Tuesday 14 December 2021

It takes a village

 to make a quilt.  Ask me how I know?  In 2015, I joined a few hundred other people from all over the world in the slightly mad pursuit of a hexie swap called #hexiedownunder, making two 1"/2.5cm hexagon flowers (in a ring of six) for 20 other people.  We ran three rounds of the swap, and I was on the organising committee with a couple of other people, but the swaps were really run by Fiona Forsythe, who is @bendigolioness on Instagram and together we wrangled glue basters, thread basters and toe dippers.  

The rules were pretty simple, centres had to be white, had to have your name & an instagram "handle" if there was one, and be in the colours specified by each person in the group.  The hashtag is still around on Instagram, with over 1000 posts. The variety is fantastic & there have been some magnificent quilts made from these flowers - Fiona's beautiful Zesty Hexies won First Prize in C49 at the Bendigo Agricultural Show. 

By and large people were pretty good about sticking to giving you what you'd asked for in the sign-up, & I wanted blue and white.  I did get a few that had some red and yellow and even one that was green & black, but largely they were shades of blue and white or cream.  

Then in 2016 I had a total knee replacement, and was in hospital off my head on painkilling medication for a week or so, and apparently convinced myself that a really complex design which used lots of different hexie-based shapes was going to work really well and I spent the best part of a day with coloured pencils drawing the design up.

Thank goodness for Salley Govey (@appliqueensal) who made me realise that the variety of colours in the hexie flowers would make this complex pattern invisible.  In the midst of this, I found the most gorgeous fabric range called "Low Country Indigo" which had about six or seven dark navy prints, and a fabulous navy on white spot, and I firmed up my quilt plans.  I was going to make my ring of 6-flowers into ring of 18-flowers, and then outline each one with a ring of navy on white spots, a very tradition pattern, but one that would let the fabrics do all the talking.

My friend the lovely Mandy (@Handystitcher) started to send me fussy-cut rings made with some very interesting fabrics


, and I kept plugging away at it, and eventually got to the point where I had enough to make a top.  

Only problem was, I'd developed arthritis in my hands, and manipulating the fabric to stitch the flowers & diamonds together was painful, and slow, and tedious.  So I stopped.  Then along came Helen (@coasttocoastquilting).  Helen had previously made me lots of sets of three in the white & navy spot which were going to form part of the mad design, and so she was across the concept of the quilt.  She was a great source of advice on how to join the blocks together, along with Jan @jaeuckens.  They were both very encouraging, but I was still a bit meh about it all, and it sat, unloved in a box, until the #elusivemrgolightly found a large lump in his abdomen in February 2020, just before COVID got stupid.  

Cue surgical biopsy, chemo, more chemo, a autologous stem cell extract & transplant, and a stay in hospital to get over that, then a locked down stay-at-home Christmas.  All through this I plugged away at building diamonds and rings of 18, because amazingly, having something productive to do with your hands is a very nice distraction from the sights, sounds & smells of the Chemo Clinic at RNSH.  

Then in July this year, when we were doubly locked down (him immunocompromised and both of us covid-fearful) & going insane, I was talking to Helen about it, confessed I had totally lost interest in it & told her that it would probably never be finished, and she very very generously offered to stitch it together for me.  I dragged it all out of the box, and sent it off to her with about two rows stitched together (see above), and all the finished diamonds & flowers.  I would get periodic instructions from Helen to "send more spotties" (the navy on white) or "make me more diamonds", and fortunately I had plenty of time to do all those things.  She posted regular updates of her progress on sewing the "Community Quilt" on her Instagram feed, if you're interested.

The quilt arrived back at my house last week, and I immediately rang Jayne Rennie, my favourite local long-arm quilter, and asked if she could quilt it before Christmas.  My timing was impeccable, as she only had a window of that week available.  Needless to say I was in the car & driving the quilt to her house before you could say "oops too late".   

It's back, but it's not on my bed until I can cut & sew the binding, (probably today) and it's much more beautiful than I imagined.

