My February ALYOF finish

ALYOF logo

There were times during this month of February – being a short one as it is – when my ALYoF project stalled, and I really didn’t think I was going to get it finished by the deadline … but a stern talking to the procrastinator in me did the trick, and I actually finished it with a couple of days to spare 🙂  And I’m feeling particularly pleased with myself, as this is the first double bed-sized quilt which I have quilted on my 35-year old sewing machine, which doesn’t have a walking foot, and doesn’t have variable speed control, so there was a fair bit of manual hand-and-foot control required when it came to the quilting bit of the project!  OK, so it was only straight-line quilting, nothing fancy (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do fancy with this machine), but I still felt a great sense of achievement when the quilting was all done 🙂  Here are some photos of the finished product:

If you recall my initial post about this project, you will note that the back is much simpler than the many-pieced version I first had in mind:  time constraints (and, if I’m to be honest, some procrastination) meant a change in design at a late stage, and I’m pleased I did so.  (My original constructed backing will now possibly turn into the face of a different quilt, which I can work on at leisure and get it the way I want it, rather than trying to make it fit in with something else and not being happy with the result.)

And so, on to thinking about what I’m going to do for March … given that I’ve been very good in January and February, and actually finished off two WIPS that have been hanging around for over a year, I might treat myself to starting something new – and definitely something smaller,, to take the pressure off for a while! 🙂

And besides, there might not be much time for quilting for a week or two, because look what arrived on my doorstep a couple of days ago:

DSCF7109Yup, it’s firewood time again!  I’m hoping to be able to move and stack this (all 9 cubic metres of it) over the next couple of weeks, and have made a start already – it’s definitely not fire season yet, in fact I think there’s still a ban on fires in the Canterbury region due to the extreme dryness of the area at present, but there is a nip in the air some mornings, and autumn colours are starting to show on some of the trees, so it might not be long before I feel the need to set a fire going in the log burner.

In the meantime, today there is a mouth-watering clash ahead for cricket lovers in New Zealand and Australia, when my beloved Black Caps play Australia in Auckland this afternoon in the round-robin section of the 2015 ICC World Cup Cricket.  The New Zealand team has played three games so far in the tournament, and won all three; Australia has played one, which they won, and then their second match in Brisbane was washed out last Saturday when Cyclone Marcia hit the east coast of Australia, so they’re one game and three points behind us at the moment.  There is always a fierce rivalry between Australia and New Zealand when it comes to sport; Australia is a bit like the older brother who likes to lord it over his younger sibling, while New Zealand is like the annoying young kid who keeps nipping at your heels and is always trying to get in front 🙂  Most times we manage it in the rugby; in rugby league we have been known to spring a surprise win from time to time; but in cricket our wins over our ‘big brother’ have been few and far between.  The Australian cricketers are fearsome opponents, renowned for their big hitting, great bowling, and – sadly – their sledging; although they will deny this, and call it instead, ‘gamesmanship’.  GAMESMANSHIP???  Pah!!  Bring it on, I say, bring it on!  Go, Black Caps!! 🙂


Brendon McCullum, Black Caps captain

Black Caps

A visit to Yaldhurst Cemetery

Two weeks ago I started a year-long photographic course (Beginners Digital SLR) at Hagley Community College.  The course is part of what the college calls its After 3 programme, meaning that the classes are all held after 3pm, mostly in the evenings, and are aimed at adult and senior students who have other commitments during the day.

I’ve been taking photographs for many years now, and used an Olympus OM2 (with a couple of extra lenses) for many years before moving on to a compact digital, followed a few years ago by a Fuji HS10 and then a Fuji HS30.  These last two cameras are not SLR, but are sort of half-way there and were what I could afford at the time, and I’ve been reasonably pleased with the results I’ve achieved with them.  However, I feel I’ve never really come to grips with the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings, and how these can alter your photos; my attempts so far have been much more hit and miss than I would like.  So, with my bridge playing having come to a halt at the end of last year, I was excited when I came across the After 3 photographic course, and after making enquiries as to whether my camera would be suitable despite not being a true SLR, I signed up.

