Skinflint Sunday: The week that was.

Evan24 and Jenna on the steps of the Opera House.

Life in lockdown has continued on its sedate path. Here in Melbourne we know the rules and everyone – except the nutters – follows them. The reality of the Delta variant came home to us when Evan24 and Jenna, (pictured above a couple of months ago in happier times before NSW bungled its Covid response), were notified that they had to go into isolation. Their housemate is from NSW and went to a rugby match (ugh) in the city, where a super spreader was. So far they’ve all tested negative but it’s a warning as to how easily we can be exposed to it.

To ease the pain of iso I sent them a half a dozen bottles of shiraz. Tey may as well eat, drink and make merry while they’re stuck there!

I asked about Lentil, the golden retriever, who lives with them. Apparently dog lovers from up and down their street are waiting at the front gate to pick her up and take her for a walk. Dog people are the best people.

2 apple trees

My project for Lockdown #5 was to plant a row of columnar apples along the strip of garden in the driveway next to my car. I bought 4 trees last year just before Lockdown #3 (I think) and they’ve been sitting in pots waiting for winter. I looked at the space and on the day before this current lockdown I went and bought another one. Turns out I should’ve bought 2.

I have 5 of these trees out in the back yard and last year we had a pretty decent crop from such small trees. Only one didn’t fruit and a couple of them went wild. These ones in the front will have slightly less sunlight but hopefully they’ll do the right thing in a year or two and give me plenty of apples. They’re a mix of red and yellow, which will keep things interesting.

Stumps in the ground.

The only problem is that there was an orange tree that wasn’t removed properly when I had the garden bed cleared last year, so of course its roots are precisely where we want 2 of the apples to go. When lockdown finishes I’m going to get Blogless Sandy to bring her husband, Even More Blogless Andrew, to bring his mini chainsaw to gently break it up. Hopefully we can buy another tree and have the whole lot in the ground before Spring.

Red against dark grey.

Look at how pretty the new growth looks against my newly-painted fence!

Next Saturday I get my second shot. I’ll be so glad when that happens. I saw online that over 18s can get the AZ shot, so Ryan26 booked an appointment and 2 hours later his first shot was done. When he’s out of quarantine Evan24 will be rolling up his sleeve as well, with the other boys not far behind.

Dogs on the couch.

The little woofs are all doing well and are still the light of my life. I really believed that after I retired, they’d get used to me being around and would be more chill about me not being in their direct line of vision at all times.

Not so. I didn’t think it was possible for them to be even more attached than they were, but it’s happened. I mean, it’s flattering and all, but it’s still a bit embarrassing when I get an hysterical welcome back after stepping outside the gate to put the bins out.

Fabric hexagons

I’ve begun cutting out hexagons to make a quilt for the lounge room. When I went on last months Little Adventure to Kellie’s fabric shop in Faulkner I picked up fabric that goes with the painting that I bought when I went to Hahndorf.

Fabric next to a painting.

I’ll be machine piecing this quilt, but I’m cutting the hexies out by hand by tracing around a template with a water soluble pen. Life would be easier if the ink in the pen wasn’t so blue… I really should’ve started from the other end of the bag!

My quest to ‘earn’ back my council rates by reading $1,800 worth of books from the local library is coming along well, with only $305 to go. I’ve discovered the most fantastic series by an Australian author called Joy Dettman – The ‘Woody Creek’ novels. I’ve finished the first 2 and – can you believe it? – my library doesn’t have 3, 4 5, and 6. I’ll be putting in a request sometime today for them to buy them. What’s the point in having the first and last books in a series without having the middle ones?

Argh!

Still, if this is the worst thing that has happened to me this week, then life must be pretty darned good. 🙂

Skinflint Sunday: I may be throwing good hours after bad.

Remember the baby quilt that I unpicked for WEEKS and then sewed back together again?

The one that nearly drove me to the brink of despair?

I was throwing out all the weird lozenge-shapes, but then I got to thinking of how much work Past Frogdancer put in.

So I decided to do this:

I have some triangles, some 1″ squares and some 1″ coins.

I think I’ll be able to make something from these… one day.

The pile of lozenges was on the corner of my table, looking messy. But now all of the pieces are in a ziplock bag, all cut and ready for inspiration to strike.

Only took about 3 hours to tidy up. Do you know how many stray threads were on these things? Who knows if I’ll ever do something with all of this, but it just felt too sad to throw them all away.

After reading a couple of quilting books by Amanda-Jean Nyberg, I’ve decided to do as she suggests and sort through my stash, cutting little scraps into usable shapes. When I want to make something, most of the cutting will already have been done!

This jar is filling with 1″ square blocks. These quilting books have LOTS of projects using small squares, so I’m thinking these will come in handy.

At the back is the beginning of a pile of hexagons. Yes – I’ll be learning a new skill and making a hexie quilt. God help me.

These are 2.5″ squares. Up until now they’ve been pretty much the smallest pieces I use.

And this was how my day began today. David27 gave me this mug for my birthday last year, celebrating my favourite episode from (one of) my favourite tv shows. I grabbed it out of the dishwasher and the handle snapped in my hand.

I texted David27 to let him know. His response?

“Noooooo!”

The 2011 – 2021 Couch Quilt.

Long shot of the entire quilt.

Way back in 2011 I signed up to be part of a quilting bee. There were 12 members and each month for a year we’d get fabric and instructions for a quilt block sent to us by one of the bee members. The idea was that everyone would get enough blocks to make an entire quilt, with the blocks measuring around 12.5″ square.

When it came my turn, I decided to ask for a wonky log cabin BUT made as a ‘Quilt As You Go’ block. This means that instead of just sewing fabric together to make a block, the fabric strips are sewn ONTO a piece of batting. Then, all you have to do is assemble the blocks, pop a backing piece and binding on it and the quilt is done. No wresting a quilt through your sewing machine!

I asked for the centre of the blocks to be the piece of green with buttons, then for people to piece the rest as they wished, feeling free to add a piece or two from their own stashes if they felt like it.

The blocks arrived back. I looked online for how to put them together effectively. There were SO MANY different versions. I became paralysed with indecision. Then thermomix came along and I became very, very busy so the blocks were put away for “one day”.

A few weeks ago I was sorting through my fabric stash and I found them. I googled again – found a simple way to attach them all together and so I decided that I am NOT allowed to start another new quilt until this one was put together. These blocks have waited long enough.

In the end, it took a mere afternoon to finish this quilt.

Oof.

Poppy and Scout checking it out on the couch.

I decided to try a few different things with this one.

First off, the QAYG thing was different. The fear that stopped me finishing it 10 years ago was that you might feel ridges between each block. In the end, I simply sewed the blocks tother as usual, then attached the backing with straight stitching 1/4″ on either side of the blocks. Worked beautifully. I’m sitting on it now and there are no ridges digging in to my ample behind.

Two: instead of putting the blocks together as a normal-shaped quilt, I decided to make what I’m calling a “couch quilt”. In other words, a quilt designed to fit the length of the cough to protect the leather. It has enough length so that there’s overhang over the arms of the couch, which is perfect if you own a dachshund. Scout loves to snuggle under things. She jumps up beside me and I can flip the overhang over the top of her. (She’s there right now, snug and sound asleep.)

Three: I decided to attach the binding with the sewing machine but from the back, rather than the front. Then I sewed it by machine onto the front. It’s basically a reverse of the technique I showed you here. Would I do this again? The answer is that although it was far easier than doing it they way I outlined in the tutorial, it bugged me having the little flap on the front of the quilt rather than the back.

Though having said that, I’ve realised that once the quilt is out of the machine and is being used, no one really looks at the binding anyway, so maybe I’ll use it again. No pinning necessary when you do it the reverse way!

Close up of a block.

Here is a detail. You can see that it’s heavily quilted in straight lines. I had to trim some of the blocks, so in the end the blocks measured around 11.5″ square.

It feels really good to get this project done and dusted.

Skinflint Sunday: These boots were made for (more) walking.

A couple of Christmases ago, Ryan26 bought me some ugg boots – otherwise known as slippers. Over time, both of them got holes right where my big toes were. This wasn’t a problem in summer, but when I go out with the dogs in the chilly winter mornings, it gets a bit breezy.

Something had to be done.

The obvious answer was to simply go and get another pair. But everything else on the boots was perfectly fine. And then I had a brilliant idea…

A fellow blog writer named Spo put me onto a brilliantly quirky podcast called ‘Welcome to Nightvale.’ I started it about 5 years too late so it took me 3 months of listening to catch up and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve even been to 2 stage shows when they toured Australia.

I remembered that they had patches as part of their merch.

Don’t they look FABULOUS?

Instead of paying well over $100 for a pair of uggies, I spent $24.50 (plus 74c international transaction fee) to fix my uggies and make them absolutely ME.

Now they’re toasty warm again and I love them even more.

David27 is engaged!

Some of you have been reading this blog since the boys were tiny, so I hope you’re as pleased as we are with this news. After dating for 4 years, David27 has popped the question!

Since lockdowns started this year he’s pretty much moved into Izzy’s parents’ place and he works out that way too now, so they’ve been seeing each other every day. That’ll let you know whether the relationship has legs!

Anyway, they’re still besotted with each other, so it’s all good.

And now I FINALLY have a daughter (of the same species as me.)

My old beach towel.

Many years ago when the boys were small, Father Christmas brought beach towels and bathers. He also snuck a towel inside the linen cupboard for me. Over the years, those towels saw some fun times!

But clearly, all good times must come to an end.

Or do they…?

I was about to throw it away, but really. The ends were almost perfectly fine. Could I use them?

It turns out that yes, I can.

Jeffrey hasn’t had a good run in the teeth department and he has only a few ivories left. Every morning I give the little woofs a chicken neck each. Poppy and Scout scarf them down, but Jeff usially needs more time.

I have to stay out there with him to top him lying on the front doormat and chewing away at the raw neck.

Until now…

(Well, I’ll still stay out there to make sure he doesn’t choke, but at least I won’t have to be angrily waving him away from there any more.)

Look at this magnificence! Two big doormat-coverers and 8 cloths.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while. Honestly, you’d think I’d learn by now to just jump onto an idea and DO IT when I think about it. The whole exercise took less than 10 minutes.

I just cut the towel into various bits with my pinking shears and then machine-sewed around the edges.

Call me wasteful, but I was happy to throw these bits out.

🙂

The vintage-look baby quilt for Tom29.

Yes, this quilt nearly broke me. As I said yesterday to Ryan26, “If this was the first quilt I’d tried to make, I would’ve thought quilting was all too hard and I would’ve given it all up. As it is… I KNOW I can do it and I WILL!”

I’m going to do a Scarlett O’Hara and say – “As God is my witness, I’ll never unpick a quilt again.”

The pattern itself is terrific and I’d happily make another.

The backing is the rest of the doona cover that I bought in an op shop to use for this very purpose – there are squares of the roses on the front – along with a strip of very sweet ‘girly’ fabric I’ve had sitting around here for years, along with a pale pink that I bought a while ago, thinking it’d come in useful.

The binding is a mix of the darkest pink fabric on the front, plus a couple of remnants of the binding I made for a quilt way back in 2010. All of these scraps eventually come in handy!

The white stars stand out now. The horseshoes are all pointing upwards for luck and – now that it’s finally finished – all’s right with the world!

The boys and their girlfriends are coming over to an ‘after lockdown’ dinner tomorrow night, so I’ll give it to Tom29 to give to the expectant parents. I hope they like it.

Skinflint Sunday: I hate quilting.

I have NEVER used my seam ripper/quick unpick more on any project. This little baby quilt is killing me.

It’s been 2 weeks since I looked at the finished baby quilt and decided that I had to take it apart. It took a week to get it all unpicked and then I had to pull more fabric from the stash and rebuild it. Yesterday I decided to start the quilting.

“It’s only a baby quilt. It shouldn’t take long at all!” I optimistically said.

In the first row of quilting, I didn’t notice that the backing had flipped, so I sewed some of the flipped material into the actual quilting. That took time to fix.

Then, in the 3rd row, I accidentally sewed the row closer to the 2nd row than I wanted. Luckily, I caught it pretty early in the row, when the bobbin ran out. But I’d sewed the ends in BEFORE I realised, so there was more time wasted. The quick unpick was working like a navvy.

The new bobbin kept snagging and snapping. Over and over again. More quick unpick work.

After my 40th “I can’t fucking BELIEVE this!!!”, Ryan26 put his head around the door to ask how it was going.

“Everything that could go wrong HAS gone wrong. If this quilt is any indication about this baby’s personality, she’s going to lead her parents a very merry dance.”

He told me it was 4:40. I’d only completed 4 rows. Around 1/4 of what I’ll need to do to complete it.

That was it. I was done for the day.

Quilting is horrible.

Skinflint Sunday: The ‘No Spend Days’ chart.

Vet bill for Jeffrey.

I just did a search to see if I’ve ever written about my ‘No Spend Days’ chart here and it seems like I haven’t.

I’m aghast! This is such a great tool for our little group to know about. I’ve been doing it for at least 4 years and it works beautifully in making my spending intentional instead of mindless.

I’m so sorry!

If you’re interested in learning how to make a game out of learning how to wave the credit card/wallet with intent, instead of simply out of habit, then grab a cuppa. I’m going to link you to 3 posts on the FIRE blog where I’ve written about this in detail. No sense doing the same job twice, hey?

The initial post in 2018 – where I detail how it works and what the ‘rules’ are.

Another post in 2020 – describing how lockdowns affected my spending – in a good way.

And the latest post, where I talk about how my massive 61 week silver streak came to an end. Hint – look at the photo at the top of the page.

I hope you take the time to see how the chart works. It’s been a massively successful tool for me, especially when I was paying out 73% of my take-home wage on the bridging finance when I was doing the property development on the old house and I’d bought The Best House In Melbourne.

Anyway – what else has been going on?

The baby quilt that I talked about last week has finally been unpicked and new colours substituted for the yellow. I sewed up the rows so today, after I go out and sweep up some leaves that have fallen from the neighbour’s ornamental pear trees (free mulch – yay!) I’m hoping to finish sewing the top together and (maybe) sandwich it all together again ready for quilting.

Ryan26 has a 2 week break until he can go back and finish his Myotherapy course, so we’ve decided that every day, I’ll take him out driving so he can get his licence. We had our first lesson yesterday. I took him to a car park that the local pub, hardware store and Dan Murphy’s share. We tootled around the back part for a while and he was doing so well that I allowed him to get on the roads and drive us home. For someone who suffers from anxiety when he thought about driving, he’s knocked it out of the park. I didn’t have to grab the Jesus strap once!

Remember when we harvested all of these beauties from the front yard? This would only have been half the haul – I’d already taken a shopping trolley’s-worth up to work to give away and I’d also waked up and down the street giving away some as well.

We’re down to the very last one. I’ve been putting pumpkin into pretty much anything I could so nothing would go to waste. They’ve lasted beautifully and I’ll be sorry to see them go. Still, to console me, I still have about 150 meal-sized bags of chopped zucchini to see me through…

Last year we had lots of peas spring up from the pea straw mulch. I let some dry on the vine and we had a delectable pea soup with a ham hock for a couple of dinners last week. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to create a meal from something you’ve produced from the garden. (That’s the peas, not the ham hock. Had to buy that part of the dish.)

Skinflint Sunday: Colours are hard.

I’m in the middle of a quilting balls-up and I have no one to blame but myself.

I decided to base the baby quilt I’m making for Tom29 to give to friends on the yellow fabric with the pink, blue and green hearts. I spent AGES first sorting through all of the bins in my stash, separating all the colours into piles. (This was a job I’d been meaning to do for years…)

Had my colours chosen, then thought I’d play with the colour values. This is something I’ve only lately become aware of, since stumbling across Blue Elephant Stitches and Wombat Quilts. Why not have the yellow and white going across the quilt in a grid? What could go wrong?

First off, this quilt photographs better than it looks in real life.

I cut and sewed together the 425 pieces that it takes to make a baby/cot quilt.

Ryan26 wandered through at one stage and said, “I don’t like the yellow against the white.” I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO HIM!

I finished the quilt top. I had misgivings but ignored them and pushed through with pinning the quilt sandwich together. There it was laid out on the floor. I called Ryan26 in to have a look.

He sighed.

I said, “Yeah, I know. The yellow drowns out the stars. When I look at it, all I can see are weird yellow lozenges, not white stars.”

“Well, you can just finish it and give it to them, I guess,” he said. He’s been the child of a quilter for many years – he knows how much time and effort goes into these things.

“Yeah…” I said.

Ryan26 is a wise man. He probably knew what was coming. He left me to it.

The thing is – I should have taken a black and white photo of the yellow and white together. That would have told me instantly that they were of equal brightness.

See how the white stars just fade away?

Did I think of taking a b/w photo before I did the work?

Yes.

So, like I said, I have no one to blame but myself. I hate it when that happens.

I went to bed, saying to myself, “I don’t know these people. Tom29 can give it to them; I’ll never see it again either way.”

But I woke at 3 AM, knowing that I wanted Tom29 to give them a quilt that looks pretty and will be used, rather than stuffed in a cupboard somewhere.

So I decided to unpick the quilt, substituting the yellow blocks for other fabric already in the quilt, with added pink blocks.

It’ll take a day to unpick, I thought.

Um… not so.

This is two solid days’ work, with 1/3 of the quilt still to go. The actual unpicking isn’t too bad because I’ve been listening to podcasts while I work. A great one I found was “Stuff of Legends with Christian O’Connell”, where he gets famous people to bring in their 3 most prized possessions and talk about them. I caught up on “My Dad wrote a porno” and listened to the new series of “The Pineapple Project”. This season is all about frugality, which as we all know is my jam. Today is a ‘Casefile’ kind of day. I feel slightly murderous.

Just to let you know what this quilt is supposed to look like, here’s the original one, only in blues.

Kellie details how to make it here. She has it as a project that you use from scraps cut from the leftovers as you’re making other quilts, which is a great way to tackle this. Making it, pulling it apart and sewing it together again is definitely not the way to go.

But hey. At least I have the time to be able to fix my mistakes.

There’s also something else I learned from this. After 36 quilts, I REALLY need to have a design wall. If I’d had those blocks up where I could see them, I’m sure I would have seen the problem much earlier.

Quilters – which type of batting makes the best design walls?