A huge Thank You to Helen for all her hard work, to Mandy for making me curse her with the glue-basting from hell but who also gave me the most magnificent of all the fussy-cut flowers: 

And to all the lovely people who contributed flowers or hexies to this quilt:

@coasttocoastquilting Helen Kingcott

@handystitcher Mandy B

And in no particular order:  

@gkmsydney Grace McDonald

@dnjjn1 Nadine

@lorenoz Michelle Watson

@fjmk Frances

@craftgodchick Larissa Hart

@prettydogvineyard Karol W (who made me rather a lot of random blue & white loose hexies)

@quilty_carlie Carlie Lincoln

@michele_kitchen Michele Wyers

@travellingdolly Lyn S

@thequiltopians Kyria

@cheezebiscuit Karen

@jenredfern Jen Redfern

@craftyrie Marie

@patchwork_gecko Julie

@rosepatch70 Cheryl Mitchell

@appliqueensal Salley Govey

@lynwotton Lyn Wotton

@urbanpolyester Jill Saunders

@mellie.h Melissa

@craftnstuff Stephanie

@bethandduke Bonnie Hazelwood

@ria140 Ria

@loubeelou76 Louisa Watts

Michelle Miller

@bendigolioness Fiona Forsythe

@joybells2012 Joy Nelson

@mysewbusylife Faye Perespkin

Donna Choyle

@rhondaym Rhonda

@patchheavenstitches Olivia Shelswell

@coleandtaffy Michelle

@Ruthc2607 Ruth Clarke

@mrsaeh Annette H

@frankiesfabrics Marni Franks

@sunflowerstitcheries Barbara Cutmore

@cathyEwbank Cathy Ewbank

@sometimesiquilt Katie Ley

@alisonwhite31 Alison White

@maggles67 Margaret

@margtrouty27 Margaret

And here it is (quilted, but unbound) - a true Community Quilt.

Thursday 14 October 2021

Oops I did it again

 Well, Gentle Readers, I've done it.  I've resigned from the day-job at the Big Bank, and I probably won't be going back, well not to that one, anyway.  Things have been ...interesting... and I took a break in February to support The Elusive Mr Golightly while he went through some really unpleasant medical stuff... but we're coming out the other side now, and I'd decided that I didn't need to go back to the office.  Having a purpose that pays is good, but it's just as good to just have a purpose.  

Anyhoo, plans change, right?  I got a call in mid-August that sounded intriguing, and basically I was offered my dream job, with hours & salary entirely my call.  Was I interested?  To be honest, apart from all the medical shit, I was very happy being retired.  I had the usual days of lockdown blah, but I've deliberately given myself lots to do so I didn't ever get bored, and I had lots and lots of things on my to-do list for when we got out of lockdown... but an opportunity like this doesn't come along every day.

I worked for this company a few years ago, enjoyed it very much & was quite sad when my contract finished & they decided to rework the structure to eliminate my role.  Funny that here we are four years later & they've been told they need the role back to be really effective.  Hah.  Coulda told 'em.

Anyhoo, I didn't even have to go for an interview; when the guy in charge heard I was available, he just said "offer her the role"...  and so hopefully I'll be starting next week.  

In other news, I've rescued a quilt, with help from the fabulous Jayne Rennie at Quilting Finesse (@quiltingfinesse on Instagram).  My mother made me this quilt as a doona cover in 1988 (as you did then???), and I think it was one of the first she made, because to be honest, it was pretty rough - within a year the seams had started to split, the stitch size was tiny (1.4mm?), there were various coloured cotton threads, and the colours weren't my thing at all, but it was made by my mother, for me, for Christmas, so I didn't feel I could just dump it!  As time went by, and I acquired more, beautiful, better made quilts made for me, in colours of my choice, this one ended up further and further towards the back of the cupboard.  We don't have a doona/duvet, instead using quilts layered to give us the perfect amount of warmth.  So it became redundant, and was relegated to an ugly ball in the back of the linen cupboard.

