Friday, January 31, 2014

Still Going

My last post was of the first two blocks of the mystery quilt being joined together, so here's block number 81 (the last one) being stitched to its neighbour:
It's not obvious, but there is quite a pile of blocks stacked up behind the machine. At this point all the blocks were connected mesh-like, in three sets of 27 blocks. Next I have to press all these new seams, and then sew the seams in the opposite direction. I decided it was easiest to do that in small bites; press one set of three blocks, then sew them to what is already done. Repeat until done! This way I'm less likely to get myself confused and sew something upside down or sideways or the like.

Here is the first nine blocks completely sewn together:
That's a ninth of the final top!

The process of "press a bit, sew it on, press a bit more", helps me be methodical, but it might make continuing over the weekend a bit of an ordeal. Tomorrow the forecast is 36C, then Sunday 41C - not really nice temperatures for using an iron!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Here We Go

All the blocks are made (although not all have been pressed yet), so it is time to start assembling the mystery quilt. Here are the first two blocks heading through my machine:
I  chained together the first two columns of blocks this evening. Only another 63 blocks to join! I'm hoping to get the top put together (probably minus borders) by the end of this coming weekend, as Bonnie has scheduled a final Celtic Solstice link-up for Sunday. Will I make it?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fourteen Fruitboxes

Every year at about this time the TreeProject growing season starts. In case you aren't familiar with TreeProject, here's a quote from their website:
"TreeProject provides opportunities for people to get involved and do something practical for the environment by growing indigenous seedlings in their own backyards. We provide volunteer growers with training, support and growing materials needed to set up a ‘home nursery’ and successfully grow strong healthy seedlings."

So here's my "home nursery" for this year:
In about six months from now, each of these boxes will hold 48 seedlings ready to be planted out in revegetation schemes. This year I have five eucalypt species, two acacias, and a callistemon, all destined for a Landcare group in central Victoria. According to the paperwork I collected today, this is the 12th year I have grown TreeProject seedlings. Some years I had seven boxes of seedlings rather than 14, but all together it is about 4,500 trees!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Alternate Blocks

Some of the extra blocks I am making will look like this:
This is the first of the new batch, laid out ready to sew. I quite like the neutral star shape in the middle, although now I'm wondering what it would have been like to have a yellow star and neutral points on the outside. Too late now, this is how I made the chevrons! For a comparison with the original blocks, see the one on the left below:

After writing the above, I did a bit of googling and found out exactly how it would have looked to have the yellow star shape, as I found a few people who had done exactly that. (E.g. Here, here, here, and here!) But I didn't find anyone who did them the way I have, so I guess that makes mine a little bit different.

Friday, January 24, 2014

No Triangles

I'm getting closer to being able to assemble the extra blocks for my mystery quilt, and then the quilt itself.
All these pieces were made without ever sewing a triangle. One of the advantages of Bonnie Hunter's blog link-ups during the mystery is seeing how other people tackled the blocks. I'm using two methods I saw on other people's blogs.  First the "magic 8" method to make the pinwheels and half-square triangles, and then the "Mary's Triangles" method to make the blue corner units. The results of each method are much neater than the equivalent blocks made by sewing triangles. I think my wooden presser is helping too. I didn't touch the pinwheels with the iron until they were fully constructed.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

SCQuilters CBD Get-Together

Had a lovely day in town with seven other members of SCQuilters (Southern Cross Quilters):
I cut apart triangles I had sewn at home yesterday - forgot to take a picture until they were all cut apart, but they were half-square triangles made in sets of eight. Here's a blog post explaining how to do that in case you aren't familiar with the technique. I pressed my squares open with a handy little wooden gadget which was made for me recently, then trimmed them to size. These are pieces for the extra blocks I'm making for the summer mystery quilt.

Here's a couple of views of Collins Street from up at tree level. Looking west:
Looking east:

After such a nice day, I got home and found this beside my front door:
I think this time a cat is probably the culprit. Once I had re-assembled the pot and its plants as well as I could, I added some skewers sticking up out of it. I put some in the planter which keeps losing plants as well. I'm hoping the skewers will deter neighbourhood cats from trying to use my plants as litter trays. We'll see.

On a happier note, here's a little gift I was given by a friend at the get-together;
She thought my "new" treadle machine would like some vintage needles. Thank you! They look right at home on the machine.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crepe Myrtle

I was surprised to notice today that one branch of one of my crepe myrtles is in flower.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Still Don't Like It

It has taken just over three years, but today this house:
turned into this:
I'm glad I was out for most of the day. This was what was left when I came home. Now I suppose construction of the four townhouses will commence. As you can see there is a precedent; the house which was originally on the left was demolished and turned into a shop and three flats a few years ago.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Scatterdayers in Altona

One of my earliest memories is going to Altona Hospital to meet my new baby sister. Today I was back in Altona.

