist girl from Canberra via North Queensland, who looks for the positive in everything but sometime struggles to find it, and needs to make something every single day.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Going on retreat

On Sunday night I am going on a quilt retreat for several days.

I'm so excited. I'm looking forward to nice meals not cooked by me. The splendid company of fellow quilters. And top-notch workshops delivered by well-known quilters.


In the middle of the excitement there will be a few swims and some strolls around the place. I've heard that the retreat location is quite beautiful.

Most of what I'm excited about though will be the ability to switch off and just focus on my sewing and what I'm learning. No distractions, no obligations. Sounds perfect to me.

I might get the chance to update you about what I'm learning. Or I might be too tired and sore at the and of each day. But I will try.

I'm leaving all my show quilts behind - I will finish them when I return from retreat, when I'll be rested and full of ideas for the next quilts I will make.

Retreat - don't you think that's the best word ever?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quilt as you go patchwork bags

Have you ever done a Craftsy course?

Inline image 3

I have. Well, no. I haven't really. I've bought heaps of them over the last year, but most of them are half watched*.Until last weekend, that is. I was lucky enough to do a course by Tara Rebman - quilt as you go patchwork bags! And it hooked me from the get-go. I sat there all Saturday morning, fueled by coffee, laughs, and buckets of inspiration.

Inline image 2

I learned all about quilting as you go. About potholders. About that insulbrite stuff. About using scraps, and making bags.

And about not being so precious about your precious fabrics - just use them! Seriously, just this bit of encouragement has change the way I look at my stash.

I asked some questions, Tara answered them. And then I went out that afternoon and bought some of that insulbrite stuff, some calico (utility cloth) and some interfacing. I've already practiced on a potholder, as Tara showed in her course. I used the precious fabrics I purchased at the Sydney Quilt Show on Wednesday. I still have to round the corners, back and bind it, but people - I love it. GUESS WHAT EVERYONE IS GETTING FOR CHRISTMAS?

Potholder in progress

And a side artsy fartsy profile. I didn't know my Bernina could quilt that good!

Potholder in progress

I am dying to make the bag, but with the exhibition coming up I need to be a bit careful with my time. But I do intend making one in time for the exhibition - it will be perfect for four days of presidential duties gazing at the quilts and shopping, and the bike ride there and back each day!

Anyway, Tara has generously allowed the readers of this blog a 25% discount off the course. I honestly can't recommend this enough. You'll have fun and you will definitely learn something!

* Which is a whole other blog post of it's own.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Free your mind

I have started improv piecing more and more lately and I'm finding it completely freeing.

It's like with improv piecing I'm allowed to be a crap quilter. Which, if you've been around here long enough, you'll know I have always embraced the wonk that happens when I quilt. But now the wonk is legit because I'm improv piecing. It all started with this quilt from last year (which is still in pieces).

Stitch and flip HSTs - on the design wall

Then moved onto a class with Victoria Findlay-Wolfe a couple of months ago.

15 minutes of play quilt workshop

Then another quilt which I can't really show you because I'm being a secretive git and it's for the exhibition and I'm also a little paranoid because HOLY CARP it's amazeballs (in my own mind, anyway). But here's the back of a block (it's pretty).

Back - improv

Jenny and I decided that I would demo some improv piecing at modern quilt group this week. I'm currently having an off-the-grid (no-Instagram or phone or email) lazy long weekend but that's just given me heaps of time in the sewing room. Here's what I made by way of samples this afternoon.

Improv blocks for class

These two 10 inch blocks have 1.75 inch strips inserted in a cross formation. I really like the thicker strips - I've been working with 1 inch strips and it's a nice change. I know some people like to have those strips match up at the intersection, but it doesn't worry me. If you're one of those people who do, you'll need to get over it when looking at these photos. Sorry.

Improv blocks for class

I've gone back to 1 inch strips for these blocks (which end up at about 10.5 inches). I like the big blocks - you can pack a lot of "sticks" on there without getting into too much strife with intersecting pieces. Yes, I have plans for a pick-up sticks quilt down the track.

Improv blocks for class

And this is a smaller block (7 inches I think) with different strip thicknesses.  I could imagine a whole scrappy quilt made like this - just three strips each block, all prints.

I'm still not finished with the samples. Just a square of fabric and some scrap strips and you can do so much and in such little time and most importantly have SO MUCH FUN. And I reckon if it's not fun it's not worth nuthin'.

But now I'm back to my off-the-grid weekend.  See you sometime soon!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Winners are grinners

Sorry for the delay in drawing a winner. As usual life got in the way. It really needs to stop doing that.

I put all the entries into a Pyrex dish (giveaways always taste better in vintage Pyrex).

Congratulations Sally! I'll be in touch and post your book off to you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I half heartedly decided to join my friends Bron and Ange in making a Scrap Vomit quilt at the end of last year - I participated in a 2.5 inch square worldwide swap, and swapped with some local quilters ... but I still wasn't really feeling the love.

Scrap Vomit Quilt

And then, I dunno. Something happened and I slowly fell in love with it. And then Bron and Ange and I decided to show our collective vomit at the Canberra Quilters exhibition in August this year.

Scrap Vomit Quilt

I got my centre blocks sorted out. I decided on a Suzuko Koseki honeycomb print, charcoal Sketch and citrus Sketch fabrics.

Scrap Vomit Quilt

This photo was taken before I pieced all the blocks together. It took forever - mainly because I'm a pinner.

Scrap Vomit Quilt

The quilt show entry forms are due this Friday, and I need to submit a photo of the top, and some fabric samples. This afternoon was the last chance I had to have photos taken in natural light - winter in Canberra usually means the light is gone by the time I get home from work in the afternoon. It was a rushed affair - Scott had been digging storm water trenches all afternoon and there was a LOT of mud after the weekend's rain.

Scrap Vomit Quilt

And it was really windy. I stood in front of the most protected spot, which also shows off a breathtaking example of our current storm water solution. Just keeping it real, people.

Scrap Vomit Quilt


Scrap Vomit Quilt

Hooray for tall husbands with long reaches (and very muddy boots. Sigh.)

The quilt heads off to the long armer next week. And then it is going to get a very thorough soak in the tub.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A giveaway

This is my 690th post. I've been blogging for 8 years and 11 months. Really, there is no milestone to today's giveaway, but I bought two of the same book by accident and it's really too good a book to not give someone else a treat.

25 patchwork Quilt Blocks

The book I speak of is "25 Patchwork Quilt Blocks" by Katy Jones. Do you know Katy? She blogs at I'm a Ginger Monkey, is a co-founder of Fat Quarterly mag, the creator of the scrap vomit, and an all round top sort. I think I might have a teeny crush on her. And she has written a really good book, and I only need one of them.

I love the way Katy has set out this book. The blocks are all 6 inches square, or 8 inches with borders and I could imagine making a really cool little sampler quilt out of these blocks. It would be a great way of increasing your skills at cutting and piecing, and there are even some cool new applique blocks in this book (Moustache, anyone?)

25 patchwork Quilt Blocks

I love the shoo fly block. It's such a simple block, and I made one as a beginner quilter many years ago. Imagine a whole heap of these blocks together in the one quilt though! So effective.

25 patchwork Quilt Blocks

The Contrary Wife block is lovely. It's like a simple Jacob's Ladder. Or not. Anyway, I really like it. Once the show quilts are OVER I am going to make one of these blocks.

25 patchwork Quilt Blocks

And this is probably my favourite in the book - Aircraft. it's like a fancier Birds in the Air block - a block I have always loved but never attempted.

So now for the giveaway. I'm afraid it's for Australians only - sorry! I just don't have the time at the moment to stand in a lengthy post office queue, and Australians always get ripped off when it comes to books on our soil anyway.

If you would like to go in for a chance to win this book, comment below and make sure your email is attached to your profile, or include in the comments so I can contact you if you have won.

Just let me know what your favourite block is - doesn't have to be in this book! And you don't have to have ever made it either.

My favourite block of all time? 54-40 or Fight. Have always loved it, and for some reason it's always scared the wits out of me. Silly I know. I play with it on my iPad quilt apps all the time - I should just knuckle down and do it!

54-40 or fight - design

Entries close Monday night 3 June at midnight Canberra time.  Good luck!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Breaking two of the rules

I have many rules in life. Personal rules, that apply to me only, that I work really hard to abide by. Be good to your family and friends. Show genuine respect to your elders. Pray. Always wear clean underwear. Don't blog about too-personal stuff. Don't grieve in public.

So here I go breaking the last two rules.

My friend and her husband died last week. Kathreen was big in the crafting world, influential, a massive inspiration to all who met - and didn't meet - her. Kathreen and Rob leave behind two amazing kids, and all our hearts are broken for both their, their families' and our own loss. Over the last few days I have thought a lot about the ties that bind us, those connections that can be shattered in an instant. About how everyone is entitled to grieve in their own way. How keeping busy and trying to be useful is helpful in grief, but sometimes you just have to cry. A lot. And then let time and God take control.

I first 'met' Kathreen many years ago when I cracked my rib and was stuck at home, on my back, for a week. I had some downloaded podcasts from Craftsanity to listen to in the hours of pain and boredom, and one of them was a conversation that Jennifer had with an amazing young Canberra woman who founded a crafting website called Whip Up. This girl Kathreen sounded really cool. And it felt like she was talking to me about inspiration and crafting communities from just next door. It was only years later that we realised we lived only three streets away from each other. I became an avid reader of Whip Up, and the inspiration and lessons I gained there helped me start my own craft business years later.

Kathreen and I only met in real life a year or so ago. She was a new friend. One of the happiest memories I have of last winter (which was a fairly awful winter for a number of reasons. See second-last rule) was sitting next to a sunny window in her house for what seemed like (and probably was) hours, drinking tea and eating scones and laughing with her and the kids. I'd just done some editing for her, and her attitude to getting things done impressed me so much I resolved to do better, be a better person and just get on with it, right there and then. I remember walking back home and I was buzzing. That was the effect Kath had on people, whether you knew her personally or not. I don't think Kath ever knew the massive impact she'd had on me that day - and I am sad I will never get to tell her that.

I will miss my friend. And I'm sad. I'm sad for my friends who knew her and Rob much better than I did. Everyone is sad - the world has lost two great forces in the art of living splendidly and in the present. But two young kids have also lost their parents. That sucks.You can help out Kath and Rob's son and daughter out by going here. And you can help honour their memory by making something. Anything. It's probably what Kath would have done.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Esoteric Field Study

At the first Canberra Quilters meeting of each year, the teachers and shops show and tell the quilts and classes they will be teaching that year. This year, Jenny Bowker stood up and showed off her Shimmering Triangles quilt and said she would be teaching the class in May at Addicted to Fabric. My friend Angie was sitting next to me that night - we looked at each other as Jenny said this.  Sold!

This weekend finally rolled around, and as usual I was highly unprepared. I didn't know what fabric I would use, didn't know which version of the quilt I would make. I didn't want to use a whole line of fabric, but I did want to use up some of my stash. But nothing seemed to go and I was really stuck. By 10.30 on Friday night I grabbed the first bundle of fabric on my shelf, and popped it into my bag. It was a fat quarter bundle of Field Study by Anna Maria Horner. I really love this range, but I had never intended to use it all at the same time. Talk about lazy.

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

Jenny is not only a great quilter, but she's a great teacher and a wonderful enabler. It was she who had the idea to start a modern quilting group under the banner of Canberra Quilters. Twelve months on, that group regularly has 25-30 quilters who come along once a month to share, sew and be inspired. And as a teacher, Jenny allows you to work out for yourself what may or may not work, and then gently guides you to see how it can work better. And then while you're sewing she tells great stories of Egypt, and her time in Ramallah, and what happened when she was in Paducah last week. It's hard work being so constantly inspired in a Jenny Bowker class!

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

I'll admit - I was bamboozled by my fabrics. Normally I find it easy to put fabrics together, but this time I was in deep water and didn't know how to get out of the pool. I tried to find some solids to put against it, but nothing sang. So I thought "Dammit! Just use what you have and strive for a non-shimmering sparkly effect!".

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

This is where I stalled after lunch. I'd made a heap of half square triangle units, but I had no vertical design wall space, not much sewing space (entirely my own fault), my ruler was being used by someone else and I desperately needed a strong coffee. So I did what I should have done an hour earlier - I packed up and went home, and worked on my quilt from there. Massive design wall, comfortable chair to sit in, coffee. Check, check, and check. I laid the pieces I had already cut and sewn on my design wall.

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

Uh oh. All I could see was a big mess. The blocks I thought were lower value (bottom right and top right) were actually very busy and ruined the shimmering effect. But I figured if I could get more contrast in the other blocks, I might be OK so I lurched forward. That night I sewed some more HSTs, cut out all my squares and packed and sorted everything into ziploc bags. The next morning on the second day of quilt class I was much happier.  I had this.

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

And this - a design wall I set up by pinning some cotton batting onto the solids at the shop. MUCH BETTER!

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

I spent the day sewing my HSTs together into units, and then sewing some blocks together. I was really happy now with how the quilt was going now. Sure it wasn't all sparkling and shimmering like Jenny's quilts and the other quilts that were being made in the class, but I had something a little bit different - a very busy and very bold quilt which made you really look at what the fabric was actually doing. I like to think I set a challenge for myself out of my own laziness.

