Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good-Bye 2013

A few little corellas, Cacatua sanguinea, enjoying the early morning sun on the last day of the year:
Happy new year, everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Summer Mystery - Step 5

Yellow and orange lantana growing over a neighbour's (neutral?) fence provides our colour scheme this week:

Fortunately I had already downloaded this week's clue before the internet was disconnected on Saturday! Last week I had a guess that our next clue might be this:
Surprisingly I wasn't a long way wrong; I just had the yellow and orange around the wrong way.

On Sunday I managed to get about half of this week's clue done. Sewing on the neutral triangles was easy enough, but I when I came to adding the blue ones, I had some trouble with the machine wanting to eat them. After a few mangled ones, I fed them through the machine the opposite way to that which Bonnie recommended. That is, I had the blue triangle uppermost, and that worked much better for me.
My machine was happier feeding two matching acute points than a combination of one point and one blunt edge. I could have solved the problem by cutting the blue fabric with the point at the other end (cutting face down), but I had already cut heaps of them, so it was too late for that idea.

There can't be much more to this mystery.  By my calculations we need another 92 blocks to complete the small size. Or will we be making some setting triangles so we can put everything we've done already on point? We'll have to wait to next weekend to know!

In the meantime, it is lots of fun to visit everyone's blogs and see how they are going, admire their colour schemes, and wonder at their layout guesses. I will add Bonnie's link-up here as soon as she sets it up!

Here's the link-up!

Cut Off!

On Saturday afternoon, when the cool change hit, a gust of wind or two caused this:
What can't be seen in the photo is the internet and phone cable, which didn't like having two tree branches resting on top of it, and let go. It has been strange not being able to look things up, read emails, visit blogs, etc, since then.

Fortunately it was reconnected today, so after two days I can resume normal time-wasting!

Friday, December 27, 2013


This afternoon I visited a friend who had one of her Christmas presents spread out on the table:
The puzzle is a picture of a quilt from the book Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky. I resisted any urge to help her - I know how annoying it can be to have someone "help" with a jigsaw puzzle!

At home the flowers have opened on another vireya. This one hasn't flowered before, but it looks a lot like one of my others. The new one is on the left in this picture, and previous one is on the right. Can you see the difference?
They are very close in size and colour. Maybe there is a touch more yellow in the throat of the one on the left. It is an unnamed variety described as Rhododendron lochiae hybrid. On the right is an unnamed variety described as Rhododendron lochiae x macgregoriae. They both came from the Friends of the Botanic Gardens plant sale, but a year apart. I wonder if they are actually the same plant labelled differently?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Secret Sewing Revealed

Here's one of the secret items I sewed before Christmas:
It's a wood-working apron (modelled by a chair), from the very first Burda magazine I ever bought, November 1982. Who knew it might come in handy 30 years later?

Lincraft in the city had a very limited range of vinyl. I had a choice of this or one so thick I could never have sewn it. I miss the nearby Spotlight that closed in January this year; they had a better range of strange fabrics. This apron may be more of a prototype, as the vinyl surface seems too easily damaged. Securing the pockets so I could sew them on was quite a challenge. Pins weren't an option, and clips won't work for flat surfaces. I tried some surgical tape, thinking it would be safe on the vinyl, but it lifted the surface off a trial piece. Like I said, this vinyl isn't very durable! So I tried pieces of Press'n Seal, which worked without damaging the surface. I bought a couple of boxes of P'nS when it was sold very briefly in Australia a couple of years ago, but this is the first actual use I've had for it. That site I linked is trying to get Glad to sell P'nS here again. I wonder if they'll be successful?

I used Scanfil "Super Strong" 100% polyester thread, but it had a tendency to fling itself off the spool and form loops which wrecked the tension. I had a few spots on the back like this photo before I realised what was happening. I couldn't turn the spool upside down (which would probably have helped) as I thought it was only open at one end (discovered later I was wrong, there was only a sticker covering the other end). So I had to keep an eye on it, and grab any loops before they reached the tension dial.

So, it wasn't easy to sew, and may not last very long, but it was a learning experience.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas!

I had Christmas lunch today in Ocean Grove, a seaside town about 100km south-west of Melbourne.

Decorated Norfolk Island Pine, Araucaria heterophylla, in someone's front yard:
I like the way the smallest branches form their own star on top of the tree.

After lunch I took a little walk to look at the beach. The tide was in, so the beach was quite narrow. This is looking towards the heads of Port Phillip:
You might notice a ship about to negotiate the heads in the top right of the picture. Part of the beach in the foreground is temporarily fenced off (the orange poles) to protect the nest of an endangered Hooded Plover. There are two babies in there somewhere, and lots of signs up asking people to keep their dogs leashed, and to keep to the water's edge when walking along that part of the beach.
Looking in the other direction, you can see a few people enjoying the traditional Christmas Day afternoon at the beach, although you might have to enlarge the photo to see most of them.