Our first assignment is called Now and Then, and asks us to choose a subject and take a series of photographs using the knowledge we have now, and then revisit the subject in 6-7 weeks’ time to shoot it again, putting into practice what we have learned over that short period.  A number of the class are keen to move off the auto setting on their camera, and explore some of the bells and whistles offered by digital SLR technology.  I’ve been using manual mode on my camera for a couple of years now, so I’m comfortable with being off the auto mode already, but want to gain a better and deeper understanding of how different settings will affect my shots.  For those of you who did your schooling in the 50s and 60s and are of a similar vintage to me, you will probably recall learning multiplication tables by repetition, again and again, until they became so etched in your mind that you instantly knew the answer to 9 x 9, or 11 x 11:  what I’d like to achieve is a similar sort of familiarity with the ‘tables’ of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and what sorts of different  ‘answers’ various combinations of these three things will produce.

Anyway, for my subject I chose to visit Yaldhurst Cemetery, a small rural cemetery which I pass close by on my way to and from work each day.  I’ve been there before, not for any particular reason, but I find cemeteries fascinating places, and am always happy to spend an hour or two wandering through them reading the headstones and postulating in my mind as to the stories behind some of the inhabitants.  What struck me particularly about the cemetery on this visit was the number of gravesites which included animal figures in the grave decorations, and I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you.  (I trust this doesn’t seem too ghoulish – I mean no disrespect to anyone, and many of them brought a smile to my face, so I hope no-one finds it offensive.  I’ve snuck a couple of non-animal ones in as well.)

The wee aeroplane with its propellor whirring merrily in the breeze was actually sitting on a pile of woodchips just over the cemetery fence in the property next door, so I guess it isn’t strictly part of the assignment, but it made me smile 🙂  And you can see what a beautiful late summer evening it was by the blue sky and sunshine!


Cricket and quilting: a perfect combination!

Ahhh, Saturday morning – perfect time for a lie-in …  but not today!!!  Because today sees the start of the 2015 Cricket World Cup – and even my friend Google is joining in the party 🙂

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And with the New Zealand Black Caps opening the tournament this morning at 11am, against Sri Lanka, right here in Christchurch, how could I possibly lie in bed on such an auspicious day?  With 49 games to watch over the next 6 weeks, I’m feeling a little like one of Pavlov’s dogs – someone has rung the bell and I’m salivating at the prospect!  Good luck to all the teams competing, but you all know who I want to win … 🙂

Black Caps


Brendon McCullum, Black Caps Captain


In the meantime, though, there is also the little matter of my February ALYOF project, which abruptly changed course yesterday when I decided not to go ahead with the pieced backing, and opted instead for a single fabric, which I may or may not divide with one or two pieced sashing strips.  The pieced backing blocks were all constructed and then sat on my sewing table for 3 nights waiting for me to start sewing them together, but it just didn’t happen …  And since there are now only two weeks left in which to get this quilt completed, I’ve opted for Plan B, which will hopefully get the project kick-started again, and I can work on it while the cricket is on 🙂  So this morning’s task, before the cricket starts, is to cut the backing, decide whether or not to include sashings (which I will need to make – they’ll be simple, given the time constraints), and then start work on basting it all together in preparation for quilting.  Which will also be simple, (a) because of the time, and (b) because I’ll attempt it on my own machine – I’ve only ever machine quilted cot-sized projects before now, so it will be a new challenge for me!

My ALYOF project for February

ALYOF logoAfter much internal discussion a few days ago (see here for details), I have decided to make this my February ALYOF project:

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And it will have a pieced backing using these:

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The backing will just be simple different sized rectangular blocks of the light brown fabric, bordered by the coloured strips, all of which fabric comes from my stash.  (Big tick for me! 🙂 )  I might also do a little bit of applique on some of the larger blocks, just to break up the monotony of the brown – it all depends on time available, given that February is a short month 🙂  Luckily we have a holiday today, being Waitangi/New Zealand Day – not that I’ve been doing any quilting so far, mind you, having had my nose stuck in a good book all day!

A real change in the weather overnight – it was lovely to step outside yesterday evening and smell the fresh rain, as we’ve had a very dry spell lately, but it’s brought with it a real drop in temperature.  I’m just hoping it’s going to perk up again in time for the Cricket World Cup, which starts a week tomorrow – can’t wait! 🙂



The sound of leather on willow …

I can well remember being impressed as a child by my Scottish parents’ remarkable ability to recall poems they learnt as children, which they would recite to us at appropriate moments to reinforce a point or teach us a lesson, or just to share their love of language and verse.  One such poem came to mind today following a visit I made to the recently redeveloped Hagley Cricket Oval here in Christchurch, which in ten days’ time will host the opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, between New Zealand and Sri Lanka:

Vitai Lampada
THERE’S a breathless hush in the Close to-night –
Ten to make and the match to win –
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

– Sir Henry Newboldt, 1862-1938

And this is where I have to come clean and confess that all these years I have always believed this poem to be all about cricket …  It wasn’t until I undertook a little Google research today that I discovered it’s actually about a boy who grows up to fight in Africa, and is stirred to heroic action by schooldays memories, symbolising Newbolt’s view that war should be fought in the same spirit as school sports.  Hmmph – so much for my interpretation …

A good deal of controversy has surrounded the development of the new cricket oval in Hagley Park, with many opposed to it.  The entry in Wikipaedia has this to say about the park:

“Hagley Park is the largest urban open space (164.637 hectares) in Christchurch, New Zealand, and was created in 1855 by the Provincial Government. According to the government’s decree at that time, Hagley Park is “reserved forever as a public park, and shall be open for the recreation and enjoyment of the public.” Hagley Park is characterised by its trees and broad open spaces.”

The development of Hagley Oval was seen by many as transgressing the spirit of this decree, and it took some time for the project to be approved and started, with the new oval finally hosting its first international cricket match, a 5-day test match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, starting on Boxing Day last year.   With the first game of the Cricket World Cup (to be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia) scheduled for Saturday 14 February, additional temporary seating is presently being installed, so I took a few photos this evening to share with you.  Unfortunately the area is restricted entry at present due to all the construction work going on, so they’re all taken from outside the fence, but hopefully you’ll get the ‘flavour’ of what’s going on 🙂

Firstly, here’s a picture I found online of the crowd at the first day of the Boxing Day Test:

Hagley cricket oval from the air

And here’s what’s being constructed at present:

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These stands will add an extra 10,000 seats to the capacity, which will mean that lots and lots of these will be needed 🙂


As well as these to send pictures all over the world:


No doubt there will be a few of these around to keep a beady eye on all the proceedings:

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And – providing the wind is blowing in the right direction – those at the games in Christchurch will see a number of these flying right overhead as well:

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(Look at that blue, blue sky – here’s hoping we get lots of that while the Cup’s on!)

Go, my beloved Black Caps! 🙂



Decisions, decisions …

I’m trying to decide which of two projects I will ‘adopt’ as my February ALYOF project – initially decided on one, started working on it, then came across another one in the WIP pile which caught my eye, and started working on that … and now I can’t decide which one to commit to!  Here’s some photos of the first one:

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This one will need a pieced backing (in keeping with the scrap theme), and a decision on the binding, plus I need to check whether I have sufficient batting for it (it’s double bed size).

And here’s a couple of photos of the second one:

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This one has now reached the stage where I’ve sewn it all together and started big stitch quilting it by hand, only I’m not happy with what I’ve done so far, and am rethinking the quilting … It’s lap quilt size, so I guess I could just do some simple machine quilting …  I think I might let this one lie for a few days before I decide where to go with it.

So, I guess after all that discussion with I, me and myself, it looks like the first one might be my selection.  But I have a few days yet to decide, so hold your bets, folks, it may yet be neither of these … 🙂

In the meantime I have cleared out another 4 boxes of books from the back room, so good progress on that project if not on the quilting front!