Cue Lockdown!  I had a big tidy-up of the linen cupboard, and took a pile of worn out sheets & towels to the textile recycling bin, and rediscovered the quilt.  First job was to remove the sheet that was the back of the doona cover. and then have a look at the blocks.  Most of them were stitched onto old hospital pillow cases (did I mention My Lovely Ma was a nurse?  Never let a chance go by oh lord):

Then I had to work out how to remove the bulk of the backing without compromising the integrity of the blocks... in some cases the seams were so tiny (1/16") that the whole block had to be taken apart & restitched.  I also ditched the entire strippy border, but I did manage to salvage some bits of that for another project.  Then I squared all the blocks up & made them a standard size, then I restitched it together using a tiny sprigged print in a rich cream... totally my mother.

Then I took it up to Jayne Rennie at Quilting Finesse & she quilted it using the Baptist Fan pattern, and it looks amazing (if wonky (my fault, not hers!)!)!

Now I have to bind it (it's going to join the Snake Trail Surprise which is in the cupboard waiting to be bound) & I have an idea to use some French General creams & beiges to do it.  I think My Lovely Ma would be very pleased.


Monday 3 February 2020

Reviews, reviews, reviews

So, I've done a bit of sewing over the last few months, making some tops (ostensibly for work, but a couple of them have done sterling duty at social functions, so that's all good) and I've tried four different tunic patterns, which leads me to believe that other sewists might be interested in my thoughts on those patterns*.

First up was the StyleArc Elani Tunic, whose name really irritates me because I think it should Eleni & I can't bring myself to rhyme it with Elan, like e-Flan & then is it "e-lan-eye" or "ell-ane-eh" or "ell-ane-eye" and why didn't they just call it Eleni?

Anyhoo, it, like all StyleArc patterns (and really, is it Style Arc or StyleArc?), assumes you know how to sew.  The instructions are minimal, but they are very well ordered, accurate and function perfectly.  A good example is the facings - the instructions tell you when to apply them, but give no hints about how to finish them, because it assumes you'll know what to do.  Any issues with the finished product are definitely not an outcome of the instructions.  I've made three Ee-lan-eye tunics now & am very happy with the results, two of which are pictured here... 

Then I made the Breezeway Top by Frankie & Ray - I was a bit blase about sizing because it said it went up to XXL, and as you know I am not a small girl, Gentle Readers, I assumed it would be OK.  It's a bit more A-line than the Elani, a bit shorter in the front and quite a bit tighter in the sleeve department, and I really didn't like the instructions for the sleeve at all, so I fudged it - but the outcome was OK.  If I make it again, I'll cut it longer and make the sleeve start lower on the body to accommodate my huge biceps, and I might trace a facing for the neck.

Then I made the Kabuki Tee from Paper Theory.  Well written pattern, the sleeve insertion instructions made my head spin a bit, but once I'd done one, the other one was easy - but the shape made me look like a huge square blob - and it was too short in the body, and kept riding up.  I've added a band to the bodice bottom of the cotton one I made, and will probably do the same with the silk one - if you're contemplating making one, check the sizing carefully.  Its very boxy style is probably great if you're a sylph-like size 10, but if you're a lumping great galoot like me, maybe get your best most honest friend to tell you what it looks like before you wear it in public.

And finally, I made a tunic from The Tunic Bible, which I've had for a couple of years.  The bulk of the book is made up of colour 8 X 10 glossy photographs with circles and arrows (no prizes for guessing where that's from) showing samples of what you can make - but the instructions are dreadful.  I chose the inside extended placket with a bias finish for the neck - each bodice finish has a page showing you how to make it, except this one - I had to go to somewhere else entirely in the book to find a drawing that showed how to finish the bias inside the facing, which is just weird, and the rest of the construction method is spread throughout the book.  If I was the authors, I'd be doing an edit to put one set of instructions in a single place... 

The finished product wasn't really true to size - I made the XXL again, but had to take out the back darts to get it to fit me - the extended placket is very long, and I took about 3 inches off the length of mine, but it was a doddle to sew, using the mans shirt style of putting in a sleeve.  I also couldn't see an option just to make a plain old back neck facing instead of doing the bias finish, & if I made it again, I'd just trace one & skip the bias.

This was the biggest disappointment of them all - but I think that was more about the sizing & the sleeves.  If I made it again, I'd make a short-sleeved version & size it up one.  The only other thing was the flaps on the placket on the front stuck into my neck - so I'd probably redraft those too.  

Also, I realise that the fabric is not me at all, and I'm giving this version of the tunic away, but I'm willing to give the pattern another shot.

So, in order of ease of making, the Breezeway, the Elani, the Tunic Bible & then the Kabuki, but in order of pattern useability, the Elani beats the others hollow, the Breezeway & the Kabuki tie for ease of use, and the Tunic Bible is a disaster.

In order of wearability, again the Elani comes out top; I've made 3 & they're on regular rotation, because they feel more dressy than the Cashmerette Montrose that I madly made five or six of last year - as I get older, the v-neck just becomes more comfortable, and I think the faced hem & sleeve finish set it apart.

What do you think?  I'd love to hear your feedback!  

*This post is not sponsored in any way by any of the pattern companies listed here.

Saturday 5 October 2019

Don't ask me, I don't know

Truly, gentle readers, I have no idea how it gets to be early October the end of September.  What's happened?  Hmm.  I got a new job in July last year, which was pretty OK until about a month ago, when some changes that were unexpected & unwarranted lumbered me with a new boss, who was previously one of my peers, or equals.  This person has been given the job of being my boss not because I've done anything wrong or done my job badly, but because they need to tick a box that says "I've managed people", before their next promotion.  Needless to say the other people who've been put in the same boat are also pissed off and angry.  

The organisation I work for is almost unrecognisable from the place I worked a few years ago, and that, along with the cultural difficulties, means I'm looking for a new job now, and I'm fairly pissed off about that, because this was going to be my 'job until retirement', which, all things being equal, should be the end of 2021, when I'm going to be ... gasp... 60.  I remember my mother being horrified when she turned 50 (when I was 23) and now I know why.  It goes so. damn. fast.  

Anyway, interview yesterday, results TBA good, just waiting to find out if there's a third round.  I'll keep you posted.

In other, crafty, news... not much has been done - I've made big strides on the blue & white quilt, 

I had a stall at the Cherrybrook Uniting Church destash sale, and managed not to come home with more than I took (and a huge thank-you to Miss Grace, who was my willing offsider that day!) 

Some babies have been born in the family, and we now number 19 at Mr Golightly's family gatherings... 

Mr Golightly went skiing, and we spent $60 on a skitube ticket for me to go to the top of the mountain & spend time up there sewing while he skied out the morning, only to find that none of the lifts were working at the top, so he couldn't ski, so we had a hot chocolate and came back down. I have many un-publishable things to say about deceptive conduct, however, here's the hot chocolate:

And in the most exciting news of the lot, I made a cutlery roll, and because you've persisted through all this blather, here's the tute:

Cutlery Roll

This will make a finished roll for cutlery and chopsticks.  If you have a particular pair of chopsticks to use, measure those and use their length plus an inch for all your length measurements.

Cut 1 Back Fabric A 25cm X 28cm (10” X 11")
Cut 1 Front Fabric B 25cm X 28cm (10” X 11")
Cut 1 Front Bottom Flap Fabric B 24cm X 28.5cm (9.5" X 11.25")'
Cut 1 Front Top Flap Fabric B 24cm X 25 (9.5" X 10") (optional)
Cut 1 piece of batting or other soft padding material, 24cm X 26.5cm (9.5” X 10.5”)

Ties to suit – 11” of 2” wide fabric, or ribbon, or ricrac, or you can make ties out of the inside fabric, like I did here.

I used .6cm (¼”) seams all the way round, and polyester thread for strength.  Be aware that bigger seam allowances will eat into the width available for your channels.