Hope you have had a wonderful Christmas day wherever you are!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Summer Mystery - Step 4

The summer solstice was 2 days ago, so it is an appropriate time to be working on the quilt Bonnie Hunter has called "Celtic Solstice".

First, a garden scene:
Blue, orange, yellow and green, but not much neutral in this shot.

This week's clue - make 120 green and orange 4-patches:
That's 12 of them. I finished the last of the 120 this afternoon.

Here's what we've done so far:
I have each part in its own paper bag. I write on the bag the number of pieces required, and keep a tally of the total completed.

So what still remains? One or two more clues before we assemble this quilt? We have a lot of blue and neutral fabric still to use, so here's my guess at what the next clue will be:
It will be interesting to see how close I am when part 5 is released next weekend!

I'll add a link to Bonnie's part 4 link-up when it is available, so you can see all the lovely colour combinations people are using for this quilt.

Added later: Here's the link-up!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Backyard Blooms

I have flowers on three vireyas at the moment, with another about to open with its first-ever bloom. Here are the largest and smallest flowers for comparison:
The large one is Chayya, and the small one is an unnamed hybrid Rhododendron lochiae x macgregoria. The third one in flower is Princess Alexandra. She is about half-way between these two in size, but has white flowers. There's a picture of her and Chayya together three years ago here. The vireyas weren't bothered by the heat the other day because they are protected by shadecloth.

Today we also opened up the bees in my yard and removed 8 full frames. That's about 16 kilos of honey. Busy bees! Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos until the hive was all closed up.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Scatterday - Y

It's our very last Scatterday challenge, and our last letter is:

and our categories are:
and from the sewing room - yahoo!!!! Something that you were really pleased you finally finished.

I had trouble finding a Y item for this one, but this quilt I finished in June this year contained a lot of "Y-seams", so assembling it was very time consuming.

The Yarra River in June this year. In contrast to our long days at the moment, this photo was taken just before 6:00pm, when it was thoroughly dark.

Given that I'm actually writing this post on Friday night, yesterday was hot! Sorry about the bit of dust or something on the thermometer, but by the time I realised it was there the temperature had dropped so I couldn't re-take the photo.

I started in this quilt in 2001 and was very, very happy when I finished it in 2012!

So that's the end of our Scatterdays journey. It's been fun! Many thanks to Cinzia for initiating it, running it all year, and hosting the links. Check out the other participants via her blog here. We lost a few along the way due to illness, busyness, travel and life in general.  Congratulations to those who made it to the end!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Secret Stuff

Today I did some sewing from each of these magazines:
On the left, the November 1982 issue, which is the first Burda magazine I ever bought new. On the right, the December 1991 issue, which I picked up when the local library had a sale.

In 1982 Burda moden was in German except for the front cover. By 1991 it was just Burda, and was all English except the pattern sheets. The fashions had changed, but you can see from the covers that the themes in each issue are quite similar. '82 has "evening fashion", while '91 has "festive partywear". '82 has skiwear, while '91 has showsuits. But I wasn't sewing evening wear or snowsuits today!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


This is how the brugmansia from my last post looked at 2:20pm today when the temperature hit 40°C:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Evening Perfume

The brugmansia has huge flowers which release a lovely perfume on these summer evenings:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Summer Mystery - Step 3

A gnome in a garden I walked past this morning:
His coat looked dark orange in real life, but it looks more like red on the computer. With the grass and the neutral pebbles, he looked like our colour scheme.

Yesterday I tried to make half-square triangles Bonnie's way. But they really weren't working. My machine did not like feeding such tiny shapes. Here's what happened to many of the ones I sent through the machine blunt-end first:
The underneath layer got pulled down and scrunched up (left and centre), or the whole thing concertinaed (right). I tried a different foot, and changed the needle position, and tried sending the pieces through point-first. Each change helped a little, but then when I tried to press open the ones which were sewn OK, many of them ended up very distorted. The small pieces and the curved side of my iron were not a good combination. After all the trouble I took, I only had about one in four that were usable. There had to be a better way!

Once I calmed down, I remembered an episode of Simply Quilts from about 15 years ago. In it Nancy Martin taught her method of cutting bias strips and sewing them together, pressing the whole thing, and then cutting the correct size squares as the last step in the process. It had to be worth a try, to eliminate the sewing and ironing as sources of distortion. A bit of googling gave me appropriate measurements, so this morning I started all over again.