As I walked along the pier I was entranced by a line of swans:
And fascinated by gulls digging in the sand between waves:

But my real reason for heading west today was a concert by Cathy Miller, The Singing Quilter.
The building which was once the hospital where my little sister arrived, today saw a meeting of some Scatterday Sisters! Here you see 75% of those who made it through to the end of the Scatterdays challenge; the Aussie Kilted Quilter, the Singing Quilter, and me. It was a shame Pauline from Blink n You Miss It couldn't have joined us to complete the set.

The concert was wonderful! I bought Cathy's CDs so that she can keep me company in my sewing room in future.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Ventured out of the house today, and found this in the local shopping area:
It is part of Play Me, I'm Yours, an artwork by British artist Luke Jerram. There are 24 pianos in various locations around Melbourne. I saw a couple of them from the tram earlier in the week, but I had no idea there was one almost on my doorstep. This one seems to be very popular with kids!

Back home my sewing room has cooled down enough for me to do some work. I prepared the pieces for the 64 extra chevrons I'm making for the summer mystery:
That took quite a while, but I did manage to get half the pieces assembled before dinner time:
I didn't get them pressed though.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Only Way

for the dogs and me to get any exercise this week,
is to go out for a walk before the sun comes up.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Treadled Top

First thing this morning I had to do a bit of unplanned gardening. I noticed a clump of potting mix on my path, and didn't have to look far to see where it had come from. The planter by my front steps, which had one of its plants inexplicably stolen in December, had lost another one!
This time one of the begonia plants has been removed. Who is doing this, and what possible reason could they have? I suppose I am glad that they are only taking the cheap plants out of the planter, and not the more valuable ones planted in the front garden. But why steal plants that only cost a couple of dollars in the first place? This time I've replaced the missing plant with a piece which had broken off my Cyanotus somaliensis, so another free one if it grows.

On to the real business of the day! I made the Tesutti Zoe top:
and I did all the sewing on the treadle machine! I did neaten the underarm/side seam allowances with my overlocker, after stitching them with the treadle, rather than do a french seam as per the instructions. The seam has a tight curve under the arm, so I didn't think a french seam would sit properly. The shoulder/arms seams are treadled french seams. My neck binding (all treadled) is "wrong", as I didn't have a printout of the instructions handy so just did what I thought they said. It is actually wrong because I meant to have it end up on the inside but sewed it to the incorrect side and didn't notice until it was too late. No-one will know.

This was a trial run to see if I liked the look of the top before I potentially wasted nice fabric. I had been going to use an op-shop find, but this was even cheaper - it was in the cabinet I saved from landfill on Saturday. I think it is a rayon.

Sewing it on the treadle was good practice! I felt like a beginner sewer again though, and in places my stitching looks like it was done by a beginner. At times I was tempted to swap to my regular machine where I knew I could get a better, neater finish. But I stuck to it, realising that I won't develop my skills if I don't challenge myself. And concentrating on mastering the treadle took my mind off the weather!

So, did I like the top once it was made? I don't know, I was too hot and sweaty to want to be bothered with trying it on. That will have to wait until I've had a cooling shower.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Extending the Mystery

Finished pressing the last of the mystery blocks:
So theoretically I could now assemble the quilt top, as all the components are ready. Hooray!

 But instead I scribbled a little diagram,
did some calculations,
and started making more components.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Second Chance

First flower on one of my Mystic Star dahlias, after the early disappointment when something attacked them as they started growing this year.
Fortunately all four of the plants have survived, so there should be plenty more flowers this summer.

While out walking today I saw someone wheeling this cabinet towards a skip:
It is exactly the same as the cabinet my new 66K treadle is in (but less shiny). For a moment I thought I may have just purchased something that I could have had for free a few days later! But the machine had been taken out of this one years ago, and now it just holds fabric. Had to bring it home anyway.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Not So Pretty

Here's what I found in the bobbin area of my new Singer 66K treadle when I opened it up today:
It was caked solid with lint, which was all very dry. I don't think the machine had been cleaned out or oiled for a very long time. Below is just a small part of the lint I pulled out of it, but can you see the bit of metal?
That's the end of a broken needle. Who knows how long that's been in the works.

Behind the side panel was the same story:
 Dry and caked with years of lint.

I am puzzled by the outer surface of the machine. All the black areas seem to be coated either in a waxy yellow build-up (for anyone who remembers Mary Hartman), or the surface layer of the original finish breaking down:
The darker patches are where the yellowy stuff has come off. Is it old shellac? And if it is, will removing it also remove the pretty decals? I need to research this before I get too enthusiastic about cleaning the exterior.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A New Toy

Bought myself a little something today:
It is a Singer 66K treadle machine made in Kilbowie, Scotland, in April 1939, which folds up into a neat little cabinet. It hasn't been used in a while, but it has been stored somewhere protected. There is no rust, so with a bit of cleaning and some oil it will look and sew almost as good as new.
It is quite a pretty machine. I found it advertised a few days ago, for a very reasonable price. Today I went to "have a look" at it, but I couldn't resist bringing it home. When I opened the storage drawer inside the cabinet I got a very nice surprise:
Lots of goodies that hadn't even been mentioned in the ad, including a buttonholer!

I haven't had a chance to start cleaning it up yet, but I did have to give it a try:
Yes, it does sew! Once it is clean and oiled and has a sharp new needle and some nice thread, it will be even better.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Summer Mystery - Final

Today is the final link-up for the mystery quilt. Apparently lots of people have been posting their finished tops on facebook, but for those of us not on that site, the link-up is the only opportunity to see everyone's progress. I am really looking forward to seeing them all, particularly those who chose different colour schemes.

This week's garden depiction of our colours features some yellow and orange cannas with a blue and neutral fence, and some bonus yellow roses in the background.

I don't have a completed top, but I do have 4 rows of blocks made and pressed:
I think it looks better in real life than it does in the photo. It was a bit late in the day when I took this, and the flash couldn't illuminate the whole thing.

Pressing is the killer - it took me 45 minutes to give 10 blocks their final press today. I'd be interested to know how people are pressing them once the blocks are joined. Do you keep pressing to one side and spinning the seams on every intersection? And if so, which side are you pressing to? Or do you use some other strategy?

Apart from the 28 pressed blocks, I've got a few more fully assembled and ready for the final press. Then the last 16 look like this:
They are half-assembled. Each one is in three pieces, joined as a web. They all need pressing before the final seams are sewn. So I'm almost ready to assemble the quilt top, BUT...

I am seriously thinking of making 32 more blocks to make a 9 x 9 grid. I really like this quilt, and would like to make it big enough for a bed. So this could turn into a longer-term project.

Thanks Bonnie, for another fun mystery!

I'll add the link to Bonnie's link-up post when it is available later tonight, so we can visit everyone else and marvel at their achievements.

Here's the link-up!

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Today I finally tackled pressing the summer mystery blocks.

The 54-40 or Fight block wasn't too bad:
Spinning the seam allowances to help the block lie flat was easy enough, as they are all simple intersections of four fabrics. But the Birthday Girl block was less fun:
There are a lot of fabrics in those intersections, so flattening them is a bit tricky.

I now have 18 blocks completed and fully pressed, 15 blocks completed but not pressed, and 16 more blocks to assemble. I don't think I'll be getting any of them joined together in time for Bonnie's link-up tomorrow. Apart from not actually being finished, I'm wondering about making more blocks to make a bigger quilt which would be bed-sized. This one is 49 blocks (7 x 7). Bonnie's big version is 11 x 11, which would be too big. But maybe 9 x 9 blocks would work... Or maybe contemplating making another 32 blocks is a sign of madness...

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Bit of a blah day, but this was one of the good moments.

Another was when I managed to persuade the staff at Officeworks that this was a plan, not a poster:
It is the free Tessuti Zoe pattern (which Tessuti say fits on an A1 page, but that is wrong - it is A0). Why did it matter if it is a plan or a poster? Printing an A0 plan is $3.70. A poster is $9.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mystery Progress

I've spent some time over the last couple of days sewing together mystery blocks. Here's where I'm up to now:
None of these have had their final press, but I got impatient to see how they looked.

I love the way the blue circles are forming as blocks are added!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Annual or Perennial?

This little cutie was on the mark-down table at my local hardware place:
It is verbena "Candy Cane". Perfect Christmas colours! Perhaps that was why it was only 30% of its original price? It doesn't say if it is an annual or a perennial, but it is supposed to bloom through to April. I will have had my money's worth out of it even if it dies after that.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hello 2014!

I spent the first minutes of the year out in the street wondering where people buy their illegal fireworks. It seemed as if everyone else in the neighbourhood had some!

Late this afternoon I discovered that Bonnie Hunter had surprised us all by revealing the mystery at midnight her time (about 4:00pm here). I had to rush home to my sewing machine to put a couple of the blocks together to see how they will look:
I haven't fully ironed these two because I had to go out again. Making the rest of the blocks should keep me busy for a few days. I need to do a few more to get the feel for the overall design.

It will be fun to visit everyone's blogs on the final link-up next week and see how all their different colour schemes look.

Happy 2014, everyone!