To start:

Fold the bottom flap in half horizontally, right sides out, press, and then align the bottom raw edges of that piece and the inside back piece, right sides together, then press.

Pin the flap to the backing piece, RST, then using a marking pen, mark the channels for your cutlery - I allowed 2.5cm (1”) for the straw and the brush together; the same for the chopsticks and 5cm (2.5”) for the spork.  A standard knife and fork might require 2.5cm (1”) each.  There’s room within these measurements for at least three other channels but you can suit yourself.

 The channel stitching goes to the top of the inside bottom of flap.  Make sure you reinforce the stitching at the end of each channel with a few backstitches.  

Using a long stitch length, tack the bottom flap and inside back pieces together along the bottom.

For the optional top flap, fold the piece in half right sides together, then stitch the sides together.  Turn it right sides out.  Poke the corners out with a sharpish stick, being careful not to poke through the corners, then press.  The flap should be smaller than the finished inside back piece by .6 cm (1/4”) on each side (this is so you don’t get the flap caught in the side seams when you sew it up).

Pin the top flap to the inside back piece.  You can tack this into place along the top using a long stitch length if you want.  The two flaps can touch in the middle of the roll, but should not overlap.

The Outside:

If you want to quilt the outer back onto some batting or other soft padding, now is the time.  This is optional but gives a nicer finish, so it’s recommended.

Once you’ve finished quilting the outer back piece, stitch the tapes to the right-hand side of the outer back in the horizontal middle, inside the .6cm (1/4”) seam allowance on the right side.  The bulk of the tapes goes to the left of your seam.  Reinforce the seam where the tapes go, this will get a lot of wear & tear.  You can just see the reinforcing on the right hand side of this pic:

 To put together:

If you’ve made the optional flap, pin the corners out of the way so they don’t get caught in the side seam when you stitch it together:


Put the front & back pieces right sides together, tucking the tapes out of the way. 

Pin the two pieces together, then stitch all the way around, leaving a three-inch gap open on the opposite side to the tapes.  Stitch the bottom seam of the bottom flap twice for strength. 

Turn the roll right side out through the hole, carefully.  Check that you’ve got all the edges enclosed, then turn it back inside out, and trim the edges.  Trim the corners diagonally, close to the stitching, being careful not to cut through those stitches.

Turn it back right sides out, and ladder-stitch the hole closed.

Press, insert cutlery & be nicely smug that you aren't adding to the pile of plastic cutlery floating in an ocean near you!  (Mine lives with me at work.  Funnily enough I have reusable cutlery at home ;-D).

Saturday 21 July 2018

Knitting... Japanese style

A little while ago the lovely Rachel from New South Books got in touch with me to ask if I'd be interested in reviewing a couple of books for her - OMG can you hear me trying to be all cool and calm and oh yes I suppose so and if I must?  Yes, it was nothing like that.  I love craft books.  You can never have too many, in case you have the odd day where you've got nothing to do, all the yarn and fabric in the world, and the right zips, needles, thread to make your masterpiece.  

incidentally, did you know that the original intent of the word 'Masterpiece' was to describe the piece of 'whatever' made by an apprentice to signify that he'd (because they were usually male) finished his training and was ready to go out into the world & actually be let loose on your Cuban Mahogany, your Brazilian Rosewood, your Australian Jarrah to make the most magnificent pieces of furniture?

18thc Apprentice Walnut Chess Table

Anyway, I'm sure that learning knitters do the same thing, if some of those magnificent Japanese shawls are anything to go by:

218s-08 Graceful Linen Shawl - free Japanese charted crochet pattern by Pierrot (Gosyo Co., Ltd)

So, when the this book arrived, I was interested to find that all the patterns were charted.  

It's a lovely solid book, with clear pictures, beautifully laid out with a Symbol Glossary at the beginning, and a 'How to knit these stitches' for some of the more complex stitches at the back.


I have previously found charts difficult to follow because I'm usually sitting on the sofa, in front of the TV, trying to multi-task, and the symbols jump around a bit.  I made this a few years ago from a chart, and vowed never to do it again because I had to frog it a lot of times to get it right, and the act of unpicking, counting & translating the symbols into words then the pattern itself nearly undid me!

This book has, as advertised, 260 knitting patterns, some of which I've seen similar cleaned-up versions of, in various other books, and some I've never seen before:

The book is divided into sections of 'Lacy', 'Lacy With Leaves', 'Lacy With Smocking', 'Bead Embroidery', 'Overall Patterns', 'Crossing Stitch Patterns', 'Panel patterns', where the hard work has been done for you & a beautiful end result is almost guaranteed, then 'Pattern Arrangements', where elements are swapped around to increase the variations.  

There are patterns for yokes (beautiful for kid's cardigans!), and then a huge selection of edging patterns.  There are also some full garment patterns.  

At the back of the book is a really useful section which shows you how to knit some of the more complex stitches, such as Butterfly stitch (5 stitches slipped and lifted over 9 rows, ooh tricky). 

And here's my worked piece - it's hard to see because of the three colours, but I'm going to finish the scarf with this pattern, so I'll post a bit more as it gets closer to the end.

So! If you're looking for a book which will challenge you a bit, but provide you with a great result, this could be the place to start.  Go forth, knit!

Sunday 15 July 2018

Where have I been?

So, Gentle Readers, more than a year has passed since I posted my hack of Mr Golightly's jacket; much has happened.  We had a wonderful holiday in Europe, with quality time in Brighton, London, Siena, Florence and Rome.  I had the immense pleasure of meeting some instagram friends in the flesh, including the fabulous Betti, who is @bettisstitches on Instagram, and who writes here... the very lovely Cathy Ewbank, who is @cathyewbank on Instagram, and the wonderful @mrs_moog, who makes the most fabulous project bags and who blogs here- meeting these three fabulous like-minded women was one of the highlights of our holiday (the history of lingerie exhibition was a highlight of another kind...)

We had a few days in country England - visiting some friends in Gloucestershire, some nostalgic highlights for me, including a visit to the divine Gloucester Cathedral, which some of the younger people out there might recognise from Harry Potter...

before spending a few days in beautiful Brighton with our good friend Gill...  I love Brighton.  If I'm ever untimely widowed, I'm moving there... just watch me...

And then we went to the Continent, which is the old way of saying "Europe" - flew into Amsterdam where it was 5C with snow on the ground, Florence and then Siena by train, which was a lovely way to go, Italian trains being fabulous... Siena is magical.  This was our second visit, the first was in 2006 when Mr Golightly was having his epilepsy medication fiddled with, and he remembered practically nothing of the trip... this time was really fabulous, we just walked and walked and walked and walked...

oh and I took a few photos...

And then from there we went to Rome, where we were very lazy, apart from a trip to the Vatican Museum specifically to see the Brabante Staircase, which also let us see some wonderful Etruscan artifacts... and a mazillion tourists.  Even in February, it was ridiculously crowded, and I couldn't face the tour of St Peters which was the final part of our tour - we got outside and bolted... well, at least as fast as one person recovering from a total knee replacement could bolt... did I mention that?  Wanna see pics?  

Just kidding.  I wouldn't inflict that on you.  But here's the staircase:

And here's the hardware store that is our near neighbour, funnily enough a nearly identical photo appear on Instagram, from the account of '@anamericaninrome' who lives in Rome & takes fabulous photos... (hers is waaaaaaaaaaaaay better!)

And then we found Viterbo - about 80k from Rome by train, with an intact medieval heart - and almost empty.  

And the usual array of ritzy Italian shops up in the top part of the city - quite schizophrenic really, the Italian gold reserves are held here, so there's the usual multinational stores like Coach and Tiffany but also a nice selection of local shops:

including this one where I spent an easy E80 on buttons:

And we saw a nice souvenir of home in the Corso Di Fiore...

Ah... joy.