Monday, August 17, 2015

The Treachery of Templates

A few years ago I bought a book about an amazing English patchworker called Lucy Boston.  Not only was she a dedicated patchwork maker (in the days before patchwork fabrics were available and hence she used fabric offcuts from dressmaking and curtains), but she was still stitching into her 80s and making about 20 stitches to the inch, which blew me away.  She created many quilts which gave the impression of not optical illusions exactly, but by utilising simple blocks such as an elongated hexagon and lots of fussy cutting she made wonderful effects which defy description.  I had always wanted to make my own Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses quilt and showing off a bit I described the quilt to my mum (my mum hasn't entered the spirit of the computer age), and I gave her a lot of printed templates.  She soon used these up in her enthusiasm and asked for more, and when I visited her this weekend I was mortified to discover that I had originally given her a slightly enlarged template, thinking it would make her job easier because her blocks would be bigger, but somehow the next time I gave her a minimally smaller version so that the blocks wouldn't fit together without some clever manipulation.  To my horror I then realised that I had duplicated the same trick on myself and now I will either have to create two Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses quilts to use up all my papers and fabrics, or discard a whole lot of them.  So there has been much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair at Shoestring Cottage this weekend.

Another thing which has been driving me mad has been the fact that I spent a very long time cutting up the contents of my scrap bag to make the pieces for the said quilt, and was very pleased to see the rubbish bin in my sewing room full of discarded pieces too small to be of any use, only to find that my scrap container seemed to be as full as ever when I jammed the contents back into it and put it away.  I begin to suspect that the fabric is somehow multiplying at the bottom of the bin just to confound me.

I cut hundreds of elongated hexagons for the Lucy Boston quilt

 and with the scraps lots of even smaller hexagons for other projects

in fact I was in my sewing room for so long that Mr Shoestring felt compelled to come in and tell me that it was time to come out, and I saw that I had a blister on my thumb from the dressmaking scissors.

Outside some spring flowers are blooming and on Sunday afternoon there was the soft feeling of a changing season in the air, I certainly hope so because I shouldn't be kept indoors with the scissors for too much longer or there could be trouble.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Welcome Winter Break

This weekend turned out to be such an enjoyable one that even the prospect of going back to the salt mines on Monday morning seemed bearable.  I spent Saturday out and about gadding with Mrs Peaceable who is an expert at discovering wonderful shops and cafes to visit.  She gave me the VIP treatment and let me into the secrets of her favourite haunts.  I have to admit to having a little bit of a spend up and we had such a happy day that it was almost  shame to get back to Shoestring Cottage dragging my treasures with me.

I blame Mrs Peaceable for encouraging me in my sinful ways, and it was she who insisted this little vintage case would be the perfect receptacle for placing on Figgy's back seat

and of course she was right.  It will look much better than the ever-increasing array of disintegrating zip lock plastic bags I trail around the countryside with.

But there was a pleasant surprise awaiting me on my return.  Mr Shoestring had been very noncommittal about the possibility of completing reinstalling the bath while I was out, and lo and behold it was in place and looking magnificent, all plumbed in and ready to be christened.  What a delicious soak in the bath I had, just the thing after an exhausting day shopping and talking and drinking coffee!

Mr Shoestring likes to do everything himself and even resurfaced the interior and repainted the exterior. The resurfacing project required a special product he recalled having once seen at a large home handyman emporium and eventually we must have visited every branch in the North Island trying to track it down.  A couple of times we even rolled up to find the shop permanently closed in the town we were visiting, but Mr Shoestring was determined and eventually he did locate the product so it was all worthwhile.  He is very pleased with himself, I am happy to report.  

My obsession with all things avian has continued unabated and I was very envious of my sister's paintings I spied when visiting her, and so grateful when she tracked down this one for me which is by the same artist and will be treasured forever.  

We spied this kereru in her tree visiting her, it comes to call twice a day and wasn't at all bothered by curious humans so close.

New birds in the laundry (or bird room as it would be more fittingly known)

I even found a swallow-embellished notebook while out and about with Mrs Peaceable, to round off a perfect day.

On Sunday Mr Shoestring and I went to Thames to visit our daughter who lives there and spent a very interesting time at the School of Mines Museum where our guide was so knowledgeable that it felt as though there was nothing he didn't know about the history of the gold rush and gold mining in Thames.  The museum premises have been kept in their original condition and even though its cases of specimens with the pretty chalky painted signwriting are chock full of unlikely and mysterious stones

I thought that the enormous map of all the old claims was the most fascinating thing.  The names were so picturesque and the odd shapes of the claims were testament to the way that the prospectors were determined to use every available piece of land they were legally allowed to, and also to prospect in the areas they believed a seam of gold would be located.  

The dotted and dashed lines indicate known seams of gold

The prospectors tended to name the claims after former successful strikes, hence some recycling of older names (Shotover for instance), but then there were obviously sentimental names as well.  One was called "All Nations" because of the many varied nationalities of the stakeholders.  Also there was a determination to record events for posterity (or possibly to publicise the discovery of gold) and so the first day of workings was diligently recorded by a professional photographer, and then another photo was taken a year later to demonstrate progress.

The School of Mines was in use right into the 1950s and it is still in its somewhat ramshackle and charmingly scruffy condition, right down to cupboards full of old mining publications.

Fired up with enthusiasm after that visit we went to the Thames Museum which also housed a lot of interesting and curious relics, though not specifically mining oriented. 

Of course I was drawn to the town's recreated millinery shop complete with its display counter

 and the general goods store with its colourful old tins and advertising
but my favourite thing (and one which seemed very sensible as well) was a bandage which was printed with various methods of using it for different types of injuries, a bit gruesome but fascinating!

As we left Thames the air was noticeably colder and we could see a roiling black cloud coming across the Hauraki Planes towards us.  We were surprised to see localised hail storms had hit parts nearby as we travelled home and some areas were blanketed with very thick hail which had fallen in pea-sized pieces, it was good to get home again safe and warm.  

And so back to the working week and the "real" world.  Sigh.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Winter Doldrums

Oh dear, I see I have been a fair while away from the blogosphere but I have the excuse of wonderful winter deco in Napier to explain my lack of activity.  Once again winter deco really was "deco decanted" and this year it felt even better than ever. (I suspect I may say that every year, but it's true.)  After a weekend casino nights where even the handbags were beautiful

not to mention the dancing girls

and the cyclists

it was hard to return to what some people view as the "real"world.  Poor little Figgy had been so tightly packed on the journey to Napier that Mr Shoestring had to load cases in via the sunroof
and even then one case had to be removed before we even set off.  So on the return journey after I purchased one priceless art work from the op shop 
I had to request permission to check a second to see if it would fit in, before purchasing.  Sadly it did not,so had to be returned in a forlorn and unloved state to await approval from some other discerning art buyer. (At a cost of $10 it should not be too long before another art lover comes along and gives it a home, I like to think.)  Mr Shoestring and I did track down a few other objects likely to add to our art deco costumery for next year including shoes and hats. I won't bore you with Mr Shoestring's purchases because mine are far more interesting, but I have to report that it was a very cosy trip home and there was imminent danger of suffocation by falling furs and other purchases, which all added a certain piquant excitement to proceedings. It didn't really matter that there was no possibility of using the rear view mirror because of a plethora of fabulous new finds cluttering up the back window, after all.  

The sisters from the South were full of good ideas inspiration and plans for wonderful costumes for next year and even now we planning some wonderful times for next summer.  And spring is just around the corner, the days are getting longer and Mr Shoestring has almost finished resurfacing the bath at Shoestring Cottage, so I shall be able to recline in aqueous bliss and dream of things to come.