30 May, 2012

Wonky log cabin pillow

I started this pillow a couple months ago in an attempt to use up some of the really neat scraps of fabric Lyndy sends along with fabric orders. I came across this brilliant little needlebook by Stitched in Color on Pinterest and thought yes!

                                                           Source: stitchedincolor.com via Hazelnuts on Pinterest

Well it started out like that and then turned into a cushion, but these things happen.


I don't have huge amounts of small scraps really - I'm super-stingy when I cut things out so tend to end up with large scraps and I wanted to use up small ones. I easily had enough pink and red, less blues and fewer greens, so there are some non-scrap fabrics in those two colours. I decided to work on my wonkiness, which I always find hard. As you can see, I didn't manage to be hugely wonky, but dammit I didn't use a ruler or anything so it's wonky. The other problem I had was if things were too wonky then the block wouldn't lie flat. I'm not sure how you manage wonky and flat - are they somewhat incompatible?


I quilted the front in a spiral, which exposed a gaping hole in my general world knowledge - how to draw a spiral.  If you look carefully you can see mine is a bit oval-shaped and not roundish. Why is that? Well I thought if I marked out concentric circles and then fudged it a bit it would turn into a spiral. Apparently not! Of course I looked it up afterwards and discovered the correct way to do it. I will remember that for next time! It looks kind of cool anyways, though I don't think I'd like to attempt it on anything larger on my little machine.

I quilted the back with wavy lines, which I'm now in love with. I told my husband I felt like I was driving the sewing machine with hands on either side moving the fabric side to side. He just looked at me like I was mad.


I haven't had any feedback on it yet from most of the family, but one of us has made it her own.


26 May, 2012

Emergency crafting

A few days ago Heleen asked me if I could come and do some "emergency crafting" at an impromptu Lucky Penny session so a photographer could take photos of a craft group doing their thing. I duly showed up at Alphabet City at noon yesterday with my hastily assembled emergency craft in hand and had such a lovely time. I'm always intending to get along to the regular evening get-together and am dreadfully slack (I made it once last year) so I'm obviously going to have to make more of an effort in future. It was very interesting talking about crafting with the journalist and seeing the photographer go about her work. Lots of action was called for, which isn't really a crafting thing, so we did what we could - moved arms about, duly admired quilts and crochet, pointed, touched, reached for yummy baking and tried to be animated. I'm really looking forward to seeing the results!

I took along some embroidery - the beginnings of a small cross-stitch of plantain.


I grabbed a scrap of linen out of the stash thinking it would be ok, but in reality it's too fine and is nearly sending me blind, even in good lighting! But I'll persevere because I do love cross stitch and it's a Gerda Bengtsson design and they always make me happy. Unfortunately I'm having to mix Danish flower thread and regular DMC floss, but I think that's what is referred to as a 'first world problem'.

25 May, 2012

Real sewing

If you sew, do you find yourself doing a lot of this?


I do. It's about my least favourite sewing job, but it's actually quite necessary at times, actually saves money, and it gets me in good with Mat. Clearly these jeans aren't his, they're Hazel's. Have you ever tried to hem a pair of size 7 super-skinny jeans? Challenging.

21 May, 2012

Instagram filler

I've been painting the trim in the kitchen so there isn't much to show off at the moment! I'm hoping to get some sewing in tomorrow after I help out in Hazel's class in the morning. In the meantime, I'll put up some of my favourite Instagram photos from the last week or so. I'm not quite as obsessive about that app as I used to be but I still enjoy it and am very fond of lots of my photos - not that I ever get around to printing any off though!

Instagram 1
l-r: lunch (plus a bagel), Hazel's swimming lessons, tin can lantern I made as a test for my neighbour's Matariki party next month, she wants the kids to do a lantern walk.

Instagram 2
l-r: school pickup before and after, some flowers on the way to school one morning, Hazel's pink toes in a puddle

Instagram 3

Abstract sun in a blue sky, some beautiful crocheted stones sent to me by the lovely Ellie, pretty sunset clouds

19 May, 2012

Brown Hexagons

I mentioned awhile back that I'd done a 'block you don't like in a colour you don't like' challenge for my Monday night modern quilt group. I decided to do hexagons because I really haven't felt the love for them at all, popular as they are; and I chose brown because although I don't mind it as a colour, I really don't like it in quilts. Brown hexagons. Blech. This is what I ended up with


Although it wasn't explicitly stated, I think part of the reason we chose this challenge was to see if we could come to like something we might be prejudiced against for whatever reason. Now, I'm not entirely sure why I don't like hexagons much to be honest, I just don't. Someone suggested they might be too geometric, or precise and I think that's probably it in some deep subconscious way.

Brown, well I don't like brown in textiles much because I grew up in the 70s. Add some orange to that and you've got every childhood trauma right there. So of course I had to add in some orange. It didn't matter that it was Heather Ross orange either, because oh my I do not like this colour combination! Mat suggested after it was too late that green would have been a good background, and then I thought perhaps a paleish blue might have been good too, but it was too late and I'd already done all the quilting so wasn't going to change it. But I think perhaps it would soften the starkness of the brown against the white. I really need to stop using so much white as backgrounds.

So what do I like? Well I really like how I put the hexagons on (barring a few layout issues I can see now) with the negative space. And I really like how I quilted it.


Basically I quilted on the hexagon shapes first, then appliqued the hexagons on. I left parts of the top unquilted, so both the quilting and the actual hexagons have a lot of empty spaces. In fact, I could happily take off the hexagons and just have the quilting! I also really enjoyed making the hexagons, it was satisfying and good for keeping hands busy while watching tv.

Verdict: I still don't like brown much, but I think it's possible that, used judiciously, I could come around the hexagons. Just not brown ones.


18 May, 2012

Wonky stars

I sincerely hope you haven't been keeping track of my little list of 'to-dos' over in the side bar there because if you have you'll notice that I'm sadly off-track already! One of the things that derailed me from the construction of my Lisette Portfolio tunic (which is actually going ok but I need to do a few alterations and that's booooring!) is the need to whip up a few wonky star blocks for the Auckland Modern Quilt Guild raffle quilt. I've never done them before, and from all people were saying they're a lot of fun, so I finally got stuck into one last night instead of trying to put bust darts into the tunic - bit of a no-brainer really, fun vs. no fun.

This is my first!

Wonky stars for AMQG

It's not perfect, but I still like it. The colours are nice and bright and it's just neat all-round. You can see the top and bottom strips don't line up at the middle and I think that may be because the solid pink has some polyester in it and shrunk a little. Polycotton blends are the bane of my life - why do I even have any in the house?! I would also prefer the little star to sit a bit further away from the big one, but Hazel thinks they're a mummy and a baby star so now of course I'm very fond of them cuddling like that. In fact, she was so taken with this this morning that she would like to make wonky stars when she gets home from school. I was all about starting her on doll's clothes but hey, why not wonky stars! I'll tell you why not after we attempt them and if she I live to tell the tale ;) The block is about 9 1/4". I'm planning on doing a couple more to play around with the technique, probably a more medium star and a smaller star more widely spaced, and maybe three little stars together.

P.S. I did a post on fabric trends over at the AMQG, pop over and have a look if you're intereted!

16 May, 2012

Sultana Cake

The traditional birthday cake in my family is sultana cake. My grandmother made it for my Dad, and then Mum took over and it was the birthday cake of my childhood and I still make it for myself. It was a family cake though, for parties there was usually a chocolate cake I think! It will be heading into its fourth generation, as Hazel has discovered that she loves it (thank goodness!). I hope the smell of it baking will bring happy birthday memories back to her in years to come, as it does for me every year.

It's a lovely, light cake with a delicious hint of almonds. I'm not sure how common sultanas are in the States, but Wikipedia tells me they are also called Thompson's Seedless raisins if that will help you locate them. They're smaller and more delicate than regular raisins, although you could use them in a pinch.

I use my wooden cake box to cook it in, and can't recommend them enough - totally eliminates the need for all the lining of the tin to ensure the cake cooks slowly and evenly. In the last few years I've been using bread flour which is reputed to hold up the fruit better in these kinds of cakes, and as you can see it does a pretty good job - there is nothing worse than a layer of fruit at the bottom of the cake! You just have to be extra careful not to overmix the batter. When cooked just right the top is slightly crunchy and crumbly and the middle is soft, dense and moist. It's definitely better to under-cook it than over - test with a knife at the one hour mark. When the cake is done it will come out buttery, but with no streaks of batter. Put foil over the top if it's getting too brown.

Sultana Cake

3 cups of sultanas                            2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup butter                                     1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs                                              1 tsp almond essence
1 3/4 cups sugar
  1. Cover the sultanas water and simmer for approx. 8 minutes until soft.
  2. Pour off the water and add the butter.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients
  4. Beat the eggs until frothy, add the sugar, and beat until thick and creamy.
  5. Add the sultanas and butter, then the sifted flour, baking powder, and almond essence and fold together gently.
  6. Line a square baking tin with several layers of baking paper or newspaper, then with tin foil. Pour the batter into the tin.
  7.  Bake in a 180C (350F) oven for about 1 1/2 hours.

15 May, 2012

I've lost my sewing mojo

I sort of let the KCWC posts slide on by, because other than the repurposed skirt, it was kind of a disappointment and it has dented my confidence! Well not in any serious way but it sort of sucked the joy out of clothes for the moment. It went like this - the Sunki tunic was too small so I went on to the next item which was a gauzy tunic from the Japanese book I got in Sydney. Very simple, with a drawstring waist and little ruffly cap sleeves. I did NOT make the mistake of just forging ahead based on measurements alone and the tissue fitting looked good.

I got this far

and then decided I should do a quick try-on just to make sure it was going to fit. I couldn't actually tell you if it fits or not because it wouldn't go over her head. Now I will admit that she is something like 100th percentile for head circumference (both her parents are serious fat-heads too) but I've never, ever had that problem before! There was no way I was going to undo this neck binding though

because it was an utter bitch to get on - gauze on the bias has a mind of its own - so what to do? At the momentI think the best solution is to make a opening at the back of the neck with a facing so I don't lose too much width. But I can't quite face it right now and feel a bit sulky.

Ok, so what next? Winter pyjamas! I got out the trusty Oliver + S Bedtime Story pyjama pattern and made up the pants using that pattern and cut up a couple of tshirts Mat hadn't liked to make the top. I even found some pink poodle iron-ons at Spotlight. Success?

No. "The sleeves are too looooonggg... and the pants feel funny...and they're too longggg...and the poodles are coming off and how come you didn't put the roses on instead like you said?" They aren't too long, it's just that she insists on pushing the front right down under her tummy and there are limits to how much I can compensate for that! You can see I already tried. I guess I'll just have to wait until it gets cold enough that she will swallow all these ridiculous protestations and wear them!

Anyways, I've given up on the ungrateful little so-and-so for the time being and I'm going to try and regain some mojo sewing up a Lisette Portfolio tunic for me. However, given my track record I have misgivings and doubts and fears that run something along these lines
  • Tunics on full-busted women can look like muumuus. I am full-busted
  • It may make me look pregnant. I am not, but my tummy isn't exactly flat at the moment
  • It will be too big - all the reviews say it has too much ease
  • It will be too small - I tissue-fitted it last night and it seemed like it will be only just big enough.
  • I can't make a muslin because I don't have almost 3m of anything other than the fabric I wanted for it in my stash.
  • I should line it so it sits over leggings nicely but I can't be bothered.
  • It will look awful but I'll wear it in public anyways because I can't bear to waste the effort and fabric.
  • I will look crap in any photos I take of myself in it to put up here.
I'll let you know how it all goes!

14 May, 2012

It's my birthday...

...and instead of crying I had to have a laugh when my brother, bless him, posted this gem circa 1984-5 on Facebook. I had no idea I was that stylish! Ok, so the younger amongst you will be laughing heartily, but my contemporaries will recognise that I was very very cool. And if you're really young and thinking that 80s fashion is great - gaze in wonder that is the architecture of my hair.

80s me

 And yes, I liked Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls :)

08 May, 2012

Group challenges

Well hello there! I didn't mean to take a break but somehow I did. I blame it on a slightly dismal end to KCWC (more on that later) and getting stuck in to painting the kitchen. But along with that I was slowly working away on a couple of challenges we set ourselves at our last modern quilt group meeting at The Little Craft Store (highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't been, 7-9pm first Monday of the month at the shop in Pt. Chev). The first one was to make a 'mug rug' in solids (what's wrong with saying coaster, does it have to have a ridiculous name just to make it sound less nana or something?), up to an A4 size. The second, which I'll blog when I've finished the binding, was to do a block you didn't particularly like in colours you don't particularly like. What do you think mine was?

I've been wanting to try half-square triangles for awhile now, so I thought I'd give those a go, but of course this being my first time I had to do them quite small. Not that they're really difficult or anything but I like to make things hard on myself and burn my fingers with the iron while pressing them. I wanted to do a gradation from one colour to another and I had this idea in my head. I didn't have quite the right solids but they weren't too bad. The yellow is a bit out of place, but I didn't have an inbetween orange and yellow colour. They grade from a medium red (they all look much darker in this photo) to a peachy pink, to salmon, to orange and then to lightish yellow.


After I laid them all out I wasn't that thrilled with the sheer regularity of it all, it was too...clinical or sterile or something. I tried rotating a few squares around and in a way I liked it better but in the end I just left the one to break things up a bit. This is what my plan looks like next to the result


I made a mistake colouring in in one strip, which still shows as faint pink. After awhile I began to wish that I'd done something like that instead of just using white, maybe having a very pale set of colours grading from one to another instead of the white. But I didn't have fabrics like that, and I wasn't actually going to do it all over again! Verdict: Ok, but I think I like things that are slightly less bitsy and repetitive. I do like solids though.

I had a few squares left over so I made a coaster.


That's right - I called it a coaster. Am I kicked out of crafty blogging now?


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