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

I still have a lot more HSTs to make (all those white spaces need to be filled, but I'm enjoying seeing where it is going. I especially love the shattered fabric effect from the HSTs.

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

This set might be my favourite.

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

And I love the little star blocks that appear all random-like in throughout the quilt.

Jenny Bowker Shimmering Triangles class

I'll enjoy this quilt being on my wall for the next few days, but I won't be sewing anymore on it until my exhibition quilts are made. I'm looking forward to the day I get a chance to sew some more on it!

So thanks Jenny, and thanks Angie for encouraging me to do this class with you. I really did have a lot of fun, and sewing with others is somehow so much more satisfying than sewing by myself at home.

Monday, May 6, 2013

How do you solve a problem like Michelle?

Although not participating in Me Made May, I did document two of the five me-made outfits I wore in the last week - in the ladies' dunnies at the new job, no less.

Perfect circles quilt  - sewing together

Perfect circles quilt  - sewing together

Never let it be said that this blog doesn't just OOZE class.

In between parental visits and interstate visits of our own, I managed to squeeze in a little sewing. And, not skirts or dresses SURPRISE SURPRISE!!

Scrappy tripalong number 2

I did a little patchworking, firstly on the seemingly never ending Japanese scrappy trip around the world. It frustrated me that I decided to work on this when I have three quilts to get into a photographable state by 7 June. But I think I just needed to get this sewn together into rows and then packed away so it is out of sight for the while. I will worry about it again when the guild exhibition quilts are done.

And now I can get stuck into this - my perfect circles quilt. ( It really needs another name. Everyone keeps seeing planets, and so do I.) It's been hanging in completed blocks on my design wall for a week now. I'll move things around each day, never entirely satisfied with it. But I've had to put my foot down - I needed to start sewing it together.

Perfect circles quilt  - sewing together

Which I did. Two rows stitched together already. Which only begs the question ... What took me so long?

Perfect circles quilt  - sewing together

So about those other two exhibition quilts. For one I've only made 4 blocks out of perhaps 36? I've never actually counted the number of blocks I'm supposed to make. The other quilt hasn't even been started yet, but I bought the fabric 6 weeks. Sigh. I would normally drop this third quilt, but originally it was the only quilt I was going to submit to the exhibition, and to drop it now would make me feel l like a quitter.

And I'm a quilter, not a quitter. And besides this is too much fun, finding scraps of time throughout a busy week to try to create something lovely. If I actually had a dedicated day to sew, I don't think I'd know what to do with myself.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Me Made May? May I make May mine?

For weeks now I've been agonising over whether to join in on Me Made May 2013. I haven't really sewn too many clothes lately and my wardrobe is actually looking a bit sparse and desperate.

May 5 - Me Made May 2012

These are some of the thoughts that were going through my tiny little brain the last few weeks:

* Perfect! I have about 2 skirts to wear to work, and I'm about to start a new job in a new building where everyone is young and fabulously dressed and this will be a great excuse to get some skirts and dresses suitable for work sewn up!

* Argh! I don't have time! I'm starting a new job and I also just joined the Canberra Quilters committee and my parents are visiting and I have something on, or am away for every weekend between now and June.

* I can do this! And I will even wear a new skirt on my first day at work on the 1st and my first quilt meeting as president on the 2nd and to a 50th wedding anniversary lunch in Brisbane on the 4th and and and ...

* I'm kidding myself. I can't do this. I don't WANT to do this. I've done it the last few years. And doing it in May in Canberra really sucks. And no one needs to see that many cardigans. Or that many different coloured pairs of tights.

May 27 - Me Made May 2012

* You have the most enormous dress fabric stash and you need to start sewing and wearing it!

* No way - you have three quilts to sew by the end of July.

* Some days I just want to wear trousers and I've never made a pair for myself. And I don't intend to either.

So you can see where and how I am conflicted. Even 5 minutes before writing this post I was still trying to decide! I love Me Made months and everything they stand for. I love the sharing and the amazing pieces people sew, and I get so inspired and want to sew all the things. But perhaps I need to stop being so tough on myself.

So this year I won't be taking part in Me Made May. I will still check out the Flickr group every day and cheer everyone on.

But yet I still need to make some clothes for winter, especially work clothes, and reduce my stash.

Stash - half of it

So instead of Me Made May, I think I will instead make the rest of 2013 the year of the dressmaking stash down. It's time.