Sewing the yellow and orange bias strips together:
Making sure that the same two fabrics are never beside each other twice gives maximum variation in the resulting squares.

And once they are cut:
Perfectly square, exactly the right size! Hooray! I'm much happier about this step now than I was yesterday.

I need to make another set of bias strips to get the 200 squares we need, and then I will sew the pinwheels. But I should get them done by the end of the week.

When Bonnie sets up her Monday link-up for step 3, I'll add the link to this post.

Added later: Here's the link-up!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Replacement Kalanchoe

Filled the hole left by the stolen plant with a silvery kalanchoe:
Kalanchoe pumila, grown from a cutting (so even cheaper than the $2 plant that was stolen). This looks better than the original; I really like the silvery colour against the deep red begonia leaves.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lal Lal Trip

A lovely day for a drive in the country.
On the left is our land. We had to do some mowing and weeding, and check on the bees.

There are a few plants flowering at the moment. This is a goodenia:

And this is something you really don't want to see:
Bluebell creeper, Billardiera heterophylla (formerly Sollya heterophylla). Unfortunately the neighbours on either side are doing nothing to control it, and each has huge thickets of it on their properties. We pull up small plants, and treat larger ones with weedkiller, but with the good weather this year and the constant supply of seed from neighbouring properties, it is hard to keep it under control.

While treating weeds I noticed this bird keeping two eyes on me:
It is a tawny frogmouth, Podargus strigoides. They are fantastic birds, and it was exciting to see it, and a second one in another tree. Are they are pair? Are they breeding here? We can hope.

The bees are not doing well. One hive is queenless and therefore dying out. The other has brood, but almost no honey stored. There just must not be enough food for them in the area.
They will have to come back to the city, and soon. Moving them at this time of year won't be easy as the days are so long, but if they are going to survive, they need food. They should be storing honey at this time of year so that they can survive through winter.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Still Step Two

I've been unusually social the last couple of days, so haven't had a lot of sewing time. The mystery quilt is still on my mind though. This is the corner of an ad I noticed on a tram stop today:
See those colours? Yellow, green, blue, and orange!

When I got home, late in the day, I did some more sewing for step two:
I probably won't be able to work on them again until Friday afternoon. Then I need to make about 20 more units before the next part is released that night.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dahlia Comparison

In August, when I received the replacement dahlia, Pauline asked for a photo of both of them in flower. This is for you, Pauline!
At the top, the replacement "Marie Antoinette" today. Below, the original one, photographed last week. I couldn't get them both in the same shot as they are planted about 2km apart.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Summer Mystery Quilt - Step 2

 Yesterday I had lunch 75km east of the city, then dinner 75km south-west of the city. I only had time to look at the second part of our mystery, but no time to sew! I took this photo of flowers on a Grevillea robusta along the way. The colours reminded me of our mystery.
Today I made a start on step 2, doing lots of preparation, but not a lot of sewing. Here are 16 completed blocks of the 100 I need.

Once Bonnie activates the link-up I will add the link here so that you can go and see what lots of other mystery makers have achieved.

Added later: Here's the link!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Scatterday - C

The letter for our second-last Scatterday is:

and we are looking for:

Sunday always used to involve church attendance.

It is hard to get a canna leaf wet - rain just beads on the surface.

Double-ended calipers, as used by woodturners. They are also rather cute.

This iron caddy was almost colourless when I bought it a couple of months ago. But I'm hoping the addition of some colourful embellishments makes it more cheerful. I'm giving it away later today, so I hope the recipient will be content with my contribution!

You can see what the other Scatterdayers found for this challenge by visiting Cinzia's blog here.  I'm pretty sure there's only Y to go, so come back in two weeks for that!

Friday, December 6, 2013


This afternoon, while looking around my garden, I noticed this:
This is the planter near my front steps. What is wrong is probably not obvious to the casual observer, but see that black hole in the middle? There was a plant there last time I looked!

It wasn't a valuable plant. I think it was about $2 from the mark-down table at my local hardware retailer. But it was overcoming what they had done to it, and had started to grow and flower. All that was left today was one broken-off flower:
I don't think it was scratched out by an animal, as there was no sign of the plant anywhere around the pot or elsewhere in the garden. And although there was a bit of the potting mix on the leaves of the remaining plants, there wasn't any on the ground around the planter. So I can only assume that a human did this, but I really can't explain why.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


It wasn't warm at all today, but I was very surprised when I was out walking and the sky started throwing ice at me:
Hailstones snapped while I was sheltering in the railway underpass (before giving up and getting the bus home).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

More Yo-Yos

I need to finish a couple of little projects before the weekend. These are for one of them: