Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pluses and Minuses

Plus - made a lot of progress on my dress. Only a couple of steps to go, so it could be ready to wear by the end of the week.
Minus - malware attacked my computer, despite having anti-everything installed.
Plus - it's an opportunity to upgrade my operating system.
Minus - then I will have to restore my backups, re-install software, etc, before it is usable.

Don't know if that all works out to more good than bad, but I think it might.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Plums and Bees

Having a bee hive under the plum tree has lead to a bumper crop of plums this year, but there is one small problem:
Would you want to go in there and pick them?

Looks like it is time to put the bee suit on again for a spot of fruit picking.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Too Hot In Here

Finally started sewing the dress I laid out on the fabric in December. I got most of the 16-piece skirt assembled, and some of the bodice, but then I had to stop:
Just after I took this photo the temperature disappeared off the top of the scale. The thermometer was designed for an aquarium, so it only goes up to 34ºC. My sewing room was not only too hot for me, it was too hot for tropical fish.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

TreeProject Kit Day

It's that time of year again. Time to collect the kit for the new TreeProject year:
This time the trees are for the same landholder as last year, which I'm very happy about. It means that when it is time for them to be planted out, I'll get to see how the last batch are going.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sorry, Tassie

Apparently Tasmania has disappeared off the map this Australia Day.

Took a trip to Ocean Grove to check on the last bee hive. This is the one that was built from the swarm caught in my back yard. The seaside bees are doing really well, and have almost filled the super we added in November. Today we removed four frames of honey.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Bees

More beehive checking this morning (only one to go). This time it's the bees in my backyard.
There's a little bit of capped honey on this frame, and the bees are working to fill the rest of the cells. But they've still got plenty of room, so no action is needed for a while. That's good, because after this it was time to retreat inside and stay there for the rest of the day.

When the temperature climbs above the bees' preferred operating temperature of about 35ºC, they cool the hive by gathering water and evaporating it. I don't know where my bees are getting their water from at the moment, as they have stopped using my bird bath. I hope they aren't causing problems for any of my neighbours, but I can't force them to use the water I've provided!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Checking On The Bees

Checked two hives today.
This is the giant swarm from October. They still have lots of room for expansion. The bees are building comb in the top super, but it will be a while before these frames are full. Compare that with the original hive that they swarmed from:
That's a frame almost completely full of capped honey. It's time to do some extraction of this one!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Top Assembled

Finished sewing together this top:
Now it needs a good press, but I was a bit too warm using the iron this afternoon.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Strobilanthes Seeds

Last Friday I thought that maybe I hadn't managed to collect any seeds from my Strobilanthes gossypinus, but I was wrong.
A few remaining un-popped seed pods and the seeds.

For the record, almost all of these seeds came from the flower heads I removed early last week, when the stems still had some flexibility. Only four seeds came from the whole rest of the plant, which was already crisping up when I cut off the remaining spent flowers last Friday. I presume I had left that too late, and the seed pods had nearly all popped by the time I removed them from the plant. So if you want to collect seed, I'd recommend doing it before the stems have dried out.

Now the challenge will be working out what to do with these seeds; when to plant them, what conditions to give them. And it will be interesting to see if any of the seeds which must be scattered around in the garden actually germinate.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Crepe Myrtle Attraction

My crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) are covered in balls of flowers at the moment, and I'm not the only one who loves them:
The bees were mainly gathering the pollen today. They collect an amazing amount in each trip. Look at the one below; the pollen sacs on her hind legs look full to bursting, yet she still wants more before she returns to the hive.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reading and Eating

Our normal venue is still closed, so the book club met at one member's home, which was lovely and cool.
Lots of yummy goodies came along, too, including red velvet cake, which I'd only seen on the internet until now. It tasted good, but I imagine it would taste just the same without all the colouring.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Be Prepared

The forecast is for some more summer-like weather over the next few days, so I spread some mulch around the newer plants to help them cope.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Black And White

Made the rest of the checker-board sashing for the bright quilt:
Sixty strips ready to be sewn together in pairs. It seemed much less fiddly to me to do it this way than to make individual four-patches then sew them together in sets of four for each sashing section.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Strobilanthes Mystery

Earlier this week I cut off some of the spent flowers of my Strobilanthes gossypinus and brought them inside to get a closer look at them. This morning I found a couple of these outside the bag containing the pieces:
One was over 30cm from the bag they were in. I am assuming they flew out as a result of a seed pod popping open. But is this the seed?

My search for information about the seed was not successful, but Joseph from Greensparrow Gardens sent me a link to this page which shows the seeds (scroll to the bottom) of a related plant, the Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus). So it looks like what I have here may just be part of the pod, which launches the seed away from the parent. And I haven't found anything that looks like those Persian Shield seeds.

However, I still have a few un-popped pods, such as the one on the left here:
I've also collected up all the remaining flower-heads from the plant, in the hope of capturing at least some seeds. Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 12, 2012


This is where I'm up to with the top I started cutting out yesterday:
As I mentioned yesterday, this design is by Bonnie Hunter. She calls it "Story-Time Stars". I've used my own measurements, and added more variation in the blocks than Bonnie used, but I hope mine will be as appealing as hers when it's done.

This is all the blocks, but I've still got lots of sashing to make. The arrangement isn't final - in fact a few blocks have already been moved since I took the picture.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Metric Flying Geese

This morning as I was eating breakfast and internetting, I found Bonnie Hunter had posted a free quilt pattern that just appealed to me. I sketched the block and made a quick note of the details, and headed off to my sewing room.

The first thing I did was work out what size I wanted to make the blocks - in metric measurements. I don't like inches! The one thing that I wasn't sure about was the flying geese. I wanted to use what is sometimes called the "no waste" method - where you cut one large and four smaller squares, then sew them together and cut them apart in strange ways, to create four flying geese units:
If you've never tried this, do a quick google and you will find heaps of sites with the instructions (in inches).

But I had no idea what sizes those squares should be, or why. I have used this method once before, following a pattern in inches, but I just cut and didn't think then about what was going on with those weird measurements. Today I sat down and worked it out, and felt quite a sense of achievement! Now I can cut any size flying geese units I want, without following a pattern.

Basically, the large square is going to end up cut into four quarter-square triangles, and the smaller squares will each be cut in half to create two half-square triangles. So, if you know the finished size of your flying geese units, you add the appropriate extra seam allowance amounts to cut the squares. For metric patchwork, using a .75mm seam allowance, these numbers are easy to remember:
  • 1.5cm for squares and rectangles
  • 2.5cm for half-square triangles
  • 3.5cm for quarter-square triangles
So, for my 10cm by 5cm flying geese, a large square 10 + 3.5 = 13.5cm, and four small squares 5 + 2.5 = 7.5cm, gave me the four matching flying geese I needed for each block.

At the end of the day, I'd done a lot of cutting, and not much sewing, but I had quite a sense of achievement!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Growth

My Eucalyptus leucoxylon, the only one of my eucalypts to survive the water-logged soil, has started growing again. That's a relief, but it hasn't taken long for the insect world to find the new growth:
Probably sawfly larvae, species unidentified.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Last May, I posted a picture of the flower I didn't want to see, on my Strobilanthes gossypinus. Didn't want, because this plant is said to die after flowering. Now the flowers are finished, and there is no green left on the plant, its leaves have all gone brown.  It doesn't look like something that will grow again:

However, if you look closely at some of the spent flower heads, there are hard, chestnut-coloured things which look like they might be seeds:

The next challenge will be working out how to get them growing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kaleidoscope Quilt Finished

It has taken quite a while, but this quilt is no longer a UFO:
"Stack-n-whack" kaleidoscope quilt, approx 2m by 155cm.

The blocks were pieced in about 2001, after I watched an episode of "Simply Quilts" featuring the inventor of the "stack-n-whack" technique, Bethany Reynolds. I loved the idea, and went straight to my fabrics to see if I had anything I could use to try it. I only had enough of one fabric to get the six design repeats I needed. I chose the dusky pink for the triangles because the main fabric has touches of that pink through it. The blocks then sat around for a number of years. I didn't have enough of the same fabric to turn the top into a rectangular shape, and didn't know what to do.

In about 2006 or 2007 I found another Japanese fabric with a black background and the same pink, which I used to fill in a few gaps and create the rectangle shape. A friend gave me the fabric I've used in the border, which I do think is an ugly fabric, but it seems to work. (The same friend also had some of the pink fabric which she gave me to use for the binding.) But I didn't have anywhere to spread out the quilt to baste it.

In 2008, I was told about Sharon Schamber's basting method using two planks of wood. (You can watch her videos on YouTube; here's Part 1.) With this method, you don't spread the whole quilt out, so I was able to baste the quilt on my kitchen table. I did that in about the middle of 2008, and started to do some of the quilting, but it was giving me problems, so I put it aside yet again. 

In October last year, I got back to it, and now, finally, it is done!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Local Colour

This rainbow lorikeet was feasting on wattle seeds in a street tree as I walked my dogs this evening:

Earlier in the day I hand-stitched nearly half of the binding on my quilt, while watching the rest of series two of Downton Abbey (not as good as series one).

Friday, January 6, 2012

Love This Colour

Flower on one of my "Tropicanna" cannas glowing in the sunlight.

In other news, I finished the quilting, and got the binding attached. Photos to come later...

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I'm filling the corners with a daisy-like shape, as the fabric used in the main part of this quilt has daisy-like flowers on it. I got two done before I had to go out this afternoon.
I also dug out the binding fabric, and calculated how long a strip I need to make. But I'll do the calculation again before I cut anything, as it will be a very close thing!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nearly There

I spent a bit of time quilting today, making some progress on my oldest UFO (unfinished object). I'm now quilting the border, so the end is in sight!
Here's the rather ugly border fabric, which I'm hoping the pink quilting will lift a little. The picture is a little blurry because I didn't want to use the flash. Perhaps I should have! The quilting design is one of Leah Day's, and is meant to look like this. Only the two long sides and the four corners to go...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Escaping The Heat

Fewer people than I expected chose to avoid the heat by taking advantage of Tuesday low prices at the cinema:
I enjoyed a couple of hours of airconditioned entertainment, with no-one blocking the screen, talking, or using their mobile phone.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Keeping Out Of The Sun

Forty-degree days are not my favourites; I've stayed inside since about 10am.

The bees keep working, although these ones seem to be avoiding the sun:
Bees in a Tristaniopsis laurina, which is apparently commonly known as the Kanooka or Water Gum. I didn't know what it was, and it took me a bit of searching to find out. There are several planted as street trees near here, and this morning they were attracting a lot of bees.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

First flower opens on one of my crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) to welcome 2012: